Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 3-2 Newcastle

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Line-ups

In terms of personnel, Martinez gave first home starts to Romelu Lukaku and James McCarthy with Jelavic and Naismith dropping out from the starting line-up at West Ham. Roughly the shape was  4-2-3-1 with a midfield triangle of Barry and McCarthy at the base and Barkley in the ‘number 10’ role. Leon Osman was shunted to the left but predominantly tucked in to enable us to dominate the middle ground.

Visiting manager Alan Pardew went like for like system wise with Tiote and Gouffran back in the side at the expense of Goodison fan’s favourite Yohan Cabaye and striker Papiss Cisse, Newcastle’s answer to Nikica Jelavic. Remy lined up down the middle with Ben Arfa the main attacking focus, predominantly from the left flank.

First Half

 The first half belonged to Romelu Lukaku who bagged two goals and an assist to help steer the Blues into a zone where – we wrongly presumed – we’d be able to pretty much declare and rest up before the City game at the weekend.

As early as the first minute, Barkley and Lukaku’s pace and power combined to enable the Belgian to lash home from close range, but it was correctly disallowed for offside. It was a warning Newcastle failed to take note of.

Goodison is as hospitable to visitors as Guantanamo Bay in recent times and Lukaku was inflicting some serious mental and physical scars on the visiting Geordie backline as the half developed. His and Everton’s dominance was however aided and abetted by some truly dire defending from chucklebrother duo Coloccini and Yanga-Mbiwa, and their equally useless fullbacks – neither of which appeared to be able to do the very basics particularly in being able to tuck in and help out their struggling centre halves.

First a long kick up field from Howard towards Lukaku ended up at the feet of Mirallas who skinned Santon – a fullback you’d perhaps say is ‘better going forward’.  Mirallas centre was gleefully gobbled up by Lukaku after Coloccini and Mbiwa kindly split to enable him acres of space to attack. It was the second time the Belgian duo have combined to score in their two league games together.

Whereas Newcastle couldn’t deal with up and unders, at the other end Distin was hoovering up everything that came over the top and the second goal came when the protein fuelling French behemoth showed good aggression to attack the ball in the air and instigate more confusion in the Newcastle defence with a powerful looping header from his own half. Mirallas picked up the ball and again fed Lukaku who in turn was able to take the ball and slide in Barkley to coolly slot home a right footed finish.

With Pardew’s men crumbling, a simple goal kick from Howard was again missed by the embarrassing Mbiwa who, along with Coloccini and Krul, allowed the ball to bounce for a grateful Lukaku  to pounce for his second and Everton’s third goal of the game.

Overall our passing tempo in the first period was superb and there was a great overall balance to the team, particularly in midfield with Barry (left) and McCarthy (right) providing a great base for Barkley to kick on. Newcastle represented an abject shambles and were as bad defensively as any side have been at Goodison in recent seasons.

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Lukaku’s link play with Barkley was particularly good, with the above visual showing he teed up his colleague 12 times, second only to Leon Osman (17). The red line ‘passes received’ also shows he was a good ‘out ball’ from back to front with Coleman, Baines and Distin amongst those who passed to him the most.

 Second Half

 Alan Pardew’s slowness to pre-empt or react to tactical situations in recent seasons at L4 has either been a result of his own arrogance or downright stupidity. Here, however, he was very positive with 2 changes at half time;  making one straight swap with Williamson’s physical presence curing the aerial problems faced in the first half and further forward Cabaye came on for Ben Arfa.

As part of the reshuffle, Gouffran moved to the left and Sissoko shifted to the right, but it was Cabaye’s quality on the ball that gave Newcastle better opportunities to link defence and attack and he was the second half’s stand out performer. In particular his balls over our defence to Gouffran and Remy to run onto really stretched us more than we would have liked.

As a result Newcastle had the better opportunities in the second period and through Cabaye and Remy added respectability to a scoreline which at half time only looked to be heading in one direction.

Thankfully there was to be no repeat of last season’s escapology.

 Conclusion

 Despite the fight back this was a really good display from the Toffees and one that showed we have a plan B to the possession based game we witnessed in the opening three games.

