clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Everton vs Leicester City: Tactical Analysis

New, comment

It was another match filled with possession and defensive miscues for the Toffees, which culminated in a fourth straight disappointing result. With Evertonians feeling a little deja vu, we examine two consistent themes of 2015: blame and predictability.

In an effort to end the predictability in his side, Roberto Martinez begins an impromptu round of the Macarena with Claudio Ranieri.
In an effort to end the predictability in his side, Roberto Martinez begins an impromptu round of the Macarena with Claudio Ranieri.
Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

If I was a lazy individual, I wouldn't even bother writing here this week.

I'd create a new post, give it a title, and put in it only a link to what I wrote in this space last week. It is worth looking at again this week, as the issues I put forward last week still remain. Everton's defensive frailties are still as apparent as ever, and the team's non-existent mental fortitude were clearly on display after Leicester City took a 3-1 lead in the 68th minute and it took Everton 20 minutes to mentally recover.

All that being said, there's certainly tactical issues to iron out as well, so let's begin by looking at the lineups of both teams.

Roberto Martinez elected to go with the same lineup from the Norwich City match, with Leighton Baines keeping his place at left-back and Tom Cleverley continuing to replace the injured James McCarthy.

Claudio Ranieri was forced into two changes, with Andy King and Marcin Wasilewski replacing Danny Drinkwater and Robert Huth in the center of midfield and defense, respectively.

I want to give a closer look to how Leicester's setup affected Everton's attack, but first, we have to take a look at Everton's goals against.

The foul leading to Leicester's first goal was a blatant individual error by Ramiro Funes Mori, who allowed Shinji Okazaki past him then pulled the Japanese striker down despite the fact Okazaki didn't really have anywhere to go. While this momentary mental lapse was frustrating, it is one I can live with.

Funes Mori isn't normally a top-choice center back, is still only 24 years old, and is still adjusting to playing in Europe. Mistakes are going to happen, and though the Toffees can ill-afford any more defensive lapses than we've already been seeing, Funes Mori's time as a starter this season will likely be over before the new year.

The second and third goals conceded are exponentially more frustrating and concerning to me, though perhaps not for the reasons most expressed during and after the match. Tim Howard and referee Jonathan Moss came under fire for their roles in the second and third goals, respectively, but there are much bigger issues at play in both goals against.

On the second goal, Howard wiped out Jamie Vardy after he was set loose into the box, picking up a yellow card and conceding a penalty in the process. Evertonians pounced on Howard for his role in the play, but Howard is very much at the bottom of the list of problems on that goal.

The build up to the goal starts in the center of midfield following an offsides call against Romelu Lukaku. The Toffees were not in the middle of an attack, yet you'd never know it from their defensive shape. The ball is played out to the right wing, where a Leicester player is wide open. Because Baines has pushed forward and Arouna Kone and Gareth Barry did not recognize it, there is a ton of space available for the Leicester attack to begin.

Now, after two simple passes through the midfield, Riyad Mahrez, arguably the Foxes' most dangerous creative player, has acres of space with two dangerous strikers in front of him.

Mahrez takes the space well, Jamie Vardy makes a lovely run which completely turns around John Stones, and then the Premier League's leading scorer is through on goal. Howard has to charge Vardy down, given that perhaps no player in Europe is in better form in front of goal, and his team has allowed him to get 12 yards from goal with essentially no resistance.

Could Howard have done better? Likely. But, when a striker scoring at a historic pace is allowed to get the ball 12 yards from goal with no resistance to speak of, I refuse to put blame on the keeper. Howard's defense and midfield needed to do better, but the team lacked anything resembling defensive shape and paid the price.

On the third goal, a Seamus Coleman clearance came off what appeared to be a Leicester player's arm before bouncing back into the danger area. Replays seemed to confirm that Jonathan Moss indeed should have blown the whistle for a handball before any danger could have presented itself.

That being said, blocked clearances happen all the time, and on another day, Coleman's cross would instead have come off a player's chest or head. My bigger concern is that the Toffees were in absolutely no position to defend themselves once the ball took a bad bounce on them.

This image is from right before Coleman attempts to clear the ball. John Stones, who chased a player down into the corner moments prior, has remained near the corner flag in what I can only assume is an attempt to give Coleman an option to pass to.

The problem, of course, is that he is grotesquely out of defensive position. 

So when the ball falls to Jamie Vardy, no one is anywhere near him. Funes Mori is forced to close the English striker down, leaving Okazaki all alone 15 yards from goal. Neither Baines nor Barry read the play quickly enough to deal with the danger, and the Toffees find themselves down two goals.

Should the play have been blown dead on a handball? Likely. But, if one blocked clearance is enough to completely derail your team's defense, you have a problem bigger than officiating.

In attack, things went better for Martinez and the Toffees, but only slightly.

Everton's problems in attack can be seen most clearly by looking at what the Foxes did to shut them down. Leicester's player influence map, courtesy of FourFourTwo.com, displays these factors.

The first thing you may notice is the amalgam of two names directly on top of each other in front of the back four. Those two players are Andy King and Ngolo Kante, Leicester City's central midfielders.

Generally, when a team with three central midfielders, such as Everton, goes up against a team with two central midfielders, such as Leicester, the team with the numerical advantage in the midfield looks to overrun the opposition in that area.

The Foxes did not give Everton that opportunity though, as the above image makes clear. King and Kante sat incredibly deep, allowing the Toffees to move through space 35-40 yards from goal. This allowed Everton to keep the ball with ease (as the possession stats indicate), but made it impossible to overrun the central midfielders, as they nearly became an addition to the back four.

Predictably, Everton then turned to Gerard Deulofeu on the right wing to create offense, which brings us to the second notable aspect of the above image. Left midfielder Marc Albrighton played incredibly deep, essentially on top of left-back Christian Fuchs. These two players were clearly tasked with shutting down Deulofeu on the right, which they did with relative success.

Deulofeu, as the image below shows, had some successful take-ons, but played only one key pass and was generally kept out of dangerous areas.

With the right and central channels closed down, most teams would look to the left wing to create chances. But, Everton is not most teams, Roberto Martinez is not most managers, and Arouna Kone is certainly not most left wingers.

Kone's activity map is that of a player who simply did not have any real effect on the match.

Kone is not a playmaker, nor a player who wants to take opponents on from a wide position, so even in the rare instances in which he positioned himself as a true left winger, the Ivorian striker had little to do with the ball.

With no clear path through Leicester given the personnel on the field, the Toffees were often stuck in neutral. Martinez's side did have some success trying to play long balls both directly to Lukaku and diagonally to the wingers and full-backs, not a bad strategy given the depth with which the Foxes were defending. Between utilizing this plan and the overwhelming possession advantage Everton had, Martinez's side did create some chances, certainly more than enough to still win or draw if they were defending competently.

Predictably though, Everton did not defend competently. The Toffees conceded three chances in situations where none should have existed, and an incredibly incisive Leicester City side rightfully punished them.

Predictably, these chances came after Everton was allowed to have long spells of possession that led to nothing.

Predictably, the Toffees only had the ability to create consistent danger down the right, which the Foxes closed down smartly.

Predictably, Martinez used Kone as a left winger again, and left him on the pitch far past his usefulness.

And, perhaps most predictably of all, these shortcomings led to another disappointing result which has Everton in (a predictably low) 10th place as Christmas approaches.

Martinez must end the theme of predictability in his side, or else the theme of blame may end up uncomfortably close to the Spanish manager.