Everton v Aston Villa – Tactical Preview

 

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Poor form at both ends of the pitch compounded by a severe injury crisis has led to an appalling start to the league campaign for the toffees. Next up is this weekend’s tussle with the cunning and often tricky to predict Aston Villa at L4.

The Birmingham outfit started the season well with 3 wins and a draw from their openings 4 games, although in 3 of those games they actually had fewer shots and possession than their opponent. Their Machiavellian approach has since yielded no wins or goals from their last 3 games, and they will come into this one arguably as low in confidence as ourselves.

Last season at Goodison they were appalling; they offered little going forward and displayed some fairly primitive long ball tactics,  however the ends almost justified the means and it took a late collapse for us to edge it 2-1. Will it be more of the same on Saturday then? or will this showdown result in us shooting ourselves in the foot, or head as with our previous three home league games so far? Lets start by taking a look at last season’s meeting first….

Last season

It’d be fair to say that Villa were one of the worst sides we had the misfortune to witness on our own patch last season – they shared just 29% of the ball and offered up only 1 shot on target, which being against Everton they duly scored from. Their principal tactic on the ball was not one for the purists; bereft of any creativity or dynamism they opted to bypass midfield from Guzan to lumbering grock duo Grant Holt and Christian Benteke.

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Its rare that a goalkeeper will make more touches of the ball than any of his outfield players, yet that’s exactly what happened here with Guzan making more touches than any Villa player. Most of his passes were aimed at the 2 forwards with the plan seemingly for them to win flick ons or hoover up the second balls.

Off the ball they initially squeezed up and tried to play the offside trap against us, resulting in us being caught offside 9 times ( in context Chelsea have been caught offside the most this season at the rate of 2.5 times per game).

As with the game at Villa Park earlier on last season, this fixture  was turned on its head by a combination of Martinez withdrawing young Barkley and Villa tanking in the face of repeated chasing of the ball. Whereas at villa the much maligned Osman came on to both score and create late goals, this result owed much to the emergence of Pienaar who turned the contest in our favour with a 45  minute cameo packed with ingenious incision.

Invigorated by the second half emergence of Pienaar, Baines and Barry the trio's touches of the ball ramps up considerably, including 10 touches in the villa danger area. In contrast Villa had no touches of the ball as a team in our box after the interval

Invigorated by the second half emergence of Pienaar, teammates Baines and Barry’s touches of the ball also ramps up considerably, including 10 touches in the villa 18 yard box between the trio. In contrast Villa had no touches of the ball as a team in our box after the interval

The South African’s impact has been reduced in the last 12 months due to injury, but as we never tire of telling anyone on here he remains our most intelligent player in the final third, and the above chalkboard demonstrates this nicely.

In the second period Villa’s low block and 5 man defence enabled us to dictate terms 20 yards from their goal, enabling Barry to play in Pienaar who in turn beautifully tees up Naismith for the equaliser.

Lambert’s attempt to turn the tide was to switch from a 5 man to a 4 man defence, taking off key defender Ron Vlaar in the process to seemingly try and push their defensive line further up the pitch. However shortly after the switch we deservedly got the winning goal through a Mirallas free kick, and that was pretty much your lot.

Steven Naismith is Everton's top scorer in 2014 with 11 goals in all competitions

Steven Naismith is Everton’s top scorer in 2014 with 11 goals in all competitions, his first league goal in that run coming in the Villa game at Goodison last season.

Villa this season

Villa’s good early points haul has come to something of a shuddering end of late, with a series of 3 defeats featuring 8 goals shipped and none scored.  From looking at the data it shows that they have the lowest possession share in the league,  win the fewest tackles and record the least shots. The stats only partly tell the story, though, so what does this information actually reveal?

Well given that they are low on both passing and tackles its fair to say they are more concerned with shape and solidity off the ball and on it. They’ll not look to draw us on with the ball or commit to press us off it, rather they’ll wait for us to make the mistake in their half and then exploit it with quick counters.

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Villa have polled the fewest shots of any side in the league and their profligacy in the final third is even more alarming when you consider that of the 4 goals they have scored, half of these weren’t from actual assists. Yes they have Benteke to come back, but he only just about scraped double figures last season.

The issue they have had this season is that their erratic forward players are characteristically rich in terms of speed but poor in terms of brains or composure. Indeed its this lack of nouse which has hurt them at the sharp end with a lack of goals and  failure to even threaten the opposition goal being a common feature of their games.

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Martinez has never lost in his 6 top flight games against Lambert including their Norwich v Wigan duels,  with three draws followed by three wins, including a double last season.

Villa’s shot and possession count is appalling and it’s a nap we’ll have 60%+ of the ball and with a full house behind us will try to force the issue, whilst Villa will look to hit us on the counter.  Trouble is, Palace only needed 3 shots to score 3 goals against us and they didn’t even need to create any of their openings.

There are usually goals in this fixture with both teams scoring in the last 8 meetings at Goodison, 7 of which witnessed 3 goals or more. Given our record of late goals against Villa the option of choosing the last goal to be scored after the 75th minute at 10/11 with Paddy Power looks inviting.

Despite Villa’s poor form in the opposition half  it’d be an ambitious punter who goes for an efc or villa clean sheet given the respective defences showings of late, and given how awful villa are data-wise an everton win with both teams scoring wager looks plausible.

Key Stat: Our last six goals against Villa have all come in the final 30 minutes of matches.

Bong Bet: Second half to be highest scoring half – 23/20 Boylesport

EB

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