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Everton at Swansea City: Tactical Analysis

Everton picked up another valuable away draw, but Roberto Martinez's decisions limited his team's ability to take all three points from a winnable match.

Both managers will have to go back to the drawing board after watching their clubs fail to score on Saturday.
Both managers will have to go back to the drawing board after watching their clubs fail to score on Saturday.
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

A point against a good team on the road is rarely a bad result, but there was some understandable frustration on the part of Evertonians following Saturday's 0-0 draw at Swansea City.

Everton was the better team for most of the match, but failed to find the breakthrough goal. Though the attack was toothless at times, the defense was very strong, leaving us to analyze a mixed bag for the Toffees.

To look at both the good and the bad, let's start by looking at the starting lineup.

For the first time this season, Everton fielded a side which featured zero wide players. Both of the club's starting wingers were strikers playing out of position, and both of the team's starting full-backs were center-backs playing out of position.

With no Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Kevin Mirallas, Aaron Lennon, or Gerard Deulofeu in the starting XI, supporters could have been forgiven for expecting the side to look something like this.

In reality, it looked more like the player influence map below, courtesy of

Two things become clear from looking at this image. First, most of Everton's attack came down the left side. Second and related, Brendan Galloway was more involved in the attack than one might have expected before the match.

The connection between Galloway and Steven Naismith on the left wing was crucial not only for attack, but also for defense.

Naismith's inclusion in the starting lineup was inevitable after the Scotsman bagged a hat trick against Chelsea last week, but his presence on the left wing made a lot of sense from a defensive perspective this week.

Naismith is an incredibly hard worker and willing to get back on defense early and often. Against Andre Ayew, who lined up at right wing, the presence of a defensively responsible player was absolutely crucial.

Ayew, who has been one of the summer's top signings, had three goals and an assist in his first five matches with Swansea, and was one of the players the Toffees had to shut down to have a chance to get a result. Naismith was the obvious choice to help Galloway contain Ayew.

Often times, the best way to contain a dangerous winger is to force him to stay on the defensive, by having his opposing full-back bomb forward into the attack. Surprisingly enough, Galloway did this with resounding success, as his heatmap, courtesy of, indicates.

The result was a pretty pedestrian showing from Ayew, whose match can be summed up in the image below, from

Four Four Two Legend

In all, Naismith and Galloway combined for 16 recoveries, three interceptions, three tackles, and four clearances, all while committing only five fouls. So, we can have no real complaints with the way that the Toffees set up down the left wing.

On the other hand, there are definitely some questions to be asked about Everton's right side. To be clear, neither Arouna Kone nor Tyias Browning had poor showings. But, this pair did not contribute anything of consequence to the Everton attack.

Browning can be more than forgiven for not getting forward frequently, as he is a center-back by trade and had his hands full with the talented Jefferson Montero.

Kone's contributions were a little more hit and miss. He completed 26 of 32 passes, not a bad percentage from a striker playing out of position.

But, little of his distribution served to break down Swansea's back line. Additionally, he made few contributions defensively, with just four recoveries and one interception. As I've noted many times before, Kone is not going to threaten a back line with his pace.

The result of the Kone/Naismith winger pairing was a pretty mediocre first half in the attack.

When Everton began to turn the screw in the second half, it came as a result of Ross Barkley providing width on his own. Arguably the Toffees two best chances of the match came early in the second half, when Barkley served the ball in from the left wing.

The first came when James McCarthy played the ball to the young Englishman on a quick free quick.

Here, Barkley doesn't do anything particularly complicated. At the risk of oversimplifying things, he has the ability and confidence to take players on in this kind of position, something that no other midfielder in the starting XI had.

Barkley uses his pace to get around the defender.

Again, it is a not a complicated moment, Barkley just manages to get to the endline, where he can whip in a cross.

He manages to get the ball into the box, where Kone completely whiffs on what should have been a simple finish.

Just a few minutes later, Barkley created an opportunity from a similar position.

Everton's winger problem is immediately evident. Barkley and Lukaku are the widest attacking players, while Kone and Naismith occupy the middle.

When the team's more attacking full-backs are in the game, or a player who is more accustomed to playing in wide positions occupies the number 10 role, this setup can work.

But, with no Coleman and Baines in and Barkley having shown last season that he should not be forced to play out wide if it can be avoided, this plan simply isn't ideal.

In this case, Barkley is forced to slide out wide momentarily, and he takes on Swansea defenders.

Barkley finally beats his man, and finds Galloway in the box.

Barkley makes a run into the box, drawing the attention of multiple defenders, which allows Galloway to turn and get a shot off. Unfortunately, Galloway is not the player Everton want to see with a shot in front of goal, and the strike goes harmlessly wide.

It took 65 minutes for Martinez to bring on a winger, as he eventually subbed Gerard Deulofeu in for Kone. With Kone not particularly contributing in either offense or defense (through no fault of his own, as he's clearly playing out of position), there's no reason that the sub should not have come earlier.

The strong play of Seamus Coleman has allowed Roberto Martinez to utilize a no-winger plan with some success this season, but without the Irishman's bombing runs forward down the right, the Toffees need a true winger in the lineup if they want to score goals.