Tactical Deconstruction: Swansea 1-2 Everton

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Teams and Tactics

Martinez made two changes to the Fulham line-up with James McCarthy back from suspension to replace Leon Osman and Kevin Mirallas coming in for the injured Gerard Deulofeu. The hosts made numerous changes;   in goal, Tremmel replaced Vorm and in defence Tiendalli was given a start in place of the suspended Rangel with pony tailed fairy Chico coming back into the centre of defence. Further forward, Routledge came in for Dyer on the left and Bony replaced Michu in a similar 4-2-3-1 setup to ourselves.

First Half

The first half wasn’t much of a spectacle and contained limited action in either side’s penalty boxes.

This season Swansea have averaged a league high of 62.3% possession at home  compared to our 58.5% away from home – second only to Man City. Breaking down Swansea’s forward passing angles whilst maintaining our own flow were therefore the big challenge here and our tactical approach was the usual one we have adopted against the Swans in previous meetings. When our hosts had the ball our wide players tucked in and blocked off forward passes through the middle. This worked fairly well and Swansea’s passing was predominantly in their defensive third between Chico and Williams with us dominating territory to the tune of 70% in the first 20 minutes.

In this early spell we also successfully forced Swansea into mistakes in their own half with one notable example being when McCarthy robbed Chico to play in Mirallas, however the Belgian was having a patchy game and was wasteful when the opportunity presented itself.

As the half went on we became less effective at winning the ball back in the Swansea half. When we did win the ball back our passing was a tad slow and we failed to generate much down the flanks particularly on the right where Coleman was well reined in by Routledge.

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Passing grid from today’s game

This resulted in us creating just 1 chance from open play in the first half – pretty awful in comparison to our usual yield. Up front, Lukaku in particular was having one of those afternoon’s where little seemed to stick. The ‘Big Belgian’ won no fouls against his marker and seemed to devote more time waving his arms about in frustration at his teammates service than in ragging his marker into the ground. It was Barkley’s ability to receive in tight areas, turn and drive into the Swansea half that was our only real outlet in the opening half with the youngster forcing Swansea into repeated fouls in the opening period.

Second Half

After the relatively insipid first half, expectations for the second were relatively low. With our possession failing to suck in Swansea combined with our hosts maintaining their shape on the ball well, it seemed deadlock was the only certainty.

What benefited us most after the break was that we started moving the ball a bit quicker and again it was the wing backs who were central to the action. Firstly Oviedo absolutely bust a gut to drive forward and feed Pienaar inside. The South African then played in Barkley  – sporting a Gravesen style shaved head – however in true erratic Gravesen style Barkley’s legs gave way and our best chance of the match had gone. Shortly after, the dynamic youngster drove through the middle of the pitch and fizzed a shot onto Tremmel’s bar with Swansea by now rocking.

On the right flank, Coleman was being a lot more positive on the ball and was repeatedly committing Davies and the now flagging Routledge. The Irish marauder was rewarded for his relentless positivity with the opening goal of the game as he ‘latched’ onto the excellent McCarthy’s pass to hit an absolute humdinger of a shot that curled away from Tremmel and into the net.

Swansea’s game plan after the break was to attack down  us down our left flank with Tiendalli’s link play with Hernandez the most frequent passing combination of any players on the pitch and with Hernandez making the most passes in the final third from either side. This consequently led to Oviedo spending the bulk of the second half back peddling in his own half and having to make more tackles than anyone on the pitch.  Just four minutes after the Coleman goal Swansea struck level and it was Tiendalli who got it after he connected with a cross from the left by Ben Davies. From a defensive point of view it was a poor goal to concede, with the communication between Pienaar and Oviedo very dubious. Still, it was a highly fortuitous goal with the strike going wide until the deflection from Oviedo.

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 Ultimately it wasn’t to be a big factor, as we went down the other end and won the game with another brilliant goal. After a Coleman style marauding run from the superb James McCarthy was checked by Ben Davies, Barkley completed his Gravesen transformation by delivering a sumptuous free kick from outside the box into the roof of the net to win the game for the toffees.

Conclusion

After a frustrating first half when we managed to nullify Swansea but do very little ourselves in the final third, the second half was more open and we created a lot more chances. Laudrup felt afterwards that Swansea had been unlucky and statistically they did create more chances from open play than us, albeit with fewer shots on target.  In terms of possession Swansea also shaded it but a lot of it was in our half with us edging the territory figures. Ultimately the positivity on the ball shown by Coleman and Barkley combined with the relentless drive of McCarthy in midfield were the key differentials that made us deserving of a three point haul which takes us back into the top 4 and with an outside chance of going top on Boxing Day.

EB

Everton & the psychology of the loan market

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By @nataliebargery

Everton have certainly taken advantage of the loan system this season. Not only do we have three notable loanees in our first team squad but we have also loaned out younger players to gain first team experience in the lower leagues. Furthermore, the January window is looming large and we need cover for the injured pair; Gibson and Kone. Consequently, two new loanees seem certain to be arriving by January 31st, potential room for the return of Denis Stracqualursi? Maybe not! Nevertheless, the squad will likely finish the season with a number of temporary players on our books. We know why clubs use the loan system but how do loans help the players?

Loans for development

Players are loaned for varying purposes. Some are young and need games at another club to develop. We, of course, currently have Lukaku and Deulofeu learning and maturing under Martinez. Furthermore, we have loaned Shane Duffy, John Lundstram, Luke Garbutt and Francisco Junior to Yeovil, Colchester and Vitesse Arnhem, respectively.  All these players have a point to prove while they play for their loan club. Some are trying to impress their parent club so they can return and become an important player for them. Others are playing to earn a contract at their new club as it is unlikely they will return to their parent club (I wish this was true for Lukaku and Deulofeu).

