Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 3-0 Man Utd

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Teams and Tactics

One of the interesting tactical posers pre match here was how we setup to combat former toffee Marouane Fellaini. The mad haired loon has recently received plaudits for his effective displays playing in the area of the pitch he did most damage for us, basically as a left of centre number ten. This role maximises his key strengths i.e. running and playing with his back to goal whilst limiting his major weakness of not being able to pick a forward pass.

United’s 3 man midfield had Herrera occupying a similar area on the other side of the pitch with Blind sitting deep in between the duo. In the recent Manchester Derby Fellaini benefited from City deploying Yaya Toure – not known for his defensive shifts – in the Belgian’s area of intent as a right of centre defensive midfielder, meaning that when the Ivorian went walkabout Fellaini had bags of room to operate.

Against Chelsea, Fellaini was less pivotal due to tedious bore Mourinho deploying Zouma as a man marker in the right of centre defensive midfield position, and Martinez approach yesterday was along the same lines. The Catalan has been overly cautious in a lot of the big games this season and has largely been out manoeuvred by opposing coaches, not winning any game home or away against a top six side prior to this one.

His approach here was to revert away from the midfield 1-2 shape which has yielded decent recent results with Barry at the base and Barkley (left) and McCarthy (right) the forward runners either side. Instead he reverted to x2 defensive midfielders but with Barry swapping his usual role on the left to a right-sided brief specifically to keep tabs on the movements of Fellaini. On the left McCarthy was tasked with overseeing Herrera, Barkley reverted to his usual no 10 role off Lukaku whilst Osman was deployed on the left to track Mata’s forward forays.

Counter attack Blues

The result of this midfield re-jig was an identical game plan to last season’s comfortable win over United at L4.

Possession was largely conceded, to the tune of just 40% –  the lowest % of the season (last season’s lowest % was also in the same fixture).

Instead the emphasis was on defensive shape off the ball, with the Blues sitting deep and then making direct passes (the length of Everton’s passes of 43m was also the highest of the season) to launch quick fire counter attacks when the ball was turned over.

Barry did his own job superbly, snuffing out Fellaini at every opportunity and launching counter attacks when required. The midfielder usually dominates the passing stats but here he took a back seat and instead ‘put in a shift’ by standing in front of Fellaini to block passes into him, in doing so recording the most tackles of any player on the pitch. The much maligned midfielder also covered more ground than any of his teammates (11.4km), comfortably ahead of McCarthy (10.7km) and Aaron Lennon (10.2km). Barry only lost out once to Fellaini – after an iffy pass from Stones – but thankfully the Belgian miscued and fired high and wide into the Gwladys Street Stand.

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Goal #1 came from Barry’s initial clearance, which led to McCarthy feeding Coleman down our right side. Coleman then inadvertently repaid the favour to his Irish colleague, who evaded the powder puff challenges from Blind and McNair to fire past De Gea. Post match Van Gaal lamented Utd’s flimsy defensive rearguard and it was evident in our first goal, losing x3 50/50’s in the build up.

Shortly after, Coleman again raced clear onto an ace pass by Lennon and was only denied by a last gasp challenge from Smalling. A flurry of corners followed before Stones dunked home from the third Baines delivery, aided and abetted by seriously crud defending from United.

After the break the redundant Fellaini – by now on the brink of a red card – had been replaced by Falcao who duly swapped with the equally ineffectual Rooney, but the story was a similar tale of woe for the visitors.

After Di Maria lost possession in our half, a through pass from Barkley led to the United defence mistakenly expecting an offside flag for Lukaku. The forward wasn’t interfering with play, however, and amidst the confusion his compatriot Mirallas nipped in behind Valencia to drill a trademark right footed finish into De Gea’s near post.

Mirallas recent charm offensive about signing a new deal has – probably –  been the result of his agent not finding him the ECL suitor his ego appears to crave. Whilst the gold Bentley driving winger is clearly inconsistent (and a bit of a tit) there’s no doubting his capability 1v1; he’s a great finisher, and arguably the best at the club in such scenarios.


If there is one thing Everton have shown us in the last decade it’s that when there is little tangible riding on the result they are one of the most dangerous opponents in the country, and this win –  our fifth in six games –  was richly deserved. This was also the third win against United at Goodison on the spin – all three without conceding a goal.

It was also a pointer that, with a full complement firing on all cylinders, we can be more than the sum of our parts – something we haven’t shown enough of this season.

Up the toffees!


Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 1-0 Burnley

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Roberto Martinez made one change from last week’s draw with Swansea, with Kevin Mirallas coming in for Leon Osman on the left flank. The setup was pretty much the same too, with Barry anchoring midfield and Barkley (left) and McCarthy (right) the runners ahead of him. After his brief re-emergence last week there was again no place for Steven Pienaar in the squad, as his unfortunate protracted demise continues. There was a very traditional flavour to Burnley’s setup, lining up 4-4-2 with a full British Isles XI selected by Sean Dyche in the away dugout.

