Some quick analysis on today’s game. Sadly most of the below was highlighted in the preview to the game last week so apologies if you think you’ve read this before…..
- Fail to defend from set pieces
As noted in the preview, Stoke have the lowest number of shots on target per game in the division on their travels (2.3). They had just 2 today, but made 1 of them count. Everton initially defended the corner well but from the resulting clearance Whitehead had acres of space to fire back into the area for Huth to finish. The Blues still haven’t kept a clean sheet at home this season.
- No incision in final third
We have the joint lowest total (1) in the league for through balls per game and the lack of penetration was again on show today. Despite having 67% of possession the Blues failed to create any goalscoring opportunities meaning that Sorensen didn’t make 1 save in the entire game. The team was basically setup in a 4-4-2 with Cahill and Velios upfront. We are crying out for a player who can provide service to a striker in any of the attacking midfield berths a 4-2-3-1 formation provides. Barkley has the tools but it may be next season before we see him developing into a first team regular.
3. Poor movement
Breaking down a side as rigid as Stoke is tricky but it is achievable with good movement being key. There was simply no movement from Cahill or Velios when we had possession. Saha has a lot of doubters but he has genuinely intelligent movement and will come short and drag defenders out of position to create space in behind. Both Cahill and Velios allowed themselves to be marked by their respective defenders meaning when we had the ball there was nothing happening through the middle of the pitch. Inevitably the only ‘out ball’ was to Baines. Which brings us onto the next point…..
- Play to opposition strengths
Stoke are a specialist set piece side who live and breathe defending crosses. Whilst their defence has not been secure this campaign they are still extremely well drilled from set plays. Our lack of attacking options meant that inevitably Baines was the only out ball and Stoke seemed fairly happy for him to have it, knowing that a cross would be incoming and with the heavy artillery they have in the air there was only going to be one winner. The sheer volume of numbers Stoke cram into their box , coupled with the deliberate blocking of runners (Fellaini especially) led to 33 of our crosses amounting to zero attempts on goal
- Slow passing
Whilst we dominated the ball throughout with 67% of possession and an 80% pass completion the movement of the ball was painfully slow. When Stoke did cross their halfway line and we won the ball back our passing was laboured meaning that by the time we did move the ball forward on the counter, Stoke’s compliment of defenders were all back behind the ball and in position ready for our next cross.
A really miserable day to be an Evertonian and probably the worst game of football I have ever had the misfortune to attend. We are far too reliant on crosses and setplays and when we come up against an opponent who is proficient in defending them we have no plan B in the locker. Bad times.