The Hidden Source

For those that remember the run up to the 1994 World Cup, there were various attempts at scaremongering in the British press. Suggesting that because it was being held in the United States, commercial pressures would dictate that the game be divided in to quarters along with several other silly notions which would shake the foundations of the game. For various reasons the majority of the scaremongering failed to come to fruition, however, that World Cup did see something emerge that wasn’t really in the British consciousness at the time. That something was the assist.

Assists have always been in the game, it’s an essential part of scoring a goal, however, around the mid-nineties they started to be classified and assigned to players and ever since a fascination has grown up around them. They are now a popular benchmark for a player’s attacking potency. Let’s be clear though, this didn’t become important then, it was already important, we just didn’t have the data and we probably called them ‘set ups’ or something akin to that. Today you can peruse all kinds of data about the game, but for many, the rise of football data as we know it began to form in the public consciousness with the addition of the assist in the mid-nineties.

Where is this all leading to? Well, this article will explore a little more about the assist, but more importantly explore what we don’t see. We know players assist goals, but not every goal is actually assigned an assist. It’s important to know who is assisting a goal for a team as you can potentially target the most creative players in a team that way.

Another way to view an assist is to call it a goal source of which it’s one of many. The reason for this is that it’s important to acknowledge that goals do come from other sources. It is this concept of ‘goal sources’ which will be explored here. Why explore it? Well, it’s tapping in to the unknown and it may or may not allow us to understand more about the game and the teams which participate in the English Premier League.

The data used here has come directly from Opta and on the 20th January after all clubs had completed twenty one games in the English Premier League. At this stage, the time of the season hasn’t been factored in; however, it’s acknowledged that during a full season these figures may level out or change in some other unspecified way. There may also be other ways to explain this which may render this article inert.

Up to date there have been 588 goals scored and 401 have been credited with an assist to an attacking player. This means that there are 187 goals scored where an attacking player hasn’t been credited with an assist which equates to 32% of the goals scored in the Premier League this season.

This appears to be a fairly significant chunk of the goals scored and leaves a void in the sources of goals when trying to understand where they come from. We know that David Silva has made 10 assists for Manchester City, but something or someone else is also creating goals without it being entirely visible. Before further allowances are made with the data, a swift table has been put together below so that you can look at the teams, their goals, number of assists and percentage of goals credited with an assist. They are ranked according to total number of assists.

What you see immediately is what you’d expect to see. Those teams with the most assists are the ‘better’ teams such as Manchester City and Manchester United, however, venture further down and you start seeing that teams are jumble up a little and the likes of Blackburn jump up the table due to the number of goals they’ve scored. The table below is instead ranked on the percentage of goals that are credited with an assist. Now look what happens.

Here you can see that Chelsea and Arsenal have pushed the Manchester clubs off the top and more interestingly Stoke City jump up the table. This ranking is determined as that which shows the percentage of goals which that team has assisted. The higher the figure the less scope there is for other factors to be the source of their goals, whilst the teams at the bottom of the table have greater shares of their goals coming from sources other than directly from their own players. However, before marching headlong in to a sticky mess it might be time to just check a few things, namely the definition of an assist, as the perceptive reader will have already ‘cottoned on’ to some details that are missing.

Opta have kindly provided data for this article and are also responsible for the dataset over at so it’s important to understand how they define an assist as this could potentially shape the outcomes of this article.

“The final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball scoring a goal.”

It can be assumed since we don’t see otherwise that only the attacking team are ever credited with an assist. It could also be assumed that penalties wouldn’t accrue an assist credit for an attacking player. There are other reasons that may lead to the attacking team not being credited and here’s a little run down of why that might be.

  • The team may have scored direct from a free kick
  • A rebound
  • A misplaced pass from an opponent
  • A goal created by the scorer.

These may not be exhaustive, so it would be dangerous to make too many sweeping judgements without understanding them all fully. What can be said is that the figures in the tables above should be levelled out a little to take in to account those goals that couldn’t have been assisted such as own goals, penalties and goals direct from free kicks. The table below does exactly that and then ranks the team based on their assist (net assist) percentage.

The first thing to note is that the number of goals has been reduced to a net figure taking in to account only those goals where an assist could be assigned to an attacking player. In total there are 504 net goals, once own goals, penalties and goals from direct free kicks have been removed. This leaves a shortfall of 103 goals that have not been credited and therefore come from other sources.

When looking at the ranking above Arsenal retain their position as the club with the highest percentage of goals coming from their own players, but surprisingly Stoke City jump up to second place who like Arsenal have only have one goal scored where the source cannot be accounted for. At the bottom of the table reside Wigan who’ve assisted only half of their goals this season and ‘other sources’ have assisted the other half of their goals scored. This leads on to the final table which lists the number of goals each team has scored from ‘other sources’, called unassisted goals.

What you can see now is that Wolves have had the most goals from other sources, followed by Manchester City. However, the latter have a high assisted goal percentage due to their league high of goals scored. Then there’s a batch of teams with seven goals including Spurs and Norwich City. On average each team have scored five goals this season without the source being credited to their player. In total, 18% of goals scored in the English Premier League have come from other unspecified sources.

