My Background

Not another Footy Manager-obsessed, Bielsa-fanatic, football tactics hipster reeling off buzz words like ‘double pivote’ and ‘catennacio’ again, I hear you cry? No, certainly not. Football has often been made far too clever for its own good by these types of blog sites.

I hold a UEFA B Licence and currently work as a full-time football coach for an English Premier League club; I also have six years’ experience as a first team manager in the Welsh Leagues.

I have been a member of this site for many years, but under a different username. I will continue to use that to voice my opinions, etc but will use this account to (hopefully!) provide an insight into the game from a coaches’ perspective without too much opinion.

Pre-Match

For the first time in a while, the mood ahead of the match was positive and most Evertonians were looking forward to the game, regardless of the fact that it was a ‘dead rubber’.

David Unsworth and Joe Royle had been placed in temporary charge following the departure of Roberto Martinez and we eagerly awaited the team selection, expecting an influx of youth players given the caretakers’ previous roles with the U21’s and Academy.

Team Selection

Everton Team Selection.jpg

As he had alluded to in his press conference, Unsworth opted for a couple of youngters in the shape of Dowell and Davies, whilst Pennington continued at RB. Ross Barkley was moved to the bench.

Opposition

Norwich Team Selection.jpg

Norwich, already relegated on Wednesday, played a standard 4-2-3-1 formation, but offered very little going forward, whilst looking vulnerable at the back. The standard of opposition must be taken into account here when looking at the Everton performance.

Formation

Everton started the match with a 4-1-4-1 formation. Pennington at RB, Baines at LB, Stones as the right sided centre back and Jagielka as the left sided centre back in a back four.

Ahead of them sat Gareth Barry with James McCarthy to his right and Tom Davies to his left. Mirallas played on the left of midfield with Dowell on the right and Lukaku as the centre forward.

The only deviation from this shape was when Lennon was introduced in the 53rd minute. Everton switched to a 4-4-1-1 with Dowell playing behind Lukaku and Lennon on the right of the midfield. Dowell was soon replaced by Barkley in a straight swap. Earlier in the match, Pennington was replaced by Jonjoe Kenny due to injury in a straight-swap at right back.

Everton v Norwich Match Stats.jpg

Tactical Approach and Main Differences From Martinez’ Everton

– Martinez Approach

Under Martinez, Everton played (and very rarely deviated from) the 4-2-3-1 formation. He would use playmakers rather than wingers in the wide positions; these playmakers would take up central positions to receive short passes from deep, as his side looked to build play slowly up the pitch “in between the lines.”

– Team Shape

The difference today saw us leave Gareth Barry as the sole holding midfielder with pure pace and energy either side of him in the shape of McCarthy and Davies. On the flanks, Mirallas and Dowell played as old-fashioned wingers, albeit with each sometimes driving in from the touchline when they had the ball at their feet.

– Without the Ball

Despite the shape of the side being the main obvious difference, the real crux of the improvement was the players’ responsibilities without the ball. The initial instruction was clear; when we lose the ball, press high up the pitch to win it back straight away. If we don’t win it back, get back into formation. The wingers’ defensive duties were to track the opposition full backs and “double up” with their own full back in wide areas.

Gareth Barry, although the least mobile over short distances out of the midfield three, actually covered more ground than his midfield partners. The reason for this was his duty to cover the full backs when they went forward. Very simple here; the full back bombs on whilst Barry sits deep. If the move breaks down, Barry covers the full back until the full back is back in position.

– With the Ball

When in possession of the ball, there were three main differences today:

1. Passes Back to Howard

Normally, we would see the ball played back to the keeper and both centre backs would split to the edge of the 18 yard box to receive a short pass and try to build play slowly through the lines. Today, we saw the centre backs hold positions high up the pitch as Howard aimed a long kick towards Lukaku.

2. “Forward!”

Watching the match online, it was even clearer to see (or in this case, hear!). The number of times that Unsworth was shouting “forward!” whenever we were in possession of the ball was obviously a marked difference from Martinez. The majority of passes today went forward and this was clearly advice given from the touchline.

3. Build Up Play

Today, we saw Gareth Barry and the centre backs distribute long passes forward to Lukaku, who held the ball up and brought his teammates into play; we then saw us work the ball in the final third, trying to play through the defence.

Another difference in the build up play was the crossing from deep areas. Statistically, crossing the ball from an area deeper (ie towards your own goal) than the opposition 18-yard box, leaves you with less chance of creating a goal scoring opportunity. Nevertheless, this was a tactic employed by Everton today when the ball was on our left hand side. Baines swung a few crosses from deep into the box and we even won a penalty from one of them.

Everton v Norwich Action Areas.jpg

Chances Created

Our first real chance came as early as 27 seconds into the match. Gareth Barry played a curved pass into the channel behind the Norwich RCB for Lukaku to shoot. This was a signal of the approach for the remainder of the match and passes into the channels were also features of the play.

Lukaku double chance. This came from a high press, as Barry stole possession of the ball. He immediately fed Lukaku whose shot was saved, the rebound came to Mirallas who teed him again, but Ruddy diverted it behind. Pressing high was very profitable for us in this match.

1-0: This came from a counter attack. Jerome headed straight at Howard who quickly rolled the ball out to James McCarthy. He passed to Dowell who drove forward. McCarthy continued his run and as the ball broke, he took his shot first time into the back of the net.

2-0: This came from a cross from deep on our left hand side. Lukaku got the other side of his man and was fouled; Baines converted the penalty.

3-0: Again, this came from a high press, stealing possession in the final third. A very good overlap from Kenny and a pinpoint cross to the back post for Mirallas to convert.

Everton Goal Attempts.jpg

Chances Conceded

Norwich really struggled to create much, but their main chances came from crosses. The long-diagonal cross from their right hand side over Stones to Jerome could have easily been converted.

Norwich Goal Attempts.jpg

Weaknesses

As mentioned, we have looked susceptible to crosses all season. We were able to counter this threat today by using such a high-tempo press when losing possession of the ball; this meant that the quality of crossing from the opposition was poorer because the player in possession was not able to focus entirely on his crossing technique whilst under pressure.

It was no coincidence that Norwich enjoyed their best spell of the first half from the 39th minute to the 45th minute. Having not played this type of pressing game under Martinez, it was inevitable that the players would tire towards the end of the half. Many have commented that the players “didn’t look fit” under our previous manager and indeed, the players certainly dropped off towards the end of the half.

Conclusion

A very comfortable yet enjoyable win with clear differences in approach from the previous manager.

Incidentally, with the talk of Mourinho, I feel I should mention the similarities in today’s approach and that of Jose. The best Chelsea teams under Mourinho would often play long into the centre forward (Drogba) who would bring others into play. He also favoured one holding midfielder instead of two.

The most satisfying thing today was our approach when out of possession; we looked hungry to win it back and had clear instructions on when and most importantly how to press. My biggest concern with Martinez was our reaction when possession was lost; it previously looked as though there were no specific instructionson where the pressers were supposed to “show” the opposition and there was a huge improvement in this regard today.

Furthermore, the performance of Tom Davies was truly encouraging. He didn’t look out of place out there, particularly when we played with the midfield three before the introduction of Lennon. I was also very impressed with the defensive side of his game, as this is usually the part that takes longer to develop in young centre-mids.