Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 1-2 Chelsea

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Teams and Selection

The Toffees were without four nailed on starters with Mirallas, Neville, Fellaini and Gibson all out due to injury and suspension. Moyes sprung a surprise in terms of shape by playing Pienaar central behind Jelavic and Anichebe on the left. Naismith came in on the right side of midfield with Heitinga coming in at centre back and Jagielka switching to right back. Chelsea started out in what looked like a 4-3-3 with Mata right and Ramires through the middle which was scrapped fairly early on moving to a 4-2-3-1 with Mata central behind Torres and Ramires as expected on the right to reign in Baines lateral marauding.

Possession / Territory Data

 Chelsea had more possession overall (54%) and more final third possession (53.5%) although we had more touches of the ball (226 v 204) in Chelsea’s defensive third than they did in ours. The game’s attacking moves were almost all exclusively down the Baines / Ramires flank with 10 of the 19 chances created by both sides coming from down this flank. Mata, Baines and Osman were all central to this and the trio had the joint most final third touches (40).

Everton Storm First Half

The Blues were dominant in the first half with midfield schemers Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar almost exclusively running our offensive game as has been the case since Fellaini’s suspension. The half was characterised by enterprising play from us down the left when on the ball and high octane pressure when the ball was lost.

Pienaar and Anichebe were interchanging well in the role of wide left and attacking central midfield, a tactic used rather disastrously in last season’s 0-3 reverse at Anfield. In the first half in particular, Heitinga would get the ball on the right of central defence and hit diagonals for Anichebe to attack in a physical miss-match against Azpilicueta. The Dutchman’s long ball accuracy was the best on the pitch and Anichebe won more aerials (6) than anyone from either side.

Pienaar’s role centrally was twofold; firstly he would look to link midfield and attack and secondly when not on the ball he would press Chelsea’ defence >attack linkman Luiz in central midfield. The results were impressive. Firstly, the South African opened the scoring from a central position, registering the quickest toffee goal in the Premier League since Yakubu struck after 47 seconds against Portsmouth four years ago. The move owed much to Pienaar in its inception, getting the ball centrally and playing Jagielka in behind a day dreaming Ashley Cole. Jags is a good crosser for a defender and when his centre was headed onto the post by  Anichebe it fell nicely for Pienaar to slot home for the second season running in this fixture. We have now scored in the last 17 league games which is our best since 24 in a row in the 85-86 season. In terms of his off the ball duties, Pienaar was equally industrious in the defensive zone and attempted more tackles (6) than any player on the pitch.

Chelsea Comeback

As has been the case all season, our defence was unable to withstand any form of pressure as Chelsea came back on us in the second period as our all action high pressure game began to dwindle with fatigue becoming a factor.  Ramires is a renowned flank shuttler with a great ‘engine’ and the fact he hadn’t started any of Chelsea’s Christmas programme with Lampard also having a week off was evident in their energy levels as the game developed. In comparison our key attacking triumvirate of Pienaar, Osman and Baines had played pretty much every minute in all 3 of our games in the last 8 days.

Chelsea crept back into the contest just before half time with Ramires the key man in the visitor’s comeback. Firstly, he was given the time to take a touch, control and pick out Lampard who ghosted into the box unmarked to head Chelsea level.  Ramires was again involved in the second goal as slack marking again enabled Lampard to prod home from close range after a Mata delivery.

Moyes switched to 4-3-3 with Velios joining Jelavic and Anichebe in a physical forward trio but in truth we had minimal options from the bench which could give Chelsea anything new to think about. Barkley’s cameo was also an example of why Moyes has been loathe to give him more game time since his return from Sheff Wed. If we can get Gibson back and perhaps bring in Vadis Odjidja  from Brugge it would probably be worth Barkley heading back to Hillsborough where he can continue to develop his game which is still a bit short for this level.

Final Verdict

This was a game the Blues deserved more from and will rightfully feel disappointed not to have taken at least a point. In the first half in particular we dominated proceedings and overall had more shots and struck the woodwork 3 times to Chelsea’s 0. There was always the worry that the pressure play would be hard to maintain for 90 minutes given how thin our squad is and so it proved as Chelsea were more involved in the second period with Mata and Ramires key to their more enterprising work on the break. There is little to be ashamed of in losing to the expensively assembled European Champions with fine margins and bad luck to blame for this narrow loss. With Fellaini back and a run of fixtures against some decidedly gash looking sides there is plenty to be optimistic for as we head into 2013.

EB

Scout Report: Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Chelsea

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After the gritty wins against West Ham and Wigan comes the festive period’s stand-out toffees fixture as Chelsea and their portly new boss Rafael Benitez waddle down to L4.

The Spaniard is a known tactical schemer and will have had our strategy studiously examined for potential gains with the same meticulous detail he would regularly scrutinise the All you can eat buffet menu in Tsos  during his time on Merseyside.