In terms of the game in general, this may have some significance or it may have none at all. There may well be a major oversight here and these goals from other sources are easily identified and explained. However, it appears that they remain unseen, people focus on the headline, the David Silva assist count and marvel at his creative abilities. The same for other players who’ve assisted goals, however, in truth the attacking team may have scored the goal but haven’t been responsible for the creation of the goal. Potentially, this may have implications when viewing a team and the way that they score their goals.

The upshot of this is that if a team isn’t responsible for their goals, then who or what is?

Could this be an indication of a team’s luck i.e. rebounding shots in to the path of a player who scores, a misplaced pass from the opposition. A team may in effect force these situations and look to seize upon opposition errors or it may be a case of their opposition having poor performances contributing to their own downfall.

What it perhaps suggests is that those teams who have the most assists as a percentage of their goals may be those teams that control their own outcomes better than others? It’s interesting to see that the two teams at the top of the assist percentage ranking are Arsenal and Stoke. These two are often cited as polar opposites in terms of playing style; however, they may be closer in their approaches than first appears. Arsenal have the accusation (unfairly you may say) that they try to walk the ball in to the net, whilst Stoke are accused (unfairly you may say) of being route one long ball merchants. However, these are their ways of giving them the control over their scoring opportunities, Arsenal want to pass the ball till the optimum moment of scoring a goal presents itself, whilst Stoke are doing just the same. Each approach is configured to their players, their style.

At the other end of the table is Wigan Athletic and applying the same logic to them as with the teams at the top of the assist percentage table then they are the team with less control over their destiny. Only 50% of their goals scored come from their own players, perhaps they press the opposition high up the pitch and steal the ball before scoring, perhaps they pounce on more bobbles off legs of opposing defenders. Whatever the source of their goals, they are some way away from being self sufficient. Should they intercept before goals then there’s clearly a strategic reason for this, but should the ‘rub of the green’ be putting the ball to their goal scorers then they are riding on the crest of a wave that will crash. When it crashes they will need to start creating more goals or the goals will dry up.

All of the above may also apply to those other teams at the bottom such as Wolves. What is surprising is that a team such as Blackburn who are fourth from bottom of the league table rank tenth in assisted goal percentage. Their defence may be holding them back in winning games perhaps, but perhaps they are more in control of what they are doing when trying to score. Perhaps this may be an indicator that things may turn around for them sooner or later or perhaps it is not.

Hopefully this has been enlightening and allows a better awareness of goal sources. However, before rounding up this article here’s a small point to note. Should a team be in receipt of goals given to them by the opposition then perhaps it might be interesting to see which players are responsible for those errors and for those to become public knowledge. Everyone who watches football will be aware of players committing gaffes but how many do certain players commit each season and how do they compare as a goal source to the top assisting players?

In conclusion, the only way to round this up is to just state that it’s important to try and understand the unseen elements of football, yes assists are a good indicator of where goals come from, but they aren’t the be all and end all. Perhaps there is some truth in clubs being in control of their destiny and this gives and insight in to how to understand that, perhaps not. Perhaps there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this. Certainly you could note down every instance that created a goal and share that. Perhaps that is what needs to be done; it would certainly make for interesting reading. Should you have your own thoughts on this subject feel free to comment below and if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.

Special thanks must go to Opta for providing the critical pieces of data which plugged some gaps and to who have made tons of statistics available to browse on their excellent website.

This post was written by Tangerine Dreaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @Tanger_Dreaming or visit his website

Deconstructing Drenthe : Royston’s Half Time Report

This short piece will look at the impact Royston Drenthe has made since coming to the club in the summer. We will track his performance compared to our existing wide midfielders and analyse whether Moyes will look to make his loan move permanent in the summer.

Going forward

Drenthe is clearly a talent going forward – his explosive pace, ability to dribble and ferocious shot are characteristics we generally lack in our squad’s complexion…..

In terms of wide deliveries, Donovan (36%) makes the most successful cross  with Baines in second with 27% and Drenthe coming in with 26%. His playing style is very direct and he will look to shoot more than any of his midfield colleagues – averaging just over 2 shots per game.

As the table (left) shows RD has racked up a fair few assists considering the limited game time he has had since moving from Madrid. He is our most prolific dribbler and responsible for almost a 5th of the entire squad’s dribbles (17%).  The other quality he brings to the table is winning useful free kicks – he is fouled every 25mins – comfortably the most of any of his wing colleagues due largely to his quick feet, pace and ability to commit fullbacks. Thus far he has won 1 penalty whilst 2 cert pens at Spurs and Liverpool were not given. Probably the most blatant stat about his importance to us going forward is that with him in the side we score a goal every 58 minutes whilst without him it takes us 135 minutes to score.

Drenthe in defence…

Moyes expects all players to ‘put in a shift’ and Royston – a left back as a youth – is no exception. Statistically we ship more goals with him on the pitch – conceding every 63 minutes when he is playing compared to every 89 mins when he is not on the pitch.

What we want are players who can make a difference, we want them to entertain but for the right reasons. There will be periods in the game when the defensive side of things is not the biggest part of Roy’s game.  But we had to get back into this game and it was the time for Roy to be most effective. Sometimes in the Premier League, the harder side of it is the defending. You are away from home, you have got to dig and keep in the game.”

 Moyes after the Norwich draw – December 2011

Moyes anxieties are probably down to the fact that Royston polls the lowest for making interceptions whilst polls the highest for making fouls and being dispossessed in the below chart.

