Everton v Blackburn Preview

Saturday sees us take on Blackburn with the Blues finding their usual great end of season form with 4 wins and 2 draws from our last 6 games, underpinned by solid home form at Goodison.

Blackburn strategy and Intel

Over the past 2 seasons, Rovers have been a solid outfit on their home turf and poor travellers. In this period they have accrued 71% of their points on their home patch and conceded on average of 2.1 goals per game on the road – only Wigan possess a worse defensive record away from home. The one notable recent exception being their clean sheet at the Emirates a few weeks back. More often than not though, they are a soft touch away from Ewood, shown last season when an Everton side bang out of form and confidence rolled them over 3-0.

Blackburn Fact of the Day: Based on half time scores, Blackburn would currently be occupying a Champions League Spot.

Creativity wise, Pedersen is their principal playmaker. Out of the 45 chances he has created for opponents 6 have resulted in assists, averaging a chance created every 52minutes. The speedy Hoilett has been impressive in recent weeks – the Canadian can play on either flank, but I would expect him to play right side on Saturday to accommodate Pedersen on the left. These will be the likely wide men in a 4-1-4-1 setup.  The other midfield berths are likely to be filled by Jermaine Jones, Emerton & the more creative David Dunn. Phil Jones has been allotted to midfield in the above tactics board but with Nelson today being ruled out for the season its likely he will be deployed at centre back.

Up front, Kalinic, the match winner in the reverse fixture, is their most prolific forward having registered 5 goals this campaign, averaging a shot on target every 102 mins. He is currently out of favour though, with Santa Cruz likely to start as the lone striker. The Paraguayan International has failed to score in 467 minutes of football but has a good goal scoring record at Goodison Park .

As is the case with any team assembled by previous boss ‘Big’ Sam, Rovers are physically imposing and will try to force you out to the wings to cross the ball, safe in the knowledge they have plenty of big guys to repel any aerial threat. Samba is a huge presence but if you can play the ball around him he is easily isolated and you can get real joy here

Everton likely line-up.

The Blues have non of their big hitters due to return for this one so will continue with the same team which routed Wolves last time out in a 4-2-3-1 setup. This system basically means a delineation of the midfield duties into either ‘defend’ or  ‘attack’, so you have 6 defenders and 4 attackers. Heitinga and Neville will screen the back four and then a fluid 3 in front of them of Osman, Gueye & Billy will support Beckford.

Everton Fact of the Day: With Leon Osman in the side Everton’s win% this season has been 35%, without him it drops significantly to 25%.

I blogged this week on Osman’s great recent run of form and the key role he has played of late, and the midfield schemer will again be central to our chances of success on Saturday.

More direct approach from Blues

The Blues biggest win of the season last week was achieved despite recording our lowest amount of passes made/pass completion figures of the season. Our strategy is more direct than the possession based game we started the campaign with,  mainly due to the personnel options, but this is not to say we are playing long balls (why would you with nobody above 6ft in your midfield/attack?!). We are just getting the ball forward into the striker’s feet a lot more rapidly than we have been doing and playing more counter attack approach.

Game Plan

As mentioned earlier, Rovers will try to get us to play down the flanks to cross the ball into the box where they have an aerial advantage. It’s important we show patience and stick to our own game and keep the ball on the ground, be patient and try to bring Rovers onto us and then hit them on the break. The only issue here is that whilst Wolves attacked us from the off last week leaving massive gaps in behind their high defensive line, Blackburn won’t be so adventurous, and thus we will need to be patient.

Prediction

This will be a tough match up for the Blues and its important we stick to our game plan and don’t get influenced by Rovers physicality. If we can do this I’m confident the goals will come. 2-0 Toffees.

Everton v Blackpool Preview

Everton’s increasingly turbulent season sees us run into Ian Holloway’s Blackpool this Saturday in what will be an interesting tactical battle of 2 contrasting formations.

Blackpool Intel.

Blackpool will line up in their usual 4-3-3 system  with the impressive DJ Campbell as the central striker flanked by Luke Varney on the left who will look to provide width with Gary Taylor Fletcher on the right side cutting inside at every opportunity. James Beattie is in contention and as inept as he is as a striker you wouldn’t be surprised if he came back to haunt us.

In midfield, former Crewe man David Vaughan will anchor things and the Welshman is something of an unsung hero in comparison to the talismanic Charlie Adam who plays ahead of him. Vaughan is really impressive in possession with a quality left foot and as a convert from full back is great in the tackle with a success rate of 75% (only Scott Parker making more successful tackles than him this season).  New signing Andy Reid will be deployed as the closest creative support to the forward three having taken the impressive Grandin’s role in the previous match.

After shoring up an initially leaky defence the Tangerines have dipped again of late, conceding 11 goals in their last 4 outings with only WBA having conceded more goals this campaign. An interesting dual will see former Blue trainee David Carney aiming to stop one of our key men, young Seamus Coleman who of course played on loan at Blackpool last season.

Blackpool will come and attack us, creating plenty of chances in a fairly fluid style. Adam is statistically Blackpool’s most creative player, with 42 chances created leading to 6 assists for team mates.  The Seasider’s pass completion over the last 5 games has been 71% which is just below our season average of 74%

Everton Strategy

I would expect us to try and attack t he space caused by Blackpool’s lack of width in midfield  by getting the ball out to the flanks as quickly as possible . Seamus Coleman and Steven Pienaar did well in exploiting these areas in the corresponding fixture earlier this season.  The below diagram of Blackpool players average positions on that day translates this nicely.

Blackpool players Average positions v Everton earlier this season, defenders in red, midfielders in green, forwards in pink

Tim Cahill is likely to come back, probably at the expense of Jack Rodwell ,and will play up top with Saha when the Blues are in possession, dropping back into midfield when Blackpool are on the ball.  Billy and Seamus Coleman will provide outlets on the flanks.

Much will rest on the shoulders of Fellaini and Saha, who have both been putting in great shifts for the team in recent weeks. Arteta was also showing signs against Arsenal in the first half that he could be finally ready to hit some form. Phil Jagielka should return to defence and if so he will need to be on his game as Blackpool offensively will cause us many problems . They have shown all season they are a potent outfit and will be buoyed by our miserable defensive record of 1 clean sheet in 16 games.

Verdict

This is a game Everton dare not lose with the relegation zone getting closer with every game. The Tangerines are no mug outfit though and have taken more points on their travels than the Blues have at Goodison this campaign. I think this will be a good game to watch, plenty of goals and most probably a draw! I’m going for a repeat of the Bloomfield result earlier this season – 2-2.