Here Comes The Sun

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With our season shuffling towards it’s sorry close thoughts begin to turn towards the summer and potential ins and outs at L4.

Last season’s summer was widely regarded as a shambles, with a flip-flop themed pre season combined with suspect recruitment meaning we started the campaign in a weaker state than the previous one.

The only new additions to the squad 12 months ago were Atsu and Besic, with neither making any tangible impact on the field this season. Whilst Besic could do a job further down the line, Atsu was a half-baked tk maxx acquisition, and never an Everton player in a million years. In contrast the 4 sides directly above us in the table each invested in effective personnel that have enabled them to leapfrog us in the table.

This, combined with some of the other duds Martinez has brought in like Kone, Alcaraz and McGeady doesn’t really give the Catalan much room to manoeuvre this time round, and he needs to prove he can eek out value in the market with his low-mid range purchases. His big investments in terms of Lukaku, Barry (wages) and McCarthy have all been hits, but the rest have neither provided value nor represented any potential future profit in terms of sell on fees etc.

Granted Moyes wasn’t flawless in his recruitment, but being a frugal Scottish mingebag was undoubtedly a key factor in his impressive transfer strike rate, which, barring a couple of exceptions, was very good. Martinez record against his peers this season in terms of points per £ spent on fees/wages puts him 14th /20, so he needs to up his game.

The positive for Martinez is that he has a ‘unique opportunity’ to shape a new, younger squad according to how he wants to play.

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Who could go ….but probably won’t

Mass clear outs are always mooted, usually after either a bad result or 6 pints of foreign lager – or both. The truth is that such clearouts rarely materialise unless there has been a seismic change in the clubs fortunes i.e relegation, promotion or a takeover.

The consensus this season is that Howard has been absolute crud, and statistically the data shows that he’s been the most error prone keeper in the league. This, combined with poor handling of his area and his off field situation,  indicates that a change is needed. Personally I don’t see this happening for another 12 months.

Unwanted Speculation will also focus on the futures of key forward duo Lukaku and Mirallas.

Lukaku’s had a decent season in front of goal and is probably the best forward we’ve had for a quarter of a century, but none of the top clubs really fancied him 12 months ago and you could argue little has changed despite the goals he’s plundered in the Europa. He’s currently without a league goal from open play in 16 hours, and a move to another English Champions League side seems unlikely meaning any move would probably be abroad and a likely pay drop given the current position re tv money. Mirallas looks more certain than ever to stay, with his agents search for a Champions League suitor providing fruitless. Mirallas is inconsistent (and a tit) but unlike most of our roster he can finish 1v1, so he’s worth keeping on the payroll.

The hope is that James McCarthy will accept a comparatively modest upgrade on his terms to parity with the likes of Barry and Pienaar on £60k per week, a 50% increase on his current terms. The worry is that he’ll look across the park at Liverpool’s recent renewal of the services of Jordan ‘Hendo’ Henderson – amazingly at a cost to ‘dem yanks’ of £26m over 5 seasons with a £100k weekly wage. It’s a huge outlay on a relatively mediocre runner, and a player with arguably less in his locker than McCarthy.

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Where do we need to strengthen then?

Generally speaking the wing back and defensive midfield spots look healthy enough, and wouldn’t be areas we need to urgently prioritise.

Our goals per game this season has gone down to 1.2, the worst since Moyes nadir of 05/06. A look at the data will indicate this isn’t down to missed chances, it’s down to chances not being created; our chances created per game this season is 9 per game, which is 28% down on Moyes final season at the club.

The protracted demise of Pienaar and, to a lesser extent, Osman make a cunning, attacking midfielder who can operate wide and come in off the flank to influence things centrally, with youth on his side and an end product, our number one priority.

At the back our woes pre-new year focused on Howard’s prolific errors, combined with the unravelling of Distin. These problems have generally gone away since Stones return and Martinez shift to a more defensive approach in 2016, but you could argue the continued lack of equilibrium between defence and attack means he hasn’t really fixed the problem completely. From what I’ve seen so far there is no way the physically slight Besic is remotely close to being trusted further back, so we need a new centre half sharpish.

