Scout Report: Tim Howard – Best of the rest?

When you’ve had the pleasure of watching one of the greatest players of all time in his position play for your club, it’s difficult to judge his successors fairly.

Only Nigel Martyn has been universally accepted by the Goodison faithful as a great keeper since Neville Southall left Everton in 1998. Tim Howard easily comes next as best of the rest but he’s never totally convinced all fans that he’s as good as we can get. Is this fair? What can the stats from last year tell us about Everton’s No 1?

Distribution

We may not like to think so, but it’s a fact that Everton play more long balls than most sides in the Premier League. However, it’s also a fact that Howard contributed less long balls to his side than any other keeper last season. The average for a keeper was around 40% and the keeper who did it most was Petr Cech who launched 59% of all of Chelsea’s long balls. Howard played just 28% of Everton’s.

Not only is it preferable aesthetically, but it’s good from a results point of view as you can see here. It’s also good because only 1 in 3 of Howard’s long balls finds a team mate (one of the worst ratios in the league) and even when they’re successful, the nature of an aerial challenge means it’s often a lottery as to where the ball ends up. Howard’s kicking is something which Southall identified as a weakness to the American’s game in his recent interview with EB

Crosses & Command of Area

Twice already this season Howard has conceded from close-range headers at corner kicks. While the one against WBA was poor, the one against Southampton was downright shocking. Although both times the attacker was allowed free reign by defenders, Howard didn’t take control of either situation considering how far into his radar the ball came .

However, Howard is proactive compared to most of his peers. He dealt with 11% of all high crosses  Everton faced last year by claiming or punching. There were 14 other No 1’s below him in this regard. The numbers also tell us that the odd mistake or flap comes with the territory if you’re a keeper who comes out – the likes of Cech and Wojciech Szczesny do it too. Most of the time it doesn’t cost a side, it’s just that when it does, it looks extremely bad. The keepers who chose to stay on their line fared badly last season or are looking at being replaced this season –Paul Robinson, Ali Al-Habsi, Paddy Kenny and Shay Given and Brad Friedel.

There are a couple of other interesting stats that might tell us more about Howard’s command of his area and of the defenders around him. The first is that he picks up a great deal of loose balls compared to most keepers. This again suggests he’s quick to come out but could mean Everton’s high line and pressing game leads to a fair amount of aimless long balls from the opposition sailing straight through to him. The second is that Howard faced less one-on-ones than any other keeper in the league. All this points to Everton’s defensive organisation being good and Howard obviously plays his role in that. When Everton have conceded in recent times, there’s often an abhorrent individual mistake involved but in general the numbers say Everton’s defence is well organised and Howard must take part of the credit for this.

Long Shots

This is often the greatest criticism you hear about Howard. He often looks leaden-footed or on his heels when shots come in from distance.  Comparing the number of goals conceded from shots outside the box to the number of saves made from them, Howard, again more than held his own in the division. There were 13 keepers below him in this regard last season. Howard let in 14% of all shots from outside the box that needed dealing with. There were 9 keepers letting in 20% and more – the worst being Paul Robinson who let in a shocking 35%.

Conclusion

While the kind of stats above can give us some clues as to a keeper’s style and performance, the hard currency they deal in is stopping goals. Only David De Gea and Pepe Reina let in less goals per game last year than Tim Howard.

All keepers make mistakes, and all have their faults. Tim Howard may not be a “Top 4” keeper overall, but, much like his team, he’s always fighting to be best of the rest.

By @footballfactman

Honours ended even at the DW Stadium as an interesting tactical joust focused predominantly on two attacking left wing backs ended frustratingly in just a point…..

Blue’s High Line

The Toffees play one of the highest lines in the top flight leading to the highest percentage of touches in the opposition half in the division as the visual (left) shows. Yesterday we had 71% final third possession with 219 final third touches to Wigan’s 109. Whilst this is good for condensing play in the opponent’s half, it leaves you open to the long ball over the top. Moyes selection of Heitinga was arguably the worst call of the day. Granted, it’s easy to be wise after the event but against power and pace in Kone, Distin was surely the obvious selection. With 3 top centre halves at the club, a ‘horses for courses’ approach is required; Distin against Man Utd’s…

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Tactical Deconstruction: Wigan 2-2 Everton

Honours ended even at the DW Stadium as an interesting tactical joust focused predominantly on two attacking left wing backs ended frustratingly in just a point…..

