1. Do stylish Everton deserve more?
Everton’s recent performances have certainly divided opinion amongst the supporters and both sides certainly have strong arguments which makes it such an interesting debate. Everton are playing their best football for years yet this is not reflected in the results and football after all is a results business.
Personally I remain in the positive camp and believe Roberto Martinez is certainly the right man to take Everton forward. He has transformed Everton’s style and has given the attacking players freedom to express themselves. At times, the Blues build up play is sensational, one move in particular in the 10th minute of the first half deserved a goal, but as so often happens the final ball was lacking, Coleman’s pull back failing to find an Everton shirt.
Everton’s exciting brand of attacking football is certainly generating plenty of opportunities. A look at the chances created in recent weeks show how unfortunate Everton have been to have picked up only six points from a possible fifteen.
vs. Crystal Palace – 19 shots
vs. Norwich – 15 shots
vs. Newcastle – 20 shots
(Premier League average of 12.8 shots per game)
Everton have undoubtedly underachieved in the Premier League this season, however the wide open nature of the table ensures that the Blues remain firmly in with a shout of Champions League football although if they are to achieve this primary objective they will need to use Cleverley’s late late winner as a catalyst to kick start a move on the top four places.
2. Everton employ the high press.
Everton have adopted a different tactical approach this season, utilising a high press, with the forward players working hard to recover the ball at the earliest opportunity.
The graphic below shows that Everton attempted 13 tackles in the Newcastle half and a further 10 on or close to the half way line.
In addition the Blues intercepted the ball on 15 occasions, 13 of these inside the Newcastle half.
This ensured that Everton not only dominated possession of the ball but also forced the majority of the game to be played inside Newcastle’s half.
3. Barry excelling in sole defensive midfield role.
Gareth Barry has enjoyed an excellent season and he seems to be excelling as the sole defensive midfield player. With Tom Cleverley playing further forward than James McCarthy did in the early part of the season, Barry has taken on the defensive midfield responsibilities and he has done so expertly, using his vast experience, knowledge and know how to dominate play.
Barry’s heat map from the victory over Newcastle highlights the incredible ground he covered in the match. He also topped the ball recovery statistics, the most number of successful tackles and the most successful passes.
4. Defence struggle with direct football.
As well as Everton played the Blues still
looked susceptible to a long direct ball through the middle of the pitch. Newcastle created a number of chances with a long ball towards one of their two forward players.
The Everton defence appeared nervous under this direct examination and were not prepared to commit themselves to winning the first ball, therefore allowing Newcastle to threaten Tim Howard’s goal.
It was a clear indication of how much Everton are missing the leadership of Phil Jagielka and although Stones and Funes Mori are playing well for the most part, neither are taking the responsibility of leading the back four.
5. Cleverley’s just reward.
Tom Cleverley has exceeded the expectations of most if not all Evertonians. His career had stalled at Manchester United and on loan at Aston Villa, where he was employed in a deep lying midfield role which does not suit his style. Roberto Martinez appears to understand him better than most, having utilised him to great affect at Wigan and now at Everton. His quality on the ball is unquestioned and his excellent work rate enables Everton to close the ball down quickly in attacking areas.
He has been unlucky not to open his goal scoring account in recent weeks, but did so in dramatic fashion on Boxing Day, with a 93rd minute header. He is almost certain to retain his place in the Everton team when James McCarthy returns to fitness, although he might find himself pushed on to the left to accommodate the Irish international. Whatever happens he has placed greater expectancy on McCarthy when he does return!