Scout Scribbles #3 Cardiff City

 

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General Observations

  • Well drilled side with good defensive shape, make the pitch small and stop you playing through the middle. Utilising the flanks and expanding the pitch will be crucial
  • Weak at creating chances particularly from open play with just 5.5 per game average so far. Just one shot on target v west ham
  • Highest % of long balls (20%) so far in the league and scored the most headers in the champ (23) last season so expect a direct style
  • Although defensive they don’t press much – fewest fouls and one of the lowest figures for tackles / interceptions so expect few cards
  • Deliveries from set plays predominantly whipped in swingers from Whittingham or Bellamy. Turner often the decoy at back post. In terms of defending dead balls will always bring 11 men back for corners.
  • Form wise they are fairly ruthless at home with 51 points accrued last season and just 1 defeat in last 13.
  • Injury wise, new signing Cornelius is ruled out with a knock from the midweek Capital One tie, however none of the 11 that featured vs Man City appeared in this game so all will be suitably rested for this fixture.

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Player Assessment

GK – David Marshall ex Celtic keeper is a good shot stopper and ok coming for crosses. Kicking is iffy and will predominately look for quick long punts to Campbell who received more passes from the keeper last week than any of the outfield players.

DR – Matthew Connelly ex QPR defender is a decent out ball on the right and will look to play infield to Kim. Good height for a full back and will look to tuck inside and rarely cross the half way line.

McShane's Weak Link

McShane’s Weak Link

 

DC – Ben Turner – Subservient ogre from below stairs who will look to keep things simple. Formerly of Coventry this left sided centre half provides good aerial coverage and is a danger in both boxes.

Poor distributor and susceptible to quick movement. Doesn’t like being taken out of his central zone. Ideal opponent for Kone.

 

DC – Stephen Caulker – Ex Spurs right footed centre half who has been capped at full international level for England. Suspect in the air and culpable during our comeback against Spurs last season at Goodison. A more aesthetically pleasing Carlton Fairweather.

 DL Andrew Taylor – Hartlepool born left back who boasts a tad more creativity than Connelly on the opposite flank and chipped in with  5 assists last season. Capped at u21 level by Stuart Pearce. Unlikely to be capped at full international level.

AMC – Kim Bo Kyung technically good with quick feet and rapid bursts from midfield who is more than capable of creating chances. Will support Campbell centrally and look to position himself to stop forward passes from our defence to midfield. Didn’t exactly set the Championship on fire or the J-League before that.

MC – Gary Medel –  Nicknamed the pit bull and infamous for his short fuse and suspect temperament with 29 yellow and 5 red in 3 years indicative of a human time bomb. Also destroys garden furniture. Less is talked of his positional play, good passing and excellent technique.

MC – Aron Gunnarsson – Nondescript ex Coventry midfielder who brings little to the table apart from hard graft and a wet shirt. At a push you could say he’s a good tackler but is easily by-passed by pace. Scored 8 goals last season and has already ‘opened his account’ this season.

MR- Craig Bellamy – Vile no necked sub human and boyhood Liverpool fan. Likes aggressiveness and tattoos. The kind of bloke who wears a Ramones T-shirt. His pace may be gone but the old dog can still bite. Has scored 4 in 15 games against the Toffees and nearly joined the club on more than one occasion in the Moyes era.

ML – Peter Whittling ham – Ex Villa wide player with an eye for goal and good delivery from set plays, teeing up two goals last week vs City. Cardiff’s most creative player will predominately be supplied from balls from Gunnarsson. 60 goals and assists in three seasons in the Championship indicates he has plenty to offer.

FC- Frazier Campbell  – Right footed Yorkshire born forward who plays on the shoulder and will test our high line, so Distin will need to be on guard. Was superb against Man City given he was predominately feeding on scraps.

Match Synopsis

 Based on last week’s game I’d expect it will be difficult to break Cardiff down in this game. Despite just 8 touches in the Man City penalty box last week the Welsh outfit scored from 3 of them and that will give them great confidence that the same containment game plan can roll over to this week’s fixture. When Man City had possession Cardiff had 10 men in their own box thus it’ll be hard to play through them.

West ham did better in the previous week as they used width more with most of the danger coming from crossing situations. We’ll need to proactively disrupt this rigid shape from width and counter attacks when defenders are up field and out of position. Long range shooting from the likes of Barkley and Deulofeu – if called from the bench – could also be crucial.

With no clean sheets in either game for Cardiff the chances will come for us , but we will need to pull them out of shape a lot better than we did against Stevenage in midweek, and be more ruthless when the opportunities arise.

 Verdict:  Cardiff 0-2 Everton 

 Dead Cert: Everton to win second half 9/5 Bet Victor

EB

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Chance Creation & Shooting Analysis – EFC v West Brom

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Line-ups and Key Data

Everton named an unchanged line-up from the side that drew 2-2 with Norwich last week, going for a midfield triangle with Barkley at the peak and wide forwards Pienaar and Mirallas supporting Jelavic. West Brom lined up with a counter attacking approach with Long and Rosenberg upfront and Morrison supporting from the right side with Mulumbu covering his defensive duties against Baines. On the other flank Dorrans – usually tasked with picking up Baines on the opposite channel – was given the role of keeping Coleman quiet.

The Blues had the bulk of play with 61% possession and 54% territory. Passes wise we made 478, completing 83% which is down on last week’s lofty totals but still higher than last season’s average figures. In the final third we made 186 passes to WBA’s 84.

West Brom Defensive Shape

West Brom gave us significant troubles home and away last year, beating us at their place and then narrowly losing at Goodison. In many ways they are the kind of well organised side we struggle against most where space is reduced as the opponent is so focused on the defensive phase of play. They get back into shape really well, adopting Moyes-style 11 men back for corners.

In the 190 minutes against them last season we scored just 1 goal from open play, that being a Baines wonder strike from outside the box.

It was no surprise then that we failed to score, but was there an improvement in our creativity and shooting?

Chances Created & Shots

Last season we created 12.6 chances per game over the season, the fourth most in the league. This season so far we are averaging 14.5 per game and yesterday created 15 chances, which is 7 more than the equivalent game against the Baggies last season under the old regime.

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On average it takes 9 shots for a team to score a goal. Last season it took us 11 shots to score a goal, with us averaging 16.7 shots per game. Liverpool (19.4) had the most shots per game last season but like us were quite wasteful. In the two games so far we have averaged 21 shots per game, which is well up on last season’s figure.

