A 25 minute first half goal whirlwind from the Blues was enough to secure the points after the Toffees had to brave an early onslaught by their hosts in an interesting 4-4-2 v 4-2-3-1 battle….
Wolves intensity pins Blues back
Wolves started off with a real intensity to their play with 2 out and out strikers deployed by Mick McCarthy in a 4-4-2 setup (a variance to their usual 4-1-4-1 system). As a result Everton were really under the cosh in the opening period, finding it difficult to get the ball out of our own half as Wolves had us pinned in. 29% of the goals we have conceded this season have been from headers, the highest proportion of any team in the division, and McCarthy clearly targeted this as a succession of crosses and corners were rained into the Blues box – 31 in total during the game. The Blues weathered this early storm though, with Jagielka and Distin winning all but one of their aerial challenges.
Whilst Moyes would have been worried by the constant pressure, he would also have been enthused given that Wolves were playing a really high defensive line with bags of space to be exploited once we could get some possession (something we rarely get at Goodison when teams sit back and defend their 18 yard line).
Blues midfield comes up trumps
Everton played a 4-2-3-1 system today, with Heitinga and Neville anchoring the midfield and in front of them Billy, Osman and the debutant Magaye alternating in positions between the Wolves midfield and defensive lines. With Wolves playing a more orthodox 4-4-2, Henry their usual anchor who plays between these lines was further up field. As a result of this, Billy, Osman & Magaye were constantly finding pockets of space and alternating between their positions. For the crucial period we got our first two goals Osman was instrumental from the right this time, crossing for Beckford and then in the build up to Neville’s shot and also putting Magaye through one on one when he should have scored
Have a look at the below screen of the Blues 4-2-3-1, where Magaye is out left, Osman inside and Billy on the right with Heitinga and Neville anchoring them. (defensive mids in orange attacking mids in blue)
Then have a look at the next screen below where Osman swops to the left with Magaye central in the run up to Billy’s goal….Billy then comes in from the right to a central position. This fluidity between the 3 was key.
Everton playing on the counter
The passing stats of Everton’s season are very interesting. Yesterday we completed just 164 of our 280 passes – our lowest figure of the season and our lowest pass completion of the season at 59% . Wolves made more than double the successful passes we did, but crucially we had the incision and used the space better. In what is our best run of form this season, we are making considerably fewer passes and our pass completion has been 66% – considerably lower than our 72% season average. What we can read into this is the Blues, without Pienaar and now Arteta, are playing a more direct counter attack game in contrast to the possession based game we deployed in the first half of the season.
Everton’s great run of form continued in what was an interesting tactical matchup between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1. The key difference was that Everton used the space between the lines of Wolves defence and midfield better than our hosts did, despite their greater possession and passing completion. With 14 points taken from the last 18 and with Leon Osman on top of his game the Blues will be looking forward to the run in with great optimism.