Roberto Martinez failed to begin his competitive career at Goodison with a win despite his Everton side dominating Albion in a reasonably entertaining 0-0 draw. The away side defended well but offered little in attack themselves with Everton only really increasing the tempo of the game in the second half. A dry pitch and hot conditions perhaps slowing the game down in the opening period.
Martinez named an unchanged starting eleven from the side that drew away to Norwich on the opening day of the season.
With Anelka unavailable, Steve Clarke made one change to his side with Rosenberg coming into the side. Shane Long would start in attack with support from Morrison tucked in behind him.
The graphic below shows the player influence during the game and illustrates how Everton dominated the game:-
As they had done against Norwich, Everton enjoyed significantly more possession than their opponents with 62% completing 395 passes from 478 attempted. The home side also enjoying a healthy territorial advantage and made 141 successful passes in the final third from 186 attempted. A negative point however, revolves around how influential the attacking players of Everton were. Jelavic, Miralles and to a lesser extent Barkley, all failed to have significant impacts on the game. The passes in the final third just needed to be a little more incisive.
West Brom were compact and sat deep without ever falling back on top of keeper Foster. With just 38% possession and 70% pass completion, West Brom didn’t retain possession well enough and placed further pressure upon themselves as a consequence. Mulumbu in a primarily defensive role was the Baggies biggest influence but even this was adversely affected by a typically rash moment when he was cautioned for a pointless handball.
Everton Full Backs
Both Coleman and Baines supported the attack and were positioned very high for the bulk of the game. The combination play of Baines overlapping whilst Pienaar cuts inside is one of Everton’s key elements in their attacking play but Seamus Coleman and Mirallas are developing a similar relationship on the right. With the focus tending to be on stopping Baines on the left, which West Brom did fairly well in the first half, Coleman was the more adventurous full back and moved forward frequently on the overlap. His first half passes are shown below:-
What is worth noting is how often he is forced to pass backwards however. Having overlapped, Coleman is faced with either crossing the ball or cutting it back but this needs movement in and around the penalty area or options are limited. Baines was more active in the second half and able to push forward despite West Brom doing well to clog the left hand side of the pitch but like his counterpart on the right, often passes were either sideways or backwards as shown below:-
The direction of passes need not be a concern if the full backs are providing tactical width and stretching the opponent’s back line which both Coleman and Baines do. The issue here is that Everton players must burst into the spaces created more often, a perfect example of which was the pass from Coleman to Miralles which led to his first half shot being tipped over the bar by Foster. The basis exists and it’s really just some fine tuning that is needed in this area. Everton need support from the second line of attack. Ross Barkley has a role to play here but was relatively subdued on Saturday.
Both teams have issues in the striking department.
Martinez started with Jelavic as the central striker ahead of newly signed Arouna Kone. The Croatian internationalist may not be enjoying the best of times in front of goal but there are aspects of his game that could be substantially improved upon right now. Jelavic was repeatedly slow moving out of the West Brom penalty area after the away side had cleared the ball, lagging behind the West Brom defenders. It prevented the opportunity of a quick ball back over the defence, a task which also falls upon midfield runners to break from the second line and move into the penalty area.
Jelavic managed just two shots on goal on Saturday as his poor run of form continued. Martinez needs to consider if Kone should start or if this would damage the confidence of Jelavic further. Similarly, how support can arrive into the penalty area needs to be examined. Barkley, and to a lesser extent Fellaini, must break forward given Osman sat deeper in midfield.
In total Everton delivered 28 crosses into the West Brom penalty area with only five being successful and finding a team mate. Martinez spoke of this after the game, about the need for patience at times. There was still the feeling of Everton forcing things too often rather than recycle possession and look for another point of attack. This is perhaps a hangover from the change in styles from Moyes to Martinez and goes back to the point above with both full backs playing backwards passes. Everton need to alter their mindset to recycling possession and altering the point of attack on occasion.
For West Brom, the concern maybe a little more pressing. With two games now played, the Baggies have yet to score. Not a massive problem at this early stage but an issue that needs addressed nonetheless. Who will score their goals this season?
Long scored just 8 league goals last season, some way short of the 17 scored by the now departed Lukaku. It’s a problem area for WBA and the absence yesterday of Anelka for personal reasons only contributed to the lack of striking options. Even if fit, Anelka is entering the twilight of his career and can not offer the pace and power of Lukaku. Long is a very willing runner and a useful player for the team but he managed just one attempt at goal as shown below:-
His eagerness to run the channels and forage for scraps reduces his effectiveness in front of goal. If he is constantly chasing long balls and pressing opposition defenders, how can he be in optimum condition to take any chances that come his way?
For West Brom, the loss of Fortune, although hardly prolific, is an issue with no striker now offering an aerial threat or a central reference point in attack. Given that WBA frequently have less possession than the opponent, they can utilise a player who can hold the ball up and provide respite for the defence. Now they have willing runners but misplaced passes tend to get returned quickly in the Premiership, placing the defence under more pressure.
Similar Problems. Different Solutions
Moving forward, both sides must address their issues in front of the opponents’ goal. Everton are creating opportunities but must take the chances which arrive whereas West Brom are not really creating much and don’t appear to have a striker who can score if they do. There will be greater reliance on the likes of Morrison and Dorrans weighing in with goals this season.
In the meantime, expect Everton to continue to dominate possession in their games whilst West Brom will rely heavily upon their defence whilst their strikers find their feet.