Everton 1-1 Chelsea


Everton made 3 changes from the team that drew with West Ham with Billy coming in for Osman on the left side and Jack Rodwell  playing off Saha in a 4-4-1-1 system with Anichebe and Beckford benched. Chelsea played their usual 4-3-3 system with one change from their rout at the Reebok seeing our nemesis Frank Lampard replacing Mikel with Essien playing as anchor. Everton’s strategy was to press Chelsea high up the pitch, regain possession and get the ball into the box as often as possible. Everton played with Fellaini, Arteta and Rodwell in the centre of midfield to go like for like with Chelsea’s midfield 3 of Essien, Lampard & Ramires. Rodwell had a really good game and played the more advanced of the 3 when Chelsea were in possession although Fellaini was also pushed forward to lurk on the edge of the Chelsea box when we were in possession to meet diagonal aerial balls pitched in for him.

First half stalemate.

The first half was something of a stalemate with only one real clear cut chance for each side.  Everton’s steady run of form (just 1 defeat in 10 games) has coincided wih Marouanne Fellaini hitting top form and the big Belgian was again instrumental today. His energy was superb and it was his persistent pressing up field that led to our best chance of the first half when his harrying of Frank Lampard (screenshot A) and then John Terry (screenshot B) forced Chelsea back 40 yards before he finally wins possession allowing Saha to tee up Jack Rodwell who shot straight at Cech.

Screenshot A

Screenshot B

Chelsea were always a threat on the break and almost opened the scoring soon after when Heitinga was caught square by Malouda’s through ball enabling Anelka a clear run at the Blues goal but luckily Howard was equal to his shot and the game was goalless as the half time whistle went.

Blues take control

Whilst the first half was fairly even the Blues started the second sharper than their opponents and deservedly took the lead when a trademark Baines corner was met by Saha whose clever movement inside the 18 yard box enabled him to lose Terry and tuck into Cech’s net. Saha deserved the goal for a textbook display, his work rate has been rightly questioned this season but today his effort particularly outside the box was a real boost to the Blues. It was also the 8th assist of Baines productive season. The Blues could have had a second when good work again from Saha led to Baines putting in a great cross which was first met by the excellent Coleman’s head and then after Cech had spilled it Coleman went in to smash it home with his right foot only for a truly superb tackle from Essien to deny him. As well as playing well when with the ball we also showed great focus when Chelsea had the ball, keeping our shape well with few gaps between our defence and midfield (circled in red) making it hard for Chelsea to play through us.

Mikel Arteta was another who was playing with more confidence today, with good ball retention and also taking on two long range efforts which went close. His free kick delivery was also improved, whipping in one quality free kick for Fellaini whose header was repelled by Cech. The midfielder was guilty of ball watching on the equalising goal though. As Anelka broke down the left the Spaniard got sucked into the centre allowing Kalou to make a curved run behind him before dragging a shot past Howard who was slightly unsighted by Distin in front of him.

There was still time for both teams to almost win it late on, firstly when Ramires struck a post with a long range drive and then when substitute Jermaine Beckford fizzed a half volley which was well saved by Cech, who had a great game in goal for the West Londoners.


There were plenty of positives to take from this cup tie with our midfielders in particular on top form which enabled us to win the key battle in the centre of the park. It was a display of great courage and endeavour mixed with good quality from the Blues and we were unlucky not to progress. A replay at a ground we haven’t won at since 1995, the year we last won the trophy will be a tough ask but with the form we have shown against the top sides and with Cahill back there is no reason why we can’t go there an give them a game. The only worry for me was the way we let Chelsea back into the game, the 9th time we have lost a lead this campaign.

Chelsea FA Cup Preview

Saturday sees our attention turn to the FA Cup and a showdown with the Cup Holders from West London at Goodison. We head into the game in decent form with just 1 defeat in 9 but we are up against a seemingly resurgent Chelsea side who demolished Bolton 4-0  in their last match on Monday night.

Chelsea Intel

Chelsea will most likely line up in their accustomed 4-3-3 system with probably the same personnel that destroyed Bolton on Monday night with Frank Lampard perhaps being the only inclusion at the expense of Ramires if he can shake off injury. Florent Malouda is instrumental for Chelsea and statistically creates more chances than any other EPL player by some distance, averaging 3.6 chances created per game. Chelsea are strongest down the left side with Malouda tucking inside to create space and Cole playing high up the pitch. Their romp on Monday night owed much to their intensive pressing high up the pitch with Malouda’s tackle for the first goal teeing up a blockbuster from Drogba. Essien will provide much of the energy in midfield with Mikel’s great passing accuracy ( 88% pass completion for the season)  ticking things over for them in the midfield anchor position.

Baines v Cole Comparison- England’s 2 best left backs will be going head to head this weekend.

Previous Meetings

Everton were triumphant the last time the 2 sides met at Goodison, although this was the first time we had beaten the West Londoners in many years either home or away.  The victory owed much to our hard work off the ball with quality pressing shown by the 32 successful interceptions made by the Blues (chalkboard below) as Chelsea lost despite making 207 more successful passes and averaging a higher pass completion rate of 77% compared to our 66%.

