Some away draws in the Premier League can constitute the stock phrase of ‘a useful point on our travels’. This was not one of those games. Visiting a team who have been marooned to the bottom of the league with the worst defensive record in the league simply has to produce a three point haul if we have any greater ambition other than being in a relegation dog fight.
From the off we looked like a team with a somewhat confused shape with Tim Cahill playing the role of lone forward and Jack Rodwell playing Cahill’s role as the advanced midfielder in a 4-5-1 setup. West Ham adopted a more orthodox 4-4-2 system giving us the extra man in midfield, contributing to us having more than twice as many successful passes than the Hammers with a whopping 429 to the hosts 205.
Blue dominance of the ball
Having possession is one thing, but actually doing something with it is quite different. Despite this massive domination of the ball, the shots chalkboards below show that we only had 11 shots from inside the box to West Ham’s 10. The shooting accuracy form both sides was woeful as discussed in the match preview, with Tim Howard not forced into one save all night. Rob Green was only pressed into action on 2 occasions.
The Games Key Chalkboards from left to right – West Ham stronger in the tackle while despite our passing dominance the chances we created output is very similar to West Ham’s
Tackles won in blue, lost in red. Shots on target blue /offtarget red/ blocked in grey
Square pegs in round holes
The problem with Everton’s selection of Rodwell as the advanced playmaker role is that whilst he is a composed on the ball, he is not a dynamic number ten who will create chances or can score in the final third like for instance Fabregas does for Arsenal or Van Der Vaart does for Spurs. Rodwell’s natural tendency is to hold his midfield position and retain the ball. This is not an issue when playing the holding midfield role or in central midfield, but when playing advanced as the playmaker there is a real onus on creativity and providing close support to the striker.
This is by no means an attack on Rodwell who will always do a job for the team. More so, it is another example of square pegs being placed into round holes in team selection, especially when you have a £9m Russian International who is a natural in this position on the bench. The below chalkboard demonstrates this from Rodwell and Fabregas’ last two outings, games in which their teams have dominated possession. Whereas Rodwell is tidy in possession, notice how Fabregas plays 10% more of his passes in the final third, which resulted in 2 assists and 1 goal for the Spaniard schemer.
Rodwell role – passing heatmap v West Ham compared to Fabregas v Chelsea
Back to the game…..
Everton settled the better of the sides but where rocked back on their heels when a speculative cross by the Hammers resulted in Tony Hibbert putting through his own net. The goal was against the run of play but led to West Ham’s only real period of dominance with Obinna and Upson also going close to strengthening West Hams grip on this game. Slowly but surely the Blues began to re assert control with Arteta getting more of a grip on the game and Pienaar showing for the ball with greater regularity. Just on the stroke of half time, Arteta picked out Cahill down the left and his centre found the impressive Coleman who rifled right footed into Green’s net to leave us all square at half time.
Second Half dominance
The second half began like the first half concluded with Everton in the ascendancy. Everton where now in complete dominance of the ball but not creating much in terms of clear cut chances. We had a growing look of a team not particularly confident they where going to find the net. Pienaar tucking inside was causing West Ham problems and when the South African surged through on the break down the centre Blue hopes where raised that we could get a winner. Alas, as was the problem all night the gap between Everton’s midfield and attack was such that Pienaar was outnumbered when he reached the 18 yard line and the move broke down.
On the hour mark Yakubu was introduced for Rodwell with the Nigerian moving up top with Cahill sat behind. The change didn’t really make much difference in truth with Yakubu only having one shot, which unsurprisingly went wide. The forward did have one close call later on but as he was poised to strike in the 18 yard box the excellent Scott Parker made a superb tackle to deny him. In fairness to West Ham they where sharper in the tackle all evening, shown by the above chalkboard, winning 38 and losing 22 of the tackles. Despite introducing Beckford and Billy, the game then drifted to its inevitable conclusion and thoughts turned to the long journey home.
The final game of 2010 provided a microcosm of the fundamental issues which have plagued our season to date. Dominance of the ball was undermined by a lack of creation and failure to capitalise on the chances created. Our tenth draw of the season leaves us mid table but a lot closer to the drop zone than the European places.
Apologies for the poor quality images in the above post – been having some IT issues. Normal service will resume for the Stoke game.