Both of our development loanees have arrived with big reputations for players so young. Johan Cruyff was surprised Barcelona lent Deulofeu to us, while the whole of England fell off their chairs watching Sky Sports New on Monday 2nd September when Chelsea let Romelu leave for the season. This subject has been talked to death in the national media, so I won’t labour the point or use it as a way to switch the topic away from Everton to Chelsea, which has become a common ploy across TV and radio so far this season. However, the Belgian has a point to prove to Mourinho, after stating in an interview this summer that he intended to play for Chelsea this season and not go out on loan, a U-turn duly followed as Lukaku pushed for a move to avoid spending the season on the bench. Consequently, both Deulofeu and Lukaku have started their Everton careers with a great deal of expectation and pressure to perform, from the fans but particularly in Lukaku’s case, he will have high expectations for himself.

Martinez initially shielded Deulofeu and allowed him time to settle. However, the big Belgian has been thrown in the deep end and is thriving. This demonstrates how their backgrounds are important to the success of a loan on a short term basis. Lukaku has previous Premier league experience, contrary to Deulofeu. Consequently, it was inevitable Romelu would make a more immediate impact than the skilful Catalan but Deulofeu has proven, in recent weeks, he will make a big impression over the course of the season, along as the ‘few weeks’ he’s predicted to be out for is right and his hamstring does not become an ongoing problem. Rangers came surprisingly close to getting Lionel Messi on loan in his formative years and if his ability to waltz past Premier league defenders as if they’re not there is anything to go by, we may have a future world star on our books.

Furthermore, our bruising Belgian has the undeniable potential to become one of the best strikers in the world. The problem is, whether it is this summer or maybe the one after, at some point we are going to have to give them back.

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Loans for out of favour players

Everton have managed to acquire a number of players in recent years, who were out of favour at their clubs, on initial loans but their performances were so impressive they were snapped up full time. Arteta, Howard and Pienaar (x2) all initially arrived on loan after making few appearances for their parent club. This is also true for our third loanee of the season, Gareth Barry. I also find it baffling that Javi Garcia is considered a better bet than Barry, but Pellegrini’s judgement has worked out extremely well for Everton. Finally, a blog concerning Everton’s loan history cannot ignore the most significant and effective loan in Premier league history.

Kevin Campbell arrived at Goodison Park, following racist abuse from senior officials at his parent club, Trabzonspor. Everton were fighting another relegation battle and in need of goals. Campbell hit the ground running scoring 9 goals in 8 games and we were once again safe from relegation. Super Kev’s ability to effortlessly slot into the team and start scoring immediately kept us up that year. However, considering the turbulent time he had endured at Trabzonspor to adapt so quickly was even more impressive. In fact, all players who arrive at loan clubs because they were out of favour at their parent club are more than likely low on confidence and out of touch. Subsequently, their chances of making an instant impact would appear low, yet many like Super Kev and Gaz Baz, have managed it.

However, this is not true of all loanees and the arrivals of the permanently despondent looking Phillippe Senderos, languid Jo and the untamable Royston Drenthe prove you can’t always turn a player’s career round in one loan spell. The success or failure of a loan, in this situation, may be in part due to a player’s individual personality or the effect a new environment can have. It has been proposed that personality, environment and the interaction between the two accounts for 30-50% of a sportsperson’s behaviour. Consequently, a change in environment can reinvigorate players in a slump and create new motivation. It has been proven in business settings that efficiency increases with an alteration in environment. If you consider the likely path of a player embarking on this type of loan starting with a slump in form, causing a lack of games, resulting in loss of confidence and motivation, it is evident that the offer of a loan is a clear chance for a player to turn it all around in a manner they probably couldn’t foresee when they weren’t getting a look in at their parent club. So, a vital aspect of the loan system is the chance to breathe new life into maligned players and not just provide a crèche for the youngsters.

Loans for fitness

A third reason to embark on a loan is for fitness. Landon Donovan arrived for two short term loans in January 2010 and 2012 during the MLS off-season. His initial 10 week loan offered Donovan the chance to maintain sharpness in the run-up to the World cup. However, I think the second loan spell was simply because he couldn’t keep away and we hadn’t forgotten about him either. The American had a great opportunity to perform, due to the recent conclusion of the MLS season on both occasions. He was fully fit and raring to go and consequently, he made the biggest impression on Everton supporters in the shortest time frame.

Players are also loaned out during their recuperation from a long term injury. James Vaughan was sent on loan following any one of his horror injuries. It is a pattern often repeated for players to gain valuable match fitness when their parent clubs cannot accommodate them. Moreover, it is an opportunity for long term injured players to regain confidence in both their own ability and the injured area. We have already been linked with loaning two MLS stars in January, it has been suggested Donovan could return for a third spell and the return of the blue kangaroo, Tim Cahill has been mooted, both to retain fitness in a world cup year. If either does return it would make a sentimental and very welcome Christmas present from Roberto.

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Emergency Loans

Finally, emergency loans are often necessary, particularly for goalkeepers. We took happy slapper Sander Westerveld on loan for a handful of matches in 2006, following the injury and suspension of Nigel Martyn, Richard Wright and Iain Turner.  This type of loan offers players a small window to make an impact but nevertheless, they wouldn’t have been loaned out if it was not necessary for them to impress their parent club, so they need to take advantage of the chance. This puts a great deal of pressure on them to perform in, often a very short space of time.