Chalkboards (left) Shows Baines quality delivery into the box which led to our equalizer through Jermaine Beckford at the Bridge this season and (right) shows our pressing intensity making 32 successful interceptions against Chelsea at Goodison last season with most of these central which backs up the belief that Chelsea can play quite narrow at times.

Our previous meeting at Stamford Bridge this season witnessed a really spirited second half fightback from the Blues after recovering from Phil Neville’s inexplicable gift which led to Drogba’s opener. The key tactical change which occurred here was Pienaar switching more central as the game went on which dragged his marker Bosingwa inside and with Chelsea not playing with a right midfielder this allowed Baines to often play as almost a left winger. Such was Baines dominance down the flank the beleaguered Bosingwa was replaced by the slightly more defensively resolute Ferreira. With Pienaar now gone the option’s here are Osman or Billy. As mentioned in the blog post earlier this week I personally would go for Billy left and tuck Osman inside with Arteta.

Everton strategy and lineup

David Moyes gave a strong hint in Saturday’s post match press conference with West Ham that he is going to utilize Marouanne Fellaini in an advanced role, commenting on the impact the Belgian had after being pushed further forward for the last 20 minutes against West Ham. Formation wise, I would expect it to be 4-4-1-1 with Fellaini behind Saha. As mentioned above, Chelsea will line up with 3 central midfielders so Fellaini would give us the flexibility of being able to go like for like when not in possession (3v3) and then move further forward when we have the ball. The other option it gives us is to concede  2 v 3  in central midfield and by pass the midfield with long, hopeful punts to the curly haired marauder as occurred against West Ham.

On the flanks I would expect to see us focus attacks down the left with Chelsea ’s weakness down this flank exploited well earlier this season. I would expect Coleman’s forays forward to be more restrictive and similar to his man marking brief on Ashley Cole he deployed with great maturity back in December (screen shot below shows Coleman tracking Cole right back to our 18 yard line).


It really is hard to see past a draw in this one such is our prolific manner of picking up one point hauls this season. Our form against the top sides this season has been superb with 3 wins, 5 draws and just one defeat in 9 games against the top 7 sides showing we can raise our game for the big occasions. The kick off time and live TV Coverage will significantly dilute the atmosphere which was a key variable in us finally putting to bed our Chelsea hoodoo last season, so a 1-1 is the more likely result here.

Time for Billy to take centre stage?

With Pienaar now departed there has been much discussion on who can fill the creative void left by the South African with names such as Eagles and Kranjcar mooted as potential replacements. There is a player closer to home though who is more than capable of plugging the gap….

No one would doubt Pienaar’s ability or his commitment but often there was no end product to a lot of his good work, particularly in terms of goal scoring. With goals in very short supply from Everton midfielders this campaign, Billy needs to come into contention.

Billy can get you a goal from nothing as was the case against Man Utd and Portsmouth last season.  Whilst he isn’t blessed with pace he has clever feet and can beat a player and shift the ball from one foot to the other as shown for Russia in the WC Playoff against Slovenia last season.  He is more direct and this is something we have lacked this campaign with our matches characterised by an abundance of possession but no end product with creating chances and goal scoring holding us back. Billy possesses great delivery from wide areas and a great shot.

Billy v Piennaar – Stats from when Billy joined the club.

It was clear from Moyes post match press conference on Saturday that he is tempted to push Fellaini forward for next weeks Cup tie with Chelsea after the impact he made in the final 20 minutes against West Ham. Moyes  started with Osman on the left against the Hammers as whilst he doesn’t quite have the technical ability of Pienaar, he certainly has the intelligence and movement to tuck in and enable Baines the freedom of the left touchline. If Moyes does wish to go with Felli advanced against Chelsea I would deploy Arteta as anchor, move Osman inside (in my opinion his best position) put Billy on the left and Fellaini playing off Saha. My only fear is that we are going to over use Fellaini and revert to an overly direct style of play.

My opinion is that we need Billy in the team, but in what position? Lets have a look at the options…….

Naturally a left footed player so can and has done a job  here in the past. Positives are that he can provide quality delivery and is capable of cutting in and shooting with his right foot which doesn’t pack as good a punch as his left but is still decent.  Negatively, he prefers to play on his left foot so would prefer to stay on the flank rather than tuck in on his right which was the key ingredient in Pienaar’s relationship with Baines. This season the left side would appear his most likely chance of first team selection.

The bulk of his goals have come from central positions, notably the strike against Portsmouth on the final day of the season but he also shows great composure inside the box – often deployed for the Russian national team in this role . Playing in a more advanced position would relieve him of greater defensive responsibility which comes further back in the field. Playing in this Riquelme style role, pace isn’t key so it would suit him well. He is also adept at threading balls through to a central striker, on average creating 1.5 goalscoring opportunities per game. With Cahill due back from international duty soon it is unlikely he will be given an opportunity here. Moyes has also stated in the press that he doesn’t see him being deployed here anytime soon.

Cutting in on his preferred left foot, right midfield would be his most natural position in terms of the style we play with wingers cutting inside. As was shown with the goal against Man United last season he is lethal in this area and can get a goal out of absolutely nothing.  The form of Seamus Coleman this season would probably inhibit his chances of getting the nod here but long term I would say this is the best bet to get the most out of Billy.