His sending off at home to Chelsea and sloppy play at Eastlands which led to City’s clincher are examples of his rash play.  Moyes has implied that his qualities are better suited to playing home games rather than away due to the above but Drenthe has actually played more minutes away from home than at home and has more assists and as many goals away from Goodison Park.


Although he is on a bosman there is no such thing as free transfer really . On his considerable wages on a 5 year deal we would be looking at an investment of around £17m – a sizeable amount given our precarious financial situation. If we can afford it though we simply must make it happen. The qualities he has simply can’t be taught whilst the small issues with his defensive play can be worked on. In a season which has been dire he is one of the few players who does provide genuine class and a buzz when he gets on the ball. Overall Verdict ? Sign him up!

9 Point Statistical Deconstruction of Everton’s Season so far

The below is a brief overview of the key talking points from our somewhat challenging season to date. There isn’t really much point to the article, just some raw data with a bit of commentary and some subjective ranting on each issue….

1.Slow Starters

As the table (left) shows, we have had major problems starting games well which has led to us conceding first in 66% of our games this season with no first half goal in our last 10 league games.

2…..But strong finishers

One thing we have got right this season is playing to the final whistle – testament to the fitness and focus of the squad. The Blues have won more points (11) in the final 10mins of games than any other side in the league.  A whopping 76% of our goals have come in the second half – the most in the top flight. This is due largely due to Moyes substitutions with 33% of our goals being scored by  subs – again a league high.

3. Reliance on crossing

Baines has put in more deliveries than any player in the top flight. Crossing  is something of an imprecise art with completion figures always low in comparison to usual passing data. Baines has made 48 successful crosses from 171– a 28% accuracy rate…his assist ratio is way down though –  just 1 compared to the 11 he made last season. Our friends from across the park make more crosses per game than any side in the top flight as shown in the passing table further down the article.

4. Missing the Cutting Edge

 The Stoke game was perhaps the best example of this lack of cutting edge as we had 67% of the ball but failed to register a single shot on target. There is an over reliance on Royston Drenthe who is comfortably our most incisive player from open play with 5 assists from just 6 starts. Out of the 10 home games we have lost five– RD made just 1 sub appearance in those 5 games. Of the other 5 he has featured we haven’t lost and he has chipped in with  2 goals and 1 assist.

Leon Osman is our highest ranked player in the division for through balls per game but is way down in 63rd position with just 2 all season. David Silva (13) polled the highest. Rodwell is statistically our best passer;  ranked 19th in the top flight for retention with 88% but with 0 through balls.

5.Conversion Issues

 As the above table shows our conversion of 7% of chances to goals is below the league average of 10%. Wigan and Liverpool have the joint worst figures here with 6.3%. Saha is our highest ranked player in the division in terms of shots per game with 50 shots in total yielding just 1 goal.

6.Problems with counter attacking

For the most part, with Drenthe and Coleman missing we have had no pace in the final third. We also lack somebody in the middle of the park who can turn defensive situations into attacking ones with long diagonal passes – e.g. Modric registers the 6th highest long balls per game in the top flight having successfully delivered 146 our of 178 (82% completion)  long passes for Spurs to feed Bale/Lennon runs in behind at speed. Fellaini doesn’t have this in his locker. Jags is ranked 8th in the top flight in terms of long balls per game, with a 56% accuracy. Our first fast break goal of the season came last week – unsurprisingly Donovan and Anichebe were involved and with Drenthe looking ready for a prolonged run in the side we are starting to look more setup for counter attacking than we did earlier in the season

7.Territorial Dominance

 As the chart shows, only Liverpool spend a higher % of time in the opposition half than the Blues…this is a common feature of sides who squeeze the play using a high line.

8.Solid at the back

We don’t concede many shots as the below table shows – and concede the fewest amount of shots in the league at home. However, opposition conversion of chances against us is disproportionately high overall and especially so at home (14%) being the highest in the league.  Distin is statistically our best defender thus far, ranked 11th in the league for clearances per game and 13th in the league for interceptions per game.

9. Squad

 The squad is not balanced enough in terms of age. Compare the side that finished the 2009 Cup Final (average age 25) and that which finished to Bolton a few weeks ago (average age 29). This shows it’s an ageing squad…although it is does have raw youth on the periphery….but minimal in-between. The only outfield players in their prime would be Baines, Heitinga and Jags. It’s a similar problem Capello will face at this summer’s Euros when England will struggle to make it past the group stage. Cahill, Neville, Distin and Saha are all in the winter of their careers. All have been terrific servants to the club but out of the 4, only Distin is looking able to continue as a regular starter. The other 3 will (probably) be retained til the end of next season but are now only good enough as cover. Gibson will take the Arteta/Neville midfield slot whilst Coleman will take over as right back competition to Hibbert. Barkley has the tools to replace Cahill as a more natural trequartista however we have no in house replacement for Saha. With the lack of funds, Moyes will continue to try to ‘evolve’ and not ‘revolve’ to coin a well known DJ.

……The above is just some scribbles based on the previews/ reports from the games this season and is in no way presented as any kind of definitive assessment. Please feel free to chip in with further key themes I have missed….