The loan system has been analysed from almost every angle but an area where there is startlingly little research or even just consideration are the challenges that can affect the player on loan.

Need to settle quickly

It is not easy for any new signing to make an instant impact at their new club. New signings are afforded time and often given a season to adapt to the Premier league if they have arrived from a foreign country but this is not possible for players on loan. The longest they are likely to be with their loan club is a season and others are only signed for up to 6 months or less. In reality this makes the chances of a new foreign player succeeding on loan slim. Furthermore, a player’s family also needs to be considered.

The upheaval of moving to a new country or a different part of a country is huge. This may be worthwhile if a player signs a five year contract but is it worth it for up to a season? Are the players’ kids essentially ‘on loan’ to another school for nine months? A footballer’s chances of settling quickly and performing on the pitch are significantly increased if his family are with him yet, players will often choose to avoid the disruption for their family and move on their own. So, despite the need to perform for their future, players are left isolated in their new environment.

Regardless of these difficulties, managers continue to sign foreign loanees and players can flourish under these circumstances. Gerard Deulofeu may prove to be the best example of a success story concerning a foreign player arriving on loan to England and settling remarkably quickly. This may be because he is young and arrived without the baggage of a wife and kids. Like a teenager leaving home for the first time to go to university, there is an excitement and a chance for independence they have not experienced before.  So, may be younger players or players without wives and children, stand a better chance of succeeding on loan when they have moved from a foreign country, although this of course, cannot be considered fact without further research.  There are currently a large number of players on loan to premier league clubs.

The two biggest successes at this moment have to be Loic Remy and the big man himself, Romelu Lukaku. It is no real surprise that just a third of the way into the season the loan markets best acquisitions are two players that spent last season playing in the Premier League. Moreover, one of the loan signings who has struggled to make an impact on their club is Aly Cissokho, a foreign player who has never played in England before (or maybe that’s just the effect Liverpool has on players!) It seems evident that players, particularly foreigners, need time to settle at their new clubs but time is a precious commodity in football and is often not afforded to loanees. Louis Saha wrote that players are “tested quickly and judged on the bad things he does, not just the good.” So, the pressure is on for all loan signings to make a good impression quickly.

Rodrigo-l

Rodrigo-l

Adapting

A transfer to a new club, even a short term loan, is a significant transition in a player’s career which offers new challenges and difficulties. Players experience a number of changes both in their sporting and personal lives that they have to adapt to. For example, a player’s identity may alter at a new club as they may have been an unused substitute, receiving little attention from their own or opposition fans. At their new club they may play every week and become a star player. This will inevitably result in adulation from your own fans and more slating from opposition fans, which the player is not used to. Other changes may include income (either a higher or a lower wage), adapting to a new style of play, training regime and environment. Additionally, foreign signings have to adapt to a new league.

However, once again, the necessity to acclimatize is brought into sharp focus for players on loan to do it quickly. A prime example of a player observing and consequently, adapting his game, on loan, is Denis Stracqualursi. El Traka arrived with little to no grasp of English and went onto to become a cult hero in one season at Goodison. He lacked technical skill but made up for it with a work rate that would make James McCarthy look lazy! Moyes praised the big Argentinian for his attitude, “We didn’t know he could work that hard…We’d gone to see him over in Argentina and we didn’t come away thinking this was a really hard working centre forward. He’s come here and he’s picked up on that himself, and thought this is what he had to do. So good on the boy.” Strac’s willingness and ability to adapt his game in half a season for a club he was only going to be with for one season reflects well on him, as a person and despite his limitations as a player, he deserved the plaudits he received. In contrast, Jo arrived on loan and despite possessing a lot more skill than Denis and scoring a few goals (which he always milked excessively) he did not adapt. Consequently, Jo will not be remembered quite so fondly by Evertonians.

Motivation

Ultimately, the difference between Strac and Jo was motivation. As I’ve discussed players have varying motivations to succeed on loan, to either impress their parent club or loan club or maybe because a sportsman’s winning mentality will not allow them to fail no matter who they play for. As discussed earlier, personality and the environment are vital, particularly when determining an individual’s levels of motivation. This is because someone who is always determined to do well or wants to do well for their particular club are motivated to succeed. Players tend to be self-motivated and that’s why they have managed to become professional footballers but other factors can affect motivation levels. For example, it may be possible that another motivation for some players is the short-term nature of loans.

A key issue for players on loan is their uncertain future. To be on loan there must be some sort of question mark over the player at their parent club, even if it is just as simple as needing games elsewhere before progressing to the first team, the player is still not currently good enough to play for their parents club’s first team and there must be some doubt if they will ever be. Consequently, players on loan can be plagued with self-doubt and anxiety at a time when they need to grab the opportunity with their loan club and perform.

Some loans are better than others....

Some loans are better than others….

Alternatively, players can view uncertainty as a motivation. David Weir wrote in his autobiography that “if every player was on a year’s contract you would get a higher level of performance”.  Weir was referring to his experiences in the latter years of his career when he was offered one year contracts each summer which he viewed as an annual ‘fresh challenge’. This feeling is comparable to a player on loan as, like Weir, they have a season or less to prove their worth. Weir shunned the security of two year contracts at other clubs to gain the motivation and thrill he found in attempting to achieve more short term goals.

