Too static, too slow
From my time spent on Twitter, I gather that most people assume a game must be good as soon as a few goals are scored. On the most part, I find this assumption to be misleading.
Take last night for example, as West Brom played host to Everton at the Hawthorns. Shortly before and after half time, West Brom scored twice (Berahino and Dawson) to take a 2-0 lead. By the end of the match, Everton had turned it around and travelled back to Liverpool with 3 points and a 3-2 (Lukaku twice and Koné) victory.
5 goals, a comeback, one goal scored straight from a kick off, you’d usually say it was an exciting match, right? Wrong. It was one of the worst matches I have ever seen. I have seen multiple 0-0 draws better than it.
What was it that made it so bad? For three reasons, firstly the reluctance to shoot and secondly, probably the cause of the first, the amount of time spent in the middle of the park. Finally, and related to those, Everton’s slow build up play (until being 2-0 down) never makes for a great spectacle against sides who are hard to break down.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the two sides took 23 shots between them, of which only 8 were on target. For Everton, 4 shots on target away from home while scoring 3 goals is the perfect away performance. For West Brom, the same stat with one fewer goal can only result in a major disappointment.
Looking at the passing stats, Everton completed 374 compared to West Brom’s 289. Taking a look at the graph shows just how many of those were made in the middle third of the pitch. This translates into West Brom completing 46% of their passes there, a number which rises to 50 when considering Everton. Clearly, the match got bogged down in midfield for long periods, which more often than not results in boring battles.
Deulofeu gives Everton an extra edge
Most match reports I’ve read have given the man of the match award to Romelu Lukaku. While Lukaku scored 2 and set up the third so had a direct influence on the result, for me he wasn’t the best player on the pitch. Lukaku had a bad first half, whereas Gerard Deulofeu, making his first Premier League start of the season, was a permanent thorn in the Baggies side.
It was in the first half when Deulofeu created Everton’s only chance of that dire first 45 minutes, curling the ball across the box deliciously, only for Barkley to get his feet completely wrong. It was the little Spaniard who placed the ball on a plate for Lukaku to score 27 seconds after going 2-0 down and it was him who delivered the cross for the 84th minute winner.
It took us a while to get him in the game, for some reason we preferred the left hand side to the right, yet as soon as he found his groove there was no stopping him. Pace, trickery and the ability to do anything means he has a different factor to other wingers, players in our side.
He didn’t make many passes, but completed 72% of the ones he attempted, of which 8 were in the final third and 2 resulted directly in chances. Adding in crosses, the 3 he completed produced 2 goals. The match was a dreadful one; the stats for anyone are never going to be great. However, watching the game it was obvious that Deulofeu was a diamond in the rough.
Everton didn’t miss Stones, Coleman or Baines
Everton went into this game without Seamus Coleman, John Stones or Leighton Baines – i.e. 75% of our first choice defence. Replacing them were 21-year-old Tyias Browning, new signing Ramiro Funes Mori and 19-year-old Brendan Galloway. We conceded 2 goals, but none looked totally out of place.
Galloway looks like a very classy defender. Comfortable on the ball, a good tackler and possessing a lot of pace, he could be a fixture in this Everton side for a long time. He didn’t miss a tackle, cleared the ball 4 times and blocked 5 crosses. He didn’t make many, if any, errors and in the last minute of the game, calmly shielded the ball out to end West Brom’s hope of a draw.
Browning went off half way through the second half but had looked very assured before that. Completing 85% of his passes, he supported Deulofeu incredibly well down that right hand flank. Like Galloway, he didn’t commit a single foul and continued his impressive deputing for our number 1 right back.
Funes Mori’s first start in the Premier League was slightly less reassuring than his younger teammates but give him time to settle in this league and he could be a good buy. According to StatsZone (the app which this statistical analysis comes from) he was Everton’s most influential player across the match, making 48 passes (a 74% completion rate), 10 clearances and winning 75% of his aerial duels.
I’d prefer Stones, Coleman and Baines but while they recover from their injuries, we look to have more than capable back-ups. Galloway, Browning and Funes Mori are certainly more agreeable second choices than Hibbert, Distin and Alcaraz!
This was a good win for Everton, even if it wasn’t an enjoyable one! Tony Pulis’ sides don’t usually let 2 goal lead slips and it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Everton scoring almost immediately after West Brom’s second.
There are two ways of looking at the come back. 1) West Brom defended poorly, a theory supported by the injury to McAuley before the match and Olsson during it. 2) This Everton squad has more character to it than we realised. While you can’t get evidence to support the latter (the evidence is the result), I see it as more likely.
Martinez’s three subs last night were Koné, Gibson and Lennon, none of whom jump out as game changers. That said, Koné has become a solid option coming off the bench to add more directness to our attack, and to change the pace of our build up play, which was again too slow last night. Gibson was solid in the middle, again aiding speed of build up play, as he is able to spread the play from one wing to another better than any other player in our squad.
Football, especially the Premier League, is a squad game. As great as Baines, Coleman and Mirallas are, you need the likes of Galloway, Gibson, Koné and Browning to play well when called upon and last night showed that Everton have finally got some quality in depth.
It was a dreadful match to watch, but it was an important match to win and Everton’s victory proves this might yet be a good season.