Blue’s High Line

The Toffees play one of the highest lines in the top flight leading to the highest percentage of touches in the opposition half in the division as the visual (left) shows. Yesterday we had 71% final third possession with 219 final third touches to Wigan’s 109. Whilst this is good for condensing play in the opponent’s half, it leaves you open to the long ball over the top. Moyes selection of Heitinga was arguably the worst call of the day. Granted, it’s easy to be wise after the event but against power and pace in Kone, Distin was surely the obvious selection. With 3 top centre halves at the club, a ‘horses for courses’ approach is required; Distin against Man Utd’s pace was wise as was Heitinga vs Swansea for his strength in reading the game. This opponent, coupled with the very high line we held in the first half, was suicidal. Caldwell – often left alone as Wigan’s 3 centre backs outnumbered our 2 forwards – was free to pump long balls over our defensive line for Kone to run onto which led to Wigan’s second goal. The player importance. average position visual below shows how the line retreated when Distin came on during the second half (compared to Heitinga) to reduce this threat in behind of Kone and co.

Fellaini

In last season’s game we struggled to hold the ball up in Wigan’s half with Caldwell winning 11/11 aerial duels.  The Scot is like a modern day Gerry Taggart and seems destined to be signed by Martin O’Neill one day . In a direct ploy, our aerial deliveries were pin pointed away from the big Scot and towards the channels (predominantly to the right and Figueroa) with Jelavic and Fellaini pulling away from the Scot’s central area into the channels and dominating aerials in open play. However, at set pieces Caldwell was picking up Fellaini and the Belgian – as he did at West Brom – lost his head when having to deal with an ‘in your face’ opponent like Caldwell. When his head goes down his composure is lost and his passing becomes increasingly erratic.

Second Half Tempo

The mental fragility of the Belgian is something opponents play upon and it did the trick here as he was booked shortly after his tussle with Caldwell.  As a consequence to risking a red card, Fellaini was dropped deeper in the second half with Osman playing more down the right and Mirallas through the middle as the Blues began to turn the screw.

The key to the second half was the higher passing tempo the Blues created.  If we look at last season’s passing tempo chart (left), in the first half our tempo was a slow 7.5. In the second the tempo (=time in possession divided by passes made) was quicker at 6.1, which is still slower to the rapid 5.2 against Southampton last week. In terms of pass direction, 46% of our passes were forward, 32% backwards and 22% square. It was the fluidity of the left flank though which was to turn the game in the second period.

Left Flanks

As called in the preview, the respective sides attacks were funnelled down the left flanks;  unsurprising really given that this match pitted the two sides in the division who statistically attack the most down the left with Baines / Beausejour the key architects from the wing back roles. In the first half Maloney drifted ahead of Beausejour and despite support from Neville, Coleman was often bamboozled and was given the run by the impish Scot which led to the opening goal.  This passing combination was Wigan’s most in the game; the duo combined 16 times although this figure was dwarfed by the 48 combinations played between Baines and Pienaar.  The side’s most creative players where unsurprisingly from down the left flank also with Pienaar creating six chances (including one assist) and  Beausejour setting up three opportunities. The second half pressure enabled Mirallas to finally get us the penalty we had been denied when the tricky Belgian was upended by Figueroa. There was little doubting what happened from the resulting spot kick as Baines hit his third last minute pen in four seasons against his former side; he and Pienaar have either scored or assisted 57% of our goals this season.  In a week that Ashley Cole re-enforced his reputation as English Football’s most colossal biff, his rival Leighton Baines’ fluid show of lateral scheming showed he is the perfect antidote to Cole’s wide boy weaponry

Summary

We started sloppy and our high line to condense play in Wigan’s half left us exposed in behind with Beausejour/Maloney/Kone on top in the first period. Once we made the switch and dropped Distin back 10 yards Kone’s threat was nullified. Our quicker passing tempo in the second enabled us more of a hold on the game and in the end we looked the most likely to take three points with Baines the main man. I’d say this was more a point gained than two lost.

EB

Scout Report: Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Wigan

Wigan is next up for an Everton side looking to maintain their fantastic early season form with a win prior to signing off for the international break. Moyes and Martinez are both tactical tweakers and as a consequence margins are usually tight when the pair go head to head and its unlikely this weekend’s joust will be any different.