As per the below visual, we recorded 22 shots yesterday compared to the 16 in the equivalent fixture last season. Of the recorded shots, 5 were credible scoring chances in the central zone of the opposition danger area (22%)  whereas last season there was a tad more credible chances ( 25%) albeit from fewer openings. The bulk of the shots yesterday came from long range (7) with Barkley responsible for 3 of these shots and 5 in total with just 1 on target. The amount of shots from set plays was also up from 2 to 7.

We swung in a sizeable 28 crosses but engineered few chances from these. Given that we know that it takes 50+ crosses to score a goal, against opposition who outnumbered us 5 to 1 in their box yesterday it was always going to take a  delivery of exquisite accuracy to find a man.

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The closest we came was when Fellaini ventured further forward and was picked out by Jagielka from a deep delivery, only for the Belgian’s finish to strike the post.

Mirallas was largely ineffectual as was Jelavic who had another sorry afternoon with just 2 opportunities in the opposition box (1 blocked and 1 wide) . Kone showed when he came on that he has a few different tools in his locker to Jela, specifically being able to take the ball, turn and beat his man and I’d be tempted to give him a chance in the next few games.

Conclusion

The positive is we are working the ball into the opposition area more, with more chances (albeit not a plethora of clear cut chances) and bags of shots. We also controlled the game on the ball and restricted our opponent to just 6 chances from open play.

On the negative side, the % of big chances has reduced slightly with a higher % of shots from outside the box, something Wigan were known for under RM.

Martinez said afterwards that we deserved to win, and on the balance of play you could go along with that, but there wasn’t a correlation with passing control and real chances created and crucially we didn’t have a cutting edge when the few clear cut opportunities presented themselves. WBA worked hard off the ball and looked a threat on the break / set plays and overall a point was probably the fair result.

EB

Scout Scribbles #2 West Brom

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General Observations:

  • Defensive shape – a characteristic bestowed by Clarke’s owl headed predecessor Roy Hodgson – is arguably West Brom’s major strength and pulling them out of position will be the Blues biggest challenge. We looked a lot more dangerous with an interchangeable 3 of Osman, Mirallas & Pienaar at Goodison than we did with Fellaini up top alongside Jelavic at the Hawthorns.
  • Scored 14 set piece goals last season with 8 direct from corners. Predominantly whipped in swingers from each flank with McAuley usually the target
  • Predominantly went with a 4-2-3-1 last season with just one out and out forward. Last week played with Long and Anelka as wide forwards with Morrison and Dorrans in close support with Yacob and Mulumbu minding the back door.
  • Poor away form last season and will most probably turn up looking to keep things tight for as long as possible and then look to kick on in the last 20 minutes. A strength is their ability in counter attacks so will perhaps view us as ideal opposition given we are going to be expected to control the game in their half leaving room in behind for them to exploit.
  • Since the turn of the year their form has been patchy and they finished the season in torrid fashion – last week’s defeat made it 1 win in their last 10.
  • Unsurprisingly given their slow backline they conceded the 2nd most counter attack goals last season – our quicker players should look to exploit quick breaks. Also weak in creating chances – just 4 from open play last week v Soton at home – and without Lukaku’s ability to bulldoze through defences its hard to see them carving out many clear cut chances from open play.
  • Injury wise, there is no major absences with the exception of perennially injured Zoltan Gera. Brunt was benched last week and Vydra may come in but expect few changes – along with us WBA used the fewest players last season. Anelka is out of the squad on compassionate leave.

Likely Line-up (4-4-1-1)

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GKBen Foster Ex Man United stopper who is fairly decent at most things but exceptional in none. His long kicking and shot stopping would probably be his two most strong attributes. Poor concentration and flapping at crosses when challenged by a forward are amongst his weak points. A fluffier Richard Wright sprinkled with glitter.

RB –  Billy Jones Slack jawed right back who is strong in the tackle and less able in the opposition half of the pitch. Was in part guilty for switching off on the opening goal last season and will be a weak point Baines will look to exploit. Statistically the weakest passer in the Baggies backline.

McShane’s Weak Link

DC – Gareth McAuley Statistically the fourth best centre half in the air last season and a colossus from set plays. Scored the crucial goal in the 0-2 reverse last season at the Hawthorns. However, he can be rash in the tackle if he finds himself on the wrong side of his man and made more defensive errors than anyone in the Baggies backline last season. Plays on the right of centre so well worth Pienaar buying fouls around him. A weak link who can be exploited.

DC – Jonas Olsson Tagnut headed Swedish oaf who like his partner McAuley is physically robust and won’t be bullied off the ball. Good in the air and likes to ‘get in peoples faces’ or something to that effect. Plays on the left of centre and possesses negligible pace which should interest Mirallas.
LB – Liam Ridgewell Tattooed simpleton ex Birmingham fullback who can also play centre half. Decent in the air and a threat at set plays. Won’t commit too far forward and is susceptible to nimble feet running at him at pace.

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 MCClaudio Yacob Controlled the game at the Hawthorns last year and when fit is a very competent performer more than capable of dictating tempo. Also did a very good job off the ball in restricting space for Baines/Pienaar at the Hawthorns on the right of centre. Of all players to play 20+ times for West Brom last season , Claudio Yacob has the best win percentage (48%) with 11 wins from 23. Not fit to start in the Goodison game.
MC – Yousef Mulumbu Ex PSG midfielder who is comfortable on the ball and often is WBA’s ‘go-to’ midfield option, making the 12th most passes per game for a midfielder in the top flight last season. Off the ball he is decent with good anticipation – he made the most interceptions (114) in the top flight in 2010/11. Has a history of doing well against us, scoring home and away a few seasons back – 2 of the 7 he scored that season. Weak point is being caught in possession and is also prone to lunging in and getting unnecessary cards.

MR – Graham Dorrans Two footed Scottish midfielder who plays either left or right mid having been a defender as a youth. Did a decent job against us on the right of midfield in front of Reid last season but then failed to track Baines at Goodison for the opening goal in the return game. Will be given a defensive brief and will rarely cross the half way line on the right of midfield in this one.

AMC – James Morrison The creative hub of the team with 63 chances created for teammates last season – more than any WBA player. Morrison has two decent feet with a good turn of pace, incisive passing and is capable of shooting from long range. Will more than likely play in ‘the hole’ behind Long or Anelka.