The Spaniard’s petty jibes at us down the years were designed to ingratiate himself to the Anfield faithful which funnily enough is the same reason for the level of hostility he has received from the Chelsea faithful since docking in West London. Initially four points from the top spot when he arrived, they are now 11 points adrift but after a few wins in the past week look to be coming into some form…

Chelsea Team

Chelsea’s side will be something like a 4-2-3-1 with Cech in goal and a defence consisting of Azpilicueta, Cole, Ivanovic and Cahill. As with any Benitez side they have shipped few goals with 4 clean sheets in 6 in the league since his arrival. An example of the portly Spaniard’s attention to detail in tracking runs and at set plays is below….

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Predicting their midfield setup will be much trickier. David Luiz has started there lately and although Mikel partnered him against Norwich on Boxing Day I fancy Lampard’s experience will see him preferred for this one.

“Hazard has won 45 fouls, second only to Pienaar in the ‘most fouled’ stakes in the Premier League”

Both Lampard and Luiz prefer to push forward which could give us an area to exploit. In the advanced midfielder slots its anyone’s guess but I’d go for Mata central, Hazard left and Moses right although the trio can all interchange so don’t be surprised to see them popping up here, there and everywhere. The trio all bring something to the table offensively. Mata is the league’s chief creator with 7 assists whilst Hazard has won 45 fouls, second only to Pienaar in the ‘most fouled’ stakes. Moses is impish and direct, will look to dribble and basically be a pain in the arse to defend against.

Up front, ‘Nando’ Torres hit 17 shots on target in 17 games under previous boss Roberto Di Matteo this season, compared to 16 in the first 5 games under Benitez. Clearly they are getting the ball forward quicker and more regularly to the striker who is thriving off the service with his excellent goal against Villa last week a decent example. This should all be countered by the fact that Jagielka usually does very well against the forward.

Everton side

If the Wigan game showed us anything it was that placing Osman as close to the Baines/Pienaar axis is crucial to instigate pint sized mayhem. In the first half, stranded on the right flank, Osman was peripheral whilst in the second period when he switched to the centre he was afforded more space to instigate his trademark shimmies on the edge of the box and was positioned closer to link up with Baines and Pienaar. It was no coincidence that this resulted in our most fluid period of the game after the interval. For this reason I’d start him centrally alongside Gibson if the Irishman is fit to start after his red card was rescinded earlier today. Naismith will most probably come in on the right flank with Coleman still sidelined due to injury. Otherwise it’s probably going to be a similar 4-4-2 with Jelavic and Anichebe up front.

Betting

Moyes record against Benitez at Goodison isn’t as bad as you’d think, winning 3 and losing 4 of the seven games at L4. All 3 wins were secured with clean sheets, something we are incapable of doing this season. Most of the matches between the duo have been cagey affairs with both bosses liking to tweak to negate the threat of the other and the game promises to be a tight, tactical joust.

Betting wise, we’ve won our last three at home in the league against Chelsea and have only lost at home twice in 2012. Given their resurgence and the attacking personnel we have missing I’m going for a 1-1 draw, best offered at 6/1 by Ladbrokes. I’d stretch this a bit by looking at Chelsea to score first (probably Mata) and for us to come from behind, after all we’ve recouped 17 points from losing situations this season, only bettered by Taggart’s mob (24). You can get 9/2 on Everton to come from behind to either draw or win with Ladbrokes. The both teams to score option is as usual the ‘dead cert’ choice for our games; Chelsea have scored at least one goal in 89% of their away matches and we have scored in every home game and not kept a clean sheet at Goodison since the first day of the season.

EB

West Ham 1-2 Everton – Tactical Deconstruction

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Teams and Tactics

Moyes side was bizarrely leaked on Twitter mid morning with a couple of significant changes and significantly two out and out strikers selected. Anichebe’s aerial ability in defending set plays and hold up play got him the nod ahead of Naismith with the Scot unfortunate to find himself benched.

Anichebe and Jelavic played quite wide looking break into the channels and to pull the Hammers centre backs out of their positions and enable Osman and Pienaar to exploit the space in between. Jelavic generally put in a shift but his runs were often ill timed leading to a succession of offside decisions.

Defensively,  Coleman and Hibbert’s injuries meant Heitinga came in at centre back with Jagielka moving to right back. Neville came back into the midfield after injury with Osman moved out to the right but for the bulk of the game Osman would pick up the ball centrally with Neville picking up the defensive duties behind him and out wide.

Passing / Territory

We had the bulk of possession (62%) and a better completion (81% v 63%) which was to be expected. Our passing where it counts (in the final third) was particularly good with completion of 92% compared to our host’s 44%. Allardyce is more concerned with territory which was pretty even with us shading it 50.9% to 49.1%.

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Allardyce post match felt that the Cole red card was crucial in shaping the game as it occurred with the scores level at 1-1, but with the exception of a 15 minute spell before the break  when West Ham pinned us into our own half they created little. Generally we were more positive on the ball as the above visual shows which was reflected by us crafting 12 chances to the Hammer’s 5.

