Tactical Deconstruction: Did Swansea tactics nullify our left side?

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Passing / Territory Data

Overall, the Blues had more possession (55.4%) and kept the ball better (82% v 75%) than our visitors. Our pass completion was also better in Swansea’s half although Swansea’s retention was superior in the final third (82% v 76.6%). Territory wise, we also bossed things with 56.9% of the game played in Swansea’s half and more than double the amount of touches in Swansea’s final third (278) than they made in our defensive zone (122).

Teams and Approach

The two sides lined up in similar 4-2-3-1 systems with Pienaar for Oviedo the only toffee change from the 5-1 rout at Cheltenham on Monday night.  Swansea had a re-shuffle given their cup heroics on Wednesday night, with Dyer playing quite centrally with Michu behind and Hernandez on the left. It was on the right side where most of the tactical stuff happened, with right back Angel Rangel selected in an advanced right sided midfield role with Tiendalli at right back. Rangel’s role was predominantly to pick up Baines and stop his forward surges, as shown below when he picks up Baines in the right back spot.

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A feature of our game’s this season has been what opposition managers do to counter act the numerical advantage we instigate by overloading down the left side. More reactive tacticians such as  Steve Clarke and Portly Rafa  have deployed a ‘shuttler’ (Dorrans / Ramires)in the midfield zone to track Baines up and down the pitch – a move similar to that deployed by Moyes regularly on Gareth Bale with two full backs doubling up  on their opponent.  Other manager’s like Villas-Boas have played attacking players like Lennon to push him back whilst some like Pardew have opted for the ‘hide under the table, close your eyes and hope for the best’ method. Interestingly,  two of the three sides who have beaten us WBA and Chelsea have been the ones who have best neutralised the Baines threat.

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Overall, I’d say overall Rangel provided more cover to his fullback than Hernandez did for him in the game earlier this season at Goodison  when the Spaniard was repeatedly over-run. Figures wise, Baines/Pienaar on average create 6 goalscoring chances per game between them whilst yesterday they created 11 so I’d say this approach alone didn’t stifle us as we created enough chances to win the game.

Did Swansea ‘park the bus’ ?

Firstly, apologies for the bus cliché.

We spoke in the preview of how there would be few goals in this contest and so it proved. Swansea’s defensive operation is amongst the best in the division and statistically the best on the road with just 9 goals ‘shipped’ all season. Their approach when not in possession was a ‘stand by’ operation rather than an aggressive one, i.e. they looked to induce the opponent to lose possession through positional play rather than persistently look to win the ball back.

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When sides line up in similar formation as we did yesterday, the difference is usually which side can ‘shift’ players more effectively to create numerical advantages in certain areas of the pitch. Moyes approach is heavily weighted on such ‘shifts’ , usually down the left side of the final third.  Moyes said post match that we passed the ball too slowly; this speed is implicit in developing such situations and catching opponents up-field when their shape is compromised. Due to our movement of the ball being too slow Swansea were able to get back into their shape and outnumber us, as shown in the above visual where they have 5 players to our 3 in the key zoned area we look to exploit.

Final word

This was a frustrating afternoon for the Toffeemen against a stubborn, compact opponent. Our best chances where from crosses when we could use our aerial advantage, but sadly our finishing was not at its best. On a positive note we secured our first clean sheet since September – incidentally against the same opponent – in what was the first goal-less Goodison draw in 49 games, a run going back to December 2010. With Arsenal losing and Spurs only drawing it hasn’t been a critical setback  and with our key rivals facing Chelsea and Man United next week our trip to Southampton could represent an opportunity to see us return to fourth spot.


Scout Report: Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Swansea

New Picture (111)Next up is a home clash with Michael Laudrup’s impressive Swansea side. The Welsh outfit have a bit more variety to their play these days with their trademark short passing game developed with physical players such as Chico and Michu plus more incisive creativity in the shape of key midfield duo Hernandez and De Guzman. We hammered them in the meeting earlier this season when we were on fire and our hosts had something of a cobbled together side but I’d expect this one to be a lot tighter….

New Picture (101)Swansea Style

Laudrup has kicked on since the departure of King Brenny in the summer in terms of overall gameplan. Rodgers side were very easy on the eye but they did have limitations in terms of a ‘Plan B’ if their short passing game didn’t work. Their aerials won per game has doubled and the goals they have scored from set pieces has risen dramatically. They have also been very positive on the ball with 61.3% of their passes going forward compared to our 65%.