LM – Chris Brunt Left sided Irish midfielder who has 2 goals and 2 assists in 9 games against us. Was the 8th most prolific crosser in the Premier League last season and will most probably come in on the left with Dorrans moving across to the right to mind Baines.

FC – Sean Long Rapid two footed Irish forward who will  look to fill the boots of departed 17 goal top scorer from last season Lukaku. Scored against us home and away last season. Not the most creative or a great goalscorer but a constant pain in the arse for defenders – will play mostly down the left and his speed will need to be kept in check by Jagielka.

Martinez v Clarke Head to Head: Martinez Wins:1 Clarke Wins;1 Draws:0
Bottom Line: With just 1 defeat at home since early last year, statistically we are the toughest nut to crack on our home turf and WBA have their work cut out to get anything here. We will look to dominate possession and play on the front foot from the off. Expect a fast tempo and hopefully an early goal in Martinez first competitive match in charge at Goodison.

WBA have the tools to do us damage – particularly on the break and at set plays -and will be happy to sit deep and hit us on the break. I fancy we will have too much for Clarke’s charges and will take the three points in a tight tussle.
Verdict 2-1 Everton Win
Dead Cert: +2.5 goals 5/6 BetVictor
EB

Roberto Martinez: A Psychological Profile

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It is an extremely difficult task to apply sport psychology to a premier league manager as they do not show weaknesses in the way players do and do not say anything without a reason, even if it wasn’t very well judged a la Benitez’s ‘fact not an opinion’ rant. This means it can be hard to read managers. Furthermore, they see themselves as a sport psychologist, and often rightly so, but who analyses the psychoanalyst? This blog is an attempt to examine Martinez’s mind-set and the effect his psychology will have on the club.   

If I was to sum up Roberto Martinez in three words I would say positive, likeable and meticulous, all character traits I’m pleased to have in our new manager. I was sad to lose Moyes but the Spaniard’s enthusiasm and charisma has provided a new freshness and motivation to everyone attached to the club, including the fans.

I asked Blues on Twitter to sum up Martinez in three words or short phrases and the responses were overwhelmingly positive (extremely fitting considering who the question was about!).  So, maybe even some of his initial detractors have been won over or maybe it’s just the usual pre-season optimism that grips fans of every club. Either way before a ball was kicked in anger he had gained friends and influenced people through sheer personality. 

The positive thinker

An important reason for the amount of good feeling directed to Martinez is his unswerving positive outlook. Positivity is a major aspect of mental success in sport. Rory McIlroy recently spoke about his attempts to start thinking positively again to get back on form. If being positive is the key to success then Martinez will have us winning the Champions League in a couple of years! Many have marvelled at the Catalan’s unwavering optimism when faced with disappointment but let’s face it he had to stay positive at Wigan. Poor crowds both home and away, a rugby trodden pitch and limited finances, often meant he was left fighting a losing battle. If he hadn’t stayed positive he would probably have regularly been found in the DW dressing room at gone 5pm on a Saturday evening huddled in the foetal position mumbling to himself!

Following the Pie-eaters’ win over West Brom during the closing stages of last season, Martinez said it was “the start to a very exciting final two weeks of the season.” Yes, a cup final is exciting but is a relegation battle really exciting? I don’t remember excitement being my over-riding feeling as I walked through Stanley Park on the way to watch us play Coventry to stay up (I was too young for the Wimbledon game!) However, Martinez knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted the players to believe it was exciting because they were going to stay up. He wanted them to remember the feeling they had in previous seasons when they had successfully negotiated relegation battles and believe they could do it again. That statement from Martinez showed no hint of even considering they would go down. Of course Wigan got relegated but also won the cup in those two weeks.

So, is our Bobby’s positivity to be admired or can it become infuriating? It may become irritating for the fans, who don’t want to hear a positive gloss when we’ve just been well-beaten but the players will appreciate avoiding a public dressing down after a poor performance. I’m sure Callum McManaman valued the public backing he received from Martinez following his horror tackle on Haidara last season. Even if the rest of the country thought his support was misplaced, Martinez wasn’t interested as he only cared about his player.  However, it could be argued that players sometimes need a public kick up the backside. Following our lack-lustre 2-0 defeat at Bolton in February 2011 Moyes suggested the “performance was as bad as I can remember since I’ve been in charge”. He went on to take some responsibility himself as he thought he had “gone a bit soft” on the players, despite this it was still intended to be a public scolding for the players, who had let their standards slip. The rights and wrongs can be debated but the following week we beat Chelsea on penalties in the cup after a never say die performance and continued on a good run till the end of the season.

Footballers are all individuals with different motivations some thrive on being challenged by managers while others appreciate constant reassurance from their manager. Consequently, having a go at a whole team or constantly encouraging a whole team is logically unlikely to always work. However, younger managers, including Martinez, have certainly taken the positive approach. This is an approach I certainly believe is the right way to go but positivity needs to be believable. If the players become fed up of hearing how wonderful everything is in difficult times they will stop believing in the manager and what he is telling them. There needs to be a line drawn between optimism and delusion, that will stop Roberto rivaling Brendan ‘David Brent’ Rodgers on the BS-ometer!

Where do you get those bin-man jackets from Kenneth?

Where do you get those bin-man jackets from Kenneth?

The Likeable Gent

An issue a manager often faces at a new club, if he has joined from a lesser team, is not just getting the fans onside but also the dressing room to believe in his methods. While I’m sure our players respect the new man’s cup success and other achievements in his managerial career, they may need some convincing as to whether he has the expertise to successfully manage them. Anichebe, Naismith and Stones have all previously been pursued by Martinez so they were probably thrilled with the new appointment. However, the whole squad, on the first day of pre-season was made-up of Moyes signings or academy players Moyes had brought through. 

It would not be unrealistic to suggest that they would have had some loyalty to Moyes and so, needed impressing. However, considering no one in football seems to have a bad word to say about Martinez it was probably inevitable that his enthusiasm and innate magnetism would seduce the players into believing in him. The players all seem to have given the Spaniard a big thumbs up, although of course they wouldn’t say if they didn’t like him, but it does appear genuine. Further proof of Roberto’s magnetic tendencies is the signing of Gerard Deulofeu. Gerry had his pick of clubs but it was Martinez that won the day for Everton. A north west press association reporter tweeted;

 ‘Said it before but 10 minutes in a room with Roberto Martinez & it’s difficult not to come out a devotee. Add Gerard Deulofeu to that list’.