Players need to approach their time on loan with a similar attitude. Furthermore, some players seem to thrive under the pressure to prove their ability on loan. Steven Pienaar’s best two spells with us where, arguably, his two loan stints. Moreover, my Dad assures me that Terry Curran was unbelievable during his month long loan in 1982.Consequently, Everton eventually signed him on a permanent basis. However, Curran was never able to recreate his loan exploits, during his two and a half seasons with the club and he left on a free. So, there is evidence to suggest players can thrive on loan as they cannot recreate the buzz and motivation on permanent deals. Yet a player’s motivation to play for a loan club may vary. We all want to believe that every footballer plays because of their love of football and enjoyment playing the game, known as intrinsic motivation.

Alternatively, fans do not want footballers to be doing it for money, fame etc, this is known as extrinsic motivation. However, this is not just an idealistic view as research suggests intrinsic motivation has a positive effect on performances. Furthermore, if a player feels competent, feels they have a choice and are acting of their own free will and feel connected with others within their environment then they feel greater intrinsic motivation. It was extremely important for Lukaku and Deulofeu to become intrinsically motivated to play for Everton and not simply playing for the reward of returning to Chelsea and Barcelona, respectively, in order to get the best out of them. It seems evident that the three factors to help players become intrinsically motivated have been taken into account. Deulofeu has praised Martinez for “giving me the confidence and I’m very happy,” thus, helping the young Catalan feel competent.

Furthermore, Lukaku has commented on discussions he has had with the manager about future opposition and weaknesses he has noticed in their game. By listening to Lukaku, Martinez has given him the opportunity to take some control and feel like he has a voice and I don’t think any of us would argue with the big Belgian! Finally, Lukaku commented, after his home debut that his teammates made him “feel at ease” very quickly after his arrival; as a result he felt a connection in his new environment. So, motivation is not just a stable unalterable asset. It may be enhanced or take a nose-dive depending on a range of factors and they need to be recognised for a loan signings to succeed.

Control

Finally, control may be important to a loan’s success. Control not only affects intrinsic motivation, as cited above but it could affect the success of a loan as early as the day the transfer is completed. To explain further, rather than the clubs controlling the transfer, if the player had an opportunity to ask for the loan or at least decide on the club, then that control may help the player to succeed. Control decreases anxiety and can increase feelings of self-competence and confidence. Furthermore, research shows athletes who retire through uncontrollable factors such as, injury, age and deselection can find it more difficult to adjust than athletes who retire because they chose to and so, controlled the decision. In terms of the significance of control during a transfer, a similar thought process could be applied.

So, players who choose to move may adjust better than those forced to. It has been widely reported that Lukaku asked to leave in the summer and has since experienced a somewhat spiky relationship with Jose Mourinho, but no one can doubt the immediate proof he made the right choice. We’ll never know the answer to this question but if Mourinho had told Lukaku he was being sent on loan against the striker’s wishes, would he have made such an instant impact? The influence of control may also explain why out of favour players have made a success of their loan spells. If you are out of favour at your parent club, it is more than likely you have pushed to get out on loan and had some control of the situation. Gareth Barry was ‘desperate’ to join us in the summer and his since been imperious for us. Furthermore, Kevin Campbell pushed to get away and then became the most successful loanee in Premier league history. In truth, it should always be the manager who has the control and has the final say on everything. However, if the manager can adopt a democratic/ participative decision making style, thus giving the illusion of control to players, there is likely to be positive outcomes, including team cohesion.

It has recently come to light that Apostolos Vellios has refused to go out on loan. However, if Martinez wanted to he could force Vellios to leave but it appears, at least for the time-being, Martinez is allowing the Greek striker to make the decision for himself. Therefore, he is giving Vellios the opportunity to take control of his future and is hoping to see the results either in training or by allowing Vellios to choose when he goes on loan and consequently, the striker will perform better while he is away.

Conclusion

Overall, the loan system has been kind to Everton, and never more so than this season. We have had our flops but you could take the view that the failed loanees prove the worth of the loan system even more than the success stories. The club has paid very little for a dud loanee but may have had to pay a few million more if they signed him initially on a permanent deal. We do not only have the incoming successes of Donovan, Campbell, Pienaar et al but younger players who went on loan and came back better players. Leon Osman, Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley had temporary spells in the Championship and came back to become club and international stars.

The reasons for the success and failure of loans clearly vary widely between an individual’s personality, the circumstances of the loan or their new environment. Consequently, it is extremely difficult for a manager to judge whether to take a player on loan or not. However, Everton clearly have the knack for getting players on loan to perform. So, don’t let any reds tell you our success so far this season is unfair because we have three players on loan. It’s not our fault their loan signings have been rubbish. So, as their former sponsors would say, if Carlsberg did loan signings we’d probably have the best loan signings in the world!

Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 4-1 Fulham

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Everton successfully collected their annual three point haul against Fulham, although it wasn’t quite as emphatic as the 4-1 score may suggest.

Martinez made 2 changes for this fixture with Gerard Deulofeu rewarded for his goal against Arsenal by taking the place of Kevin Mirallas and Leon Osman deputising for the suspended James McCarthy in midfield. Fulham remained unchanged from their Villa win last week and lined up in a 4-3-3 – and shape wise it was pretty similar to ourselves.

Blues take control

After a fairly bland opening period the first goal arrived on 18 minutes following some enterprise from Oviedo down the left wing. The Costa Rican played a good forward pass to Pienaar and the diminutive South African schemer teed up Leon Osman who scored ‘a typical Leon Osman goal’ using his close control and trickery to evade defenders in the box before curling a lovely left footed strike into the bottom corner.  The little general certainly had his cigar on yesterday.