This interview with Moyes in the Guardian recently talked about how he wanted to get his recruitment network setup at Sociedad, and you’d hope that by now Martinez would have his infrastructure in place. The age of the squad – the 5th oldest in the league – is something which needs to be addressed as a priority, as is the mentality of the people he brings into the club. I’d argue most of his recruits haven’t had the right mentality, and that this has been a contributory factor as to why we find ourselves marooned in the middle of the table, comfortably at arm’s length to the likes of Stoke and Swansea.

There’s no sense of entitlement here, but finishing way adrift of these stellar names is not good enough.

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Who will definitely go then…

Distin and Alcaraz contract’s are both up and the duo look shoe ins to be sent to the glue factory in the coming weeks.

Luke Garbutt could well be on his way out despite Everton trying to avoid losing him on a free. To stay presumably he’d need to be given some assurances, which means Oviedo is probably on the endangered species list. If he’s actually any better than Oviedo is hard to determine. Yes he can take a good corner but defensively I’ve not seen conclusive evidence that he’s good enough to start crying over should he fuck off.

The likely departures of Distin, Garbutt/Oviedo, Alcaraz and the loan conclusions of Atsu and Lennon will this leave us five players light from this season’s squad, so in theory we need 6 to strengthen the ranks numbers wise.

The money saved in wages from Distin (60k p/w), Alcaraz £25k p/w)plus and one of either Garbutt/Oviedo – both on comparably lower wages – will be around £5.2m annually. McCarthy’s proposed new deal would eat into this by around £1.5m, so overall this would leave around £3.7m in the wages pot, the equivalent to £70k per week, i.e. not even a full Jordan Henderson.

Who is coming back ? ….and who could be bumped up?

A sift through our youth ranks will show that Hallam Hope struggled at Sheffield Wednesday, albeit he didn’t get on much and when he did he was deployed in midfield. Given he’s dropped down to League One again I’d strongly doubt he’s got a future with us. The same could be said about John Lundstram who endured an unspectacular loan at Blackpool, whilst Chris Long has had a more fruitful spell at the top end of the Championship with Brentford, scoring key goals and appearing the most likely to step up from the youth pool next season.

The nucleus of the u21 squad this season – aside from those on loan – have been defenders Galloway (centre back) Kenny (predominantly right back but can also play centre back/mid), Ledson in centre mid and Henen further forward, albeit the Belgian is only on loan at the moment. Whilst all four remain decent prospects – along with George Green – the likely outcome next season for all 5 will be loans – hopefully to Championship clubs – to get them closer to the first team for 06/07.

Who could come in?

Based on the above requirements I think 3-4 players will come in; a centre back (preferably left footed) with the experience of playing in a top flight league, a right-sided winger with pace and an intelligent attacking midfield player. Another quick, powerful forward player who can run in behind and put pressure on Lukaku would be good too, given that neither Kone or Naismith are capable.

To finish this protracted ramble I’ve had a look at our requirements , taken a look at what’s out there, analysed credible non itk links and put together the following shortlist of 5-6 players for each problem position.

Centre Back

At the top end of the spectrum, Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez is valued at £10m, although expect that figure to jump up if as expected creepy brenny and his seat sniffing gegs in. The 23 year old left-sided centre back is a bit like Cannavaro like in terms of stature –  he isn’t the biggest but will bring the ball out of play, can switch play effectively via a diagonal and doesn’t go to ground easily in the tackle.

Kara Mbodj is a different proposition altogether, the 6ft 3″ right footed Senegalese centre back is more physical, and can also slot into defensive midfield if required. Valued at£4m, he’s also the subject of interested from West Ham and Celtic. Mbodj is currently deployed at Genk but has spent previous time spent in the Norwegian top flight. Cameroon defender Nicolas N’koulou has enjoyed a very good season in ligue 1 but without European competition to offer , plus an obstructive £11m fee,  it’d be difficult to see us nabbing him.

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At a more economical £6m, the 20 year old Brazilian Doria is a competent left-sided centre half. Also owned by Marseille but currently on loan at Sao Paulo, he would be a decent balance to the right footed Stones. At the value end of the market, Bremen defender Jannik Vestergaard (market value £3m) has been ‘mooted’ by various ‘media outlets’ recently.The Dane would bring the height we lack in the squad although his major flaw is that he’s not as fluid on the ball as Martinez would like. At the netto end of the line is the 6ft 4 Filip Helander – a 22-year-old tall, Swedish left footed centre back currently plying his trade in Malmo. Helander would command a more economical fee of £2m, but would be something of a punt given his limited experience

Creative Midfielder

This is the top priority for me, and the options are aplenty. Eintracht ‘s 19 year old midfielder Mark Stendera (market value £4m) has 5 assists to his name this season, is versatile and can make things happen. Tom Cleverley – up to a month ago universally hated by his own fans more than Mick Quinn presumably hates himself – seems to be ‘first pick’ for this slot, and is nowhere near as bad as he’s made out. He’s also on a free which gives us a greater mandate to strengthen other positions.

