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

A first glance at BSC Young Boys

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With the Premier League ‘campaign’ pretty much a dead duck for us, the Europa League is now the only remaining opportunity to salvage something from what has been a pretty crud season. Standing in the way of a place in the last 16 are BSC Young Boys – one of the leading lights in what is a fairly average Swiss League – in what should be a pretty tight affair over the two legs. Being a proper sad meff I’ve watched some of Young Boys Europa group games and what follows is my protracted assessment of what lies in store over the two legs, starting with the boss Uli Forte.

New Picture (124)The Boss: Uli Forte (Win Ratio as manager 57%)

A defender by trade, second generation Italian Forte’s first big gig came as boss of St Gallen, inheriting a side who had just been relegated to the second tier of Swiss football. Forte overseen promotion in his first season and then stabilised things before getting the bullet in his third season, a campaign which would ultimately result in relegation.

His next job would be at Grasshopper and although he was only there for 1 full season it would be a fruitful one; he improved the clubs points total by 43 on the previous season, moving from 3rd bottom to 2nd top, returned the club to the Champions League and bagged the Swiss cup.

Whilst trophies haven’t followed yet at Young Boys he has overseen great improvements, with a 16 point swing in his first campaign and this season his points per game ratio has also steadily risen. It’s especially impressive given that a lot of the big hitters from the squad he inherited have moved onto bigger leagues, indeed from the side that beat Spurs in the ECL playoff 2 years ago only English born Sutter is likely to start next week.

Its hard to really define his team’s style. In their games so far in the EL they haven’t dominated possession, nor have they dominated territory. They are more set up to play counter attack but with Hoarau up top they can be more direct should they wish.

Ok, so what about the team….

The Defensive Unit

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New Picture (119)Yvon Mvogo  (Keeper) Only 20 years of age but has been preferred to Swiss International and former club captain Wolfili for the bulk of this season, and especially in Europe. The Napoli away defeat provided a decent microcosm of his good and bad qualities, firstly with an impressive 7 saves which kept the score respectable. On the flip side  his command of the area was poor, continually struggling with crosses and making a truly comedy gaffe to gift Napoli their second goal.

New Picture (98)Scott Sutter (RB) Formerly a junior at Charlton, London born Sutter is a right back who can also play in midfield and – less convincingly- at left back. A mainstay of the side, he played a vital role bombing forward in the win over Spurs 2 seasons ago  and was equally impressive vs Bratislava away, crucially picking up 2 assists from the right flank.

New Picture (13)Jan Lecjaks (LB) – Big, physically imposing left back who is comfortable shuffling across to centre back. Poses little threat on the ball and is generally uncomfortable going forward in possession. His back-up Rochat played vs Napoli but endured a miserable night that culminated in gifting clown keck’s mob their third goal.

New Picture (12)Milan Vilotic (DC)- 28 year old right footed Serbian International centre back who previously spent 3 seasons at Red Star in his homeland. His time in Belgrade came to a sticky end after a feud with Robert Prosinecki, and it’s not the first time his mentality has been called into question. A tall, aggressive ball winning defender, he can be caught out in 1v1’s and perhaps likes to go to ground a bit too easily. Not massively comfortable on the ball and can be caught in possession.

New Picture (99)Steve Von Bergen (DC)- Skipper and decent covering defender with good levels of concentration. Has good pedigree having played in the Bundesliga and Serie A plus he has featured in x2 World Cups for Switzerland. Will play on the left of centre alongside Vilotic.

Midfield

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New Picture (14)Sekou Sanogo Junior (DMC)- Defensive midfielder from the Ivory Coast who will play on the left of central midfield. Can drive forward and beat players using his physique, gives a good aerial presence and isn’t afraid of ruffing things up in midfield, often going to ground and giving away unnecessary fouls. Along with Hoarau he will be the main target for free kicks and corners.

New Picture (15)Milan Gajic (DMC)- 28 year old Serbian central midfielder, a good passer but who has dubious levels of concentration and defensively isn’t great. Plays right of centre but is left footed so it would be worth running at his weaker side. His Balkan battle in the middle of the park with Besic cold be one to keep an eye on.

