Stoke v Everton – 5 Point Tactical / Betting Preview

1.Team News

I’d expect the sides to line up a bit like this…

Gibson did come off against Fulham with a knock and there is the option Fellaini could spin back into midfield with Cahill restored to the midfield / forward pivot role. By pushing MF  forward you lose some bite in midfield but you gain the advantage of being able to use his energy to press better higher up field which is especially useful against sides who play out from the back like it was with Man United/Fulham. For Stoke its probably less worthwhile given that there is less opportunity to press in these zones given that stoke kick long from the keeper and thus bypass defenders and the Belgian’s height would be better utilised further back the pitch. If Gibson is fit I’d leave out Neville and go with Felli in midfield for his aerial assistance on Crouch from kick outs and restore Cahill to the frontline.

2.Dealing with the Stoke Style

Playing a high line enables us to impact where the long balls are coming from i.e. if Stoke are allowed to get within 10 yards of our 18 yard line the cross will be potent given the quality they have in the wing berths. If we keep a line higher the opponent gets the ball further from goal and the threat of the delivery is reduced. By playing higher upfield it pushes Stoke’s defence back and makes long balls to Crouch come shorter up the pitch.

One aspect which will need to change from our normal game is in terms of where we press. In the 4-2-3-1 we’ve been using lately we  press high upfield onto opposition’s fullbacks. Against Stoke though, there is little point in pressing these areas as neither of Stoke’s fullbacks are selected for marauding runs or for their distribution skills. Begovic will pump balls up to Crouch with the defence/midfield zones bypassed so there is no opportunity to press at Stoke’s defensive line. The alternative is to drop off and keep things tight between our back four and midfield 5 and hoover up the second balls.

Direct Balls into the box are Stoke’s key weapon; they have scored a Premier League high proportion of their goals from headers (39%) this season. They certainly play to their strengths having won the most aerial duels per game (15.2) in the league. Due to this they have the highest – by some distance  - % of goal attempts from inside the opposition 6 yard box (17%)

Enter  ‘The Delap-idator’. This phenomenon has waned in terms of its effectiveness but still brings back nightmares for Tim Howard and co from our first meeting at The Britannia when it caused havoc and created both Stoke goals on the day. The above image shows how we defended them last season. If Delap is selected (and I’m not too sure he will) I’d stick with this and try to turn the tables and look to use it against Stoke through quick counter-attacks as soon as we win the ball back to expose Stoke over committing players. It can be dangerous but the opposition then has to think about marking our players.

3.Toffee Tactics

It’s a given we will have more possession than our visitors on Tuesday; Stoke have posted the lowest possession (39%) and lowest pass completion (69%) per game in the top flight this season. Stoke play quite a flat midfield 4 (although Walters can sometimes drop to pick up the opposing side’s anchor man) so if we deploy 4-2-3-1 we will get some joy in between the lines and hopefully move the ball around the Stoke midfield.

Good movement is always a key factor in breaking down a stubborn opponent. Stoke will set up with 2 centre backs screened by two defensive midfielders players . Fullback’s Shotton and Wilson  will tuck inside close to their centre backs. To get through this defensive wall we will need to move the defenders about to create space.

In the past we have struggled to break down organised sides who sit deep due to our poor incision/movement in the final third – for the record we’ve scored just once in our last 360 minutes against Stoke but hopefully the incision of Pienaar and the movement and goal threat of Jelavic will remedy this.

4. Last Meeting

Despite having 67% of possession the Blues failed to create any goalscoring opportunities meaning that Sorensen didn’t make 1 save in the entire game which we lost 0-1. The team was basically setup in a 4-4-2 with Cahill and Velios upfront. Breaking down a side as rigid as Stoke is tricky but it is achievable with good movement being key. There was simply no movement from Cahill or Velios when we had possession. Both allowed themselves to be marked by their respective defenders meaning when we had the ball there was nothing happening through the middle of the pitch.

Stoke are a specialist set piece side who live and breathe defending crosses. Our lack of attacking options meant that inevitably Baines was the only out ball and Stoke seemed fairly happy for him to have it, knowing that a cross would be incoming and with the heavy artillery they have in the air there was only going to be one winner. The sheer volume of numbers Stoke cram into their box , coupled with the deliberate blocking of our runners (Fellaini / Cahill especially) led to 33 of our crosses amounting to zero attempts on goal. When Stoke did cross their halfway line and we won the  ball back our passing was laboured meaning that by the time we did move the ball forward on the counter, Stoke’s compliment of defenders were all back behind the ball and in position ready for our next cross.