Everton 2-2 West Ham Utd


As expected the Blue’s retained the same 11 that took a point at Anfield with a 4-4-2 system when in possession with Anichebe coming into the left side of midfield and Osman tucking inside when not in possession to be a bit more like 4-5-1 . The Hammers have shifted their formation and players with great regularity this campaign and today went with a more orthodox 4-4-2 system. This game was quite close to an old fashioned 4-4-2 battle with neither team designating a real holding midfielder or ‘Makelele’ role. As well as this, neither side used a player in the hole behind the striker. With nobody playing in these areas it meant there was a lot of open space between the lines of defence, midfield and attack.

Average positional diagram of Everton players in the 90minutes

West Ham strikers on top

Everton were out of the traps quicker and came close to taking the lead when Arteta smartly played in Beckford whose shot was snuffled by Green. Unfortunately it was not a sign of things to come as our visitors began to assert control on the game with two key factors behind this. Firstly they took advantage of the space afforded to them by Everton as shown in the below average position diagram. The Hammer’s ball retention from their their strikers was also superior to ours. Beckford’s ball retention was a poor 51% with Anichebe’s even worse at 48%. In comparison the impressive Hines racked up a tidy 88% with Piquionne also registering a solid 71%. Saha’s introduction at half time helped redress this with the Frenchman holding up play much better with 81% completion.

Screen Image of the build up to Spector goal- Notice Heitinga (circled) is caught upfield which makes Neville have to cover his position and Coleman is thus left one on one tracking Boa Morte’s run (white arrow) onto Noble’s through ball (red line)

The Hammer’s pressed home this advantage when Jonathan Spector slotted after good work down the left from Luis Boa Morte. The above screenshot shows how Jonny Heitinga gets caught out of position in the build up, stepping out of defence to press  Noble who then bypasses him to feed Boa Morte down our usually defensively resolute right side weakened  by Neville who is covering  the out of position Heitinga.  The following 10 minutes could have seen the Hammers out of sight. Firstly when Piquionne headed against the post following Heitinga’s slip and then when Hines broke into the acres of space between our midfield and defence (screenshot below) which led to Boa Morte’s disallowed goal.

Screen Image of gap between Everton defence and midfield – too big a gap in my opinion and this was something which West Ham exploited well with forward runs from midfield.

Moyes took decisive action in the second half, firstly by bringing on Saha for Beckford and then by shifting Fellaini further forward for the last 20mins with Osman tucking inside and Bilyaldedtinov playing wide left. Moyes is often lamented for his substitutions but to be fair they paid dividend today with both scorers and assists for the 2 goals coming from players affected by his personnel/positional shifts. Following a cross Fellaini won a header to allow Bilyaledtinov to hit a low half volley into Green’s right hand corner. In a game low in quality the Russian’s body movement and technique for the goal were truly world class.

Everton where now on top with the style of football becoming increasingly direct. In what was something of a microcosm of the season, just as things were looking as if they were turning for the better Everton took another 2 steps back. Sloppy defending from a delicious Wayne Bridge cross enabled the lively Piquionne to nestle a great header inside Howard’s right hand post.

Pass Completion Diagram Everton v West Ham

As the above passing graph shows, West Ham’s pass completion falters badly in the closing stages and with their target man out-ball Piquionne dismissed for his goal celebration their defensive clearances kept on hitting a Blue shirt. We eventually made them pay when good work by Osman fed the ball into the box for Rodwell whose flick found Fellaini and the big Belgian capped a fine second half display with a great finish past Green’s outstretched right hand.


With 12 draws this season Everton are looking increasingly likely to break the Premier League ‘most draws in a season’ record of 18 – Not really the kind of record we were looking at breaking back in August. Our poor form at Goodison has been the key factor. Only Wigan have won fewer games on their own patch than ourselves and our leaky defence again cost us today. Moyes post match comments about the effectiveness of Fellaini  further up field I believe will see us start the next game with him advanced and a more direct style of play. This will be to the detriment of our passing style but Moyes may feel it is worthwhile if it can get us ‘winning ugly’ again. COYB.

West Ham Preview

Life at a post-Pienaar Everton begins with a winnable looking fixture against a West Ham team seemingly in turmoil on and off the pitch.

Everton Approach

With just 1 defeat in 8 games we are looking a bit more resolute with the torrid November run which yielded no victories nearly out of the mindset. I would expect us to line-up with two strikers again on Saturday, although I am still not entirely convinced that this is as major a factor in our recent form as has been made out. The win against Spurs was, for me, more down to the intensity of pressing high up the pitch as was the case against Liverpool at Goodison earlier this season in a supposedly 4-5-1 setup with Cahill in the side.

Either way, our best results this campaign have come when we have shown this intensity to our play by getting at opposition defenders early and by delivering the ball into the opposition’s 18 yard box as often as possible. We missed Louis Saha on Sunday with the ball not sticking in attack and possession being conceded particularly in the first half. The Hammers will allow us to play and I would expect us to build from the back and down the left side with Leon Osman’s movement inside key to releasing Baines down the left flank. This area will probably be patrolled by Ben Haim who tends to start in the Hammer’s away games as he offers greater defensive solidity than Faubert.  West Ham’s last awayday resulted in a 0-5 thumping at The Geordie Nation, and the most glaring factor in this rout was the gap between their defence and midfield along with a gap down their left side with Noble often tucking in leaving Newcastle a free run down this side. This is shown in the below average position map

West Ham Average Position Map v Newcastle with red circle showing the gap between their defence and midfield, a gap which players like Osman and Arteta need to exploit.