New Picture (122)Yuya Kubo (AMC)- 21 year old two footed second striker who will predominantly drift to the left. Came through the ranks at Kyoto Sanga  which is one of the J-League’s most prolific talent production lines .Fellow BSC creative sparks Josef Martinez and Michael Frey have moved onto Serie A and Ligue 1 respectively, meaning Kubo is now pretty much a first pick, Has good acceleration and will look to pick up the ball in deep areas and drive into the opposition half. Can be easily dispossessed against more physically robust opponents.

Forwards

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New Picture (120)Guillaume Hoarau (FC) One time Everton target under Moyes, Hoarau is a one man battering ram. Has scored 5 in 5 starts in the Europa this season and having previously turned out for PSG and Bordeaux he has plenty of pedigree and big game experience to call on and no forward has won more aerials per game in the tournament than he has. Jags and co will be well served by keeping a high-ish line to prevent him doing damage from crosses and also keeping him on his weaker right foot. Bagged 2 in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Grasshoppers which helped BSC leapfrog Zurich into 2nd spot in the table.

New Picture (121)Raphael Nuzzolo (FL)- Converted from a forward into a winger, Nuzzolo is a right footed wide attacker who will play on the left and look to cut inside onto his better foot. He is clever, can head, volley and dink nice one touch goals. Top Young Boys scorer in the league this season with 5 goals and scored against Liverpool in the EL a few seasons ago.

New Picture (123)Renato Steffan (FR) I like this cat. Left footed wide midfielder, he is a good dribbler and crosser. For me he is their chief danger man – he is at his best running at defenders and made the crucial assist for goal 2 v napoli. The main creative force with plenty of assists in his locker, he is also the joint top scorer for the club in the league this season. Is also good at picking up free kicks and has decent movement in the opposition 6 yard box, particularly in the air.

Likely ressies….

Ghana forward Afum offers a pacy alternative although in front of goal he is very erratic with just 2 goals in 15 Swiss League games this season. Right sided Argentine Zarate is a much more credible gunslinger from the bench, and he scored against the RS in the group stage a few seasons ago.

Betting points to consider

  • Despite finishing second in their group Young Boys won more points and scored more goals in their group than we did
  • They are particularly strong at home in Europe, having won 7 on the spin and scoring 19 goals in the process, conceding only 2.
  • When the sides meet this week  Young Boys would have played only twice since the last round of Europa League games (1 win and 1 draw) compared to the twelve games we have been involved in.
  • Young Boys have scored 3 goals in each of their last 2 home games against English opponents at home (Spurs & Liverpool).

Bong Verdict

Young Boys will be a difficult side to get the better of and it wouldn’t surprise me if we narrowly lost the opening leg, such is the strength of their home form . Man for man they are weaker than Lille and Wolfsburg, though, and I could see us putting three past them at Goodison.

EFC to win 4-3 on aggregate.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Chelsea 1-0 Everton

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Teams

Roberto Martinez brought back Tim Howard and Ross Barkley whilst handing a debut to  Aaron ‘Buzzing’ Lennon. The unfortunate Robles along with Mirallas and McCarthy made was for the trio. Shape wise it was more forward thinking than the dreary derby with an extra forward player and a return to 4-2-3-1.

Chelsea remained without piss boiling neanderthal Costa (suspended) and his snide sidekick Fabregas, which was a positive given that they absolutely destroyed us at Goodison back in September. The increasingly tedious Mourinho opted to go with Remy  up front with Willian, Hazard and Cuadrado in behind in a similar 4-2-3-1.

First Half

Everton settled into the game well and had the best chance of the half inside the first fifteen minutes. The move started when Gareth Barry regained possession well on our 18 yard line from Remy and launched a long ball to Lukaku to forage for.  Decent work then ensued from Lennon and Barkley to engineer an opening for Lukaku 20 yards from goal on his right foot.  Cech wrongly anticipated that the ball would go across him but smartly left out a leg and repelled the goalbound effort. With Zouma’s pace on the right of Chelsea’s defence the ball down the left  side of Terry looked like an area Lukaku could expose if played him in correctly.

For the first 20 minutes we dominated the ball (60%) albeit most of our possession was in Chelsea’s half with our hosts controlling the space better with significantly more territory than us.Chelsea kept three players on our 18 yard line when Howard had it so there wasn’t really much chance of us playing out from the back.