5.Betting

Congratulations to anyone who backed last weeks EB tip of Jelavic anytime /Everton win double vs Fulham at 5/2. The same bet is available for this fixture priced at 12/5 with Willie Hills, with  Jelavic 11/2 with bet365 to be the game’s first scorer. We are best priced at 7/4 with Stan James to win the game. Our last 5 league games have involved 4 goals or more which is 16/5 with Willie Hills. Since being pushed into a more forward role Fellaini has scored in both games and you can get him to score anytime /Everton win double at 10/1 with the same vendor.

Everton 4-0 Fulham – 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction

1.Selection and Formations

The Blues setup in an unchanged 4-2-3-1 from Old Trafford with Fellaini, Osman and Pienaar providing close and often narrow support to Jelavic with the width coming from Distin and Hibbert in the fullback slots. Fulham brought in former Grasshopper Kerim Frei to play left wing with Dempsey moving inside from the left to play a central role behind Pogrebnyak in a 4-4-1-1.

The below heatmap shows the average position of the player’s and their font depicts the amount of touches of the ball.

2.Blues Pass & Press Better

The Blues were a lot sharper than Fulham in the opening period of the game both on and off the ball. Passing wise we completed 559 short passes compared to our average per game this season of 345. We had the majority share of the ball (52%) and in doing so registered a 90% pass completion which is up 13% on our average of 77%. We were helped somewhat by Fulham’s failure to press us on the ball; despite us being on the ball significantly more than our visitors we made 65 pressing contacts* compared to Fulham’s 56.

*Pressing contacts are a cumulative of tackles, fouls, interceptions and amount of times each side dispossessed their opposition

3.Pienaar on fire…again!

Pienaar’s display was extremely fluid. From the first whistle he was buzzing around making things happen and won an early foul from a trademark run inside. Jelavic’s resulting free kick was handled by Pogrebnyak and the Croatian coolly slotted home from his spot kick. The second came from a Pienaar corner which Fellaini headed home after Chucklebrother style defending from former toffee Senderos (marking) and Duff (air kick on line). When Fulham failed to track Pienaar’s run from his own half the mercurial playmaker’s resulting through ball was dispatched by the ruthless Jelavic to make it 3-0 as the Blues threatened to run riot. Fulham are the lowest scorers on their travels in the top flight and thus the game was as good as over as a contest by half time.

The influence Pienaar has made since arriving is hard to emphasise through stats alone but here are a few of the key ones; he averages the most key passes per game (2.5) in our squad, the most dribbles per game (1.1) and is our most fouled player (2.8 per game).  He also has 7 direct assists with 2 other fouls on the pint sized schemer having led to goals. He also has 3 goals to his credit. To put that into perspective, Man City’s David Silva has the most assists in the top flight (13) which has taken 2636 minutes to accumulate which is 1 every 202 minutes. Pienaar has played just 879 minutes and has claimed 7 –  thats 1 every 125 minutes – making him almost twice as prolific as Silva.

4.Fulham too narrow

Fulham didn’t threaten much at all in what was a fairly insipid display by our visitors. The Cottagers were reliant on playing out from the back with Hughes to Diarra to Demeble the pre rehearsed move. Rumoured L4 transfer target Clint Dempsey was looking less of a threat and more easily marked centrally than he is making ghosting runs off the flank. Whilst the American is very much a player in form he is 30 next year and with the age of our squad already imbalanced I’m unsure the American would significantly improve the options we have available given the budget we have.

As mentioned in the preview, Fulham play very narrow and attack centrally more than any side in the top flight. Frei and Duff both played on the flank of their unfavourable foot – an inverted winger if you like -  but failed to really penetrate us at any stage of the game. When in the defensive phase our wide players tucked in and overcrowded the centre of the field making it tricky for Fulham to play through us.

The visitor’s woes were compounded in the second period when they again failed to track a midfield run with Pienaar able to pick up his third assist after a nice one two with Cahill resulted in the Aussie volleying home after a delicate scoop from the South African craftsman.

5.Final thought

This was as routine a game as you will ever get in the top flight. Granted, Fulham were slack especially in the first half but our passing and pressure off the ball early on were superb. The second half was something of a stroll but was productive in being able to give Barkley a stint in the midfield-attack pivot role – a position he could find himself deployed into with more regularity next season. The win keeps our great form ticking along nicely and we now take on Stoke midweek, a team we have scored just 1 goal against in our last 4 meetings. With the creation of Pienaar and the ruthless finishing of Jelavic however its hard to not see us opening them up at least once.