First Half

The first 30 minutes was absolutely excellent from Everton.

Off the ball we were everywhere to stop Burnley’s territorial, not so innovative tactics of getting the ball forward as quickly as possible and latching onto the second balls.

Our visitor’s midfield and forward players pressed us high up the park to win the loose balls,  but kept a deep defensive line, presumably to mitigate the pace we had in attack. This meant that there was acres of room for us to move the ball into between the lines of their midfield and defence, and the key tactical spot of the first 30 minutes was how well we manoeuvred the ball into these zones.

Barry in particular was having a days of days, receiving the ball with great regularity and  threading forward passes through the lines for Barkley, McCarthy and the two wide players to come inside and run onto. Lennon was one of the major beneficiaries of this space and he again worked his tripe out for the team,  making plenty of direct runs from outside to in to latch onto passes from Barry.

One such run should have led to the opening goal after Lennon aggressively regained possession in his own half and then drove 20 yards with the ball before colliding with Jones. From the resulting spot kick Barkley connected well, but telegraphed the direction of his spot kick, and it was smartly repelled by Heaton.

The save  meant that we’d missed more spot kicks than any side in the division.

The penalty situation with Everton  has now become absolutely ridiculous and unfortunately makes everyone look a bit daft, namely Martinez. The more probable explanation is that Baines simply no longer fancies taking them due to a confidence issue. It’s either that or the young folk in the squad simply afford him the level of respect as that given to Glenn from The Thick of it .

Whatever the reasoning behind it, the whole thing  is enough to boil the piss of even the most acquiescing toffee.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long for the tricky blues to make amends.

A decent move down Burnley’s right side came to life following another Lennon burst and a nice lay-off from Kone to McCarthy which enabled the Irishman to square the ball to Mirallas to slot home at the second attempt. It was empty-headed Mirallas only golden bentley moment of the game in an otherwise ineffectual display which was put in the shade by the graft on the other flank of Aaron Lennon and which should have seen him sent off after the break.

Burnley had rallied in the final 10 minutes of the half with Arfield making some decent jinking runs through our midfield. Their best chance in this spell came when former Martinez signing Jones made a hash of his shot after being sent through by Ings. The Clarets charge was severely dented on the stroke of half time, however, when Barnes was sent off after two fairly innocuous challenges on McCarthy and Coleman.

Alright Martinez, Sean Dyche here, I don't win many games but my processes shit on your receding barnet

Alright Martinez, Sean Dyche here, I don’t win many games but my processes shit on your receding barnet

Second Half

Call centre business process re-engineer Sean Dyche reacted to Barnes red card by tightening up in midfield  after the break, going for a 4-3-2 of sorts with the central midfield zone now quite tight.

This meant we had bags more space on the flanks to operate with Baines runs now not being tracked with he and Lennon having a field day for the opening 20 minutes of the second half.

McCarthy should have doubled the lead after being expertly teed up by Lennon, whilst poor decision-making from messrs Barkley and Mirallas resulted in similar good situations fizzling out.

Barkley had a decent game and found plenty of room in the left of centre alley between Barry and Mirallas. He also ran his arse off to get up and down the pitch well, running 11.2 km which was just ahead of Barry (11km) and Coleman (10.3km)

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It was the kind of fixture that an Osman or Pienaar type would have run the show, but only really Baines and Lennon had enough between their ears to unlock an increasingly rigid shaped Burnley rearguard. Kone had some bright touches to link play, is a decent player and maybe before his last op may have been able to cut the mustard, however as a goal threat he isn’t at the level we are aspiring for.

At the other end, Burnley’s re-shape meant midfield runners struggled to get close enough to the forwards and they only really had two chances in the second period, with both falling to Ings.

First the ”much coveted’ forward showed crass decisioning to blast over from 30 yards, much to the derision of teammates who had run 50 yards to catch-up him up following a breakaway from our corner. Then after we failed to deal with a Trippier cross  Ings 50p head comfortably cleared Howard’s goal. With the exception of  some decent right-sided crossing from Trippier and the devilish Arfield,Burnley lacked any real ingenuity in the final third either befor or after the red card.


The first 30 minutes were excellent and are probably as a good as we’ve played this season.

This spell was ultimately enough to see us over the line and helped us claim our 13th point from the last 15 available, a run of games which has propped up a pretty uninspiring campaign.

The rest of the game was forgettable. Burnley are a solid 7/10 team week in week out, and here they out ran us (68.4 miles v 66.8 miles)  thanks to dogged running from the likes of Arfield, Boyd and Trippier. Ultimately though they lack a spark in the final third and this general inability to create enough chances to win a game is why they’ll probably not be  back here next season.

Up the toffees