The first half was generally uneventful and we lacked the crisp bite to our passing in the final third that has been the hallmark of recent matches.  Deulofeu was our main attacking weapon down the right as he ragged bad weapon Riise all over the show but his final ball was poor – failing to pick out a blue shirt with any of his 9 crosses.  His day got worse after the break when he done his hamstring which should keep him out for up to 10 games. It’s a real blow given the impetus he can bring from the bench against the big hitters coupled with his ability to embarrass the league’s lesser operatives seemingly at will.  With Deulofeu disappearing down the tunnel Everton’s chances of getting into the top 4 by close of business appeared to be going the same way as after some poor hold up play from Lukaku Fulham broke and were able to win a penalty after a dubious Barry foul. Berbatov duly dispatched the pen, putting it in exactly the same corner as he did last week against Villa.

With Everton looking more ragged in comparison to what we have seen this season the fear was that a typical everton style capitulation was on the cards, however the inner strength of this ‘group’ enabled them to go from this bad ‘moment’ to quickly turning up the heat on a Fulham side who had been on top either side of half time despite not having a shot on target until the equaliser.

Firstly, after some impish jinking down the left from Pienaar – the creator of the most chances in the game (5) – resulted in him playing an exquisite one two with Lukaku before Pienaar cut the ball back for Coleman to tuck home. It was a role reversal of the winning goal against Fulham at Goodison last season and underlined the growing force that is Seamus Coleman.  The league’s top scoring defender is known for his marauding antics and fearlessness but what has improved significantly is his ability on the ball. If we look at his debut season in 10/11 his pass completion was down at 78% – this has steadily risen each season and this season he is averaging an impressive 87.8% – underlining the work he has done on his technique which was arguably his greatest flaw. Yesterday he had the best passing data on the pitch with 98% completion.

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The one slight tweak that Martinez had made to the shape was by swapping Osman and Barkley so the teenager terror was now sitting deeper in the 8 role with Osman now the closest central support to Lukaku at number 10. As tweaks go it  worked fairly well and certainly asks more questions of the opposition than the calamitous Cahill-Fellaini 8/10 swap that we used to endure. Barkley has the tools to play deeper as he has shown already against Liverpool – namely his long passing and driving runs from deep – in fact you could argue his skill set is better suited to the number 8 spot long term. With Osman, Martinez has mentioned several times how he admires the veteran’s ability to find pockets of space in the final third particularly when defenders are tiring in the latter stages of games so we should probably get used to seeing this switch or a significant amount of dovetailing as the season unfolds.

With Fulham still threatening to crash the pre Christmas toffee party we got the third goal which ended the game as a contest. The goal – our 8th from a set play this season – came from a Mirallas corner kick delivery with Lukaku making a nuisance of himself before Barry bundles home on the goalline. With the game wrapped up, there was time for Martinez to continue his process of bedding in the ‘3 at the back’ as Stones came on for the game’s stand out performer Steven Pienaar. With Fulham having now thrown the towel in Mirallas was able to bang one home after being teed up again by the diminutive Osman for 4-1.

 In Conclusion…

This was a fairly hum drum fixture and we certainly didn’t scale the heights performance wise as we did at the Emirates or Old Trafford, but a 4-1 triumph over any one in this division  is still mightily impressive. Even when Fulham had us on the rack a bit they failed to really open us up with the exception of maybe one clear cut chance early on in the second half. Indeed, its 7 hours since an opposition side scored against us from open play at Goodison. This, coupled with the goals we are now scoring – that’s back to back 4 goal hauls at Goodison for the first time in years (couldn’t be arsed finding the exact date)  – and it’s fair to say we deserved the three points, albeit perhaps not the winning margin.

EB

Scout Scribbles – Fulham

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After such a tricky patch of fixtures we now enter a phase of eminently more winnable games against sides further down the table, starting this weekend with Fulham due at L4.

On paper this looks a dead cert toffees win. Harold MacMillan was the Prime Minister the last time Fulham took so much as a point at Goodison and you have to go back to 1948 for their last triumph on toffee soil. Added to this, they’ve lost five of their last six away, have failed to score in all those defeats and didn’t even register a shot on target on their last away day. To provide balance, Fulham are one of only 2 sides to have beaten us this season and there is always the threat of ‘new manager syndrome’ which was evident last week as Rene Meulensteen picked up his first win as Fulham boss against Villa. In this game they had 9 shots on target, so he had clearly had some sort of impact.

His managerial record is relatively unproven however, with nondescript spells at Brondby and Anzhi the subtotal of his time as a ‘number one’. His stock seems fairly good though, as presumably people associate him as the brains behind United’s successes last season with Taggart pre occupied with emptying the Old Trafford Glenlivet reserves and Phelan overlaid with his gatorade and cone duties.

Fulham’s home form has in previous seasons papered over the cracks but this campaign it has deserted them. Established and dependable top tier performers like Dempsey, Dembele and Diarra have all moved on in recent summers and some of their replacements have not been fit for purpose.  Whilst Berbatov is still clearly ace – when he wants to be –  and also to a lesser extent Ruiz , other acquisitions like Taraabt and Bent provide so little off the ball which has meant Fulham have become a soft touch – a situation made worst by the prolonged absence of defensive lynchpin Hangeland.

 Lets take a look at the likely starting line-up….