Hammers direct play

The Hammers played Nolan off Cole with wide support from Jarvis and Taylor in a 4-4-1-1. Like ourselves, West Ham had injury troubles with Carroll, Diame and Demel all out and O’Neill playing even though he was un-fit. Most of our host’s attacks were started from Jaaskelainen kick outs aimed towards Cole with Nolan looking to pick up second balls and build pressure. Cole was positioning himself onto the hapless Heitinga and got plenty of joy in the first half, culminating in the opening goal after Taylor came off our left flank unmarked to play him through. Cole was given too much time but his finish was admirable. Tactics wise, prior to our equaliser O’Neill couldn’t continue so Maiga came on forcing the Hammers to go 4-4-2. With the game having swung our way and the Hammers started to chase the game and Spence came on and Allardyce went to a back three but it was to no avail.

Pienaar

Pienaar was the game’s stand out performer with only the influential Osman running him close in terms of outputs. The diminutive South African schemer made the most attacking third passes on the pitch with 88% completion from the 27 passes he made in the final third.  West Ham’s approach to combat him wasn’t particularly sophisticated, preferring the tried and tested Big Sam method of volleying him up the arse as soon as he crossed the half way line.

As a consequence, Pienaar was the most fouled player on the pitch, gaining 5 free kicks and it was from one such situation that our comeback began. Pienaar ran 25 yards, dribbling past a couple of players before being hacked by Maiga. Baines and Pienaar combinations were again a feature; the duo combined 37 times,  in comparison West Ham’s most was Tomkins / Noble who combined 12 times.

From the resulting free kick, Baines played it to Pienaar who picked out Anichebe to expertly head home. Baines, Pienaar and Osman were again at the heart of the winner with the pint sized trio buzzing around and culminating in  Osman ghosting past Noble to tee up a muddled goal that went in via Pienaar and the keeper.

Final Verdict

This was a well earned and dogged victory given that it was against a side with an enviable home record and in the face of some comedy officiating. We’ve now fallen behind 10 times this season but only lost one of them which is a sign of the spirit and determination in this group of players. It was also the first time in Moyes 10 years at the club that we have come from behind to win a game we have been trailing in at half time on the road. Four points from six at tricky places like Stoke and West Ham is a good return and has seen us return to the top four and sets us up nicely for the home fixtures against Wigan and the tantalising tussle with Fatty Benitez’ mob who for now at least sit behind us in the table.

EB

West Ham Preview: Who Replaces Fellaini?

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The void….

Ahead of our trip to West Ham this week the bulk of our preparations will concern who fills the void Fellaini’s three game exile has created.  The void is a tricky one given the bespoke slant on a number 10 we have in our system.

When you think of a number ten playing between the lines of midfield and attack you think of a Riquelme or a Sneijder type player with good feet that receives the ball centrally, plays facing the opposition goal and who is capable of threading a through pass to a striker. Our 3/4 forward role is a different proposition entirely as its more about physique and playing with your back to goal; basically less about brains and more about brawn.

We attack down the flanks and not centrally hence hardly any of our goals come from through passes and most are scored via headers or from crosses. Fellaini gives our defence the option to go long quickly, will link up with the wide men and then get into the box on the end of things i.e the finisher not the provider of the classic number ten model. For example, Fellaini only played 3 passes to Jelavic in the entire 90 minutes against Spurs last week whilst he totalled 23 passing combinations with Pienaar and Baines.

There appears 4 main options for fellaini’s replacement this weekend; Naismith, Barkley, Osman and Pienaar. Here is my lowdown on the 4 options;

The Outsider – Ross Barkley

Master Barkley has played just 30 minutes of competitive action in Fellaini’s role in ‘the hole’ as a sub last season at home to Fulham. Although he is only a young tyke he is the tallest of the four players and also has an edge on Osman and Pienaar in that he has played as a striker as a youth so can provide the flexibility of moving from a 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 when we have the ball as Fellaini does.  He also brings the element of the unknown Allardyce will not have covered in his prozone laboratory briefings this week.

Weakness wise, despite his exposure to rats like Michael Brown during his loan spell at Sheff Wed he is still a tad wet behind the ears defensively and Moyes still appears undecided if he can be risked in a central slot. If deployed, it’s probably more likely to be on the right flank where he featured as a sub last week at Stoke.

You can get 9/1 on Barkley to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

The Possible – Leon Osman

A feasible option given that he has started more games in this slot under Moyes than anyone with the exception of Cahill. Has the passing capability and the know how to find space and dribble into dangerous areas of the final third and can sometimes pick out a decent shot – although not for a while. This trickery could be useful and expose the lack of nimbleness in West Ham’s centre back duo. He also has the best passing accuracy in the final third of the candidates and is the most prolific shooter although he has the worst accuracy.

On a negative, his combination with Gibson in central midfield is good and disrupting this rhythm could cause issues further back with Hitzlsperger likely to deputise in midfield. Ossie also has a very productive record against likely starter James Collins which may get him the nod for this weekend.

