Tactical Deconstruction: Chelsea 1-0 Everton

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The Tactical Preamble

Saturday’s early kick off gave us the unenviable task of trying to kick-start our increasingly iffy away form against a bubbling Chelsea side.

The West Londoners deservedly top the table –  unless of course points are given for games lost to dark forces / corruption – and have dropped just four points at home all season which is the best record in the top flight. In Mourinho they also have the league’s best tactician and man-manager, and also perhaps also the most irritating.

For Mourinho enthusiasts, even when he loans out arguably his best striker its some kind of brilliant insurgent strategy designed to undermine rivals, whilst bullying a geriatric french pensioner is intelligence worthy of Alain De Botton. He’s clearly not in the same league as Tony Soprano however, as this scene demonstrates.

Anyway, I digress.

Martinez dilemma was whether he sticks to the rigid deep defensive line and limited pressure on the ball that brought us a 1-0 win against the same opposition earlier this season and concede space between the lines for Chelsea’s fluid attacking midfield trio to turn and run at us. Or does he try and play more aggressive further up the pitch and nip Chelsea’s attacks in the bud around the midfield zone as citteh did pretty well in the cup last week.

From a defensive point of view our win in the corresponding fixture was a bit more of a Moyes style grind-off than the brown brogue free love approach of Martinez. Our blue sky thinking boss did engage in some tactical jousting in the second period to counter Mourinho’s switch to a 3-5-2 by replacing Jelavic with McCarthy. This was designed to get more bodies in deep midfield areas and use Mirallas as the outball through the midde with Nasimith playing a key role on the flanks to win diagonals in the air.

Taking control of this game was going to be tricky but not insurmountable. Our passing share v top sides on the road has been impressive (54% average). This ball hogging against the big sides has yielded just 2 goals on the road though and with just 1 goal from open play in our last 4 away games it was clear we had a job on in terms of scoring, particularly with Chelsea having the best defensive record in the league.

Team News

Chelsea’s preferred back four was re-united with Ivanovic and Azpilcueta in the fullback slots and Cahill and Terry in the middle. Matic and Lampard played as the midfield shield with the attacking midfield trio of William, the impish and industrious Oscar and star man Eden Hazard behind benchmark mercenary Eto’o.

With no Lukaku the big ‘selection dilemma’ for us concerned who would lead the line with Traore, who showed on his debut he can be ace and cack in equal measure, initially preferred to the more consistent if less shiny Steven Nasimith, however due to an injury in the warm up the Scot got the nod.

The Game

Whilst Chelsea settled the better in the first ten minutes Everton then completely took control and bossed the remainder of the half. The combination play was particularly good down the left side with Barry – who along with McCarthy was immense throughout – finding Baines at will, who in turn was threading some nicely angled forward passes into Naismith who was linking play superbly with on rushing midfielders. Indeed, the two best chances of the game at this stage came from such scenarios with Naismith teeing up first Osman and then Mirallas.  After such a dominant display in the opening 45 mins there was more than a whiff of the Spurs defeat at half time as despite bossing possession and territory we had amassed just one shot on target.

Chelsea opted to not get sucked in by our passing and instead dropped off to be more compact in their own defensive third. Going forward our hosts produced virtually nothing with Oscar well shackled and Hazard frustrated by Coleman and ending the half on the right flank.

In the second period Ramires was brought on for Oscar, who having made a few fouls since his earlier booking was in risk of being sent off and was generally below par. Ramires added more intensity and Chelsea played a bit more of a direct 4-3-3.

Going forward the attacking dynamic of Barry > Baines > Naismith was much less of an option after the break,  going from 20 combinations in the first half to just 4  in the second period. Naismith looked a tad more isolated and whilst he did his best he struggled in the air against Terry and Cahill, winning just 3 of the 18 aerial duels he contested.

Indeed, with the exception of a deflected effort from Osman we hardly created anything after the break with just 6 chances created in open play to our hosts 13 over the 90mins. Attacking midfield trio Barkley, Deulofeu and McGeady all came on and with Chelsea now in the ascendancy it seemed the strategy was to hit Chelsea on the break but as with the Spurs game the subs provided nothing. Barkley was particularly poor and frequently lost possession although with the 90 minutes now up it seemed that we were going to get the point we deserved.

