Tactical Deconstruction: Newcastle 1-2 Everton

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Teams & Formations

Selection wise, Moyes brought back Marouanne Fellaini for the unfortunate Victor Anichebe with Steven Pienaar moving back to his normal spot on the left with Phil Neville also returning at the expense of Thomas Hitzlsperger in the usual 4-2-3-1 setup.

Newcastle had to deal with the midday withdrawal of talisman Demba Ba and rather than re-shuffle his selections Pardew just made one like for like replacement with Shola Ameobi starting as the lone forward. This meant that that our major threat Baines would be patrolled by a striker playing right wing in Papiss Cisse.  Behind Cisse was James Perch at full back who has struggled in the previous two meetings to contain Baines / Pienaar; in last season’s game at L4 he was substituted at half time and earlier in the corresponding game this season was moved into midfield after being repeatedly exposed. Newcastle lined up in a fairly similar 4-2-3-1 setup with Marveaux central and Obertan coming in on the left.

Passing / Territory Data

In the first period we shaded possession (51%) and territory (54%) although Newcastle’s second half pressure after our goal resulted in them overall having more of the ball in the 90 minutes (50.5% v 49.5%). Newcastle’s pass completion was better overall (80% v 77%) although our completion was better in the final third than our hosts (80% v 76%).

Our territorial advantage  increased to 55.9% over the 90 minutes. As an example, Fellaini, Baines and Pienaar had 125 touches of the ball in the Newcastle final third; our hosts had just 145 touches in our defensive third.

In terms of cutting edge, Newcastle were more effective at fashioning chances (9 v 7) and had more shots than us (16 v 13)

Passing Combinations

The key differential on the night was that we had more cohesion about our attacking interplay with the combination play of Baines, Pienaar, Osman and Fellaini predominantly on the left side of the pitch crucial. With the exception of Pienaar’s gap year at Spurs the foursome have played together for five years and know each other’s games inside out and their enterprising passing triangles were a feature of what was at times quite a bruising contest.

Unsurprisingly, ten of the twelve most frequent passing combinations where between Everton players with  Baines and Pienaar linking up 23 times.  The balance of the midfield looks significantly better when Osman is positioned to the left of centre in closer proximity to join his fellow mini marvels in invoking impish impudence.

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The home side struggled badly to contain these combinations, making 20 fouls to our 10 in a ‘get in their faces’ approach to disrupt rhythm.  Our strategy is hard to contain though; when we overload down the left we outnumber the opposition in this area, meaning that even when possession is lost we have strength in numbers to press and quickly win the ball back or it forces opponents to panic and clear long balls either back to us or into touch.

Goals

Newcastle’s opening goal had a familiar feel to it. The Geordies statistically make more long passes than any side in the top flight – unsurprising given they have played the bulk of the season without their two most creative players Cabaye and Ben Arfa – and the direct approach was to prove their favoured method here. Cisse was left free in the box to lob Howard in a move that started following a Tim Krul up and under which was horribly dealt with by the Everton backline with Heitinga’s aerial deficiencies again on show and Baines guilty of poor positional play…something he was soon to make up for. The nature of the home side’s opening goal was all the more galling given that the long ball / knock down approach was exactly how they equalised in the game at Goodison earlier on in the season.  Newcastle dominated the first 15 minutes and could easily have gone another goal up with Obertan getting joy against makeshift right back Jagielka down the left flank.

For the next half hour though it was all about the Toffees and our response was excellent with the interplay mentioned above really kicking in. In the 16-30 minute period we began to control the game, with our pass completion up to 93% from 80% in the first 15 minute period. In the third 15 minute period before half time we pulverized the home side on the ball in a prolonged period of possession making 111 successful passes, which was more in a fifteen minute spell than we completed in the entire second half.

Baines was soon to make amends for his early error. Fellaini usually patrols the left side of the pitch but received all ten of his passes from Tim Howard kick out’s on Newcastle’s left side, presumably targeting Santon in the air. From a fortuitously won free kick for a foul on Fellaini,  The Velvet Underground loving wing back hit a free kick at 67 mph from almost 40 yards that almost ripped the net. It was another truly ace Leighton Baines moment.

On 58 minutes Moyes brought on Anichebe for Naismith and the switch paid instant rewards when after just 2 minutes the Nigerian took advantage of some slack concentration from Santon to attack the near post and poke home the winning goal. The Toffees have won 17, drawn 5 and lost none of the 22 games Anichebe has scored in. As well as the interplay between Baines, Fellaini and Pienaar in the build-up to the goal, Jelavic also deserves a notable mention for some superb and un-selfish work down the channel to present the opportunity to the Nigerian.  The Croatian hasn’t scored in any of the Christmas fixtures but he has run himself into the ground for the cause in each fixture.