Matic is a monster for hoovering up second balls and when  possession was turned over in our half it was inevitably the big Serbian who was the winner of the ball, predominantly feeding Willian who in turn would look to Hazard down the left to run at Besic. The Bosnian was increasingly on a sticky wicket after his early yellow card for a foul on Hazard and his predicament wasn’t helped by  Gareth Barry also going into the book for a foul on Cuadrado. This consequently put both our defensive midfielders in a difficult position when Chelsea broke as, with our wingbacks upfield, Lennon and Naismith increasingly had to ‘put in a shift’ defensively more than they would like so that Besic/Barry weren’t left 1v1.

Despite being 50-50 in terms of possession at half time we had for the most part struggled to get out of our half and when we did Naismith often chose the wrong option.

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Second Half

Besic’s high risk strategy cost him his place in the team for the second  half with McCarthy coming on to replace him.

After the break it was less fluid on the ball from the Blues and more about a rearguard action, which to be fair was superbly marshalled by Everton’s best two players on the night, Phil Jagielka and John Stones. Our problem was that we just couldn’t get any decent possession to relieve the pressure on the duo and whereas possession in the first half was 50-50 it increasingly became a landslide in Chelsea’s favour after the break.

We did have some decent moments, albeit they were few and far between.

In a rare counter attacking situation Barkley’s pass into Lukaku’s feet was good, however the Belgian’s run was ill-timed and the linesman correctly flagged him offside. After having the best chance in the first half the big man then had the best in the second, and this one was even better. After Oviedo’s initial centre had been blocked, McCarthy superbly picked him out again down the Chelsea right and the Costa Rican’s delivery was of pinpoint accuracy. Unfortunately Lukaku failed to steer the ball away from Cech whose save – again with his feet – was pretty impressive.

Aaron Lennon endured a mixed full debut, but after the break it was more bad than good. His major issue seems to be that he’s too ‘head down’ and whilst getting the ball into the box is refreshing – and  something we’ve been in dire need of all season –  he’ll need to lift his head up more before putting the ball into the box if he’s to make an impact at L4.

Azpilicueta in the Ashley Cole 'hold me back lads' role

Azpilicueta in the Ashley Cole ‘hold me back lads’ role

Mourinho now made a double change,  bringing on Fabregas and Drogba for Remy and Cuadrado in an attempt to get the ball into the box earlier as prior to this it had been too slow with our defensive shape rigid enough to repel anything that was thrown at us.

Chelsea had dominated possession and the shot count, but there wasn’t a great deal of ingenuity in the final third by the champions elect. Their 45 crosses was a sign of both a lack of ideas and desperation, however as the game edged towards the 90th minute there was almost an inevitability that they would eek one over the line somehow (as they did in this fixture last season) and so it proved.

The trigger was a second booking for Gareth Barry, who I thought had a decent game and won more tackles and interceptions than any  player from either side. His red card led to a free kick down our right side which was duly punted into our box.

Willian was to prove the match winner, pinging in a great shot that went through a ruck of bodies and inside Howard’s left hand post after the free kick had initially been cleared.  In true Everton style Ivanovic was involved in creating the opportunity after a minute earlier attempting a WWE style manoeuvre on McCarthy for which the block headed, balding tramp received no punishment.

Howard had previously made 3 smart saves from Matic, Willian and Remy and whilst the goal did come from a deflection of Naismith there will be questions over his punch which proceeded it –  legitimate scrutiny given Robles recent run of clean sheets which preceded Howard’s return. You could also raise the question as to why Martinez left Barry on when he was finely dangling on a yellow and instead took Barkley off.

Conclusion

This was a really good defensive display from the Blues with some stylish and often stubborn defensive play from the backline. Alas, as with the Liverpool game we were unable to link midfield to attack well enough and despite having the best 2  chances of the game there was precious little else from us on the ball and this inability to relieve the pressure on the defence with any sustained periods of possession in the opposition half meant that a Chelsea goal was always likely.

Two wins in sixteen isn’t great and whilst the defensive displays have been much improved since the horror of Hull we still seem desperately short going forward with the conundrum of finding a balance between the two continuing to elude Martinez.

