Everton retained the same starting eleven that claimed a point at the champions last weeks, albeit leaving the man who secured the draw on the bench with the abject Louis Saha preferred. Wigan set up with a narrow midfield 5 with support to the lone striker coming from ghost wingers N’Zogbia & Cleverley.
Everton took control of the game in the early exchanges and where making most of the running against a Wigan side who where looking as if they had come for a draw. Baines whipped in a trademark delivery for Fellaini early on which should have resulted in a goal as Everton opened positively. The Latics set up with a deep defensive line, almost inviting the expected Everton bombardment. Perhaps this tactic was deployed in the confidence that faced with our lack of traction in the final third, soaking up the pressure was a decent bet of getting a point. This approach was combined with some blatant time wasting by the visiting keeper Al Habsi and tactical fouling by the heinous Hendry Thomas.
Cahill again was the leading the line in the absence of a real target man and was unlucky not to add to his handsome goal tally after several chances came his way, hitting the post with one majestic leap. The Blues rely heavily on Cahill and when the Aussie isn’t firing on all cylinders we look incredibly toothless in the final third. Coleman started the second half brightly and created several good chances as well as missing a great chance himself with just the keeper to beat. Wigan’s Hendry Thomas was once again showing why he is emerging as one of the Premier League’s senior hatchet men, rattling Pienaar at regular intervals eventually leading to his customary booking. Although a persistent offender the Honduran does press well and forces opponents into mistakes and this pressing set the trend for the rest of his team. Diagram A shows they made an impressive 25 interceptions.
Diagram A – Wigan Interceptions Diagram B – Everton long balls
Baines’ delivery was again consistent throughout and he put in a solid shift on the left side, almost playing as a winger in the second half as can be seen in Diagram C below where his average position was ahead of Pienaar. The South African started the second period as he had done at Chelsea from a more central zone and he carved out some great openings, with the notable chance setting up for Saha only for the misfiring Frenchman to strike straight at Al Habsi. Despite creating clear cut chances and showing commitment throughout technically this was not a great display by the Blues who struggle to retain play effectively without Arteta. Passing throughout the game was average; Rodwell in particular was guilty of poor connectivity. The Blues completed just 292 successful passes which is well below the 367 average per game this season. .
Diagram C – Average Positions Everton in red Wigan in Blue
The injury to Pienaar on 66 minutes suppressed what at the time was a Blue surge. After the left sided schemer departed proceedings due to injury Everton quickly ran out of ideas and the result became a formality. This exit of Pienaar preceded a more direct style of play. This is shown by Diagram B with 40% of passes unsuccessful in the final 30 minutes of the game after he went off, most of these passes being long balls.
Another disappointing outcome in what is becoming a season of pure woe. It was a familiar story after similar tales of misery against the likes of Wolves & West Brom at Goodison.
Again, a lack of a cutting edge was to undermine the performance as territorial dominance and an abundance of chances where squandered to leave the Blues with a disappointing point. The game was perhaps a microcosm of the season, with a failure to capitalise on clear cut chances resulting in inevitable failure.
There can be no escaping the situation we now find ourselves in. An inability to beat even the weakest teams in the league at home is now the norm rather than a one off occasion. 13 draws in the last 24 games is not a blip, it is evidence of the severity of the problem we are facing which needs addressing if we are to have any ambition other than being involved in a relegation dog fight.