Final Verdict

This was a great win for the Toffees and gives us a healthy return of 9 points from 12 over the festive period – quite an achievement given the games we have faced and how thin on the ground our squad is. Newcastle will perhaps feel they deserved a point given they created more openings but whilst both sides were happy to play it long to their physical forwards we had a bit more variety to our play and played the better football on the floor. We now have a break from the league programme  before the visit of Swansea to Goodison and a more favourable looking run of fixtures before the next serious test against Man United next month.

EB

Everton v Newcastle: 5 Point Tactical & Betting Preview

1.Newcastle

The Geordies come into this fixture knowing the lowest they can finish is 5th spot and given the way they have played this season few could argue that they would be deserving of a place in the Champions League. Their season has been built on a solid back 5 including keeper Krul who has kept 15 clean sheets – second only to Joe Hart-  in the top flight. Their midfield may not have great depth but its first choice 4 has pretty much everything required. Tiote is one of the best pressers in the top flight and isn’t too shabby on the ball whilst Cabaye has created 55 goal scoring chances over the season which have yielding 6 assists. Ben Arfa has predominantly come in on the right side and makes the 5th most dribbles per game in the top flight leading to a productive 5 goals and 5 assists from just 15 starts. On the other flank, Gutierrez is useful at  both ends of the pitch and has a knack of winning useful dead ball situations; with 82 free kicks won he is the top flight’s most fouled player.

Upfront Demba Ba was the leading light early on in the campaign when he plundered 16 goals but he has often found himself shunted towards the left side in recent months due to the arrival of Papiss Cisse. Regular readers will recall EB’s search for a new no9 article over a year ago which highlighted Cisse as someone who could solve our Achilles heal in front of goal and the forward has been exceptional since his arrival with 13 in 12 starts. Prior to last weeks round of matches Cisse had the best touches per goal ratio in the PL this season for players who have played 10+ apps: (Top 5 in full) Papiss Cisse 35.2, Anichebe 36.8, Vellios 37.3, Berbatov 42.2, Jelavic 45.1 (source: Whoscored.com)

2.Last Time out

Newcastle triumphed in the first meeting of the season at St James after a horrendous start from the Blues seen them go 0-2 down and left them too far to swim back from despite Rodwell pulling one back before half time.

We played quite direct on the day with Jags making 24 long passes. To put that into context Colocinni hit 7 and was Newcastle’s biggest user of the long ball. Jags hit a 45% accuracy with these long punts and to be fair some of them were pinged really well – notably putting Saha clear 1 on 1 with Krul however the now departed Frenchman blew his big chance.

Rodwell  had one of his better games, finding time and space to link defence to attack pinging 23 passes in the process in the first period, scoring a goal and going close with another header. In the second half though Pardew seemed to instruct his charges to press him more and for his strikers to cut off the angles for Everton’s defenders to feed him (hence more longer passes).  They did so superbly. Rodwell was completely anonymous in the second period, making a feeble 7 passes and not getting anywhere near the opposition goal like he had done in the opening spell.

Our creativity and passing incision was good with 60% of our chances coming inside Newcastle’s 18 yard box compared to our host’s 33%.  In the end Newcastle’s momentum carried them over the finishing line as our annual dire start to the campaign continued to unfold.

3.Tactics

Like Moyes, Pardew is more of a reactive manager with both sides having spent more time off the ball than on it this season (efc average possession 47% nufc average possession 46%).  Similarly, both have players who are rapid in counter attack situations to exploit sides playing high up the pitch against them. The side’s respective visits to Swansea in recent months illustrate this well. Both sides averaged possession of just over the 30% marker, but both had a solid enough game plan to win 2-0 with relative ease such was the strength of their game off the ball. The Geordies have mixed things up from their early season flat 4-4-2 and have deployed 4-3-3 at times since the Arsenal defeat to accommodate the impish schemer Ben Arfa.

vs Chelsea (average player positions)

Against Chelsea nufc played a more orthodox 4-4-2 with Cisse (9) and Ba (19) central and Gutierrez (18) and Ben Arfa (10) providing wide support. Like us with Baines, Santon (3) will get forward and provide width whilst Perch (14) balances this by providing defensive balance on the right enabling Ben Arfa to roam. The X shows the area where Santon can often leave open on his forward forays and which Gibson (if fit) will look to exploit by feeding Osman.

vs Wigan (average player positions)

Here they played quite narrow with a 4-3-3 with Cisse (9) Ben Arfa (10) and Ba (19) (blue lines) supported by 3 narrow midfielders in behind. Although Simpson (not Perch) occupied right back he maintains the balance for the Newcastle offensive left by staying back level with his CB’s.

 4.Team News

Everton’s major injury dilemma is whether pivotal left back Leighton Baines will recover in time to take his place at left back. If not, Distin will continue here with Jags and Heitinga in the central defensive slots. In midfield, Darren Gibson will hopefully be back and will more than likely line up alongside Cahill in midfield with Fellaini playing in the midfield/forward pivot and Osman/Pienaar in the narrow wide supporting berths to Jelavic.  Newcastle’s selection has been fairly constant all campaign and their only regular starter who looks set to miss out is Danny Simpson whose slot will again be filled by James Perch. I’d expect the sides to line up like this…

5. Betting

Everton have won 6 and drawn 1 of their last 7 final home games of the season at Goodison, keeping 4 clean sheets in the process. Moyes record against Pardew at Goodison is decent having won 2 of their 3 meetings. DM also has a decent record against the Geordies at Goodison having lost just once in his 10 years in charge;  a 0-1 reverse at L4 last season.

