Arsenal 0-0 Everton – Tactical Deconstruction

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Teams and Line-ups

We made one change from the weekend, with Ross Barkley coming in for the injured Leon Osman meaning that Fellaini dropped back into midfield with Anichebe as the lone forward. Arsenal brought in Walcott, Mertesacker and Gibbs to the side that beat Norwich at the weekend.

Off the ball

Generally we did a good number on Arsenal’s passing game by swamping the middle of the park. The Gunners boast the highest pass completion (85.9%) and possession share (58.9%) in the top flight. In the first half particularly, we had them down to 79% for the majority, with their key link man and most frequent passer, the ex toffee Mikel Arteta recording just 55 passes during the game, way down on his 88 per game average.  The Spanish schemer on average is dispossessed just 0.8 times per game whilst tonight he was dispossessed 3 times – more than in any other game this season.

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The above takes into account pressing ‘contacts’ including tackles, interceptions, blocks and fouls broken down into 15 minute spells.

Fellaini was perhaps lucky to escape a booking early on for some rough stuff aimed at Mike Skinner tribute act Jack Wilshere whilst – despite the best efforts of Arteta – Darron Gibson just about stayed on the pitch after some tangles with Wilshere and Arteta. To be fair to the Spaniard, we didn’t mind him buying fouls and being a snide when he played for us! Overall we defended resolutely with Jagielka and Coleman particularly impressive in what was a high intensity tussle.

On the ball

On the ball, our own pass completion was decent,  in the first half peaking at 83% with us having more of the ball (50.3%) than the Gunners which is well up on our usual stats against the top sides when we tend to be more subservient.

In the second half Arsenal turned the screw more, eventually finishing the game with 57% of the ball as we sat deeper but failed to instigate as many counter attacks as we did at Spurs.

Anichebe endured a frustrating afternoon and didn’t really hold the ball up and bring in the wide attacking midfielders as he should have done with MIrallas and Barkley only receiving one pass each from the Nigerian. Overall he received 24 balls which led to just 9 passes, with just 5 completed successfully.

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The display of Ross Barkley in his ‘favoured’ role was one of the most promising aspects of the game going forward and he was more effective at linking the play than Anichebe.

Barkley received the most passes from Fellaini (7) and played in Mirallas (6) the most. His pass completion (86%) was well up on the 50% he posted vs Spurs and only bettered by Distin and Gibson (88%).  He also made the joint most shots, through balls and key passes with his sumptuous slide pass to Anichebe in the first half and his long range effort in the second our most threatening ‘moments’ in the game.

Conclusion

This was a decent effort by the Blues in a game which was at its best in the first half. Overall we didn’t really create a lot of chances, particularly in the second half of the game when Arsenal overturned the passing figures which we shaded in the first half. The point doesn’t really do much for us but given our shocking record against Arsenal and in the context of the pressure they put us under in the second half, this was a point gained rather than two lost.

EB

Spurs 2-2 Everton – Tactical Deconstruction

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Teams and Tactics

Spurs lined up in a 4-3-3 of sorts with Holtby, Parker and Dembele in central midfield with width coming from Sigurdsson on the left and Dempsey on the right with Adebayor up front. As he did in the game at Goodison, Vertonghen came in at left full back with Walker on the opposite flank.

After last week’s three at the back experiment we reverted to a back four with the surprise inclusion of Ross Barkley in place of Jelavic the only personnel change.  Barkley initially lined up on the left but he, Mirallas and Osman all dovetailed a fair bit in an interchangeable trio of attacking mids in the first half. You could say it was 4-2-3-1 but basically it was 6 defenders and four counter attacking players.

First Half

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Spurs started the game in a rapid fashion with attacks focused down their left channel with Vertonghen, Holtby and Sigurdsson overloading down this side and putting significant pressure on Seamus Coleman.

Our start defensively couldn’t have been worse; with Mirallas not in position, Vertonghen was able to whip in a ball that was disastrously defended by Distin to allow Adebayor to slot home.