Know your enemy: Fulham Deconstructed / Betting Preview

Fulham’s Narrow Midfield

In terms of midfield shape, Duff will operate on the right but is naturally left footed so will tuck inside and Dempsey will also come in from the left flank. The tricky Dembele (4th most dribbles per game in the top flight) will play centrally behind former toffee target Pogrebnyak. The defensive midfield slots will be occupied by the former Real Madrid star Diarra and Danny Murphy. Thus, Fulham play very narrow and attack through the middle (39%) more than any side in the top flight which is in contrast to ourselves who attack predominantly down the flanks (75%) – only Wolves use width more than us for attacking situations in the top flight.

Down the left they will look to Riise to provide some natural width by getting forward with Dempsey, who has plundered 59% of Fulham’s goals –  a league high – will tuck inside to support the forward players. The image (right) shows Dempsey (circled) doing this angled run inside  in our fixture last season at Goodison as he escapes Rodwell to slot Fulham’s solitary goal.

Toffee Tactics & Selection

The interesting selection issue for ourselves will centre on whether Moyes sticks with Fellaini further forward in the attack/midfield pivot role or if Cahill returns and Neville steps out. The smart money would be on Moyes keeping things as they were last week at Old Trafford.

I’d guess the sides will line up something like this….

By pushing MF further forward you lose some bite in midfield but you gain the advantage of being able to use his energy to press better higher up field which is especially useful against sides who play out from the back like it was with Man United (and fulham). For the midweek game against Stoke its probably less worthwhile given that there is less opportunity to press in these zones given that stoke kick long from the keeper and thus bypass defenders. With Fulham’s tight midfield shape I wouldn’t be surprised if Coleman came on at some stage to stretch things more down the right flank.

Betting

Given Fulham’s away games yielding the fewest goals in the top flight (1.88 per game) and our home games providing the fewest goals (2.06 per game) the logical bet would appear an under 2.5 goals punt. However, in the last 4 meetings between the clubs the average goals has been 3 with both teams scoring on each occasion. The last 3 at Goodison have been 2-1 wins for the Blues. With Jelavic in the ranks we have been much more free scoring with more goals in our last 5 Premier League games (14) than in our previous 17 matches (13).  Jelavic is obviously the logical choice in the scoring markets – the ruthless Croat has needed just 47 touches to net 44 goals for Rangers / Everton in the last 12 months –  and willie hills will offer you 8/5 on a jelavic goal anytime / everton win double…Betfred offers the same bet at 5/2 which appears the best odds. NJ last scorer and Everton win double is 11/2 at Hills. Good luck!!

Man Utd 4-4 Everton – 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction

1.Teams and Formations

The Blues formation was much more adventurous than what many expected in this fixture. After Jelavic’s isolation lat week and  Baines injury the game plan was to get bodies close to Jelavic and attack United from the first whistle. When we had the ball the system resembled 4-2-2-2 with Fellaini right up top with Jelavic and Osman/ Pienaar playing very narrow and in close proximity. When we lost possession it was more 4-5-1 with the Belgian joining Neville and Gibson to form a 3 man midfield and Pienaar and Osman dropping to support their fullbacks. Neville and Gibson anchored midfield and neither of which strayed past the half way line for the most part. United were very much 4-4-2 with Rooney partnering Welbeck up front with supply from the flanks via Nani and Valencia.

Average position/most touches heatmap…..

2. United’s right side

United were focusing attacks down their right flank more than their left (49%/25%) with Rafael (85) having more touches of the ball then any United player. Pienaar for us had a lot of joy from cutting inside on this flank as Rafael – perhaps showing a lack of maturity given his relative in-experience – appeared more comfortable with his attacking duties and mostly undecided as to whether to track Pienaar inside or leave him to a team mate – his indecision would prove costly as the game unfolded.

Further up the flank, Distin’s selection at left back worked pretty well and Pienaar supported him well in closing the angles of passes to Valencia and limiting the productivity with Valencia not making any successful crosses in the match. The Blues took the lead when a lovely passing build up worked the ball from left to right to Hibbert and with Nani foolishly not pushing him onto his weaker left foot the full back put in a great right footed delivery to Jelavic who rose to head home. This looked like a rehearsed cross targeting Rafael’s vulnerability in the air and Jelavic’s strength.