You can get 8/1 on Osman to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

The Best Fit – Steven Naismith

Naismith is a different cat altogether and my preferred option. ‘Naisy’ has played a similar role at Rangers supporting Jelavic where he created 5 of Jela’s 36 Gers goals. He is comfortable in handling the shift from forward to midfielder during possession transitions and is the most able at harrying and chasing and generally putting in ‘a shift’ when we are not in possession e.g winning free kicks. He also has the knack of finding time and space in the box and is more likely than anyone to benefit from playing more centrally by popping up with a goal.  He has the best shooting accuracy and the best record at winning headers
Negatives wise, with Mirallas out there is no other right sided midfielder unless you try Oviedo or Barkley but both are square pegs in this wide berth. Naismith is also less incisive and less able to dribble past a player but if you’re attacking down the flanks this isn’t such a problem.

You can get 5/1 on Naismith to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

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The Probable – Steven Pienaar

Probably the closest we have to a genuine ‘Number 10’ so would appear the natural selection if the side played through the middle. On a plus, it makes sense to have your most incisive and creative midfielder playing as close as possible to your lone striker. Pienaar creates a chance more frequently than the other candidates but a lot of this is down to the combination play he has with Baines on the left flank.

On the negative side, it hasn’t really worked out when he’s filled in centrally this season in spells against Leeds, QPR and Norwich and it also minimises the balance and potency of his mate Leighton Baines as Oviedo would rather hug the touch line which condenses the space available for Baines.

You can get 9/1 on Pienaar to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

Last word…

Steven Naismith is my choice in the ‘Fellaini’ role, with Pienaar retained on the left and either Barkley or Oviedo on the right. There will more than likely be flexibility between the 3 but Naismith is the ‘best fit’ we have to Fellaini.

EB

All prices quoted from Oddschecker.

Who will replace Fellaini over Christmas?

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The void….

Ahead of our trip to West Ham this week the bulk of our preparations will concern who fills the void Fellaini’s three game exile has created.  The void is a tricky one given the bespoke slant on a number 10 we have in our system.

When you think of a number ten playing between the lines of midfield and attack you think of a Riquelme or a Sneijder type player with good feet that receives the ball centrally, plays facing the opposition goal and who is capable of threading a through pass to a striker. Our 3/4 forward role is a different proposition entirely as its more about physique and playing with your back to goal; basically less about brains and more about brawn.

We attack down the flanks and not centrally hence hardly any of our goals come from through passes and most are scored via headers or from crosses. Fellaini gives our defence the option to go long quickly, will link up with the wide men and then get into the box on the end of things i.e the finisher not the provider of the classic number ten model. For example, Fellaini only played 3 passes to Jelavic in the entire 90 minutes against Spurs last week whilst he totalled 23 passing combinations with Pienaar and Baines.

There appears 4 main options for fellaini’s replacement this weekend; Naismith, Barkley, Osman and Pienaar. Here is my lowdown on the 4 options;

The Outsider – Ross Barkley

Master Barkley has played just 30 minutes of competitive action in Fellaini’s role in ‘the hole’ as a sub last season at home to Fulham. Although he is only a young tyke he is the tallest of the four players and also has an edge on Osman and Pienaar in that he has played as a striker as a youth so can provide the flexibility of moving from a 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 when we have the ball as Fellaini does.  He also brings the element of the unknown Allardyce will not have covered in his prozone laboratory briefings this week.

Weakness wise, despite his exposure to rats like Michael Brown during his loan spell at Sheff Wed he is still a tad wet behind the ears defensively and Moyes still appears undecided if he can be risked in a central slot. If deployed, it’s probably more likely to be on the right flank where he featured as a sub last week at Stoke.

You can get 9/1 on Barkley to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

The Possible – Leon Osman

A feasible option given that he has started more games in this slot under Moyes than anyone with the exception of Cahill. Has the passing capability and the know how to find space and dribble into dangerous areas of the final third and can sometimes pick out a decent shot – although not for a while. This trickery could be useful and expose the sheer grock-ery of West Ham’s centre back duo. He also has the best passing accuracy in the final third of the candidates and is the most prolific shooter although he has the worst accuracy.

On a negative, his combination with Gibson in central midfield is good and disrupting this rhythm could cause issues further back with Hitzlsperger likely to deputise in midfield. Ossie also has a very productive record against likely starter James Collins which may get him the nod for this weekend.

You can get 8/1 on Osman to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

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The Best Fit – Steven Naismith

Naismith is a different cat altogether and my preferred option. ‘Naisy’ has played a similar role at Rangers supporting Jelavic where he created 5 of Jela’s 36 Gers goals. He is comfortable in handling the shift from forward to midfielder during possession transitions and is the most able at harrying and chasing and generally putting in ‘a shift’ when we are not in possession e.g winning free kicks. He also has the knack of finding time and space in the box and is more likely than anyone to benefit from playing more centrally by popping up with a goal.  He has the best shooting accuracy and the best record at winning headers
Negatives wise, with Mirallas out there is no other right sided midfielder unless you try Oviedo or Barkley but both are square pegs in this wide berth. Naismith is also less incisive and less able to dribble past a player but if you’re attacking down the flanks this isn’t such a problem.

You can get 5/1 on Naismith to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

The Probable – Steven Pienaar

Probably the closest we have to a genuine ‘Number 10’ so would appear the natural selection if the side played through the middle. On a plus, it makes sense to have your most incisive and creative midfielder playing as close as possible to your lone striker. Pienaar creates a chance more frequently than the other candidates but a lot of this is down to the combination play he has with Baines on the left flank.

