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.

West Brom 0-1 Everton – 5 Point Tactical Deconstruction


The Blues made one change from the Sunderland draw with Drenthe’s injury meaning that Jack Rodwell came back into the side. Shape wise, things did change with the Blues predominantly 4-3-2-1 with Cahill and Osman on the left and right flanks respectively asked to get forward and support Saha and then shuttle back onto the flanks when possession was lost.  WBA were missing 2 of their most influential players – Olsson and Mulumbu – and lined up in a more orthodox 4-4-2 with attacks predominantly focused down their right side.

2.Baggies Narrow

One of the focuses of the game was the Baggies wide men Brunt and Thomas cutting inside to try and feed the 2 strikers Odemwingie and Long. This tactic played into our hands somewhat with our own midfield extremely narrow with Heitinga, Neville and Rodwell all playing central and 2 players in wide areas (Cahill and Osman) who were also tucking inside meaning the central area was extremely congested. This led to attacks breaking down before getting to the final third and us making a sizeable 22 interceptions as shown in the chalkboard (left). Our attacking options were also quite limited with Baines delivery the only real threat to the Baggies rearguard. In a nutshell neither side had anyone capable of incision who could feed their offensive players meaning the game was for the most part deadlocked.

3.A Case for the defence

Moyes selections in recent weeks have been met with howls of derision from sections of the Blues faithful for being too negative. With the players available though he sees the strategy of keeping things tight and then kicking on in the final stages of games the most likely way of us getting results. It isn’t nice to watch at times but the guy is a pragmatist and hopefully with the addition of some better offensive players in the window we can evolve. One thing is for sure, the defensive qualities of the team is top draw – as noted a few weeks ago we concede the fewest shots in the division – thanks largely to the protection afforded by the midfield and heroic shifts from Distin and Jagielka.

4.Moyes gets his substitutions spot on

The Blues have won more points (11) in the final 10mins of games than any other side in the league, largely due to Moyes substitutions. 31% of our goals this season have been scored by  subs – again a league high. His changes today were attacking, bringing off the defensive minded Neville and introducing Gueye and Anichebe who gave us much more pace against a tiring WBA rearguard. Straqualursi also provided a physical presence and was able to hold up the ball well. For the goal, credit goes to Hibbert for putting in a decent ball but WBA’s defending of the situation was calamitous. Whilst Victor has minimal goal threat his return does give us more options in terms of pace and power – qualities which the Cahill / Saha axis doesn’t.

5.Final thought

Both sides had solid shape at the back but lacked real penetration in a game which will quickly be erased from memory. The key variable was Moyes was able to change his forward 3 players which brought pace and power – something which was not really on show from either side in the first 70 minutes of the game. Overall a draw was probably the fair outcome but the win gives us 8 points from 12 over the festive period and with the league’s bottom club due at Goodison on Wednesday night there is plenty of positives as we head into 2012.