New Picture (87)Sergio Canalas is a long-standing target for us. A left footed, attacking midfielder, like Inigo Martinez he is also currently plying his trade under former boss David Moyes at Sociedad. He’s previously played for Santander, Real Madrid and Valencia and is available for around £5m.

Dennis Praet, Anderlecht’s Belgian attacking midfielder, can ‘do a job’ on the left or right, and has 7 assists to his name this season. He’s still a relative pup at just 20 and his fee of £7m combined with low wages should make him affordable even to kenwrong.

The last name on my list is the Croatian Alen Halilovic, who can operate at number 10 or on the left of midfield. Halilovic is a mercurial talent; he’s slight and cunning, and is similar to Ossie and Pienaar in build and grace. Currently at Barca’s b team, the 18-year-old ex Zagreb playmaker hasn’t made a massive impact in Spain’s second tier yet, so it would seem a reach to pin much hope on him hitting the ground running at L4.

Winger

In terms of the wing role, the clamour for Aaron Lennon to be recruited full-time seems to be shared by Martinez. Lennon’s pace is still good although not what it was a few years ago and will continue to fade given he’s now 28. He does deliver a shift defensively, though, putting our other wingers to shame in this respect, and his forward forays have yielded decent returns so far. I just don’t see him scoring many, and maybe he will bag 3-4 assists per season on top of this, which, in context of the lack of end product we have received from our attacking midfielders this season, we can ill afford. He’s certainly worth no more than £6m and I think personally there are younger, better value alternatives out there.Lennon is certainly more of a credible short term option than, say, Gerard Deulofeu, whose name is likely to be on many fans wish lists, although for me it’s a no.

A more tried and tested ex Premier League player is Nani, a two footed elegant, if often frustrating, winger, who would cost brewstees at £14m.

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The £14m rated (but out of contract) Ukrainian flyer Yevhen Konoplyanko has been mooted, and he is certainly on the move from current club Dnipro this summer. I like this cat. He’s quick, can dribble, is two footed, versatile and there’s end product to his game. He’s certainly more Kanchelskis than Billy. Plus there is a big hunger to succeed. Never underestimate the power of desperation. Sadly he’s supposedly Spurs first choice wing option this summer – ahead of Mirallas – plus creepy b-rod is rooting through his bins, so it will be tough to get him in.

Braga’s £7m rated 21-year-old Rafa Silva is right footed but plays mostly off the left wing, and is another option that shouldn’t be discounted. The knee jerk would be the toffee tormentor Yannick Bolasie who should cost no more than £6m. He’s been more consistent this season and has been directly involved in 10 goals for Palace. Man United’s Adnan Januzaj could potentially do either of the midfield roles were after. I’m not sold on him personally;  he seems a player of dubious moral fibre with his on field theatrics, plus his feud with Mirallas won’t do much good for dressing room cohesion at Finch Farm.

Forward

The departure of Samuel Eto’o wasn’t filled last season and you’d think it would need plugging this summer. The 19 year old Obbi Oulare is a big youth, standing 6ft 5″ he currently operates in the Belgian league with Club Brugge. His goal ratio this season is 1 in 4 and he’s valued at around £3-4m. Oulare is decent with his back to goal,has good technique and a decent turn of pace.

At the top of my list is Breel Embolo, a powerful 18-year-old who is technically strong and decisive in front of goal. The right footed striker is currently plying his trade at Basle where he is the club’s top scorer. He has explosive pace and is a composed finisher, averaging a goal every other league game this season. He can also ‘do a job’ on the wing should it be needed. The only fly in the ointment is that other clubs including Juventus have supposedly shown an interest.