Chelsea had been on top after the break and in their search for a goal the comically bad Torres was brought on with the specific instruction of squealing like a pig at the referee at every opportunity. Luckily for Chelsea, the malignant forward is an expert in such situations from his time served across the park. Ramires, a player adept at ‘engaging contact’ with opponents won more fouls than any other player in the 90 mins and after a coming together with Jagielka it was Cheslea who were to have the game’s  final opportunity deep into injury time. As Lampard sized up the free kick and our defensive line retreated way too far back there was a feeling of inevitability about what followed as the presence of the odious Terry led to the previously excellent Howard being caught in 8 minds and forcing the ball over his own line.

Conclusion

There was a lot of similarities with the Spurs defeat here. A first half that we dominated with several decent chances was followed by a second period in which we created little and then got stung by a set play. There was plenty of positives to take from the game , however, notably the way we controlled possession as well as the attacking passing combinations in the first half along with some great defending from Jagielka and Distin.  As mentioned at the start, getting a goal was always going to be difficult and ultimately the lack of a cutting edge has again cost us. League wise, three home games now follow – all against crud sides we should web everywhere – so all is not lost dear readers.

EB

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Tactical Deconstruction: Spurs 1-0 Everton

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The preamble

Last time out at Goodison Spurs completely suffocated us, taking a 0-0 draw and but for their profligacy in front of goal would have taken all three. Particularly in the first half, Spurs squeezed us when we had the ball in our own half with the now departed Holtby pressing well and then repeatedly finding spaces between lines of our defence and midfield, notably from passes made down our left flank. In the second period we had more ball but it was mostly sterile dominance i.e not in danger zones with a crud yield of just 1 shot on target and the fewest clear cut chances created figure we have posted in any game this season.

Since then plenty has happened at White Hart Lane. After some televised sherlackings,  faux clever businessman Levy duly dispensed with ‘the avb project’ as it hit exception status. Levy replaced him with Tim ‘200%’ Sherwood – a man whose closest previous experience to any managerial hot seat was changing Arry’s colostomy bag at half time. The Gilet-snood wearing snide can come across as something of a bloated shitehawk badger and he could count himself somewhat fortuitous to inherit an already huge squad who in the summer thunderspunked a figure double  what it cost us to assemble our entire squad.

Since his arrival Spurs have tinkered between a 4 and 5 man midfield. £20m man Soldado has usually been rolled out against bottom feeders like stoke and palace at home whilst Sigurdsson has come in as an extra midfield body against ball hogging outfits like Swansea and City. In the 8 league games he has overseen prior to this one Spurs have scored in each and accrued 2.1 points per game – a tally which would have them above us and the RS in the table should he have been there since day one of the campaign.

Unsurprisingly given the above, Sherwood went for a midfield 5 for this one with Erikson, Dembele, and supposedly Lennon, providing forward support to Adebayor. For us, McGeady and Barkley were both benched in favour of last week’s match winning duo Naismith and Pienaar with Coleman also coming back in for Stones.

First Half

The opening exchanges seen the aforementioned Naismith playing as a kind of left sided forward with Mirallas keeping his width on the right which enabled Osman and Pienaar  to exploit space created by the wide forwards pulling their markers out wide. It’s a strategy that seemed to surprise Sherwood and resulted in Osman having 4 very decent openings within the first eight minutes of the contest with the first coming after just 2 minutes following a nice bit of play from the returning Coleman.

Osman was finding plenty of space between Spurs lines of midfield and defence and his service from Coleman down the right flank was our top passing combination in the opening half, with Osman receiving 8 times from Coleman.

Going forward, Spurs were anaemic with most of their attacks nipped in the bud by the superb James McCarthy. The Irish presser made 7 tackles in the opening half – more than Spurs defensive mids Bentaleb and Paulinho put together and the half ended with Spurs failing to have any strike on target and only one chance created from open play to our five.

There was a nagging feeling however that we had missed a trick in terms of making our superior final third play pay.

Second Half

After the break its fair to say we didn’t show up in an attacking sense.

