Despite playing two wingers, visitors demonstrated once again against Everton they need to be more creative in final third
This was another poor attacking performance from Tottenham Hotspur, and it is remarkable that André Villas-Boas' side are fourth in the Premier League having scored only nine goals in 10 matches.
Spurs have depended on their excellent defensive record – only five goals conceded – but these raw statistics are rather misleading, suggesting Villas-Boas deliberately sacrifices attacking firepower in order to keep it tight at the back. In reality, Spurs are one of the division's more adventurous sides – they have the second-highest average share of possession, behind Manchester City, and have attempted the most shots. They have simply not been creative or clinical enough.
For this trip to Goodison Park, Villas-Boas continued with two wingers, Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon. The former is capable of going down the line but generally cuts inside before shooting with his left foot, whereas Lennon's deployment on the left flank hampers his crossing ability without boosting his goalscoring potential. Lennon presented Roberto Soldado with one fine early chance but otherwise both wingers were unproductive.
Spurs were actually dominating possession too much in the first half.
Townsend and Lennon are more suited to direct attacking: Townsend impressed on England duty by driving forward powerfully from deep positions, while Lennon's best contributions are in similar situations – think of his assist for Peter Crouch at the San Siro, for example. Neither are regular goalscorers or proficient at playing clever through-balls, and neither was particularly useful in this situation.
While Soldado is adept at converting crosses, he is not a limited, old-fashioned target man who depends solely on that method of service. At Valencia, he was equally capable of bursting past the opposition's back four on to through-balls, often finishing first time from clever angles. In this Tottenham side, it is difficult to pinpoint a player capable of playing those type of passes.
A peculiar but perhaps revealing statistic is that Spurs have been caught offside fewer times, nine, than any other Premier League team. Being flagged offside is clearly not a virtue in itself, but it is a natural consequence of having a striker regularly sprinting on to through-balls, something evidently not happening at Spurs.
Lewis Holtby is tactically intelligent but not a catalyst in the manner of Oscar or Mesut Özil, and it is extremely rare to see Spurs' attacking quartet combining in dangerous zones. Lennon, Townsend, Holtby and Soldado seem like independent actors, and the closest thing Spurs have had to cohesion this season is when Gylfi Sigurdsson and Christian Eriksen have been fielded together, forming clever triangles with Soldado towards the left of the pitch against Norwich and Chelsea.
It is understandable, given so many arrivals and the departure of last season's star performer, that Villas-Boas is still attempting to find his best attacking combination – but he still seems surprisingly far away from an adequate solution. Eriksen is surely the key player, while the Argentinian attacker Erik Lamela will grow in prominence over the course of the season.
Villas-Boas will be reluctant to make any changes that risk jeopardising the fine defensive record and Spurs do not need to become more attacking, simply more efficient with their attacking.