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Thursday 12 September 2013

Talking tactics: Adrian Clarke on Roberto Martinez's Everton

Adrian Clarke looks at the different style of play being introduced at Goodison Park

  • Leighton Baines' crosses v Cardiff (green dot = successful; red dot = unsuccessful)

  • Marouane Fellaini's touches of the ball against West Ham last season

  • Ross Barkley touched the ball v WBA in more advanced positions than Fellaini

Adrian Clarke looks at how the style of football has changed at Goodison Park with the change of manager.

Under David Moyes, Everton's style of play was simple but effective. Prioritising good organisation, hard work and aggression over trends and tactical modifications, his Toffees and their uncomplicated brand of fast-paced football consistently delivered results.

The appointment of Roberto Martinez signalled a change in direction. Innovative and full of modern ideas, the 40-year-old Spaniard was charged with the task of adding scientific-based style to their existing substance.

Ahead of their appetising encounter with Chelsea at Goodison Park on Saturday it is apparent this transition is taking shape.

Possession football

Passing for passing's sake is an accusation that has rarely been levelled at Everton in recent years. Ranked 11th best when it came to accuracy in last season's Barclays Premier League, the Toffees' direct approach meant that the players spent large chunks of each match chasing hard to win the ball back.

This time around it is different. Having spent the summer preaching the importance of ball retention, Martinez has transformed Everton into one of the division's most impressive possession sides. Monopolising the play in all three of their matches with calmness and control, the Blues are third, only behind Manchester City and Swansea City, in terms of their passing accuracy.

How Everton's passing and possession have changed
Passing accuracy Ave. possession per match
2012/13 79.4% 11th 2012/13 52% 9th
2013/14 85.9% 3rd 2013/14 64% 1st

With the ball at their feet more often, the strain on Everton's defence should be eased and, although it is early days, two clean sheets from three matches is testament to that.

Opening up the flanks

Tactically, Martinez is adept at creating 3 v 2 and 2 v 1 overloads all over the pitch, with the aim of switching the ball into space out wide, where he likes his players to wreak havoc.

At Everton he is encouraging Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas to play narrow and come inside off the flanks, while at the same time urging both full-backs to pile forward. By bringing extra bodies infield Everton players have more options to keep it in central areas, while providing opposing full-backs with a quandary: Do they follow their markers or hold their ground?

Either way, Everton's overlaps out wide are causing headaches, especially for rival wingers, who must track back tirelessly to cover the danger.

Leighton Baines is the key man for Martinez, and the numbers prove it. Fed almost constantly by his team-mates, the left-back has created more goalscoring opportunities than anyone else with his forays forward this term.

Everton wide players’ productivity this season
  Crosses Chances Created
Leighton Baines 24 10
Seamus Coleman 12 6
Steven Pienaar 9 6
Kevin Mirallas 11 2


New faces, new roles

Since netting twice at Carrow Road on the opening day Everton have not scored, but Roberto Martinez's transfer window signings and early-season tactics indicate his desire to make them a potent attacking force.

The deployment of 19-year-old Ross Barkley in a "No 10" midfield role is a decisive move that has given the side added punch in central areas. While Marouane Fellaini was fantastic at making runs into the box, he often slowed play down with a sideways pass. The energetic Barkley makes quicker decisions and is more penetrative in and around the penalty area.

The absence of a natural holding midfield player was also a problem for Martinez until he signed Gareth Barry on loan. Until then, Fellaini, Leon Osman or Darren Gibson had to be extra-disciplined, going against their attacking instincts, but Barry will seamlessly fill in when the full-backs and midfield are advanced. This will also allow the other new signing, James McCarthy, the freedom to play his box-to-box game.

Although he cannot play against his parent club Chelsea this weekend, Romelu Lukaku is set to make a big difference up front, too. A dip in confidence from Nikica Jelavic means Everton's traditionally high crossing output has lacked successful conversions in recent times and the young Belgian is arguably more likely to profit from that stream of deliveries.

How Nikica Jelavic and Romelu Lukaku compared last season
  Jelavic (Everton 2012/13) Lukaku (WBA 2012/13)
Minutes Played 2427 2003
Aerial Duels Won 32% 42%
Shooting Accuracy 43.80% 59.50%
Minutes Per Goal 346.7 105.4
Goals 7 17

Final thought

Everton are evolving into a fluid, possession side under their new coach. Goals have been hard to come by but their narrow 4-2-3-1 formation suits the players and the flying full-backs will ensure they are dangerous on the break.

At Goodison Park they should dominate most matches but to succeed they must not sacrifice the combative side of their game that worked so well under Moyes. Balancing style with their customary aggression is the key for them this season.

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Key Points

  • Adrian Clarke looks at how Everton's style of football has changed under Roberto Martinez this season
  • The new manager has put the emphasis on his side retaining possession
  • Under Martinez, Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines are benefiting from more attacking roles