Aston Villa 1-1 Everton – 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction

1.Selection & General Approach

Everton lined up with Landon Donovan as the closest in support to Saha with Tim Cahill pivoting between the roles of second forward and as part of a midfield trio with Fellaini and Gibson. We focused our play down Villa’s right flank, one reason why Drenthe was fairly anonymous apart from winning a couple of free kicks. Villa played with Bent through the middle and Agbonlahor left side but mostly attacked down our left flank with Albrighton.

2.Donovan Movement

Donovan was the game’s star turn and his positioning was interesting throughout. As noted in this article he is more than capable of interchanging between the roles of wide midfield and striker. This movement in the final third is something we have lacked all season.

Here Donovan (circled yellow) holds the wide right role when Villa are building an attack, providing support to Neville at fullback  with Cahill (circled blue) further forward alongside Saha

Here, the pair have swopped, with Cahill deeper in midfield and Donovan playing through the middle as a central striker.

3. Blues on the break

As noted a few weeks ago  here, the players Moyes now has available (eg Drenthe/ Donovan/Anichebe) could lead to a different approach. Due to the lack of pace we have had for the majority of the season our offensive strategy has been slow build up and try to keep sides penned inside their own half via a high line and pressure game. With the pace we now have we are able to use a plan B and play more counter attacking football.

Only Stoke and Blackburn have recorded a lower average possession this season than our hosts, yet Villa had more of the ball (53%) a 10% increase on their average of 43% with the Blues playing much deeper as the visual (left) shows. Anichebe’s goal was our first fast break goal of the season and showed the advantage of playing deeper as there was thus more space to attack at pace as Villa were often camped in our half in the second period.

4.Gibson Debut

Our new signing should prove to be a shrewd piece of business. Everybody is accustomed to his long range shooting, but perhaps less aware of his ability to pick a defence splitting pass. Ideally a midfield duo should consist of a runner and a passer – Fellaini is obviously a good runner whilst Rodwell has done ok this season on the ball although his best qualities are perhaps his energy and box to box running. Gibson gives a bit more in terms of possession from the middle of the park. His pass completion figure for 2010/11 was 84% whilst our team average for 2011/12 before yesterday was 76%. Compared to our existing centre mids, Fellaini this season averages 78% Rodwell 88% and Neville 80%. He was very positive in possession yesterday with 1 in 4 of his passes going forward with 2 through balls (as a team we average just 1 through ball per game) . His pass completion was 83%  – 8% higher than the team average on the day. Off the ball, his positioning afforded good protection to the back four –  making 4 interceptions – the most of any of our side.  This post from SC1 gives a more thorough breakdown of Gibson’s debut.

5.Final Thought

It was vital we got something from this given the back to back league defeats suffered against Bolton and Spurs. There was plenty of positives to take from the game;  namely the debut from Gibson and the positivity he showed in possession from the middle of the park, plus the improved movement in the final third provided by Donovan. A draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play given that we had the better of the first period and likewise Villa in the second.

Everton Scout Report: 5 Point Tactical Report on Aston Villa

1.Selection & Formation

Formation wise Villa usually line up in a 4-4-1-1 setup. The injured Emile Heskey definitely misses this one whilst Shay Given is doubtful as he continues his recovery from injury. Robbie Keane has arrived on loan from LA Galaxy and with him only being available for 6 league games as part of the loan agreement you would imagine he would start this one, probably at the expense of Stephen Ireland.

2.Tactics & Strategy

Only Stoke and Blackburn record a lower average possession figure than Villa (43%). Our hosts will look to play lots of direct ground passes to instigate counter attacks using the speed they have in wide areas. They are thus probably better set up to pick up points away from home when sides will attack them more and afford space in behind. Creativity wise, N’Zogbia and Petrov make the most key passes per game (1.6) with Agbonlahor (5) the most assists. Barry Bannan is a class act and arguably the squad’s most creative player but has been mostly out of favour since his drink driving incident.


Villa has an abundance of pace in their ranks with the likes of Agbonlahor and N’Zogbia on the flanks and Bent through the middle. Last season at Goodison for example, Bent grabbed 2 goals with 1 (left) from his excellent movement which enabled him to evade Distin and engineer a one on one situation with Howard. In the recent home defeat to Liverpool the team completed a combined 68.13 miles – the highest mileage of any top flight side that weekend -so endurance is also a quality Villa possess.


The club have suffered in recent years due to the management changes at the club. The direct play of Martin O’Neil was replaced with the more fluid game of Houllier and with McLeish now at the helm their squad represents the remnants of different footballing ideologies and they  have  a look of a team which doesn’t really have a defined identity yet. In a way their woes are not too dissimilar to ourselves with a key reason for Villa’s decline being significant player sales (Young, Milner, Downing) and not replacing them.

Villa have conceded over 50% of their goals this season from set plays – the highest percentage in the top flight – and this is quite surprising given the obvious aerial capability of Dunne and Collins.  Goals have been hard to come by for Villa also. They record just 3.1 shots on target per game which is the 2nd lowest in the league. Not surprisingly then, they have lost their last 4 league games at Villa Park scoring just one goal in the process.