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Youseff el Arabi is a Moroccan striker standing 6ft. Predominantly a 1 in 3 man, this 28 year old right footer has played in France and Spain’s top flights so has decent pedigree. He can play as a 9 or a 10. If Martinez is going like for like, namely a has-been experienced international forward who can play up top or as a second striker, Argentine Javier Saviola – on a free at the end of season from Verona – is your man. But given what we’ve already noted regarding our dads army squad you’d hope not. Exx Partizan Belgrade ‘hit man” Alexsander Mitrovic could provide value at £8m. The Serb forward is a right footed striker with 14 goals to his name this season, making him the top scorer in the Jupiler League. Finally, our pre season tormentor last season, Celta Vigo’s tricky Nolito, would command a fee of around £6m. The 28 year old left wing / forward has impressively contributed 12 goals and 11 assists in la liga this season.

Thats all for now folks, enjoy the summer.

EB

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.

Conclusion

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!

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 1-0 Burnley

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Teams

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.

Conclusion

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

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Евертон 2-1 Динамо Київ

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Teams

Roberto Martinez switched from 4-3-3- to 4-2-3-1 and made 3 personnel changes from last week’s gloomfest at Stoke.  Alcaraz came in for the injured Stones at the back and Barkley and Mirallas replaced Lennon and Gibson in midfield.

Sergi Rebrov deployed Kyiv’s usual 4-3-3 with the midfield anchored by Veloso with Sydorchuk and Buyalsky more advanced behind the attacking triumvirate of Yarmalenko, Mbokani and Gusev.

First 30 minutes

The opening half hour was extremely edgy with the Goodison hot-house threatening to blow its top due to the cagey nature of the home side. The anxiety both on and off the pitch was palpable, and this combined with Kyiv’s gameplan often left us snookered at both ends of the pitch.

When we had the ball at the back Kyiv squeezed us into our own half with Sydorchuk, Buyalksky and the wide forwards shuffling inside to block off passing angles from our defence into midfield, with Kyiv often having 11 men behind the ball. The outcome was that we often moved the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and predominantly this dynamic came to a shuddering halt when the calamitous Alcaraz would lose his cool and attempt to dink daft, inaccurate balls over the Kyiv left back.

Here we badly missed the cat-like adventure of Stones bringing the ball out from the back and committing opposition defenders. The much maligned Paraguayan isn’t perhaps as shite as he is portrayed in some quarters, but here he was stinking Goodison out big style, and Mbokani was getting great joy against him, particularly in the air.

In the first half hour Kyiv won the shot count 4-0, and the away side deservedly scored with their first effort on 14 minutes.

After we had twice failed to deal with crosses into our box – with Alcaraz again chiefly at fault –  the resulting corner from Yarmalenko was cutely volleyed home by Gusev – in a similar manner to Giroud’s goal against us last week – with Howard typically beaten at his near post.

Gusev was initially picked up by Barkley at the far post but the toffee youngster’s run to track him was blocked off by Sydorchuk. When the ball is then met by Gusev it occurs in McCarthy’s ‘zone’ a the near post, and the Irishman should really have reacted better.

That said, both the Gusev and Giroud goals would have been easily avoided if we had a man  positioned on the posts.

One further horrendous error by Alcaraz – this time a blind back pass –  should have been finished by Mbokani, but the forward fluffed his lines and that was pretty much it from Kyiv as an attacking force.

Last 60 minutes

The turning point in the game came just before the half hour mark when Barry pinged a decent first time pass into Kyiv’s right channel between Silva and Vida for Lukaku to steam onto. The Big Belgian’s final ball was a bit crud, but the way he had sprung the Kyiv defence and powered past Kyiv’s grock infested backline was a warning to the Ukrainians , and one which the visitor’s headed by continuing to drop deeper and deeper into their own half.

Kyiv retreating to their 18 yard line meant we were now able to get the ball into the Kyiv box and through the gulleys with much more ease, and this resulted in as close to a long ball bombardment as we have seen under the Martinez stewardship.

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After a Jagielka header had been cleared off the line the equaliser  finally arrived and again it was Lukaku who was pivotal. The forward beasted 4 Kyiv defenders with ridiculous ease and played in Naismith who cushioned a nice right footed shot past the Kyiv keeper.

After the break Kyiv continued to camp out on their 18 yard line as wave after wave of blue attacks ensued – mostly led by Lukaku, and followed up by decent ‘2nd wave’ pressure from Barkley and Naismith that forced Kyiv’s defence into countless errors.

Danilo Silva was completely befuddled as to how to deal with us and particularly Lukaku, with the blundering galoot making more than double the amount of fouls than anyone on the pitch.

