So, the last ball has been kicked in the 2012/13 season. It's been a long slog with ace goals, great games and plenty of missed chances with the occasional defensive calamity. Pour yourself a large mug of coffee (twix optional) and prepare for a lengthy A-Z breakdown of the highs and lows of the last 9 months for the toffeemen...
So, the last ball has been kicked in the 2012/13 season. It’s been a long slog with ace goals, great games and plenty of missed chances with the occasional defensive calamity. Pour yourself a large mug of coffee (twix optional) and prepare for a lengthy A-Z breakdown of the highs and lows of the last 9 months for the toffeemen…
A – Aerials
In total we contested 1351 aerial duels, winning 707 equating to a success rate of 52% which is up on last season’s figure of 48%. This equates to 18.6 aerials won per game, ranking us 4th in the top flight. In terms of attempts on goal from aerials, we conceded 68 compared to 74 last season and had 111 attempts from headers – the most in the league. Unsurprisingly, Fellaini was our main ball winner in the air with 151 aerials won – a 59% win rate – ranking him 5th in the division behind Carroll, Benteke, Fletcher and Crouch. The poorest statistically in the air was Kevin Mirallas who recorded just a 17% success rate. We have conceded the second most headed goals (15) behind Wigan (16) and scored the second most headed goals (13) behind Chelsea (16)
B – Back Four
Generally the defensive operation started badly with just one clean sheet prior to Christmas. We conceded 11.9 Shots per game which is slightly less than last season’s figure of 12.5 shots per game. This represents a steady improvement on the 10/11 figure of 13.3 per game. In total we kept 11 clean sheets which is just short of last season’s haul of 12. Our best clean sheet haul under Moyes was the 2008/9 total of 17.
In terms of the type of chances conceded, the figure for chances conceded in the box went down from last season’s 267 to 248 whilst the amount of crosses conceded went up slightly from 772 to 784. The amount of ‘big’ chances conceded per game went up considerably from 40 last season to 70 this.
C- Chance Conversion
We generally created more in the first third of the campaign; in the first 12 games we created 10+ chances in each game, whilst for the following 26 games we did so in less than 50% of matches.
In total we created 480 chances, ranking us 4th in the top flight and ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United. This is a significant improvement on last season’s figure of 378.
The most creative player was Baines who fashioned 116 of these openings – the most in the top flight and the most in Europe’s top leagues.
D – Dribbles
Our most frequent dribbler was Kevin Mirallas who beat his opponent 1.4 times per game (37 in total) ranking him the 18th most frequent dribbler in the top flight. Last season our most frequent dribbler was Baines with 28. Leon Osman was our most dribbled past player (58) and the second most in the top flight behind Cazorla (63). Our team’s successful dribbles went up to 201, well up on last season’s figure of 170 although both were eclipsed by the 10/11 figure of 266.
E – Errors leading to goals
As a team we made 26 individual errors with 7 of these leading directly to a goal, ranking us the fourth least clumsy side in the division with only Chelsea (3) and West Ham / WBA (both 4) making fewer. Last season we made 13 errors, five of which led to a goal.
F – Free kicks /Set Pieces
Goals from set pieces account for 25% of those scored in the English top flight. We conceded 121 attempts from set plays with 8 leading to goals. This is down on last season when we conceded 141 attempts from set pieces. We created 180 scoring chances from set plays – the most in the division – but had a relatively poor conversion rate with just 13 goals scored – ranking us joint seventh in the division.
G – Goals scored
We scored 55 Goals this season which is up on the 11/12 figure of 50 but still below our best figure under Moyes of 60 from the 2009/10 campaign.
On average it has taken us 11 shots to score a goal, the 4th worst ratio in the league. This season we hit 16.7 shots per game which is well up on the 11/12 figure of 13.7 shots per game. We hit the woodwork 16 times in total, the joint most along with Manchester Utd. The below table shows our 4 year trend for goals output
H – Home Record
A key factor in us being towards the top end of the table was our consistently excellent home form with just 1 loss all season – against clown kecks Benitez. This was the lowest loss rate in the league with the 42 points gathered from our home games ranking us third behind the Manchester clubs in terms of points gained. This is our best home record (in terms of games lost) since the championship winning years of 69/70 & 86/87 when we also lost just once. The home form was particularly vital given that our win record on the road under Moyes has year on year fallen after the turn of the year – this was again the case this season as we won just 1 game on the road since Christmas (the same figure as last season) crucially failing to score in 5 of our last 8 on the road.
I – Interceptions / Regaining Possession
In total we regained possession via tackles and interceptions 1312 times which is up on last season’s figure of 1241 despite us being on the ball more this season. The most interceptions in a game was 26 vs Man City and the fewest against Stoke (7).
J – Jelavic Decline
The decline of last season’s chief marksman has been one of the most discussed subjects of the season. The below table shows his match data from last season and this. The data shows us that 1) he has as many shots per game and 2) he did as much graft outside the box as he did last season, and actually spent more time on the ball in the opposition penalty box – and less time ‘working the channels’ outside the box – this season than last.
For me the issue is more about confidence. It’s also worth noting that in the last 10 games he started up front without Fellaini this season he has also failed to find the target, so the argument it’s the role of the Belgian is flawed for me.
Tim Howard had a below par start to the season, but finished it on the front foot with 7 clean sheet from his last 10 games. Howard made 4 errors that led to a goal, compared to last season’s figure of 2. In terms of distribution, Howard’s short pass completion hit 56.5%, up on last season’s figure of 50.2%. His often derided long kicking also went up to 43%, a tangible improvement on last season’s 35%.
L – Long passes
Our % of total passes hit long was 14%, the lowest in 4 seasons. Our most frequent long passer was Phil Jagielka, who hit 6.3 accurate long passes per game with a 58% accuracy – the same accuracy figure as last season and the best figures for a centre back in the top flight. Jags also recorded the longest distance average pass at 27 metres. Leon Osman had the best accuracy from long balls at 80% completion, the main receiver being Baines.
Our highest percentage of long passes in a game was the home game vs Norwich while the shortest % of long passes per game was against Liverpool at home – a game we were ironically derided for long ball tactics.
