Everton produced a strong and valiant performance to defeat Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea 1-0 at Goodison Park on Saturday evening, which preserved their unbeaten start to the new Premier League season.
Roberto Martinez’s side had previously drawn their first three games against Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff City but a spirited performance that saw Steven Naismith grab the first-half winner on his birthday was enough to give the Spaniard his first win as the Toffees boss.
Alongside Naismith, both Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley were heavily influential throughout the game for Everton, but it was undoubtedly new loan signing – Gareth Barry – who shone the most in an impressive Man of the Match debut that summed up why many Manchester City fans were left baffled by his temporary departure on deadline day.
Structure and Position: What Martinez Wanted and Got from His Players
Martinez again opted for the 4-2-3-1 formation but instead of having just one man playing deeper in order to collect the ball as they looked to play out from the back, both Barry and Leon Osman were instructed to protect Everton’s backline and combat Chelsea’s flair and creativity going forwards in André Schürrle, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.
Chelsea themselves decided to use two midfielders in their own half in John Obi Mikel and Ramires and targeted cancelling out Everton’s renowned potent threat down the left hand side in Leighton Baines by deploying Schürrle on the right for his work rate and pace, he combined well with Branislav Ivanovic all game to stop the England international making his gifted under-lapping runs.
Instead, Everton countered that part of Mourinho’s game plan and the combination of Seamus Coleman’s marauding runs and Naismith’s energy and aerial advantage (winning 6/11 of his duels) caused problems for Ashley Cole all game, and that is the area in which Everton manufactured the goal that got them the coveted three points.
Barkley (7/9 successful take-ons) and Mirallas (3/4) both showed their clever feet and potent threat when driving into the final third during the game, although Obi Mikel and Ramires swept up possession reasonably well during the 90 minutes by making 20 ball recoveries between them.
In the second half, Chelsea cranked up the pressure, finding themselves involved in Everton’s territory a lot more (55%) and controlling possession overall with 56.5%, but Martinez’s men stood firm and went back to basics by conjuring up another classic and dogged display in front of their roaring and intimidating home crowd, which was a reminder to Martinez that his supporters can be a useful weapon during the transitional period under his reign in the dugout.
Mourinho was evidently disappointed with his side’s lack of cutting edge in front of goal after the game, with Chelsea having just six shots out of their attempted 22 on target; but, Everton’s desire made it extremely hard for the Portuguese to try and solve his problems on the touchline, and Barry looks as though he will fit right in with the supporters on Merseyside due to the clever footballing brain that he possesses – with Martinez using the word “masterclass” to describe his performance all-round.
Defensive Work: How Barry and Osman were Both Pivotal for Everton
The last time this fixture was played, Everton took the lead after 2 minutes thanks to Steven Pienaar, and they were initiated by David Moyes to get into Chelsea’s faces from the get-go.
On Saturday, it was completely different as Martinez’s Everton looked to keep things ticking over with short and simple passes, but it didn’t work with great vigour as Barry was called upon to make a fantastic block when the goal was gaping for Samuel Eto’o on the half-hour mark.
Barry (6 times) and Osman (9 times) both recovered the ball well for Everton and whilst Osman, who completed 83.3% (6/8) of his tackles, 100% (5/5) of his clearances and made four interceptions, dealt with the nitty-gritty part of the game, Barry remained composed in his own half and will be absolutely crucial if Martinez wants Everton to be patient in their build-up play.
Not only will the 32-year-old do the much-needed ugly work brilliantly on the football field, something Everton have lacked since the departure of Lee Carsley in 2008, but the former Aston Villa captain’s know-how and reading of the game is splendid, and that is exactly why he was a stalwart in the FA Cup (2011) and Premier League (2012) winning sides under Roberto Mancini at Manchester City.
Barry made just one tackle, interception, block and clearance apiece, but the key thing was that he won every one. Fabio Capello described him as the “water carrier” in England’s 2010 World Cup team and that description was fitting against Chelsea as he was the first man to arrive in any situation when a team-mate looked in danger and got them out of it fruitfully.
“I think Gareth is quite unique in his profile as a footballer and that’s why we are so delighted to have him at the club. Over 50 caps [for England], he’s a perfect influence for Ross Barkley and James McCarthy but I felt his partnership with Leon Osman today was magnificent.”
– Martinez on Barry’s “unique style” which he showed against Chelsea.
