Bolton 0-2 Everton : 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction

1)    Line-ups and Formation

The Toffees were without the injured Royston Drenthe, meaning we made one change with Billy coming in on the left side of midfield with a brief to dart inside to give Baines the freedom of the left flank in a 4-4-2. Bolton’s problem position of right back was filled by centre back David Wheater, with Zat Knight coming into the centre of defence to replace him. Eagles started left wing but was operating very high up the pitch and looking to come on in his root foot with Mark Davies on the opposing flank providing more defensive discipline. Muamba and Reo Coker were designed holding midfielders so system wise Bolton had a look of 4-4-2 with Kevin Davies and Klasnic through the middle.

2)   11 v 10 Dynamic

Wheater’s ill judged challenge on Billy was to prove a pivotal moment in the game with the home side reduced to 10 men with 70 minutes still to play. There are 2 potential approaches to take when playing a man light. The prudent approach would be to go with 2 banks of four playing compact and deep and in close proximity to each other with a lone forward. The issue with this is that it invariably invites pressure and you need to be very solid defensively to pull it off. Alternatively,  you can try to maintain an offensive threat by retaining players in forward positions. Coyle chose this approach (4-2-2-1) with Reo Coker switching to right back and Mark Davies tucking inside alongside Muamba with Eagles and Kevin Davies further forward supporting Klasnic from the flanks. By doing this, Bolton basically surrendered the midfield but retained a solid back 6 (4 defenders and 2 anchor men) and a forward trio when in possession.

Playing against 10 men for an hour in a Premier League game is something Everton don’t have much experience in doing. The last time it happened was at Anfield way back in Feb 2010, when Benitez adopted the two banks of four approach. Criminally that day we resorted to long balls in a fruitless search for a breakthrough which ended in defeat. Therefore, it would be interesting to see if we could be patient enough on the ball to break Bolton down.

3)   Passing Patience

Coyle’s attacking strategy perhaps played into our hands in that anybody who has watched us will say we struggle to break down well organised defences who sit and wait for us to break them down. This was evident as our forwards were constantly coming short with little movement beyond Bolton’s back four (see below image)

With Bolton’s home record this season (the Trotter’s have conceded the most goals at home in the division) Coyle probably thought attacking was his side’s best chance of getting something from the game and thus the match was increasingly open as the second half progressed.

Our game plan was to pin our hosts in their own half with our wide men now pushing right up on Bolton’s fullbacks and we were maintaining decent possession in the Bolton half. Our  numerical advantage meant that Bolton were looking to bypass midfield, shifting to longer balls which accounted for 23% of their total passes (compared to our 17%) with a feature being Jaaskelainen hitting 37 long balls – mostly to Kevin Davies. Fellaini was tasked with picking up the Bolton skipper in these situations and did well; winning 80% of his aerial duels.

Our movement of the ball got a lot slicker in the second period, with pass completion going up from 69% to 78%. Crucially, Osman became more involved in the game, posting our highest passing completion ( 84%) after being a periphery figure in the opening 45mins. Improved possession enabled us to work the ball into  Bolton’s box with more frequency, with  64% of our shots coming from  within Bolton’s 18 yard box whereas our hosts only managed 25 % of their shots from the same zones with the bulk of their openings (75%) coming from speculative long range attempts.

4)   Fellaini Dominant

Our Belgian midfielder had a quality outing yesterday. He posted more touches (86) made more passes (76) and won 80% of aerial duels as well as breaking the deadlock for the games opening goal.  His passing heatmap image (left) shows how he covered the bulk of the pitch with the high energy game he brings to the table week in week out. Both goals were testament to our patience in possession, working the ball from the right side with Osman’s involved in both moves enabling transition from the right flank to  a crossing situation on the left. The second from Velios was the Greek forwards 3rd goal from his 150 minutes of cameo appearances this campaign and with the flurry of fixtures coming up at Christmas he is surely going to get more game time quickly.

5)   Final thought

This was a much needed victory and gave us back to back wins for the first time this season. Whilst we initially struggled against ten men the emergence of Osman from the shadows in the second half, coupled with the drive of Fellaini, enabled the Blues to grind out a win. It also enabled us to double our volume of clean sheets for the season. It wasn’t a faultless performance by the Blues – we are still lacking in various areas – but with the midfield creativity and drive lacking in the absence of key men Drenthe and Rodwell it was always going to be a war of attrition. COYB!