On the negative side, it hasn’t really worked out when he’s filled in centrally this season in spells against Leeds, QPR and Norwich and it also minimises the balance and potency of his mate Leighton Baines as Oviedo would rather hug the touch line which condenses the space available for Baines.

You can get 9/1 on Pienaar to score anytime / efc win double vs West Ham

Last word…

Steven Naismith is my choice in the ‘Fellaini’ role, with Pienaar retained on the left and either Barkley or Oviedo on the right. There will more than likely be flexibility between the 3 but Naismith is the ‘best fit’ we have to Fellaini.

EB

All prices quoted from Oddschecker.

Tactical Deconstruction: Stoke 1-1 Everton

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In normal circumstances a point away at Stoke is not a bad result, especially given their impressive home record this season.  However, with the impending ban of key player Marouanne Fellaini the negative impact of this game could be far reaching as we embark on the festive fixture marathon without arguably our two most potent players….

Passing / Territory Stats

Stoke’s general strategy was the usual territory based approach. Given that our game is also more about territory and less about possession this one was always destined for deadlock with us slightly shading territory 50.5% to Stoke’s 49.5%.Possession wise, we also marginally shaded it with 51.2% of the ball to Stoke’s 48.8% which is more even that it usually is in our clashes.  Our pass completion was down on the average of 79.9% to 73%, slightly better than Stoke’s 70%. I’d put this differential down to the pressure they put on us when we had the ball.  Our passing in the final third was much better, with 68% completion to Stoke’s 51% however Stoke were more positive on the ball with 58% of their passes played forward compared to our 48%.

Stoke Attacks…

Stoke attacked us down the flanks and predominantly the right. Begovic pumped long diagonals to Walters to use his height advantage on Baines and this passing combination was Stoke’s second most frequent, taking place 9 times. Whilst Stoke won most of the aerials we did well in picking up a lot of the second balls with Osman nabbing 4 interceptions which was the most of any player on the pitch. The most frequent passing combination in the game was Cameron to Etherington down Stoke’s left flank which took place 12 times. The former West Ham man doesn’t possess the pace he once had to get to the by-line and whip in deliveries and got little change out of Coleman who was excellent, winning 7 out of 7 tackles resulting in the winger creating no chances. The completely ineffectual Charlie Adam mostly wandered around the final third like a lost soul and it’s difficult to see exactly what he brings to the Stoke party.

Even the goals were crud…..

Overall Stoke created more chances than us, with 10 chances to our 7 although most for both sides were the result of pressure or errors rather than fluid football. In keeping with the standard of the game, both goals were terrible. First, Shawcross – who was involved in all the key incidents –  comically headed a routine cross over his own keeper before Tim Howard gave Moyes another reminder that his days as No1 at Goodison are coming to an end as he feebly misjudged a Jones header from a Shawcross punt. In between, Leon Osman continued his personal crusade for worst shot of the season with this week’s effort featuring his signature pee roller which went wide with the goal and the game gaping.
Stop, Start, Stop….

The game was broken up by foul after foul, re-taken dead balls and constant hold ups in play which was no big shock given that his game pitted the leagues most persistent foulers (stoke) with ourselves who are the third worst in the foul play league. As a spectacle it was truly dire and whilst it wasn’t quite the self harm level of the game at Goodison last season it wasn’t too far away.

Fellaini’s GBH on Shawcross is of course what the game will be remembered for. Like it or not, opposition teams target the Belgian as a loose canon. This season, hatchet men such as McAuley (wba) and Caldwell (wigan) have succeeded in getting very tight on him and waiting for him to implode. We’ve noted before how Fellaini’s temperament is poor, remember the red card vs. Bolton which ruled him out of for three games in 2010 and I’m pretty sure he and Shawcross butted each other in the bore fest at L4 last season. Basically this was an accident waiting to happen.

When Fellaini loses his head his game deteriorates and he fails to do the things which make him such a key man such as controlling longer balls on his chest and general link up play with our attacking midfielders and Jelavic. All these abilities disappeared yesterday once his head had gone and the red mist descended. Granted, Shawcross is a lumbering galoot who will take the physical side of the game to the limit, but what the Belgian did was plain daft.

With the media biff’s baying for blood it’s anyone’s guess when we will next see the Belgian. With Mirallas out for a spell also we now look very short on firepower and incision going into the Christmas games. The only game we’ve had to play without both was the insipid Norwich contest last month which was perhaps our worst display of the season after yesterday. Given the options available I’d like to see the special talent of Barkley given an opportunity in midfield with Osman further forward in fellaini’s slot.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, this was a fairly lame display by us. Osman should have wrapped the game up prior to half time and in the second period we created hardly anything in front of goal.  With the exception of a 15 minute spell at the start of the second half Stoke were equally gash and a draw was probably a fair result.

EB

The FFM Column: Why do Everton score so few goals from corners?