West Ham Intel

The Hammers arrive at Goodison with the joint worst defensive record in the league with 41 goals shipped in their 23 games as well as having the joint worst goal scoring record on their travels with just 8 goals on the road this campaign. Scott Parker is their main man and with 82% pass completion and 55 interceptions he is the Hammer’s best passer and presser.  His dual with our engine room and on form enforcer Marouanne Fellaini will be the games key dual with their key stats shown in the below table. Creativity wise, one time Everton target Victor Obinna is their main inspiration having created 36 goalscoring opportunities with 4 of these resulting in goals for teammates although he will be missing on Saturday through suspension. In terms of goalscoring, Freddie Piquionne is their most potent striker with 5 goals and a conversion rate of 14.7%, much better than often striker partner Carlton Cole at just 7.5%

Parker v Fellaini

West Ham Approach

West Ham have changed their formation with great regularity this campaign. Earlier on they adopted a 4-2-3-1 system , with an occasional variance to 4-4-2 and in their last game 4-3-3  with Sears & Hines playing as wide strikers with Cole through the middle and a compact 3 man midfield. With Piquionne back fit I would expect him to play just off Cole in a 4-2-3-1 setup. Defensively neither of their fullbacks advance past the halfway line much and with the exception of Sears they have little width offensively. £90k a week Wayne Bridge endured a calamity debut and was at fault for all 3 of Arsenal’s goals in their last outing. Bridge failed to win a single tackle in the game and looked sluggish throughout. Seamus Coleman must be fancying his chances of giving him another torrid afternoon after his subdued outing at Anfield last weekend.


We are looking more clinical in front of goal in recent weeks and the confidence we take into this matchup against a side with a leaky defence such as the Hammers should see us take 3 points here. I am going for a 2-0 win for the Blues.

Pienaar: Some thoughts on his departure

Steven Pienaar’s transfer saga finally came to its inevitable conclusion today when theSouth African signed a big money move with Dirty Arry Redknapp’s Spurs.

Much has been made of the wage the pint sized schemer has been demanding and it looks as if the wage will top what we offered by £20k per week from the £50k that was on the table from us. Whilst his decision is by no means a surprise (if boyhood Blues like Jeffers & Rooney won’t stick around what chance a South African who probably hadn’t heard of Everton til he signed) it is sad that someone who has been pivotal in our evolution from  a hard working, organised team into one that plays more expansive, passing football is leaving to what will probably be a squad role at Spurs.

Pienaar could really play and his interplay with Baines has been our best attacking weapon for the last 3 seasons. Even though he hasn’t contributed one direct assist this season the movement he makes inside to create the space for Baines to bomb up the touchline to get his crosses in has led to Baines accruing 7 assists this campaign. He is a team player who had the rare combination of sublime skill matched with great determination and application, even during the latter days of his Everton career . The only thing you could perhaps level against him is that there is a lack of end product and he could be questioned positionally from a defensive point of view as opposition managers have exploited to our detriment.

The stats show that with him in the team in Premier League games we have a win rate of 37% whilst without him the figure is 40%, so I wouldn’t say he is as integral to us as, say Mikel Arteta whose win rate in the team is 44% compared to 37% when he isn’t featuring.

its going to be very hard to replace the South African especially given the poultry sums David Moyes will be given from Kenwright, probably a couple of quid and some complimentary tickets to a West End show will be the extent of our transfer wedge leaving us lagging behind even the likes of Stoke noawadays. To replace him in the current market you are looking up to £10m. Players linked so far include Eagles at Burnley which is hopefully just speculation. If we want to keep our left sided strategy we will need someone who can tuck in and play inside, not someone who will hug the touchline and look to get crosses into the box. We have Billy of course and he is surely going to be given the nod until the end of the season at least.

In conclusion, it’s going to be very hard to replace the South African midfielder. He gave us some great memories and was a joy to watch, but no player is bigger than the club and we need to move on quickly.

Liverpool 2-2 Everton


Everton were without Louis Saha due to injury and Steven Pienaar after the South African schemer informed David Moyes that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to play with his impending move away from the club. Everton thus tweaked their setup slightly from the Tottenham game with Osman coming in like for like with Pienaar and Anichebe coming in but playing more towards the left side than Saha. Liverpool setup a more orthodox 4-5-1 with Jay Spearing playing slightly ahead of Leiva and behind the more attacking Meireles in a 3 man Liverpool central midfield.

Liverpool better in final third

Despite a fairly even start the ball was sticking a lot better on the red side’s attack, with Torres successfully completing 12 of the 14 passes he made in the first half; more passes completed than Anichebe and Beckford combined (10 successful from 18 in the first half). Anichebe’s passing was terrible all afternoon with 7 from 18 giving him the worst pass completion from any player on the park.  The main reason for Liverpool’d first half superiority was two fold, firstly their pressing enabled them to win 14 of their 19 tackles in the first half hour, while as their pass completion graph shows below, they where consitstently the better team in terms of pass completion throughout.