Bolton v Everton Tactical Preview

Saturday sees us head to the Reebok Stadium for a tussle with Owen Coyle’s Bolton with David Moyes hoping we can grind out back to back victories against an opponent who have the worst home record in the top flight….

Bolton Weaknesses

Bolton have found the going tough this season; they lie in the Premier League’s drop zone with the worst home record in the top flight having picked up just 3  points from 18 and conceding 17 goals in the process.

Bolton play with inverted wingers (Eagles on the left and probably Mark Davies on the right) and both will look to cut inside on their stronger feet. This has contributed to Bolton making the fewest crosses per game (16) in the division. Both are a threat though and Mark Davies ball retention is particularly impressive, recording 89% pass completion.

This article from the excellent Zonal Marking questioned last season’s zeitgeist that Bolton play really attractive football under Coyle, with his statistics showing that their passing was perhaps not as swashbuckling as the media would have us believe. They appear to be playing less long balls this season (17%) than last season (21%). However, they still seem to have their game plan focused to mix it up when they can; they make 13.3 fouls per game which is the 3rd highest in the league and have posted a league highest of 20.3 interceptions per game which hints that they are still perhaps better off the ball then on it. This is backed up by the possession and pass completion stats which still see Coyle’s men amongst the worst sides in the top flight this campaign.

Bolton Strengths

A consequence of playing inverted wingers is that Bolton’s wide men will invariably cut inside. Bolton certainly play through the middle and post an impressive 6 through balls per game at home (4th highest in league behind Arsenal and the Manchester Clubs) which compares very favourably to ourselves who record on average just 1 per game on our travels. This would imply that Bolton have good incision from central areas.

In terms of shooting, 52% of their shots come from outside the box at home which is the 3rd highest in the league. Eagles is direct and posts an average of 3.2 shots per game which is the Trotters highest. Klasnic will be the main danger man – he has posted more goals (6) and claimed more assists (4) than any of our players.

Everton Approach

Last season we were humbled at the Reebok in what was arguably our worst display of the season. This Bolton side is much changed however and lack the incision and energy of key men Holden and Lee and the direct play of forwards Sturridge and Elmander.

Bolton will try and play through us so we need to reverse this by tucking in our fullbacks and control the centre of the pitch to force them out to the flanks and their wide men onto their weaker feet. Eagles in particular will occupy positions very high up the pitch and I would therefore expect us to line-up more 4-4-1-1 with Coleman and Drenthe tasked with dropping deeper to assist our fullbacks rather than pressing Bolton’s.

Defensively, Bolton are there for the taking as their alarming defensive record at home illustrates. I’d imagine we would again be looking to play more directly with Jagielka looking to pick out Coleman and Drenthe from back to front which has become something of a feature of our recent play.


I wouldn’t expect this to be a classic. Bolton are hardly a side for the purists and our style has an increasing emphasis on getting the ball forward as soon as possible. Keeping a clean sheet just isn’t in our locker these days so it’s more likely that we will concede but with Bolton’s leaky rearguard I fancy us to get a couple to see us through 2-1.

Everton 2-1 Wolves – 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction


1.Teams Both sides deployed variants of 4-5-1. Everton opened up in a 4-2-3-1 system with Osman and Fellaini both sitting fairly deep with Coleman and Drenthe tasked with pressing Wolves high up the pitch. Cahill basically played alongside Saha in a strike duo as the average position image (below) shows. Wolves started up in a more cautious 4-5-1. The key difference in the Wolves approach was that whereas Coleman/Drenthe were tasked with closing Wolves fullbacks down when in possession, Wolves wingers basically doubled up with their fullbacks when we got the ball, with Hunt’s tracking of Coleman an example.

2.Crossing. The bulk of the game (38%) was played in the Wolves half as the image (left) shows. This was due to our pressing in the Wolves area and keeping decent possession when we had the ball. Wolves game is all about crosses; no club in the league play a higher percentage of their passes from wide areas into the opposition box. Moyes defensive plan was clear – mitigate the risk of the crosses by occupying the Wolves area and not letting them get near our box. In the last match up v McCarthy’s men they peppered our box with 31 crosses – yesterday they failed to make any successful crosses into our box in the entire game.

 3.Passing Incision Our passing was much more incisive than Wolves. As per points 1 & 2,  Wolves couldn’t get any possession around our goal and thus couldn’t get into our box leading to them not having any shots from inside our area. The chalkboards below show the difference between the two sides in terms of working the ball successfully into their opponent’s danger area.

