The Executioner’s End of Season Awards

Player of the Year

 Baines has been consistently a stand out performer for 3 seasons now but this was his best yet. Comfortably our most creative player, laying on 63 goal scoring opportunities for teammates resulting in 11 assists, outscoring most of his team mates…plus his cracking music blog!……Where would Everton have been without him? Leon Osman also deserves a mention for his form in the second half of the season and Cahill for being the only player who looked like scoring before Christmas.

 

Match of the Season

 Most fans will agree that the 5-3 win againstBlackpoolwas the best game of the season in terms of pure excitement. Holloway’s men ran the Blues ragged at the back but we played some great stuff also with Saha smashing 4 and Beckford scoring a great goal also in truly biblical weather conditions. Even James Beattie played well. Never can I remember a game so open at Goodison. The win up at Eastlands was also superb from a defensive standpoint.

Goalscorer

 This one goes to Jermaine Beckford. The striker scored a goal every 164 minutes, and got a shot on target every 57 minutes. In comparison Saha scores a goal every  196 minutes with Cahill scorers a goal every 224 minutes. The league benchmark for ruthless finishing is  Robin Van Persie who gets a goal every 98 minutes

Presser of the Year

 Marouanne Fellaini wins this award hands down. Making a successful challenge every 30 minutes he is comfortably our most aggressive player. He also makes more interceptions and fouls per game than anyone else. A mention also goes to Distin who averages 10 clearances per game– comfortably the most at the club.

Passer of the Season

 Despite having a poor season Mikel Arteta’s stats add up to him maintaining this mantle as the clubs best passer. With a pass completion of 83% (comfortably above the club average of 76%) the Spaniard creates 2.03 chances per game for team-mates, just ahead of Baines, although the chances Baines has created for colleagues have a higher conversion rate than Arteta (11v 5) The stats don’t really tell the tale her though, as Arteta for the most part has been disappointing in centre mid and probably played his best game when shifted out to the wing against Newcastle

The Stringer Bell Mastermind  Schemer Award

 Leon Osman gets this award for his second half of the season contribution. The midfielder has received unwarranted abuse in the past – perhaps for not having the physique of Papa Bouba Diop. Osman created 24 goal scoring opportunities and registered 44 shots, he also totalled 5 assists and 4 goals. Osman also makes the joint most amount of dribbles per game (1.6) along with Seamus Coleman

Goal of the season

 His free kick up at Spurs was better but in terms of timing and occasion his whipped effort in the Shed end atChelsea in the last minute of the cup tie was superb. Over the campaign this was by far the best day on the road for this Blue.

 The Pauly Walnuts Award for Psychotic Tendency

 Jonny Heitinga had a pretty tepid campaign barring a decent end of season run, but his barge on the vile Ashley Cole as he ran up for his shoot out spot kick reminded us that the fist waving Dutchman can have a really competitive streak when he applies himself.

Comedy Opponent of the Year Award

 Tough call this one. James Collins is one of the poorest centre backs I’ve seen in a while for Villa. Whitehead and Delap from Stoke are also comedy performers in terms of midfielders who rarely ever touch the ball. Fabregas and Wenger also come into contention for their juvenile antics during and after the game at The Emirates. This year though the award goes to Jamie Carragher for his sublime attempt at wing play in the Goodison derby. Even Paul McShane couldn’t have pulled this one off. One observer astutely commented it was the equivalent of an ‘out of control shopping trolley’

Tactical Move of the season:

 The use of Coleman as a ‘tornanti‘ to man mark Ashley Cole and then give him just as much problems up the other end of the pitch was superb and showed how mature a defensive shift Coleman can do. The Irishman did a similar job on Bale down atWhite Hart Lane also with the Welshman dominated so much that he ended up being switched to the opposite flank.

The Mikel Madar Loose Canon Award

 Fellaini gets this award for one of the most needless red cards in living memory  & subsequent ban against Bolton back in October. Previously unbeaten in 6, the Blues would thus sink into a miserable period of the season back in November.

   Opponent of the Year Award:

 Despite the general quality of the division not being up to the standard of previous years, there was still some big displays from stand out performers this year at Goodison. Nani was superb back in September for Man U, Holden from Bolton and   Vaughan from Blackpool also caught the eye home and away this year with energy and quality from midfield and Bent’s movement and goals where also textbook. David Silva gets the award though for his first half display at Goodison this year when he was virtually unplayable, floating around the pitch with a sublime first touch and great vision

For those who missed the first part of the season review, you can view it here

 This is the final end of season post – previously I was going to do a 3rd but it was getting a bit much stats wise and I’m sure everyone wants to move on from this season now! If there are any stats I haven’t covered that you wanted to know, just ask and I’ll look into it for you.

 Thanks very much for reading the blog this season – reader numbers have gone up a hell of a lot since back in September and I have really appreciated your comments and feedback along the way. There will probably be some summer posting/ranting but the season basically ends here.