(GK) Maarten Stekelenburg  – Dutch goalkeeper who appeared in the World Cup Final for Holland in 2010. After winning the Eredivisie in 2011, he infamously dropped the trophy while standing on top of the Ajax team coach with Jan Vertonghen. He has also turned out for Roma.  Amongst his many talents he possesses a more than decent long kick and he found Berbatov more than any of his colleagues in the 1-2 defeat against Spurs last week.

 (CB) Aaron Hughes – 34 year old right footed left sided centre back who was perennially bullied by Fellaini in recent meetings between the clubs. A decent covering defender, he is the top clearance maker for the Cottagers with 9.1 per game and has also won the most aerial per game 3.6

(CB) Phillipe Senderos – This cat appears permanently terrified –  presumably due to looking in the mirror and seeing the reflection of Casper the friendly defender, and these supernatural powers enable him to go missing in his own penalty box at crucial times. Amazingly played for Everton -once- during a short lived loan spell. Has made the most defensive errors, most interceptions and has blocked the most shots for Fulham this season.

(RB) Sascha Reither – German right back who won the Bundesliga with Wolfsberg in 2011. Whilst at the Volkswagen  Stadium he played with right sided colleague Dejagah and his combination play with the Iranian down the right flank was a feature of Muelensteen’s  first games as boss with the duo combining 69 times – comfortably more than any other Fulham duo.

(LB) John Arne Risse – Oh how ‘da reds’ loved this hair dying, slack jawed mutant. ‘I wanna knowwwwwohoooo how you scored that goal‘ sang the edgy Annie road choir with regular gusto. Those days are long gone. Since joining Fulham he has fired in 105 shots but has yet to score and its difficult to see how he is still making a living from the game. He also bears more than a passing resemblance to the weird meth meff from Breaking Bad.

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(MC) Scott ‘Puts in a shift’ Scotty Parker – Bryllcream, pie and mash, badger bating, Tower of London loving midfielder who  turned down a move to the toffees back in 05′ in favour of Newcastle. Struggled to fit in with the culture and swiftly returned south to his London comfort blanket where he has re-commenced his Challenge Anneka attempt to play for every mediocre London club within a 10 year timeframe. Has won just 4 of 22 games against us for various clubs.

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(AMC) Giorgos Karagounis – Ex Inter and Benfica right footed midfield general is a known grafter with good delivery from set plays and uses his experience to buy cheap fouls. At 36 he is one of the oldest outfield players in the division and one of 9 players 30 years or over who appeared in Fulham’s win last week. Can boast over 100 caps for his country but will struggle to last more than 60 minutes. Still has plenty of quality and last week was deployed at the forward peak of the midfield triangle. Fulham have also won 2 of the 3 games he has started.

(MR) Ashkan Dejagah – Iranian born right footed wide forward who was brought to the club from the Germany –  a country he represented at youth level before switching allegiances to his homeland. Has a goal and an assist in his last two games of the new era and provides some much needed youth.

(MC) Steve Sidwell – Criminally scored a last minute equaliser against us  last season in the 2-2 at Fulham when we dominated so much. Played as the number 8 last week in between Parker behind and Karagounis in front and scored a nice goal as well as creating the most chances. Is Fulham’s top scorer this season with 3.

(ML) Alex Kacaniklic – Swedish left winger who can also play centrally. Spent 3 years across the park without playing one minute of first team football. Will look to whip in corners from the right side with his left peg. One goal and no assists this season is a fairly poor return for a player predominantly deployed in an attacking role.

(FC) Dimitar Berbatov – You know what you’re getting with this cat, and this season it’s basically not a lot. Can obviously do the incredible as he showed last week but such days are increasingly few and far between. His figures against us (4 goals and no assists in 13) would hardly make him stand out as a Les Ferdinand style toffee scourge. With Bent and Taraabt seemingly not in the plans of the new boss, Berbatov will likely lead the line on his own and be central to Fulham’s attacking play

Bottom line….

With James McCarthy suspended, the only selection dilemma appears whether to go with Barkley or recall Osman in the Irishman’s slot. I think the desire to get Deulofeu into the side will dictate this call and I could see Barkley moving into a deeper role to accommodate the Catalan.

In truth, Fulham simply don’t have the tools to stop us getting the win that could see us go into second spot in the table depending on results elsewhere. I’m going to be bold and go for a 3-0 home win.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Arsenal 1-1 Everton

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Teams

Everton named an unchanged side from the team that beat United on Wednesday and kept pretty much the same shape. Arsenal started with Wilshere and Cazorla as the wide attacking midfielders with Ramsey and Arteta in the deeper positions and Ozil off Giroud. Both sides were pretty much the same in terms of a 4-2-3-1 shape.

First Half

The game began with Everton playing at full throttle with complete domination of the ball to the tune of 66% in the opening 30 minutes of the game. The passing grid from the game below gives us an indicator of the main combination moves we used to out manoeuvre Arsenal for large periods of the game.

Howard found Distin the most (12) with the Frenchman's most prolific pass finding Ovideo  (9). Oviedo and Pienaar had the most combination of any 2 players on the pitch (30).

Howard found Distin the most (12) with the Frenchman’s most prolific pass found Ovideo (9). Oviedo and Pienaar had the most combination of any 2 players on the pitch (30).