M – Most fouls for and against
Steven Pienaar was our most fouled player, winning 2.5 free kicks per game – the most in the division. Fellaini committed the most indiscretions (2.6 per game) and 80 in total. As a team we are ranked 8th for fouls committed (446) and 1st for fouls suffered 1 (498). Leon Oman picked up the most yellow cards (9). Marouanne Fellaini was suspended for the most games (6) due to his various indiscretions.
N – New right side
One of the big pluses this season has been the emergence of a more vibrant right sided alternative to the much heralded left flank. It was much needed given that sides have tended to overload down our left to negate space and were happy for us to have space down the right (Man United away being the prime example). Coleman’s chance to assist efficiency has ramped up post Xmas and the marauder has more assists from open post than Baines. Only Wigan’s Beausejour (7) at Wigan claimed more assists from a full back position than Coleman’s 5.
O – Offside, High Line & Counter Attack
A feature of our play has been a territorial game plan manifested by a high defensive line meaning we spend a higher percentage of time ( 32%) in the opposition half than anyone in the league. The Blues got caught offside 2.6 times per game, ranking us 3rd in the top flight, albeit less than the 3.1 from 11/12. Jelavic was unsurprisingly caught offside more per game than anyone else (1.3) ranking him 2nd in the top flight behind Christain Benteke (1.5). Offensively our goals output from counter attacks has gone up this season to 4 from the 1 last season with the notable effort Kevin Mirallas wonder goal that seen off slazenger deodorant scruffs Stoke.
Our ability to quickly get in shape when possession is lost has long been a feature of our defensive play and why we have allowed our opponents the fewest attempts (5) from counter attacks in the Premier League this season.
P – Possession
Our share of possession was a healthy 52.9% which is considerably up on last season’s figure of 47% indicating a more progressive, less reactive approach. In total we lost possession 448 times which is an improvement on 487 times last season. In terms of the danger areas, we had 1196 touches in the opposition 18 yard box, well up on last season’s figure of 870, and more than Chelsea, Man United & Spurs. The joint highest percentage share in a single game was the 61% vs Allardyce and his protein fuelled gang of mutants at Goodison, whilst the lowest share was the 40% against Man Utd on the opening night of the season.
Q – Quality on the ball
Our pass completion figure was 79.5% ranking us 11th in the league for pass accuracy. This is marginally up on last year’s figure of 77.3%. The most accurate passing display of the season was the 87% completion against Southampton at Goodison with the lowest figure recorded the 68% at Spurs.
R – Resilience
We have generally been good at retrieving points after falling behind in games. In total we have taken 21 points from such situations, ranking us third to Spurs (23) and the champions (29) in terms of resilience. This is compared to the 11 points we retrieved from losing situations last season.
S – Substitutions
Making changes has been a major issue all season and in total we have made the fewest substitutions in the league. A total of 3 of our 55 goals have come from subs which is consistent with the league average of 5%.In terms of substitute goals that have actually impacted outcomes of games, Anichebe home and away vs Newcastle (3 point impact) is our limit. This is down on the impact of 8 last season. Man City lead the way with 15 points ‘impacted’ via sub goals, that’s a 12 point swing on our figure, which is roughly the difference between ourselves and champions league football. Our average substitution time was 71 minutes. The most subbed player was Mirallas, who got the hook in 18 of his 23 starts. A study from ‘Soccer by the numbers’ showed that making subs at 58, 73 & 79 mins improved a team’s match position 40% of the time. Sadly, we just didn’t have enough game changing options from the bench to get the edge in tight games.
T – The left flank
Whether it be via the overlap or underlap, the Baines/Pienaar axis has again been massively influential with us attacking 42% down the left – the joint most in the top flight with Wigan. The lateral schemers have created 41% of our scoring chances and also contributed the same figure of assists/goals in relation to our overall goals output. Unsurprisingly, Baines to Pienaar was the most frequent passing combination and most for a single game (31) v Wigan away. Going the other way, opposition sides have targeted their adventure which has led to us conceding more crosses from the left side than the right side.
U – Utilisation
We have used the fewest players in the top flight (23) with consistency in selection one of our biggest strengths and weaknesses.
V – vs The Top Sides
Moyes record against the top sides historically is poor, however this year that has not been the case. Against the top 5 clubs we’ve picked up 13 points, with other sides only taking 14 points from us. Last season we took just 9 and conceded 21. If anything it was our record against the crud teams that cost us; whereas Arsenal took 32 points from the bottom six clubs, we accrued just 21, roughly the points difference Arsenal finished above us.
W – Win % With and Without
The following table shows the win rate in games a player has /hasn’t started or played a minimum of 60 minutes;
The Blues have been a bookies dream this season – we are the kings of the x on the coupon with the abundance of draws – 15 in total – costing us in the final standings. No side in the top flight of England, Spain, Italy or Germany could muster more deadlocks than us.
Y – Year on Year comparison
Our 63 points total was our joint second highest of the Moyes era and comfortably up on our figure last season of 56. The best tally of the Moyes era was 65 points in 2007/8. In terms of shortfall in points to 4th place, the 10 points we came up short this season makes it the closest we have come to getting 4th since 2009/10 when 61 points got us 9 points off 4th spot. Since 2002 under Moyes our average position has been 7th, compared to the ten year average position of 14th which preceded his tenure.
Z – Zenith Moment & Conclusion
In the end we just came up short with the form of Chelsea, Arsenal & Spurs too consistent and also setting a new points record high for champions league qualification in fourth spot. There has been plenty of highs with the best one a tough call. The Manchester Utd win on the opening day was superb, as was Jelavic last gasp winner against Spurs. On the road there wasn’t as much to write home about although the performances against Swansea and Fulham were superb. The atmosphere against West ham on the final day of the season was probably as good as it’s been since Fiorentina.
For me, the win against Man City at Goodison just edges them all in terms of ace factor and fist pumping pandemonium. It was also probably due to the fact the season’s nadir was reached 7 days prior in the shambles against Wigan.
That’s about your lot I’m afraid. Hopefully it hasn’t been too painful to read and apologies if I missed anything out.
Thanks for reading.
The Current Situation
Like anyone I was surprised with the timing of this week’s events and we now find ourselves at a crossroads in terms of how the club moves forwards.
The club is amidst the change curve; Moyes was ace but football is massive and change happens, often for the better and there is no reason we can’t kick on. With the foundations he has left we are in good shape to move forward given the right appointment.