 Up the Toffees!!

 The Executioner’s Bong

The Season in Numbers: End of Season Review Part 1

In the first of a 3 part end of season review we break down the performance of the team and analyse areas of success along with opportunities for improvement. Each aspect will compare our performance with the best and worst teams for that aspect of play in the division and where possible our stats from last year.

 A note about the Data: The tables below show how we fare in comparison to the rest of the division using opta data. So for example, the  passing stats shows Arsenal are best passers based on their pass completion figures with Stoke the worst and the Blues ranked 9th.

 Key: SOT Shots on Target BM Premier League Average PG – Per Game  INT – Interceptions

 Passing

 Our pass completion figure of 76% is decent – the same as last season –  although still way behind the benchmark passers Arsenal who registered 84%.

 The average amount of successful passes we made in the first ten games of the season was 364; with a 74% pass completion  –at this stage of the season our play was very possession based and characterized by short passing movements.

 From looking at the stats we switched to a more direct passing style following the Stoke defeat at the turn of the year. The next 10 games, from the Spurs win at Goodison onwards our pass completion figure dropped by 3% to 71% and we made on average 64 less passes per game.

 Here is a breakdown of our passes in comparison to other clubs, unsuprisingly Arsenal have the highest pass completion.

 The below shows the direction of our attacks, focused mostly down the left side. The Blues also spend a higher proportion of game time in the opposition half than any other side.

 Shooting

 This campaign we scored 9 goals fewer than last season. 53% of our shots have come from within the 18 yard box with 8% from inside the 6 yard box and 39% from outside the 18 yard box. 

Our goals per game ratio before the Spurs home game midway through the season was 1.05. For the 2nd part of the campaign this rose to 1.66 per game for the remainder, showing that the shift to more direct play did work.

 Shot Direction/Shot Zones (Everton shots)

Shot Direction/Shot Zones ( shots conceded)

 

 Goal Method – Everton goals 2010/11

 

Creativity

 As mentioned above, our goals per game ratio increased after Christmas. This was largely down to several factors; tweaks in the formation and tactics (more direct) with crosses whipped in at greater regularity, plus the return to the team of Leon Osman.

 

Here is a breakdown of our creativity in comparison to other clubs.

 The most creative side were Chelsea, creating 570 goal scoring opportunities, we ranked 8th, creating just over the league average. We generally attack down the flanks, particularly the left side, registering considerably above the league average for crosses per game. We have a weakness in terms of through balls, registering below the league average.

 Defending

 

Generally our defending was not great this season. Although we conceded fewer goals than last season we kept fewer clean sheets than in any campaign under Moyes

 

Everton defensive record under David Moyes

 Generally the bulk of the shots against us came from inside the 18 yard box (49%) with 44% from outside the 18 yard box and 7% from inside the 6 yard box.

 No one factor can explain poor defending as it is a team dynamic but some contributory factors include; 

  • A general lack of concentration in tracking runs.
  • Defending fast break situations
  • Aerial vulnerability from crosses
  • Our ambitious left side is a great strength but also a weakness, leaving us wide open at times for counter attacks which opposition managers targeted.

  Generally, we make 20 tackles per game – 1 below the league average. Aerially we win 47% of aerial duels – down 3% on last year’s total. The absence of Fellaini was perhaps the biggest factor here – a good example being the last match of the campaign against a physically robust side such as Chelsea when we won just 33% of the aerial duels.

 In terms of interceptions, this year we averaged just 12 per game – the lowest in the league. Last season we had the highest total per game (22) in the division.

 Until Neville stepped into midfield we were too easy to play through as the interception stats show. In the second period of the season with Cahill, Yakubu and often Saha not available for selection there was no physicality up front to hold the ball up leading to us losing possession up field before our attacks could begin.

Management

 David Moyes completed his 9th full season in the Goodison hotseat and as has been the case in the last 3 seasons, our season has been split into 2 phases; early season struggle followed by a surge in the second period of the campaign.

 We have shown variation in tactics this campaign, playing 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 and 4-4-1-1 at various stages of the campaign. The deployment of Coleman in right midfield was a good move and compensated for our lack of speed in forward areas as well as balance to our more offensive left side.

The Scot should also be applauded for his ability to galvanize the team after various setbacks through the campaign: the Blues didn’t lose back to back games in the league all season.

 Some of his signings haven’t come of though, Billy doesn’t seem equipped for the division and following the World Cup Final Heitinga’s head became bigger than Grantchester’s bank balance  - his application in some games pre Christmas was appalling.

 In short, Moyes is a top, top manager and its obvious that the bottleneck is finance. To get further then we are now investment in the most expensive position (a striker) is required.

 The 2nd part of this 3 part End of Season post will focus on the players and will be uploaded to the blog on Thursday evening.