With the away side’s defence creaking and Everton dominating the shot count 16 v 6 in the last hour, the winning goal seemed inevitable and it finally came due to the intelligence of Leon Osman.

We’ve harped on all season on the blog about the imbalance of attacking personnel in terms of power over brains, principally due to the absence of key thinkers Osman and Pienaar’s ingenuity and ability to find space to received and link defence to attack.

Unsurprisingly it would be Osman’s ability to find such a pocket of space in a dangerous area which would get us over the line, as his clever run was picked out by McCarthy and resulted in the by now unravelling Danilo Silva handling for a penalty.

Lukaku, unquestionably the game’s star player, deservedly grabbed then winner from the spot, although it wasn’t the most clinical penalty the Gwladys Street end has ever seen!

Our resilience and ability to put a very capable side under so much concerted pressure and bag the win should rightly be lauded, and this result and performance puts us in a good position for next week’s return leg in Kyiv.

EB

Everton v Dynamo Kyiv Евертон – Динамо Київ

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Thursday sees our return to Europa League action as the Toffees face a double-header against Ukrainian kingpins Dynamo Kyiv for a place in the Quarter Finals. Kyiv top their domestic championship which, combined with our distinctly crud form on home soil, makes the two-legged tussle with Ukraine’s finest anything but a formality. Lets take a look at the task in hand in more detail…

The Boss

Currently overseeing his first season in charge as number one, Sergei Rebrov has impressively overturned last season’s 12 point deficit to arch enemies Donetsk into a 4 point advantage as the Kyiv club  look to bag their 14th Ukrainian title.

Rebrov was an idol as a player at Kyiv under the stewardship of legendary coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi, bagging over 100 goals for the club in a trophy laden spell in the capital city which took the club to within an ace of a Champions League final in 1999.

A big money move to Spurs followed, however his career spiralled. A Partridge style descent into anonymity then ensued before he eventually washed up at West Ham under the stewardship of self gratifying uber snide-hawk Alan Pardew in the Championship. More titles did then follow in both Turkey and Russia before a final fling at his first love Kyiv.

He will remember Everton well having broken his Premier League scoring duck for Spurs against us!

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Rebrov’s old boss and Dynamo great, Valeriy Lobanovskyi

Due to his short time in the managerial hot seat it’s difficult to deduce Rebrov’s managerial style, although he unsurprisingly credits his mentor Lobanovskyi as the key influence in his career as a number one.

Lobanvskyi’s methods involved rigid tactics, a focus on fitness, the use of scientific and statistical systems to ensure a high level of performance from his players.The system of his play was drilled into the players to ensure each squad member would know exactly what would happen in any given situation and that each player in the squad knew the roles needed in the team.

This is already evident in Rebrov’s early tinkering, with 23 players used in the EL already, including 4 different players being deployed at left back, albeit the system remains 4-3-3.

Lets take a closer look at the players at Rebrov’s disposal….

In goal..

In goal Kyiv’s legendary keeper Oleksandr Schovkovskyi is most likely to keep goal. The 40 year veteran stands at 6ft 3″ and with 25 domestic titles to his name he is Kyiv’s most celebrated current player. A notoriously good penalty saver, he was first choice in the 2006 World Cup for Ukraine and his stock is underlined by a back catalogue of more than 100 ECL games . He also has a big kick in his locker and isn’t afraid to use it. Regular number one Oleksandr Rybka usually starts in the league  but has been used more sparingly in the Europa League.

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Schovcovskyi saving a penalty at WC2006

Defence

At the back the Croatian Domagoj Vida is a big 6ft grok who can play right across the back four. He turns like a bus and as a consequence has been booked in 4 of his 7 EL games this season. Whilst Vida is a shoe in at one of the fullback slots (probably on the right) the left back slot has been one of flux with Vida, Burda, Antunes and Oleg Gusev all having filled in this season. Gusev is the most experienced and is a useful squad player given that he is two footed and can play on either flank in defence or in midfield. Gusev is arguably more potent going forward and he both scored and assisted in the controversial return leg with  Guingamp in the last round.

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Getting in and around Kyiv’s big defenders will be crucial.