It certainly sounds like Martinez possesses a fatal allure or alternatively, he is the living embodiment of X-men’s Professor Charles Xavier! Mind control powers aside Martinez seems to have a knack for getting players to like him which means they will play for him no matter what. Gary Leboff, a sport psychologist who worked with Martinez at Wigan, wrote;

 “While there are many reasons for Wigan’s resilience, none is more important than this. Wigan’s players WANT TO PLAY for Martinez; they relish his positive attitude and confidence in their ability.”

Every player would love these qualities in a manager and when times are tough playing for your manager might be just the motivation they need. Now he is at Everton, Martinez can now create a ‘triple threat’ for the first time. He had to get the players at Wigan to play for him because there wasn’t a multitude of fans to play for. He now has players that are motivated to play for the fans, each other and the manager. 

A Meticulous Planner

It became obvious to Evertonians very quickly this summer that Martinez had an incredible work ethic. It is believed he could be found in Finch Farm every day after he had been appointed. His meticulous hardworking nature will have impressed everyone at the club and he will have gained a lot of respect for his approach to his new job. However, the Spaniard does not appear to know a different way to work. His own home boasts a 60-inch pen touch screen and he insists he ‘knows players inside out’. This is probably true considering Steven Naismith’s admission that Martinez had spotted that it takes him a while to settle at a new club. This is not only meticulous but extremely perceptive of Martinez and this sort of knowledge bodes well for the quick integration of new players to the club.

Furthermore, Martinez analyses every aspect of a player before he signs him. When he goes to watch a player he observes their warm up and how they conduct themselves from start to finish. He wants players who will fit into his team both on and off the pitch and have the right temperament. He is part of a new wave of thinking that considers players as individuals and not just parts of a team. Furthermore, he looks upon them as human beings and not simply football players;

“You have to try to understand both the player and the human being. In football you need to appreciate that from Monday to Friday you are dealing with human beings and then you are dealing with footballers on a match day. Understanding the human being during the week allows you to understand the player”

Once again, this will help to create a bond between the manager and the players, which will be important at difficult times in the season. Moreover, it will benefit Martinez as he understands the players inside out so can apply his meticulous deliberations to every team selection with the up most amount of knowledge possible.       

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The Over Achiever

There are similarities between Roberto’s last two jobs; Wigan coveted Premier league football despite a smaller budget than some of their counterparts while we expect a minimum top 6/7 finish with a cup run on a significantly smaller budget than our main rivals. Consequently, both Moyes and Martinez have regularly been told they have over-achieved at their respective clubs and get the most out of their squads.

If this is true, then it is an important characteristic that we need in our new man at the helm but a manager cannot lead by just pure personality. The whole club needs to adopt the philosophy of the manager.

Dealing with division

Consequently, Martinez wasted little time appointing a number of his Wigan staff into vacated or newly created roles within the backroom team. It makes sense for the Spaniard to bring in people he knows and trusts as he faces a new challenge but I’m afraid former Wigan Athletic staff do not come with a great deal of kudos attached to them. It is unfair and I’m sure they are all exceptional at their jobs but it may take time for the players to accept them. Furthermore, three out of four summer signings so far, have played under Martinez for Wigan. Indicating Martinez is going with who he knows and trusts in all areas of the club. The large number of Wigan newbies may have created a David Brent style ‘Swindon lot’ situation, creating a divided dressing room and backroom staff. All parties will feel threatened when a new manager arrives as no one’s position in the team or staff is safe. This creates uncertainty which is inevitably followed by anxiety.

So, bringing in a number of people that could instantly be seen as ‘favourites’ is a risky but probably unavoidable move. However, Martinez will have moved quickly to negate any problems and avoided a welcome party complete with anaemic buffet, plastic cups and dodgy jokes! Instead, Martinez will have led in his usual charismatic style to bring all parties together and give the ‘Wigan lot’ the chance to prove their expertise while helping them to settle at the club. The players will have also played their part as they always appear to do.

New signings at Everton often remark on the welcome they received from their teammates which helps get them embedded in the squad quickly. The key to the ‘Wigan lots’ successful transition is their recognition of just how special Everton is. Every club likes to think its special but we’re the only ones who are right! Evertonians within the club, like Dunc, Sheeds, Stubbsy, Ossie and Hibbo will want to see that they have grasped the nature of football on Merseyside and just how special we know our club is.         

 The Impress Formula

 Martinez does bring a different style of play to the club which inherently comes with its own psychological challenges for the players. The Catalan focuses on retaining possession and dictating the pace of play. Although, I do not believe this will be as much of a culture shock to the players as some would have us believe (watch the season review dvd to remind you of the passing involved in goals vs Villa (a), Swansea (a), West Ham (h) and Fulham (h) to name a few) time still needs to be allowed for the players to adjust to the transition. The main alteration is how we play from the back.

 As the number of short passes out from the goalkeeper to a holding midfield player or one of the centre backs has increased. This allows the opposition to press high up the pitch and could result in a few nerve jangling moments as the players get used to it. Swansea’s Leon Brittain said he was initially scared at the prospect of dropping deep to pick the ball up off his goalkeeper when Martinez first became manager. Anxiety in these situations is never helpful and players who are better on the ball will adapt quicker. Just be glad Titus Bramble isn’t another one of Martinez’s former Wigan arrivals!

 However, anxiety in all areas of the pitch for all players should be diminished by Martinez’s use of the ‘impress formula’. By highlighting positive aspects of the team’s performance and never focusing on individuals, even after a defeat, Martinez knits the squad closer together. This brings a sense of togetherness and reduces fear as the players know individual mistakes will not be highlighted and they lose as a team. This may have taken some pressure off Ross Barkley, a player with raw talent who seems to have let his mind hold him back at the beginning of his career. Martinez’s approach may well help Barkley play with freedom, not in terms of his position on the pitch but rather, in terms of his psychology. Furthermore, Martinez uses ‘attention direction’ to focus players’ minds. This means that players do not think about the size of the task ahead but instead focus on what they do when they play well and how they can replicate it.

In pre-match press conferences Roberto rarely considers the result expected or needed but rather the smaller goals and targets that need to be achieved in order to get a good performance. With smaller achievable goals suddenly any task seems possible. This approach helped Wigan to regain a large amount of points from losing positions in the last three seasons, something we already have a penchant for, along with scoring vital late goals. So, as Martinez has stated, ‘It’s not a drastic change, I can’t afford to lose the things already in place at the club. I need to build on this incredible platform.’