5.Toffee Approach

I would imagine Moyes will look to keep a deeper defensive line as he did against Spurs to deal with threat of Villa’s pace in counter attack situations. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Drenthe will start this one – you would imagine so given that he is our most creative talent and should be fresh having only got a short run out on Wednesday night.  Injury wise, Distin is likely to miss out so you would imagine Duffy will come in for his first Everton start, unless Moyes chooses to switch Neville inside and bring Coleman in should the Irishman recover from injury. Jack Rodwell is probably the most likely to come back from injury with Jagielka, Osman & Hibbert definitely out. As noted in point 4, Villa has an Achilles heel at set pieces so Cahill, who has an excellent goal scoring record against Villa, may be retained.

Spurs 2-0 Everton – 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction

1.Selection and Formations

Both sides opened up pretty much in 4-4-1-1 systems. Anichebe played off Saha with most of his runs down the left onto Kyle Walker. Cahill and Fellaini were deployed into the anchor roles in midfield (see average position visual left) with Donovan wide right when not in possession and then coming in off the flank when we had the ball to support Saha.  Spurs brought Lennon back in on the right meaning VdV returned to his usual slot playing off Adebayor with Dawson coming in at centre back for the injured Ledley King.

 2.Spurs Extra Man

Perhaps with last season’s game in mind, Spurs started with Lennon on the left and Bale down the right, but whilst Lennon ended up spending most of his time back on the right flank, Bale pretty much had a free role and license to roam inside when Spurs had possession (right) with Assou Ekotto providing the width down the left flank tracked by Neville. With Bale inside this often meant that Spurs had an extra man in the middle of the pitch in offensive situations, with Donovan on the right for us having no man to mark. In truth, Bale was well marshalled for the most part, making no successful dribbles, just 1 successful cross and making the most turnovers (7) of any of the outfield players. With the depth of match winning players Spurs have though, keeping one man at bay was not going to be enough.

 3.Defensive Distribution

Spurs had the bulk of possession (62%) making 260 more passes than us. Spurs defenders are very good on the ball although our decision to sit deep meant they often had no pressure on them when in possession. Still, their distribution to turn defensive situations into attacking ones was superb. Combined, Spurs back 4 posted  89% pass completion compared to our total of  75% and it was from the back that Spurs got their opening goal with Assou Ekotto pinging a superb diagonal to Lennon who was able to move inside and slot past Howard. The goal was helped by some rank bad defending from Leighton Baines. This meant we went in at the break 0-1 down – not surprising given that we have conceded the highest proportion of first half goals (57%) in the top flight this season. This was also the 9th game on the spin we had failed to score in the first half.

4.Blues Sitting Deep

Moyes opted for a deeper defensive line than usual probably to cope with the threat of Modric’s long passes and to neutralise the pace of Bale/Lennon. Off the ball we basically had 2 banks of four in close proximity which afforded decent shape. In midfield we lacked incision though. Ideally a midfield duo should be a combination of 1 passer and 1 runner – in Fellaini and Cahill we had 2 runners which was ok when Spurs had the ball, but less so when we had it.  You can question his quality on the ball but you will always get a shift from Cahill – the Australian  covered the most distance of all the outfield players in the first half (5.1km) . The issue with defending so deep and not pressing further upfield is that you only focus on defending your 18 yard line. This enabled Assou Ekotto to take 6 touches of the ball without one challenge coming in as he shot Spurs into a 2 goal lead.

For the most part, Anichebe drifted to the left which was were the bulk of our play was focused ( right) When we did get the ball forward Anichebe and Saha were isolated as we struggled to get our wide midfielders high enough up the pitch to support. Anichebe didn’t get much joy from Kaboul;  the Nigerian winning just 23% of his aerial duels to Kaboul’s 77%.  Due to the limited players we commit into forward areas there is rarely a ball on when it does stick with the forwards so our build up is slow which affords the opposition time to get back in position. Still, for all the play Spurs had, we could easily have taken something from the game given the chances which fell to Saha and Fellaini’s headed miss which he should have dispatched.

Drenthe’s arrival brought some incision to our play and for the first time in the game Spurs defence looked genuinely shaky. Drenthe should have earned a pen but his cameo did enable us to win 3 fouls (more than the rest of the team put together) This may seem minor but situations like this give you respite from the constant defending and provides decent opportunities to put in deliveries to the Spurs box which was arguably our most likely route to a goal.

5.Final thought

Our plan was to sit deep, frustrate Spurs  and try and dig out a point and for the most part we defended well and held our shape admirably . Whilst both Spurs goals had an element of fortune (defensive error and deflection) you couldn’t argue with the result; Spurs kept the ball better and were more varied in their attacking approach. There’s no real shame in this – Spurs after all are going for the title and to put it bluntly have much better players and strength in depth than we do. We need to move on quickly, take stock and re-focus for a more winnable fixture at Villa Park on Saturday.

Everton Scout: 5 Point Tactical Report on Spurs

1.Selection and Formation

Spurs usually line up in something resembling 4-2-3-1 with Bale and Lennon pushed onto opposition fullbacks. With Lennon’s injury, Defoe has been played through the middle as a second striker with VdV wide but Lennon should return for this one with VdV returning to his more accustomed role in the hole. Redknapp has deployed Bale through the middle at times, recently with devastating results against Norwich as the average position image (above) shows so don’t be surprised to see him coming off the left flank. Injury wise, they have defensive problems like ourselves with skipper Ledley King definitely out and Gallas also missing . Scott Parker is a doubt and will most likely be replaced by Livermore in central midfield.