As the table shows, they have achieved better territorial possession in the final third despite overall having less of the ball. They still play a short game with average passing distance 19m compared to our longer 21m. In terms of where they attack, last season the emphasis was on the forwards providing width whereas this season wide men such as Hernandez will play closer to the forward and look to impact play in-field. The bottom line is that goals scored, conceded and points accrued are all better than last season.

Last time out….

Earlier on this season we recorded our most comfortable win of the season in a game which also witnessed our last clean sheet. Our approach off the ball was to close down forward passing angles from Swansea and play aggressively high up the pitch and generally stopping them playing through us. As an example, Vorm is noted for being one of, if not the best, distributor of any keeper in the top flight and being the starting point of Swansea attacks with an average pass completion of 79%. Against us it was down to 58%.

Our hosts passing tempo was unusually slow. Very few teams have been able to dominate the ball against Swansea, and only on one other occasion since they came up to the top flight have a side had a higher possession total than we did (52%) against them.

Swansea couldn’t handle our quick passing tempo which led to constant fouling and subsequent free kicks with a foul committed by the home side every 4 minutes; as a consequence two of our three goals came from dead ball situations. The significant physical advantage we had over our hosts was huge, demonstrated by the fact we also won 60% of the aerial duels. Pienaar in particular was buying fouls for fun and was brought down a massive 7 times, mostly from Angel Rangel who had a shocker although in fairness he was afforded no protection by Hernandez who was hauled off at half time.

Swansea Team

In goal Vorm is fit again but since his injury Tremmel now appears to be ‘first pick’ and will probably start in goal. In front of him the two centre backs Chico and Williams have both impressed. Chico is a good reader of the game having won the second most interceptions of any defender in the top flight whilst Williams enjoys the physical side a bit more having blocked more shots than anyone in the division. Williams is also more likely to distribute longer from the back having attempted 176 to Chico’s 81 long passes although Chico’s accuracy is better which would hint that opponents are happier to let Williams have the ball. Williams is the more error prone of the duo with 2 of the 5 errors which have led directly to an opponent goal this season coming from Williams to Chico’s 0. In the fullback areas Rangel and Davies have been first choice for the bulk of the season and are likely starters. Rangel is excellent going forward and his link up play with De Guzman and Hernandez was a feature of the most recent league game against villa when the trio were responsible for the most frequent passing combinations in the game down the right side of the pitch.
In midfield, the deeper slots have been changed frequently all season and with the fixture pile-up of late it’s tricky to know who will get the nod. De Guzman has been superb with 4 assists and 3 goals and he also likes to drift out wide and cross; he is the third most frequent midfield crosser in the top flight. Usually Laudrup has selected him with either Britton or Sung Yueng whilst Agustien has also appeared a couple of times in this area. In the attacking wide roles it’s also unclear. On the right of midfield, Ex Valencia man Hernandez has the best accuracy in the top flight for through balls, has four assists and is ranked 12th in the top flight for most chances created per game. Routledge will probably be deployed down the left. Michu has struggled with injury in recent weeks but has still looked lethal when on the pitch. The bulk of the goals so far have come from his left foot and head so dealing with crossing situations and keeping him on his right foot will be crucial. In form Graham will most probably start as number nine if Michu is played at ten.


There are certainly exploitable weaknesses in Swansea’s defensive armoury that we can take advantage of. The strengths of Chico and Williams in terms of interceptions and blocks was made earlier on, however both are better on the floor than in the air. Anyone who watched the Rumbelows Cup semi-final in midweek will note that Chelsea looked considerably more threatening in the 15 minute spell they had the physical option of Ba who was able to push the Swans defensive line backwards. Ba forced more opportunities in his short spell on the pitch than Torres did before him so I’d expect us to hit Jelavic and Fellaini as early as possible.

On the flanks, Swansea’s right side is fluid going forward but is exploitable defensively. Hernandez is more concerned with his attacking role and plays high up the pitch, offering little protection to Rangel who himself is something of a maverick who prefers forward marauding over the mundane defensive duties. For this reason I’d fancy our chances of 2 v 1 situations in this area of the pitch. Selection wise, with ‘first picks’ Gibson and Mirallas still out there is limited options to change things so I’d expect the same side that beat Cheltenham with Anichebe deployed on the right wing but given the amount of time we play down the left he will invariably come infield as a supporting forward when we are in possession. Don’t be surprised if Heitinga gets a start though; the Dutchman was a surprise selection against Swansea earlier on this season and given his better qualities such as interceptions / long range delivery, Swansea is perhaps the most ideal opponent for him in the top flight.

