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Everton vs. West Brom: Tactical Analysis

Scoring against a Tony Pulis side with an early lead was always going to be an uphill battle, but Roberto Martinez's maddening substitutions put the final dagger in Everton against West Brom.

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Confidence and positivity may have been at a season high coming into Saturday's match against West Brom, but it didn't take long to bring Everton back down to earth.

An early set piece goal against put the Toffees behind the eight ball against a Tony Pulis managed West Brom side that was always going to defend deep, particularly with a lead. After 90 minutes of failing to score, Everton supporters were back in the land of numbly accepting mediocrity.

In other words...

In all honesty, there wasn't much tactically interesting going on for the majority of this match. Martinez reasonably went with no lineup changes, with Aaron Lennon, Tom Cleverley, Bryan Oviedo, and Joel Robles all keeping their places.

West Brom played predictably with 10 men behind the ball for most of the match, particularly given that the Baggies took an early lead through a Salomon Rondon goal on a corner kick.

In the first half, Everton managed to create a fair number of chances. The Toffees took 17 shots, but only two ended up on target, with nine getting blocked and six off target altogether.

In essence, the first half was the story of a team dominating possession against a bunkering team, but unable to find a goal. While this was frustrating, Everton's performance still had encouraging points. Oviedo and Cleverley were putting in dangerous service on set pieces, Lennon was regularly making a fool of West Brom's James Chester, and West Brom didn't create any notable chances after the opening goal.

When the second half rolled around, the Toffees got off to a bit of a slow start. Everton took no shots from inside the box in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, with West Brom relatively comfortably keeping Everton attackers out.

Without a doubt, the Toffees needed to make a change. At times this season, Roberto Martinez has failed to make changes at the right time, instead leaving tired or ill-equipped players in the match, so it was encouraging that the Spaniard decided to make a substitution with more than a half hour left to play.

But, each substitution Martinez made was ultimately counterproductive, and made it even more difficult for his side to find an equalizer against a disciplined Pulis side.

Arouna Kone for Tom Cleverley - 58th minute

I didn't like any of Martinez's subs, but this one is easily the most frustrating of the bunch.

At this stage of the game, the Toffees were struggling to create dangerous chances. Everton had no shots inside the 18-yard box in the second half before this change.

The most sensible player to replace at this stage was definitely Tom Cleverley, who had been neither great nor poor in this match, as his passing map (courtesy of FourFourTwo.com) shows.

The English midfielder didn't do much wrong, but had only one key pass, which was his only completed pass into the box. Given that Cleverley isn't a natural winger and the team needed a new attacking impetus, it was time for him to make way.

But the Toffees needed a player who was going to create chances and be able to work through the brick wall of West Brom's defense. Instead, we got Arouna Kone.

Kone isn't able to take players on, he isn't able to make key passes, and he is an absolute nightmare in terms of spacing in the attack.

Kone's passing map shows his inability to make the crucial pass.

In 30 minutes, Kone attempted four forward passes in the final third. He completed one.

His heatmap and the team's average position map (courtesy of EvertonFC.com) detail a separate issue with his inclusion at left midfield.

As you can see, Kone tended to drift toward the middle and toward a striker's position, much more so than Cleverley.

So, not only did Martinez bring on a player who lacks creative ability, Kone also makes the Everton attack exceedingly predictable.

With Kone so narrow, the team's ability (and desire) to attack down the left largely disappeared. This left Everton with only one real attacking plan: get the ball down the right to Aaron Lennon and Seamus Coleman, have them whip crosses in, and hope for the best.

In the last half hour of the match, during which Kone was on, 41.7 percent of Everton's attacking play came down the right, 4.1 percent higher than the rest of the match.

At this stage of the match, Everton needed a left midfielder who was going to stretch the backline. Instead, they got one that allowed it to become even more compact.

Gerard Deulofeu for Aaron Lennon - 74th minute

Gerard Deulofeu was the dangerous, creative player that this match needed in the 60th minute, instead of Arouna Kone. So, I have no complaints that Martinez wanted to get the Spanish winger into the match.

But, Aaron Lennon is easily the most in-form attacking player at Everton, and was maybe the hottest attacking player in England coming into the match.

In his 74 minutes on Saturday, Lennon completed five key passes, had four successful take-ons, and drew three fouls in the attacking third. He was Everton's most dangerous attacking player by a significant margin.

He simply could not be the player to make way for Deulofeu.

With Kone already in for Cleverley, the obvious other choice to bring Deulofeu in for was no longer an option, but there were other alternatives. Deulofeu could have entered for Gareth Barry or James McCarthy, with Ross Barkley slotting deeper in the midfield and Kone coming into a center forward's role behind the main striker.

Instead, Martinez took out his most dangerous attacker with 15 minutes to play and needing a goal.

Leon Osman for James McCarthy - 82nd minute

In a vacuum, this change made the most sense of the three.

Osman has the ability to work through tight spaces and find the crucial pass through a wall of defenders, so bringing him into the No. 10 role and sliding Barkley back into a deeper role, where he could still act as a playmaker as well, made decent sense in theory.

In practice though, the other subs made by Martinez torpedoed the effectiveness of this one.

As I mentioned above, the introduction of Kone, then Deulofeu, made Everton's gameplan one-dimensional. Everton's only real option was to play through Deulofeu and Coleman down the right, hoping to whip crosses in for Lukaku and Kone.

This isn't to say I agree with this gameplan, but it was the only option the Toffees had at this stage. Given that West Brom was playing with four center-backs, playing through the air should not have been the choice, but this is where Everton found themselves at the time of this sub.

So, bringing Osman into such an advanced position made no sense. Barkley is a capable header of the ball, and from the No. 10 role, he certainly could have given West Brom problems with late runs between Kone and Lukaku.

Instead, it was the 5'8"/1.73 m Osman put in the unenviable position of trying to win headers following crosses from Deulofeu and Coleman.

In the end, even if Martinez made three sensible subs, Everton may not have found a way to take this match. West Brom deserve a lot of credit for defending admirably for 90 minutes against a dangerous attacking team.

But, with typical targets of scorn Tim Howard and John Stones out of the match, attention from supporters turned largely to Martinez after this match, and he must put his team in better positions going forward, otherwise pressure on the Spanish manager will continue to grow.