2.Tactics & Strategy

It’s fair to say Harry Redknapp doesn’t embrace the tactical side of the game as much as other managers. Forward Rafael Van Der Vaart pointed out last season that  “There are no long and boring speeches about tactics, like I was used to at Real Madrid. There is a clipboard in our dressing room but Harry doesn’t write anything. It’s not that we do nothing – but it’s close to that,”  Whether it’s tactical or not, the key strategy  is getting Bale on the ball which is why attacks are mostly focused down the left flank from Assou Ekotto passes to Bale. Modric’s long passes are superb with an 81% completion so far this season – this enables Spurs to go from defence to attack rapidly with the pace they have in wide offensive areas.


Make no mistake, we are really up against it on Wednesday night. Tottenham are very strong going forward, making the most shots per game (18.6) in the division.  Their forward talent has certainly won them many friends this season and with the vision and incision of VdV and Modric, combined with the ferocious pace of Walker/ Lennon / Bale and the physicality of Adebayor it’s hard to pinpoint weaknesses in their offensive strategy. Bale is a key man in many ways and his crossing is top draw –  so far posting a 31% accuracy from wide deliveries, slightly ahead of Baines 28%. Defensively  they are not too shabby either –  the Man City routing apart they have the best defensive record at home in the league.


Ledley King’s leadership and organisation will be a big loss for Spurs whose 3 league defeats so far this season have all come when he has been out injured .  Kyle Walker has established himself this season at right back and whilst his pacey attacking surges and subsequent ability to push opposition wingers backwards is a strength, he is still quite raw in terms of positional play – certainly weaker than Assou Ekotto on the opposing flank – so Drenthe and Baines in tandem could certainly get some joy in the space he vacates.

Despite being at club’s with larger cheque books than Moyes, Redknapp has not enjoyed a great record against him in top flight games, having only won  3 out of 16 of the games they have gone head to head. Both managers have their strengths and weaknesses with Moyes much more risk averse than  Redknapp and a more defensively astute tactician capable of nullifying opponent’s attacking personnel. This is perhaps why he has been able to stifle Redknapp’s attacking approach more often that not. A potential weakness could be in terms of conceding goals in the later stages – Spurs concede 45% of their goals in the last 20 mins of games whilst we score over 40% of our goals in the last 10 minutes of games so it could (hopefully) be a grandstand finish.

5.Toffee Approach

Injury wise, Jagielka is definitely out injured whilst Osman, Coleman, Cahill and Rodwell are all doubts. Moyes has tweaked his 4-5-1 this season, switching between 4-4-1-1, 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-2-1. Personnel wise, I think shifting between 4-5-1 (off the ball) and 4-3-2-1 (on the ball) will be our best hope here, with Heitinga’s ability to hit long diagonals to either Drenthe or Donovan crucial as the duo will provide the closest support  to Saha.

Defensively it will be interesting to see what Moyes strategy is for Bale. Last season Moyes opted to double up on Bale with Neville at fullback supported by Coleman. The average position shot (right) shows how close the pair positioned themselves to reduce Bale’s impact. This worked well – Bale failed to make one successful cross and was eventually shifted to the right. The other option is of course to push Bale backwards towards his own goal as Swansea did a couple of weeks ago with their attacking fullback Angel Rangel, however I’d expect us to drop off and double up again with Donovan asked to cut off the angle of the pass to Bale in the first instance and then helping Neville should the ball get past him.

It will also be interesting to see how Moyes shapes us with his defensive line. At home we keep a very high line and press opponents high up field. Against the better sides this season away from home this has been less so. Against Chelsea we were penned in by Chelsea’s pressing, whilst at Man City we voluntarily sat deep. The only time we have used a high line and squeezed play was at Arsenal (right) when only a wonder goal from Van Persie beat us. The threat of adopting this tactic  is leaving large spaces in behind our back 4– we were sprung a few times by the Gunners but luckily Gervnho and Walcott were wasteful. Against Spurs though it would be much riskier given Modric’s ability as a deep lying playmaker to spin accurate balls over our backline.  For this reason I think we will have to sit a bit deeper and look to counter attacks and our pacey wide men as our best bet of getting a goal.

10 Point Tactical Post-mortem on the Bolton defeat

1.Our starting line up was a 4-4-2 variant (4-2-2-2) with Heitinga and Neville holding with Donovan and Osman coming off the flanks to play advanced behind the strikeforce of Saha and Stracqualursi . Bolton lined up in a 4-5-1with Ngog as the lone forward.

2.With our squad, 2 strikers just doesn’t work. 4-5-1 is much maligned but it makes us a lot more compact . In modern football most teams in the top flight leagues across Europe don’t play with 2 strikers. Man United is an obvious exception, but they have Rooney who can dip into midfield when they are not in possession and then pivot to the striking role when they regain the ball (4-5-1 becoming 4-4-2) We do this to an extent with Cahill in the side and it makes us harder to play through.

3.If only the formation was our only problem!  Player wise, we have the smallest squad in the top flight – our first choice 11 has quality and will be competitive against any side in the division, but when the squad creaks we are left with the fringe players who are not good enough.