On the other hand, with Wolves sitting deep Baines was allowed much more room to manoeuvre than he has afforded in recent weeks and his partnership with Drenthe from an offensive perspective looked good. As the image from point 1 shows the pair played close together – something Baines has missed since Pienaar’s departure.

 4.Foul Play. Our preview noted that one of Wolves key weaknesses is their capacity to persistently foul and give away free kicks in dangerous areas– especially on their travels. For this reason we thought Baines would prosper (we also predicted a 2-1 win for the Blues!) This was evident in that both our goals came as a result of Wolves foul play. Firstly, Cahill was upended for the Baines free kick that Jagielka smashed  home. Then when Hunt (the games most persistent fouler with 6 indiscretions) brought Saha down for the clincher. Granted there wasn’t much contact but Henry was lucky not to have conceded a pen in the first half for a more blatant foul on Cahill.

 5.Stand-out Saha Whereas Baines will rightly get plaudits for his assist and goal, Saha was our top performer. The forward didn’t score but his contribution to the side was vital. He was our top passer, posting an 89% success rate; created more chances for team-mates (3) had more shots (6) and also won the penalty and numerous other free kicks in and around the Wolves area. A great afternoon’s work for the French forward.

Everton v Wolves Tactical Preview

Saturday sees us take our worrying form into battle against Mick McCarthy’s Wolves in a potentially pivotal match which can hopefully see us start our climb up the table.

Last time out?

On a warm summer day at the end of last season we blitzed Wolves with 3 goals in a crazy spell at the end of the first half. Osman bamboozled Wolves two banks of 4 using the space between the lines to  interchange superbly with fellow attacking mids Billy & Magaye  as our  4-2-3-1 triumphed against Wolves rigid 4-4-2.  We completed just 164 of our 280 passes – our lowest figure of the season and also our lowest pass completion of the season at 59%.   Wolves made more than double the successful passes we did, but crucially we had the incision and used the space better. Wolves main threat was from crosses – they peppered our box with 31 in total – expect more of the same on Saturday.

Wolves Strengths?

Wolves principal attacking focus is down the flanks where Karl Henry will look to quickly distribute to (most probably) Hunt and Jarvis who play as inverted wingers cutting inside on their better feet.  Wolves make more crosses (27) per game on their travels than any other side in the league and as the attack matrix (right) shows they focus down the left.  Alarm bells will be ringing then to the loyal readers of the blog given the issues which have been highlighted on here about our susceptibility to defending crosses particularly down our right side where 80% of the goals we have shipped this season have come from. The below visual shows the composition of team passing in the top flight this season broken down into %  – as you can see only Stoke can match Wolves in terms of crossing.

Most crosses have come from the boot of key-man Jamie O’Hara who has blossomed in Wolves switch from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 this campaign. The former Spurs man averages most passes (62), more successful crosses and more chances created per game than any of his teammates. Ward and Stearman will most likely line-up in the fullback berths on Saturday and will be the key source to feed the wide players so pressing them would be advisable – so 4-2-3-1 would be our most likely formation as it was at Molineux in the 3-0 win at the end of last season.

Wolves Weakness?

Our visitors concede 18 shots per game on their travels – the 4th highest in the league. In comparison, we concede the fewest shot in the league at home (9). Wolves can also be quite slow out of the blocks – only Bolton (13) have conceded more goals than Wolves (11) in the first half of games this season.

One of the key stats is that Wolves concede more fouls on their travels than any side in the division. As noted in recent posts, Drenthe is adept at winning free kicks and with Cahill & Fellaini both back for this fixture  Baines has a decent chance of registering his first assist of the campaign. Roger Johnson’s passing is clearly a weakness; so far this season he has registered just 66% pass completion – almost Stoke territory – and as a result Moyes will not be asking anyone to waste energy in pressing the former Birmingham man.

Everton Approach

I wouldn’t expect anything too different in terms of approach from the Blues. Moyes will look to a 4-2-3-1 with Cahill and Fellaini presumably coming in for Coleman and Neville in the Blues midfield with Distin coming in for Heitinga at the back.

Offensively I think we can get joy from both flanks. Wolves like to get their fullbacks forward and often Henry will drop in between his centre halves and form a back three when Wolves are in possession. Quick breaks using Baines and Drenthe on either flank could be crucial.

Just as important will be our ability to shutdown Wolves left flank. Hibbert is clearly targeted by opponents but we need to mitigate the risk as best we can and if Drenthe does start in front of him the onus is going to be on us defending our 18 yard box to the aerial threat posed by McCarthy’s men.