Everton 1-0 Chelsea: Tactical Report

Line-ups

 Everton lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system with Beckford coming in for Anichebe up front. Rodwell started in place of skipper Phil Neville who missed out with a mouth infection. Chelsea played in their accustomed 4-3-3 with Mikel anchoring midfield and Torres deployed through the middle as the main striker.

 General Observations

 Baines has had great success against Chelsea this campaign but had a quieter afternoon in this fixture. The key tactical point here is that whilst Chelsea played 4-3-3 Essien was assigned the role to come across to the right side and press Baines when the ball was rolled out to him by Howard. This ploy did reduce Baines impact offensively with the newly crowned Player of the Year not making one successful cross all afternoon. This was a contributory factor to Howard opting for long kick outs too. Chelsea won 67% of the aerial duels, most of which coming from Howard’s long kicks up field.

Heitinga finishes season strongly

 Whilst Jagielka and Distin took many of the plaudits for being rock solid – Distin in particular was terrific with a massive 11 clearances – Heitinga had arguably his best game of the season for the Blues. The fist waving Dutchman made a massive 7 interceptions and screened the back four really well. He also contributed 6 accurate long balls with the Ajax diagonal pass successfully deployed a couple of times.

A key point in the game was the Coleman red card – the referee appeared to be swayed by the despicable card waving antics of Ashley Cole  (dismissing the long standing myth that this gross act is only committed by foreign players) It was a sad way for Coleman to end the season – he has been terrific defensively and offensively and his displays against Chelsea in particular have demonstrated this – providing width and beating his marker twice  as well as tracking Ashley Cole up and down the pitch.

The Blues positional rigidity throughout had constricted Chelsea and although going down a man we maintained 2 holding midfielders to screen the back four. The sending off led to Chelsea having more of the play – they made 490 short passes  which was double the total we posted,  but the Blues where very solid through the middle and Chelsea often resorted to longer distance shooting as shown in the below diagram. (everton left in blue)

Breakthrough !

With Chelsea looking pretty blunt in the final third it appeared the game was drifting towards a 0-0 stalemate. Just as he did in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge though, Jermaine Beckford was to emerge as the Blue hero with a great solo strike. The forward’s display yesterday was quite erratic – as discussed on the blog earlier this season his game outside opposition 18 yard boxes is dubious with limited movement – but he does have great pace and a single minded attitude which is key for a striker. Having missed two 1 on 1 situations with Cech either side of the break Beckford made it third time lucky, running from the edge of our 18 yard box before hitting a sublime finish over Cech.

 Conclusion

A great win for the Blues against another top ranking side. Tactically it was the Blues positional rigidity and play off the ball which won the day here, along with some heroic defending at times from Distin and Heitinga.

For those of you who are interested I will be doing a series of end of season posts this week – I will aim to have the first one up either tonight or tomorrow

Everton v Chelsea : Tactical Preview

 

The final game of the season is upon as we face a Chelsea side who have already secured second spot . Our target is to secure 7th with Fulham ensconced just below us if we fail to do so. There are few certainties on the last day of the season other than the cliché ‘both sets of player’s seem to already be on their holidays’ will be trotted out by Alaister Mann on the final game of motd’s Sunday roster.

Chelsea Strategy and Intel

Although they have tinkered with a diamond variant in the latter half of the season, Chelsea usually deploy 4-3-3 with Drogba as the figurehead and width provided by the wide strikers.  One of these is likely to be Malouda, their top scorer in the league with 13 and their most creative force; setting up a chance for an opponent every  25 mins… 107 in total – the most in the division.

It has become nigh on impossible to predict who Chelsea will pick up front for games in the latter half of the season but in Drogba, Anelka, Malouda, Torres & Kalou they have heavy artillery who have all damaged the Blues at some stage in the past. The most natural balance for me is Malouda, Drogba, Anelka, but its likely Torres will start; most probably at the expense of Anelka with Drogba pushed out right. Here are the forward’s records against the Blues in league and cup:

Recent form and past meetings

Considering Ancelloti’s job is supposedly on the line, the form Chelsea take into Sunday’s game is terrific. Their only recent defeat was the title decider at Old Trafford and away from home they play a really attacking style, with only Arsenal picking up more points and scoring more goals on their travels than Chelsea. The men from West London are lethal on the break, scoring more goals on their travels from breakaway situations than any other side in the top flight.

The Blue’s come into this one after last Saturday’s grim trip to the Hawthorns and will be looking to finish the season on a high – our home form has been superb in the latter half of the campaign where we are unbeaten since November.

