Everton vs. Arsenal: Tactical Analysis

Thumbs up, right back at you boss. - Alex Livesey

There's a lot to dissect from Everton's massive win over the Gunners on Sunday, with Roberto Martinez's bold tactical moves right at the top of the list.

Well, no one can say that Roberto Martinez lacks inventiveness or boldness. The Toffees came out in an unexpected formation Sunday, and Arsene Wenger and Arsenal were unable to cope with Everton's attacking play and superior planning.

First, let's take a look at how the squad lined up, then the intricacies that explain why Martinez's experiment was such a success.


The decision to play a 4-3-3 with Lukaku wide on the right and Naismith as a false 9 was certainly an unexpected one. Martinez certainly was hoping to exploit Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal, standing in for regular left-back Kieran Gibbs.

Given that Everton's first goal came as a direct result of Monreal's inability to track a Lukaku run and the second goal began by Lukaku taking Monreal on 1-v-1, it appears Martinez got exactly what he was looking for.

The victory was about much more than that though, so next let's see the player influence map (courtesy of fourfourtwo.com), and see what else developed from this alignment.


The biggest thing that jumps out from the diagram is the large influence of Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, as well as how high up the pitch their influence was.

This assessment certainly passes the eye test as well, as Leighton Baines' perfect cross set up Everton's first goal, and Seamus Coleman did this, which was pretty sweet.

In recent weeks, the offensive roles of Baines and Coleman have been somewhat subdued. Aiden McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu have been frequenting the wings, and playing extremely wide (as is their nature), taking away space from Coleman and Baines to join the attack. While Deulofeu and McGeady's contributions have been positive, Everton have missed Coleman and Baines in the attack.

So Martinez's decision to put Lukaku (a true striker) and Mirallas (who earlier this year expressed his desire to play centrally) on the wings makes perfect sense for the full-backs. Lukaku and Mirallas both tended to drift inside, creating space for Coleman and Baines to give the Gunners nightmares.

Of course, the story isn't all about offense. The Gunners out-possessed Everton 57-43, and out-passed them 516-362, so the Toffees spent their fair share of time defending against an Arsenal team with attacking weapons.

The influence map tells another interesting story about the match, this time about the defending. Mirallas, on the diagram, sits deeper than the other attacking players, almost level with Ross Barkley. The Belgian's defending work rate was stellar, so much so that the formation while defending often appear as below.


While in reality it wasn't quite as neat and tidy as the tactics board indicates, the diagram is still a solid representation of how Everton effectively shut down the Gunners. Two blocks of four kept Arsenal from successfully building attacks out of their superior passing and possession stats.

As noted above, Coleman and Baines were very active in the attack, which should have meant, at least in theory, that the Toffees were vulnerable on the counter, particularly down the wings. In reality, it just did not happen, thanks in large part to the defensive covering of McCarthy and Mirallas.

To get an idea of how little Arsenal was able to work the wings, take a look at their player influence map for the match.


When I first saw this, my jaw nearly hit the floor. Arsenal tends to play narrow when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are not in the lineup, but this is astounding.

Down Arsenal's right (Everton's left), there was simply very little happening. The activities of Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas seem to explain this a little.




When both players were forced to defend down the left, it was very high up the pitch. Arsenal largely lacked the desire to play wide down that wing, and when Mirallas and Barry so effectively shut them down before they even had opportunities, the Gunners ultimately stayed away from that side for much of the match.

James McCarthy, covering for Coleman down the defensive right, had a more difficult assignment. Lukas Podolski provided some width down that wing, and gave McCarthy plenty of work to do defensively. Still, between he and Barry, that threat was shut down.


So what is the ultimate conclusion on Martinez's tactical experiment with the 4-3-3? Obviously given the result, we have to say it was a roaring success. But taking a closer look at the intricacies of how things lined up really brings even more compliments Martinez's way.

Clearly, he knew his opposition very well, and knew what to exploit. Lukaku's placement on the right was always going to give Nacho Monreal nightmares. Going with three in the midfield would open up the wings hugely for the full-backs, who would be able to get into the attack without worrying too much about neglecting defensive duties, due to Arsenal's tendencies to play narrow.

And on the occasion when Arsenal did try to force it wide, McCarthy, Barry, and Mirallas would be there to shut it down before any real danger could materialize.

What do you think? Did any other part of Martinez's tactical approach grab you? Have your say below!

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