Wolves have one clean sheet on the road and we have none at home so it’s unlikely this will end 0-0 – it’s been 38 games since we were involved in a no score draw. My head says 1-1 but I’m going for us to sneak it 2-1.

Howard Kendall will be joining Evertonian authors James Corbett and Steve Johnson to sign copies of their fantastic books ‘Everton – The School of Science ‘ and ‘Everton: The Official Complete Record’ this Saturday at Waterstones Bold Street at 11am .  Its the perfect gift for every Blue and a chance to have it signed by one of the great Everton players and managers.

Newcastle 2-1 Everton – 10 Point Tactical Deconstruction


Everton opened up in a 4-2-3-1 with Drenthe and Coleman tasked with pressing Newcastle’s fullbacks to cut out the supply line to their wingers. Heitinga was given the nod to continue in defence despite Distin being fit. Newcastle deployed their orthodox 4-4-2 with Marveaux pitched in on the right and Guthrie keeping his place with Tiote on the sidelines.

2.Woeful Start

A calamitous start for the Blues and specifically Jonny Heitinga who put through his own net following a communication breakdown with Tim Howard. This meant that for the 10th game running the Blues had failed to keep a clean sheet. Again the source was from a cross, this time Simpson was allowed time and space to whip in from the right and the Dutchman miscued into his own net. With the momentum Newcastle currently have, giving them such a gimee goal was criminal.

3.Newcastle defending from front

Newcastle’s work ethic and organisation was there for all to see. Best and Ba led from the front throughout and it was this pressing that led to goal number two. Ba chased down a Jageilka back pass leading to Howard  making a rash kick into touch due to Ba’s pressure. From the subsequent throw in Ryan Taylor was able to take flight and plunder an unstoppable half volley into the top corner. Ba won more headers than any Newcastle player and you really wonder why Distin didn’t start given the aerial presence Ba brings to the table and the fact our other key men in terms of aerial duels (Cahill & Fellaini) were not able to start due to injury and suspension.


Our approach was to try and expose Newcastle’s high -ish defensive line with long balls over the top from Jagielka aimed between Ryan Taylor and Coloccini. In total Jags made 24 long passes. To put that into context Colocinni hit 7 and was Newcastle’s biggest user of the long ball. Jags hit a 45% accuracy with these punts and to be fair some of them were pinged really well – notably putting Saha clear 1 on 1 with Krul  (above) which the Frenchman wasted  – albeit the ball was on his weaker right foot.  In total we made 100 passes more than Newcastle and played more passes into their 18 yard box.


Danny Simpson may have the standard issue EPL tattoo sleeve but his awareness is distinctly championship level. The former Man Utd ressie’s slack defending gave us a way back into the game on the stroke of half time when he allowed Rodwell to run off him and dart a great header into Krul’s net from a superb Drenthe delivery. This was during our best spell of the game either side of halftime, with Saha hitting a post and then Gosling blatantly handling Saha’s goal bound shot after the break.
6.Rodwell Marginalised

In the first half Jack Rodwell was amongst our top performers, finding time and space to link defence to attack pinging 23 passes in the process, scoring a goal and going close with another header. In the second half though Pardew seemed to instruct his charges to press him more and for his strikers to cut off the angles for Everton’s defenders to feed him.  They did so superbly. Rodwell was completely anonymous in the second period, making a feeble 7 passes and not getting anywhere near the opposition goal.

7.Missed Chances

In recent games we have not been creating lots of chances but you couldn’t level that at Moyes men in this fixture. Our creativity and passing incision was good with 60% of our chances coming inside Newcastle’s 18 yard box compared to Newcastle’s 33%. Again Drenthe was our most creative player, laying on 3 chances for team mates. Our finishing though was anything but clinical  – Saha hit the post but missed when clean through, whilst Drenthe should have done better with another chance.

8. Coleman CANNOT play left wing

Moyes tactic of switching his wide men had limited results. The Irishman’s poor first touch is often exposed when defenders press him – compare this to last week against Man Utd who regularly stood off him and allowed him to run at them. He struggled over on the left especially when Gutierrez moved over to that side of the pitch. Moyes surely can’t make this mistake again as it was painful to watch at times. Drenthe and Coleman both made some really hash tackles at times when it would have been better to jockey, committing a total of 7 fouls.