We then came back strongly with a really good 15 minute period of possession when pass completion peaked at 83%– better than any  other spell of the game. With Spurs pinned back we deservedly went in level when Jagielka headed home Baines delivery.

Passing Combinations

Spurs three bodies against our two in central midfield enabled Dembele, Parker and Holtby to be involved in the bulk of Spurs top 10 passing combinations as shown below;

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For ourselves, the blossoming Victor Anichebe was the key man, being involved in 50% of our top 10 passing combinations. In keeping with our game plan, Anichebe was the target for direct balls up field and was asked to link play with the trio in behind him with Mirallas and Osman the major beneficiaries.  Anichebe/Mirallas (14) was second only to Baines/Osman (15) in terms of total combinations both ways.

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Second Half

Ross Barkley was subbed in the 52nd minute after something of a patchy game. The youngster played a key role in forcing the corner for our opening goal but found the going tough against Spurs pressing game with 50% of his passes finding a white shirt – the lowest completion of any of the starting outfield players. Incidentally, the final pass which seemed to prompt the change came when a forward pass was on but the youngster unwisely opted to play a backwards pass that was intercepted.

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In the  reshuffle that followed, Jelavic came on and Leon Osman moved across to the left flank with Mirallas – who superbly slotted our second goal – moving to play almost as a right sided forward and thus pushing back Vertonghen who had been Spurs prominent attacking full back in the first half. This move led to Kyle Walker becoming the main lateral threat in the second half with Baines being pushed even further back as the game unfolded.

As the second half player importance visual above shows, we were increasingly deeper positionally in the second period with the gap between our defensive 6 and forward 4 becoming a gulf. This led to us hitting 20% of our passes long, way up on the season average of 14%.

With legs tiring, mistakes on the ball became more frequent for the toffees and resulted in our pass completion from 75 minutes onwards plummeting to just 58%. Being unable to keep the ball for any prolonged period of time put increasing pressure on the backline and eventually it cracked with Sigurdsson scoring after Walker had skinned Baines down our left flank.

To be fair, Spurs are a top side and as well as being slick on the ball they press ferociously of it; despite having 62% of possession they regained play via tackle or interception as many times as we did (40) and also made double the amount of fouls than we did.

Conclusion

This was tactically a good performance by the Blues and was a game-plan we have seen executed on more than one occasion with a draw probably a fair result. Spurs will point to their territorial and possession dominance as pointers that they deserved all three points however due to our defensive operation they didn’t translate this possession into scoring chances and I felt that on the counter attack we looked equally if not more threatening and could have scored a couple more goals than we did in what was a frenetic second period.  The point doesn’t really do much for us in terms of making up ground on teams above us however as a game it was cracking entertainment and gave us 4 points from 6 against a very good Spurs side.

EB

Tactical Analysis: The Everton Back 3 Experiment

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The  Stoke Problem

Our recent record against Stoke has been  poor with no wins in our last 4 matches against Pulis side and no clean sheets. Often we have failed to win the territory / aerial battles and been outnumbered through the middle on the second balls.  The problem was even more problematic given the absence of Fellaini – one of our most aerially dominant players – due to suspension.

Ever the reactive tactician, Moyes looked to combat this through springing a surprise in his selection, opting to deploy three centre backs (circled blue) with Coleman and Baines providing the width (as they usually do anyway) as wing backs in a 3-4-3- ish system.

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In midfield,  Osman/Gibson supported an attacking trio of Mirallas, Anichebe and Jelavic with the Croatian through the middle and Anichebe (right) / Mirallas (left)  playing more supportive roles on the flanks (3-4-2-1) when we didn’t have the ball (circled yellow) and then when possession was regained Anichebe would come inside alongside Jelavic with Mirallas in behind (3-4-1-2). The tactical change was surprising given that such a setup is un-chartered territory for Moyes who always prefers a back four.