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I’m going to sign off for 2012 by taking a look at 5 things to watch out for over the busy Christmas period:

Corners

I’ve become increasingly enraged at watching Everton’s corner taking recently and in particular Baines’s efforts. For the past 6 games the left-back’s corners into the box have been exclusively outswinging. Having conducted a study of the most successful side at corners (Man Utd) here and monitored this season’s goals from corners by all Premier League sides, I can categorically state that the most successful corners are inswinging into the near post. They require less touches (and therefore less luck) to end up in the back of the net.

Everton have only scored from corners twice this season – the first when Fellaini headed in Gibson’s outswinger (ahem) v Man Utd first game of the season and the second when Jones bizarrely punched Baines’s inswinger back across goal for Osman to smash home in the derby. Only two teams are worse at corners – Norwich who’ve scored one, and Newcastle who still haven’t scored any. Room for improvement.

Team Finishing

Having now studied 1000s of shots in recent Premier League history, the average team would have scored 31 goals from the shots Everton have taken this season. Everton have currently scored 26. You can take this whichever way you want. Either we are team of Stuart Barlows, we don’t create good chances, or at some point Everton are due some luck in front of goal and we’ll be scoring more or less as many as we should. The reality being it’s probably a mix of all three.

Jelavic ‘loss of form’

It’s been interesting to note people talking of Jelavic’s loss of form over the last month or so – remarking on an apparent lack of fitness, or his on-field arguments with team mates. The Croatian has had 5 shots in his last 4 games. 2 of those were free kicks. He really is feeding off scraps at the moment and there can be no real criticism of his work rate. The shots study says the average Premier League player would have 5 goals from the shots Jelavic has taken this season. Jelavic has 6. He’s shown time and again that given the right service, he’ll slot.

Case for the defence

Everton haven’t kept a Premier League clean sheet for 11 games now, despite chopping and changing things at right-back and centre half. However, only 4 teams have conceded less this season.  The shots study says we’re conceding the amount of goals we should for the shots we’ve faced. Everton are pretty good at restricting the amount of shots from the danger area  – central in front of goal  – where over 70% of all goals are scored from. We continue to take the game to the oppo spending more time in their half than any other team over the last 2 years.

Steven Naismith

The Scot has scored 3 goals from 12 shots this season which is a phenomenal strike rate. In that 12 shots he’s also missed a couple of absolute sitters that Gervinho would be proud of. Whatever you may think about this lad’s ability, by hook or by crook he seems to turn up in the right place at the right time. Given a bit of game time and leniency from the doubters, Naismith, may well turn out to be an absolute gem. Goals win games, and this lad gets them.

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Scout Report: Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Stoke

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Strengths

Love or loathe their style, Stoke’s start to the season has put them in a position to achieve their best ever campaign in the top flight yet. Their already mean defence has this season tightened up even further and they can boast a league high of 8 clean sheets. At home they are particularly formidable, conceding just two goals and unbeaten at the Britannia since February which after us is the longest unbeaten home record in the top flight.

Stoke: A gradual evolution of playing style?

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Their clear threat is in the air where they have won the highest percentage of aerials (58%) in the top flight. In Begovic they have the biggest kicker in the division and he will instigate most Stoke attacks. Moyes looked to combat this last season by telling Jelavic to stand on the Serbian’s toes when he had the ball and force him to kick out of his hands (and not of the floor) meaning he can generate less distance on the ball. Fellaini was positioned in a deeper role to assist the centre backs in winning the ball from the kick outs or hovering up the second balls which is a trademark of the Belgian. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Fellaini swopped roles with Osman especially when we didn’t have the ball. The tactic worked to an extent, however Stoke’s most frequent passing combination was still Begovic to Crouch, a combination which took place 8 times.

Weakness

Unsurprisingly, Stoke have the worst disciplinary record in the top flight with the most fouls per game (14.1) leading to 32 yellows and 2 reds with serial clogger Dean Whitehead  the dirtiest in the league with 5 yellow and 1 red despite starting just 6 games.  As long as the free kicks conceded are outside the box it won’t bother Stoke as they are so well drilled in defending set plays.

Passing wise, Reading’s arrival in the top flight means Stoke now have just the second worst average share of the ball (42%) and second worst pass completion (71%). Passing is focused down the right wing which will mean Pienaar will need to be a bit more defensively focused. Charlie Adam was brought in to develop their play and has been deployed in the advanced number 10 role since arriving which has yielded a few goals and assists. Adam is decent if you let him play on his left so we need to press him and keep him on his right. Generally they have struggled for goals and have not scored more than two in a game in their last 41 matches.

Moyes Dilemma

Moyes conundrum is deciding how much he wants to modify our expansive game to deal with the specific threats Stoke pose. For example, Anichebe is always selected against Stoke, usually in a wider role away from the centre backs. It’s a given that we will have 60% of the ball but Stoke will be happy with this. Like Pulis, Moyes approach is all about territory and less about dominating the ball and Moyes will look to defend high up the pitch, pushing Stoke’s strikers away from goal meaning their wide men can’t get into good crossing positions in the final third. When Moyes has tinkered too much or been forced to deploy square pegs in round holes this season we have invariably struggled to establish a rhythm on the ball with our key threats reduced. Whereas we are usually happy to invite the crosses and pack the 18 yard box, this tactics doesn’t work against Stoke as they showed the season before last when Kenwyne Jones scored from an Etherington delivery with little pressure on the ball from Neville.

