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Everton at Sunderland: Tactical Analysis - The Game Plan That Cost Roberto Martinez His Job

With another miserable performances in the books, there's only one thing left to do...

Stu Forster/Getty Images

[Warning: The following is pure satire, created by the utter frustration of wasting another day watching a plainly unwatchable Everton side.]

Everton's struggles continued on Wednesday, with a miserable 3-0 thrashing at the hands of a mediocre Sunderland side, who only just managed to secure their Premier League safety. Reports are rolling in left and right that this humiliation is the final straw for Roberto Martinez, who has reportedly been sacked.

Interestingly enough, a few minor tactical tweaks could have possibly saved Martinez's job at Everton Football Club. To look more closely at these changes, let's look at Everton's starting lineup.

As has been a theme with Roberto Martinez's lineups this season, Everton trotted out only one true winger, which is less than ideal for most good teams in football. Tom Cleverley lined up as a "right midfielder" this week, after spending much of this season as a "left midfielder."

The problem with this lineup is made clear by the graphic below.

I know this graphic is complex, but try to understand that good teams tend to utilize two wingers because doing so creates things like balance, width, and attacking consistency. I am aware these may be unfamiliar terms to you, as it has been so long since Everton has displayed them.

Another graphic may help explain these concepts which have proven to be far too complex for our former manager to understand.

Generally, wingers belong on the wings (hence the name). The two circles with the giant arrows pointing toward them indicate where the wings actually are.

Everton's "wingers" (only one of which actually belongs on the wing) are highlighted in blue in this image. Difficult though it may be, recall that wingers belong on the wings. As you can see, the Toffees have done away with this idea. (Serious side note: this is the actual average positions map from the match on Wednesday. I didn't have to even make a joke for it to be a joke.)

The upshot is that lots of Everton players end up standing right next to each other.

While this kind of togetherness is great for team spirit and allows for players to regularly hug during the match (releasing key endorphins, helping the players deal with the fact that they are lucky not to be in a relegation battle), it is not particularly conducive to scoring goals, which is the point of playing football.

Having players this close to each other also means that it is pretty easy to successfully pass the ball in harmless areas, a skill that has been brought out with tremendous effectiveness by Martinez. The problem, difficult though it may be to comprehend, is that it is hard to score goals from the places where players can easily pass the ball.

Above is the actual passing map of the first half of the Sunderland match, along with a helpful addition from yours truly. Generally speaking, it is easiest for players to score from inside the blue circle, where Everton completed a single pass in the opening half. It is significantly harder to score from inside the red circle, where Everton completed approximately a metric ton of passes.

In the technical soccer community, that is what we call not good.

A change of these attacking tactics could have helped change the fortunes of Everton and Martinez.

In defense, Martinez made one glaring error as well, which allowed Sunderland to score the match's opening goal. All of the exceedingly intelligent people on the Internet have told me repeatedly that Tim Howard was the problem with Everton's defense early in the season, and that Joel Robles would be a certain upgrade from the American.

But, strangely, in his last chance to save his job, Martinez appears not only to have given Howard the start, but also tried to pull one over on us by dressing him up like Joel!

The make-up and dress-up job they did on Howard was incredibly convincing (must be all that new owner money being put to good use), but Howard let slip that he was the one actually between the sticks by allowing the first goal of the match.

Goalkeeping is a complicated, complex skill, the perfection of which requires years of practice, so bear with me as I try to explain exactly what went wrong on the opening goal.

Ordinarily, good goalies try to stop the ball by being in front of it. I hope this graphic makes the complexity of this situation more clear. Unfortunately, Howard/Joel lost the plot on the opening goal.

Instead, Everton's keeper elected to move out of the way of a Sunderland free kick, which makes it significantly more difficult to stop a shot.

Though the keeper looked exactly like Joel Robles, it must have been Tim Howard, because I have been told by the all-knowing Twitter community that Howard is terrible and this was indeed a terrible goal to concede.


In all seriousness, as has been the case for much of the last two months, Martinez's tactics were puzzling, but they weren't the primary issue. The players simply had no idea what was expected of them, and grew tired of a manager who clearly lost control months ago.

Fair or unfair, it was time for Martinez to go.