Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 4-1 Wolfsburg

 

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Teams and Tactics

Everton lined up with the same setup and personnel that claimed their first win of the season at West Brom at the weekend, meaning John Stones continued at the back with Phil Jagielka. Wolfsburg deployed arguably their strong side with all their big hitters on show. De Bruyne was predominantly roaming on the left of the three attacking mids with Caligiuri and Arnold joining him behind Olic in a forward four full of legs off the ball and enterprise when possession was regained.

Wolfsburg start well, then toffees take over

Wolfsburg started the first ten minutes as the better side with De Bruyne seeing plenty of the ball down our left side. Olic was making his trademark runs in behind defenders down the channels, particularly down our right side where Rodriguez was picking him out expertly with long, drilled passes. This was in turn pushing our backline towards our own goal, and this opened up the space between our defence and midfield for De Bruyne to find gaps, with the ex Chelsea man getting a couple of early sights on goal.  We looked strangely subdued and defensive, with even McGeady and Mirallas dropping back when possession was conceded.

Off the ball Wolfsburg pressed us high with 3 players onto our 3 defenders when we tried to play out from the back.  We showed plenty of confidence on the ball, however, and soon began to thread passes through the wolfsburg high press rather than going long.

“It’s fair to say Wolfsburg have energy so we stopped their pressure and if you stop that you stop them being a real threat. We tried to play through them and use the gaps. We used our pressure better than them and got some opportunities by being well organised.”

Martinez Post Match

Slowly but surely we began to squeeze Wolfsburg with our passing, ramping our share of the ball up to 64% culminating in an 18 pass move being bundled into his own net by Rodriguez under pressure from Naismith. It was brilliant approach play which encapsulated our approach perfectly;  slowly threading passes inside our own half from side to side, pulling Wolfsburg’s backline out of position and then quickly moving the ball forward when the gaps opened up, with notable contributions from  Baines and McCarthy.

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Wolfsburg self destruct

Wolfsburg had been well in the game up to this stage but two calamitous defensive errors in 3 minutes either side of the break put paid to their chances. Firstly Knoche, someone we noted in our preview that is prone to overplaying, played a blind ball straight to Lukaku and after Mirallas shot was parried Baines was first to the loose ball to tee up Coleman to slot home.

A minute after the interval and Knoche was involved again, this time misjudging a blind pass from Arnold before downing McGeady for a penalty Baines duly dispatched.

“I feel very disappointed by the performance. Actually I feel more annoyed than disappointed. The display from my players on the pitch made me wonder if they had even listened to me before the game.There was a lack of focus from our players and we made a lot of terrible mistakes which ultimately cost us. Obviously a coach like myself can’t be happy with that result. We were lacking in certain areas both in terms of finishing and in our defensive work as well. We were not smart enough and showed a lot of naivety in our game. I don’t expect my players to have that approach, we have got problems at the moment but I want to congratulate Everton for their performance and win.”

Dieter Hecking, Wolfsburg Manager

Yes, we pressed Wolfsburg well in their half but both of these goals were from errors with no everton player within 5 yards of the Wolfsburg players.

In between the goals Wolfsburg’s defensive midfielder Malanda, who was at fault in the build up to our first goal and who looked rash with his pressing, was hauled off for the more offensive Hunt as Wolfsburg prepared to throw the  kitchen sink at us.

Blues drop off, Wolfsburg dominate

Following the third goal we sat deeper and  found it harder to play out from the back with the gap to our forwards getting ever wider. Wolfsburg continued to pressure us and were able to make more gains, dominating the ball and creating plenty of chances particularly from wide areas but sadly for them Rodriguez quality of crossing was not matched by the application of his forwards in the  box.

The pressure Wolfsburg were building was quelled somewhat by the introduction of Samuel Eto’o on 69 minutes.

Lukaku had done well in the first half, going on plenty of steaming runs down Wolfsburg’s right channel and having a hand in the second goal, but again with his back to goal play was powder puff, frequently losing headers and in one situation being comically outmuscled by De Bruyne.

Some close control from Eto’o and the crafty through pass to Naismith which followed it was arguably the moment of the game and will wet fans appetite of what could be in store from the Cameroon maverick this season.

Eto’o then duly trumped his own trick shortly after by nutmegging the overworked Naldo with a sumptuous through pass to Mirallas who bagged his third in three games for our fourth goal. Eto’o was only on the pitch for 20 minutes yet created as many chances as anyone in a blue shirt and you wonder what damage he could with these late cameos as opposition defenders tire and the gaps become bigger and more frequent.

There was still time for Rodriguez to get the goal his game deserved, firing in a Baines style free kick to finally break Howard’s spirited resolve.

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Conclusion

This was a great win to start our Europa League campaign and our dismantling of Wolfsburg should rightly be lauded as the best result of any of the English teams in Europe this week. Its also a colossal 13 goals from our opening 5 games, which is a better return than any campaign in our recent history.

Wolfsburg had plenty of the ball, had more shots than us and did threaten, particularly after our third goal, but the bulk of these shots were from long range and you would usually expect that kind of spike in the game data from a side that far behind.

Our quick, forward passing when gaps arose in the first half was probably the best thing to come out of the game for us, plus the tantalising cameo of Eto’o in a less exciting second period.  Krasnodar’s draw with Lille was an added tonic and sets up our trip to Russia nicely in a couple of weeks time.

EB

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