Naismith’s endeavour to put in a shift had been commendable in the first half; he made good runs into the channels, won  more free kicks than anyone from either side and generally gave opposition defenders a problem with his pressure play.

This time however, Naismith got a bit too tight on Bentaleb leading to a Spurs free kick just inside our half.  Clattenturd sportily allowed Spurs  to take it 10 yards from where the incident took place and Barry – whose skills off the ball as an arl arse snide are never usually found wanting –  doesn’t stand on Walker which enables the gaming enthusiast to take a quick free kick. From the resulting dinked pass, Adebayor nips in between Coleman and Jagielka to ruthlessly fire past Howard for the games opening goal. Like Villa last week, Spurs had scored with their first shot on target.

Post-match Sherwood explained the half time dynamic which supposedly changed the game;

‘We managed to sit them down, have a little chat and decided that we needed to put some more pressure on them higher up the field which was the gameplan originally.We were nice and compact in the middle of the park but we were far too deep and if you give them space, they have good players who will open you up and that is what they did in the first half. So in the second half we stepped into them a little bit, made them play quicker and they gave us the ball back. They never had a shot at goal in the second half and we looked like we were going to score.’

Whilst Sherwood was incorrect with his assertion that ‘we gave them the ball back’ – our passing accuracy actually went up in the second half   – Spurs aggression further up field did inhibit us and trigger more backward and sideways passes. By way of an example, Coleman – who had found Osman the most in the first half – combined just twice with the schemer after the break.  It’s such occasions when having a big hard galoot who can shield the ball upfront gives you the ability to make longer passes count but with Lukaku injured and Traore seemingly not ready our options here are a tad limited.

Saying that, our bench looked a lot healthier than it has done in recent weeks and Martinez looked to kick start a blue revival with three of the attacking four replaced in the hope fresh eyes would be able to pick a pass through a tiring Spurs rearguard.  Barkley failed to instigate any mischief, McGeady huffed and puffed and Deulofeu generally got outmuscled whenever he cut inside with none of the trio carving out an opening between them.  Rather than resuscitate the Blues the changes seemed to create  less rhythm and the expected onslaught was confined to an iffy looking penalty shout which was never going to be given with the hair plugged meff officiating.

In Conclusion

A lack of a cutting edge was put forward by most as the main reason for us not taking anything from the game and it’s hard to argue with this. Our shooting accuracy was 33% – the third worst total we’ve posted this season – and whilst our forward play was very good in the opening half we created virtually nothing in the second period. Still, we were well worthy of at least a point and Spurs will rightfully wonder how the fuck they won this game.  Our away form is costing us at the moment with a run of just two points from twelve on the road making it increasingly unlikely we will be able to kick on any further in terms of a league position. Things can change very quickly, however,  and a win against Tony Putrid’s Palace on Wednesday would be a very good start.

EB

Transfer Wipe

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The narrative leading upto the transfer window was the usual media guff about player departures and the now painfully boring jokes about our loan deals, however the first piece of business was the excellent permanent acquisition of wing schemer Aiden McGeady from Moscow. Not a man to be light in his praise, Martinez unsurprisingly described the deal as ‘an unbelievable moment’ for the club and player.

New Picture (123)The Scotland born wideman’s key attributes are as a dribbler and particularly as a creator of goals; in the 3 seasons which preceded his move to Russia he created 50 goals for teammates at Celtic, but this figure dropped to 29 in four seasons in Moscow. McGeady’s time under Trappatoni for Ireland and the setup at Moscow has improved his defensive and positional awareness and fostered a more professional approach in terms of preparation, training and tactics. The deal improves our increasingly limited options in the forward 4 positions and he could cover right midfield allowing Mirallas to be played through the middle or play off Lukaku enabling Barkley to drop into a deeeper role, or in the pivot, if you speak bell-end.

In terms of concerns, his heading, crossing and tackling could all be better although its his mental frailty which perhaps raises the most question marks. A dressing room row with Gordan Strachan, a six game ban for vollying a dressing room door and more recently being suspended from training for not complying with instructions in training and matches culminated in advice from his previous employers to seek out a psychologist.