In the centre back slots height is aplenty. Alexsander Dragovic, a two footed Austrian is the principal ‘first pick’ centre back and is also the most comfortable of Kyiv’s defensive roster at bringing the ball out from the back. Formerly of Basle, Dragovic has been strongly linked with a big money summer move to Man United.Alongside him on the right side of centre is likely to be Brazilian Danilo Silva, another big hitter at 6ft 1″ who can play right back or centre back.

Man mountain 6ft 6″ Yevhen khacheridi has also been used alongside Dragovic this season and is a monster in the air as you’d expect of a man of his sizeable frame. If we can wheel Pienaar or Osman onto the pitch alongside Baines then you feel we could tie these big lids in knots.

Midfield

Rebrov will usually go with a midfield triangle with 2 holders and 1 ‘number ten’ in front of them. Sergy Sydorchuk is usually one of the designated defensive midfielders but can also bomb forward. As per most of his colleagues, Sydorchuk is a tall, lean and robust player standing 6ft 2″ and more than capable of putting himself about. Alongside him Serhiy Rybelka is a more cultured cat, predominantly right footed and able to link defence with the forwards although he is suspended for the first leg. The slick Portuguese leftie Migel Veloso can play either holding or at 10 – and scored twice against us at the same stage whilst at Sporting Lisbon – however due to injury he could miss both legs.

Younes Belhanda is a Moroccan central midfielder and is better suited to playing free of defensive responsibility. He was sent off  just 3 minutes after coming on a substitute in the away game in Guingamp so there are question marks over his temperament in the heat of the battle. 5 assists in the Ukraine league from 14 starts would suggest he’s more flamboyant and subtle than some of his taller Ukrainian colleagues. In terms of comparable players over here he is similar in style to Sigurdsson at Swansea and is certainly one to be watched. Vitaliy Buyalsky can also play at 10 and is a good passer capable of unlocking teams.. albeit he is slighter in size than his oppressive colleagues

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Forwards

In the forward three slots there is an abundance of pace and power. On the left Jeremain Lens usually occupies the left-wing slot and the right footed ex PSV winger has directly been involved in ten goals in eleven Ukraine league games this season. He’s good 1v1, has bags of pace and also has the brainpower to pick a through pass. Lens did come off injured  in today’s league game so it’s unknown whether he will be fit to start this one – if so expect Gusev to fill in.

The rockstar of the team is Andriy Yarmolenko, a powerful right-sided forward with a great left foot. The Russian born Ukraine international has 3 goals, 5 assists and 1 red card from his 7 EL games this season, with his incision making him statistically the EL’s top creator of goals.  Like his colleagues he’s also a big lad who can mix things up and Kyiv will look to play the ball long and quickly into his feet when possession is regained.

The centre forward in between the quick duo is likely to be Artem Kravets, a 6ft 2″ striker who boasts a goal ratio better than 1 in 2 this season in the Ukraine league, although he is less prolific (1 in 4) in the EL. Pretty much all his goals are tap ins or headers from close range and he provides little threat outside the box. Playing second fiddle to Kravets is Dieumerci Mbokani, a 6ft 2″ heavy hitting sort who was Kyiv’s top scorer last season in the league with 14 and for whom was linked to the Toffees in 2010 whilst at Monaco.

Bong Verdict

Kyiv represent a significant raising of the bar in comparison to Young Boys, with the margin for error in the competition now increasingly narrow.

Our opponents don’t have any of the physical weaknesses of the Swiss side and in terms of size they are considerably bigger and have the potential to overpower us. They’re also currently on an 18 game unbeaten run domestically, which includes 8 clean sheets in their last 9, so unlike us they have a habit of winning games, and are happy to win ugly

They are beatable, though, as was shown when arguably their best eleven were dismantled 3-0 by the mighty AaB of Denmark in the group phase, and at the weekend they failed to break down an even weaker opponent who played for nearly an hour with a men less.  Getting anything in Kyiv will be incredibly tough, however,  but I’m going for us to edge the home leg and then hold on, most likely by virtue of away goals.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Arsenal 2-0 Everton

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Teams and Tactics

Martinez made three changes to the side which comfortably dispatched Young Boys in midweek with Stones, Besic and Barkley coming in for Alcaraz, Gibson and Naismith.  The defensive 4-3-3, which has Besic and McCarthy as the holders and Barry as the free man to link play to the forwards, was the same tactic which was offered up recently against Liverpool, a game in which we only had 1 shot on target.