Everton are best priced 13/10 with BlueSquare to win whilst you can get Newcastle at 11/5 with Boylesport. Newcastle start games well and score the bulk of their goals in the first half whilst in contrast we score over 60% of our goals after the interval. Betdaq will give you 29/1 on a Newcastle HT / Everton FT forecast.

Goals would look likely given the prolific forwards both teams have in their ranks. Willie Hills will offer you 9/2 on Jelavic and Cisse to both score at any stage of the game. We have scored 4 in each of our last 2 home games and 55.6% of NUFC’s away games have seen over 2.5 goals with Krul shipping 17 in his last 8 on road. The 2.5+ goals bet can be backed at 3/4 with the same vendor.

Newcastle 1-2 Everton

The Blues bounced back from Tuesday’s cup exit to deliver an excellent victory against Newcastle in a game which once again showed the importance of Everton’s left sided fluency………

Line-ups

The Blues made two changes in personnel with Jermaine Beckford able to start and replace Billy with Tony Hibbert coming in at right back and Seamus Coleman dropping out. The big changes from Tuesday’s horror show involved a switch to 4-4-2 and Mikel Arteta switching to the left side with Phil Neville coming into the centre of midfield and Leon Osman switching to the right flank. Newcastle had injury problems down their right side with Barton and Ireland out, so Simpson was pushed forward to right midfield and Steven Taylor slotted in at rightback. Both sides were pretty much 4-4-2 – not a familiar sight in the Premier League nowadays.

Arteta revitalised

Mikel Arteta has had a frustrating spell this season from the centre of Everton’s midfield. During a previous post late last year I asked the question whether the Spaniard could be switched out to the flanks where he had his most productive campaign with 9 goals and 13 assists in 2006/7.  My argument is that in the modern game teams flood the midfield in 4-5-1 battles with teams often having 3 centre mids each, the area becomes congested and the room to manoeuvre creatively is reduced. Out wide though, you get more time and space and with 2 centre mids Neville and Rodwell’s remit purely to defend, he was almost given a free role to create chances. Although based on the the left side, like Pienaar he tucked in centrally between the lines and Newcastle simply couldn’t handle him. His run and ball to setup the excellent Leon Osman’s equaliser showed the advantage of having him playing in the final third to utilise his creativity, as opposed to being crowded out 25 yards further back in the middle of the pitch.

In the opening exchanges Arteta is fed the ball out wide, Newcastle often keep a high line and with Simpson caught up field and Taylor sucked inside to his more usual centre back slot, Arteta has acres of space to run and then get a shot in which Harper saves well….the same move led to the Blues opener shortly after.

The 2007/08 campaign also saw Arteta on the flanks and in this campaign he was the most fouled player in the league, fouled every 28.8 minutes in season. This ability to win free kicks was to prove key in us taking control of the game, as the Spaniard bought a foul from Tiote in an area which Baines thrives on whipping in dead balls. It was to see Baines go into double figures for assists and break his previous best of 9 assists in a season– the most for a Premier League defender in the last decade with Jags the beneficiary this time. Our recent focus on Baines and our left side showed it had accounted for the source of 75% of our goals this season. Somebody should have told Alan Pardew.

Before this, Newcastle had taken the lead against the run of play when Best converted after Nolans effort was parried by Howard into his path. For the sizeable unit that he is, Nolan has the ability to find space inside the box and he was a threat on more than one occasion to the Blues rearguard.

Newcastle kept the ball better throughout as the passing stats show, overall completing 73% of their passes to our 65%, which is the lowest figure we have recorded all season

Second Half

Like us, the Geordies are also better down their left side with the consistently excellent Enrique and Gutierrez making good combination play, and the left flank was the source of their opening goal. With Enrique now on the sidelines through injury, Gutierrez was taking the fight to the Blues himself. His ability to beat his man was suspect and out of the 13 times he took on his opponent he only emerged victorious 3 times.

Chalkboard Analysis – Everton shut down Newcastle’s left side better than our opponents with more interceptions

Conclusion

An exciting game between 2 sides looking to exploit their respective strengths down the left flank. Crucially, the Blues looked defensively more solid in defending their right side than Newcastle. For the first time in the league this season the Blues conceded the first goal and came back to win, it was also one of the few occasions this season where the Blues have seen less of the ball and been inferior to an opponent in retaining possession, and yet made more of the ball when in possession to win the game. The midweek game with Birmingham now beckons and if we are to salvage something from this season we need to show consistency and back up the great results we have had against the better sides in the league by picking up points against teams from the bottom of the table.