Everton made2 enforced changes from the side which won last week’s thriller with Blackpool as Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe replaced the injured duo Jack Rodwell and Louis Saha in the striking roles. Anichebe played more on the right with Cahill playing up top when we had possession and deeper when Bolton where on the ball in a 4-4-1-1 setup. Bolton played 2 out and out strikers in Kevin Davies and Daniel Sturridge with Elmander playing right midfield but tucking in a lot to assist Mark Davies and Holden in the centre of midfield. Matt Taylor provided their attacking width in a 4-4-2 formation.
Bolton press better
Bolton started the game really well; their passing was crisper and their pressing in the opening exchanges was relentless as the below chalkboard shows
Bolton pressed us high up field shown by the fact that they made 7 interceptions inside our half whereas in contrast we made just 1 in theirs. Overall Bolton made 17 interceptions to our 8.
Pressing was key to Bolton’s strategy as despite much talk of them playing a more fluid passing game this campaign they still play a lot of direct balls to target men with Elmander often the target against his direct opponent Leighton Baines. Everton kept the ball better with 74% of our passes successfully completed compared to Bolton’s 67%.
It was no surprise when Bolton went in front on 10 minutes when woeful marking in the area enabled Gary Cahill the freedom of the 18 yard box to head home with no Blues defender attacking the ball to clear our lines. Everton’s defending at set pieces has been inexplicably woeful lately and this was the 3rd game running we have conceded a goal from a set piece. Indeed, we have now kept just 1 clean sheet in our last 18 games.
Everton lack cutting edge again.
As the passing stats show above we were keeping the ball better than our hosts from 15 minutes onwards, although we created little in terms of chances. Baines superb delivery should have been buried by Cahill who strangely tried to volley when a headed connection would surely have bursted the net. Mikel Arteta was the only midfield inspiration from the Blues, completing 88% of his passes and his driving runs from midfield were one of the few positives on a terrible day. Our other midfielders were truly awful. Fellaini’s recent form has been superb but today he was woeful with his pressing game not at the usual level of tenacity and his possession sloppy.
Our wide player’s were impotent with Coleman not beating his marker Robinson once and mustering just one successful cross. The Irish youngster can struggle when up against a more physically robust opponent who will principally look to defend more so than getting forward. The game against Sunderland earlier this season in which he was dominated by Bardsley was a similar story. On the opposite flank, Billy successfully beat his marker just once and produced no successful crosses. Again, Baines was our only potent offensive weapon from wide areas.
In attack, Victor Anichebe was chosen ahead of Jermaine Beckford, most probably for his physical strength. The youngster will always show effort and do a job for the team but technically and as a goal threat he is extremely limited. His pass completion this campaign is a really low 51% which shows the ball isn’t sticking. Goal wise, in his last 36 league games he has mustered just 13 shots on target and 2 goals. As much as I would like to see him do well I just can’t see it happening.
On the hour mark Moyes made a double change, replacing our ineffective wide men Coleman & Billy with Beckford and Osman. Cahill dropped into a more orthodox central midfield role and Beckford played alongside Anichebe.
Bolton get crucial second goal
Despite having more of the ball we still weren’t looking like scoring and Bolton’s second goal of the game effectively ended the game as a contest on the 67th minute. An aimless punt up field by Gary Cahill was again woefully defended by the Blues and when we failed to clear, Lee won a second ball aerial dual with Baines and Sturridge hit a right footed half volley past Howard. Game over.
As a tactical battle there wasn’t much to report here. Bolton deserved the points due to much better desire and workrate in their pressing play off the ball. This season has seen us consistently inconsistent and this was a truly abject performance comparable to Hull away last season . Basic errors are occurring with great regularity at the moment and our inability to keep clean sheets proved our undoing once more. The Blues now need to regroup and prepare for the Chelsea cup game next weekend when surely we could not play worse than we did today.