Pass Completion Graph

Torres outlet was the key factor in the first half, consistently giving Liverpool an out ball in the channels which led to him forcing 5 shots on Howards’s goal, again more than Anichebe and Beckford compared who mustered just 3. After hitting the post early on and with us bizarrely standing off him at numerous occasions Liverpool eventually went in front when Kuyt’s shot was saved only for Meireles to smash home from the edge of the box with Arteta and Baines guilty of ball watching as the move ensued. In the build up to the goal Neville was again guilty of standing off his opponent and allowing him time and space to cross in a similar way he did with Etherington at Stoke on New Years Day. The half time whistle came at a good time as we where increasingly rocking with Distin in particular having a torrid time against Torres in the face of persistent Liverpool pressure.

Key Chalkboards Left to right

Left – First half Torres ball retention 85% first half compared to Victor Anichebe’s 20%, enabling Liverpool a platform for attacks, middle chalkboard shows Liverpool’s dominance in the tackle in the first 30 mins, winning 73% of tackles and Everton’s similar dominance in the first 30 mins of the second half with 72% of challenges victorious. The far right chalkboard shows Fellaini’s improved second half display with his ball retention improving 24% from the first half.

Blue Revival

Whatever David Moyes said to his players as half time did the trick. Everton’s more potent left side clicked with Anichebe playing more wide high up the pitch, Osman coming more inside to help out Fellaini and Arteta who had been outnumbered against Liverpool’s 3 central midfielders in the first half, and Baines getting his usual game together advanced down the left.   Just as Liverpool’s pressing gave them the platform to play in the first 30 minutes, the same factor witnessed  the Blues take control in the second half with 16 of the 22 tackles won by the Blues in the first 30mins of the second period.  Marouanne Fellaini was emerging from his subdued first half display and as the above chalkboard shows he was much more potent in the second period, going from 60% to 84% pass completion either side of the interval. The  big haired midfield general’s play is usually a good barometer of our play in general.

The left side again was key to our revival, with Arteta’s out swinging corner headed home by Distin who made amends for his first half horror show  getting us back in the game. Liverpool were rocking and we duly capitalised with the impressive Osman teeing up Beckford inside the Liverpool 18 yard box to tuck a lovely strike over Reina’s outstretched left hand. Everton where rampant and were completely in control  at this stage and should really have put Liverpool to the sword. Our hosts are pretty formidable at home though and despite their lack of substance after the interval were still able to get back into the game on 68 minutes when Rodriguez was unnecessarily hauled down in the box by Howard which allowed Kuyt to slot from the penalty spot. Both managers seemed happy with a point at this stage with Moyes switching to a more orthodox 4-5-1 with Vaughan on his own up front and Liverpool holding their own 4-5-1 with no real ambition to kick on for the victory from either side.


It was the proverbial game of two halves here with both sides having spells of possession in either side of the interval but neither team really dominating for a sustained enough period to claim themselves worthy of a 3 point haul. Liverpool will probably see this as more a point gained than ourselves given that 2 of their 3 big hitters where on the sidelines and given the euphoria which surrounded ‘King’ Kenny’s return. My own belief is that Liverpool where here for the taking at kick off but given the predicament we found ourselves in at half time this was probably a point earned than 2 lost

Derby Preview

Sunday sees us make our annual visit to the Tin Mine to play a Liverpool outfit once again awash with ‘upheavel’ on and off the pitch.  If we are to finally end our Anfield hoodoo we will need to show more belief and potency as an attacking force than we have in recent trips across the park…..

Mental Block

The Blues clearly have a mental block playing at Anfield. We haven’t won here since 1999, and in truth we haven’t even had many close calls. We have scored just once in our last four trips across the park in the league and in all but one of these displays we have showed Liverpool too much respect, played incredibly cautious and in many cases suffered from a lack of belief which belied our form and league position going into these games. Last year was a classic example. On a great run of form with better players for the first time in years and with Liverpool in the doldrums  along with a man advantage we created little, mustering just 2 shots on target inside Liverpool’s 18 yard box and displaying a general lack of incision in the opponents half shown in the below chalkboard. Indeed, in the 3 previous trips prior to last year we accrued just 2 shots on target from inside Liverpool’s 18 yard box in total as shown in the below chalkboard.  Our strategy at Anfield is usually to go for a point with great emphasis on keeping shape, being defensively resolute and not committing men forward. This would explain why in 9 games at Anfield in all competitions under Moyes we have drawn 5 and lost 4, with all but one of the 5 losses being decided by one goal.

Last 4 Anfield Derbies – Everton shots on target

Last year’s Anfield derby below – with 10 men Liverpool played a rigid, deep 2 banks of four close together allowing us possession in midfield but playing compact and intercepting when we tried to thread a pass through as shown by the interceptions below.