The conundrum for the board is do we go for someone who can provide ‘like for like’ continuity, Scottish pragmatism i.e. a Malay Mackay type (essentially Moyes-lite) or look for a more dynamic solution that could provide more short term gain like, say a Laudrup.
Unless Kenwrong is a great poker player we need to assume that the search for a successor only started this week. This leads us to ask the question of what exactly have the club done to mitigate the risk of DM leaving? Was there a contingency ‘Plan B’ on the team shared drive ready to be implemented on Wednesday morning? Or is the more likely option that we have adopted a wait and see, eyes closed, hide under the table approach? Sadly, the answer is obvious. This excellent article by footballing head-hunter Tor Karlsen shows what properly organised clubs do in recruiting future managers.
’The Everton change curve’
The Transition that lies ahead…
Given that continuity has been one of our key strengths in recent times it’s a real worry that short term we could struggle to compete if the post- Moyes transition of any potential appointment isn’t well managed.
Clearly, given the far reaching autonomy DM enjoyed there will be a significant period of transition to endure. Some transitions have been handled better than others in the top flight in recent years. If we look at the worst, Villa’s replacement of long ball tramp Martin O’Neill with the contrasting strategist Gerard Houllier springs to mind. In that case, not replacing like for like led to the creation of haphazard recruitment and a playing squad that still to this date resembles a detritus.
Swansea’s transition from Martinez>Sousa>Brenny > Laudrup has been seamless given that they have a defined strategy and thus didn’t need to chop and change too much. Yes, Laudrup added better players but wholesale changes were not necessary. This continuity has also bagged them over £5m in compensation. Often though, what people disliked most of the previous regime will lead to the polar opposite being brought in. The England job is a good example with Sven -for being foreign- leading to englishman McLaren coming in, before he was denounced as not clever enough hence the need for tactican Capello to come in, who was also too foreign and a loose canon, which led to ‘safe hands’ englishman Roy coming in.
I certainly don’t subscribe to the belief that Moyes departure will somehow lead to implosion, although this is very much in the hands of the board.
What are we looking for?
The key capabilities required for the job is evidently different from when the Scot took the helm. Back then, the basic premise was survival and to reduce the average age of the squad which then stood at 56 (although it’s still quite old now)
We are now challenging at the top end of the table with an expectation of a top six placing and cup glory. With no cash and FFP now ‘in play’ the candidate will need experience in bringing players through, and given how we can’t compete like for like in the transfer market with the sides above us (and some below us), a tactical edge to find another way of winning will be crucial. So essentially it’s likely any successor will be more pragmatic than idealistic.
Given the broadness of the role and working on the assumption the board are not going to carve the duties up with additional costs (e.g create a director of football role), any future boss will need to be able to turn his hand to more functions than most bosses in the top flight including responsibilities for the academy and scouting as well as day to day coaching duties.
1. Long term role to re-build the second oldest side in the division
2. Tactical edge to find a way to win ‘by any means necessary’
4. Willing to accept a minimal transfer budget
5. Getting the best out of average players (e.g Naismith, Anichebe)
6. A willingness to be subservient to the board
7. A degree of arrogance and flair to move us forward from current position
8. Capability to effectively trade and make a profit on transfers
9. Available with no/minimal compensation
10. Hard worker with a steely desire to win
What’s in it for them?
1. A very good first X1 good enough to win a trophy
2. Quality youth setup and ‘state of the art’ training complex & fanbase
3. Opportunity to build something long term
4. Free reign on transfers, full autonomy on first team affairs and academy
5. One of the top 15 best paid jobs in world football
6. With the new tv deal a club no longer dependent on selling to survive
The Unlikely Options
Based on the criteria listed lets dismiss some of the names linked so far…
Personally I rate Paul Lambert as the closest like for like fit for Moyes in the top flight but given the way Villa have finished the campaign (and the compensation involved) this looks a non starter. Michael Laudrup would appear a complete long shot given the reported £5m release clause in his new deal- a clause he signed in recent months as our board watched Moyes contract wind down. He’s also something of a journeyman though with 5 jobs in 7 years – I don’t see him being anyway very long. Mark ‘project’ Hughes is not good enough to work in the club shop. Steve McLaren hasn’t really been mooted but I rate him; he’s one of the few English managers with the get up and go to try his hand abroad and whilst his spell at Wolfsburg was not great his time in Holland was excellent. He also bagged a trophy for Boro and had them settled in mid table – something which seems a million miles away now. Neil Lennon is Michael Douglas in Falling Down waiting to happen. Pip Neville – doesn’t like the sopranos, also no experience and is predominantly disliked (a tad unfairly) by a large section of the fan base so his appointment would be divisive. Duncan Ferguson and Alan Stubbs are well liked but have no real experience. I also think Freedman at Bolton is a more credible option that McKay at Cardiff, although neither fits the bill for me.
x4 more serious contenders to consider….
1. Roberto Martinez (Wigan Athletic)
Age 39 / Best Odds: 3/1 (Stan James) / CareerTrophies: 1 / Career Win Rate; 37%
Martinez role at Wigan in recent seasons has been to provide sustainable longevity following the early years of heavy spend prior to his appointment. Based in the North West and accustomed to the division, there would be minimal ‘setting’ issues associated with relocation and he would be able to hit the ground running. His salary is also a fraction of what Moyes was on. He’s also a fully qualified physiotherapist (boring fact)
RM’s transfer approach has been to bring in three cheap players for every big name player that he moves on and the money banked on players like N’Zogbia and Moses has been plentiful. He also has a good scouting network of previously untapped markets in South America. The way RM has recruited for minimal spend and developed players like McCarthy and Maloney is admirable and this will be something the board will look at for sure, as will be his subservience to Whelan. Tactically he is also adventurous with his three at the back system quite edgy for the vanilla tactics of the premier league.
I like his approach although I’m not sure his style wholly fits our club mantra. For example, could you see Martinez coming out after a 0-4 defeat and saying ‘yeah, but we played great football’… the fans would hound him out within 3 months. His win % is also the lowest of all the candidates and it’s even worse when you focus on top flight games only (29%). RM has never taken Wigan higher than 15th which is worse than two of the complete numbskulls who occupied the hot seat before him – the Aberdeen Angus headed Steve Bruce for instance got them to 11th while Burberry enthusiast Paul Jewell also got them in the top half, albeit both had more cash than RM.
