Everton 2-1 Fulham

Lineups

Everton made two changes from the Birmingham draw with Tim Cahill returning to the forward line to support Saha and Neville restored to the midfield at the expense of Heitinga in a 4-4-2. Fulham lined up in a 4-4-2 with Dembele and Andy Johnson up front with dangerman Dempsey starting left midfield

A common misconception with our formation is that with Cahill we play 5 men in midfield, hence the often ‘4-5-1 at home Moyes’ shouts.  If you look at the above average position map, Cahill (17) and Saha (8) are circled, notice how Cahill is actually playing further forward than Saha, so in essence a  4-4-2

Blues control the play in first half

Everton’s passing was sharp in the first half and Osman again was our architect in chief. The pint sized schemer is one of the best passers at the club, and has a pass completion of 75% for the season, including 4 assists, creating a chance every 68 minutes. This is still some way short of our top creator Baines who lays on a chance for a team mate every 51minutes.

Osman’s cross enabled Coleman to bury a header past Schwarzer’s outstretched right hand for our opening goal. In the build up to the goal, Hangeland, who once had a trail with the Blues,  gets pulled out of position leading to Salcido covering his position centrally which thus leaves  Coleman un marked at the back post. Coleman had a great game and registered 87% pass completion, well above the team average.

Passing Dashboard – Fulham made many more successful passes than the Blues and their pass completion in the 2nd period was much better than ours, although a lot of this was in front of our defence as our pressing higher up the pitch in the first half subsided once we had the 2 goal advantage.

Jack Rodwell has been the subject of great media interest this week and the young midfielder had a quiet afternoon, registering just 15 successful passes, non of which went into Fulham’s 18 box.  Compare this with Baines who successfully delivered  49 passes, 7 of which were made into Fulham’s box. One of Rodwell’s  few surges from midfield was to lead to the Blues second goal, as his run on goal was checked by Etuhu and the resulting free kick was slamming in by Saha after being teed up by Baines.

Fulham back in business

With the 2 goal advantage in the bag, Everton sat back and defended on our 18 yard line, with pressing pretty much non existent until Fulham reached 20-25 yards from our goal.  This wasn’t helped by Heitinga replacing Cahill , when Beckford for me would have given us more of an out ball and enable us to get further up the pitch.

Fulham were camped in our half for most of the last 30 minutes and looked a lot more potent with Zamora now up front, Dembele on the left and the impressive Dempsey now occupying a more central role.

In the build up to Dempsey’s goal, the American had shifted from left mid inside, Rodwell is circled picking him up but gets caught ball watching enabling Dempsey to get the space required to get in a superb goal.

Conclusion

A well deserved victory for the Blues which gives us 10 points from the last 12 available. Great individual displays again from Baines and Coleman gave Everton more of a cutting edge than Fulham and ultimately this secured us the win here. COYB!

Newcastle 1-2 Everton

The Blues bounced back from Tuesday’s cup exit to deliver an excellent victory against Newcastle in a game which once again showed the importance of Everton’s left sided fluency………

Line-ups

The Blues made two changes in personnel with Jermaine Beckford able to start and replace Billy with Tony Hibbert coming in at right back and Seamus Coleman dropping out. The big changes from Tuesday’s horror show involved a switch to 4-4-2 and Mikel Arteta switching to the left side with Phil Neville coming into the centre of midfield and Leon Osman switching to the right flank. Newcastle had injury problems down their right side with Barton and Ireland out, so Simpson was pushed forward to right midfield and Steven Taylor slotted in at rightback. Both sides were pretty much 4-4-2 – not a familiar sight in the Premier League nowadays.

Arteta revitalised

Mikel Arteta has had a frustrating spell this season from the centre of Everton’s midfield. During a previous post late last year I asked the question whether the Spaniard could be switched out to the flanks where he had his most productive campaign with 9 goals and 13 assists in 2006/7.  My argument is that in the modern game teams flood the midfield in 4-5-1 battles with teams often having 3 centre mids each, the area becomes congested and the room to manoeuvre creatively is reduced. Out wide though, you get more time and space and with 2 centre mids Neville and Rodwell’s remit purely to defend, he was almost given a free role to create chances. Although based on the the left side, like Pienaar he tucked in centrally between the lines and Newcastle simply couldn’t handle him. His run and ball to setup the excellent Leon Osman’s equaliser showed the advantage of having him playing in the final third to utilise his creativity, as opposed to being crowded out 25 yards further back in the middle of the pitch.

In the opening exchanges Arteta is fed the ball out wide, Newcastle often keep a high line and with Simpson caught up field and Taylor sucked inside to his more usual centre back slot, Arteta has acres of space to run and then get a shot in which Harper saves well….the same move led to the Blues opener shortly after.

The 2007/08 campaign also saw Arteta on the flanks and in this campaign he was the most fouled player in the league, fouled every 28.8 minutes in season. This ability to win free kicks was to prove key in us taking control of the game, as the Spaniard bought a foul from Tiote in an area which Baines thrives on whipping in dead balls. It was to see Baines go into double figures for assists and break his previous best of 9 assists in a season– the most for a Premier League defender in the last decade with Jags the beneficiary this time. Our recent focus on Baines and our left side showed it had accounted for the source of 75% of our goals this season. Somebody should have told Alan Pardew.

Before this, Newcastle had taken the lead against the run of play when Best converted after Nolans effort was parried by Howard into his path. For the sizeable unit that he is, Nolan has the ability to find space inside the box and he was a threat on more than one occasion to the Blues rearguard.

Newcastle kept the ball better throughout as the passing stats show, overall completing 73% of their passes to our 65%, which is the lowest figure we have recorded all season

Second Half

Like us, the Geordies are also better down their left side with the consistently excellent Enrique and Gutierrez making good combination play, and the left flank was the source of their opening goal. With Enrique now on the sidelines through injury, Gutierrez was taking the fight to the Blues himself. His ability to beat his man was suspect and out of the 13 times he took on his opponent he only emerged victorious 3 times.

Chalkboard Analysis – Everton shut down Newcastle’s left side better than our opponents with more interceptions

Conclusion

An exciting game between 2 sides looking to exploit their respective strengths down the left flank. Crucially, the Blues looked defensively more solid in defending their right side than Newcastle. For the first time in the league this season the Blues conceded the first goal and came back to win, it was also one of the few occasions this season where the Blues have seen less of the ball and been inferior to an opponent in retaining possession, and yet made more of the ball when in possession to win the game. The midweek game with Birmingham now beckons and if we are to salvage something from this season we need to show consistency and back up the great results we have had against the better sides in the league by picking up points against teams from the bottom of the table.