Ancelotti has never got the better of David Moyes in 6 meetings, with 5 draws and 1 Everton win. The games between the clubs are always tight and evenly contested.  As the above line-ups show Chelsea play narrow in midfield and the games between the clubs lately have been characterized by deadlock through the middle with the games key battles out on the flanks. If there is a tactical flaw with Chelsea its that they can be quite narrow at times in midfield, as was shown in the FA Cup tie at the Bridge back in February. Coleman is usually assigned to pick up Ashley Cole down our right, and its our left side where there is usually most space as Chelsea don’t have anyone out on their right who can provide width in midfield (especially if Drogba starts on the right side of the attack who will naturally cut in and not track back) – this is why Baines has done so well in these games this season. The flip side of this of course is that with Arteta likely playing wide cutting in,  Ivanovic will have a similar amount of room to operate in front of him. The outcome of the game could hinge on which fullback makes the most of this space.

Everton strategy and likely lineup.

In the previous meetings this campaign Fellaini has been key in pressing Chelsea’s anchor man who dictates their play (usually Mikel) when he is in possession.  Our strategy is to upset Chelsea playing through the middle of our midfield where often they can have a man advantage.  To this end, Moyes could opt to start with Rodwell as he has done against most of the top sides due to his ability to chase and press  – sadly Rodwell is nowhere near as aggressive in pressing the opposition as the Big Belgian and for me imposing himself on opposition players is the area of Rodwell’s game he really needs to improve if he is to be able to reach automatic selection status at Goodison – this season he hasn’t warranted this.

 We will probably line up 4-2-3-1 with Tim Cahill again likely to miss out. Personally I would start with Beckford for this one but its more likely Anichebe will be preferred in attack as he continues to look to register his first goal of the season.

 Prediction

 Despite there being little at stake I am expecting a hard fought tussle and I think the result will be our third 1-1 draw with the West Londoners this campaign

West Brom 1-0 Everton

Lineups

The Blues started in a 4-2-3-1 setup with Coleman coming in for Rodwell on the right wth Osman slotting inside. The Baggies brought back Brunt and Scharner in their accustomed 4-4-2.

Leaky Blues

West Brom focused attacks down our problem left side, with Odemwingie making some great runs from the centre into pockets of space in behind Baines, catching Distin on the hop with great regularity. Distin is a massive unit and has been an ever present for the Blues this campaign, and whilst he has done a decent job I feel the praise he receives is sometimes overstated. For the 3rd game out of the last 4 he was directly culpable for a goal; at Man Utd his rash error left the backdoor open, last week a rash lunge opened the door for Silva and today some comedy defending gave the impressive Odemwingie the chance to tee up Mulumbu to give the midfielder back to back scoring games against the blues. Distin isn’t the only factor behind our defensive fragility this season, but he is certainly a contributory factor.

Everton were really sloppy throughout and WBA were first in most 50-50’s  on the deck and in the air >winning 67% of the aerial duels to the Blues 33% and also winning 62% of their take on’s of opponents – the Blues in comparison succeeded with just 36% with Coleman failing with all 3 of his attempts to beat his man.

Skipper Phil Neville tweeted after the game that the display was the “Story of our season good and in control but no real cutting edge up top” whilst I would agree with the skipper (at this stage last season we had scored 8 more goals) our defensive record is arguably more of a factor in comparison to recent years with this campaign recording just 8 clean sheets in comparison to the Cup Final year of 2009 when we registered more than double (highlighted in yellow below)

Here is our record over the last 9 seasons >

Blunt Blues

The Blues again opted for Victor Anichebe up top, but surely after his woeful campaign the much maligned striker’s Goodison career is coming to an end. Anichebe has now recorded just 2 goals in 43 Premier League outings. There is no witch hunt here, I can see what he brings to the team in terms of physicality upfront and I have nothing against the kid, it’s just that he isn’t a Premier League striker; he simply doesn’t possess any goal threat whatsoever.

I can see the use in him being deployed at Old Trafford in games when its hard to get possession in opponents half and his presence can bring midfielders into play, but against a West Brom side who are on a Premier League record run of not keeping a clean sheet in their last 17 Premier League home games and with the ball penetrating their 18 yard box at regular intervals, this was a game a player who comes alive in the box such as Jermaine Beckford should have started.

Conclusion

It was more woe for the Blues here in a game which rounded our away campaign off in a remarkably symmetrical way – back in August an equally limp and feeble effort resulted in a 0-1 reverse at Blackburn.  On a positive note the season ends next week.

West Brom v Everton: Tactical Preview

The Blues travel to the Hawthorns this weekend for a match up with Roy Hodgson’s resurgent West Brom and will be looking for revenge for the 4-1 thumping received at Goodison back in November in what was one of the grimmest months of the Moyes regime.

 West Brom Strategy and Intel

 The Baggies may have only been managed by Roy Hodgson for several months, but already they are well accustomed to his ‘shape, shape, shape’ tactical approach. The wobbly faced maestro has built a career on setting up teams to be organised and defensively astute. They will setup4-4-2with attacks focused down their left side- the Baggies have the highest % (24%) in the division for goals scored from shots from the left side  #useless statistic.