 Consequently, Martinez is entering his first role where his aim is to purely (but not easily) add the cherry on top. His previous jobs involved building from scratch at Swansea and implementing an entirely new approach at Wigan compared to his predecessors. In truth, the Spaniard could be considered a trailblazer. Martinez’s short passing attacking style was rarely, if ever, seen in League One before his arrival. The success he had has encouraged lower league teams to follow in a similar style. Doncaster, Brentford and Bournemouth, to name a few, have all gained plaudits for their approach to the game. Considering, Swansea was Martinez’s first job in management he was incredibly brave. He stuck to his own philosophy and showed a very single-minded nature. This suggests there is steel behind his natural, unwhitened smile!

However, as Arsenal and even Barcelona have found sometimes you need to have a plan B. Martinez could be considered inflexible and stubborn to changes that may on occasion be necessary. Nevertheless, psychologist Gary Leboff views Martinez beliefs in an entirely positive light. ‘Under no circumstances will he countenance ‘parking the bus’ for the sake of a point. It is an approach that creates absolute clarity in the dressing room and gives everyone pride in the team that they play for.’ Whether, you want a plan B or not you have to admire Martinez’s belief in his philosophy and in his players’ ability to implement it.                 

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Managing Expectation

I certainly believe the Spaniard’s ability to get Wigan’s team relaxed and performing in big games could signal potential success in cup competitions and the end of our voodoo at certain away grounds. I feel in certain cup matches in the last two years that will not be named, our players froze. Whether it was the pressure, the occasion, the expectation I’m not sure but the size of the task and the size of the reward certainly affected their performance (not, as some unfairly and wrongly suggested, that the players didn’t care). A new psychological approach from Roberto may contribute towards a different type of performance in future big games, it doesn’t guarantee victory but may at least guarantee a performance. However, his approach may not provide the consistency required for a top 4 push.

Last season Wigan won at White Hart Lane but lost at home to West Brom a week later and similarly won 3-0 at Reading to go and follow that with a 4-0 home defeat to that lot from across the park. In truth, it would have been difficult for any manager to achieve consistency at Wigan, in part due to low attendances. Players must find motivation hard to come by when they see thousands of empty seats every week. Martinez does have experience of producing consistent results as he led Swansea to a League One championship title including a run of 18 matches without defeat. Swansea averaged a 14,000 attendance that season in a stadium holding 20,000. A good turnout for a team in League One. Consequently, Martinez has spoken about the fans a great deal this summer and mentioned ‘the Goodison effect’. He is trying to take of advantage of what he didn’t have at Wigan but experienced, to an extent at Swansea, and use the crowd as a ‘weapon’ to motivate players and thus, produce a greater chance of consistency both home and away.

In Conclusion….

Beneath the smile and the snazzy shirts there is a grit and determination to Martinez that may not be as obvious to an onlooker as when we look upon a gruff Scotsman or an arrogant Portuguese. Nevertheless it is there, so maybe words like focused, brave and even stubborn could be more appropriate to sum up our new manager. Yet, he retains his likeability and charm when other managers simply appear unpleasant and spiteful (I’m thinking of a Spaniard with a goatee, currently plying his trade in Italy). Wigan adopted the monkees hit ‘I’m a believer’ and I can certainly say I’m also a believer in our new man, although I suppose Martinez could have done his Professor X trick on me!      

By Natalie Bargery

@nataliebargery

 

Ross Barkley: A Different Type of ‘Number Ten’

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Team Line-up/ Shape

Everton started with a midfield triangle with Fellaini (left) and Osman (right) at the base with Ross Barkley – the game’s stand out performer – at the point. More on him in a bit.  Personell wise, everything else was pretty much  ‘as you were’ last season although Mirallas was occupying a more advanced role a tad more central, often pretty much as a striker. If you take a look at the below average position graphic between the March game (left) and Saturday’s game (right) against the same opposition you can see some of these subtle changes.

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Key Game Data Comparison

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Key Conclusions from the table;

  • Roughly 10% more passes attempted
  • More chances created and shots registered
  • Reduced possession for opponent leading to fewer chances conceded
  • Slightly quicker tempo with fewer touches per pass
  • Pressure wise, fairly unchanged in terms of how often we regain possession and where we do it
  • Much better at winning the second balls
  • Possession (65%) and Pass Completion (88%) figures were higher than any figure achieved in any game last season (best last season; 61% share & 87% completion)

Passing Grid

Names on top are the passer, names down the side are receiver e.g Osman passed to Coleman 12 times, Coleman passed to Osman 8 times. The bigger the type the higher the frequency.

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In terms of the actual passing combinations, the grid shows us that there were hardly any long passes from Howard or Jagielka into the forward players, hinting at a shorter game. The most frequent passing combination was Fellaini to Baines (21) with the duo combining 40 times in total. This is in keeping with the usual dynamic of us servicing the wing backs from central midfield.

Barkley : A Different ‘Number ten’

One of the most refreshing things about the game was the eye catching display of Ross Barkley. A glance at the comparison table further up the post shows there wasn’t much change in the general approach to that of the previous regime. The one big difference is the role of the advanced midfielder Barkley.

Last season, Fellaini was predominantly used in this position and with his physical prowess particularly in chesting the ball, he was a useful asset in getting on the end of longer passes and then linking play with the wide forwards. Barkley is a different customer altogether.

RB’s ability to bulldoze through defences or shooting from long range, and threading passes to forwards are attributes Fellaini doesn’t have in his locker and these qualities could be invaluable this season. Being played further up field also mitigates the risk of him being dispossessed in dangerous areas when he is playing as expressively as he was at the weekend. Not that it happened often, however.

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The above visual shows the clear difference in the balls the duo received in the two games, with shorter passes played centrally into Barkley compared to more frequent, predominantly longer passes pitched up to Fellaini predominantly in wider areas of the pitch. Whereas Fellaini was often the target of longer punts rom defenders, Barkley receives predominantly from short passes from Fellaini and Osman in the midfield triangle.

Fellaini also seemed fairly comfortable in the deeper role on Saturday, taking the most touches (106) of any player on the pitch and making the second most passes (88) of any player in the top flight this weekend.  His role further back also helped us win more second balls, with this figure shooting up from last season’s game of 53% to 100% at the weekend.

