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Everton vs Stoke City: Tactical Analysis

In the absence of any tactical discussion that isn't either beating a dead horse or will make you want to throw your computer through a wall, I take a look at what I think Everton's ideal lineup is and ask for yours as well.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

What can I say?

I could throw diagrams, figures, and statistics at you, reflecting Everton's seemingly growing list of problems, but if you've read any analysis here at RBM in the last two months, you've probably already heard it all.

Arouna Kone doesn't contribute enough in the attack or defense. The team's defensive shape is often poor at best and non-existent at worst. Defending the counter is a struggle because of how far upfield the full-backs are.

This week, we can add puzzling substitution decisions to the list of Roberto Martinez's problems. Somehow, neither Aaron Lennon nor Kevin Mirallas made the bench for this match, despite the fact that four central midfielders plus Steven Naismith occupied spaces in the seven-man bench. So, when Kone was ineffective, Martinez didn't really have an option for taking him off the pitch.

Injury forced James McCarthy off and Tom Cleverley on, until an injury to Cleverley forced the Englishman off in the 65th minute. On came Steven Naismith, which was an attack-minded move given that the match stood at 2-2 at the time. I applaud Martinez for his aggressiveness, but when Gerard Deulofeu scored to put his team in the lead in the 71st minute, Martinez made no further changes.

So, a team which has struggled to defend all year, had already given up two goals on the day, and had a one goal lead to protect, had Arouna Kone, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu, and Romelu Lukaku on the pitch at the same time.

That's five out-and-out attacking players on to defend a one-goal lead while Leighton Baines and Muhamed Besic sat on the bench and watched the team collapse.

There's little more I can say tactically about this match that anyone will legitimately want to read. The team, once again, struggled mightily in defense, allowing four goals at Goodison Park. You don't need me or my fancy graphics to tell you that only happens to teams with serious problems in defense.

So, I would instead like to pursue the implicit question raised in my above comments about Martinez's substitution decisions, that is: Is Roberto Martinez setting up his team in an ideal manner? What is Everton's ideal lineup?

Injuries have limited Martinez's options at times this year, but I'd like to look at what I think is his ideal, injury-free lineup given the squad he currently has at his disposal.

I'd also like to hear what you and my fellow writers at RBM have to say on the matter.

If I was Roberto Martinez, I would be setting my side up like this, provided the team was 100 percent healthy:

The major change I want to see is the introduction of Aaron Lennon to the left midfield position. There are two separate, but equally important reasons for this.

First, Lennon is a very willing defender. He's got the desire to help out in winning the ball when opposing teams have possession in Everton's defensive third and the pace to help shut down counter attacks. Short of putting Leighton Baines at left midfield, Lennon is the best defensive option the Toffees have at the position, which is an important factor given the way things are going for the club right now.

Second, Lennon perhaps the most natural wide player among the candidates to play in this position. I'm incredibly tired of Martinez's "attack down the right, let the left winger run around and do nothing" tactic, and I want to see a player who can stretch the field across from Deulofeu. This isn't to say the Kone-esque tactic doesn't have its uses, but it cannot be a full-time solution.

Right now, teams have the ability to focus the entirety of their defense on the central and right channels, keying on Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley. By playing Lennon and keeping him much closer to the left sideline than other players have been, defenses will have to respect the possibility that the Toffees will attack down the left for a change.

This will open up space for Barkley in the middle and Deulofeu on the right.

I understand that as a right-footed player, Lennon is not an absolutely perfect candidate to be playing on the left, but given that he will have the left-footed Baines, arguably the team's best crosser, to work with, I'm not particularly concerned.

I've see the need for limited other changes, because I think the personnel is present for the team to defend better, but the mentality may not be.

RBM's Mike Gadomski tends to agree with me, believing that the crux of the team's defensive issues stem from the mentality put forward by the manager, rather than his lineup choices.

RBM's Calvin believes a formation change may be in order. He'd like to see the Blues set up in a 4-4-1-1, that can switch to a 4-2-3-1 as the team attacks. He believes this will allow Barry and McCarthy/Cleverley sit deeper, and then we can play two out-and-out wingers as well. Calvin also feels it is time for Joel Robles to replace Tim Howard (a topic I am not going to touch with a ten-foot pole).

His ideal side would look something like the following:

What do you think? Share your ideal Everton lineup in the comments below, and I will discuss some of the the top ones in a post later this week!