 Strengths?

 Creatively, their main influence is Northern Ireland International Chris Brunt, who creates a chance for opponent every 38 minutes, cutting in from right to left with 9 of these leading to goals. In comparison, Baines creates an opportunity for us every 54 mins, 11 of which have resulted in goals. The Baggies also have a prolific forward in their ranks, the former Lokomotiv Moscow man Peter Odemwingie who has plundered an impressive 15 goals in his debut season, averaging a shot on target every 65 minutes. The Baggies sit bottom of the half time league indicating they start games slowly but have great mental strength in coming back into games in the second half.  

 Weakness?

 Their achilles heel is defending set plays as was shown in last weeks display to local rivals Wolves. With Paul Scharner suspended last week this vulnerability from crosses into the box was highlighted and although he is back this week, Baines delivery could be vital. It’s also worth noting that only Blackpool have shipped more goals in the top flight this season and that West Brom haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 17 home games, the joint-longest run ever in Premier League history.

 Past Meetings and Recent Form

 West Brom lost last time out to local rivals Wolves, but beforehand had suffered just 1 defeat in their previous 10 games. The Blues on the other hand have only lost once since that dark day at the Reebok back in early February, and that coming at Old Trafford.

 In the reverse fixture at Goodison this campaign the Baggies routed us 4-1, aided and abetted by a crazy red card for Mikel Arteta and some incredibly slack displays by Heitinga in particular although in fairness WBA were winning before the sending off and played really well. Last time out at the Hawthorns was back in August 2008, when Yakubu and Osman strikes gave a patched up Blues outfit a 2-0 win on a warm summer’s day.

 Blues Strategy and likely lineup

 I would imagine the Blues would start with something resembling the 4-2-3-1 lineup which finished last week’s game withManCity, with Rodwell for Cahill perhaps the only change.

 Last week was a great win for the Blues but it again showed that Moyes perhaps doesn’t know his best midfield balance, with only Heitinga out of the initial 5 man midfield occupying his deployed role for the full 90 minutes: in total we have deployed 8 different central midfield combinations this season.

 This was one of the major issues at the start of the season, as our midfield seemed imbalanced, particularly from a defensive point of view where we were far too easy to play through. 4-2-3-1 seems a good fit for us with the players we have and the delineation in attacking and defending duties of the midfielders. Heitinga looks more comfortable tasked solely with defensive duties in this midfield setup and in the 9 games Neville has started in midfield this season we have lost just 1.

 With Fellaini to come back into the equation for pre season and Barkley expected to emerge next season, the complexion of the midfield is something we really need to pin down in the summer months if we are to avoid another awful start to the season next time out.

 Prediction

The Blues are finishing the season in really good form and I expect this to continue this weekend with us having a bit too much quality for the Baggies. 2-1 to the Toffees.

The Creative Spark: 5 to ponder….

The Right side is an area we have had issues with for a couple of seasons. Landon Donovan was superb during his brief stint at the club last year and Seamus Coleman has had a terrific campaign, providing much needed pace and penetration although sometimes lacking with the final ball. Leon Osman, Billy, Pienaar and Anichebe have all been deployed here at some stage, some more successfully than others.

 The core abilities required here include good acceleration and the capacity to create. As with most players recruited, a flexibility to play in at least one other position would be desirable, so if we are to play a variant of 4-5-1, say  4-2-3-1 next campaign, ideally the player will be able to play in any of the 3 berths behind the striker. As documented in part 1 of this 3 part post, any cash deal will be governed by restrictive finance, so the player would either command relatively low wages and a larger fee (like fellaini) or higher wages but minimal fee (like Saha). Someone under the age of 26 with sell on value would be desirable.

 Based on this criteria the following 5 players would be ‘in scope’ for our requirement:

1. Claudemir (FC Copenhagen)

This 23 year old Brazilian born star has made waves in Denmark this year with FC Copenhagen following a superb debut season having joined last season from Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem. An elegant right sided midfielder standing at 6ft 1inch he scored a sublime volley in Copenhagen’s Champions League campaign this season against Barcelona . As he is still unproven in a top European Premier Division, this would equate to a relatively unsubstantial fee in the region of £6m

2. Dimitri Payet (St Etienne)

This 24 year old French International currently plays for St Etienne as an attacking midfielder capable of operating in any of the 3 attacking midfield positions behind a striker. He has struck 18 goals from 124 games for his current club and possesses great speed, impressive technique and mazy dribbling skills. Payet tried to force a transfer in January and should be on the move this summer but with his recent exposure as a French International and talk of a move to PSG he could be out of the Blues price range at £8m

3. Anas Sharbini (Hajduk Split)

With comparisons drawn to a great like Boban, Sharbini is a livewire attacking midfielder currently plying his trade for Hajduk Split. He possesses great touch, vision and dribbling skills making him every inch a top playmaker. There is a dark side to Sharbini however, who was once kicked out of the Croatia u-21’s for refusing to play in an international against Hungary. After having his fingers burnt with Van Der Meyde, Moyes may think twice about bringing in a temperamental foreign player especially one who is still unproven at international level, but for these reasons his fee would be within the Blues budget.