Everton approach

If we have the ambition of getting three points on Sunday Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman will be the key men. One of the key reasons for our failings at Anfield has been our reluctance to over commit bodies into the opposition half and get in behind the host’s defence. In Baines and Coleman we have players who have the beating of their opponents and have great pace in behind. Our last game against Spurs was characterised by us getting the ball into the box with greater regularity than any other game this season and Baines and Coleman where key to this, delivering 9 of our 22 crosses.  In our last 4 visits to their place we have successfully delivered just 6 crosses from open play, most of which from non threatening areas and not the by-line. Everton’s potent left side will look to exploit Liverpool’s vulnerable right side, with the erratic Glenn Johnson well known for neglecting his defensive duties as was shown in the recent 0-3 reverse at Blackburn when all 3 goals came down the right side as shown below.  Liverpool’s selection will be interesting here as against Blackpool on Wednesday night Johnson was deployed at left back with the more defensively astute Kelly at right back.

Liverpool’s right sided frailty

If Moyes sticks with 4-4-2, a similar approach to the Tottenham match with a high tempo pressing game will be required from the beginning. With it being a derby game this factor should take care of itself. One of the most frustrating aspects of reason matches across the park has been Liverpool winning the physical war early on, with the ‘Carra’ reducer on Pienaar in the first couple of minutes last season being a prime example. In the last 4 Anfield derbies, Liverpool have out tackled us on every occasion averaging a whopping 62% tackles success against us. We need to hit the ground running and Saha and Beckford will need to both press Liverpool’s centre halves, in particular Agger who can dictate possession and feed midfield if given the chance. I would expect Liverpool to open up 4-5-1 which will give them a man advantage in midfield over the Blues. This will mean the Reds will see more of the ball which they are accustomed to at home matches where they currently average 55% of possession. This is something that we dealt with well against Spurs though, with our two wide midfielders tucking in to form a compact bank of 4 when the opposition are on the ball, shown nicely in the below screenshot. Liverpool’s wide midfielders both play very narrow, in particular Maxi who cuts in a lot so don’t be surprised if the game develops into a midfield tussle.

Everton’s compact midfield when not in possession

Liverpool Intel

Our loveable friends from across the park may be languishing below us in the league and having a truly woeful campaign, but whilst their away form is relegation standard (accruing just 5 points) their home form is still Champions League qualification standard with a 20 point haul picked up at home and just 8 goals conceded in 10 games. With Gerrard injured though, Liverpool is minus their chief inspiration and main creator with 4 assists. After Gerrard, Meireles has 2 assists and will take most of the set plays right footed. There is a general lack of creativity in this very workmanlike midfield however. Lucas has again won plaudits for his displays from opposition fans this campaign and his feeble, winey face is up there with Diouf as the Premier League’s most annoying. His tackling matches this weasely exterior and he has statistically lost more tackles than any player in the league, with his season average currently only just above the 50% marker as opposed to our own Marouanne Fellaini who on current form is hitting 83% success rate.

‘King’ Kenny’s return has been heralded with much vitriol by expectant Liverpool fans in a remarkably similar manner to ‘King’ Kevin Keegan’s second coming at Newcastle some years ago. You would expect a more adventurous approach from the Scot in comparison to his predecessor Woy’s dour brand of football.  It’s very debatable though whether he has the players at his disposal to play an expansive game, and as Blackpool showed on Wednesday night they have a severe fragility in defence. As mentioned above, I fancy them to line up 4-5-1 with Cole behind Torres if fit. If Cole is unfit then Meireles will play in the hole with Poulsen most likely to start behind him in central midfield.


Much will hinge on Moyes selection and his strategy. Does he go for it and open up 4-4-2 pressing high up field? Or will he go like for like with an extra man in midfield and look to keep things tight in the hope of nabbing a point? Our best displays this term have come when we have pressed high up field and taken the game to the opposition and with just 1 clean sheet in our last 12 I think attack could be the best form of defence this weekend. I still think Moyes will play things cautiously and not go gung ho, and with 54% of our away games drawn this campaign I’m going for a 1-1. COYB!

Scunthorpe 1-5 Everton


David Moyes made 3 changes to the team which defeated Spurs in midweek with Neville, Arteta and Pienaar rested and replaced by Hibbert, Osman and Billy respectively. The 4-4-2 formation was maintained although the tempo was reduced with Wednesday’s frenetic pressing not required. Our hosts also setup 4-4-2 with their strike force spearheaded by boyhood Liverpool fan Chris Dagnall.

Blues quick out the blocks

The Blues carried on where they left off on Wednesday, Fellaini feeding Saha cutting in from the right to fire a left footed drive which squirmed inside Murphy’s left hand post. Everton’s dominance was quite overwhelming, in total 59% of possession helped by the fact that when Scunthorpe did get the ball they kindly thumped it upfield to allow us to start off another attack. Beckford should have added to our tally shortly after when sent clear but his effort was palmed behind by Murphy. Marouanne Fellaini was again the driving force from midfield and was involved in 2 goals today, making one and scoring another. His tackling in particular is superb at the moment and the curly haired dynamo has won 33 of his last 45 tackles, a commanding 73% success rate.  The only other incident of any note in the first half was a crazy challenge by Jonny Heitinga as he inserted his foot into the midriff of his opponent. It was a tackle Hetinga’s former Ajax teammate Nigel De Jong would have been proud off and was lucky to stay on the pitch.

