Tactical Deconstruction: How Everton found the space to down Villa

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Teams and Tactics

As predicted, Martinez made just the one change with Pienaar replacing Osman on the left side of midfield. Villa left out central midfielder El Ahmadi and brought in the tricky two footed talent of Tonev on the right with Weimann moving across to the left with Agbonlahor and Benteke up top in a 4-4-2.

0-59 Minutes

For the opening hour of the game our play was a tad disjointed in what was a frenetic first half in particular. The play for both sides was focused down our right flank with Villa full back Luna and their left sided centre half Baker seemingly identified as the weak links as Barry persistently looked to play in Mirallas behind them in what was the most frequent combination of any player on the pitch in the first half. Mirallas created the most chances for the second successive game and had the beating of Luna every time he was released 1v1. The ex Sevilla fullback eventually cried off injured with Baker moving across to left back and Ciaran Clark joining Vlaar in the centre.

Villa would have gone in at half time in front but for the heroics of Tim Howard who put in a stellar shift in the toffee net. His save from Benteke’s spot kick stirred memories of Neville Southall against Brian ‘Killer’ Kilcline in 1988 and the bearded American stopper also superbly denied Benteke point blank before foiling his mate Weimann shortly after. The bulk of Villa’s good work was started down the left from Luna to Delph who would then pick out Weimann to good effect.

Overall defensively I thought we dealt with the significant threat of Benteke much better than in the 3-3 last season particularly in the air with Jagielka winning 7/7 headers  to Benteke’s 2 /12. When the ball went loose ex Villa man Gareth Barry was on hand to hoover up the second balls – winning 9 recoveries which was more than any player on the pitch.

60-94 Minutes

Whist we did ok at the back going forward we were a tad spluttery. The turning point of the game came on the hour mark when Martinez introduced Osman for Barkley. Young Barkley’s decision making wasn’t great and sometimes he hung onto the ball a bit too long. With the exception of a shot that stung the bar in the first half he was relatively subdued but this is typical of a player of his age and inexperience.

As the passing boards show, McCarthy took a key role in the last 30 mins, making double the amount of passes as he had in the first half and 54 in total -the highest of any player on the pitch.

As the passing boards show, McCarthy took a key role in the last 30 mins, making double the amount of passes as he had in the first half and 54 in total -the highest of any player on the pitch.

Osman’s introduction immediately re-invigorated the left side which had been largely peripheral in the opening hour. Baines and Pienaar had linked up with just 3 passing combinations in the first half with Barkley not linking with Baines once in the first hour. It was all the more strange given that Villa’s right side looked defensively suspect with Tonev and Bacuna an untested duo whose skills are more suited to going forward.  Post match Martinez spoke of the rationale behind introducing Osman for Barkley;

“I told Leon that it was going to be a good opportunity for him in the last 20 minutes with Villa tiring and when he came on it was a masterclass of getting on the ball in the attacking third”

What Martinez is alluding to here is backed up by the data. Osman was found by Baines crisp passing into central spaces no fewer than 8 times in the final half hour  – the most prolific passing combination of the second half from either side. It was this ability to find space which was crucial in the opening goal. After Baines and Pienaar had finally clicked with some neat one touch passing down the left, Ciaran Clark – who usually has a shocker against us  – got sucked in by the ball and when Osman received from Pienaar he was able to tee up Lukaku in the space Clark had vacated to expertly dispatch beyond Guzan.

Shortly after, the blossoming James McCarthy  played in Osman who linked with Pienaar before playing in Lukaku whose shot was deflected wide. From the resulting corner, Baines was again let loose to feed Barry who played in Osman to score the clincher with a nice tucked finish. It was the little man’s sixth strike against the Villa – his personal best tally against any side – and while he’s not had his cigar on much this season he remains a key member of the squad.


The Toffees rode their luck here particularly in the opening 15 minutes of each half and were indebted to the often maligned Tim Howard who was a colossus with notable supporting roles from  Jagielka and Barry. The key moment was the introduction of Osman who turned the game – not just in his assist and goal but in general to find space and breathe new life to the left flank.

In general though we should be happy as for the second week running a high energy opponent  visibly ran out of gas as the game went on. You could argue its a coincidence but a trend has emerged where sides can compete with us for long periods but eventually whether it be from chasing the ball for such long periods or not it seems to take its toll. This has seen us scoring 7 of our 8 goals on the road in the second half of games.

Coincidence or not, the Blues keep marching on!


6 thoughts on “Tactical Deconstruction: How Everton found the space to down Villa

  1. Said it before and I’ll say it again, a must read for every Evertonian. Every football fan. Expert match report and unrivalled insight.

  2. Excellent points, EB. Although, I think it’s also worth noting that Lambert really helped to take the pressure off our midfield by replacing Tonev with Helenius. The amount of touches amongst Barry, McCarthy and Leon seemed to shoot up, and if Helenius was brought on with the intention of going long, well… I certainly didn’t notice anything in that way. Really impressed with Martinez and his thinking, but think Lambert helped out in his own, incompetent way.

  3. Great win yesterday although it could have been so different if Howard had not pulled out a top drawer performance in the first half. Romelu continues to show why he should be causing a huge amount of destruction at Chelsea; Jose’s loss is certainly our gain. I am worried about what will happen if he picks up an injury. Jelavic has hit rock bottom and Kone is, sadly, £6 million down the drain. I was sceptical about Martinez but have to say that I have been pleased with how he has got us started. Tottenham, next week, will be a real test of how far we have come in the three months of the season.

  4. Thanks excllent as ever. The yellow card for McCarthy looks even more influential now, although can’t beleive MOT missed the hand ball, we should have had a pen. It looks like we are starting to build on the squad, always felt under Moyes, we got a great team but lacked the depth from the bench, not to mention the competition is brings into the side. Kone is a bit mixed, reading what EB said about him and others thought good price, and will add to the team, but the lad has not delivered, not sure if it is presure or new enviorment? Really looking forward to next weekend, will be the first time we will play a top 5 side with our full squad, think missing Barry and Gibson against Man C was important.

    The big question is can we keep hold of Romelu? He is a player who is loyal so that would be in our favour, I don’t think it is too impossiable to think he would be sold.

  5. Great recap, and wonderful picture of concentration from Romelu. I remember the first 15 minutes after half being really hectic, and lucky to get out alive of this game. Villa will finish in 8-10, I think. They simply didn’t finish very well against us, but they can break teams down well.

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