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14th Sep 2020

Everyone had a Matt Doherty opinion after losing start at Spurs

Patrick McCarry

Matt Doherty

“And Doherty, just to give an example… “

Matt Doherty probably would have preferred if José Mourinho had picked someone else as an example. After the thrill of sealing a move to Wolves to Tottenham, a fortnight ago, the defender has now lost two games and drawn the other one.

Making some headlines with the Amazon Prime documentary ‘All or Nothing’ in recent weeks, Spurs served up an awful lot of nothing against Everton in their Premier League opener. Son-Heung-Min was the best of a lack-lustre Spurs side while Doherty missed his new side’s best chance of the game in the first half.

Dominic Calvert Lewin’s powerfully headed goal sealed victory for Everton as their opponents struggled to mount anything resembling a late siege on their goal. It was the first time in 11 opening weekends in the Premier League that a Mourinho-managed side lost.

Following the 1-0 loss, Mourinho accused his players of putting in a “lazy” performance and said he did not like what he saw. He questioned Doherty’s fitness, as well as his side’s overall fitness, in an interview with Sky Sports before going on about the Irish full-back in the post-game briefing:

“You can look to Doherty, a player who is normally in incredible condition. He didn’t have pre-season. He went direct from holidays to national team matches. No pre-season at all.

“Direct and not one single training session, direct from holidays to national team and he played two consecutive matches and today he was not Matt Doherty like he normally is. So these are the things that we knew could happen to us.”

Matt Doherty reacts to his shot being saved by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. (Credit: Getty Images)

For Irish supporters, and Ireland boss Stephen Kenny, this was an early opportunity to assess Doherty and Everton right-back Seamus Coleman in one sitting. Doherty was chosen ahead of the Everton captain for the draw with Bulgaria and loss to Finland so he would have been eager to prove he was far from a spent Premier League force.

Coleman was tasked with trying to keep Son as quiet as possible. Any time the Korean went wide, Coleman was equal to the challenge – cramping him and cutting out crosses. Son did cut inside a couple of times, however, and got shots away that went just wide. Coleman did well, mid-way through the first half, to block a goal-bound Son effort with his head.

Doherty, meanwhile, spent most of that first half inside the Everton half. The 28-year-old’s heat-map would show him effectively playing as a right winger but, over on Sky Sports, Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville were not convinced.

REDKNAPP: Doherty’s playing miles too high. It’s like Spurs are playing with a back three. It’s not like he’s playing for Wolves and he’s got Willy Boly behind him, who’s right-footed.

NEVILLE: I agree, he’s too high. It makes it easier for Everton’s left-sided players to mark him. They know where he is.

Doherty is often at his best on the overlap and coming onto the ball at speed. He could not generate much momentum from inside the Everton half but one burst almost put his side in front before the break.

Before that, though, there had been a real scare for the Tottenham defence as a loose Ben Davies pass almost gifted a goal to Richarlison. Davies sprayed a pass back that cut across Toby Alderweireld and left him scrambling. Doherty [yellow arrow] was pressed way up the pitch and could not get back to snuff out the danger. Richarlison [red arrow] beat Alderweireld to the ball and really should have scored, after rounding Hugo Lloris, only to blaze over.

The reason Mourinho convinced Daniel Levy to part ways with £16m for Doherty was evident after 41 minutes as he ploughed forward and cut in from the right wing before trading passes with Harry Kane and firing a shot on goal that Pickford did well to save with his legs.

In the Sky Sports studio, at half-time, former Everton midfielder Tim Cahill observed, “For a right back to be getting up there and getting on the end of chances, that’s why Spurs signed him.”

After the break, Everton had really cottoned onto Doherty’s positioning. On three occasions, Allan [twice] and James Rodriguez found Richarlison in oceans of space and Doherty was forced to hare back.

All over the pitch, it was a lethargic Spurs performance. There was little zip or purpose in their attempts to win possession back and Allan bossed the midfield. Neville accusing Spurs players of ‘walking around the pitch sulking’ after they went 1-0 behind and Doherty did not escape the critique.

After Everton went close to doubling their lead, Neville commented, “Talking about tiredness, look at Doherty. Trundles over… no urgency.”

All the while, Coleman was having a solid outing for his side. He was rarely troubled in defence, during the second half, and got forward to bring out a fine Lloris save after he fizzed in a low drive from outside the box.

With 15 minutes to go, Doherty was called ashore and Tanguy Ndombele replaced him. You may remember Ndombele from being last season’s summer transfer that Mourinho couldn’t help but throw up as an example [usually of poor play] after Spurs dropped points.

Mourinho now has a decision to make over Doherty. Does he rest him for Thursday’s Europa League game against Lokomotiv Plovdiv and work him hard in training, or start him again and hope that minutes under his belt does the trick?

One thing is for sure, Doherty would much prefer if he could keep the head down and get to work over the next few weeks.

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