4.We were not helped by basically having a first choice midfield which oozes energy (Drenthe, Fellaini, Rodwell, Coleman) all injured whilst two of our top performers Jagielka and Osman also limped off  which disrupted what little rhythm we had in the first half. This led to our ball retention in the second half dropping alarmingly from 72% to 61% – the key factor in the match.

5.The  key advantage of 4-5-1 over 4-4-2 is the advantage of a 5 man midfield to a 4 man midfield. Bolton outnumbered us in the middle of the park 3 v 2 which made it very easy for them to pass the ball around us, especially as we had little in terms of legs in the middle of the park to press and regain possession with old man Neville’s creaking legs put through its 5th game in 19 days.

6.Moyes is not a fool and whilst fans will point the finger at him for retaining the likes of Neville, Heitinga and Saha we simply have nobody else to call on.  Gueye, Stracqualursi and Donovan had 1 prem start between them and it showed as we looked increasingly disjointed as the game developed.

7.Jagielka’s injury in particular made us vulnerable at the – his ability to get vital blocks  and interceptions in our 18 yard box is massive . In the first half we conceded just 2 shots on our goal inside our 18 yard box, whereas in the second the figure rose to 10 – although point 5 is also a contributory factor to this.

8.As noted in point 4 our passing deteriorated as the game went on. Having a numerical disadvantage in the centre of the pitch makes it very hard for defenders to play the ball into midfield from the back , so the long ball into the channels becomes the default option. Some of the passing on show was truly dire. Of our outfield players Hibbert ( 55%), Straq (67%) and Neville ( 68%) were the worst in terms of pass completion – all comfortably below Stoke’s average pass completion of 70%

9.The strike force of Saha and Straqualursi was terrible. The original tactic seemed to be for them to both pull wide with Osman and Donovan coming off the flanks and using the space the forwards had vacated, but once Osman came off this plan wilted as Gueye is heavily left footed and will rather hug the touchline (and in doing so reduce Baines room to manoeuvre) . Even when the strike duo played closer together in the second period there was no chemistry at all – the chalkboard (below) shows Saha’s passing (numbers shown are squad numbers) ….Saha made 2 passes to Straq in the 90mins.

10.In Conclusion, we were basically inept. Playing 2 out and out strikers was the wrong move. Osman should have started through the middle with one of the mediocre wide men (Billy/McFadden etc) wide left. The man dis-advantage in the middle of the park gave Bolton the advantage and led to a lack of cohesion for ourselves. Credit to Bolton, they were comfortably the better side and should have won by a higher margin.



Everton Scout Report: 5 Point Tactical Plan for Bolton

1.Selection & Personnel

Key changes from the meeting 5 weeks ago for our visitors have seen Chris Eagles and Kevin Davies fall out of favour with Martin Petrov now back in the left midfield slot and David Ngog deployed alongside Klasnic in a 4-4-2. Keeper Jaaskalanien is a major doubt for this one meaning that reserve keeper Bogdan could get the nod. His only previous appearance this season was  calamitous with 2 comedy errors and 5 goals conceded within an hour of their home game with Chelsea. For ourselves, Drenthe, Coleman and Fellaini could all return after being absent from the Hawthorns win. I would expect Drenthe and Fellaini to start, probably at the expense of Phil Neville and Jonny Heitinga. Landon Donovan is available for selection but I would expect him to start from the bench. Anichebe should also get a slot on the bench as he continues to build up his fitness.

2.Combative Wanderers

If we are to prolong our 4 game unbeaten run we will need to match Bolton in terms of application. Owen Coyle’s men make the most interceptions per game (18) and the 3rd most tackles per game (21) in the top flight – mostly due to them predominately not being in possession. This combative approach has got Wanderers into trouble this season, leading to them accumulating more red cards (5) than any other side. The amount of free kicks they concede in and around their final third could provide rich pickings for Baines and Drenthe deliveries into the box as only Stoke win more aerial duels per game than ourselves.

3.Deal with the long ball

Our hosts will look to play direct – they average 72 long balls per game- only Norwich and Spurs play more per match. Due to this approach, they register a pass completion of 72% which is quite low – in comparison only Stoke and Blackburn post a lower total in the top flight. Faced with a side who plays a lot of long balls the best strategy is to not press high but drop deeper and keep the lines of midfield and defence close together to win the second balls from kick outs, so positional discipline will be key. We have played direct at times this season ourselves, but the logical plan would be to keep things on the ground and push Osman further forward and have his quick feet running at Zat Knight. Bolton can play it on the ground too with Petrov providing a good range of delivery from the left with 4 assists to his name however he’s the kind of opponent Hibbert relishes coming up against in terms of direct running on the outside to his better right foot.

4.First Half Blues

We haven’t scored a goal in the first half of any of our last 7 games and we have only opened the scoring in the 1st half once this season at home so we are going to need to be patient in possession which we should dominate.  From a betting point of view, Bolton have kept just one clean sheet in their last 35 Premier League away games so its unlikely they will keep us out. The chart (right) shows that Bolton concede the most shots per game in the league, whilst ourselves concede the fewest. Tips wise, perhaps a Draw H/T Everton F/T would seem a decent shout . Goodison games have averaged just 2.11 per game which is second only to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium in having seen fewer goals with 44% of our home games having finished 1-0 either way. This could be the most likely outcome on Wednesday night.