Many sides have used a similar back three setup against Stoke over the last season to combat the route one punts down the middle of the park – some with more success than others.  In terms of shape, Jagielka was the middle man who would predominantly attack the long deliveries –he won the most headers (8) on the pitch – whilst Distin came in on the left with Heitinga on the right.

Pros and Cons of 3 at the back

The key benefit of the back three is that it gave us a man advantage against Stoke’s two centre forwards Crouch and Jerome . This gave us better coverage through the middle and led to our figures in terms of aerials and second balls improving based on recent games against the Potters.

In this game we won 49% of the aerial duels which was a better figure than the game earlier this season (37%) and last season’s games home and away. Having more players in this central area meant we were better equipped bodies wise to hoover up the second balls too. In the corresponding fixture last season Stoke won  73% of their second balls whilst yesterday we restricted them significantly in this area to just 56%.  Heitinga is the better of the three on the ball and with Distin and Jagielka picking up Crouch/Jerome it meant Heitinga was usually  free to mop up and bring the ball out from the back unopposed. As the passing network shows he pushed the ball into midfield more than any of the 3, predominantly picking out Gibson who in turn looked to pick out Coleman to start attacks down the right.

In terms of the flanks it meant that wing backs  Baines/Coleman could focus more on the attacking role which is where their best attributes reside.

The disadvantage on the flanks was that we were numerically outnumbered and couldn’t engineer the 2 v 1 situations in the final third which is usually a hallmark of our attacking play.

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This is particularly evident when looking at the passing network with Baines only receiving 2 passes from Mirallas in front of him compared to the double figures he usually gets from Pienaar and thus Baines was largely reliant on Leon Osman for service down his flank. This led to us firing in just 20 crosses compared to the 44 we desperately hammered in last season against Stoke.

One of the reasons the back three system is favoured against Stoke is because the numerical deficit on the flanks isn’t really exploited due to Stoke’s full backs primarily tucking in and rarely crossing the half way line to exploit this  advantage with their wide midfielder.

Conclusions

The ends justifies the means and you would have to say the back three experiment did the job in what was always going to be a war of attrition against a hard to watch Stoke outfit.The result also puts us in good shape for some of the crucial battles against key rivals in the coming weeks.

Offensively the lack of numbers on the flanks meant we didn’t create much with the exception of Mirallas excellent goal. Defensively however we looked more secure through the middle and restricted Stoke to few scoring chances with the Potters as usual very reliant on set plays.

Stoke look in big trouble; despite investing  heavily in the playing squad they are on course for their worst points total since returning to the top flight as well as their lowest goals output and seem incapable of creating anything from open play.

EB

Everton 2-0 Man City – Tactical Deconstruction

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Teams and Tactics

The Toffee’s made two changes from the limp FA Cup exit with Jelavic and Neville carrying the can and replaced by Anichebe and Gibson.  City looked to combat our aerial assault by conceding the flanks and overloading in central zones with three centre halves Kolo Toure, Nastasic and Zabaleta. On the left, Kolorov made his first start since the last game against us back in December in place of Clichy presumably for his height and delivery as we will usually push City out to the flanks. On the right, vanilla flavoured James Milner has started the last 3 at Goodison in an attempt to reign in Baines mischief so it was equally unsurprising that he was deployed here from the start.

First 60 Minutes…

The Toffee’s used a ‘contract and expand’ type approach to this match; when City had the ball we formed a compact block and when possession was regained we’d make the pitch as large as possible with Coleman and Baines pushing right up field.  Coleman was the out-ball throughout with Gibson (7) and Mucha (6) feeding the full back most frequently.

We know City would look to play through the middle so when we lost the ball our players would shrink the middle of the pitch with wide players tucking inside and closing off passing angles to the likes of Silva and Tevez who increasingly had to funnel across to wide areas to pick up passes.

Southampton make the most interceptions in the top flight with an average of 19.9 per game however yesterday we made a whopping 26 with the below visual showing how predominantly they came in-field and not down the flanks with the clearly ace Gibson (7) making the most.