Then there is the issue of compensation and the senile coffin dodger Dave ‘I broke my leg in the cup final’ Whelan who would be looking at £4m to fund his Thatcher memorial statue, the tit. Despite this, I think he’s the most likely option.
2. Vitor Pereira (Porto)
Age 44 / Best Odds 12/1 (Ladbrokes) / Trophies Won: 3 / Career Win Rate 54%
Similarly to Martinez and ‘Rafa’ Benitez, Pereira comes from a background of a not so great career as a player but one that excelled through the education system and who has a sports science accreditation under his belt. Prior to becoming assistant at Porto to ‘AVB’ , Pereira enjoyed moderate success in the lower leagues with Santa Clara where he developed a reputation as a progressive manager. His core skill is a work ethic and as a proficient fitness coach with a track record of getting the best out of what is available to him.
He isn’t the most charismatic figure though, and he certainly isn’t the next Mourinho, or even the next ‘AVB’. He’s something of a ‘yes man’ to the Porto president and has a willingness to be subservient so the Board which would give him a tick in the box for our role.
He has achieved the Portuguese title though – although some Porto fans perceived it as Benfica throwing it away rather than Porto winning it – however you can’t question the home form with the Dragons currently unbeaten in 44 home league games which is not to be sniffed at. They are also still in the hunt for back to back titles this season although the division is essentially a two horse race.
With his contract expiring in the summer (Porto haven’t offered him a new deal) Pereira would be free to move clubs, but it would be a surprise for me if his destination was L4 given our ‘traditional’ approach.
3, Rafa Benitez (Chelsea)
Age; 53 / Best Odds; 45/1 (Betfair) / Career Trophies; 11 / Career Win Rate; 50%
An outside bet given his connections across the park, ‘clown kecks’ is the best qualified candidate by some distance and would be able to hit the ground running. Yes, his affiliation with the other lot is hard to shake and his comments in the past will have done little to endear him to the L4 faithful. However for me the positives outweigh the negatives by some distance.
His time at Valencia was impressive, as was his feet in taking a rank average Liverpool side containing Djimi Traore and Djibrill Cisse to the Champions League crown. His ability to get the most out of such players and the tactical edge to get the better of teams possessing better players is crucial to the Everton role. His critics will argue he was a reckless spender at Liverpool where he came in for criticism for spending £40m on calamity duo Robbie Keane and Alberto Aquilani, however the club did recoup almost half this outlay in moving them on – a figure dwarfed by the £50m he banked the club from the Torres/Alonso deals.
What would his motivation be for taking the job then? Well, his desire to stay in the English top flight is clear, and his ego will dictate that he wants to operate at the top end. We are the only conceivable option for him to be able to compete here, plus he would get the autonomy on playing affairs and recruitment which has led to him leaving previous jobs. It’s a long shot though; his appointment could be divisive within the fan base and it would take a gutsy board who wanted success at all costs to appoint him – something we don’t have.
4. Thomas Tuchel (Mainz)
Age: 39 / Best Odds; 142/1 (Betfair) / Career Trophies: 0 / Career win rate 40%
A big outsider, the Mainz boss has won a lot of friends in Germany for turning the fortunes of an unfashionable side that in recent history have rarely been above Bundesliga2. As a sign of the progress he has brought, the club has finished 5th and 13th in the German top flight in recent seasons. Initially he was brought in as the successor to the now much coveted Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund, and there are many similarities that can be drawn between the duo. Both are passionate, animated characters and both excel at rearing young players into the first team such as Marcel Risse, Shawn Parker and notably Jan Kirchhoff who is joining Bayern this summer.
They currently lie in 10th position in the league but have struggled a bit this season, drawing 9 of 15 games in 2013. Overall they have scored 38 and conceded 38 from as many games this season, giving them a 0 goal difference and one of the best defensive records in the league. Sound familiar?
Their style also has a cross over with ours, playing an energetic, pressure game in the opposition half, again an approach similar to Moyes – Everton spend a higher proportion of time in the opposing half than anyone in the top flight.
Tuchel is paid in the region of 1 million euro’s per year, a drop in the ocean to Moyes £2.9m per year wedge. The hat wearing tactician’s progress hasn’t gone unnoticed with the top clubs in Germany with Schalke – a club who also supposedly looked at Moyes – holding an interest in the manager. He fits the bill but again would the board spread their net this wide?
The fear is the board will choose the easy option which guarantees no kick back and allow them to continue doing nothing, i.e Martinez. It’s also the reason that Benitez probably won’t be considered. If it is Martinez then it will be interesting to see how things develop. He’s has had moderate success at Wigan, but would need to change his approach to adapt to a much bigger football operation with great expectation at Goodison Park. It all makes for an interesting few months ahead.
Everton’s final third domination has been mentioned several times on the site over the last 12 months. No other team has spent as much time in the opposition’s final third as Everton over the last three seasons.
On average Everton spend a third of their time in the last third of the field. However, using our expected goals model similar to the ones used by the analysts at Prozone, we can see that Everton haven’t scored as many goals as they should for the shots they’ve had. We can also see that Everton have conceded more goals than they should have for the shots they’ve faced.
Basically, Everton’s dominance of the pitch is achieving the exact opposite of what it should be. Using these measures, we can calculate that Everton should expect to have scored 56-57 goals so far this season. They’ve managed 52. Also that they should expect to have conceded 33 goals so far but have actually conceded 38.
It’s easy to point the finger at individual mistakes for this – Jelavic up front and maybe Heitinga and Howard at the back. It’s a little harder to look at the system and say: “this just isn’t working”. So that’s what I’m going to try to do here…
My theory is that camping out in opposition territory isn’t doing Everton any favours. There’s generally two types of approach and both look to utilise width. The first approach involves working it methodically out to the flanks, and often involves an interchange between full back and wide midfielder before the ball gets sent in.
The second is utilising the long ball – aiming for the target man who brings others in before it’s again, generally worked wide. Everton use both the long ball and the cross more than the majority of teams. Defenders know what’s coming. They sit back and defend deep content to face play knowing they’ll seldom get turned round. If they do it will be close to their own goal line and there’ll be plenty of team mates defending the cross centrally in the box. Rarely do you see teams playing a high-line against Everton.