5.Modify High Line

One aspect Moyes will perhaps look to tweak in the coming months is the high line we use at home. Recent games have seen us swell possession almost exclusively in the opposition half. Whilst this tactic has contributed to an upturn in results and keeping opposition sides a fair distance enough from our goal to restrict them to hardly any opportunities, it means there is little space to run into for our players whose principal asset is pace. With Drenthe and now Donovan ready to come into the side, we may need to look at moving the line back a tad to bring opposition defences out so we can exploit the space in behind. Either way, we at least now have the option of a plan A and plan B

Check out our Exclusive Transfer Window Blog with exclusive  ‘cutting edge’ analysis and ‘inside’ know how of exactly who is going where, when, why and how.

Transferwipe – Transfer Window Blog Feed

Headline news…

David Moyes has been informed by supremo Bill Kenwright he has no money to spend in the January transfer window and is planning on using this to persuade £12 million rated Dutch whiz kid Ricky van Wolfswinkel  to join Everton. Moyes is also keen to get round the table with 33 year old striker John Carew in a bid to address his ageing forward line. Moyes is also keen on bringing in Darren Gibson to overcrowd the one position he is top heavy in, with a cool £2m bid for the central midfielder likely to convince Old Trafford bigwigs to part company with their worst player. Jack Rodwell has 1 assist in 2 seasons and has emerged as Alec Ferguson’s number one target to remedy the lack of creativity in his midfield engine room although its been reported the founder of the transfer window Harry Redknapp is also keen to affirm his position as the EPL’s numero ‘one’ wheeler dealer by making a £2m profit on a player he signed as a world beater and has turned into a bench warming spare part in the space of 12 months.  The South African skipper Pienaar is attracting the attention of Martin O’Neill who is keen  to add the pint sized midfielder to his long ball revolution at Sunderland and he will reportedly use Kieron Richardson as bait in his quest to clinch the deal given Spurs lack of left midfielders. One man who is definitely perhaps on his way out of the Stadium of Light is wantaway forward Stephanie Sessegnon who is being courted by Kenny Dalglish. Dalglish was unaware of the former PSG forward and any other player who has not played in the Premier League prior to his move to English football but now sees him as the man to fill the boots of star striker Luis Suarez who has been suspended for being a racist.

Gossip on the transfer grapevine ….

‘King’ Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool are also keen to test Chelsea’s resolve by looking to supplement the £35m shire horse Andy Carroll with a shock loan scoop for former idol but now figure of hate and ridicule ‘Nando’ Torres in a 2 heads are better than one policy, masterminded by £2m per year scouting supremo Damian Commoli. Tony Pulis is also in the market for a non scoring forward and is said to be casting his net at retired ogre Carston Janker to supplement the lack of height in his strike force at Stoke. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard could be on the way out of Chelsea as LA Galaxy look to bolster their squad with more ageing mercenaries with the enthralling David Beckham tug of war with PSG reaching its climax. One player who is definitely staying put is rebranded bohemian Joey Barton. The midfielder was the subject of a transfer chase in the summer when he sensationally snubbed Champions League football at Arsenal and Manchester United to sign for relegation haunted QPR. The tough tweeting media node has stringently denied talk that he is ready to join the revolution at Eastlands by returning to his former club and it is thought that a new 6 year contract will keep him at Loftus Road for another 5 months. Newcastle’s search for a striker could see them swoop for Blackburn defender Chris Samba. The Geordies new transfer strategy aims to only invest in younger players with resale value, hence the 28 year old, £15m rated former Hertha Berlin star Samba seems an ideal signature for the cash tight Mike Ashley regime. The Toon are also keen to explore the possibility of signing highly rated Ashley Williams from Swansea, in an £8m lucrative transfer which could see Nile Ranger going the other way.

Not so important news….

Various media sources are also linking former footballer Wayne Bridge with a shock switch to Arsenal. The modern day Francis Benali is seen by City’s Arab Tycoon’s as financial parity for the £80m City have donated to the Emirates mortgage shortfall in recent years.  The Gunners are also looking for brain cells for injured midfielder Jack Wilshere,  who recently lost his existing cells during an intensive PS3 game-off with fellow pro Jonathan Fortune, the player who founded the EPL tattoo sleeve in 1997.  Meanwhile, at QPR Neil Warnock is in the market for anybody who has played Premier League football in the last decade whilst Andriy Arshavin and Dinyar Bilyaledtinov are both shite but nobody are interested despite Rubin Kazan being on the verge of signing any Russian player not currently playing in Russia. Steve Kean’s Blackburn are looking to boost their injury hit squad with the £2m purchase of injury jinxed striker Andy Johnson in a deal which could expediate the bald headed figure of hate’s departure from the Ewood hot seat. Phil Brown has strongly denied reports that he is ready to fill the Ewood Park hotseat should Steve Kean be forced out by Venky’s. Brown, who owns an England shirt with his own name and number on the back,  has been dismissed from his last 2 posts for being utter shite, but is keen to get involved in an ‘exciting project’.

In the Championship,  Doncaster are looking to sign anybody in Willie McKay’s Blackberry and Big Sam Allardyce is keeping tabs on every 6ft 4 inch centre back in either the UK or Senegal.



Stay tuned for more inane transfer rumours as the month progresses in what promises to be the most exciting transfer window yet.