3. Welbeck turns game in United’s favour

Rooney’s equaliser just before half time meant that we started the second half on level terms. Welbeck drove United back into the driving seat of the game after half time and for a 20 minute spell we simply couldn’t handle him. He bagged 2 assists – 1 for the Rooney goal bearing a remarkable similarity to a Cole/Yorke goal against an opponent whose identity escapes me. Welbeck also got the goal of the game, made more dribbles and also had the best pass completion (91%) of any player on the pitch which for a player working in the final third is ace.

4. Fellaini on fire

With United hitting back and taking a 3-1 lead there were few who would have thought the Blues would muster a fight back especially after the events of last week. Evertonian’s will of course remember being 1-3 down not so long ago against United and taking a point at Goodison. Our maverick Belgian Fellaini was a key cog in our comeback, winning 7 aerial duels with his direct opponent’s Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans in comparison winning just 1. The Belgian also teed up 5 opportunities for colleagues and pulled one back to make it 2-3 when Hibbert’s second assist of the game…yes that’s Hibbert’s second assist of the game.. was lashed home on the volley.

A crucial moment occured following Rooney’s 2nd and with United at 4-2 as Evra hit the post after good work again down the United right and a cross from Rafael. If it would have gone in and put United 5-2 up it would surely have been too big a gap for us to peg back. Soon after a straight aerial pass into United’s box led to Fellaini causing havoc and when the second ball dropped it was clinically dispatched by Jelavic on the half volley. The Croatian is absolutely ruthless with 8 goals now to his credit making him our top scorer. With United now visibly rocking the Blues again worked the ball down the United right side and again it was Pienaar finding space – not tracked by Rafael –  ghosting into Utd’s box and converting a centre from the marauding Fellaini to level things up at 4-4.

5.Conclusion

This was a fantastic game and again showed the spirit and belligerence that exists in Moyes squad. At 1-3 and 2-4 down few would have offered us any hope whatsoever against a side that drop few points at home especially given that we only average 1 goal per game on our travels. The result was only the 3rd time a club  had scored four or more goals at Old Trafford in the Premier League era and was a great tonic after the Wembley defeat last week.

Man Utd v Everton – 5 Point Tactical Preview

1. Theatre of Screams

Most grieving Blues would have been too aled to notice motd last Saturday and witness the heinous Garth Crooks bizarre attempt to sauce up a sterile title race by saying ‘Everton have done well at United in the past’. Well Garth, we have lost on all of our last 5 trips, won 0 of our last 18 visits including 15 defeats with just 1 goal in our last 8 hours of action. Robert Warzycha (left) was on target last time we triumphed there in 3-0 win in 1992. Yikes!

 

2. Last Season

Last season was a familiar tale of woe for the Toffees with United dominating the ball (60% v 40%) and deservedly taking the win on the way to the their record breaking 19th title.

Crucially in the first half we won just 2 out of 11 aerial challenges in the Man Utd half (18%) compared  with 8 out of 16 (50%) following the introduction of Anichebe and Cahill i.e when we did get the ball forward it didn’t stick in the first half.  Anichebe in particular did well when coming on, winning 4/4 of his aerial duels and offering more in behind than the feeble Beckford had done in the first half.

United for the most part looked to exploit -as the RS did last week - Baines (circled) attacking surges by playing long passes into the space he vacates. Our average position visual (above) from the game shows the direction they played the ball with Valencia and Rooney doubling up in that pocket of space. The cross for the winning goal came after Distin had been dragged into this zone covering Baines.

3. United Selection & Strategy

United under Ferguson are great architects of executing a ‘stretch and compress’ Ajax approach to closing and exploiting space. This basically means that when we attack they will contract and press as a unit, constricting the space we have to operate in. When United win the ball back they will use the wings and make the pitch as big as possible to exploit the space. Ferguson has always built sides on pace down the flanks and this is where they will attack us. Carrick (83% completion from his 186 long passes this season)  and Scholes (a winner on all 9 prem games he has started post retirement) will sit in midfield and ping the balls out to Valencia and Young on the flanks.  Both United’s wingers are in uber productive form; Valencia is the top flights’ leading assist maker with 13 whilst the vile AshleyYoung has won even more penalties in the last 2 seasons (7) than the rat from across the park.