4. Joey Barton (Newcastle)

Not as strange as it may seem this one. Barton has well documented issues – his temperament is suspect and he is every inch a loose canon, albeit this season this mood has cooled slightly.  If he had the temperament like say Lampard, this guy would command a much higher fee and be out of our price range.  For us to get a player of this quality is either going to be down to excellent scouting or the player being flawed somehow – Brian Clough and Peter Taylor’s scouting policy was based around signing players such as this with personal demons, one such example being the acquisition of Kenny Burns from Birmingham for £145k …Burns was written off for being a fighting, hard drinking gambler and a stone over weight….after a year with Clough he was crowned Footballer of the Year.

 Barton has averaged 10.3 crosses per league game this season, the most in the Premier League and has 9 assists this campaign from the right side. Added to this the fact that Moyes has tried to sign him in the past, his Blue roots and his Toon contract running down and the reduced fee this would trigger, he has to be in Moyes thoughts right now. As well as his temperament, at 28 he would trigger limited sell on value.

 5. Marvin Martin

Marvin Martin is a 23 year old creative midfielder with a similar lightweight physique to former toffee Steven Pienaar.  Martin is a former French youth international who has yet to be capped by his country. With 17 assists this season he is statistically the most creative player in Ligue 1 and only Messi has teed up more goals in Europe this season. His talent has so far gone under the radar of Europe’s big hitters potentially because for an attacking player he is not a great goalscorer with just 6 from 83 games in the French top flight. He would command a fee in the region of £7m.

Fresh Produce: New on the blog today: WBA v Everton Tactical Preview

Everton 2-1 Man City

The ultimate game of two halves witnessed a rampant Everton overcome a first half chasing from Manchester City to emerge as winners in a classic game at Goodison Park

Line-ups

 The Blues made one change in personnel from last week atWigan, with Heitinga coming in for Cahill. The Blues lined up 4-2-3-1 with Rodwell starting on the right of the 3 attacking midfielders with Osman central and Arteta right, although these interchanged as the half progressed. City started in a similar setup with Vieira coming in for Barry and Milner replacing Johnson on the right with Dzeko fronting the attack.

 Silva show runs Blues ragged

As mentioned in the preview, Silva is City’s creator in chief, and for the first 45 minutes he ran the Blues ragged. Hibbert is an adequate performer when tasked with a winger who runs at him such as Adam Johnson, but tasked with a player like Silva who floats from one side to the next he struggles. One minute the Spaniard was bamboozling Hibbert on the left to fire just past Howard, the next he was finding pockets of space down the right  to setup Yaya Toure for the games opening goal, albeit following a poor error of judgement from Distin. The Blues simply couldn’t live with him, with Neville and Heitinga, the two anchor men tasked with patrolling the space between the lines, left redundant to his superior movement.

 Mancini had done his homework on the Blues left side with Milner preferred to Johnson specifically to track  Baines as shown by the below interceptions chart for City – notice the massive cluster all down our left side.

 Second Half turnaround

 The second half witnessed David Moyes make several key changes to the Blues setup. Firstly he withdrew Hibbert –  Neville reverted to fullback, Rodwell took Neville’s anchor role but with more of a licence to get forward and Anichebe dropped to the right of the attacking mids and Beckford spearheading the attack. With the left side shut off, the Blues focused attacks down the right.

 As mentioned above, City’s first half dominance was inspired by their diminutive Silva. In the second period the playmaker made 0 passes into our18 yardbox in comparison to 4 and 1 assist in the first half.  The introduction of Beckford, a striker with real pace led City’s defence to drop deep, meaning the gap between their defence and Silva in particular grew as the second half progressed, leaving the Spaniard playmaker increasingly isolated as the half went on. 

Mancini long ball claim

 Roberto Mancini’s rather bitter post match comments referenced Everton’s ‘long ball’ game in the second period. Lets look at the passing stats for the game…the below 6 zones are in minutes of the game (e.g zone 1 is 0-15mins)

 In the period Everton took control with the 2 goals (area 5 above) we recorded our lowest pass completion figure, but we registered more passes overall into City’s final third during this time than any other in the game. The only period in the game where our passing completion was better than City’s was in the last period (65% v 64%) when City themselves where playing more direct chasing the goal that would get them back in the contest. This shows us that the more desperate both teams got when looking for the goals, the more killer passes they attempted, which can often lead to pass completion % going down.