 

Barkley’s distribution was particularly eye catching; of any player who made 50+ passes at the weekend, the Wavertree schemer had the best accuracy (96.2%) and was equally ace in the final third where he tallied 95% accuracy from his 24 passes in this zone.

More importantly, whereas Fellaini was very much a back to goal ‘number ten’ Barkley prefers facing the opposition goal. This is particularly good news for Jelavic as Barkley found him with a pass double the amount of times as Fellaini did in the equivalent match last season.

Everton's Seamus Coleman celebrates his goal against Norwich City in the Premier League

Goals…..

Facing the opposition goal was evident in Barkley’s long range equaliser, cancelling out Norwich’s opener from Steven Whittaker’s twice hit effort after the Scot somehow evaded Baines, Pienaar and Fellaini. With Norwich’s rearguard – marshalled by the comically bad Michael Turner – creaking more and more a lovely passing move led to Seamus Coleman putting the Blues in front shortly after. The Irishman ‘s computer can sometimes short circuit and not convey the message from brain to boot, but as players go his improvement in the last 12 months has been immense. No defender in the top flight has created more goals since the turn of the year and after teeing up Barkley’s opener the Irishman was again in the thick of the opposition box to slam home after Ruddy parried Jelavic’s shot after a sumptuous through pass from Pienaar.

In Conclusion

This was a really exciting game that we should have won on the balance of play. In many ways there wasn’t a great deal of change for the Blues in approach barring some minor tweaks and it was similar to a lot of our games last season in that we had bags of possession, created lots of chances,  and conceded goals against the run of play.  Early days then, but the signs are very positive heading into next week’s game against West Brom.

EB

Scout Scribbles #1 Norwich City

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General Observations

• Whilst Hoolahan provides moments of impish brilliance from open play, his fellow creator Robert Snodgrass has a bit more end product particularly from corners and set plays. As the video of the goals conceded at Carrow Road (below) last season testifies, the left footed schemer is adept at picking out his man, usually looking to whip in deep deliveries to the back post. He also scored the most goals from direct free kicks in the Premier League last season.

• Last season the Canaries took four points of us and with our change in management – combined with their whopping summer outlay on players who didn’t seem to interest many other clubs – they will fancy their chances here . Claimed 70% of their points at home and particularly good against better sides who will come at them – they picked up more points over the top sides than the crud sides at home including wins over Man Utd & Arsenal without conceding.

• Offensively weak last season with a powder puff strike force which has rightly been restructured in the close season. Whilst very strong in terms of defensive shape they are prone to being webbed against sides with good movement in between the lines. The RS and the racist for example put 10 goals past them in their two games last season. Martin and Turner in particular are suspect to decent movement and pace.

• Their key strength last season was defensive shape, two banks of four with limited pressure on the ball so as to not compromise this shape. On the ball they don’t get massive amounts of bodies forward and have been reliant on set plays for goals.

• Last season Hughton lined up with Becchio and Holt up front against us in a 4-4-2 at home, and 4-4-1-1 away. Norwich had more joy when Kamara replaced Becchio and the aerial bombardment ensued. Both Kamara and Holt have since left the club so the aerial threat that hurt us has gone. Usually the default system will be 4-4-1-1- with Hoolahan ‘in the hole’.

• In terms of injuries, key man Bassong could start despite little pre season game time due to injury problems. If unfit, Bennett should come in or Martin will move across and Whittaker will come in. Usual left winger Pilkington is also out and will be replaced by either Redmond or the more defensive Olsson.

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Likely Lineup Appraisal (4-4-1-1)

John Ruddy– Decent shot stopper who was given little opportunity under Moyes but who has carved out a decent career since leaving L4. Very good at coming for crosses and has a decent hoof on him. Will look to kick long to the forwards, often inaccurate but with the focus being to pick up the second balls.

Russell Martin – Operated high up the pitch last time and was instrumental in the winning goal. His 27 passing combinations with Snodgrass was comfortably the most from any duo in the home side. Can be got at quite easily and our away goal last season came from a cross down his flank after good interplay between Fellaini and Baines. Could also play at centre back if required.

Javier Garrido – Ex Man City left back who rarely crossed the half way line last time despite usually being the Canaries most creative defender. Predominantly looked to play the ball infield to the CM”s to switch play to Snodgrass in behind Baines. A weak link in the air.

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Paul McShane’s Weak Link:  Michael Turner

Granite faced simpleton who has lost many a brain cell from repeated heading of the ball and will be a danger in our box if we let him. Is very slow in turning, so get Mirallas into one v one situations and he will crumble. Was particularly culpable and repeatedly exposed by the racist in the serial RS tonkings last season and also made the most defensive errors in the Canaries backline last season.

Sebastien Bassong – Norwich’s chief aerial threat and a key player. Former toffee target and like Turner is a danger in our box and scored the equaliser at  last season, and should have already had one in the first half from a corner. Won a higher percentage of his personal duels than any Norwich defender last season. Played hardly any pre season and is ‘touch and go’ for this fixture.

Bradley Johnson – Midfield wind up merchant who successfully rattled Fellaini’s brittle cage last time out. Will be the main receiver in the Norwich midfield but has limited ability on the ball and will instead keep things simple and distribute square passes to the flanks. Hallmarks of the old school hatchet man and is rash in the tackle when players run at him with speed. Credit must be given to him for his Joey Barton slur.

Alex Tettey – More brains than Bradley Johnson – which doesn’t say much – and a significantly better range of passing. Will play on the right of centre and look to feed Snodgrass. Also decent engine and can intercept play well although in general he is emphatically average. A likely starter in the absence of suspended Leroy ‘knee problem’ Fer. Another ex Leeds man Jonny Howson is a much better option and did finish the season alongside Johnson, however Tettey started the last warm up game against PAOK so could get the nod ahead of him.

Martin Olsson – Swedish left back signed from Blackburn who can also ‘do a job’ in midfield. If chasing the game expect Redmond to come on in his place and the ex Brum winger is an altogether different shaped potato. Equally speedy but with a raft of silky skills and a powerful shot from long range on either foot but particularly his right. Less adept positionally and can be caught out more than Olsson.

Wes Hoolahan – Last time lined up on the left of midfield but can also play through the middle as a number ten. Has trickery, incisive passing and good spatial awareness but similar to Osman doesn’t have the pace to evade players and also has a fairly sorry goals return for someone who plays so advanced. Should play ‘in the hole’ for this one.