The Below Screenshot shows Scunthorpe’s suicidal defensive line and huge gap between defence and midfield which Osman exploits for our second goal.

Beckford, Coleman Impress

Scunthorpe were playing like a team low in confidence having lost their last 6 home games and having the unenviable record of being the lowest home scorers in the division along with having the 2nd worst defence on their own patch. Scunny were giving us far too much respect, characterised by an incredibly deep defensive line and a massive gap between defence and midfield, shown in the above screen shot of our 2nd goal where Leon Osman drifts into acres of space on the left channel before delivering a pin point ball onto Beckford’s head.

The second half began unexpectedly when a routine long ball caught Everton square and Collins held off Distin to hit an impressive half volley past Howard’s right hand.  The goal was nothing more than a footnote in an incredibly one sided affair though, as the Blues took immediate control from the restart. Beckford  can still look quite raw but is always a threat and today he was in great form, scoring one and setting up Everton’s third and fourth goals for Coleman and Fellaini respectively.

Coleman’s confidence and influence is growing week by week and his development has been the highlight of the season for me.  Many Everton fans will have been pleased this week that David Moyes interest in David Bentley wasn’t taken any further as this wide boy blocking first team action to Coleman would have been a travesty.  There was one more goal to come and it was the pick of the lot, with Leighton Baines scoring an absolute beauty curling a left footed strike into the top corner– his first ever goal in the FA Cup with substitute Magaye Gueye teeing him up with a nice pass.


So Everton move into the next round of the Cup in what was at times a real stroll at Glanford Park after what was the most comfortable 3rd round victory this Everton fan can ever recall. Hopefully tomorrow will bring not only a chuckle at ‘King’ Kenny’s return to the big time but also a favourable home draw in the next round. COYB!

Mikel Arteta: Statistical Analysis

Mikel Arteta: A Statistical Analysis

Mikel Arteta is a player whose career I have followed closely since signing him from Barcelona on Championship Manager to his time on loan at PSG and during positive and negative spells in Glasgow and Sociedad. His arrival at Goodison was a pivotal moment in Everton’s recent history and was a catalyst in changing the style of football we play. This article tells the story of Arteta’s career, investigates the roles he has been deployed in and the impact he has made in terms of style and results during his time at L4. I am a big fan of Arteta but I have tried to be as objective as possible in writing this piece and in terms of the statistics used to supplement various arguments.

Arteta: Key Statistics last 3 years

Arteta: All Round Midfielder

Since Dessailly occupied the anchor role in Fabio Capello’s Milan, midfield roles have delineated across world football into defensive and attacking. For example in the Premier League you will have Mikel who plays defensive for Chelsea with Arshavin at Arsenal almost exclusively attacking. Arteta is capable of playing in numerous positions across the midfield spectrum. He has worked with some great players who have been benchmark performers in defensive and attacking roles. In his early career he played alongside Guardiola, Figo and Rivaldo at Barca, whilst at PSG he played alongside Okocha and Ronaldinho. At PSG his game developed from being predominantly defensive with then coach Fernandez being instrumental in this development:

‘I had a fantastic year in Paris, Until then I had been purely defensive minded, a [Claude] Makelele. But Fernandez made me think about what I did with the ball. I had Jay-Jay alongside me and Ronaldinho in front. ‘I learned so much there but Fernandez almost did me in. It’s no joke. He is a great guy but he wanted to control everything. He liked to push his players hard and he fell out with Ronnie as a result.’ Source: Daily Mail Online

Following 2 productive years at Glasgow Rangers where he built on this new found attacking freedom yielding 14 goals in the process, he made the switch back to Spain with Sociedad. It was to be a disappointing spell though as the club employed Jose Amorrortu, Arteta’s former coach at Bilbao as a youth. His new mentor still held a grudge about Arteta’s defection to Barca’s Academy and froze Arteta out of the first team picture , prompting his exit to Goodison.  Initially used by David Moyes in his natural position in the central of midfield he quickly became a key cog in arresting our decline after an amazing start to the season had hit the buffers with Thomas Gravesen’s departure to Real Mardid.

With him in midfield, we were able to maintain possession better and claim key victories, notably over Manchester United when Arteta played a deliciously whipped free kick for Duncan Ferguson to grab the winner and see us into the Champions League Qualifiers. David Moyes had doubts about his strength to cope with the brutality of some of the Premier League’s hatchet men given his 11st frame and deployed him on the wing from the 2005/6 season. Arteta would occupy a wide brief for the next 3 seasons. It was a role Arteta was comfortable with, often playing as a ‘ghost winger’ cutting in from the right to create chances and score with great regularity. Indeed, the 2006/7 season was to be Arteta’s most productive with 9 goals and 13 assists representing a great return.

I have had few chats with David Moyes in the past about his vision for the team. He told me that he learnt from the movements of the full backs in La Liga (particularly Barcelona) and their tactical relationship with false wingers: the best way to utilise Arteta.” Guillem Balague, 2008

Arteta was no longer a secret in the Premier League and the following campaign was to see him as a marked man, resulting in him taking the dubious honour of being the most fouled player in the league, fouled every 28.8 minutes in season 2007/8. It was another productive campaign though, with an average of 11 crosses per game giving him the second highest cross per game ratio in the league.