Even in the first period when our tempo was superb, Newcastle had more possession but overall we had almost double the touches (30 v 17) in Newcastle’s penalty box than they did ours. In this respect Lukaku gives us that ‘out ball’ that Fellaini offered, but alongside Barkley we have a duo that combine really well and with a great mix of power, pace and quality on the ball.

That’s 25 points from 27 available at Goodison and leaves us nicely ensconced in fourth spot with plenty of confidence going into the weekend game at Eastlands.

Lovely stuff.

EB

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Scout Scribbles #4 Chelsea

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The biggest challenge of Roberto Martinez brief toffee reign presents itself this weekend in the shape of Jose Mourinho, previously known as The Special One.

The Portuguese began a careful re-positioning exercise earlier this year designed to reinvent himself as ‘the happy one’ or ‘the humble one’.

In reality he hasn’t changed much, he has just developed new and more under the radar skills to avoid detection. A bit like Noel Edmonds with Operation Yewtree.

Equally, he is a still chief exponent of condescending praise when he has won, and tiresome, bitter sourness when he doesn’t get his own way. When the heat is on, as it was recently against old foe Guardiola – someone he rarely gets the better of – Mourinho showed he is still as bad a loser as ever.

That said, he remains the best manager in world football and as a professional in his trade is top dog, with his 71% win ratio in the Premier League still the benchmark for others to aspire to.

Perhaps the evil genius would be a more accurate description.

His diligence and ability to exploit opponents weakness both in the dugout and out on the pitch, whilst maximising his own playing staff to its full potential, is ruthless. This was evident in his cunning operation over the summer to de-stabilise Manchester United with his hoax pursuit of Wayne Rooney.

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In terms of this weekend’s game, Mourinho will care little if we look to control possession as we have done in the opening fixtures.

Infact I believe he will look to exploit this with his selection.

En route to his second Champions League title his side famously overcame a Barca possession barrage of 76%, making 600 fewer passes with only ten men to make it through to the final.

He will look at quick transitions as the best way of turning us over. Whilst he inherited a superb squad it was perhaps lacking in counter attacking speed. This has been reflected in his retention of De Bruyne and the acquisitions of Schurle and Willian.

Is there an area we can look to exploit? That’s a trickier question as his squad has so few weak links.

Last season Moyes targeted Azpilicueta’s aerial deficiencies at right back, sticking Anichebe on the left wing and playing diagonals onto the Spaniard for Anichebe to win and then hoover up the second balls in dangerous areas. Noticeably Azpilicueta has been on the fringes of things since Mourinho returned to high office.

I think the likely central defensive axis of Cahill and Terry is a tad too immobile and susceptible to decent movement in the alleys between their fullbacks. I also think we will get more space to operate in comparison to our initial 4 games against more limited operatives who have been happy to retain shape and defend en masse. Chelsea midfielder’s are generally more offensive and less nimble and streetwise going back towards their own goal. Mourinho’s sides aren’t all out attack but they do have a more fluid shape which should give us room to exploit.

General Observations:

  • Possession based game and will look to rest in possession to retain energy levels rather than press. Off the ball there isn’t much of a pressing game, in fact Chelsea have regained possession fewer times than anyone so far this season
  • For dead balls, Lampard will predominantly take the lot although Mata can sometimes get involved. Ivanovic will be the main target and along with Terry and Cahill.
  • Injury wise, Oscar / Luiz have been on their travels to South America and Hazard has a slight Achilles injury but all should be fit to take part. Willian, Mata and Torres have enjoyed a two week break and would therefore appear good shouts to figure at the top end of the pitch.
  • Chelsea had the better of us last season edging both games 2-1 after the score had been 1-1 at half time. Chelsea’s early form has been good with 7 points from 9 games although they did lose the super cup on pens last time out.

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Line-up Appraisal (4-2-3-1)

Petr Cech – Reliable keeper who has won the lot at club level. An excellent shot stopper who can come and claim the ball from crosses better than any of his peers in the league. In terms of playing the ball out he is ok although Howard last season distributed more accurately and to a greater distance. Last season Cech made 1.85 saves to every goal, which was fewer than Howard (2.08) but crucially Cech made nearly twice as few errors.

