Teams and Tactics
After their final third toils in Lille, Martinez switched around the forwards for this one with slots for Osman, Naismith and Lukaku in the starting line-up meaning that Eto’o, Pienaar and Barkley were ousted to the bench. Everything else was pretty much ‘as is’ from the bore draw over in France. Lille kept the same 4-3-3 system, but shuffled the pack personnel wise with Beria and Rodelin benched for strike duo Mendez and Frey who joined Origi in attack meaning Corchia switched to right back.
The key feature of the first half was the movement and application of our forward foursome who were all heavily involved at the sharp end of things. Lukaku (central) and McGeady (right) looked to maximise their pace in behind which stretched the Lille defence back to their 18 yard line meaning big spaces were emerging between the French outfit’s defence and midfield lines. The key beneficiary of the gaps were the more intelligent space finders Osman and Naismith, who dovetailed nicely either side of Lille’s principal midfield anchor Mavuba.
It’s fair to say that Aiden McGeady’s outputs have divided opinion amongst the fanbase this season, with support for the erratic wideman increasingly in short supply at L4. Data wise data this season McGeady’s shots and chances created per minute are both up on last season’s figures, whilst his dribbles have gone down, suggesting there is perhaps a bit more end product to his play.
We identified Lille left back Souare as the weak link in our preview to the first game a few weeks ago and McGeady had the beating of him 1v1 in this fixture. The Irish winger helped make the pitch big by hugging the touchline in an advanced position, and pinged in 5 accurate crosses in the first half which is pretty impressive given that Baines averages the most successful crosses per game for us (1.4) this season.
Our first goal was from the aforementioned source and was a corker, with Barry initially zipping a nice pass into Lukaku whose first time touch with his left foot to play in McCarthy was superb. The midfield kingpin was then able to play in McGeady down the right flank and his compatriot’s centre was expertly dispatched back into the opposite corner from fellow boo boy favourite Leon Osman.
In terms of ‘the pass before the pass’ i.e. the pass prior to the assist in our goals this season, McCarthy has chalked up 4 which is more than any of his teammates and shows he has an equally vital role going forward as that of his day-job in mopping up midfield mess.
It was one of McCarthy’s trademark tackles which was to set us on the way to goal number two just before half time, with Naismith latching onto it only to see his goal bound effort repelled by the Lille keeper. From the resulting corner, McGeady put in a brilliant dipping delivery which was nodded home by Jagielka with Lille’s defence and Basa in particular ‘at sixes and sevens’ or, more succinctly, anaemic dog shit. It was well deserved for McGeady who claimed his third assist of the season and he could have had another two but for Lukaku and Nasimith’s finishing.
It was a half we had total control of to the tune of 64% possession, but unlike the Swansea game it was incisive rather than sterile dominance of the ball.
Indeed, one of the key features of our passing this season had been the positivity we have shown on the ball . We make the 3rd most forward passes in the league behind Chelsea and City, with a sizeable 45 more forward passes per game than last season and a whopping 76 more pg than in Moyes final season. Here we made 182 forward passes to Lille’s 86 in the opening half with Jagielka supplementing his goal by making the most forward passes.
The tricky blues continued where they left off after the break and swiftly finished off any ill-judged hopes of a Lille fight back. First Lukaku went close with a free kick after his graft outside the box had impressively won a deadball on the edge of the Lille box. The Big Belgian was looking as dangerous and edgy as Creepy Brenny’s web browser history, and the final blow to Lille’s hopes of a comeback was now only just round the corner.
After an 18 pass move from back to front Lukaku picked up the ball down Lille’s right side and played a perfectly weighted pass into Baines whose delivery was typically ace for Naismith to smash home left footed. The Scot had been setting fire to tears all night and richly deserved his 5th goal of a blossoming campaign.
Lille then made a load of pointless substitutions with Roux, Beria and Rodelin coming on for Mendez, Frey and Corchia. It made absolutely no difference whatsoever with Lille by now having thrown in the towel. With the exception of the bald runt Balmont they created nothing, with Origi’s head down running and finely tuned tactic of losing possession with nobody near him a joy to behold. Hopefully Libepewl’s latest costly recruit can take solace by the fact that winning is so passe thesedays and that its moral victories that we should now all aspire to achieve.
Martinez also made a raft of changes with fringe trio Atsu, Gibson and Besic replacing Barry, McCarthy and McGeady. The only real moment of note after the Naismith goal was a sweet move instigated by another excellent forward pass from defence from Jagielka. Receiving the ball in the centre circle, McCarthy then played a delicious defence splitting pass to Lukaku who thwacked home. Sadly the forward – who had an excellent game particularly outside the box – was wrongly ruled out for offside.
The win takes us to 8 points which pretty much guarantees qualification – no team with 7 points didn’t qualify from the group phase last season – and this was as balanced and complete a display as we’ve seen all season from the toffees.