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The game’s opening goal came after some patient build up play by the Blues with Osman switching play from left to right, feeding the excellent Seamus Coleman. The Irishman moved the ball inside for Osman and with City standing off him – as they did later for the Jelavic goal – the pint sized schemer was able to pop a cracker into the top corner of block headed gaming enthusiast Joe Hart’s net.  Mancini then switched to a back four prior to half time with Zabaleta pushing out to right back, Milner pushing into midfield and Silva moving to left midfield.

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Post Red Card

With a man disadvantage, Operation Goodison lockdown commenced with more of a focus on the defensive game than the previous full throttle attacking overload from the first half.  Moyes withdrew Fellaini into a deeper midfield role and Osman pushed out to the left flank with Anichebe thus increasingly isolated, feeding predominantly of long balls which he did superbly. The less dynamic Naismith was brought on for Mirallas presumably for his better defensive capabilities particularly as an aerial outlet.  Credit must go to the much maligned Scot as his industry was crucial in winning the ball back for Fellaini to tee up Jelavic for goal two.

City brought on Nasri to play through the middle in place of the awful Gareth Barry in a bid to give their passing a bit more depth and incision which worked to an extent. City unsurprisingly swelled possession in the last 30 mins and with more space to manoeuvre in the centre of the pitch for the likes of Silva and Nasri chances became more frequent with 9 of their 17 opportunities coming within this time period.

As the game developed we relied increasingly on the lion hearted running of Seamus Coleman,  who made more successful dribble than anyone on the pitch. Goodness knows what slow releasing energy foodstuffs they feed the young wingback at Finch Farm for his breakfast. With most players dead on their feet in the dying embers of the battle, Coleman’s late bursts where the football equivalent of a withered clubber re-energised at dawn courtesy of an ill judged double drop of love beans. Alexsander Kolorov will certainly be happy to see the back of him.

Conclusion

Just as last week was a microcosm of the negative aspects of Moyes, today provided a reminder of the good things with hard work, bloody minded determination combined with quality and a streetwise cunning in the important zones.

For Mancini, Everton will always be his ‘laces out’ Ray Finkle moment. The Italian spoke after the 1-1 draw in December about how there is ‘no solution’ to playing Everton. He must feel like a man banging his head against a brick wall as everything he tried failed. This time out he went with 3 centre backs, then switched to a back four and then back to a back 3 in the final period of the game. The formations changed but whichever shape he went for City were second best in the face of an opponent fired up by the fall-out from last week.

We’ve now webbed United and City this season – a feat only matched by Real Madrid – but now need to follow this up with results at rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs plus the local dispute at the Tin Mine. All the above are places we have continually failed to get points in past campaigns but which will ultimately define our season.

EB

Everton 3-1 Reading – Tactical Deconstruction

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Passing / Territory Stats

The Toffee’s comfortably had more of the ball (60% v 40% ) and kept it better (80% v 70%) with better final third completion (82% v 74%) leading to us creating 18 chances to Reading’s 6.

This is fairly consistent with Reading this season with McDermott preferring a territory based game in the opponents half of the pitch and often by-passing the middle of the park. To achieve this he uses 2 forwards to keep opposition defenders ‘penned in’ and will look to hit them early from the back. This formula worked to an extent with the Royals shading territory 50.4% to 49.6%.

Right Side

The key to this win was utilising the right side which had a hand in all 3 goals and created 47% of our chances compared to just 26% from the left side.

The below passing network gives an indication of who passed to who….

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Notes on ‘The Passing Network’: Only displays players who have played for the bulk of the game. The vertical axis shows the player who has made the pass with the horizontal showing the receiver, i.e. Coleman played 19 passes to Gibson / Gibson played 18 to Coleman. The larger the font of the number the more the passes.

With Reading overloading to negate out left side, the shift in play from left to right was crucial as there was always acres of space to play into if we played the switch quickly. Particularly in the second half, Gibson was  able to facilitate this by getting the ball out of his feet and moving it accurately to Coleman to develop attacking moves.