Arsenal made 2 changes from their limp midweek showing against Monaco in the ECL, with Mertesacker benched for the debuting Gabriel with Welbeck also left out – for Oxlade Chamberlain –  in what was a more attacking 4-2-3-1 with Ozil in behind Giroud.

First Half

The opening 45 minutes was very much a half of two halves.

Everton started the game in an aggressive manner with Barkley regaining possession in the Arsenal final third in the first minute, and this was indicative of our early approach in looking to stop Arsenal playing out from the back and into midfield.

On the ball we had 70% of possession in this period, but worryingly created hardly anything barring a few half chances for Lukaku. First the Belgian foraged and almost took advantage of some hesitancy from Gabriel,  but he was repelled by some decent sweeping by Ospina. Then Barry fed him down the right flank, but  an excellent covering challenge from Gabriel again thwarted the Belgian from getting his shot in.

It was indicative of Lukaku’s afternoon in terms of service,  with Howard providing the most passes (3) to the Belgian in the opening 45 minutes,  a half in which we failed to have a single shot on target.

After the midpoint of the half Arsenal gradually came out of their shell with Sanchez (left) and Oxlade Chamberlain (right) both causing us problems down the flanks. Arsenal’s fullbacks where creating good 2v1’s against Garbutt and Coleman, thus exposing our lack of width in defensive midfield areas. A warning came on 26 minutes when  a cross from our right should have been buried by Giroud after poor concentration from Jagielka, however the Frenchman miscued horribly.

The forward didn’t make the same mistake twice, however, and from Ozil’s corner shortly after Giroud stole a yard on Stones and brushed a nice finish into the corner of Howard’s net. Stones is usually unflustered against the league’s best opposition but he did have his worst game of the season against Arsenal in the cup last season, and here he struggled throughout.

That said, if we had a man on the post the goal would have been easily avoided.

Second Half

The opening to the second half mirrored that of the first with us doing all the running and keeping Arsenal boxed in, aided and abetted by a flurry of Garbutt corners and free kicks.  Sadly the shots yield from this pressure was again minimal, and the game began to fizzle out to an even slower tempo to the first half, with neither side really looking capable of breaking the other down.

Off the ball Arsenal played with much vigour, though, wining nearly double the amount of first balls (51 v 29) and also edging the second ball count (61 v 54).

There was also more gumption to the home side’s forward play.

Arsenal at least committed more players forward when they had attacks, usually having 5-6 players ahead of the ball when attacking in our half compared to the 2-3 we had in theirs.  This allowed Arsenal to have more meaningful possession to the tune of more than double the amount of passes in our defensive third than we did in theirs.

We did however force our two best openings after the break, with Lukaku and Lennon the beneficiaries from good work by Barkley and Coleman. Lukaku’s shot was excellently repelled by Ospina whilst Lennon’s trickled effort was slow and feeble, a perfect microcosm for our league campaign.

That was about it from us as an attacking force, but, before you could say WERE ELEVEN POINTS BEHIND FUCKING STOKE, the home side had gone 2-0 up.

This time the goal came from a hopeful punt down field which Giroud won in the air and led to Rosicky plundering the ball past Howard with the help of a deflection off Jagielka.

Given that we’ve only scored 3 goals on the road against top half teams this season the outcome was now not even remotely in doubt, even with plenty of time still to play due to the lengthy stoppages.

Conclusion

There was an air of predictability about everything on show here as we deservedly sunk to our 11th defeat of the season amidst a wretched run which has seen us win just once in eleven league games.

Arsenal struggled in the first 20 minutes and perhaps with a little more positivity we could have got our noses in front , and in doing so turn some of the simmering panic in the home end into the full on 5 live fume which accompanies any ‘gooners’ defeat.  Alas we didn’t, and Arsenal triumphed in a game that they didn’t really have to get out of second gear to win.

The prospect of a midweek trip to an in form Stoke now has the appeal of an Alan Brazil Charity golf day, and with 7 defeats from 8 on the road it’d take a die-hard bluenose to offer up any positivity of us getting a result in the Potteries.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: BSC Young Boys 1-4 Everton

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Teams and Tactics

Roberto Martinez made two changes to the side which narrowly lost to Chelsea last week with Kevin Mirallas coming in for Aaron Lennon on the right flank and James McCarthy replacing Mo Besic in midfield. The BSC Young Boys side was pretty much as we thought, with the only slight surprise being Sutter’s replacement by Hadergjonaj at right back for the home side. Both sides were pretty much 4-2-3-1 from the start.