Form / Betting

Form wise, the Swans have won more games on the road than at home and have the best defensive record on the road in the top flight with their last 8 away games yielding the fewest goals for/against in the division so don’t expect goals galore in this one. Like us, they have recouped numerous points from losing situations and score predominantly in the second half of games (67.7%). With us scoring more frequently in the first half of games (57%) the everton half time/ draw full time market is likely to attract interest. Most punters will now be aware that we have now scored in their last 18 top flight games & conceded in the last 16, both the longest runs of the season so the both teams to score market is a good option. This will be a big test for the Toffees but given the Swans exhausting cup clashes in the last week against Arsenal and Chelsea and the fact that we have only come up against lower league opposition in that time you would fancy the extra energy levels and preparation would give us a significant advantage in what is a crucial game.
Some thoughts betting wise…..

  • Both teams to score 5/6 bet365
  • Everton to win 2-1 15/2 ladbrokes
  • Everton H/T Draw F/T 18/1 Sportingbet
  • 3 Goals in the game 3/1 Paddy Power
  • Everton to come from behind to win 8/1 ladbrokes


Deconstructed: Moyes 3 Phase Strategy for defeating Swansea

Team News

The Blues drafted in Phil Neville and Phil Jagielka as like for like replacements for Fellaini and Heitinga. With rumours abound that he had been sacked by the club, Royston Drenthe was not in the match day squad and was replaced on the right flank by Osman with Gibson taking his spot in the centre. The Swans set up in a 4-2-3-1-ish system with Graham leading the line supported by the key danger man Sigurdsson.  Moyes tactical plan could be broken down into 3 key phases;

Phase 1 – Containment

Our hosts had most of the ball (62%) kept it better (86% v 76%) and made more passes (585 v 359) but pre match we had an idea this would be the case given Swan’s excellent style in keeping the ball.  The key factor was whether we could disrupt their fluidity in playing through us. Swansea’s key man this season has arguably been Leon Britton whose 93% pass completion is the best retention rate in the top flight. He is key to Swansea’s rhythm and linking defence to midfield. Our game plan from the off was to position ourselves to block off the angles from Vorm to the defenders with Osman and Pienaar positioning themselves high up the pitch. Cahill was asked to basically stand on Britton’s toes and ensure the midfielder had no space or angles to distribute forwards when the ball was played into him. This tactic really frustrated their key midfield man and one of the key themes of the first half was him constantly moving around the midfield zone looking for space, closely followed by Cahill. Unsurprisingly the duo covered the most – and almost exactly the same – distance in the first half from players on either side; Britton 2.78 miles and Cahill 2.76 miles respectively.

Phase 2 – Possession and Goals

The Bainaar axis was key to us getting a foothold in the game in the second period. The below graphic shows the players average positions and their font size demonstrates the volume of touches they had of the ball (the bigger the font the more touches). This shows the importance of Baines and Pienaar.

The duo combined superbly down the left in the second period and one of their signature moves culminated in the Swan’s key defender Williams upending Pienaar. From the resulting freekick Baines curled home a superb effort into the top corner of Vorm’s net. Pienaar and Osman were at their impish best on either flank; setting up 6 chances between them as the Blues missed a host of other chances before Jelavic – having just missed a sitter after another Pienaar run – was able to slot home after Fellaini’s physicality enabled him to turn away from Williams who was now being ragged all over the pitch. The Belgian had come on just before Baines opener and provided more of a threat than Cahill who lacked shattered after his tireless running in the first half.

Phase 3 – Lockdown

With the goals in the bag we looked to shut up shop, get men behind the ball and restrict Swansea from creating openings. Howard was incredibly well screened and only had one save to make in the 90mins as the Blues shape meant that Swansea couldn’t get behind our back line and were resorted to making speculative efforts from long range with 64% of their efforts pot shots and 0% from inside our 6 yard box. This image shows this (Swans left, Everton right) . In total the Blues made a huge 20 interceptions from deploying this tactic of cutting off forward angles. This great positional play and strong shape also enabled the Blues to conserve energy for the most part as Swansea’s possession was mostly confined to their own half and often broke down before reaching the final third.

