Saturday, September 22, 2012

Everton 3-0 Swansea: Everton attack down left and exploit Fellaini's aerial ability

Everton used Marauane Fellaini's height advantage on dead balls and attacked almost entirely down the left through Leighton Baines and Steven Peinaar in a dominant 3-0 win over Swansea at Liberty Stadium.

David Moyes' side set out in a 4-4-1-1 with Victor Anichebe getting the start at center forward for the injured Nikica Jelavic with Fellaini tucked in behind him. Swansea played their normal 4-2-3-1 with Pablo Hernandez given the start on the right over Nathan Dyer and Leon Britton left on the subs bench.

Everton Press
Defensively, Everton pressed the Swansea back four with Anichebe, Peinaar, Fellaini, and right midfielder Kevin Mirallas. Leon Osman and Phil Neville sat deeper in the center of the midfield closer to the Toffees' back four. This created a gap between the four players pressing and the two holding midfielders but it wasn't space Swansea was able to exploit. The high pressing of Everton's four most advanced players prevented Swansea from settling into any sort of a rhythm in the attacking third of the field. The Swans completed 322 passes in the game, just 29 fewer than Everton, but only 69 of those were in the attacking third (21%). Everton were happy to allow the Swansea back four to pass the ball sideways amongst themselves and the Welsh side rarely looked like penetrating into the attacking third.

Everton Attack
Going forward, Everton focused its attack on the left side of the pitch where Baines and Peinaar combined throughout the afternoon with some tidy interchanges. The two accounted for the second and fourth most pass combinations in the game- there were 15 Baines to Peinaar combinations and 14 Peinaar to Baines combinations. Often Anichebe would drift to the left as well, overloading the right side of the Swansea defense while Fellaini would move into the center of the box, offering a dangerous physical presence to feed the ball into. The graphic below shows Everton's passes in the final third. Notice the number of those that occurred down the left hand side.

Interestingly, Everton's one goal that didn't result from a set piece came from a rare counter down the right flank. Fellaini won the ball deep in his own half and found an outlet pass to Peinaar who had drifted to the opposite side of the field. The South African found Mirallas bursting through the middle and the Belgian tucked it home.

Moyes also clearly set out to exploit Fellaini's height on set pieces, as he did in their season opening win over Manchester United. Any free kick the Toffees earned within 50 yards of the goal they'd get numbers into the box and lump it to the back post for Fellaini. Swansea had a miserable time dealing with the tall Belgian all afternoon and the tactic bore fruit for Everton in the 22nd minute when Fellaini won a high dead ball at the back post and flicked on for Anichebe who finished from 6 yards out to open the scoring. Replays showed Fellaini had clearly handled the ball into the path of Anichebe but the defending was poor from Ashley Williams to allow Fellaini to get the initial touch with his chest. The Belgian would go on to score himself in the 82nd minute, heading in another set piece from the left side at the front post.

Everton's four man high press prevented Swansea from getting any sort of meaningful possession in the attacking third. Swansea were entirely unable to cope with Baines and Peinaar down Everton's left side and failed to deal with aerial challenges with Fellaini. In the end the home side was fortunate it was only 3-0 as Anichebe was guilty of missing a couple of very good opportunities. Moyes will be thrilled with his side's performance as they continue their uncharacteristically bright start to the season. 

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