Brainslav Ivanovic – Balding but ruthless defender who can play on the right or centre. Great aerial option in both boxes and will get under forwards skin. Terry’s return to automatic selection status has firmly ensconced him at right back this season.

Gary Cahill – Sheffield born jarhead who has been on the winning side in 2 of our last 3 L4 defeats, and scored the winner for Bolton last year. Very right footed which forces Jagielka to play on the left when the duo link up for England. Good covering defender and ideally matched to a more aggressive accomplice like Terry. More intelligent than people give him credit for.

John Terry – The benchmark for any aspiring football gobshite, ‘JT’ – as he is known by fellow biffs – is still a commanding presence and is great at sniffing out danger and plugging holes. Less mobile than he once was and susceptible to pace in behind. The kind of bloke who bullied kids at school but now wears a NERD t-shirt cos its ace.

Ashley Cole – Morally repugnant but highly decorated left back. Few weak points to his game; is a good tackler, is positionally spot on and whilst not as good in the final third as Baines, he is still a useful forward outlet.

Frank Lampard – All round midfielder whose goal scoring record and general productivity against us is ridiculously good with 9 goals and 5 assists in 34 games against us. Will look to drive forward into the space created by the three attacking midfielders and get on the end of things in the final third, as he did with the two goals that sunk us last season.

Ramires – Played on the right last season to negate the threat of Baines and did this to good effect, also teeing up Lampard for one of his goals. Given Mourinho’s early selections he is more likely to play as a DM in this one. Not great on the ball particularly in switching play and is more suited to driving forward.

Eden Hazard – Quick footed midfielder who is equally competent with either foot and who can glide anywhere across the attacking mid slots. Will probably start on the left but can drop off and create space for the deeper midfielders. Less adept at the defensive phase of play and was anonymous at Goodison last season before being subbed. Hazard did miss the Scotland game but is expected to be fit.

Kevin De Bruyne – Very direct Belgian right sided midfielder who will shoot on sight given the opportunity and is adept with either foot. Very good in transitions and providing precision service to forwards.

Juan Mata – Cute and intelligent left footed midfield schemer who can do serious damage if you let him. Equally comfortable in scoring goals as creating them but has been suffering from injuries over the summer hence his limited game time thus far under Mourinho. Given that he hasn’t been on international duty he could come into play in this fixture ahead of Oscar who has been over in Brazil.

Fernando Torres – Has been deployed in the false striker role in recent games at Goodison with repeatedly anonymous displays. Particularly spineless in his recent outings at our place with no goals in his last five starts at L4. He has been booked against Everton (8) more times than any club in his career – a figure double the amount of goals he’s scored against us.

EB Verdict: I fancy this to be a tight affair. Chelsea are the only side to beat us at Goodison in 18 months, but both games were incredibly tight last season. With no goals conceded in just under 10 hours at Goodison its hard to see us getting rolled by anyone, but Chelsea are bubbling along nicely this season and therefore I’m going for honours to be even. 1-1.

EB

Introducing Everton’s new striker – Romelu Lukaku

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Everton dramatically signed 20 year old Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku in the final stages of what was an unusually positive transfer deadline day for the club . The deal -supposedly for as much as £5m or as little as £3m depending on who you believe – will keep him at L4 until the end of the season .

With fellow forward Victor Anichebe moving to WBA – who supposedly also tried to ‘swoop’ for Lukaku – our forward line certainly has more substance to it than it did pre-window, and the big hope is that the big Belgian can provide the antidote to the slow build up play and lack of end product that has characterised our opening three games of the season and recent campaigns.

Finishing

The Lukaku deal is good for the toffees on numerous levels. Looking at our biggest weakness in seasons gone by it’s the inability to convert chances and the consequent reliance on defending and having to grind out clean sheets.  The former Anderlecht man represents  probably the best overall package of physical /  technical attributes we have had in a forward since Louis Saha’s early vintage in his first seasons at the club.

