Everton v Spurs - key battle - Jermaine Jenas on Dier v Barkley
12 August 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
For each game this season, we'll pick out a 'key battle' and ask a legend or pundit (or both) to give their insight into how that match-up will play out and affect the match. First up, Jermaine Jenas on the battle of two England midfielders at Goodison Park - Eric Dier v Everton's Ross Barkley...,
202 appearances for Spurs, 2005-12
League Cup winner 20
21 England caps, 2003-09
Pundit on BBC MOTD, 5 Live and BT Sport
JJ: "Let’s look at this from Ross Barkley’s perspective first. When you play in that number 10 role, your immediate thought is that you want to get in-between the lines, into that position where defenders look at you and think ‘do I close you down?’ and cause problems in behind the midfielders as well. The problem Barkley has got is that if he goes and stands there, he’s got just about the strongest three you’re going to see in terms of Dier, Alderweireld and Vertonghen. If I was him, that’s the last place I would go, even if my game was to play in the hole."
Below: The pair together in the goalless draw at the Lane last season
"Usually, if you are in that position, you have more freedom about your game to go and express yourself. Therefore, Barkley may go and play a touch wider, perhaps between Kyle Walker and Alderweireld or Danny Rose and Vertonghen. If he does that, he will drag Eric out of position and he’ll be asking questions ‘will you come out and mark me?’ and leave Victor Wanyama or Ryan Mason in there on his own. I’m sure they will have had conversations about getting in around Romelu Lukaku and making sure he doesn’t get the ball into his feet, because when he does, things start to happen. In fact, we saw that last season when Aaron Lennon scored for Everton against Spurs."
Stay strong centrally
JJ: "Barkley is gifted, strong and that means Eric will have to be clever to pick his times to go in and close him down, because sometimes going in and closing a player down and leaving that space can cost the team a lot more, rather than staying solid in your shape and letting the play come to you. Inevitably, Everton will want to try to get the ball into Lukaku, he plays down the middle so if Spurs stay strong in that central position, which Eric is a massive part of, we’ll be fine."
Below: The heat map from Goodison last season shows Dier (right) and Barkley in close quarters
Dier the pivot
JJ: "The other thing Ross Barkley has to think about is that I believe Spurs will have a lot of the ball, so it’s down to how hard he’s going to work. Dier will have more of the ball so if he doesn’t work and close down Eric, then Spurs will dominate this game because between Dier and Wanyama or Mason, whoever plays in there, they will run this game is Barkley doesn’t do his job.
"Eric is getting more and more confident in his passing. We saw that in glimpses of that last season. Last year he was very safe, bang, bang, bang, then he started hitting a few more diagonals and then with England, he was fizzing in passes into the hole, where Dele or Eriksen or Lamela will be. He’ll need to find those gaps and force the ball into them. He’s started to do that. So if Barkley doesn’t do a job on him, Everton could be bang in trouble."
Below: Dier (right) and Barkley's passes from January's clash at Goodison
'Quality wins in the end'
JJ: "Over the years, going to Everton, we’ve always played well. It’s always been a good ground in terms of playing our game. We might not have always got the result we wanted but we always played well at Goodison Park. It suited us. I don’t remember that many bad performances. They are always tight games and that little bit of quality wins it in the end and over the years, both teams have had a lot of quality. I don’t think this season will be any different. You have the Ronald Koeman factor, the crowd will be up for the start of the season and it’s a fresh start for Everton. I think Everton will be a force."