After four successive draws, Everton returned to winning ways against David Moyes’ favourite opposition. Since his arrival at Goodison Park, David Moyes is now unbeaten in 18 against Sunderland with Everton unbeaten in the last 19 meetings. Despite the three points, this was arguably Everton’s worst home performance of the season with disjointed the most appropriate description.
Both Sides Favour the Left
During the match, the two teams focused their play down the left side. This is evident in the Everton positional image with only Nikica Jelavic (7)* and Kevin Mirallas / Steven Naismith (11) ahead of Leighton Baines (3). Spending the majority of the match as a wide midfielder, Baines was able to utilise his crossing ability with the left back attempting 14 of Everton’s 31 crosses; Sunderland attempting 14.
Baines worked in tandem with Steven Pienaar throughout and the pair created six chances; the same amount as Sunderland. The attacking percentages also highlighted the lopsidedness of both teams with 46% of Everton’s attacks on the left and 44% of Sunderland’s attacks down their left. With the creative nucleus of Baines, Pienaar, Leon Osman and the imperious Marouane Fellaini in close proximity to each other (see image); it is no surprise that Osman and Fellaini played key roles in both Everton goals. Osman assisted Fellaini’s equaliser with Fellaini flicking an Osman pass into the path of Nikica Jelavic for the winner.
High Line Problems
Due to the high-pressure style of Everton, David Moyes’ men play a high line and this allows for constant pressure on the opposition when in possession. However, the high line means the team are susceptible to passes in behind the defence; Sunderland exploited that for their chances and the opening goal. This was apparent when Stephane Sessegnon spurned Sunderland’s first and best chance after a ball in behind Phil Jagielka (6) and Seamus Coleman (23).
Leon Osman (21) played quite high up (see image) and that left Phil Neville doing the work of two and, approaching the ripe old age of 36, he does not have the legs for that. Without the added pace and height of Distin, the defence continues to look shaky and the high line, combined with the lack of cover from midfield, is leaving Everton vulnerable in defence.
Disciplined Visitors Force Tactical Change
The Sunderland positional image (>>) highlights the organisation of the visitors and this made them hard to breakdown. In comparison to the lopsided Everton formation, Sunderland were structured and disciplined with two clear banks of four helping keep Everton out.
Adam Johnson put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half time and that was the minimum they deserved for their first half efforts. After the break, Everton improved but struggled for clear openings until Fellaini took centre stage with a tactical change proving vital.
David Moyes dropped Fellaini back into midfield and the introduction of Vellios saw Everton move to a more conventional 4-4-2. Stronger in the midfield due to Fellaini’s physical presence, the move also allowed the Belgian to attack from deep. As a result, he found himself in space for his two key contributions having been crowded out for much of the game.
Unlike recent seasons, goals are not a problem for this Everton side. For the first time in several years, the goals are flowing but the problem is keeping them out. Keeping just two clean sheets in ten league games, individual errors are costing Everton points. Despite sitting in fourth, Everton could and probably should be higher or maybe that’s just me being hyper critical. Constantly conceding first, Everton are giving themselves the proverbial mountain to climb every week and, if European ambitions are to be realised, it cannot afford to continue.
The impending return of Darron Gibson will strengthen the team defensively thanks to his ball retention skills and positional awareness. The fact that Gibson is unbeaten in his last 30 league games is another reason for fans to want their lucky charm back to full fitness.
The Key Players
Once again, Marouane Fellaini stood out for Everton with another goal and an assist. Despite missing the QPR draw through injury, the Belgian powerhouse is the club’s top scorer (6) and tied with Steven Pienaar on most assists (3). Having scored six in his previous 79 league appearances, Fellaini has found his shooting boots with six in 10 this season. Fresh from his England call-up, Leon Osman excelled on the passing front. Osman led the way on attempted passes (84), completed passes (76) and passing accuracy (90%). Whilst he was at fault for the Sunderland goal, his part in both Everton goals went some way to making up for his earlier error.
8 – Since the West Brom defeat, Everton are unbeaten in eight league games.
9 – The win over Sunderland means Everton are unbeaten in nine home games (all comps)
19.8 – Everton have the highest shots per game score of any team in Europe’s Top 5 leagues
47 – Leighton Baines remains the Premier League’s most creative player in terms of chances created
* – name(number) represents a player’s number on their positional diagram.