What was most impressive was the way Pienaar and particularly Barkley – the game’s top player with our most attacking third passes and chances created –  were able to find spaces on the pitch to drive into Arsenal danger areas. Pienaar would come inside to receive and then look to release Ovideo out wide whereas Barkley was finding plenty of space further up field between Arsenal’s defence and midfield lines in and around the area usually bossed by former toffee Mikel Arteta who made little impact on the game.  Arsenal were struggling to stop the flow and switched their wide midfielders possibly to give more defensive shape down our left but in truth it had little impact in repelling our bubbling momentum in the first half hour.

As we mentioned in the preview, Arsenal have scored more goals from counter attacks than anyone in the league so wouldn’t necessarily be too concerned with teams coming and having a go at them, but such was our quality of possession they found it pretty much impossible to engineer counter punches and  didn’t register a shot in the first 30 minutes. Such domination of the ball on Arsenal’s home turf is pretty much unprecedented in the last 10 years.

In the final 15 minutes of the half however the game began to swing towards the hosts with Ramsey teeing up Giroud and then the Frenchman returned the favour for his midfield colleague shortly after.  Tim Howard – who was superb throughout – foiled both openings superbly and we went in level at the break.  If there was a worry at half time it was that despite having 62% of possession we had failed to have a shot on target.

#GerardDeulofeuhesmagicyouknow

#GerardDeulofeuhesmagicyouknow

Second Half

After the break it was much more end to end than the first with some good sparring between two sides going for the win. Arsenal also played a lot more compact and we found it a bit trickier to get in behind them in the early stages of the second half.

There was also a fair bit of tinkering going on from the managers as the half developed.

Pre match Martinez predicted that substitutions would be crucial and so it proved. Wenger was particularly bold and made a triple change on 68 minutes with midfielders Flamini, Walcott and Cazorla all being introduced.  In the opposite dugout Leon Osman, who was due to come on BEFORE the triple change, is then held back as Martinez tries to decipher the changes Arsenal have made to the midfield before playing his first card. After nearly 10 minutes of waiting in the ‘technical area’ – which included some ipad interaction with Graeme Jones –  Osman is then introduced on the left with Mirallas moving to the right. The Belgian was subsequently  replaced on 79 minutes for Deulofeu.

With the game increasingly looking likely to end in stalemate, Arsenal took the lead a minute later after substitute Rosicky whips get the ball in from our right flank. We looked a bit disjointed here following the substitution of Mirallas, with McCarthy sitting in the right mid slot but the Irish dynamo is unable to prevent the cross coming in. Defensively I’d say Oviedo is the wrong side of  Walcott whose header back across goal allows Ozil to ghost in for a tap in.

A defeat would have been really harsh given what we had put into the game and with the clock ticking we were able to pull level and again it was Barkley who was key as he rides two challenges to play in Oviedo down the left flank. As we mentioned in the analysis of the Man United goal in midweek, one of the key variables of Martinez offensive approach to Moyes is the volume of players he gets in the opposition final third (if you look at the goal, we outnumber Arsenal in terms of outfield players 8 v 7 in their final third). From Oviedo’s resulting cross,  Lukaku flicks on to Deulofeu who takes a few touches before exquisitely dispatching into the roof of Arsenal’s net.

Final Thoughts

This was a really good display in what was an intensive game from the toffees against the best side in the division. We controlled the game for the opening half hour, Arsenal shaded the second 30 minutes and then the final half hour was frenetic,  end to end stuff that could have gone either way.

The way we bossed Arsenal for long periods on the ball will give us great belief, particularly as we have at times struggled to dominate the ball in our games against sides from the top 6 as we have done against the leagues lesser operatives. Off the ball we were equally impressive with McCarthy relentless in his pressing when we lost possession.  If there is a slight critique it’s that we weren’t as good in the final third as we can be, but that really is being picky and the way this classy and bullish Everton side are  currently playing you just need to sit back and enjoy, as its ace to watch.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Man United 0-1 Everton

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Well disguised behind each manager’s soapy tit wank pre match preamble resided hidden jibes to the others perceived weakness.

First Moyes commented on Everton’s defensive strength this season which has seen us pick up the most clean sheets in the top flight  ‘ I always told them they could play without a manager because they are very well organised ‘ which is roughly translated to Martinez as ‘ you couldn’t organise a defence to save your life you decadent, lark lane mincing, brown brogue wearing latino ponce’.

Always keen to show that the pen is mightier than sword, Martinez responded with ‘“Over the last 10 years we have not beaten Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool at their grounds and we need to address that. We need to make sure we are ourselves. We need to know how we are going to play and who we are.” ‘ roughly translated to Moyes as ‘you’re a shit scared, dour,  percentage football loving negative Scottish twat who’s getting sacked in March’.

Or maybe not.

But did any of this verbal jousting  have any bearing on the game? Lets row through the key data;

First Half

Despite us starting the game better than our hosts, United came back into the match and shaded possession in the first half. Under Moyes United have attacked more down the right flank but statistically they did so more than usual here, perhaps targeting Bryan Oviedo who was starting an away match in the top flight at left back for the first time. As a reactive tactician, Moyes does of course love to target a perceived weak link in the opposition ranks.

As a result, United’s top passing combinations were all down the right with Smalling, Rafael and Valencia amongst the most frequent receivers of passes with Fellaini the main source from the right of central midfield. In the long run it would be United’s right side which would have a big impact on the outcome of the game.

Second Half

This right sided offensive overload continued in the second half when Moyes – somewhat going against his substitutions policy at L4 –  made an early double switch with Januzaj joining the action and becoming the main out ball on the right flank with winger Valencia pushed back to right back with both looking to overload Ovideo. The Costa Rican thus had to put up with incessant pressure throughout and as a result made the most tackles and fouls of any player on the pitch.