Coleman was the games most involved performer with his combination with Gibson the most frequent from either side. The Irishman’s return to action has been timely and the opening goal was indicative of how ruthless he can be when left 1 v 1.  Coleman is still very much a work in progress but if we can train his brain to think a bit more in terms of where to go after he has passed the ball in 2 v 1 situations then he can really kick on in the coming years.

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In the first period we had been ok in patches but as the above visual shows, we moved the ball a lot quicker in the second period, particularly in the 61-75 minute period when we crushed Reading passing wise and created a third of our 18 scoring opportunities.

In terms of game changing quality, Pienaar was the stand out performer with his shift to the right side instrumental in our second half dominance. His fifth league goal of the season – a personal best – was truly outstanding, as was his through pass to Mirallas for goal three. The speedy Belgian took his goal well and grew in importance as the game developed.

With his skinny, quick legs and mischievous streetwise cunning, Mirallas is the footballing equivalent of an urban fox.

As the passing network shows he and Osman’s link up with Jelavic was particularly good but were ultimately unsuccessful in ending the Croatian’s continuing goal drought.

Some brief thoughts on the defence…

At the back we did ok considering we were without our regular keeper and best centre half.

Making his first appearance since a cameo as a malnourished extra in Romper Stomper, Jan Mucha had an ok game in the nets with his pass completion 35%, compared to Howard’s 38% in the Reading game earlier this season. He didn’t look too comfortable on crosses and mostly stayed on his line although he did make one superb stop from Noel Hunt in the second half. Hopefully Howard will be back next week, as fist pumping phony Jonny Heitinga is sure to be having nightmares about his re-match with Aroune Kone all week.

On the right of the back four, Coleman did well in terms of blocking crosses (Reading’s key attacking weapon) with 7 interceptions. Overall we repelled the lateral threat ok with 12 crosses blocked to Reading’s 4. However, we did concede a soft goal late on after a re-shuffle had seen Anichebe move in front of Coleman on the right side of midfield where he is less assured defensively. Worryingly, it was the 4th goal we have conceded this week with each one resulting in us not being able to defend the high ball into our box.

In Conclusion…

This was a fairly routine win against one of the weakest sides we have faced at Goodison in a while and should set us up nicely for Wigan next week. Coleman, Mirallas and Pienaar all excelled whilst Fellaini did ok in patches although his influence was nowhere near as pivotal as the derisory analysis served up by Hansen and the laughing imbecile Shearer on motd would have you believe.

In conclusion, we are now up to 45 points from 28 games which is an average 1.6 points per game. This would roughly bring us out with 61 points in the final reckoning, the same total that got us 4th spot on in 2004/5 . Whilst an improvement on last season it would still leave us short of our best ever points haul under Moyes in 2007/8 when we amassed 65 points, an average of 1.7 points per game.

EB

Norwich 2-1 Everton – Tactical Deconstruction

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Saturday’s abysmal collapse to Norwich was a bitter pill to swallow in a game that virtually ended our hopes of finishing fourth. Not because of the points difference – six is not an insurmountable figure to claw back – its more the fact we continue to not learn from our mistakes and repeatedly flounder against limited operatives at the foot of the table.

Teams

The Toffee’s made just two changes from the Oldham draw with the ‘much maligned’ mono-paced Steven Naismith coming in for Victor Anichebe and Seamus Coleman replacing Phil Neville at right back. Norwich lined up with Becchio and Holt in the jforward berths, although ex Leeds schemer Robert Snodgrass was basically playing as a wide forward in the space vacated behind Baines. This was Norwich’s main attacking trick with Russell Martin >; Snodgrass their most frequent passing combination, occurring 16 times.

Going forward….

It had all started so well for the Toffees. Fellaini (circled) as he likes to do, comes across to the left flank to give us an extra man and draw in opposing defenders which creates space for Baines (arrow) to whizz up the flank and plant a sumptuous delivery on the head of Leon Osman for the game’s opening goal.