Rooney will look to drop deep and pick up pockets of space between our defensive and midfield lines although his record against us would give you the impression he doesn’t like inflicting misery on the club he supports given he has just 2 goals in 13 apps against us and has never scored against us at Old Trafford. Alongside him, Welbeck has been his first choice partner this season but given our defensive strategy and the few clear cut chances the game will create the more clinical Hernandez will get the nod for this one I think.

I’d imagine the sides would line up something like this…

4. Toffee Line-up and Approach

As per the above graphic I wouldn’t imagine there would be too many surprises in terms of Moyes selection and we will look to keep things tight from the off. Pienaar should come in for Magaye and will probably line up in front of Phil Neville with Baines injured unless Moyes decides to shift Distin across and bring in Jagielka alongside Heitinga at centre back. Royston Drenthe is still chewing over his internal suspension from the club for his off the field misdemeanours so won’t be considered although in truth it’s unlikely he would have started this one anyway.

United attack down the flanks and I’d guess Moyes approach will be to go compact and make it difficult for Taggart’s troops to play through us by forcing them to play narrow. Whoever is wide (probably Pienaar and Osman) will drop deep and let United’s full-backs have the ball, instead focusing upon cutting off the passing angles from Carrick and Scholes to Young and Valencia on the flanks.

 5. Betting

Only Fulham matches (1.8 goals) deliver fewer combined goals than ourselves (2.3) on the road but bizarrely we haven’t been involved in a goalless draw in 66 games. Given that Utd have kept the most clean sheets in the top flight (18) and their dominant record in this fixture, 1-0 United would be the logical punt. Hernandez has been the match winner on both our last 2 games vs United (both 0-1) and Willie Hills will offer you  25/1on this. If you fancy us to bury our OT hoodoo Jelavic anytime Everton win double returns 12/1. I’ll probably go for the under 2.5 goals market which is offered at 5/4. Enjoy the game!

Liverpool 2-1 Everton – 9 Point Tactical Deconstruction

1. Teams & Formations

With the exception of Agger the team’s formation and personnel lined up exactly as EB predicted on Thursday evening with Carroll starting through the middle with Suarez in a 4-4-2 setup with the Blues sticking with their usual 4-4-1-1.

2. Flank woes

Moyes selection for the game was dubious. Yes, Magaye set up Jelavic’s goal in the Quarter Final and yes he was influential last week against the same opposition but in terms of the team his selection was wrong for me. Our attacking setup is focused on our key asset Leighton Baines and Gueye’s selection for me compromised this. In our setup you need a ‘righty’ playing there who can dart inside, create space by dragging his marker and enable Baines the freedom of the flank.

Magaye is very much a ‘leftie’ and thus hugs the line and inhibits the space for Baines to manoeuvre, i.e Magaye is the opposite to Pienaar. With Drenthe out due to disciplinary issues & SP cup tied there were limited options though. Perhaps the closest fit to Pienaar was Osman on the left cutting inside on his right foot and Coleman on the right flank which Moyes eventually reverted to in the second period.

3.Suarez v Distin

Liverpool – like many teams have done against us – targeted our offensive left flank and Suarez who usually focuses his runs down the left channel appeared to be under instruction to focus his runs down the right channel in the  space in behind Baines. This put him basically in a personal duel with Distin leading to the Frenchman’s booking and the eventual gaff which led to the equaliser. The Uruguayan’s incessant movement makes him incredibly difficult to mark – post match Martin Keown comically compared him to a rat – and given that you can’t get too tight due to his ability to buy fouls it resulted in Distin having to stand off him which can be just as dangerous.

4. Malnurished Jellyfish

Our service to Jelavic was pretty much anaemic all afternoon.  Whilst the hitman opened the scoring after capitalising on some comedy defending with a cool finish he was forced to feed off scraps for the most part. All 5 of the Croatian’s goals prior to Wembley had been plundered from crosses from wide areas and its no secret we  attack down the flanks more than any side in the top flight (75%). Liverpool also attack via the flanks rather than though the middle, making more crosses (30) per game than any side in the league yet whereas Liverpool were potent from wide areas we rarely got into decent crossing situations, being out crossed by 21 to 13. The below image is an example of how limited the support was to Jelavich when on a rare second half foray into the opposition half he is outnumbered 3 v 1 with Liverpool’s supporting players also outnumbering us 4 v 2.