I wanted to test how Everton’s attacking efficiency changes depending on how territorially dominant they are. Thankfully, the split between games where Everton have spent a third or more of their time in the final third, and games when they’ve spent less than a third of their time in the final third is almost equal.
It actually turns out that Everton score more and are better at converting chances when they’ve been territorially dominant – chance conversion is around 95% of that expected. This is compared to around 87% when Everton spend less than a third of their time in the attacking third.
While these figures blow my original theory out of the water, they point to the fact that Everton don’t really have variety in their attack and simply aren’t prepared or equipped to break quickly on an opponent as a team. Mirallas is key to this. He’s demonstrated his ability to do this by going it alone in recent games against Stoke and Spurs.
The rest, however, struggle as they don’t possess the Belgian’s pace. Even with the goal against City, Fellaini’s pass to Jelavic was fairly dismal and the Croatian was forced to check inside to pot-shot from outside the area. The shot even needed a looping deflection and Hart to be caught in no man’s land before it found its way into the net. The key then, may be to get Mirallas more involved centrally to enable quicker and more direct transitions between attack and defence. Hopefully it’s something that Everton will improve on as a team next year.
The figures are much more revealing defensively. Splitting the games again as before, Everton’s defence becomes solid when the team isn’t dominating the opponent. Forced to concede territory, Everton resume shape with bodies behind the ball. In these games Everton concede less than expected , letting in 19 goals when they’d expect to concede 20.
In the games when Everton dominate the opponent, the defence collapses alarmingly, conceding 19 goals when they should only be expecting to concede 13. It’s really not surprising when you consider how advanced Baines and Coleman become in these games.
Distin and Jagielka are relied upon heavily to hold the fort. They’re both physically gifted and need to be as they’re expected to hold a high line. Everyone’s still having nightmares about Heitinga being expected to do the same against Kone at Wigan and Benteke at Goodison.
Finding the perfect balance between defence and attack is always going to be tricky. It makes more sense to fit the system to the players rather than the players to the system. You only have to look at Villas-Boas at Chelsea or Rodgers at Liverpool earlier this season to see that.
Saturday sees us take on Martin Jol’s Fulham at Goodison in a fixture the Toffees routinely triumph. In the most recent match at Craven Cottage one of the key tactical points of interest was how we managed to link play through Fellaini with consummate ease whereas Fulham struggled to get their key man Dimitar Berbatov into the game in any capacity. This preview will take a look at the reasons why both situations occurred.
Top scorer Dimitar Berbatov is Fulham’s stand out performer having scored in six of their ten wins this season whilst also creating the most chances for team mates (43). He usually pivots between the no 9 and 10 roles with fellow flamboyant rogue Bryan Ruiz. His record against us isn’t great with just 3 goals from his 11 appearances.
Berbatov was completely anonymous in the 2-2 draw earlier this season and has generally struggled in games against us due to his and our style. We setup with a high line and look to play the game in the opposition half meaning that – due to the compression of space - forward short passing angles into him from colleagues are hard to engineer which makes sides ‘go long’ to relieve pressure.
Berbatov made just 4 final third passes in the game, created no chances for teammates and had just a solitary shot on goal all afternoon. His ‘passes received’ are shown below with Hangeland and Schwarzer his main line of service indicating a ‘back to front’ style not usually associated with the Cottagers.
Compare this to his involvement against QPR lately when tactics sceptic, dog rape enthusiast Dirty Arry set them up to drop off deep and allow Fulham the space to in front of them to play. Consequently, Berbatov was heavily involved linking midfield to attack, making treble the amount of final third passes and supplemented this with a couple of goals which won the game.
Berbatov is theoretically the ideal opponent for us in this respect as he isn’t going to ‘work the channels’ and provide an out ball to defences to relieve pressure, nor does he have the pace (or ability to be arsed) running in behind to exploit our the high line. Heitinga’s more suited skill set of intercepting play was preferred to Distin’s physical, recovery based game last time and it wouldn’t be a big shock if twitter troll nemesis ‘Big Sylv’ sat this one out.
Despite recent outings in a deeper role I’d be amazed if Fellaini wasn’t given a forward brief for this fixture having scored four in his last three games against this weekend’s opponents. With the towering presence of Hangeland at left of centre, Fellaini loiters on the opposite side and has routinely dominated whichever beleaguered opponent Jol has pitted against him. As the below passes received stats board shows, we managed to get Fellaini involved with almost double the amount of service that Fulham did to their Bulgarian frontman.
Last season Fellaini was used in the forward role home and away and caused real problems in this respect. In the Goodison game we played the ball predominantly short to him but such was the hapless Baird’s afternoon that he was subbed for Senderos at half time by which time we were 3-0 up already.
In the 2-2, Hughes was pitted against the Belgian but also struggled badly. Initially he looked to stand off Fellaini but as we started mixing up the service and going longer quicker, the Irishman tried to get tight and was rolled on numerous occasions including Fellain’s second goal which to be fair was superb. Hughes was completely befuddled and turned inas convincing defence as this, or this. Or even this. It’s likely that ex toffee Phillipe Senderos (yes, really) will be given the job of stopping him this time which could permeate tremendous scenes.
Martin Jol’s side have an unenviable record at Goodison, losing the last 19 on the spin and not winning home or away in the last seven against us.
Given that Fulham are not the most resilient – they’ve won fewer points from losing positions than any side in the top flight– one goal would probably do it so expect the Everton win / Fellaini score double to be a popular wager with Blues this weekend – this is best priced at 9/4 with 888Sport.
The last four meetings have all featured over 2.5 goals however five of Fulham’s last six on the road have been under 2.5. It’s also worth noting that Fulham have shut out Chelsea and Spurs on their own patch so definitelyhave a clean sheet ‘in their locker’. This combined with our own recent low scoring games plus an upturn in clean sheets for the Blues makes me think this will be under and probably 2-0 to the Toffees.
Teams and Line-ups
We made one change from the weekend, with Ross Barkley coming in for the injured Leon Osman meaning that Fellaini dropped back into midfield with Anichebe as the lone forward. Arsenal brought in Walcott, Mertesacker and Gibbs to the side that beat Norwich at the weekend.
