The Blues head to Eastlands in Saturday’s early kick off for a showdown with old foes Man City in a fixture which has brought the best out of the Toffees in recent years….
The game will represent a contrast of tactics and strategies between two managers who have come to blows physically and verbally in recent seasons –City’s short passing game and our own modified style with an emphasis on pressing and direct play following the departure of our two best passers this year.
Despite not making a cash buy on a player in the last 6 transfer windows and City splashing over £300m, the Toffees have bossed their cash savvy neighbours of late; winning 8 of the last 9 against City including 4 on the spin at Eastlands. Whilst we can compete with City in a one of basis there is no hiding the fact that there has been a 30 point swing in the last 2 seasons between the clubs in City’s favour which has seen them emerge as true title contenders – so its going to be a massive ask to get a result but one which Moyes has done before, which brings us nicely onto….
It will be interesting to see how Moyes starts up. Last season, despite the Blues being in torrid form and City heading for the summit, Moyes surprised everyone by sending out the Blues to attack City on their own patch – leading to us going 2-0 up in 20minutes. With the goals in the bag the Blues retreated – more so following the Anichebe dismissal – we went compact showing City out to the flanks where they are less potent and grinded out a victory in the face of intensive City pressure in the second period.
The hero of the win as has been the case on numerous occasions against City was our Aussie talisman Tim Cahill– he has struck 4 match winning goals on City’s home turf and the sight of the Aussie does appear to cause havoc in the Eastlands defence. Comfortably winning 1-0 at Goodison last campaign, the entrance of Cahill swung the balance in our favour, with 2 goals in the 10 minutes following his introduction as a second half sub.
It will certainly be a clash of styles; on average 17% of our passes this campaign are long balls compared to City’s 8%. When in possession we will look to play to our strengths; get the ball out wide and whip balls into the box – we have won 60% of aerial duals this campaign– the highest % in the divison. The shifting skillset of our midfield also means that we are now better equipped to press than pass.
City boast the best pass completion in the top flight (86%) – enabling them to complement their solid defensive game of the last few seasons with penetration in the final third. The chalkboards (Left) show games against Dirty Arry’s Spurs mob this season (top)and last season (bottom) – notice how this season more balls are being played into the opposition 18 yard box. Not surprisingly because of this, City have averaged more shots (9) and dribbles (11) per game than any team in the top flight this season.
Nasri has settled in well and has the ability to go inside (like Silva) but also outside. The Spurs win was based on Nasri, Silva & Aguero playing between the lines – something Dirty Arry failed to grasp by playing no anchor man. Moyes won’t make this mistake – I wouldn’t expect Fellaini or Rodwell to cross the halfway line on Saturday.
The image above is from last season’s fixture – the Blues are compact forcing City out to the flanks safe in the knowledge our superior aerial game will repel any crosses into the box – this is shown by the stats that in the last 2 games at Eastlands we have mustered just 6 crosses compared to City’s 48 – yet it is the Blues who have reaped the rewards with goals from wide areas – and notably Cahill.
City can certainly play then, but they do have a weakness – and in particular from crosses. Cahill’s goals invariably come from the Baines supply line, which led Mancini to deploy Milner as a tornanti to track Baines runs in the reverse fixture at Goodison last season– it worked initially but Everton simply focused attacks down the right flank with our 2 goals coming from – yes, you’ve guessed it – crosses. Lescott and Kompany then are not flawless. Neither is especially blessed with vision or the ability to bring the ball out of play and both will look to keep things simple and move possession out to the fullbacks. For this reason the centre backs pose no threat offensively and do not need to be pressed – the fullbacks however will build attacks so expect a 4-2-3-1 with Coleman and Drenthe pressing City’s fullbacks as soon as the ball goes to their feet.
I would expect few goals in this one – Mancini’s side are looking more offensive this campaign but Moyes has got the better of him in all 4 matches they have gone head to head. I would expect a clash of styles and a tight game. 1-1.