New Picture (25) Gheorghe Hagi’s Key Man:  Robert Snodgrass

Will look to play high up the pitch in behind Baines, often as Norwich’s furthest forward player. Great delivery from open play and set plays. Will look to beat his man and adept at winning free kicks. Much weaker on his right foot where he will play a more conservative pass inside and doesn’t provide much protection to his full back. The key danger.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel – Right footed, fox in the box type player who is very good at one touch finishes, and will look to get in front of his defender and slot first time from crossing situations. Also takes a good penalty, but is no threat outside the box. Very similar in style to fellow summer recruit Gary Hooper.

Dugout Head to Head – Martinez v Hughton Past Meetings; Martinez wins: 1 Hughton wins :1 Draws: 1

Bottom Line: Hughton and Martinez have two very different approaches and it will be interesting to see what Martinez has in store tactically to combat Hughton’s expected 4-4-1-1. What we know so far is that a 4-2-3-1 would be the most likely option and it wouldn’t be surprising if Norwich let us control the game in our own half. Norwich will look to get the ball into the box quickly and in Van Wolfswinkel have the artillery to make us pay. I can see both teams scoring and honours even in the first game of this new era for Everton.

Verdict: 1-1.

Dead cert: Both teams to score 4/5 Bet365

EB

Martinez: Evolution or Revolution?

rb25

Salutations and welcome to the EB season preview!

A fair bit has happened during the close season months at L4. We’ve had the departure of the long standing oligarch Moyes, and the arrival of a new visionary leader in Martinez. The consequential ‘night of the long knives’ style carnage which ensued witnessed the Finch Farm back room team being deconstructed and reconstructed, with big changes also afoot on the playing staff as old warhorses were shown the door and new, younger blood brought in . This preview will aim to sift through the shrapnel and remnants of dead bodies to piece together how things now sit as we head into the opening competitive fixture of the new regime at Norwich next weekend….

Is the squad stronger or weaker than last season?

Numbers wise, the squad as of now has 1 more body to that which finished the previous campaign. High earning trio Mucha, Hitzlspberger and Neville have all moved on, with Robles, Deulofeu, Alcaraz and Kone coming in. John Stones would also probably be classed as a new player given he didn’t appear after joining mid way through last season meaning a significantly lower average age of the players coming in, which was crucial given that we had one of the oldest squads in the division.

Looking at the players recruited, Robles has obviously played in the division before at Wigan and will provide more credible competition than any of the previous kamikaze back up keepers we’ve had, although his gaff at Blackburn – combined with Howard’s good form in the ICC Tournament – means that realistically he will play second fiddle for the most part. Alcaraz is a wily old campaigner and as long as we can wheel him onto the pitch enough times he can bring experience to an already solid defence. Surprisingly, Stones looks ready to compete for a first team slot already following a superb show against Juve, although his part in the Blackburn goal is a reminder that he is still a tad wet behind the ears at this level.

Up front, Kone gives us a different option given that he is better on the ball than off it whilst the  player who could be our ace in the pack is Barca ‘wonderkid’ Gerard Deulofeu who has arrived on a 12 month loan deal. Given the fact he is completed untried at this level there can be no expectation placed at the kids feet, but this could also be a strength in that opposition managers have absolutely no idea also what to expect and he seems to have the full repertoire of skills in his armour. Being completely honest here, I don’t see him starting many games before Christmas and it will be his ability to impact games from the bench in the meantime that will be the crucial factor in him getting more starts in 2014.

All this could change of course if either of Baines or ‘Man United target’ empty-head Marouanne Fellaini moves on. David ‘I don’t talk about other clubs players’ Moyes appears keen to take both, however having been caught with their pants down by United once this summer already it seems the board is keen to resist his Mark Hughes style approach to poach the duo on the cheap as close to the end of the window as possible to ensure we can’t sign a replacement.

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Will three at the back be our  default formation this season?

Personally I think anyone trying to second guess our formation for any game this season will be wasting their time. Against Madrid for example, the default 4-5-1 with Fellaini further forward and the customary high line to condense play in the opposition half and rely on Distin’s pace was very old Moyes. In other games like Blackburn though at times it looked at times 4-3-3 whilst the Juventus game – a match in which we played the best game of the pre season – there was a hell of a lot of change in systems with new face John Stones key to the dynamic.

“Certainly at half-time but even within the halves we’ve played different tactics and different roles. I think we can surprise people this season”  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Leon Osman

Signed by Moyes but previously coveted by Martinez, Stones lined up against the Old Lady on the right side of a back three, but as he is decent at right back the system meant that when we had the ball it was fairly easy for the 3 at the back to morph into a four with Stones right back, Coleman playing right up as a midfielder with Mirallas in a more advanced centre forward role. In this game you could argue we played at times 3-4-3 but also 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3. In short, the players are being asked to be more flexible during games and they appear to be responding to the approach.

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Will the style change?

Martinez has spoken in pre season of creating a ‘unique’ Everton style which alludes to what most people would expect that change will come, but how much change? Despite evolving the style at times, Moyes was a reactive pragmatist at heart whilst Martinez is every inch the idealistic progressive. Will it be a gradual evolution or a full scale revolution? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle with evolution, not revolution the likely approach;

There’s a lot of talk about finding different styles and being attractive to watch. Clearly I’m excited about bringing a mixture of what Everton represents and what Everton stands for, together with my beliefs in the game and taking all the good things that Everton have done over the last few seasons. That’s a unique combination. We need to be a team that is capable of being flexible from a tactical point of view, We need to be in a position where we can keep the ball well and where we can break things down. That’s what I’m really looking forward to — coming up with a unique Everton style. We all need to drive together to be a team that can carry on being competitive in every game we go into, slowly growing into something special. I think when you look at the experience of this group of players, that’s always a helping factor. I’ve got no doubts over the success that this dressing room has had over the last few seasons and I know they can take football principles in very quickly.”

At Swansea, Martinez looked to gradually improve their passes made per game and consequently their share of the ball, moving from 200 passes in his first games to almost 3 times that figure as the team developed. At Wigan, pass completion and share of the ball went up each season, from 75.5% completion to 82.5% and share wise from 50.1% to 54.4%  over his 3 seasons at the helm. The amount of fouls committed (a table we usually lead) was also reduced season by season, reducing from 496 to 452 over 3 seasons, all leading to a more progressive, fluid approach.

