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Everton vs. Southampton: Tactical Analysis

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A mediocre performance from an Everton B-team was down to far more than just the lack of quality on the pitch, with Roberto Martinez squarely in the crosshairs once again.

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

In theory, Everton supporters should be pleased with their club's 1-1 home draw against Southampton this weekend, given that none of the team's regular attackers or midfielders started the match.

The fact that these players were rested was completely understandable -- between injury, suspension, and the impending Merseyside Derby and FA Cup semifinal, this match was always going to be one in which an unimpressive side took the pitch.

While Roberto Martinez rested the proper players, the way he fielded their replacements made little sense.

There were three major issues with this setup.

First, Martinez got the setup of his attacking midfielders completely wrong. Deulofeu's inclusion on the right ahead of an injured and/or in need of rest Aaron Lennon made sense, but everything falls apart past that.

Martinez opted to put Kevin Mirallas in the No. 10 role, looking to him to be the creative impetus. On its own, this wasn't at all a bad idea. With Gareth Barry, James McCarthy, and Ross Barkley, the team's normal central midfielders, out, the Toffees were going to need an especially creative player in the center of the pitch. Though Mirallas has had a frustrating season, he can be that kind of player, particularly given a lack of other quality attacking players in this lineup.

But, if the plan all along was to put Mirallas in the middle, what in the world was Leon Osman doing in the lineup as the left midfielder?

In past seasons, Osman has occasionally seen action in such a role. A younger Osman had the ability to contribute from that space, though surely no one ever mistook him for a true wide player.

Currently though, there is just no reason for him to be playing in that position. He's clearly lost a step this season, and wasn't exactly a speedster at any point during his time at Everton.

For whatever reason, Martinez used Osman at the left midfield position anyway, and it worked with a predictable lack of success. His passing map and heatmap (courtesy of EvertonFC.com) make this clear.

Osman clearly played on the left side, but barely completed a pass or had a touch in or around the 18-yard box.

Had the Toffees had no other options at this position, the choice would have been frustrating, but understandable. But Martinez had Steven Pienaar, a true left winger, available on the bench, yet failed to utilize him. Instead, he let an out of position, over-matched Osman struggle on the left.

The upshot was an issue we've seen multiple times this season when Martinez uses a central player in the wide left position -- the right winger was completely isolated. Osman tended to drift toward the middle, his natural position, while Mirallas drifted toward the left to compensate, leaving Deulofeu completely on his own down the right wing.

The result was a pretty quiet day from the Spanish winger.

Second, Arouna Kone was included ahead of Oumar Niasse for entirely unclear reasons.

Martinez paid a fair sum for Niasse, the Senegalese attacker, in January, but still hasn't used him in anything more than a 10 or 15 minute substitute's role. It seems like this match, one in which Martinez might have lived with conceding the result, was the best possible time to get the 25-year-old a start.

Instead, in a match where the team was missing its best playmakers, Martinez started Kone, a player completely unable to create his own chances. The Ivorian striker didn't have a single shot, on target or otherwise.

At what point will Martinez see that Kone's positive start to the season was a combination of an apparition and poor opposition? Kone has five goals and four assists this season -- three of the goals and two of the assists came against Sunderland and Aston Villa, not exactly quality opposition.

In fact, since Kone's assist in the Toffees' 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa on November 21, Everton has not won a match against Premier League opposition in which he has played 15 minutes or more. But, he was preferred to a 13.5 million pound signing over the weekend.

Third and last, the roles of Darron Gibson and Muhamed Besic made little sense.

Gibson, a forgotten man this season, made a name for himself in his first season with the club as a player capable of finding difficult passes and dissecting opposing defenses. His defense was always average at best, but never needed to be a major focus under David Moyes, who had his team collectively playing solid defense.

Besic, who has earned multiple chances this season, is a player who formerly played center-back and is known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense style of football in the center of midfield.

So, it seemed reasonable to sit Besic deepest and have Gibson play between the Bosnian and Mirallas, setting up attacks. Of course, that isn't what happened, as the activity maps of each player indicate.

The purple triangles represent clearances, of which Gibson made 13, while Besic was given significant more license to foray forward. Besic struggled in this role, with most of his attacking half passes going backwards or sideways. With a lineup that was already going to struggle to create chances, the insertion of Besic into a playmaking role was the final death blow to the Toffees.

In all, the result of this match in no way reflects Everton's performance. The match is admittedly a tough one to assess, given that Martinez rightfully rested some of his most important players. But, Martinez again elected to overcomplicate things rather than simply put his players in a position where they could succeed.

As I mentioned last week, the kind of panicked button-pressing we've seen from Martinez is indicative of a manager who has lost his understanding of his players and knows full well his job is at stake. After two miserable managerial performances, Martinez's job is very much on the line with the most important week of the season to date ahead for Everton.