Teams & Strategy
The Toffees team was the same as that which drew with Arsenal in midweek with City’s line-up providing more interest tactically.
It says something of the threat we carry when the Champions change their team selection significantly at home specifically to deal with the threat we carry. Despite an impressive run of clean sheets, Mancini broke up the defensive centre of Kompany and Nastasic to recall his best aerial stopper, ex-toffee Joleon Lescott whilst key man Aguero was left out. When the Argentine was introduced it was top scorer Carlos Tevez who made way and not Dzeko. The Bosnian has a reputation as a ‘superb sub’ but is consistently selected against us from the start for his aerial ability in defending set plays.Post match Mancini said “You need your attackers to help you defend, especially when you play a team like Everton who are good at set pieces.” Yaya Toure, who is often moved further forward later on in games when City are chasing games as a more direct option, was also held back to a more withdrawn role which included marking duties on Fellaini from Tim Howard’s goal kicks.
At the back….
Our defensive approach was all about shape and making the pitch as small as possible. We didn’t really press our opponents; despite spending more time on the ball Man City made 50 pressing contacts (tackles, fouls and interceptions) compared to our 31. You would usually expect the opposite when a team has more of the ball like City.
Mancini’s post match rants about us are now customary but there is clear praise if you delve a bit deeper into his comments. Post match the Italian talked about ‘no team’ being able to defend better than the Blues in the league, leading him to propose that there is ‘maybe no solution’ to break us down. High praise from an Italian coach well versed in the concept of catenaccio.
Regulars will be familiar with our defensive approach against City and there was little new this time round. When out of possession our full backs tucked in, making the pitch as small as possible and forming a wall protecting the 18 yard box. The above visual shows this pretty well as City build a move from the back with Maicon the only out ball. City failed to create much from the 30+ crosses they swung in as we packed the box and won the bulk of the aerial duels.
A fusion of the quick speed it takes us to re-form this shape when possession is lost coupled with City’s often pedestrian build up produced a familiar end product; City controlled the ball in the middle ground with limited incision, creating pretty much the same as us in terms of clear cut chances. This was reflected by the fact that City’s most common passing combination was Gareth Barry/Yaya Toure, with the duo exchanging 28 passes in keeping with City’s often pedestrian paced build up.
City dominated the ball as they usually do against us, with 59% of possession but only 51% of the territory, a sign that most of their possession was in the middle third of the pitch as mentioned above. We had more of the ball than last season’s encounter at Eastlands, making 42 more passes with 29 additional forward passes to last season’s total. In the first period our attack was a match for City’s whereas in the second we dropped off and allowed City more of the ball.
Whilst it’s not cool to say anything bad about Yaya Toure, the Ivorian had a pretty gash game here. Tasked with keeping Fellaini in check by any means necessary, in the build up to our goal he whacked the Belgian three times with no foul given. Only when Barry took Fellaini out at waist height did the referee blow for a foul. It was a good example of how the Belgian attracts 2/3 players at a time which creates space for others. From the resulting free kick, City get the ball back before Toure loses possession enabling the ace Gibson to intercept and feed Baines to whip in a trademark delivery. As he does excellently, Fellaini pulls to the back post away from larger centre backs and onto the aerially weaker fullbacks – this time it was Zabaleta – with the Argentine having no idea where the Belgian was which allowed him to power home at the second time of asking.
David Silva – a player Moyes man marked last season in this fixture – was not gives a similar shadow this time but again was completely snuffed out, failing to make any dribbles or create any chances in the 90 minutes. Silva was also given a defensive brief to assist Maicon stopping our lateral maraudings down the left flank. When Fellaini almost converted a Pienaar centre with Silva nowhere to be seen, Mancini appeared to lose his rag completely on the touchline with the duo seen exchanging moody vibes as the players trudged off for the interval.
This was another interesting battle between Moyes and Mancini. Our approach was similar to recent seasons although we offered more going forward this time with a higher share of the ball. Our defensive shape was excellent in what was comfortably our best display of the season off the ball. A tough run of fixtures concludes next week when a win against Spurs could possibly see us rise as high as 3rd in the table – a situation most toffees would have taken at the start of this 3 game run against tasty opposition.