For me, McGeady’s signature represents a low risk capture for the club and the acquisition of a decent if albeit patchy performer. His ability to commit fullbacks 1v1 is the key attraction for Martinez along with his ‘arrogance’ in the final third but there are flaws, namely this suspect mentality and a question mark over his ability to deliver consistently in a competitive league.

The rise of the idiots was well under way at Sky where flagship ball bag Jim White had amazingly been given his own transfer show where he interviews a variety of awful humans about transfers that will never happen. Amongst his esteemed guests include ex palace owner Simon Jordan – comical owner of the UK’s last remaining highlighted centre part – who comically used the show as partridge style forum to insist that he ‘had the last laugh’ on <insert name of unscrupulous owner/agent>.

Back to transfers that happened, and food trough extractor Steve Bruce swooped to take fan favourite and serial goal shy striker Nikica Jelavic to Hull in a deal which meant we had somehow recouped £40m for last season’s physical but empty headed forward line of Fellaini, Anichebe & Jelavic.

Another striker who used to score goals, the dangerously dense Jermaine Defoe, was also on the move as he ‘closed in’ on  a move to Toronto by greeting his new fan New Picture (124)base with the classic welcome of ‘I’m made up to be in America innit’. Going back to Jelavic, whilst a fan fave and initially a hit the Balkan bomber has regressed spectacularly since 2013 and has been dreadful for a long time now. Many theories have been put forward for Jelavic’s descent into woe, ranging from poor service to psychological problems, but the crux of the matter is that he simply couldn’t get it up anymore. Crucially, his honest back to goal battering ram style was just too functional for the brown brogue sophistication advocated by the new world under Martinez which emphasises movement, comfort in possession and crucially the ability to commit defenders as key requisites in the final third. That said, nobody could fault his application and he provided some great times.

With one in and one out,  attention turned to a short term replacement for Arouna Kone. ‘Media outlets’ including the Guardian broke the news that Everton were sweet on goal shy Trinidadian forward Kenwyne Jones. The knee jerk social media reaction was of fury, ala Gibson, Barry etc. Jones isn’t this bad really but his approach has always been a tad too laid back to really make a decent fist of his career. The striker was eventually sent to Cardiff in exchange for morally repugnant transfer window favourite Peter Odemwingie – and will probably score 3 in his first 6 games then disappear without trace.

Horse-loving cock-tip amputee Dharmesh Sheth and the gimp that sky employ despite having suffered a violent stroke which forces him to talk slower than a Stoke counter attack reported that  ‘Big Sam’ was looking to save his position as the world’s 13th highest paid manager by signing  man mountain Ivorian Lacina Traore.  The left footed forward has bagged 58 goals and 22 assists in a 152 game career to date although has a reputation as something of a hot head.  Just as the forward was preparing to sign on the dotted line at subhuman scum bros Gold and Sullivan’s east london den of iniquity,  the striker was whisked up to L4  quicker than Fat Sam could demolish a little chef olympic breakfast. The deal did actually take a bit longer than that but as rotund scriber Alan Nixon from the Mirror would testify, you should never let truth get in the way of a good story. More on that cat later.

New Picture (125)Traore, our new ‘hitman’ is known as a one man attack and his back catalogue of goals seem a mix of six yard box tap ins and driving runs through rubbish defenders. Positionally, he can dribble and play as a deeper forward potentially behind Lukaku or instead of him or on the left of a forward three. When looking at his youtube montage there was more than a whiff of  those Jo ‘the happy clapper’ videos we all swallowed a few years back. With Lukaku completely out of sorts of late, Traore provides some serious competition for the number 9 spot and if he can get back to the level he was at a couple of years ago it’ll be good business.

It is a bit of a longshot though and the fact he is injured makes it all a bit meh. Aside from being injured and not very good in the air for somewhere taller than Peter Crouch *flashback to Sean Flynn out jumping Brett Angell*  there is also the mental bundle of a player acclimatizing and being able to hit the ground running. Last season he was sent off in a Europa League for diving and took an early bath three times in two seasons in Romania. His disciplinary record, with 24 yellow cards already, is hardly impressive and in his last six games for Anzhi he contributed no goals or assists but totted up 3 bookings. That said, with Lukaku out of form and now out of the picture due to injury, the outcome of the season could hinge on this loan being a fruitful one.

