Meetings with Norwich City have proved particularly troublesome for the Toffees since the Canaries gained promotion back to the top flight back in 2011; n the 5 games since we have failed to win any, with both the Goodison games ending in 1-1 stalemates.
With this being a sort of tactics site the onus is on us to find some kind of clever reason as to why this dynamic has occurred. Or make one up.
In truth , whilst being a capable outfit Norwich have rode their luck a tad and their draws have been aided and abetted by some shocking finishing from ourselves. To back this up, Norwich have created just 7 chances in open play in the last two L4 fixtures compared to our 26. Their fortune was also evident in the opening game of this season, scoring twice from just 2 shots on target in the entire game to force an undeserved 2-2 draw.
Like his previous incumbent Paul Lambert, Chris Hughton is a tactical pragmatist albeit lacking some of the attacking variation of the Scot. This season Norwich have usually gone with a flat central midfield 3 away at the top sides with Leroy ‘remember him’, Fer, the awful Bradley Johnson and the currently injured Howson whilst against lesser operatives the delightful Wes Hoolahan has come in and played off the front man in a slightly more adventurous approach.
Since their humiliating crumble at the Etihad and twice annual surrender to the daft racist across the park, Norwich have gone 3 unbeaten on the road with just 1 goal conceded so came into the game in comparatively decent nick.
Teams and Tactics
Due to injuries to central defensive stalwart Distin and problems with Alcaraz, both missed out meaning Stones continued to deputise alongside the returning Jagielka who switched to the left of centre as he does for England. Hughton sprung a surprise by setting up with a two pronged strike force of Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel which created a 3 v 2 advantage for us in midifled with McCarthy, Barry and Osman up against Fer and Johnson. With granite faced simpleton Michael Turner doing his rota’d Saturday down the Carphone Warehouse, Ryan Bennett came in to partner Bassong at the heart of defence.
In terms of possession we dominated to the tune of 63%\37%and also controlled play in the opposition half territory wise to the tune of 57%\43%. In the final third we created 17 chances from open play to Norwich’s 10 which yielded 5 shots on target to our visitors 3. Off the ball we made 35 pressing contacts each (tackles, interceptions and blocks).
Norwich forward duo
Hughton’s selection of both forwards was quite a surprise given that he has rarely (if ever?) gone for both summer forward signings in the same team this season and has usually preferring to go for either 3 in midfield or Hoolahan playing off one of them. The approach seemed to be to have two forwards playing high up to press Jagielka, Barry and Stones and cut out passing angles into midfield to inhibit the trio and forcing us into us going long. This basically meant that we struggled to play through midfield with Osman – usually in cigar smoking form against such opposition – having one of his most peripheral afternoons for a while. When Norwich had the ball, they bypassed midfield and looked to hit the forward duo early with 19% of their passes long to our 13%.
To an extent the forward duo approach worked – if we look at the passing grid for instance Stones played the ball back to Howard 10 times due to no obvious forward pass being on which is way out of sync with our usual passing data. On the downside, forcing us to play long doesn’t give any guarantee of success given that we have the long ‘out ball’ of Lukaku to aim for and the first goal was a good example of this. Jagielka basically gives the ball a good ‘welly’ (you won’t find that variable in the prozone database) and Lukaku does a good job in controlling the long ball and playing in Barry. With Norwich seemingly more focused on maintaining defensive shape, no one goes out to press Barry which enables the man who has made absolutely everyone eat their words at L4 to slam the ball high into the roof of Ruddy’s net. Leroy Fer -the man who might have been – should really have gone to press Barry and the Dutchman’s display will have convinced many blues that his dodgy knee very much enabled us to dodge a bullet 12 months ago.
Minder for Coleman
The other interesting part to Norwich’s defensive gameplan was the use of Garrido – a left back – at left midfield in place of the more offensive Redmond. We witnessed something similar last season when Swansea put their right back Rangel at right midfield to double up with his fullback to stop Baines. Its testament to the impact Coleman has made that he is now afforded the same treatment and unsurprising given that he scored one and created the other goal in the 2-2 draw earlier this season. Garrido basically had no impact on the ball – he had the fewest touches (20) of any of the players who started the match and played just 2 forward passes all afternoon before being hauled off. The move did inhibit Coleman though as can be seen in the passing grid further down this piece with the Irish marauder receiving just 40 passes compared to the 63 Baines received. With Coleman less influential, Baines was taking back his role as the most dynamic efc wing back and his surge forward was to lead to the clinching goal. After his driving run inside was checked by Bennett, Kevin Mirallas stepped forward to clip a delicious right footed strike into Ruddy’s bottom corner.
With 20 minutes left, Martinez continued his approach to try and embed a three man defence when games are seemingly won, although with three ‘righties’ (Heitinga, Jags & Stones) it didn’t look great and whereas in previous home games when we have kicked on and scored late goals, in this one we didn’t threaten to score any more and created just 1 chance in this period with Norwich the side looking the more likely to score.
Passing Grid – Key highlights
- Top pass for the day was Jagielka to Baines (20)
- Overall most combinations between Pienaar and Baines (40)
- Norwich’s most combinations were between Whittaker and Snodgrass (25)
It was a given that we would control the game and restrict Norwich to few chances, and the crux was always going to be could we take our chances when they came along and we did this. Barry’s goal and overall performance was superb and he was again our top performer both in shielding the back four and in dictating play in the Norwich half. At the back, Stones was again impressive as the covering centre back, although he did lose Hooper in the first half and Van Wolfswinkel in the second for Norwich’s two best chances and can sometimes be over elaborate on the ball – witnesss Jagielka having to ‘tell him off’ a couple of times. I guess when your centre half attempts the most dribbles on the pitch it says a lot about the confidence and arrogance that this Everton side are currently playing with….and long may it continue!