Clearly it’s his goals which make Lukaku the big differential to what we currently have at the club- the big Belgian bagged 17 goals from just 20 starts last season – and boasted an impressive goals per minute ratio of slotting every 117 minutes, which was the third best in the top flight.

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Lukaku goal summary (left) and shot summary (right)

The Belgian forward is a player who can score from inside or outside the box and has decent composure in front of goal, capable of power finishes or accurate slots. Although he’s particularly ruthless with his left foot with 7 goals last season, he was equally adept with his right that provided 5 goals.  Indeed,  he was one of only 3 players to score 3+ PL goals with left foot, right foot & head last season.

His shooting in general is pretty ace, with 66% accuracy to Jelavic’s 47% from his 97 shots last season – making him the 13th most prolific forward in the league for efforts on goal. The below video shows a snapshot of his goals and assists last season;

Physical

Whereas Moyes looked for players primarily good with their back to goal or battering ram style players, Lukaku – like Kone – has a touch more quality on the ground as well as the  physique required to enable them to play.

He used this power and acceleration to take on and beat his opponent on 31 of the 59 occasions he attempted to do so last season and such ability to drive beyond defenders is something we have had problems with. Anichebe can go beyond players but doesn’t necessarily take the ball with him, whilst Jelavic and his limited pace enabled him to beat his man a feeble 6 times last season.

In the air Lukaku also has the build to force defenders back and win the ball in the air, using his 6ft 3inch physique to win 44% of his aerial duels – significantly better than Jelavic and Kone – and picked up 4 goals with his head last season. This aerial prowess will be particularly crucial with Fellaini’s defection to Man United.

The below visual shows roughly how West Brom used him as an ‘out ball’ with long pitched balls into dangerous areas of the pitch, predominantly into the channels where there is more space to receive and then drive at defenders. Martinez we know isn’t going to play route one football but it would surely be illogical to bring someone like Lukaku to the club and not play to his strengths.

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Steve Clarke used him as a substitute 15 times last season which may seem bizarre given the limited competition for places but the logic used by the dour Scot was that his usual starter Shane Long would ‘wear out’ the opposing centre halves in the first 60 mins, leaving Lukaku free to steamroller them in the final 30 min of games, something he did to ruthless effect in the last game of the season against Man United with 3 goals.

On the ball

On the ball Lukaku boasts betting passing accuracy than Jelavic although his 72% accuracy is below his new team mate Arouna Kone. He is a creative force and links play adequately and is competent in creating chances for teammates – last season he teed up a colleague to the tune of 36 chances, predominantly from wide areas. Unlike Jelavic and the now departed Anichebe, Lukaku has a decent first touch, doesn’t look awkward when trapping the ball, and can bring midfielders into play much more effectively than the players we already have.

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Any Weaknesses?

Lukaku doesn’t have too many weak points to his game. He’s not a fluid player who will play intricate one twos in and around the box like a Suarez type but in Baines, Barkley and Mirallas we have clever players in the roster already who can do that.  Given his age he lacks a bit of experience to make the full use of his frame and this I’m sure will be a development area he will look to improve on to enable him to win more free kicks and impose himself even more on games.

If there was an issue its that the loan fee – rumoured to be as much as £5m. This, along with us supposedly picking up the full tab for Barry’s £6m per year wage, is around £10m on two players who potentially won’t be at the club next season, which is Brighthouse economics from the club.

Bottom Line

Lukaku is a very decent piece of business for the Blues and could provide the key difference in turning draws into wins over the course of the season. Our woes in the final third this season have already  been laid bare with a sorry 2 goals from 3 league games in the league. Lukaku has a good mentality, is keen to develop and offers the physical prowess that Fellaini provided last season plus greater power and a significantly more clinical goal threat. In summary, he is a player Evertonians should look forward to watching this season.

EB

James McCarthy & Gareth Barry – Strengths and Weaknesses

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James McCarthy became Roberto Martinez biggest signing of the summer in a £13m transfer last night – the biggest cash fee we have paid since the £15m deal with Standard for the services of Fellaini back in 2008. McCarthy was joined by ex Villa and City midfielder Gareth Barry as the clock ticked towards midnight.  Ironically, its Fellaini’s transfer out of the club that has funded the midfield purchases. So are they any good then? Is McCarthy massively overpriced? How will the duo fit in? This lengthy ramble will try to shed some light on all the above matters….