First Half

From the off Everton were superb. The pitch perhaps played its part in making the ball zip a bit quicker, but  this was secondary to Everton’s brave attacking play that was characterised by quick counters from Barkley, Mirallas and Lukaku, all of whom had the beating of their markers 1v1.

After 10 minutes Everton could have had already been 3 goals to the good with  Lukaku (2) and Barkley all denied by  the impressive Mvogo, however in true Everton style the toffees contrived to find themselves a goal down as Young Boys scored with their first shot of the game.

After Coleman had conceded possession via a miscued cross into the Young Boys box the home side broke down our right side through Nuzzolo. When the ball was worked inside to one time Everton target Guillaume Hoarau  20 yards from goal, Phil Jagielka should perhaps have shifted the French unit onto his weaker foot but instead let him take aim and curl a lovely right footed effort over Howard’s outstretched left hand with the keeper perhaps too far off his line.

Despite the goal Everton were by far the better side at this point.

Due to the massive pace advantage we had over the home side in their final third, Young Boys were dropping off to the edge of their own box when we won the ball back which meant there was bags of room for us to manoeuvre  in between their defence and midfield lines.  Barry, Barkley and Naismith were the chief beneficiaries, creating plenty of overloads predominantly down Young Boys  right side.

Lukaku was having more joy in the air than usual, possibly due to Young Boys weak as piss centre back duo dropping off him so much. Having gone close with an earlier header from Oviedo’s cross,  a double take was then duly dispatched by the Belgian with Gareth Barry, who was majestic throughout, the creator from the left flank with a lovely left footed delivery.

Everton’s control at this point was total, dominating possession to the tune of 70%+ and the second goal arrived 4 minutes later. It followed a  slick 20+ pass move which had Young Boys defensive shape ‘ragged all over the place’ to coin a tactical soccer term. The move culminated in Naismith and Barkley – who dovetailed beautifully throughout the first half – playing an exquisite one two in the Young Boys box that ended with the relentless jocko drilling the ball across Mvogo for  Coleman to tap in at the far post.

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Naismith was having a monster of game, surpassing even his usual gritty standards by winning free kicks aplenty and generally running his tripe out for the cause. His defensive header from a BSC corner would set us on our way to goal number three just before the break in another rapid, quick fire counter. With Young Boys back peddling, Oviedo played a sumptuous back heel to the marauding  – don’t adjust your set – Gareth Barry, whose centre was tapped home by Lukaku.

With the home side in meltdown, further misery almost arrived at their door just prior to half time. Another  counter charge, this time led by Barkley, ended with Mirallas going clear however the Belgian forward was for once out muscled, meaning we went in 3-1 up at the interval.

Second Half

The second period developed as per the first with Young Boys again trying to pepper us with crosses from Steffen down our right side, presumably in the hope that Hoarau could make something from the first or second ball. The approach yielded minimal gains.

As with the first half, Everton’s  counters were relentless and on 58 minutes another break – again triggered by a Naismith header from inside his own box – ended in Barkley rolling in Lukaku to clip a great finish over Mvogo for goal #4.

Lukaku had 3 further great chances after this with Coleman, Barry and Garbutt all putting superb balls into the box for him to feed off, however on each occasion the forward’s finishing wasn’t as ruthless as it was earlier in the game. That shouldn’t detract from his display, though, as he had  a highly impressive 7 shots on target – the best return of his Everton career.

The only sour note was the red card for Stones for a professional foul on Hoarau following poor concentration from the youngster. The tussle with the big Frenchman will serve as a good lesson for Stones, who struggled all night against a player who is in essence a glittery Kevin Davies.

Young Boys threw on another striker and went more direct after the red card, but the switch was to prove futile.

Martinez went 4-3-2 with Barkley and Naismith moving inside to join Barry to clog up midfield with Lukaku and Mirallas left up front for quick breaks. The move was a wise one as the Blues still managed to control the game even with a man less, to the tune of 55% of possession in the final 20 minutes.

In summary this was an ace, end to end game between two sides committed to attack. We finally seem to have found the balance  between keeping things tight and looking a genuine threat in the final third – an equilibrium that has eluded us for most of the season. With key players seemingly coming back into form and a decent run of fixtures ahead of us it sets things up nicely for the last few months of the season.

Up the toffees!

EB