9. Attack v Defence

The last 30 minutes was basically an attack v defence exercise. Buoyed by the goal we set out to get the equaliser whilst Newcastle had retreated a fair bit and seemed intent on holding what they had, confident their well drilled backline would repel whatever we threw at them. They played 2 banks of four in close proximity and closed the space down well.

10. Final thought

Overall this was a frustrating day at the office for the Blues. We created plenty of chances but it was a familiar tale of woe in terms of missed opportunities. The league table makes grim reading but we are only 3 points worse of than this stage last season when we took 7th spot in the final standings. Credit to Newcastle, they didn’t create much but their defensive setup as a team was heroic and despite what the media may say they deservedly sit 3rd in the table.

For a non biased and informative view on the game from a Newcastle perspective check out the tactical gurus over at Leazes Terrace for their post match analysis.

Newcastle v Everton – Tactical Preview

Saturday’s early kick off sees us journey north for a match against (insert cliche) the Premier League’s  ‘Surprise package’ Newcastle United  who will be putting their unbeaten record on the line a fixture the Blues were victorious in last season

Toon in good shape

Whilst Ashley is clearly a vile human, the business plan he and the ‘cockney mafia’ have implemented has served the Toon well. Firstly, beer belly skipper Kevin Nolan and the people’s poet and rebranded gobshite extraordinaire Joey Barton’s fat contracts were rightly disposed. Secondly, they have looked to a specific scouting policy executed by the astute Graham Carr to recruit talent – notably Cabaye – to compliment a side who were comfortable in mid-table last season, whilst at the same time balancing the books.


Newcastle’s stable rearguard has been the key variable in their success so far. In Colocinni and Steven Taylor they have two robust centre backs flanked either side by Ryan Taylor & Danny Simpson; fullbacks who will tuck in and form a compact unit.  The 4 defenders know each other well –  along with Krul they have been ever presents in the 10 league games so far. During the summer Pardew introduced twice weekly split training sessions enabling his defenders to work on defensive positioning and covering and it has paid dividends.

They are afforded superb protection from the midfield platform of Cabaye and Tiote  who will drop deep to minimise space for the opposition when not on the ball.  Both have covered around 12 km per game this season  and Newcastle generally have good endurance. In the recent home fixture with Spurs  they came from behind to score 2 second half goals and run a combined 9 miles more than they had in the first half.

These 7 players form a solid unit and make it very difficult for teams to play through them. This defensive solidity coupled with a player like Ba – who has fired 15 goals in 21 apps since moving to England – gives them a fighting chance against any team.


I would expect Moyes to deploy a 4-2-3-1; playing our usual pressing game high up field.  We’ve spent 26% of games in the opposition final third this season– the 2nd highest  in league. This is mainly due to pressing high in our opponents half and the numbers we get into midfield. Baines will move forward and act as an additional midfielder to supplement our 5 man midfield. With Newcastle playing an orthodox 4 man midfield we can get joy here  – as the graphic shows (left)  we should outnumber them in midfield and crucially take them 3v2 in the centre,  hopefully enabling us to dictate play and get joy between Newcastle’s lines of defence and midfield.

Everton Injuries/Selection.

If fit I would see Drenthe come in on the right. Ossie will shift to the left with Cahill pivoting between midfield and striker roles. Moyes may look to use Coleman (who was on song last week) on Ryan Taylor – a right footer playing left back – to expose his weaker foot and use Drenthe on the left.  This week I did a short statistical post The 50 most crucial stats of the season so far – which highlighted how crucial Drenthe has been since coming to the club. So far,  we score every 36 minutes with Drenthe on pitch – 6 goals in total – whilst without him it takes us 149 minutes to score– registering just 4 goals when he isn’t on the field.

The article also highlighted the alarming stat that 85% of the goals we have conceded this season have come from our right flank and with Gutierrez on form we have cause to worry here. There are numerous factors as to why we have struggled down the right  – Hibbert is a limited player for starters, whilst our lack of pressing on opposition players in crossing positions is another. One of the key reasons is our defensive shape when we go to 3 at the back to accommodate Baines marauding – this means Hibbert tucks in and Jags/Distin shift over to form a tight 3 man defence which often leaves us exposed down the right flank.


There’s no question this Newcastle side are a solid unit and deservedly occupy 3rd spot. If we can control midfield we have a great chance of getting something – a point would be a cracking result given the momentum Newcastle currently possess. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.

I would certainly recommend this preview by a Newcastle Tactical blogger, Leazes Terrace who produce consistently quality stuff.  Check it out!