Off the ball

Off the ball, McCarthy’s tackle completion is better than regular centre mid duo Gibson/Osman (although both are more renowned for their ability on the ball than breaking down opposition attacks). Last season McCarthy regained possession (tackles + interceptions) just 3.3 times per game, compared to Osman (4.7) and Gibson (3.4). The benchmark for this deep lying midfield role is Michael Carrick who weighed in with 4.4 per game last season.

Whilst he is an intelligent reader of the game who can intercept play, McCarthy isn’t the best tackler and in the position he plays in front of the back four this is an issue unless you have someone alongside him who can get to the ball first, particularly against the better sides.  I would guess that Barry would take on more of this donkey work in this respect. The one time Liverpool target and ex England International regained possession 3.7 times per game last season and as an ex centre half he is more adept in the defensive phase. With Barry being left footed and McCarthy right you have a decent balance here also.

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Ball Retention

 To his credit, on the ball McCarthy is in the top 10% of central midfielders in the Premier League. In his position he is ranked 8th for volume of passes made per game, 12th for passing accuracy and 10th for most accurate long passes.  His new colleague Gareth Barry weighs in with the sixth most passes made per game last season, so the early season dynamic of excessive passing is likely to be ramped up further.

Both player’s  passing data is better than Osman, Gibson and Fellaini.  McCarthy’s long ball distribution from deep areas is particularly good, firing in with a 77% completion, which is better than our two most prolific distributors from deep areas Gibson (64%) and Jagielka (58%). This is a key component at Everton given the importance of switching play to the wingbacks on each flank, something I don’t envisage changing under Martinez.

There aren’t many midfielders who are as complete. The maturity and composure he has on the pitch is rare. I think technically, it’s difficult to find a better player. You saw a more eye-catching display against QPR (where he scored twice) on the ball and when he drove forward it was impressive. At 22 to have the tactical awareness that he has, he can play in any team in the world – and he will do one day.  James knows he needs another period of improvement, but from a technical point of view he can play in any team in the world and he will do one day” – Martinez on McCarthy

Passing Tempo / Direction

The above video provides a decent snapshot of what McCarthy brings to the table over 90mins. In this fixture against the Champions he hit 69 passes from 78 touches = 1.13 touches per pass, a better ratio even than Carrick who in that game made 1.20 touches per pass. In the equivalent game for us, Gibson made 33 passes from 48 touches (1.45 touches per pass) with Osman making 23 passes from 40 touches (1.73 touches per pass). Whilst his passing frequency was higher, the % of forward passes from McCarthy (49%) was lower than Osman (52%) and significantly lower than Gibson (70%). What does this tell us? As with all stats it’s down to interpretation. You could say he’s a crab, but you could argue his passing tempo is significantly quicker, if albeit more conservative.

Final Third

One notable development area for McCarthy is being able to channel his undoubted ability into  dictating games more on the ball and increasing the frequency of his forward drives which, when deployed, have been eye catching.

National team boss Giovanni Trappatoni certainly thinks his outputs in the final third could improve;

Despite my respect for James, you can’t say he is creative. James is good, he’s linear, he’s an easy player but he’s not creative. I saw many, many [of his] games. I hope he can get more personality. There are players who create time for other players. James is not this typical player.”

To balance this out, ‘The Trap’ is the same man who selected Keith Andrews ahead of Darren Gibson in Euro 2012 and whose people skills have alienated many capable Irish players. Maybe the old Italian’s comments were an attempt to get more out of McCarthy, to jolt his somewhat passive nature, but the above comments would certainly give off more than a whiff of ex toffee Jack Rodwell – who as an aside would have fitted much more cosily into the Martinez era than he did in the Moyes stewardship.

A lack of incision and a lack of confidence where cornerstones of what held Rodwell back and the worry is that McCarthy is another from the production line of British robotic academy players, or James Milner if you like, that will give you a wet shirt, play plenty of square passes but crucially lack the spacial awareness or vision to thread a pass that can impact a game.