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Generally the Blues were on top thereafter but threatened very little against a side who haven’t been able to buy a win of late.

Whilst we had more of the ball there was little end product, particularly in the second half when we created no chances from open play.

The in-effective Naismith churned out another tepid display with Kevin Mirallas left on the bench for the bulk of a game where a second goal would have surely knocked the stuffing out of the home side.

Possession / Territory Data

In a game the Toffee’s controlled for large spells, we had the bulk of possession (55.2%), had more territory (53.7%) and had more of the ball in the final third (132 v 76 completed passes).

Norwich made more of their time on the ball considerably with 50% of their 10 shots hitting the target compared to 20% of our 15 efforts on goal.

Crosses

This game featured two of the most prominent crossing teams in the division and all 3 goals came from such situations.

Whilst we are statistically conceding fewer chances from headers and set plays per game this season based on last, rather damningly we have conceded the most headed goals in the top flight.

Norwich had 30 crosses to our 26, with a slightly better accuracy (16% v 15%). My usual gripe with Moyes is that we tend to invite crosses with our approach being to pack the box sufficiently enough to evade trouble when the ball lands in the danger areas. This tactic is stupid against sides who possess heavier aerial artillery than us like Norwich or Stoke for example and to be fair we did try and stop the crosses coming in, with 7 blocked crosses to Norwich’s 1, however our defending when the ball came in was utter crud.

In the first goal, Fellaini has to take the blame for failing to get tight on Kamara and block his run off as the sub is able to get a run on the Belgian (circled). Fellaini has form for doing this in the last twelve months, most notably in the semi final surrender last season.

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On goal two, Coleman has tucked in which means Naismith goes into the right back spot and Gibson shuffles across to the Scot’s position to double up with him, which is fine. Osman however doesn’t shuffle into Gibson’s position meaning Martin (circled) has time to take a touch and spin in a delivery.

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When the cross comes in Distin is the only player who attacks the ball, compared to Norwich’s three at the back post (Holt, Kamara and Bassong) with the motionless Baines guilty of ball watching. The defensive line for Goal Two is also ridiculously too deep, just as it was for Norwich’s equaliser at Goodison earlier this season.

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Conclusion

This game was in many ways a microcosm of the themes which have held us back this season with our abundance of possession not translated into chances created, combined with us not being able to defend from set plays and conceding sloppy goals, predominantly late in games.

In comparison to our closest rivals we haven’t been able to beat sides such as Reading, Norwich (twice) QPR and Wigan and thus don’t really deserve to be in the ‘shake up’ for the Champions League spots. Moyes has to take the bulk of the flack here for some overly cautious substitutions when the game was there to be won, combined with our continued failure to address problems with defending balls into our box.

EB

9 Point Tactical Deconstruction on Man Utd 2-0 Everton

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Some thoughts on our defeat yesterday at Old Trafford…..

1. Defensively, the following 3 sub-points are taken ‘as a given’

  • The gap between Heitinga and Baines was too wide throughout the first half.
  • Our high line for the second goal was suicidal even by our standards….and if we are going to do apply such a risky tactic the midfield needs to apply more pressure so balls can’t be threaded through like Rafael did for van persie.
  • Neville was crud throughout. Whilst the veteran campaigner remains a useful midfield option his days as a credible right back alternative look as legitimate as his need for blonde highlights.

2. Neville had a lot of the ball

With Jones following Fellaini when the Belgian marauded forward, Cleverley was left outnumbered in the central zone against Osman and Gibson. This meant that Giggs was ‘sucked’ inside leaving Pip free on the right flank. Thus, as the matrix below shows, Neville enjoyed more of the ball than Baines on the other flank. This was negated by Ferguson prior to half time when he dropped Rooney into the left mid slot to relieve the pressure on Giggs and allow the Welshman to play more central.

