Who makes a disastrous result feel like a thrilling victory? Why Everton does of course.
Step aside Kaiser Soze, Everton are the new top magicians in town. All Soze ever did was convince the world he didn’t exist, Everton managed to convince their fans that one point against a woeful Aston Villa side was a good result. Now that’s a great trick. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to break down tactically after this one. It’s pretty much everything we’ve come to know and expect from this side, both the good and the bad. So, I’ll just hit 5 quick points and then we can all get on with our lives and start fretting about Manchester United on Sunday.
The man was a beast, and in his current form he’s the perfect fit for this attack. With viable attacking options on both flanks, and Fellaini sitting slightly deeper, but still an aerial threat there will very rarely be more than one body mixing it up with him. Even when Everton are completely healthy Anichebe is really the only player who can get the ball played into his feet in the box, and turn and get his own shot. If everybody’s health holds, he should have ample time and space to do that all season long.
2. L Leighton Baines
We all know the guy is a warrior, and probably the most important player on the team to Everton fans. He’s been quietly banged up all year, and still a force going forward. It has to be said though, all 3 goals Everton gave up started down Baines’s flank. One of the biggest strengths of the Everton team is Baines’s ability to get forward without conceding space in behind. Part of that equation is Distin sweeping up when long balls are played over the top, but the other part is Baines’s pace and ability to get back behind the ball when opposing wingers try to carry it forward. That second part was lacking against Villa. That meant Distin was forced over to cover, leaving Heitinga 1 v 1 with a very very good striker. Hopefully it was just a blip for Baines, and not the beginning of his injuries dragging his form down, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a game off in the not too distant future.
3. What the hell happened to Heitinga
Seriously, this man was player of the year last year. He started in the finals of the last World Cup. He’s only 29. It may be grasping at straws, but I think one part of the problem is that he desperately needs a good shield in front of him. As I think we’ve seen too many times to count Heitinga does not do well instinctively keeping the right depth and positioning when alone in space. The best defenders (and Jagielka is a great example of this) are excellent at both staying goal side and altering attackers runs so they don’t get the ball in the most dangerous areas. Heitinga can’t manage to do both. That deficiency is masked when a dedicated defensive midfielder or two sit deep and cut down the space in front of the central defenders (like the Netherlands did during the World Cup, or Everton has done every year forever until this season). Those midfielders mean Heitinga has fewer positional decisions to make, leaving him to focus on execution. All of which means that he is just the wrong fit for the more open Everton sides the team is now fielding.
4. S Substitutions
I thought Moyes did well here. Given that we’ve now discovered that Neville wasn’t fit for 90 minutes, the team really didn’t have too many options to shore up the defense. Oviedo put in a good desperation attacking shift at RB, but we didn’t know he could do that before hand, and we still don’t know if he could against a team with any attacking ambitions (by the time he came on Villa were as packed in as possible). Jelavic for Mirallas was a solid change, since Villa were packing the middle and funneling everything out wide, it made sense to put in another player who would get in the box and get his head on something. Notably, Fellaini was not asked to drop into the midfield with Anichebe and Jelavic on, and they basically played with three central strikers and Oviedo alone on the right flank. And honestly by the time Naismith came on it was just, formationless throw people forward time, and in that spot that’s fine too. And it obviously worked. It’s not a plan that would have worked if their opposition was going to do anything but bunker down for the last 25 minutes. But Moyes rightly figured that they wouldn’t and made the changes accordingly.
5. T The Table
This isn’t really tactics, but I want to hit it anyway. Even after a disappointing result Everton sit 3 points from 4th, and only 4 from 3rd. The temptation is to woulda coulda shoulda about how much better shape we’d be in if we didn’t drop so many points to bad teams. I don’t really buy that. Just look at the teams ahead of us. Spurs lost to Wigan, just drew with Norwich and QPR, and haven’t taken a point from a top 6 side other than Manchester United. Chelsea lost to Newcastle, drew with Reading, drew with Southampton and lost to QPR all since January 1st. If we “should” have appreciably more points, so should they. There’s a reason Chelsea, Spurs, Everton and Arsenal are all battling for two Champions League spots. None of those teams are good enough that they “should” always beat the lesser Premier League teams. It’s just a question of who does it more often, and how they fair against each other. So, if there’s anything to take hope from it’s the fact that Everton traditionally outperform their form in big games, but this year EVERYBODY is underperforming to some degree against the lesser teams.
Now, who feels like doing the double against Man U.? They don’t need the points anyway.