Or is he? Despite only averaging 2 goals and 2 assists per season during his time at Wigan, the data shows that McCarthy comfortably created more chances (36) than either Osman or Gibson last season, and virtually the same as Carrick who claimed 37. I think he has in his locker the ability to pick incisive forward passes but it perhaps just needs coaxing out of him. So perhaps this critique of him is not justified and it’s the limitations of his team mates at club and international level which have stunted his reputation in the final third.

Mentality

On the pitch, McCarthy has a moderately good disciplinary record with no red cards, although he averages 7 bookings per season. There is a feeling though that he needs to come out of his shell more and dominate opponents and matches more regularly. Trappatoni has highlighted this as a key development area for the Irishman;

” James can increase his personality, in one or two years he can be better than Whelan. (Don’t laugh, he is referring to Glenn Whelan)  He can be a little bit shy and I have said this to him. He needs to command the play”

His decision as a teenager to reject the advances of Benitez whilst the rotund tactician was still in office at the tin mine, coupled with the broad shoulders he displayed to stick to his guns in the face of sectarian abuse in Scotland over his decision to represent Ireland (rather than Scotland) are indications of a strong mind.

Market Value

Let’s be honest, the fee is extremely prohibitive and not very Everton, particularly being in one of the ‘less than sexy’ positions that supporters generally don’t see  value in. Whereas Carrick is now getting the credit he deserves, a lot of players who occupy the deeper midfield slots are pigeon holed as water carriers – in some cases correctly, but in others less so. The fee  the dark side recklessly spunked  on a similar type of player (although nowhere near as good)  – the painfully impotent Joe ‘Xavi’ Allen – is perhaps dictating the figures with this one.

At 22 years of age you have virtually guaranteed sell on money unless it’s a complete disaster (which I doubt)  but a big portion  of any future profit rests on the hope that he can develop as Martinez thinks he will into one of the top players in his position in world football. The issue I guess is that such players are available for a significantly lower premium overseas and Fernando – the Brazilian who was also linked with the Blues – would probably have delivered better value. With regard to Barry, there was no loan fee but worrying rumours have it that we have taken on his full £120k a week wages which – if true – will equate to £6m which is horrible.

Conclusions

I like McCarthy. He’s a class player with two good feet, balance and a great range of passing, is good at retaining possession and building attacks from the back, driving forward and is tactically spot on. He’s also physically in top shape, has no documented booze or mdma habits, reduces the average age of the squad and wages wise what he would command is manageable.

His weak point is in the tackle, as well as an inability to express himself fully, which I guess would come with age and with the correct management. In a nutshell, If he was brought to the club I’d be more than happy.

The big issue I guess is money, and the fee that was highly inflated courtesy of  gobshite in-chief Dave Whelan. Whilst often a liability, Fellaini’s departure will leave gaps all over the pitch notably in terms of aerial coverage in both boxes, regaining possession and his healthy goals/assists contribution. McCarthy has a completely different skillset, and one more suited to the evolution of the style Martinez is looking to achieve. Barry and Lukaku will plug the aerial gaps the Belgian has left but we still appear light of a real ball winner, although I guess with the possession we enjoy this is less of a risk than it would have been under the previous regime.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Cardiff 0-0 Everton

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The Preamble

For the third successive game we named an unchanged team with Barkley at the sharp end of the midfield triangle with Osman and Fellaini behind him in a 4-2-3-1. Cardiff also named an unchanged team from last week’s win against Man City in a more rigid 4-5-1 with Campbell as the lone forward.

Key Data

For the fourth game on the spin a similar dynamic unfolded with the Blues having huge possession control of the game – with 63% of the ball – just below our average of 64% which is the highest in the division.

As with the other games for large periods it resembled an attack v defence situation with Cardiff holding a rigid defensive shape, seemingly happy for us to have the ball with the onus being on us pulling them out of position to fashion chances.

In terms of chance creation, we created 9 chances from open play and yielded 13 shots, which is fewer than our average shots per game figure of 18.3 –  the second highest in the division.