 With the game edging towards the Blues, Moyes made his second key change, bringing on Cahill for Rodwell -Arteta dropped to centre midfield and Cahill played off Beckford. Anichebe looked much more comfortable running from outside inwards than he did with his back to goal in the first half. The introduction of Cahill caused uncertainty in City’s defence. It was noted in Friday’s preview that if we where to get a result crosses into City’s box would be a likely route. The Blues have made more successful crosses (173) than any other team in the divison. The Blues couldn’t get far enough up the pitch in the first half leading to crosses often being pinged from poor positions and easily dealt with – success rate just 20%…. with our best aerial exponent back in the side and City rocking, the Blues smelt blood with crossing accuracy rising to 36% and deliveries pinged in from left and right in quick succession.

 Firstly, Arteta swung in a cross from the right which was headed in by Distin and shortly after following great work from Heitinga, a chipped ball in from Neville led to Osman, the shortest man on the field amazingly leaping above the Kompany, the tallest man on the field to head into Hart’s net. This was a truly superb effort from a great player who has revitalised our season and a  header the watching Duncan Ferguson would have been proud of.

 Conclusion

  A really exciting game this one with City’s passing display in the first half matched by Everton’s spirit and endeavour after the break. A massive second half fightback led by the much maligned Anichebe and talisman Cahill gave the Blues the impetus to fightback what had seemed a lost cause at half time. City are a top side but we again showed that on our day we are a match for anyone in this divison.

Everton v Man City Preview

Next up for the Blues is a clash with Roberto Mancini’s Man City – a fixture which seems to motivate David Moyes more so than any other.

 City have continued to develop this season and have 4th place pinned down now with Spurs challenge floundering in recent weeks. Looking at it objectively, City could probably had more points on the board but for the inconvenience that is the re-badged Europa league. With an FA Cup final in the bag also, City have certainly kicked on this campaign.

 City Tactics and Intel

 City usually adopt something between a 4-2-3-1 and 4-5-1 setup with Barry and De Jong sitting in between the defence and midfield lines restricting the space for Osman and Arteta to operate. Johnson will start on the right with the elegant David Silva the designated playmaker on the left side but cutting inside. City play a possession based game and will look to dominate play – Silva will be key to this, he has a  pass completion this season of 86% (as a  benchmark Iniesta weighs in at  89%)  with Silva creating a goalscoring opportunity for a team-mate every 39 minutes, 6 of which have led to goals. In comparison our Spanish creator Mikel Arteta sets up a chance every 49 minutes, with 4 resulting in goals. City’s play is often manifested in sideways passing with the aim of luring the opposition onto them and thus compromising opposition shape and then advancing forward.

 Defensively they are resolute with clean sheets 15  (joint top with Chelsea & Man Utd ) and with just 31 goals conceded only Chelsea can better them in terms of goals conceded. De Jong is the key man here – he is dismissed by many as a hatchet man but plays a key role in the team, making a successful tackle every 38 minutes – it was notable that City’s heaviest away defeat came at Anfield when the Dutchman was absent and City were very easy to play through. One potential weakness is at leftback where the marauding Kolorov will look to play high up field like Baines for us, so I would expect Osman to find pockets of space down his flank to exploit.

 Recent form and previous meetings

 The Blues have a fantastic recent record against City, winning 4 of the last 5 meetings. City are vulnerable on the road, with just 1 win and 4 goals scored on their travels this year.  In contrast, Everton are unbeaten at home in the league since November and go into this one in decent form.

 Everton strategy and likely line up

 Our strategy would be similar to what has gone before this season, with our shape something resembling 4-2-3-1. Baines crossing has been instrumental this season – we have made more successful crosses from open play than any other side this campaign (173). Baines and Cahill have been City’s chief tormenters in recent meetings; with both slotting in the win at Eastland’s earlier this season and you would expect that if we are to get a result those two will again be instrumental. Jonny Heitinga is fit again but I think Moyes will stick with the same line up from last week, although personally I would recall Beckford at the expense of Anichebe.

 Prediction.

The Blues will be fired up for this one after last weeks limp display against Wigan and I can see us sneaking it 1-0.

The Search for a new No.9: 5 Strikers to consider…

The second of this 3 part feature into Everton’s recruitment will look into potential targets the club will be looking at this summer. This post will look at 5 strikers which would fit with the attributes and criteria governing potential targets Moyes is looking to bring to L4

 Moyes Requirement?

 A quick look through Moyes post match quotes this campaign gives you the clues as to what he and his scouting network will be looking at this summer. At the derby game at Anfield, Moyes bemoaned a lack of physical presence to enable us to hold the ball up, something Beckford has showed at Old Trafford recently that he is not equipped to provide (yet). With Yakubu’s Everton career over we need somebody who can provide this. Saha/Cahill  have the capability but  in reality you will only get them available for 20-25 games per season max due to injury/international leave.