Last Time …

Last season finished all square with an Anichebe effort cancelling out an earlier own goal. Defensively, the Latics kept a pretty high line leading to us being caught offside with great regularity. Offensively, we struggled to hold the ball up in the Wigan half with our hosts winning 69% of the aerial duels. When we did play long balls the accuracy wasn’t great (just 36%) and the longer balls were directed too close to Caldwell, a player who has limitations on the deck but is Wigan’s best header. As Wigan’s 3 centre backs outnumbered our 1 and 1 behind, Caldwell was basically free to attack every ball. As a result of this, he won 100% of his headers (11 out of 11). The decision to push our best header (Fellaini) further forward in the second half was to improve our ability to hold up the ball in the final third which worked to an extent, but 1-1 was a fair score on the balance of play.

Wigan Likely Line-up 

Martinez men will setup 3-4-3 with Caldwell the aerial backbone flanked by Ramis and Figueroa with Alcarez still out injured.  Beausejour and Boyce will be deployed as wing backs whilst in midfield, Mc Arthur and McCarthy will occupy the central roles. McCarthy is good on the ball and will play if we let him. If last season’s game is anything to go by Mc Arthur’s brief will be to volley Pienaar at every opportunity. Up front, Kone will lead the line and will most likely be flanked by between the lines wide-ish forwards Maloney (left) and Gomez – whose red card last week was rightly rescinded – on the right.

Wigan Tactics

As mentioned, Wigan play with 3 centre backs with their wing backs providing the width down the flanks. The image (left) of their average positions from last season’s game  show the centre backs (red) and wingbacks (yellow).  With Jelavic up top and Fellaini a bit deeper they will have an advantage here and don’t be surprised to see Figueroa – the best of the 3 on the ball – bringing play out from the back and into midfield. Their attacks will be focused down the left flank – only ourselves have a higher % of attacking play in the top flight down this channel this season – with Beausejour (arguably Wigan’s most potent player)  a natural in this role having been a wing-back in Marcelo Bielsa’s Chile side.  Beausejour was the source of Wigan’s goal against us last season and also scored against us the season before whilst at Birmingham. Due to both sides attacking down the left the respective right sides will spend plenty of time on the back foot. This could be an opportunity for us to exploit. When Beausejour bombs forward I’d expect Neville to shift across and assist Coleman with Mirallas hovering to start quick counter attacks / switch play to the left when we win the ball back.

Martinez spoke at the end of last season of his change in tactics which is quite interesting from a nerding perspective;

“When you play a 4-3-3, you rely a lot on the full-backs to get high up the pitch. You shouldn’t look at a system as a way to win a football match, it is the players that play the system. Maynor [Figueroa], Gary [Caldwell] and Antolin [Alcaraz] have been so solid with a back three, and it allows [other] players to be high up the pitch, like the wing-backs. They aren’t full-backs that need to get deep and then forward to give us an extra man, they are in positions where they can do both a little bit better, and we can be a little bit more solid. The difference is the width that we get…before, we had to compromise a little bit, when you want to be very attack-minded, the full-backs have to push on, so you leave two players at the back. Now you’re still pushing the wing-backs on, but you’ve still got three players at the back, plus probably a midfielder. In the West Brom game, as Paul Scharner will tell you, we were attacking with seven, eight, nine players and they were surprised it, and that’s what the system gives you, without being weak at the back.. It suits our players. When you’ve got a Jean Beausejour who is a specialist in that position, you take advantage of that. The back three gives you that. Then there’s the energy we’ve got in midfield, players who can play between lines like Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez. It’s so difficult to play against…there’s a few clubs playing it around Europe now, Napoli are one: they play it with Cavani, Hamsik and Lavezzi…this is the advantage of this system – it goes where the danger is…it’s not in defensive lines, it’s not working as a unit of four, it’s not man-marking.”

Betting Forecast

Moyes has won 3 / drawn 3 of his 6 matches against Martinez but its always fine margins; with the exception of the mad last 10mins in the Goodison game last season the winning margin has never been more than one goal. The games at the JJB have been particularly  low scoring (average 1.66 per game) in this sequence so the under 2.5 goal market looks fertile. Baines has usually done well against his former side and has scored 2 and setup 2 in this 6 game sequence with three of the 4 goals we scored last season coming from crosses. Paddy Power are offering 21/20 on an away win with the draw at 23/10 and the home win at 11/4. EB’s Mirallas anytime / efc win double (15/2)  and Osman anytime / win double (4/1)  have been triumphant in the last 2 games…..here are this weeks 5 to ponder with prices from our betting partner Paddy Power.

5 More to ponder;

15/2 Everton to win 2-1

3/1 Exactly 3 goals scored

8/1 Baines anytime / efc win double

13/5 Everton to win by one goal

11/2  1-1 Draw (insurance bet)

For more Everton bets check out Paddy Power’s Website here

EB