Like in the first half, we defended doggedly with clearances aplenty as is usually the case in this fixture, however the key differential between this and previous trips to Old Trafford was on the counter attack as the power of Lukaku – who gave Vidic some torrid moments – along with the drive of initially Barkley and later Deulofeu caused United no end of difficulty.

Often the final ball can be frustrating with the dynamic teenagers with Barkley in the first half guilty of a sloppy pass when we broke 3 v 2 and then after superb link play by Lukaku, Deulofeu shot straight at De Gea shortly after coming on. The fact that we created comfortably more chances from open play on United’s own patch (12 v 8) is testament to the expression and incision we now have to our game regardless of the opponent.

The goal followed a spell of Blues pressure with United and in particular the defensive left side of Vidic and Evra were increasingly showing signs of creaking. The heat began to get turned up a notch when Coleman presses well in United’s final third to pick Fellaini’s pocket before being downed rashly by Valencia.From the resulting free kick, Mirallas strikes the post but such is the amount of bodies we commit (as shown below) in United’s final third, we maintain possession.

After Deulofeu comes close to scoring following a jinking run, Oviedo’s over hit cross is then picked up Coleman down the right who plays in McCarthy.

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McCarthy then picks out Jagielka (above) who finds Lukaku (below) who rolls Belgian colleague Fellaini but screws a shot away from De Gea’s right side following a deflection from the former toffee.

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With Valencia caught ball watching, Oviedo is the only one who reacts to the shot and is able to wrap his foot around the ball to edge us in front.

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In summary

Over the 90 minutes it was a fairly even game with United hitting the woodwork twice, slightly shading possession and during a couple of periods looked the more likely team to get the opening goal.

However,  this game was all about our ability to counter attack with pace, power and ruthless incision. Ultimately we reaped the rewards for being positive and not hiding behind any  ‘knife to a gun fight’ repression – a mantra that has plagued our visits to the top clubs over the last 10 years.

With the sheer number of players we committed forward and the fact we created a lot more chances in open play (as the away side too) it was a richly deserved win which ended two decades of abject misery on this ground since a Warzycha inspired Everton romped to a 3-0 back in 1992.

For Moyes, the ultimate irony was that his not so customary attacking changes actually cost them a chance of a point and the defeat leaves him staring down the barrel of a gun in what is increasingly becoming a sticky Old Trafford wicket. Perhaps he should have just concentrated on getting out of their alive, and he’ll certainly need to call on all his powers of managing expectations if he is to survive the winter of discontent that is heading his way.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction – Everton 4-0 Stoke

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Everton’s relentless march up the table continued at a frightening speed as a sorry Stoke side were taken apart in what was one of the most one sided games seen at Goodison in a long while.

Lets row through the goals from yesterday’s comprehensive win….

Everton 1-0 Stoke (Deulofeu) The first goal was Deulofeu’s first for the club and it was a move he started himself from the left side, playing a nice one two with Pienaar before Barry slots him in to stab home. Nzonzi (circled) has Barry marked initially but is then guilty of completely switching off and allowing Barry to waltz into the box to tee up Deulofeu. The barca loanee had a very productive afternoon, also making the most shots and dribbles by some distance of any player on the pitch.

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Everton 2-0 Stoke (Coleman) The second goal was all about Coleman (circled) and his desire to bust a gut and run half the length of the pitch to get on the end of Deulofeu’s centre via Barry. Both Barry and Coleman’s touches were a bit jammy but Coleman’s relentless desire to get into the box and ahead of his marker (rs loanee Assaidi) was worthy of this piece of luck.

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It’s also worth noting the service Deulofeu received and in particular from Osman who found the Spaniard 10 times – more than any other player as shown in the above passing grid. In turn, Osman was fed the most by Barry (18 times) in what was the most frequent passing combination of any two toffees. As well as his two assists, Barry also created the most chances, made the most tackles and – as usual  – made the most passes.

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Everton 3-0 Stoke (Oviedo) Bryan Oviedo had a decent game of what could be an extended run of matches for the Costa Rican and his goal was a nice bonus. After Oviedo had sumptuously back healed to Barry, the hapless Ryan Shawcross hacks the cross out for a corner. Deulofeu then takes a short corner into Oviedo and the wing back is able to stroll past an embarrassing attempt to press from Charlie ‘ye olde oak’ Adam (circled) before lashing home with his weaker right foot.

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Everton 4-0 Stoke (Lukaku) Distin – now playing in a back three –  feeds Osman who then plays a brilliant threaded pass to Oviedo who sells a dummy to Shea before teeing up Lukaku (again with his weaker right foot). The ‘big belgian’ then taps home with his right foot in what was his last touch of the game. Lukaku now has the best minutes per goal rate (117) in Premier League history. The defending again is pretty poor from Muniesa (circled) who is looking at the ball which enables Lukaku to not have to do much in terms of movement to get into the position to receive from Oviedo.

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In summary….

Whilst this wasn’t as exciting a game as last week’s derby, there was some ‘liquid football’ on show from the Blues, sprinkled with some individual brilliance from Deulofeu. One of the big challenges when Martinez arrived in the summer was to improve our ability to dominate lesser sides as usually our games will be tight whether it be against the top six or bottom six. As an example, prior to yesterday’s game our last 5 meetings with Stoke have yielded just one goal by an Everton player so to get 4 and win in such an emphatic way shows the progress we are making.

Up the toffees!

EB