Saturday sees us take on Martin Jol’s Fulham at Goodison in a fixture the Toffees routinely triumph. In the most recent match at Craven Cottage one of the key tactical points of interest was how we managed to link play through Fellaini with consummate ease whereas Fulham struggled to get their key man Dimitar Berbatov into the game in any capacity. This preview will take a look at the reasons why both situations occurred.
Top scorer Dimitar Berbatov is Fulham’s stand out performer having scored in six of their ten wins this season whilst also creating the most chances for team mates (43). He usually pivots between the no 9 and 10 roles with fellow flamboyant rogue Bryan Ruiz. His record against us isn’t great with just 3 goals from his 11 appearances.
Berbatov was completely anonymous in the 2-2 draw earlier this season and has generally struggled in games against us due to his and our style. We setup with a high line and look to play the game in the opposition half meaning that – due to the compression of space – forward short passing angles into him from colleagues are hard to engineer which makes sides ‘go long’ to relieve pressure.
Berbatov made just 4 final third passes in the game, created no chances for teammates and had just a solitary shot on goal all afternoon. His ‘passes received’ are shown below with Hangeland and Schwarzer his main line of service indicating a ‘back to front’ style not usually associated with the Cottagers.
Compare this to his involvement against QPR lately when tactics sceptic, dog rape enthusiast Dirty Arry set them up to drop off deep and allow Fulham the space to in front of them to play. Consequently, Berbatov was heavily involved linking midfield to attack, making treble the amount of final third passes and supplemented this with a couple of goals which won the game.
Berbatov is theoretically the ideal opponent for us in this respect as he isn’t going to ‘work the channels’ and provide an out ball to defences to relieve pressure, nor does he have the pace (or ability to be arsed) running in behind to exploit our the high line. Heitinga’s more suited skill set of intercepting play was preferred to Distin’s physical, recovery based game last time and it wouldn’t be a big shock if twitter troll nemesis ‘Big Sylv’ sat this one out.
Despite recent outings in a deeper role I’d be amazed if Fellaini wasn’t given a forward brief for this fixture having scored four in his last three games against this weekend’s opponents. With the towering presence of Hangeland at left of centre, Fellaini loiters on the opposite side and has routinely dominated whichever beleaguered opponent Jol has pitted against him. As the below passes received stats board shows, we managed to get Fellaini involved with almost double the amount of service that Fulham did to their Bulgarian frontman.
Last season Fellaini was used in the forward role home and away and caused real problems in this respect. In the Goodison game we played the ball predominantly short to him but such was the hapless Baird’s afternoon that he was subbed for Senderos at half time by which time we were 3-0 up already.
In the 2-2, Hughes was pitted against the Belgian but also struggled badly. Initially he looked to stand off Fellaini but as we started mixing up the service and going longer quicker, the Irishman tried to get tight and was rolled on numerous occasions including Fellain’s second goal which to be fair was superb. Hughes was completely befuddled and turned inas convincing defence as this, or this. Or even this. It’s likely that ex toffee Phillipe Senderos (yes, really) will be given the job of stopping him this time which could permeate tremendous scenes.
Martin Jol’s side have an unenviable record at Goodison, losing the last 19 on the spin and not winning home or away in the last seven against us.
Given that Fulham are not the most resilient – they’ve won fewer points from losing positions than any side in the top flight– one goal would probably do it so expect the Everton win / Fellaini score double to be a popular wager with Blues this weekend – this is best priced at 9/4 with 888Sport.
The last four meetings have all featured over 2.5 goals however five of Fulham’s last six on the road have been under 2.5. It’s also worth noting that Fulham have shut out Chelsea and Spurs on their own patch so definitelyhave a clean sheet ‘in their locker’. This combined with our own recent low scoring games plus an upturn in clean sheets for the Blues makes me think this will be under and probably 2-0 to the Toffees.