At the back, Huth and Shawcross live and breathe defending crosses into the box and both possess the full repertoire of blocking runs, elbows and anything else that will give them an advantage. Last season, Stoke well and truly did a number on us in the fixture at Goodison in the kind of game that makes self-harm seem an appealing option. We had 33 crosses with none leading to an attempt on goal with a lack of movement in the box from us the key flaw.  If we are to cross they will need to be drilled / pulled back to the near post for Jelavic or stood up to the back post onto their less aerially equipped full backs for Fellaini to attack.  What the lumbering duo of  Huth and Shawcross don’t like is quick feet running at them with pace which is why the loss of Mirallas is a hammer blow. The speed and movement of players of that ilk is crucial against well organised sides as they can expose gaps before defensive shape is restored in counter attack situations. When Stoke do have the ball in the attacking third its vital that we break at pace with Gibson looking to start quick attacking 2 v 1 transitions with his long range pings from central to wide areas.

Injuries

Selection wise, with Anichebe out, the only real options Moyes has to tweak aerially is Apostolos Velios. The Greek was well and truly schooled by Huth in last season’s fixture and I’d doubt Moyes will start him again here. Mirallas is out for a few weeks and Hibbert is unlikely to feature until the new year so Naismith will start in the only change from last week. For Stoke, Crouch and Adam should return for Jones and Whitehead whilst Ryan Shotton is suspended.

Betting

If you don’t bet your xmas shopping money on this being a draw you need to ask yourself some serious questions. Stoke and Everton are the league’s draw specialists with 50% of their games this season ending all square with the games between the two sides always tight. Simply everything about this one points to a draw. With our last 12 games featuring an efc goal and no clean sheet the 1-1 at 11/2 with willie hills looks decent. There has been just six goals in the last four meetings between the clubs and BetVictor will offer you 4/6 on under 2.5 goals. If you are confident we can eek out a win you can get 33/10 with ladbrokes for us to win by 1 goal.

 Finally, Neville Southall will be signing copies of his autobiography The Binman Chronicles in Llanelli this week – which we at EB can confirm is superb. The former Everton and Wales goalkeeper will be at WH Smith, Trostre and then at WH Smith, St Elli Shopping Centre on Saturday 15th December.James Corbett will also be signing copies of his Everton Encyclopedia this Saturday with former Everton manager, Howard Kendall. They will be at Waterstones, Birkenhead at 12:00 and then at Waterstones Bold Street 14:30.Its expected that all signing sessions will be busy, so its recommended to arrive early to avoid disappointment!

Physio Room Blog: Mirallas set to miss Stoke trip

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Like every other Evertonian inside Goodison, my heart sank to see Mirallas pull up and grasp the back of his thigh just before half time last Sunday.  Having watched in awe Gibson’s pin point passing, the out ball, to our flying winger, I knew we were in for a tough second half once Mirallas didn’t emerge for the second half.

I think the concern is this may be a recurrent problem for Mirallas, for this season anyway.  I had hoped after the good news of Mirallas’ scan that it was a niggle that would go away.  We’ve seen it time and time again though with young fast players (not so much at Everton as we’ve not had a flying winger since Kanchelskis) being prone to suffering these hamstring strains.  Ryan Giggs springs to mind and Michael Owen is another that has been plagued by hamstring and groin injuries.  Gareth Bale thankfully was missing against us because of a hamstring injury.

Reasons the hamstrings tear

Generally speaking the hamstrings are very stretchy especially in youngsters.  They don’t tend to tear from overstretching during running unless you’re a bit older.  The thing that struck me about Mirallas on Sunday is his hamstrings didn’t ‘pull’ whilst he was running full pelt so I doubt the injury reoccurred purely from just overstretching the hamstrings.  The other reason the hamstrings tend to tighten up is to protect the knee.  Every person with a knee injury I’ve ever assessed has always had increased tightness or spasm in the hamstrings behind the knee. Mirallas gripped the back of his thigh after a jinking run from the right wing area to the left side of the Spurs penalty area.  He was running but I suspect the hamstring tightness came on as a result of the twisting and turning occurring in the knee joint.  As the knee twists, the force of the body weight through the joint is transmitted through the 4 main ligaments, which resist this force to stop the knee collapsing.  The knee ligaments are packed with nerve endings that constantly fire messages to the brain and spinal cord telling our body what position the knee is in and to contract the muscles to change the position of the joint.  Sometimes the force through the ligaments causes them stretch to a point that a pain signal is triggered.  The body perceives pain as harm so the muscles around the knee, especially the hamstrings, tighten up around the joint to protect it from harm. For Mirallas, bearing down on goal, he carried on running and that’s when the hamstring tear may have occurred as he stretched against the body’s protective tightening of the muscle.

What can be done about it?

