Talking Tactics: Everton v. ChelseaBy: Brian | May 25th, 2011
Afternoon or evening to everyone depending on where you are reading this. Today I’d like to introduce a new writer to the Everton Offside and Royal Blue Mersey blogs, his name is Darren and comes to us via England, but I will let him introduce himself at a later date. His first article is a more in depth look at the tactical match ups for Everton in the Chelsea game. As always let us know what you think in the comments below, and check out both here and Royal Blue Mersey in the coming weeks for more of Darren’s thoughts and analysis.
Before the game and thinking about both teams, it was obvious that the threat to our three points was going to come from Chelsea’s dominance in the midfield and movement off the ball. Obviously this would enable them to string more passes together, create more chances and with chances comes goals – or so it would seem.
Chelsea unleashed £50million worth of world class player in Anelka, Essien, Lampard and Malouda to create the chances for the blunt Torres. It looked to me like their game plan was to get one of their attacking minded players to either a) drop in to drag one of our centre backs out to create space for the Spanish international substitute to exploit or b) get out wide, thus stretching our back four and dragging our midfield about a bit allowing the very intelligent Lampard to exploit the holes created.
The second option worked very well with the England man successfully completing 53 of 59 passes, the majority of which were played from just in front of our back four to Anelka, Malouda, and the on rushing Cole and Ivanovic. However, despite creating numerous opportunities, only one fell to their record signing and it wasn’t set up by Lampard. Torres had ONE shot, from outside the box, and it was blocked. Another operation required for the excellent Phil Jagielka to remove Chelsea’s number 9 from his back pocket (but he should be OK for pre-season). In comparison to the 11% of Chelsea’s play which took place around this area, Everton managed only 253 Successful passes in total and 6% of our play took place in the “hole,” highlighting the lack of movement in the current squad.
From the back, Tony Hibbert, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin were absolutely solid. Leighton Baines’ defensive qualities are questionable. However, I wouldn’t swap him for any left back in the league including the one in black with orange trim on Sunday. Leighton bombs up the left hand side of the field like no one’s business and for the past two seasons has been our main outlet – embarrassing at times that your main threat is a left back. This places extra onus on the right back to tuck inside by 10 to 15 yards when he does so, allowing the other 2 centre halves to shuffle across to cover and effectively play as a back 3 until Baines recovers. Baines spent more time on Sunday at the Chelsea by line than our own (6% vs. 2%). This has been the story of the season and the reason why he has made more successful crosses and assists for goals than any other player in the Premier League this season. Player of the Year by a long shot and fully deserved.
The midfield comprised of a World Cup final centre half and the rather frustrating Jack Rodwell. Heitinga does a job there, no doubt, but he does tend to run around like a headless chicken – a dangerous game to play in the middle of midfield allowing your back four to be exposed especially with the likes of Lampard in opposition. However, he had a steady game and we didn’t concede, not bad considering the queue for the treatment room at present.
This week, the manager has come out and told the press he requires £15mil to build a team around Rodwell. I think he has the Birkdale youngster mixed up with a certain Belgian. I can’t personally see what Rodwell brings to our team when he plays, but perhaps this illustrates that he is in fact a centre back and not a midfielder. Rodwell’s strength is breaking up play and passing the ball simple. He also has a very good engine. In my opinion, his weakness is going forward, joining in the attacks, and his ability to see the bigger picture. At times this season, Saha and Beckford have made very intelligent runs off the ball and when the centre of midfield contains Rodwell he has failed to see these runs. In his defence, he is just a kid and the amount he has to learn is learnable in the time he has left in the game. However and again my own view, I would be more than happy to cash in to either Manchester club or a London club for a minimum £15mil so that Moyes has no option but to build a team around Fellaini. Leon Osman also played in the middle of midfield. Osman has been excellent since Christmas and stepped up when Arteta was injured. Again, he had a great game. Neat and tidy on the ball, always losing his man to find space for the pass, linking up well with Coleman down the right and getting stuck in when needed.
The boss went with Arteta on the left and Coleman on the right. Coleman was up against Ashley Cole who, like Baines, loves to attack. Both Coleman and Leon Osman exploited this very cleverly. When Chelsea decided to attack with Cole on the overlap he passed Cole onto Hibbert. The centre of midfield tracked back to cover. This left Coleman in space as the outlet to look to attack. When Coleman was unfortunately and harshly dismissed, Osman moved into this area to look to receive the ball and you could hardly notice the one man disadvantage.
Arteta did well as the game progressed. He started to put his foot on the ball, move inside onto his stronger foot (and have Ivanovic on his weak side) and tried to thread in Beckford. It’s unfortunate that he did suffer injury as I think Arteta could have had a big finish. As it is, I would cash in on him too and get fresh blood in.
The goal scorer, 10 goals in his first season freebie Jermaine Beckford had an excellent yet frustrating afternoon at the office. His movement up front is very good at times and he gives us something which we have lacked for years in pace. However, his finishing justifies why I wouldn’t have paid any money for him. He found himself one on one with the goalkeeper on three occasions and converted one. His goal was excellent, no doubt, yet it was the most difficult chance of the lot. He’s had that sort of season. His goal at Anfield was superbly taken on the turn and struck just as the ball bounced. However, one on one, 6 yards out, he puts the ball out by the corner flag. Encouraging first season for Beckford and I can’t help wondering what he will be like with a consistently fit Saha or another striker next to him.
All in all, Everton held our shape very well, especially at the back. The two central midfielders were disciplined throughout and left the flair stuff to the four players ahead of them. I only hope we can find a midfielder who can move into space as well as Osman but who has the ability to play the killer ball forward.