EB

Tactical Deconstruction: Catenaccio and Mouse derby ends all square

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Preamble

This Merseyside Derby won’t be one that will live long in the memory as a tedious tactical joust between Martinez the phenomenal and Brenny the outstanding ended in abject stalemate.

After the 6 goal humdinger last season there was anticipation aplenty that this game could deliver a similar yield of both goals and excitement, although that was probably misguided given that both sides were without key attacking performers from last season. Added to this, the away defence had not been breached once in open play this year whilst we had just recorded  back to back clean sheets for the first time this season. All things considered, stalemate was perhaps the more likely outcome.

Still, for us to record just one shot on target, and crucially only create three chances in the entire game – the worst return of any game under Roberto Martinez – was something of a surprise.

High pressure triangle

Obviously sacrificing a forward player (McGeady) for a predominantly defensive one (McCarthy) meant we were more cut out for the defensive side of things than bombing forward. The Irishman started alongside Barry and Besic in a high pressure triangle in the middle of the Goodison midfield and was the pick of the three, winning more first and second balls than any player from either side.

Liverpool have had some joy since the turn of the year by deploying a four man square in midfield and Martinez had clearly done his due diligence. Besic and McCarthy occupied the forward corners of the square (picking up Stevie me and Coutinho respectively) with Barry the spare man on the ball in between the duo.

In terms of pressure, the main approach from us was to allow Sakho to receive the ball and then play on his lack of composure, but it worked only a couple of times. Mostly we let Liverpool have the ball in their half and allowed coma-inducing sideways shuffler Allen to knock balls to and from his centre backs. It was only when it was pinged into Gerrard (apparently playing in his last Derby)and Coutinho when Besic and McCarthy quickly engaged to close the spaces down.

Gerard’s passing was as slack as Henderson’s jaw at times, but luckily Brenny’s sentimentality kept him on for the full 90 despite Coutinho creating more openings in half the time of his leggy colleague.

Overall Liverpool had more quality on the ball to get from the halfway line into our box than we did, albeit Robles was barely forced into a serious save all afternoon.

Forward failings

Sadly our endeavour off the ball wasn’t matched by our quality on it, particularly in the final third.

The main forward pass (Barry to Lukaku) was sprung ten times, however this service was largely squandered by the big man. Lukaku struggled to either beat his man or link play effectively with one particularly bad piece of control in the first half after Mirallas had zipped one into his feet 25 yards from Liverpool’s goal costing us a decent opportunity to hit Liverpool on the counter. At other times the timing of his runs was equally erratic,  often going too quick and leading to him being caught offside 4 times.

Naismith is great at finding space and doing the donkey work for the Belgians, but with the ball at his feet in the final third he comes up short too, and he lost possession more than any player on the pitch. Mirallas on the right showed a similar lack of thrust in what is usually one of his more enterprising fixtures.

All in all the trio didn’t receive enough ball but when they did the return was poor.

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The only time we really stirred was on 78 mins after Jordan ‘Hendo’ Henderson attempted an Ashley Cole style ‘hold me back lads’ kebab shop confrontation on Naismith after Besic had pulled his flick knife on Ibe. The G-Star raw clobbered bell whiff’s plassie hardman act was as transparent as his complete lack of football ability, which seemingly consists of little other than running.

The incident was followed by Barkley coming on for Naismith and a reshuffle which seen Alcaraz coming into the backline and Stones pushing further forward. It was then that we had the game’s best chance with Coleman being superbly played in by Barkley only for Mignolet to impressively repel his goal bound shot.

Conclusion

Given that West Ham are the only side we’ve beaten in the top half of the table I guess a point against Liverpool is good in the context of the season, but overall this wasn’t great fare. Martinez problem all season has been an inability to find the right balance, principally to be able to harness good attacking play with a resolute defence.

We now seem more able to shut up shop -we’ve now only conceded 1 goal in 4 league games – but it has generally been at the detriment of our attacking play with an increasingly feeble return going forward.

Martinez biggest obstacle in being able to successfully  jump-start the season is by finding an equilibrium between the two, and ideally sometime in the next month.

EB