EFC Passing Matrix vs Man Utd

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5 points on the passing matrix > (1)The size of the player’s head is relevant to how many passes he makes, i.e Gibson made the most, Anichebe the fewest hence their appropriately sized skulls  (2) The thicker and darker the line, the more times the pass combination was made, i.e the thicker, darker lines e.g Heitinga to Jagielka emphasise that the combination was made a lot (3) If there is no line between players there was no passes made  (4) Click on the image to enlarge (5)The idea for this passing matrix is mostly adopted/ ripped off from the  excellent 2+2=11 blog. Anyone who subscribes to football nerding will love it (6) the position of the players  in the diagram is loosely based on where they are positioned on the pitch 

3. United play down our left

United ‘s central midfield duo looked to push the ball out to the right and build attacks as often as possible with Rafael – and less so Valencia- very impressive. United’s top 3 passing combinations were Valencia>Rafael (13) Cleverley>Valencia(13) and Jones to Rafeal (11).

4.Baines impact minimised

As a result of Point 3, Baines was largely ineffectual and spent the majority of the first half back peddling trying to deal with the threat of Rafael and Valencia. He and his best mate Pienaar (who started on the right but then switched to the left) created hardly any serious chances from open play in the game.

5.Gibson  sees most of the ball

As the passing matrix shows via Gibson’s big steak-head, the Irishman had most of the ball for the Blues and was the principal link man between defence and attack. However in reality he ended up linking defence with midfield or back to defence. Overall he combined most with either backward passes to Jer-jelka or sideways balls to Neville.

6.Pienaar didn’t find Anichebe once

Pienaar had most joy in the 20 minute spell prior to half time; however the South African schemer was largely ineffectual and didn’t make any passes to Victor Anichebe during the game. The Big Nigerian, for the most part was starved of service, seemed to be under the misconception that you can get free kicks and penalties at Old Trafford.

7. Fellaini frustrated

The Belgian did minimal all game with his threat effectively neutralised by the lumbering galloot  Phil Jones. The ex-Blackburn lackey’s  pre match prozone briefing pack presumably stated about Fellaini;  ‘get in his face’ and ‘up and at em’ and was probably penned by Phil Brown.

In the Goodison game, Fellaini’s role was to receive long passes and then feed the wide-men as the the passing combination grid here shows. Due to the service being cut to the Belgian he couldn’t feed the wide-men, hence the Belgian didn’t make one pass to his compatriot Kevin Mirallas. More was expected of Fellaini here and in games such as this you expect your big hitters to turn up. He didn’t.

8.Mirallas peripheral

Kevin Mirallas was particularly peripheral and struggled to make much headway in the game. Unsurprisingly, the period he looked most effective was in the 20 minute spell prior to half time. During this spell Pienaar was picking up the ball in central areas and feeding him on the right;  this combination occurred 6 times in this 20 minute spell but didn’t happen before or after this time period.

9. Conclusions…..

The hope pre match was that last season’s gung-ho 4-4 would be the blueprint as to how we could get a result, however post match it appeared that last season’s gargantuan draw would be the exception to the rule.   The dynamism of the last 12 months was nowhere to be seen , replaced by the default efc powder puff display at Old Trafford that we have come to expect garnished with the usual condescending ‘praise’ from Taggart.

As usual we kindly gave the opposition a head start and were then forever chasing our tails with Vidic colossal for United aerially. In the second period, United basically played a ‘rest in possession’ approach and given our leggy midfield we struggled to get the ball back and when we did seemed completely goosed to do anything progressive with it.  Whilst the sides had the same amount of chances (11) United hit the target three times more than us and always seemed to be able to up another gear if required.

All in all then it’s been a pretty gash weekend for the Toffee’s.  Realistically, achieving the dying ember of 4th spot would mean us having to go to Spurs and Arsenal and win both, which is unlikely in our current form. Thus, the FA Cup now appears a more realistic proposition in terms of ending a season which has promised so much with some kind of tangible outcome.

EB