Everton produced an attacking masterclass for the second week in a row after hitting four brilliantly worked team goals past Stoke City in a scintillating performance at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The Toffees built on last weekend’s impressive showing going forwards against Liverpool by sailing past Mark Hughes’s side thanks to a Gerard Deulofeu inspired display, in which the Spaniard was involved in the first three of the host’s goals.
With exceptional positivity and flexibility coming from every player in a blue shirt on the day, intertwined with fantastic tactics by Roberto Martínez ahead of the game, Bryan Oviedo was one of many stand-out performers for Everton and shone on his first Premier League start this season.
Structure & Position: What Martínez Wanted and Got From His Players
Whilst many were initially left baffled by Martínez’s decision to omit both Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas from the starting line-up, due to how well they played in the Merseyside derby the previous Saturday, the Everton boss utilised his squad depth perfectly and this showed in how all four goals came about against Stoke.
With the Potters sitting deep for the majority of the game and hoping to catch Everton on the counter through Peter Crouch, Martínez chose to pick Leon Osman over Barkley, possibly because the youngster is just one yellow card away from suspension with Manchester United and Arsenal coming up next, and it proved to be a superb decision.
There was little space for a player like Barkley to make bursting runs through the centre of the pitch, thus choosing control over power in Osman was a sensible judgment and the 32-year-old even made a great swivel and pass to help set up the fourth goal that Barkley would have been proud of.
Stoke’s packed midfield five meant the onus was on Everton to break them down in the wide areas and the Blues were sensational at doing exactly that with all four goals fluidly coming from those zones – with Deulofeu thoroughly earning the Man of the Match award by setting this tone that won the game.
The FC Barcelona loanee, who completed five out of his 11 attempted take-ons and fired the most shots (5) throughout the game, was incredibly direct against either of Stoke’s full-backs and his relentless pressure could have saw him score more, and also create more, on the day.
Gareth Barry, who conjured up four chances including his two assists, won 100% (5/5) of his tackles and completed 92% (65) of his 71 attempted passes, was again blissful to watch in the centre of Everton’s midfield and Steven Pienaar was also brilliant when linking-up with the Englishman – with each player passing to one another 11 times respectively.
The South African, who completed four out of his five attempted take-ons and completed 88% (42) of his 48 total passes, continuously found himself in central attacking areas in the game and that allowed Oviedo the space to drive forwards down the left, with the Costa Rica international being greatly influential in the absence of Leighton Baines.
Attacking Threat: How Oviedo Filled In For Baines with Good Effect
As Martínez continues to transform Everton into a better-rounded outfit in terms of breaking teams down in a new philosophy, for example playing more through the middle of the field, this has ensured that the loss of Baines through injury is a blow but nothing ‘too’ significant.
Not many managers would describe losing the best left-back in the country as an ‘exciting challenge’ to see how well his team could cope, but not only is that the type of positivity Martínez exemplifies, the former Wigan Athletic manager knows that Everton are now less reliant on Baines’ magic and that players can come in and cover sufficiently.
In the first 12 games of the 2012/13 campaign, Baines had created 50 chances, including assists, under David Moyes whereas in contrast to this season under Martínez, the 28-year-old has created just 15 within the same amount of fixtures.
Martínez got his team shape against Stoke spot on and although wide areas was the route to winning the game, in which the best of Baines would surely have come to the forefront, Oviedo grabbed his chance to shine in his place and further highlighted Everton’s new exhilarating amount of numbers in positions.
Overall, Everton’s attacking play was rich and their increased willingness to attack under Martínez was once again evident through having 22 shots in total, with 12 testing Asmir Begović in the opposition goal.
Oviedo, who was making only his 16th appearance in England’s top-flight against Stoke, hit three of those shots and opened his Everton goalscoring account with a terrific right-footed strike into the bottom corner in the second-half.
Again, Everton used the wide areas proficiently to breeze past Stoke, with most of their corners being played short in order to build a goal rather than pointlessly aiming a cross towards a visiting side boasting a severe height advantage.
Oviedo, who completed four out of his nine attempted crosses, also created three chances in the match including his assist for Romelu Lukaku’s goal and Everton’s fourth, with the Belgium international now claiming the best minutes per goal ratio (for those with 20+ goals) in Premier League history with a strike coming every 116 minutes on average.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Oviedo spoke after the Stoke game about how these next few weeks are a good opportunity for him to take advantage of. ” quotestyle=”style02″] Yes, it’s a very good chance for me. Leighton is, of course, a very great player. But I’ve waited almost one-and-a-half-years for this chance and I’m so happy to play again, score a goal, and for the team to win. I think these next few games are good for me to get an opportunity to play with the first-team. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
The former FC København man pushed down his flank expertly well and that was patent in him grabbing a goal and an assist. Everton’s all-round link-up play was sensational in every area of the pitch and the team celebrations for all four goals was a joy to behold, in what was also a very quiet afternoon in terms of defensive work for the Merseysiders.
Passing & Defensive Duty: A Lack of Attacking Intent from Stoke Made It Easy For Everton in the End
On the whole, two goals either side of the interval ultimately killed off Stoke and Everton simply got more flamboyant after Seamus Coleman’s left-footed strike flew in during the second-half.
But with just four shots in total, and only one in the first-half, Stoke’s lack of enthusiasm to attack Martínez’s men set them up for intense pressure – in particular through the wide areas – whilst Everton’s suppleness to revert into a 3-4-3 formation from a 4-2-3-1 midway through the game was also outstanding to see.
Against Stoke, Everton completed 85% (409) of their 483 attempted passes and edged the majority of the possession figure overall with 54% control. Oviedo, who received the ball on 43 occasions and completed 84% (38) of his 45 attempted passes, was neat and tidy when on the ball and it was his attacking vigour that was the most prominent note that came from his performance.
When considering Everton’s frightening home record, with this latest win meaning it’s now just one defeat in the last 30 Premier League games at Goodison, Stoke were justified to play with caution but although they moved the ball around well themselves at times, attempting 414 passes, the lack of desire to push bodies forward and press played into Everton’s hands.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Oviedo earned his manager’s recognition after the game.” quotestyle=”style02″]It was very pleasing to see Bryan showing the level that he showed in his performance because that is not an accident, it’s down to his work rate, his professionalism and you are only as good as the squad, and that was very pleasing to see that sort of performance. He [Oviedo] deserves it. [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
Oviedo, who won 66.6% (2) of his three attempted tackles and made one interception, was never majorly tested down his side by both Jonathan Walters and Brek Shea despite conceding two fouls. The 23-year-old was given plenty of space to operate in and he was actually encouraged to shoot for his goal because of the amount of room he was given.
In fact, it was a calm and collected contest for Tim Howard in the Everton goal overall, who surprisingly created two chances in the game, and although Martínez changed the shape in order to protect James McCarthy from suspension, a seventh clean sheet of the season was still easily preserved.
A wonderful team display, which oozed collective skill and brimming confidence, from Everton against Stoke was undoubtedly their best performance of the season – with Martínez being correct in his post-match press conference by saying there are still another few notches to reach as well.
Whilst the way the team continue to adjust to Martínez’s system was the main plus point, there were still a few stars in the game and Oviedo was amongst those, which Pienaar also alluded to after the game by praising his ‘magnificent’ display, for how well he dispelled any fears people had about the absence of Baines with a solid performance.