5. Sitting on the lead

Our share of the ball and retention of it both dwindled as the game went on, with our share dropping to 42% in the second period with just 69% of passes completed. In context this is way down on our average (and comparable in the top flight with Stoke City). This was nothing new though. The recently deserved wins against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs & Swansea were achieved with an average possession of just 35%. For me, the game plan was similar as the home wins in this sequence, i.e. score and then ‘what we have we hold’. As mentioned many times before, Moyes is a defensive minded, reactive manager and won’t necessarily worry if we are spending more time off the ball given that our strengths lie in having good defensive shape and endurance to withstand such pressure. The ball retention stats though were key as when we did get on the ball possession was lost too cheaply putting constant pressure on an overworked defensive unit.

6. Creative Spark

A key factor in our upsurge in form since January has been the creative talents on the flanks whether that be Donovan, Pienaar  or even Royston who have been able to supplement the hard work and endeavour with some flair and incision to carve out an opening. Statistically the 3 make the most dribbles and win the most fouls in our squad.  Without their incision and ability to win fouls or prolong play in the opposition half we are just far too ordinary; we are one of the lowest scorers in the division with just 38 league goals. Donovan, Pienaar and Drenthe have contributed 18 assists from the combined 26 starts they have made. With non available we pitched in Osman (who always looks uncomfortable wide right as opposed to centrally or even left side) who has 1 assist this season, the unproven Gueye who has started just 3 league games and Coleman who has just 2 assists from 50 games playing in an offensive midfield position.

7. Make a change Moyes

Moyes response was to replace the completely ineffectual Gueye with Coleman meaning Osman moved across to the left flank. Sadly, the Irishman’s contribution was in keeping with his season – abject. As was the case in the Sunderland quarter final at Goodison, on the hour Fellaini switched roles with Cahill to make us more of a 4-4-2 which led to a more direct approach. The switch had minimal impact however due to Liverpool having decent aerial coverage with Agger, Carragher & Skrtel in their defence.

8. Mistakes

Despite having most of the ball Liverpool had created little and it was looking like we were going to close the game out before 2 huge mistakes turned the game on its head. First the usually reliable Distin’s back pass was way too short and enabled Suarez a gimme goal. With the game heading towards extra time Seamus Coleman’s ill judged lunge gave Liverpool another crossing opportunity via a free kick which Carroll dispatched.  The Irishman’s 20 minute cameo featured numerous calamitous fouls, the second of which could have seen him sent off  moments after his slip had enabled Carroll another opportunity which he dragged past Howard’s left hand post.

9. Final thought

This was clearly a massive opportunity missed against our local rivals and one that was predominantly of our own making. Recriminations and the finger of blame have been pointed at everyone from Moyes to Drenthe but the problems faced at Wembley were  self inflicted in terms of selection and silly mistakes against an ordinary looking Liverpool side who were there for the taking. Moyes has taken stick for his cautious strategy and this is a legitimate gripe but it’s the same approach which has beaten a lot of the top sides in the league this season and arguably with the lack of creative talent available he probably thought at 1-0 that containment was his best chance of success in this match.

In terms of perspective we aren’t in bad shape in the league and have arguably solved the biggest conundrum of the last 2-3 years with Jelavic clearly an ace buy and the 20 goal a season man we have craved. Major surgery may not be required but senior pro’s like Neville and Cahill -whilst great servants to the club –  had the look of players who have little more to give at this level. Replacing them and securing the services of an incisive player such as Pienaar will be a step in the right direction for sure.

Norwich 2-2 Everton – 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction

1. Selection and Formations

Both sides opened up in 4-4-1-1 systems with the Blues making 3 changes to last weeks win over WBA with Osman, Heitinga and Fellaini dropping out and Gueye, Neville and Distin coming in. Norwich started with Howson playing off Holt with wide support coming from Bennett on the right and Hoolahan on the left.

2. Blues Approach

The Blues began in the first half playing more down the right side than the left as the heatmaps show. The maps are based on average position and touches off the ball…as you can see Hibbert was our most prominent player in the opening 45mins however the fullback isn’t particularly comfortable on the ball which limits our options in the final third;  his average pass completion was 59% yesterday which is poor at this level.

As the maps show our more potent left sided Bainaar axis grew in prominence as the game went on and was again the source of our most incisive attacking work with both goals coming from the left side.

One aspect of our play which wasn’t fluid yesterday was Howard’s kicking which was both poor and excessive. The American usually makes 11 long kick outs per game but made 31 yesterday, with an accuracy of just 22%.  Granted, Holt and Howson played high up and worked hard to press angles but often the long kick was chosen when a shorter pass was available.