Off the ball
Generally we did a good number on Arsenal’s passing game by swamping the middle of the park. The Gunners boast the highest pass completion (85.9%) and possession share (58.9%) in the top flight. In the first half particularly, we had them down to 79% for the majority, with their key link man and most frequent passer, the ex toffee Mikel Arteta recording just 55 passes during the game, way down on his 88 per game average. The Spanish schemer on average is dispossessed just 0.8 times per game whilst tonight he was dispossessed 3 times – more than in any other game this season.
The above takes into account pressing ‘contacts’ including tackles, interceptions, blocks and fouls broken down into 15 minute spells.
Fellaini was perhaps lucky to escape a booking early on for some rough stuff aimed at Mike Skinner tribute act Jack Wilshere whilst – despite the best efforts of Arteta – Darron Gibson just about stayed on the pitch after some tangles with Wilshere and Arteta. To be fair to the Spaniard, we didn’t mind him buying fouls and being a snide when he played for us! Overall we defended resolutely with Jagielka and Coleman particularly impressive in what was a high intensity tussle.
On the ball
On the ball, our own pass completion was decent, in the first half peaking at 83% with us having more of the ball (50.3%) than the Gunners which is well up on our usual stats against the top sides when we tend to be more subservient.
In the second half Arsenal turned the screw more, eventually finishing the game with 57% of the ball as we sat deeper but failed to instigate as many counter attacks as we did at Spurs.
Anichebe endured a frustrating afternoon and didn’t really hold the ball up and bring in the wide attacking midfielders as he should have done with MIrallas and Barkley only receiving one pass each from the Nigerian. Overall he received 24 balls which led to just 9 passes, with just 5 completed successfully.
The display of Ross Barkley in his ‘favoured’ role was one of the most promising aspects of the game going forward and he was more effective at linking the play than Anichebe.
Barkley received the most passes from Fellaini (7) and played in Mirallas (6) the most. His pass completion (86%) was well up on the 50% he posted vs Spurs and only bettered by Distin and Gibson (88%). He also made the joint most shots, through balls and key passes with his sumptuous slide pass to Anichebe in the first half and his long range effort in the second our most threatening ‘moments’ in the game.
This was a decent effort by the Blues in a game which was at its best in the first half. Overall we didn’t really create a lot of chances, particularly in the second half of the game when Arsenal overturned the passing figures which we shaded in the first half. The point doesn’t really do much for us but given our shocking record against Arsenal and in the context of the pressure they put us under in the second half, this was a point gained rather than two lost.
Teams and Tactics
Spurs lined up in a 4-3-3 of sorts with Holtby, Parker and Dembele in central midfield with width coming from Sigurdsson on the left and Dempsey on the right with Adebayor up front. As he did in the game at Goodison, Vertonghen came in at left full back with Walker on the opposite flank.
After last week’s three at the back experiment we reverted to a back four with the surprise inclusion of Ross Barkley in place of Jelavic the only personnel change. Barkley initially lined up on the left but he, Mirallas and Osman all dovetailed a fair bit in an interchangeable trio of attacking mids in the first half. You could say it was 4-2-3-1 but basically it was 6 defenders and four counter attacking players.
Spurs started the game in a rapid fashion with attacks focused down their left channel with Vertonghen, Holtby and Sigurdsson overloading down this side and putting significant pressure on Seamus Coleman.
Our start defensively couldn’t have been worse; with Mirallas not in position, Vertonghen was able to whip in a ball that was disastrously defended by Distin to allow Adebayor to slot home.
We then came back strongly with a really good 15 minute period of possession when pass completion peaked at 83%– better than any other spell of the game. With Spurs pinned back we deservedly went in level when Jagielka headed home Baines delivery.
Spurs three bodies against our two in central midfield enabled Dembele, Parker and Holtby to be involved in the bulk of Spurs top 10 passing combinations as shown below;
For ourselves, the blossoming Victor Anichebe was the key man, being involved in 50% of our top 10 passing combinations. In keeping with our game plan, Anichebe was the target for direct balls up field and was asked to link play with the trio in behind him with Mirallas and Osman the major beneficiaries. Anichebe/Mirallas (14) was second only to Baines/Osman (15) in terms of total combinations both ways.
Ross Barkley was subbed in the 52nd minute after something of a patchy game. The youngster played a key role in forcing the corner for our opening goal but found the going tough against Spurs pressing game with 50% of his passes finding a white shirt – the lowest completion of any of the starting outfield players. Incidentally, the final pass which seemed to prompt the change came when a forward pass was on but the youngster unwisely opted to play a backwards pass that was intercepted.
In the reshuffle that followed, Jelavic came on and Leon Osman moved across to the left flank with Mirallas – who superbly slotted our second goal – moving to play almost as a right sided forward and thus pushing back Vertonghen who had been Spurs prominent attacking full back in the first half. This move led to Kyle Walker becoming the main lateral threat in the second half with Baines being pushed even further back as the game unfolded.
As the second half player importance visual above shows, we were increasingly deeper positionally in the second period with the gap between our defensive 6 and forward 4 becoming a gulf. This led to us hitting 20% of our passes long, way up on the season average of 14%.
With legs tiring, mistakes on the ball became more frequent for the toffees and resulted in our pass completion from 75 minutes onwards plummeting to just 58%. Being unable to keep the ball for any prolonged period of time put increasing pressure on the backline and eventually it cracked with Sigurdsson scoring after Walker had skinned Baines down our left flank.
To be fair, Spurs are a top side and as well as being slick on the ball they press ferociously of it; despite having 62% of possession they regained play via tackle or interception as many times as we did (40) and also made double the amount of fouls than we did.
This was tactically a good performance by the Blues and was a game-plan we have seen executed on more than one occasion with a draw probably a fair result. Spurs will point to their territorial and possession dominance as pointers that they deserved all three points however due to our defensive operation they didn’t translate this possession into scoring chances and I felt that on the counter attack we looked equally if not more threatening and could have scored a couple more goals than we did in what was a frenetic second period. The point doesn’t really do much for us in terms of making up ground on teams above us however as a game it was cracking entertainment and gave us 4 points from 6 against a very good Spurs side.
This week’s preview will take a look at Gareth Bale; Spurs key man and driving force in taking them to third place in the table. Moyes has often shuffled his pack to accommodate significant threats such as David Silva and more recently last week’s switch to three at the back.