Gibson, Osman and James McCarthy will all love to play alongside him because he loves to get on the ball and help out his teammates, and his parent club could have done with his presence in the heart of the midfield against Stoke City on the same day, as Pellegrini’s side struggled to get the game by the scruff of the neck which Barry would have definitely ensured.
In the incident with the Eto’o block, Barry was already looking at the Cameroonian’s position, well before Tim Howard even made the mistake, and that was why he got down to tackle so quickly.
He smells danger so well and although he may not provide the glamour name that the £30m Fernandinho now does for Manchester City, Barry’s commitments have often been overlooked since his days at Villa but they won’t now if he keeps up the same level of performance consistently for the Everton faithful.
Without any disrespect, Barry is definitely an upgrade on Phil Neville in the centre of midfield, and with a player like Ross Barkley that has magic in his feet every time he touches the ball, Everton have all of a sudden got a stronger midfield, an unbeaten side and McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku still to come into the side regularly.
With the likes of Hazard, who had created 10 chances all from open play before the game, and Mata, Schürrle and Eto’o’s collective spark running at you, it was never an easy job to do, but Barry and Osman were both massive in keeping those exceptional talents relatively quiet and gift-wrapping Everton their first win of the new campaign.
Passing and Ball Retention: Why Barry Can Bring the Best Out of Everybody in the Everton Team
Barry was already arriving at Everton with a better passing accuracy (86%) than all of Everton’s midfielders last season and only Michael Carrick has attempted more passes with Manchester United (8,125) than what he tried at Manchester City (7,561).
He recycles possession incredibly well, obtaining the ball from any man under pressure and sometimes pinging a pass first time straight to another blue shirt. The Carsley comparison for his ability to challenge is prominent, but he also has the composure and mental strength at reading the game in the middle, which has also been significantly missing at Everton since Mikel Arteta left for Arsenal in 2011.
Barry completed 75% (33/44) of his passes against Chelsea, with 10/11 going backwards and 17/24 moving forwards. The majority of his distribution went to Baines (11 times), whilst he received the ball from both Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin a total of 12 times, as Everton looked to control the ball by passing out from the back when they had it and not commit too many numbers in their opponents half.
He or Darron Gibson will most likely operate that deeper midfield role, of collecting the ball from defence, turning and painting a picture of where the space is on the pitch with greater awareness and vision than what Everton have had of late.
“I always felt that in the first half we were showing a little bit of our adaptation period. We were trying to play but obviously sometimes we looked a little bit forceful with our possession and probably we presented a couple of half chances or half opportunities to Chelsea, which we defended really, really well.”
– Martinez on how Everton can still improve on their passing play.
McCarthy did that anchorman job at Wigan, after Mohamed Diamé moved to West Ham United, thus he has a tackling charisma alongside his crisp passing, and he is the natural man to come in and do the fine job Osman did against Chelsea, but a lot neater and with more freedom when Everton look to open the game up in future fixtures.
Barry is an experienced professional, who will get the ball into Barkley’s creative stride with McCarthy, through top accuracy, and whilst he is currently in the last year of his contract at the Etihad Stadium, there is no reason why extending his stay should be out of the question if he adds consistency this season and feels his abilities are being rightly cherished.
He will bring the best out of his teammates, purely because of his unselfish nature, expertise at both tackling and passing and also because he leads by example. Not only will the younger English players such as Barkley and John Stones learn from Barry, like Martinez outlined, but he also adds something to Everton “now”, and that is important as the building blocks to an offensive future are only just arriving.
Barry, who sometimes slotted in as almost a third centre-half in order to prevent Chelsea from scoring, committed the most fouls with 5 during the game yet no Everton player received a booking from Howard Webb.
Those fouls typified Barry’s eagerness to break up the play efficiently, which is amazing considering his lack of competitive match practice during the summer, and there is no doubt that he has the potential to get on the England plane for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He admitted that’s his aim, therefore Everton have not only signed a strong character for the team but also somebody – despite all his achievements – who is still hungry to succeed and that only bodes well for Martinez and the club.
Everton dominated the possession statistics in the last three games before Chelsea and drew all of them, but this time they ironically won without having that control Martinez craves, as Barry looked like a typical Goodison Park player, who has instantly become a hit with the supporters.
A dominant display in the middle of the park from him has capped off a very profitable transfer window and the new era at the club is now in full swing.
Stats images from Four Four Two’s stat zone app, powered by Opta.