3. Jelavic and the Cutting Edge

Our new forward Nikica Jelavic now has four goals from just eight shots on target in the league and looks like another shrewd Moyes purchase. His first goal yesterday was from signature Bainaar movement down the left flank which released Jagielka in the box whose cross was deliciously flicked home by the Croatian. His ability to hold up the ball up makes him ideal for the role of the lone forward and he won 4 aerial duels yesterday which combined with his chest control enabled us to get midfielders forward and build attacks.

In total yesterday Jelavic had 3 shots, all 3 of which were on target and his second goal was another tidy finish after more good work from the tireless Pienaar. The South African weaved his way through the Norwich defence before teeing up  Jelavic who again found space and finished effortlessly first time. We worked the ball more fluidly into the box than our hosts with 71% of our shots from inside Norwich’s 18 yard box compared to our hosts 43% in our area. The Croat provides a great target for the naturally unselfish Pienaar who yesterday provided 5 successful through balls, 4 of which went to Jelavic. Put in context, we average 1 successful through ball per game this season.

4. Lambert’s Diamond

Norwich were also looking to attack down the flanks and get balls in and around our box for their talisman Grant Holt .Whether you love or hate the big forward you couldn’t doubt his impact – yesterday he was the most fouled player on the pitch and also committed the most fouls and his knack of winning free kicks in and around opponent’s 18 yard boxes is a strength Norwich exploit to the max.

After being second best in the first half Lambert decided to make changes when we went 2-1 up early in the second half. As noted in Friday’s preview, Lambert’s substitutions have won Norwich 10 extra points this season and he has arguably the fittest side in the top flight if you judge it by distance covered. Both factors were crucial to Norwich storming the last 30 minutes and leaving us quite happy to hear the final whistle. The crucial change was to abandon 4-4-1-1 and add an additional striker in Aaron Wilbraham and re-shape the midfield into a narrow diamond and play through the middle.

Above shows Norwich’s opening 4-4-1-1 shape with the 5 midfields circled as a flat 4 and then Howson in front. Lambert’s switch to a diamond enabled Hoolahan the space between our midfield and defensive lines (below) in the build up to Norwich’s second equaliser with Felli & Gibson (blue lines) quite flat shape wise.

Lambert’s switch was to instigate more options going forward and to reign in Pienaar’s darts from the left into the hole between Norwich’s defensive and midfield lines. Howson moved back to anchor the diamond with Hoolahan at the sharp end behind the substitute Wilbraham who formed a strike duo with Holt. The move was to pay dividends as Hoolahan – who also assisted the first goal – had acres of space to play a nice through pass to Wilbraham whose shot was initially saved but when the ball broke free he managed to hold off Jags a bit too easily and find Holt who finished nicely. It should be noted that the goal came from a poor long kick out from Tim Howard.

Moyes response was to bring on Anichebe for Cahill with the Nigerian moving out to the left wing with Pienaar moving inside to provide a compact midfield 3 with Gibson sitting a bit deeper to keep tabs on the dangerous Hoolahan.

5.Final thought

This was an entertaining draw and certainly a point gained rather than two lost against an impressive Norwich side. There were impressive displays from Pienaar and Jelavic in particular, whilst Gibson’s long range passing was again superb. Fair play to Lambert whose tactical change got Norwich back into the game in the second half when it looked like we were going to take the 3 points rather than 1. With no new injuries or suspensions incurred the only nagging issue is who takes up the only real space still up for grabs in the semi next week on the wing. Magaye’s display asked more questions than it provided answers and Coleman hasn’t really fired all season. Anichebe also featured on the flank and it could be the Nigerian’s extra physical presence that sees him start at Wembley next week.

Everton Scout Analysis: 5 Point Tactical Report on Norwich

1. Lambert Impact

Paul Lambert has made a really positive impact in his maiden season as a top flight manager. In his playing days the Scot became the first British player to win the Champions League with a non-UK team, and the first British player to win the ECL since its inception, beating Man United on their own patch in the Semi Finals on the way. Shortly before his retirement he completed his UEFA Pro License at the German FA after being convinced to do so by former Scotland boss Berti Vogts. He has reaped the rewards of studying in a different country and being exposed to new ideas and interpretations of the beautiful game. There is a fair amount of synergies between Lambert and our own maestro David Moyes. Both are former Celtic players who have served their apprenticeship in the lower leagues of England and both are more pragmatic than idealistic in their outlooks.