There have certainly been fewer back to front agricultural long passes from Howard and Jagielka in pre season. Instead, one of the midfielders that is more comfortable on the ball (Gibson or Heitinga predominantly) has been coming short to take the ball off Howard thus splitting the centre backs and allowing the wing backs to push on. A quicker passing tempo and anticipation of the second and third pass before the first are clearly aspects which have been ‘work in progress’ this summer and whilst there has been the occasional calamity using a more fluid passing game from the back – like the Vienna goal – on the whole even players less comfortable on the ball like Distin have looked comfortable.

“I was kind of doing two roles at once. It was a case of working hard all the time and even when we didn’t have the ball I’d be trying to close down and press defenders when they had it to get it back. Sometimes it was hard to get up and down all the time. Maybe you’d worked very hard without the ball then you suddenly get it and people had a lot of confidence in me to make a difference in the attacking third and do something decisive, and it can be tough. I like to get the ball to my feet, dribble and take people on – but if that’s suddenly come off the back of chasing around and defending for 10 minutes it can be difficult. You’re maybe not in the perfect condition to make that difference.”

–  Kevin Mirallas on his positional play and fitness issues last season

From what I have seen so far there is a gradual evolution in style with more expression and a bit less of an emphasis on defensive shape when possession is lost. Mirallas is arguably the most likely to be the biggest beneficiary of this change in approach with less emphasis on defensive duties enabling more of an onus on expressive, expansive football. If he can stay fit he could be the key man in a more dynamic speedy team with other useful counter attacking options such as Kone and Deulofeu now in the ranks. Whether we will be as functional in terms of picking up points as we were under the previous regime is another issue however.

Beautiful and Stylish but with no end product - Will Martinez make Everton Les Revenants of the Premier League?

Beautiful and Stylish and no end product – Will Martinez make Everton Les Revenants of the Premier League?

 

Who has shone so far and what is the likely line-up?

For all the comings and goings I don’t expect too much change in terms of personnel for the first game. I’d expect Howard to start in goal and the usual back four of Coleman, Jagielka, Distin and Baines to remain relatively unchanged. Heitinga appears to be seen more so by Martinez as a reserve midfield option with Alcaraz – who can play left or right of centre – the most likely to compete with the established order, followed by Stones in the pecking order at the back. Duffy’s inability to distribute will most likely culminate in him moving on before the window closes.

In midfield, I would envisage a triangle with Fellaini (if he’s still here) most probably sitting deeper with Gibson alongside him. Osman – who probably likes to take too many touches in the deeper role for Martinez liking – would probably be the most likely get the nod at the attacking point of the triangle although Barkley will press him, particularly given his close season protein intake which looks to have given him the physical prowess to better protect his silky skills. Resident boo boy Naismith has also had a good close season, particularly against Real Madrid, and this trio will scrap it out for a starting berth as the advanced midfielder.

In the forward roles, Mirallas will come in on the right with Pienaar on the left although the duo will play predominantly through the middle when we have the ball and then wider when possession is lost. Mirallas will look to play right up top as a striker with Piennar coming deeper in behind, often resembling a 4-3-1-2. Alongside Mirallas, despite Jelavic proving he can still get it up in pre season as been ace,  however Kone will probably get the nod as the lone striker with Anichebe likely to be third choice.

What are the key challenges faced?

There is always a period of transition of some sort under any new manager situation irrespective of the results. If you look at last season, of clubs under new managers in the higher echelons of the table, Spurs and Liverpool both accrued more points than the previous campaign despite both overhauling the style bestowed by the previous manager. Both clubs took time to embed methods and at one stage each side occupied positions in the  lower half of the table in the opening stages of the season before both finishing stronger in the second half of the campaign. In Liverpool’s case the evolution was more tricky with B-Rods boys heading the table at xmas for ‘most goals conceded from individual errors’ –  a consequence of asking players such as Skrtel in particular to suddenly start playing out from the back like Franco Baresi.

Top 10 Challenges to overcome:

I’m running the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious here, but I’d guess the following will be high on Martinez objectives this season;

1. Identifying root cause of poor away form particularly in the second half of the season – we’ve won away just once in each of last two season’s post xmas

2. Breaking the reliance on set pieces/lessening the load of Baines to create chances & creating more genuine chances in open play

3. Cracking the code that witnessed a side that created the 4th most chances in the league (more than Man United)  but had a conversion rate of the second worst in the league

4. Reversing a trend that seen us concede the 2nd most goals in the league from headers, without arguably our best aerial player Fellaini if/when he is sold.

5. Increasing passes made and % share of the ball to enable us to control games more particularly against rubbish sides.

6. Smoothen the transition by mitigating weaknesses of current players i.e Distin on the ball

7. Getting more numbers forward with emphasis on creativity and incision whilst retaining core strength at the back and recoveries.

8. Overhauling the mentality of a group of players who can often freeze under expectation and excel when the pressure if off.

9. Better use of first team squad and fringe players to better cope with dips in form and inevitable injury problems.

10.Developing the flexibility of players to be able to become adapt at different ideas, tactics and formations both game to game and during games

What is a realistic expectation for the new season?

If I was going to make a sweeping call on what will happen this season I’d say it’s more likely the edgy, tight 1-0, 1-1 games that became standard under Moyes – no matter who the opposition  –  will be replaced by higher scoring matches with us looking more daring on the counter but equally less resolute at the back than under the previous regime. Upping this expressive adventure whilst harnessing it with our greatest strength (defensive shape/work rate) will determine how high up the table we finish.

Martinez is an expressive character – just look at his Big Lebowski clobber – who gives his players “unbelievable confidence” as was shown at Wigan who regularly came from behind to take points, winning 38 points from losing positions in 3 seasons which would indicate there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. In terms of a points tally, we accrued 63 last season meaning we’d need a shift of +10 to get near to the ECL berths, and a dip of -13 if we are to finish lower than 7th. A realistic expectation would be 6th or 7th and a proper shot at one of the cups which in a transition year ain’t too bad.

The caveat to all this of course is the transfer window and how we look after it closes with the futures of arguably our two most effective players  – certainly numbers wise – still in doubt. To lose Baines – who created 1/4 of our chances last season – would be a savage blow, although it appears Fellaini’s departure will be mitigated by the arrival of either the Irish midfield passophile James McCarthy or Luca Marrone from Juventus. If we are able to get into September in good shape and with the squad relatively intact then anything is possible.

EB