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!

Everton 1-4 WBA

Lineups

As expected, Louis Saha’s inept display on Monday night was rewarded with the axe as Yakubu took on the role of misfiring forward. The other changes involved a new look right side with Anichebe preferred to Coleman and Hibbert deputising for the injured Neville. The Blues setup with Heitinga playing level with Arteta and Cahill advanced alongside Yakubu, in short 4-5-1 without the ball and 4-4-2 with the ball. West Brom’s key man Chris Brunt passed a late fitness test and took his place on the right side of midfield.

Early Exchanges

Everton were on top in the early stages of this game, with Distin close to connecting with Baines free kick and Anichebe looking lively after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. This early pressure quickly subsided though as Mulumba and Brunt took control of the game. Brunt’s starting position was on the right side of midfield but as Diagram C shows below his average position was more central, often coming inside with the ball to give WBA an extra man centrally. The Irishman has great quality on the ball and registered an assist and a stunning goal today. With Cahill playing high up field and Brunt cutting in,West Brom swamped the centre of midfield and Everton couldn’t handle this.

Diagram C

Heitinga occupies the right side of Everton’s central midfield area (with Arteta on the left) and he had a truly inept afternoon and was culpable for allowing West Brom the space on the inside right of midfield. This was in complete contrast to his opposing number Mulumbu who had a stormer, making a succession of key tackles and interceptions whilst also successfully completing 37 passes. Heitinga in comparsion made no interceptions and no tackles, making just 12 passes.  For a player occupying the position the Dutchman does this is simply not good enough ( shown in Diagram D)

Diagram D

As a general point of interest, Arteta’s emphasis as an attacking force has been questioned by many of late, but as the left sided central midfielder he is restricted by the Baines/Piennaar attacking leftside. As Diagram E shows below from the Sunderland game, with Pienaar coming inside at advanced positions and Baines often the highest man up field, Arteta is often dragged into a defensive left sided position to cover these players. Everton’s midfield balance would really be better playing the more defensive Heitinga on the left side and Arteta on the rightside which is much more solid defensively with Neville/Coleman usually providing better protection.

Diagram E – Arteta covers left side

Poor Pressing

Despite the scoreline, Everton created enough chances to win this game but were undone by poor defending and woeful pressing when West Brom where in possession. Diagram’s A & B show the build up to West Brom’s first two goals, and importantly how poor Everton’s pressure on the ball was.  Brunt’s goal was superb but Jagielka’s poor marking for the opening goal was inexcusable. Despite this, Everton got back into the game thanks again to the Baines-Cahill partnership, with the Aussie talisman slamming a great header in from a trademark Baines corner. These two were probably the only 2 to survive this game with their reputations intact and how Everton will cope when Cahill leaves for the Asia Cup is anyone’s guess.

Everton started the second half with real resolve and looked to be turning the screw on West Brom, with Anichebe swopping wings with Pienaar. However, a red card for an Arteta stamp on Jara would leave the Blues with a mountain to climb. Granted, play should have been stopped for an earlier foul on Baines and Jara made 4 fouls in this period of play and somehow didn’t get a booking but as a senior player  Arteta should have showed more proffesionalism.

Beckford was to have a big impact from the bench, getting into 4 scoring opportunities, 3 of which were clear cut chances.  The frontman clearly has confidence shown by him choosing to take Hibbert’s cross first time on the volley when he had the opportunity to control and slot, but his composure is questionable. In this way he is the polar opposite to Saha who lacks the desire and movement to get into these scoring zones but does have the capability to finish. West Brom’s movement and incision were far superior to ours all afternoon and the clinching 3rd and 4th goals were a microcosm of this ability, neat work and a cool finish from Tchoyi followed up by an excellent team goal from Mulumbu which went in off Distin.

Conclusion

A truly dire day for all concerned with Everton. The continued selection of Heitinga is something which needs to be addressed, but in truth only Cahill and Baines could say they put in a shift in an abject day for the Blues.

Although we later went on to create numerous chances the red card was a key moment in the game and ultimately cost Everton the chance of getting at least a point. The application and desire of the players and not necessarily the tactics and formation were the key reasons for this defeat.