The close season was to provide a key moment in Arteta’s positional shift at Everton, with Lee Carsley leaving the club the role of midfield anchor was available. Moyes tried various players in the role during a haphazard start to the campaign but non carried the control and heartbeat which Everton required. It was only after an injury crisis that Arteta was shifted inside at Spurs in October that he got his opportunity to prove to Moyes that he was capable of filling this role. It is a role he is more than capable of being deployed into. In this role he dictates the way Everton play and provides great technique, controlled passing, positional strength and the ability to pass and press accompanied by decent pace. The role is more restrictive and requires greater defensive awareness which is something which comes natural to Arteta due to the tuition he received from Guardiola.

Chalkboard Analysis 2007-8 (right wing) v 2008-9 (Midfield Anchor)

Playing in the holding midfield role does provide a restriction to someone of Arteta’s ability going forward.  This was evident in season 2008/9 and can be seen by the stats which show that despite still slotting 6 goals from his new central position, the bulk of these where from deadball positions and he had 50% less shots on goal than he had from the previous season when deployed on the flanks cutting inside. The central position he occupies does see him much more involved in the play though, as demonstrated in the Chalkboard analysis above comparing when he plays in a right sided role  and from the centre. In the above games when playing out wide he misfired 23 of his 55 passes in contrast to the following season 2008/9  against Bolton  playing centrally were he accurately shifted 72 of his 86 passes. The below Chalkboard’s show his passing heatmap comparison from the 2008/9 season and the 2010/11 campaign. Notice how in the 2008/9 heatmap he distributes just 10% of his passes in the final third and is heavily involved from a defensive point of view, completing 8 out of 10 of his tackles. If you compare this to the chalkboard (below right)  from our most reason game against Spurs he is much more offensive and his % goes up to 41% in the final third. In season 2008/9 Arteta really flexed his muscle as Everton’s centre midfield hub, and he was instrumental in the Blues surge to 5th place in the league table and the FA Cup Final against Chelsea. In a cruel twist of fate his campaign ended prematurely in March as injury would rule him out for almost a year. Regular’s at Goodison will concur that in the remaining games of this campaign and during the start of the following season Everton’s approach was much more route one because of his absence.

Chalkboard Analysis 2008-9 v 2010-11 Season Far Left Shows defensive midfield role v Man City and high volume of tackles. Middle board shows passing heatmap in same season and far right from this season. Notice this season he is playing in a more advanced midfield role.

Since his return from injury in the 2009/10 season, Arteta has played as a more orthodox central midfielder with an anchor behind him and an attacking midfielder in front of him. The Spaniard is fundamental to the Everton strategy towards games. With him, they will dominate possession and play a controlled passing game, playing high up the pitch often drawing numerous free kicks around the opposition area. Without him we will adopt a much more direct approach. This is shown in the below chalkboard from Everton’s game at West Ham this season with Arteta and the corresponding fixture last season without the Spaniard schemer. With him Everton made 429 passes while without him they registered just 246. Another interesting statistic to note between these games with and without Arteta is that goalkeeper Tim Howard’s kicking is noticeably more direct in these fixtures, with him punting 100% more long kicks out of play in the fixture Arteta was absent compared to the corresponding game. The conclusion we can draw here is that with him in the side, Everton play from the back and into midfield whilst without him there is a greater emphasis to get the ball forward quickly.

Chalkboard Analysis Everton with Arteta/Everton without Arteta from Season 2009/10 v 2010/11 West Ham Away Games – More passes with Arteta and more long balls without him

Arteta Importance to Everton.

As discussed in this article Arteta provides a good barometer of how Everton play with his appearance directly affecting the level of possession Everton accrue in games. A look at the table below shows how vital he is to the Blue cause. Notice the direct correlation between the games Arteta appears and the outcomes of games season by season. The clearest representation of this is the Blues win percentage is 44% with him in the side and just 37% with him not in the side. There has been disillusionment this campaign from the Blues faithful on Arteta’s output and this blog has reported on how often a lot of his passes this campaign have lacked penetration. Indeed, in the games Arteta has missed this campaign the Blues have more than held their own. This needs to be balanced by the fact that opponents will always look to press him more in possession than for example his central midfield partner whether that be Heitinga or Fellaini.

Everton with & without Arteta: Vital Statistics

Arteta: The future

This season has been a disappointing one thus far for Everton’s number ten. The 3year table at the start of this article illustrates this point perfectly in that his tackle completion, chances created per 90 minutes and shots on target ratio’s are all down on previous season figures although his passing accuracy continues to be steady on 83%. With a new contract signed it will be interesting to see where David Moyes sees Arteta fitting in for the following years. With Jack Rodwell knocking on the door for a regular spot in central midfield and Steven Pienaar’s much expected departure it would leave Everton with an unbalanced midfield top heavy in central midfield but weak on the flanks. With no money in the Goodison coffers it could be that Arteta is switched out to the flanks where of course he enjoyed his most productive campaign output wise in the 2006/7 campaign. Whatever the future holds, the diminutive Spaniard has been a tremendous servant to the club and it is a pleasure to watch him on his game.

Thanks for reading!