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Keeping An Eye On The Ball

The importance of keeping possession.

Change in philosophy has provided Everton a new lease of life
Change in philosophy has provided Everton a new lease of life
Michael Regan

When Roberto Martinez arrived at Goodison Park as the incoming Everton manager, there was much trepidation surrounding the appointment. Some of the Everton faithful had almost forgotten what it was like to have a new manager coming in to the helm with the almost unbreakable stability David Moyes had provided the club with – and this only built up the fear of having a new manager in charge of the Toffees.

Fearing his defensive record at Wigan and the appointment of a manager who had just been relegated; something that seemed a long time coming with his Wigan side, it is conceivable to see the anxiety coming into this season. However one aspect that was certain before the season started was the style of play would change under Martinez for the better. Before the Spaniard arrived at the Goodison hot seat, David Moyes was evolving a very well-drilled side into playing good attacking football and that was evident through large parts of his final season. With that being said, the former Wigan manager has almost revolutionised the Blues’ style of play under his leadership.

That ‘well-drilled’ side still has a good defensive record, in fact an even better one compared to this stage last season. With the ball it has become even more of a joy to watch the Toffees this season. Keeping the ball has become a necessity and the adjustment Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin have made is remarkable. Obviously the signings of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy in the centre of the park have assisted in Everton’s transformation tremendously.

At halftime on Sunday evening it was hard to understand how Everton were not three or four goals up away at Arsenal, never mind not formulating a decent opening at goal. In previous years keeping it tight at the back and midfield would have been the priority at grounds like the Emirates. However this year keeping possession was the most imperative aspect and it ensured the Toffees dictated the first forty minutes but unfortunately the final pass was lacking.

At halftime the Blues had registered almost three times as many passes as the Gunners and had dominated the ball throughout the first forty. It was only the final five minutes Arsenal had entered the game and somehow Everton went into the interval at level pegging.

Even though Martinez’s side did not take all three points, they did manage to share the points with Arsenal; something that would have been considered a huge success under the previous management. It is almost definitely the philosophy that is being applied this season that is the key component to acquiring potential success away to the ‘big guns’. Gaining success against these sides, as well not being complacent against teams below the Toffees, will see them having a successful season at the right end of the table.

Many of a bygone era will say that Everton’s style of play is too ‘tippy-tappy’ and they will not realise that keeping the ball not only allows a team to create chances but it also drains the opposition as they will be chasing the ball while not possession.

It seemingly only took Everton a few games to adapt to the Spanish-influenced style of football Martinez applies. With only a few hiccups here and there, the Blues have adjusted to the change well and once the team have fully adapted to Martinez’s total football philosophy (as this is only the first season under him), who knows what success the Toffees will acquire.