Physicality is key then, as is proven goal scoring ability. This may seem obvious when scouting strikers but in the cases of Yakubu and Anichebe this season it is clear that physicality alone will not suffice for what we require. For me, the days of the 20 league goals in a season striker is over – only 11 players have achieved this tally in the past 7 years in the top flight so I’d say we are looking for someone with the capability of a 15 goal return.

 A proven ability to do this in a top flight division is desirable but in reality these players are at a premium and thus financially out of our reach. Therefore, the lower leagues are ‘in scope’ for our striker. Cost is obviously key for our club – as mentioned in last week’s post about recruitment, the club is looking to invest in young players eager to develop their careers which represent potential sell on value….so lets ignore players 26 and above who would represent little in terms of sell on value.

The Brief:

 Our requirement then is a striker with a strong physical presence, capable of 15 goals a season and under 26 who could be plying their trade inside or outside top level football.  Based on my knowledge of the world and domestic market here are 5 potential players we could look to move for this season that fits the above criteria.

 Potential Targets

1. Rondon (Malaga)

 This young Venezuelan forward currently playing forMalagafits the bill in terms of ability and age – at just 21 years old the striker certainly has the capability – 13 goals from 28 starts this campaign is an impressive return in La Liga. This strong and powerful front man is capable of playing with his back to goal and equally comfortable running in behind defences utilizing his strength and pace in 1 on 1 situations. Moyes has watched Rondon in recent months and is keen on a deal. The only issue would be the fee: the striker is rumored to have a 20m euro buy out clause in his contract although in reality around 12m euro  would presumably be enough to secure his services – a fee the Blues could stretch to if as expected we offload some of the dead wood.

 

2. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (AZ)

 

This 21 year old Icelandic striker has had a storming breakthrough season in the Dutch Eredivsie, registering a1 in2 ratio with 15 goals from 30 starts for his club side AZ Alkmaar. Sigthorsson is tall, good in the air and can hold the ball up well – in addition to this he is comfortable with either foot. Looking at the negatives, the Dutch league has in recent years exported several striking flops to these shores, (Alfonso Alves springs to mind) so whilst we could probably secure his services for an economical £4-5m it would represent something of a risk.

 

3. Papiss Demba Cisse (Freiburg)

Freiburg’s 25 year old free scoring Senegalese striker has hit new heights this campaign plundering a glut of goals to make him one of the Bundesliga’s most feared forwards. Signed fromMetzin 2009 for £1.5m where he previously had a1 in3 ratio, the rangy forward has hit 28 goals in 46 starts in the German top flight. In addition to this he has averaged almost goal a game ratio for his national side. The 6ft striker has decent physique and a good turn of pace meaning he certainly fits our requirement. Again, cost might be an issue but a fee in the region of £8m would secure his services.

 

4. Nathan Junior (Skonto Riga)

Title winner and top scorer with 18 goals last year for his club side Skonto Riga, 21 year old Brazilian born Nathan Junior was rejected as a kid from Flamengo before traveling toEuropeto seek fame and fortune. With great physique, he is tall and has decent acceleration plus an eye for goal…. the Samba star looks to have a great career ahead of him. Whilst cost wouldn’t be a factor (he is valued at around £5m) the extent of his top flight experience thus far is restricted to Cyprus andLatvia, so it would represent something of a risk.

 

5. Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Espanyol)

 The 25 year old Argentine born forward has been re born since moving from Italy to Spain last year. Since switching to La Liga he has registered 18 goals to his credit from 40 starts, form which led Fiorentina to snap him up from  Lecce for big money as a 21 year old.  Despite being born in Buenos Aires, Osvaldo has represented Italyat u21 level and sees his future international career with the Azzuri. Moyes was in residence for Espanyol’s recent game against Athletico Bilbao to keep tabs on the impressive forward, who is also being tracked by Newcastle and Dirty Arry…. so the Blues face competition if they are to secure his services.

Some Long shots.………

Vedan Ibisevic is a Bosnian hitman currently playing for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, 2 Years ago he was the leagues top scorer hitting19 goals as his club hit the league summit before a serious injury curtailed his season and the clubs title tilt.. This year he has been back on form, although at 27 he would represent little sell on value…….. Karim Ansarifard is a 20 year old Iranian forward schooled by the great Ali Daei. He has great physicality and an eye for goal. Bundesliga champions Dortmund are sniffing around and would appear at the moment to be in the box seat for his signature, but it would be a relatively low cost signature. …..Top scorer at Reading this season, Irish forward Shane Long has emerged asReading’s top marksmen this campaign with 21 goals from 41 starts representing his most prolific spell in English football.  Moyes has shown in the past he has no qualms with moving players up from the Championship so this could be a potential deal.

Next week; Final part of this 3 part post looks into the creative issue which has dogged us all campaign and the 5 targets which DM will be looking at to fill this creative void.