Both managers have overseen sides this season who are perhaps more reactive in terms of being off the ball more than being on it – both sides bizarrely averaging the same 46% average possession per game and 76% pass completion. The duo have flexed their tactical acumen on many occasions this campaign and have been amongst the most influential in terms of making proactive changes during games to take points. Whilst Moyes was lauded for his high pressing game at Swansea a few weeks ago it needs to be said that Lambert had already strategised the same tactic to take 6 points off the Swans this campaign. Lambert has gained the Canaries 10 additional points by bringing on players to get decisive goals whilst 41% of our goals have come from goals either scored or assisted by Moyes substitutions – the highest in the league.

2. Norwich Style and Approach

Norwich have been a really good team to watch this season and their games have usually involved a fair few goals at both ends.  As a team they have covered the greatest distance collectively in the League this season, averaging 67 miles per game with  former Toffee target Kyle Naughton the most energetic, covering just under 6 miles per game

The Canaries play more long balls per game (75) than any side in the top flight. This is not dismissing Lambert’s side as long ball merchants as they have shown they have diversity to their play but they clearly play to their strengths. When selected together in Holt and Morrison they have an interesting strike duo that almost seem something of a throw back. Holt is a crucial player for the Canaries though; he has scored or assisted 29% of Norwich’s goals and is also the most persistent fouler in the top flight; making the most fouls per game 2.6 (74 in total). Steve Morrison is decent in the air with an eye for goal but has the worst pass completion (55%) of any outfield player in the top flight. With their aerial armoury I’d expect Distin to start as Jags/Heitinga won no aerials against them at Goodison.

They do have subtlety to compliment this physicality though; in the middle of the park Man Utd Academy graduate and ex Blackpool midfielder Danny Fox has created 39 chances with his long ball delivery to the flanks crucial, so far posting an impressive 70%, as has his crossing with 41% accuracy from his 90 crosses. Norwich also have another ex Blackpool schemer Wes Hoolahan in their ranks who possesses great dribbling and an eye for a pass which has seen him amass 5 assists so far.

3. Toffee Tactics & Selection

Moyes key decisions will be who he rotates with only 1 days rest before Sunderland and the looming Wembley date with Liverpool. With the return of Holt and the potential selection of Morrison I’d be surprised if Distin wasn’t recalled for this one with Moyes likely to rotate his 3 centre backs for this quick fire bank holiday double header. Pienaar is of course cup tied so I’d guess he would be a shoe in for both games with Drenthe also returning to the fold and now available for selection.

One area which has been key in the Blues annual post xmas revival is the blossoming partnership of Fellaini and Gibson. The Irishman will hold and distribute whilst the Belgian does what he does best – aggressively win the ball, keep it simple in possession and be a general snide in both boxes. Gibson’s long passing has been superb, averaging 76% completion and the speed with which he gets the ball and moves it out of his feet and out to the flanks – notably to Pienaar – has seen us a lot more dangerous in fast break situations. Upfront I’d guess Jelavic will start either this or Sunderland with Denis Stracquilarsi released from his cage for the other match.

4. Last Time Out

As mentioned in point 1, Lambert is very much a pragmatist and will tweak his selection and formations according to his opponents. The Canaries predominantly attack down their left but on this occasion they overloaded down the right via Naughton & Croft, presumably to counter act our chief creative force Leighton Baines. Lambert played 4-4-2 with Holt and Morrison as the battering rams but both were quite isolated as the two banks of 4 sat deep and proved tough for us to breakdown – a familiar factor in our post Christmas matches.

Whilst we had 62% of possession and 29 shots over half of these where from long range as we again lacked the incision to break down stubborn opponents. Norwich  played mostly long balls to their strike duo – 86 in total – more than their average and had just 1 shot on target and scored with it after a nice bit of skill from Holt. We only really looked threatening with any form of penetration when the enigmatic Drenthe came on a sub on the right and Osman shifted to the left with the pair combining for our equalising goal.

5. Betting

Our run of low scoring games has lessened since the arrival of Jelavic and we look more potent and have won our last 3 games 2-0 having only scored more than once on our travels twice previously this season. We haven’t won 4 on the spin without conceding since September 2009.

Our defensive record has been steadily improving with 7 clean sheets in our last 12 with only the Manchester clubs and Chelsea conceding fewer goals on the road. Bizarrely we haven’t been involved in a 0-0 in 64 games.

Norwich are not in good form though and sit 3rd from bottom of the form table and are short on goals so an under 2.5 goals bet could be a decent shout. I fancy us to sneak this 1-0 courtesy of an Osman goal.