Arguably the best business was done with existing players. With kenwrong carrying the can on twitter after the disappointing recent results, it emerged that Baines had signed a new deal and that young Barkley was also ‘close’ to tying down a new deal. All this despite Baines earlier ‘demanding man United move’ according to Wallace at the Independent and Beech over at the Mirror.

Flip flopping turd worm Nixon and Mirror football in particular took a shellacking in this window. After their golden goose story regurgitated over 3 years to take Baines to United went awry, they then incorrectly revealed we had ‘swooped’ for Valencia midfielder Canalas – another non starter – and haphazardly speculated that we were ready to sell Coleman for Joe Allen money.

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Brian Beard from Sport Direct News also revealed Jagielka was going to the Theatre of Screams and Deulofeu was also supposedly crossing the park  to Liverpool via fellow purveyor of human excrement Caught Offside. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, James Robson from the MEN trumped them all by revealing Moyes was ready to blow £50m on Barkley – a player who he didn’t see fit to consider in the last 2 years at Goodison.

Jim White and his sky shitehawks reported the news that former really cool turned figure of ridicule Davey Moyes was set to make the biggest move of the deadline. The ‘ledge’ presenter ambitiously predicted  that bringing in Juan Mata would ‘ be sure to set off a chain reaction in the market”. Errrrm, it didn’t.

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The transfer frenzy certainly didn’t involve Liverpool who ended the window two men down after Johnson and the sit sniffing weasel faced colon biscuit Lucas succumbed to longish layoffs. They also missed out on Basle winger Salah, who moved south to Chelsea- with John Aldridge blaming this one on the interference of both Howard Webb and also Mourinho for trying to sabotage their title tilt. Bruce Grobellar meanwhile blamed the National Front. The club who have spent the most money since the inception of the premier league continued their quest for ‘da champyans leeeeg’ by trying to sign a long named £20m Russian winger but the deal crumbled. If the deal had gone through then presumably he would have been the new Ronaldo, or Anthony Le Tallac if you’re Chris Bascombe.

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On the subject of ‘da reds’ probably the most comical transfer that didn’t happen involved one of their ex players as race hate enthusiasts Lazio courted race hate gesticulator Nicolas Anelka – a player renowned for his low moral fibre. If ever a match was made in hell it was this one.

'Any movement today arry?'

‘Any movement today arry?’

Arch phony Jonny Heitinga, very much from the Paul Ince school of manufactured hardmen, finally buggered off as the deadline drew close.  Heitinga’s chances of getting in the first team looked bleaker than a setting from The  Bridge and word must have finally got to him that Christian Benteke had checked in at the malmaison prompting the utility man to finally leave- to Fulham on a free – in a deal which funded the purchase of a Czech youth keeper even the footy manager cats hadn’t heard of. Mario Suarez – a defensive midfielder with a good range of passing and an equally iffy disciplinary record – was mooted as a later arrival as were a couple of other unknown forwards but the word coming out of the club was that Martinez would rather save his coin for the summer

We know already that Martinez only looks at windows ‘one at a time’ and generally by bringing in older players on shorter deals it’s fair to question the longevity of his transfer strategy. What he has skilfully done though is engineer a different tactic to cracking the ‘glass ceiling’ by augmenting an already solid squad with some great individual flair in the final third. Improving on previous league finishes was probably unlikely by pursuing the previous regimes approach in the market. After all, nobody improves by repeating the same experiences. I guess only time will tell if it’s for the good of the club long term. Given the mad money being spunked on utter guff its potentially a shrewd move for various reasons but principally because the quality isn’t available at the moment.It also means that kenwrong will take the bullet from the fans should the current dip in form continue.

As the window drew to a close throbbing retard barrel Jim White and the gang of media fuck sticks led by prime mail meff Neil Ashton circled QPR’s training ground once more in the faint hope that Arry  spoon feeds them some final scoops of diarrhoea, but it wasn’t to be. And that’s basically the end of this long winded and frankly unnecessary review of cyber media nonsense.In the end even White’s elephant man Harry Redknapp couldn’t save him as his big transfer window blockbuster sank without trace.

EB