Given Spurs will most likely start with just Adebayor up front it’s unlikely – but not impossible – that we will retain this formation as we would have 2 spare centre backs. What other options are available then? Here are four to think about….
Coleman has been used a couple of times in midfield to directly stop Bale. It’s a role he is suited to given his pace and tackling ability. As the average position board (left) shows, in 09/10 Coleman (23) played in front of Phil Neville (18) with decent results; Bale did virtually nothing and failed to complete a single cross before being moved to the right flank where he was equally quiet.
In 10/11 Coleman was again deployed in midfield but this time moved with Bale from flank to flank. Bale was predominantly on Coleman’s unfavoured left flank (circled below) in front of Baines however as Bale is left footed he will cut inside on Coleman’s better right foot. Again in this game Bale was peripheral.
In Spurs last game vs Swansea Bale played fairly freely as the below passes received visual shows…
Whilst in Spurs last home game against Fulham Bale played exclusively on the right flank…..
The conclusion we can draw here is that he will position himself where the space is. Given Baines occupies a position high up field it’s my guess Bale will start on the right. A potential setup with Coleman in midfield would look like this….
The only issue is, if Coleman is played in wide midfield, who plays in his right back spot? After the Wigan debacle, Phil Neville is essentially looking after the ponies in a semi retirement abyss whilst Hibbert is also nowhere to be seen, so its unlikely Coleman could be spared from the right back slot unless Heitinga is asked to ‘do a job’. The other issue is that it reduces Coleman’s impact going forward which as we will explain later could be crucial.
Option 2 – Zonal Marking
The image below shows the 65 locations of the pitch Bale has created chances from (bottom) and the 17 positions he has scored from (top); clearly the main area for both is centrally in the final third just outside our 18 yard box where 7 of his goals have come from.
Defending this zone will be crucial and therefore marking this space will be implicit to us stopping Bale. Thus, the gap between our midfield and defensive duo will need to be minimal and players will need to pick up and close down when the ball comes into Bale. The key benefit of this approach is that we don’t have to compromise the strengths of our own game by moving players around to stop the opposition.
In total 13 of Bale’s 17 goals have come with his left foot so keeping him on his right foot will be key. The issue is that Osman and Gibson’s qualities are more suited to being on the ball than defending off it, however as they showed against City at Goodison recently, they are more than capable of putting in a defensive shift.
Option 3 – Heitinga
The much maligned Dutchman did a similar job against his countryman Rafael van der Vaart away to Spurs a few years ago from midfield. More recently, Phil Jones of Man Utd did a similar central job here for United, assisting the full backs when Bale came inside and enabling United’s wide midfielders to push up onto Spurs full backs. This would shape up a little like this….
Potentially we could pick the same team as last week but move Heitinga into midfield and push Osman further forward into the Fellaini spot. The problem is that – unlike Rodwell vs Silva last season – Heitinga’s pace is dubious and if isolated 1v1 Bale could potentially make him look like a clown without make-up.
Whilst crud in the air and suspect defending against physicality, Heitinga is a decent man marker and good on the ground at intercepting the ball so this for me could work. He is also two footed so could either play on the left or right of centre mid if Bale starts moving around the pitch.
Option 4 – Root Cause
The other option is to cut the service at the source. In Spurs last 3 games the main supply has come from the full back areas with either Naughton /Walker whilst Hugo Lloris also features heavily in terms of his quick distribution from the back to Bale.
Bale’s goal output is considerably reduced at home where his conversion is more than 50% less compared to on the road . At home he has failed against the league’s bottom feeders who will sit deep and deny space such as Stoke, Wigan, Norwich and QPR but has scored against sides like Arsenal and Lib-ep-ewl who will play higher lines.
What’s likely to happen?
In reality any one of the above situations could happen, but I’d be very surprised if we went ‘gung ho’ against a quality side that have created 422 scoring chances this season – second only to Lib-ep-ewl’s 433.
Caution will be the watchword although I believe we will score, but perhaps look to open up cagey. Spurs have of course dropped 19 points from leading positions in the league this season and with our extra rest (Spurs play tonight) it might be prudent to stay in the game as long as possible should they falter in the final stages just as they did at Goodison earlier this season – a game which also followed a Europa outing.
Defensively Spurs are suspect down their left side, conceding 33% more chances and 150 more crosses than their right side. The right footed Naughton has been deployed at left back whilst Assou Ekotto and Vertonghen have also deputised with Spurs using each of the trio in their last 3 games in the left back spot. We exploited this area in the reverse fixture with both goals coming from crosses from this zone with Coleman crucial in the key last 20 minute spell of the game as the below player importance shows…
With this lack of consistency I’d be surprised if Mirallas didn’t start on the right wing and looked to expose Spurs high line with Gibson’s long range delivery crucial to getting him in the game. Spurs have an achilles heel aerially too with Caulker particularly suspect with just 45% success from his headers– low for a centre half -, whilst Gallas will always give you opportunities.
Either way, it should be an interesting fixture. A win or draw keeps us in the hunt for a decent finish whilst a defeat wouldn’t end the season but would make things a lot tougher.
The Stoke Problem
Our recent record against Stoke has been poor with no wins in our last 4 matches against Pulis side and no clean sheets. Often we have failed to win the territory / aerial battles and been outnumbered through the middle on the second balls. The problem was even more problematic given the absence of Fellaini – one of our most aerially dominant players – due to suspension.
Ever the reactive tactician, Moyes looked to combat this through springing a surprise in his selection, opting to deploy three centre backs (circled blue) with Coleman and Baines providing the width (as they usually do anyway) as wing backs in a 3-4-3- ish system.
In midfield, Osman/Gibson supported an attacking trio of Mirallas, Anichebe and Jelavic with the Croatian through the middle and Anichebe (right) / Mirallas (left) playing more supportive roles on the flanks (3-4-2-1) when we didn’t have the ball (circled yellow) and then when possession was regained Anichebe would come inside alongside Jelavic with Mirallas in behind (3-4-1-2). The tactical change was surprising given that such a setup is un-chartered territory for Moyes who always prefers a back four.
Many sides have used a similar back three setup against Stoke over the last season to combat the route one punts down the middle of the park – some with more success than others. In terms of shape, Jagielka was the middle man who would predominantly attack the long deliveries –he won the most headers (8) on the pitch – whilst Distin came in on the left with Heitinga on the right.