Our control of the game meant we restricted our opponents to few openings with Cardiff fashioning just 2 chances from open play and 4 shots. The 6.3 shots we have on average conceded from our first 3 games is the second fewest in the division behind Spurs which is down on last season’s figure.

 The Issues

The above data shows we are controlling games, being prolific in shooting and are frugal at the back, however we have failed to win any of the games against sides who will more than likely finish in the lower reaches of the table. So clearly we are doing something wrong.

The problem as I see it is twofold; the speed of moving the ball from midfield to attack is too slow and when chances are created we simply don’t have the personnel to finish things.

This isn’t really a new problem.

Looking at the passing tempo first, a look at yesterday’s touches per pass showed we averaged 1.38 touches per pass. This is in fact quicker than the 1.42 touches per pass from Moyes last game in charge against Chelsea but a fair bit slower than the 1.26 that Barcelona – the benchmark quick passing tempo side – recorded in their last game against Athletico Madrid.

If one incident summed this up better than any other it was in the first half with Kevin Mirallas.

Cardiff’s emphasis  was on a rigid defensive shape which they delivered admirably. Taking advantage of counter attacks offered us the best chance of compromising this shape. With their heavy defensive artillery up field, we broke with a 3 on 3 but rather than push the ball out of his feet and drive into the space or distribute to a colleague he took a plethora of touches and by the time  we got near the box Cardiff had 10 men in their defensive zone and the chance was gone.

The below table shows how quickly the outfield players distributed with Mirallas clearly the slowest.  I guess the problem is that players like Fellaini and Mirallas were brought to the club because they are effective players who can impact games, but they are not the kind of players whose attributes extend to  one touch fluid passing through the middle of the park like Martinez wants.

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 Mirallas was equally crud in front of the opposition goal – in fact he’s been rubbish in all 3 games this season – and he spurned a couple of decent openings in either half particularly with his head as Cardiff appeared pre occupied with picking up Fellaini.

Ross Barkley played a lovely through pass for him in the second half which rather than finish first time he took too many touches and the opportunity was gone.  Barkley had earlier  played a similar threaded ball for Jelavic too but the Croatian again toiled.  Our number seven is simply beyond help now with just one deflected goal to his name in the last 22 hours of football. When he  receives the ball its often painful to watch and he can appear incredibly awkward –  often asking more questions than he  gives answers – a bit like Jamie Carragher on Sky.

Yes, Kone’s finishing in midweek was equally laughable and he isn’t the answer to the 15-20 a season conundrum either – his own lack of anticipation was laid bare in the final minute of the game when Deulofeu drilled a cross along the Cardiff goal line with the Ivorian ball watching. However, if you had the choice of the 2 of them I’d go with Kone just on the basis he is much better outside the box as a linkman and getting the ball out of his feet quickly, certainly more so than the laborious Jelavic.

In Conclusion

Three games into the new regime and we are still looking for our first win of the campaign, albeit we are still undefeated.

On the balance of play we deserved the three points but our profligacy in front of goal was again our un-doing.  This was aided and abetted by some comedy officiating from a referee who has already been demoted once this season for his antics.

For their part Cardiff had good shape throughout and despite being on the back foot for the most part achieved their objective of eeking out a point.

Off the field, the next 38 hours or so will have a big say in how the campaign takes shape from here. If the worst case scenario unfolds and Fellaini / Baines both join Moyes evil cabal than we have big problems in the short term.

The £40m should be more than enough to find long terms solutions to fill the void of a midfielder who only turns up every other game and a brilliant if ageing fullback. However, in the short term as Baines and Fellaini both showed in their first seasons at the club it takes time to embed and hit top form and thus we could be in a situation where it gets worse on the pitch before it gets better. But let’s hope that’s not the case readers.

The fact that midfield players Barry and McCarthy supposedly have their bags packed and are ready to move once Fellaini signs would indicate that this deal will happen if we get around £25m. Equally so,  the fact that no left back is on the club’s radar and the fact that Oviedo physically is not ready would make you think that even Everton with their previous for crumbling under the pressure of big financial offers wouldn’t let him go.

EB