As the game drew to a close we continued to look threatening on the break and were unlucky not to add to our tally. Stracquilarsi was snarling on the touchline and ready for action and on 82 minutes Moyes unlocked the key to his cage and as has become custom the belligerent Argentine galloped onto the pitch like a tiger who had been kept in a pen against his will and in need of some meat to satisfy his hunger. Straight away he was sharpening his claws on unsuspecting prey Williams and Caulker – making  as many fouls in 8 mins as any of teammates had done in 90mins. He should have scored at least once – perhaps twice if I’m being tough – but 2-0 was the final score in what was a terrific display from the Blues. In the case of the last 45minutes it was arguably our best offensive display of the season against a side who have rarely been brushed aside with such ease….Bring on Sunderland!!

Everton Scout: 5 Point Tactical Plan for Swansea

1.Vorm distribution is key

Goalkeeper Vorm has been one of his side’s big hitters in their impressive start to the season. In goal he has been superb (4 clean sheets in his last 6) although he was actually signed because of his distribution capability and is crucial to Swansea’s game plan of playing the ball out from the back and dominating possession. They hold onto the ball better than anyone in the top flight;  thus far posting possession retention of 85%. In midfield their passing is particularly slick with Leon Britton earlier this season managing 100% pass completion in the Fulham game from his 67 passes – the most by a Premier League player for six seasons. In Gower they have a player with incision and he has so far pulled in 5 assists from the 2.8 chances he has created per game.

2.Our wide players will need to push on

As noted above, the Swans will pass us to death if we give them the opportunity. We will need to keep pressure on them and not allow Vorm to play the ball out to his fullbacks – Cahill and Saha will need to press and close off the angles to Angel in particular who is a fullback with superb distribution. Whoever we select in the wide areas (most likely Drenthe right/Osman left) they will need to push on and cut out the feed to the midfield.

3.No space in behind Swansea backline

Swansea spend the lowest proportion of time (18%) in the opposition half in away games in the league whilst we spend the most time in the visitors half (30%) so expect most of the game to be played in Swansea’s area of the pitch. The visitors will sit deep and there will be minimal room in behind so if Coleman is fit I wouldn’t expect him to be deployed to the right mid slot (although right back would be ideal for this fixture).  As the Swans tend to sit deep they will often dominate the ball but not over commit bodies in forward areas. The Chalkboard (above) from their game at the weekend against Newcastle shows that they have a lot of the ball but there is hardly any penetration into the Geordies final third.

4.Play Direct

Let me first state that I am no fan of long ball football. Let me also state that I am no fan of the bungling Steve Kean. However, Swansea’s weakness is clearly in the air – they have won only 5.4 aerial duels per game (lowest in league) whilst Everton win almost treble that with 13.3. This was clearly something Blackburn targeted as despite having just 32% of the ball, Rovers triumphed by putting 4 past the Swans with the crucial factor being the aerial bombardment – winning 73% of aerial’s against Swansea’s 27% . Moyes has shown in the past that he is a pragmatist and will pick a team he feels gives us the best chance of winning the game so our best aerial players will be on show – so don’t expect Cahill to be dropped and potentially Distin will come in for Neville with Heitinga pushing into midfield.

5.Unleash Royston

The Norwich game showed the impact Royston Drenthe can have on the Blues – he is simply the most effective player we have in the squad and his pace, direct shooting and intensity will be paramount against Swansea. Moyes is a coach who will ask more from players than simply being able to offer going forward – they will also need to put in a shift going the other way. In a 4-2-3-1 were the midfield roles are delineated and you have 2 defensive mids such as Heitinga and Felaini who will concentrate on protecting the back four and winning the ball back this mitigates the risk of Rosyton not tracking back. With the way the defence is setup on the flanks i.e Baines playing as a wing back and Hibbert holding – it’s probably best that the Dutchman lines up on the right.


Swansea are a quality side and good to watch but they are beatable. They have posted the  fewest away points so far (3/24) whilst nobody has scored fewer goals (6) on their travels as them.  I don’t see it being a very high scoring game and we will spend long periods chasing the ball so patience will be required. I’d say 1-0 to the Blues.