I talked in my last blog about how the hamstring tear can be treated but Mirallas will now have to embark on rehab training to prevent this injury becoming a persistent problem.  This involves specific strength work, not just to bulk up the muscle but also to gain better control through the muscles around the knee to improve balance and fine movements and better resist twisting movements.  This however takes time and is why Mirallas might not be free of this problem just yet.

Improving proprioception

Proprioception is a fancy word given to your balance reactions.  It’s a bit more than that though.  It’s your ability to know what position your joints are in and what force is required to perform a certain movement.  An example of this is to close your eyes, point your finger out to the side then place your finger on your nose.  Providing you’re not drunk and you managed to do it, how did you know what position your arm and hand were in order to touch your nose?  How did you know not to slam your hand into your face and break your own nose?  That’s the proprioceptive reaction.

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If you transfer this to running, your proprioception is the reaction that controls the fine movements of your leg.  The better your proprioception, the better control you have of your joints and therefore the less chance you have of injury.  Another example of this is to stand on one leg and keep your balance.  Now close your eyes and keep your balance.  How long did you manage?

Your proprioception can be trained to improve.  If you spend time standing on one leg with your eyes closed, you will find the more you practice the longer you can stand without falling over.

This is low-level stuff but is your basic starting point to improving your proprioception.  For Mirallas, rehab should be progressed to involve different types of balance exercises, practicing twisting movements and fine control of the knee joints through the range of movement.  On top of this, more traditional strength sessions in the gym to bulk up the hamstrings will no doubt take place.  For now, Mirallas should recover quickly from the current hamstrings pull and Moyes said he took him off as a precaution but expect Mirallas to be in and out of the side this season because of his hamstrings.

Expected return: 1-2 weeks.  West Ham away.

By Ross @UKPhysiotherapy

Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 2-1 Spurs

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‘Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in’ …..was the line which sprung to mind as a resolute Everton came from behind to take something from a game for the eighth time this season amidst 88 seconds of mayhem….
Teams and Tactics
Moyes made 2 changes from last week with Mirallas and Coleman coming in on the right side for Naismith and the injured Hibbert in a 4-2-3-1. Spurs went 4-4-2 with Dempsey pitched in on the left flank for Bale with Adebayor and Defoe as the strike duo in an attacking line-up.
Passing / Territory Data
Possession wise, Spurs shaded it with 50.8% to 49.2% but we had more territory with  52.9% final third possession to  Spurs 47.1% with 35 v 18 penalty box touches in the Blues favour. This was translated into more chances with us having 20 shots to spurs 12. Of the shots we had, 65% came from inside Spurs 18 yard zone compared to Spurs  33% in our box.
First halfThe first half was all about us attacking down the right flank and with Spurs counter attacks predominantly down the left this area of the pitch witnessed most of the crucial action. Recently sides have targeted Spurs defensively frail left side and with Dempsey not holding his position when Spurs were not in possession we were easily able to engineer 2v1’s down this flank with Coleman and Mirallas giving Vertonghen a good going over. The Belgian picked up a booking for his troubles and with Mirallas direct running and Coleman – who seems to save his best displays for Spurs – always showing for an overlap a red looked likely.
Spurs also played a high line with an unconvincing offside trap which meant the ‘out-ball’ into the wide gulleys from Gibson was always on. The Irishman was the best player on the pitch; making the most passes (52) and best accuracy but what was most crucial was his quick long passes from central to wide areas which kept pressure on spurs full backs. He completed 12/14 long balls with an overall pass completion of 96.3% in Spurs half – the highest of any player on the pitch – and 92.3% completion in the final third.
Second half
In the second half without the ‘out ball’ to Mirallas we went longer to Fellaini – a move which paid limited dividends. The Belgian endured a subdued afternoon; he was dispossessed the most (6) and made more unforced errors (5) of anyone on the pitch. Spurs are a capable outfit and played well in the second half especially on the counter and after Dempsey had given them the lead could have been out of sight with Sigurdsson’s shot hitting the bar. The North London outfit do concede lots of goals late on in games (10 goals to the tune of 14pts in the last 15mins of matches) and given our fitness and with the extra days rest you thought we would get a chance if we kept applying pressure especially given that Spurs had by now dropped quite deep and were basically defending their 18 yard line.The two goals came when Fellaini had moved into a deeper midfield role with Velios up top. Firstly, amidst chaos in the Spurs area, Caulker unnecessarily hacked a clearance his keeper Lloris had covered, enabling Naismith to play in Coleman who showed great composure to pick out a nice cross for Pienaar to head home. With Spurs rocking, Coleman took a quick throw to Gibson whose delivery was aerobically flicked on by sub Velios for Jelavic to instinctively dart between the static Gallas and Caulker to tap home.
Final wordThis was a crucial win given that a Spurs victory would have seen us 6 points off the pace in the ‘race’ for fourth spot. We dominated the first period and should have gone in at the break in front and you wondered if it was going to be another tale of L4 woe. After the break Spurs had decent moments towards the end and will feel unfortunate to lose the game in the way they did but I’d say we were worthy winners.
EB