Pros and Cons of 3 at the back
The key benefit of the back three is that it gave us a man advantage against Stoke’s two centre forwards Crouch and Jerome . This gave us better coverage through the middle and led to our figures in terms of aerials and second balls improving based on recent games against the Potters.
In this game we won 49% of the aerial duels which was a better figure than the game earlier this season (37%) and last season’s games home and away. Having more players in this central area meant we were better equipped bodies wise to hoover up the second balls too. In the corresponding fixture last season Stoke won 73% of their second balls whilst yesterday we restricted them significantly in this area to just 56%. Heitinga is the better of the three on the ball and with Distin and Jagielka picking up Crouch/Jerome it meant Heitinga was usually free to mop up and bring the ball out from the back unopposed. As the passing network shows he pushed the ball into midfield more than any of the 3, predominantly picking out Gibson who in turn looked to pick out Coleman to start attacks down the right.
In terms of the flanks it meant that wing backs Baines/Coleman could focus more on the attacking role which is where their best attributes reside.
The disadvantage on the flanks was that we were numerically outnumbered and couldn’t engineer the 2 v 1 situations in the final third which is usually a hallmark of our attacking play.
This is particularly evident when looking at the passing network with Baines only receiving 2 passes from Mirallas in front of him compared to the double figures he usually gets from Pienaar and thus Baines was largely reliant on Leon Osman for service down his flank. This led to us firing in just 20 crosses compared to the 44 we desperately hammered in last season against Stoke.
One of the reasons the back three system is favoured against Stoke is because the numerical deficit on the flanks isn’t really exploited due to Stoke’s full backs primarily tucking in and rarely crossing the half way line to exploit this advantage with their wide midfielder.
The ends justifies the means and you would have to say the back three experiment did the job in what was always going to be a war of attrition against a hard to watch Stoke outfit.The result also puts us in good shape for some of the crucial battles against key rivals in the coming weeks.
Offensively the lack of numbers on the flanks meant we didn’t create much with the exception of Mirallas excellent goal. Defensively however we looked more secure through the middle and restricted Stoke to few scoring chances with the Potters as usual very reliant on set plays.
Stoke look in big trouble; despite investing heavily in the playing squad they are on course for their worst points total since returning to the top flight as well as their lowest goals output and seem incapable of creating anything from open play.
Teams and Tactics
The Toffee’s made two changes from the limp FA Cup exit with Jelavic and Neville carrying the can and replaced by Anichebe and Gibson. City looked to combat our aerial assault by conceding the flanks and overloading in central zones with three centre halves Kolo Toure, Nastasic and Zabaleta. On the left, Kolorov made his first start since the last game against us back in December in place of Clichy presumably for his height and delivery as we will usually push City out to the flanks. On the right, vanilla flavoured James Milner has started the last 3 at Goodison in an attempt to reign in Baines mischief so it was equally unsurprising that he was deployed here from the start.
First 60 Minutes…
The Toffee’s used a ‘contract and expand’ type approach to this match; when City had the ball we formed a compact block and when possession was regained we’d make the pitch as large as possible with Coleman and Baines pushing right up field. Coleman was the out-ball throughout with Gibson (7) and Mucha (6) feeding the full back most frequently.
We know City would look to play through the middle so when we lost the ball our players would shrink the middle of the pitch with wide players tucking inside and closing off passing angles to the likes of Silva and Tevez who increasingly had to funnel across to wide areas to pick up passes.
Southampton make the most interceptions in the top flight with an average of 19.9 per game however yesterday we made a whopping 26 with the below visual showing how predominantly they came in-field and not down the flanks with the clearly ace Gibson (7) making the most.
The game’s opening goal came after some patient build up play by the Blues with Osman switching play from left to right, feeding the excellent Seamus Coleman. The Irishman moved the ball inside for Osman and with City standing off him – as they did later for the Jelavic goal – the pint sized schemer was able to pop a cracker into the top corner of block headed gaming enthusiast Joe Hart’s net. Mancini then switched to a back four prior to half time with Zabaleta pushing out to right back, Milner pushing into midfield and Silva moving to left midfield.
Post Red Card
With a man disadvantage, Operation Goodison lockdown commenced with more of a focus on the defensive game than the previous full throttle attacking overload from the first half. Moyes withdrew Fellaini into a deeper midfield role and Osman pushed out to the left flank with Anichebe thus increasingly isolated, feeding predominantly of long balls which he did superbly. The less dynamic Naismith was brought on for Mirallas presumably for his better defensive capabilities particularly as an aerial outlet. Credit must go to the much maligned Scot as his industry was crucial in winning the ball back for Fellaini to tee up Jelavic for goal two.
City brought on Nasri to play through the middle in place of the awful Gareth Barry in a bid to give their passing a bit more depth and incision which worked to an extent. City unsurprisingly swelled possession in the last 30 mins and with more space to manoeuvre in the centre of the pitch for the likes of Silva and Nasri chances became more frequent with 9 of their 17 opportunities coming within this time period.
As the game developed we relied increasingly on the lion hearted running of Seamus Coleman, who made more successful dribble than anyone on the pitch. Goodness knows what slow releasing energy foodstuffs they feed the young wingback at Finch Farm for his breakfast. With most players dead on their feet in the dying embers of the battle, Coleman’s late bursts where the football equivalent of a withered clubber re-energised at dawn courtesy of an ill judged double drop of love beans. Alexsander Kolorov will certainly be happy to see the back of him.
Just as last week was a microcosm of the negative aspects of Moyes, today provided a reminder of the good things with hard work, bloody minded determination combined with quality and a streetwise cunning in the important zones.
For Mancini, Everton will always be his ‘laces out’ Ray Finkle moment. The Italian spoke after the 1-1 draw in December about how there is ‘no solution’ to playing Everton. He must feel like a man banging his head against a brick wall as everything he tried failed. This time out he went with 3 centre backs, then switched to a back four and then back to a back 3 in the final period of the game. The formations changed but whichever shape he went for City were second best in the face of an opponent fired up by the fall-out from last week.
We’ve now webbed United and City this season – a feat only matched by Real Madrid – but now need to follow this up with results at rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs plus the local dispute at the Tin Mine. All the above are places we have continually failed to get points in past campaigns but which will ultimately define our season.