Saturday’s abysmal collapse to Norwich was a bitter pill to swallow in a game that virtually ended our hopes of finishing fourth. Not because of the points difference – six is not an insurmountable figure to claw back – its more the fact we continue to not learn from our mistakes and repeatedly flounder against limited operatives at the foot of the table.
The Toffee’s made just two changes from the Oldham draw with the ‘much maligned’ mono-paced Steven Naismith coming in for Victor Anichebe and Seamus Coleman replacing Phil Neville at right back. Norwich lined up with Becchio and Holt in the jforward berths, although ex Leeds schemer Robert Snodgrass was basically playing as a wide forward in the space vacated behind Baines. This was Norwich’s main attacking trick with Russell Martin >; Snodgrass their most frequent passing combination, occurring 16 times.
It had all started so well for the Toffees. Fellaini (circled) as he likes to do, comes across to the left flank to give us an extra man and draw in opposing defenders which creates space for Baines (arrow) to whizz up the flank and plant a sumptuous delivery on the head of Leon Osman for the game’s opening goal.
Generally the Blues were on top thereafter but threatened very little against a side who haven’t been able to buy a win of late.
Whilst we had more of the ball there was little end product, particularly in the second half when we created no chances from open play.
The in-effective Naismith churned out another tepid display with Kevin Mirallas left on the bench for the bulk of a game where a second goal would have surely knocked the stuffing out of the home side.
Possession / Territory Data
In a game the Toffee’s controlled for large spells, we had the bulk of possession (55.2%), had more territory (53.7%) and had more of the ball in the final third (132 v 76 completed passes).
Norwich made more of their time on the ball considerably with 50% of their 10 shots hitting the target compared to 20% of our 15 efforts on goal.
This game featured two of the most prominent crossing teams in the division and all 3 goals came from such situations.
Whilst we are statistically conceding fewer chances from headers and set plays per game this season based on last, rather damningly we have conceded the most headed goals in the top flight.
Norwich had 30 crosses to our 26, with a slightly better accuracy (16% v 15%). My usual gripe with Moyes is that we tend to invite crosses with our approach being to pack the box sufficiently enough to evade trouble when the ball lands in the danger areas. This tactic is stupid against sides who possess heavier aerial artillery than us like Norwich or Stoke for example and to be fair we did try and stop the crosses coming in, with 7 blocked crosses to Norwich’s 1, however our defending when the ball came in was utter crud.
In the first goal, Fellaini has to take the blame for failing to get tight on Kamara and block his run off as the sub is able to get a run on the Belgian (circled). Fellaini has form for doing this in the last twelve months, most notably in the semi final surrender last season.
On goal two, Coleman has tucked in which means Naismith goes into the right back spot and Gibson shuffles across to the Scot’s position to double up with him, which is fine. Osman however doesn’t shuffle into Gibson’s position meaning Martin (circled) has time to take a touch and spin in a delivery.
When the cross comes in Distin is the only player who attacks the ball, compared to Norwich’s three at the back post (Holt, Kamara and Bassong) with the motionless Baines guilty of ball watching. The defensive line for Goal Two is also ridiculously too deep, just as it was for Norwich’s equaliser at Goodison earlier this season.
This game was in many ways a microcosm of the themes which have held us back this season with our abundance of possession not translated into chances created, combined with us not being able to defend from set plays and conceding sloppy goals, predominantly late in games.
In comparison to our closest rivals we haven’t been able to beat sides such as Reading, Norwich (twice) QPR and Wigan and thus don’t really deserve to be in the ‘shake up’ for the Champions League spots. Moyes has to take the bulk of the flack here for some overly cautious substitutions when the game was there to be won, combined with our continued failure to address problems with defending balls into our box.