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Everton vs. Bournemouth: Tactical Analysis - Even In Victory, Martinez's Tactics Are Puzzling

The Toffees finally found another win, but the team's mediocre first half served as a microcosm of Everton and Roberto Martinez's entire season.

An even truer sign once you realize that Roberto's style doesn't make sense anymore.
An even truer sign once you realize that Roberto's style doesn't make sense anymore.
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

At this stage of the season, there isn't much tactical left to say.

Roberto Martinez has changed very little in his side in recent months, for better or worse (usually worse). This has made his setup, and therefore the results, generally predictable for quite some time now.

This week's victory over Bournemouth was no different, with the obvious exception that Everton managed to finally secure another three points. The result helps to obscure some of the issues we've seen consistently this season, but in the first half in particular, we saw the ugly problems Martinez has brought to this side.

In fact, the opening 45 minutes of this half could ultimately serve as a microcosm of the entire season for Everton and Roberto Martinez.

To elucidate this point, let's start by looking at Everton's starting lineup.

Muhamed Besic started at right-back once again with multiple injuries at that position, Darron Gibson started in the center of midfield with Gareth Barry unavailable, and Oumar Niasse got his first start up top with the Toffees.

This is certainly not the first time we've seen Tom Cleverley, or another naturally-central player, get the start at left midfield. When Martinez opts for this kind of setup, the left-sided player tends to drift in toward the middle. As a result, Ross Barkley tends to drift over the the left side to compensate and try to provide some width for his team.

In an ideal world, this creates an organized overload when the team gets the ball in advanced positions down the left side. Leighton Baines gets forward, and creates a triangle with Barkley and Cleverley, creating a 3-on-2 situation with the right side of the opposition's back line. In theory, it looks like this.

You'll notice that the beginning of the buildup to Everton's first goal looks very much like this diagram.

James McCarthy, stepping up slightly from his central midfield position, has just struck a pass toward Baines on the left wing, who is wide open out of the shot here. Cleverley is in the blue circle and Barkley is in the red circle -- notice that they are almost at the exact same width on the pitch.

When Baines receives the pass, Cleverly is actually significantly more central than Barkley, who has pulled into a wider, more withdrawn position to give himself some space to operate.

When Baines gives the ball to Barkley, a defender has to step out to close him down. McCarthy makes a run into the box, while Baines continues to draw the attention of the Bournemouth right-back, opening up a passing lane to Cleverley at the top of the box.

All the Englishman has to do is beat one man on the turn, then he has enough room to get a quality strike off. He hits an excellent shot to the far post with his left foot, giving Everton a 1-0 lead.

In the first 10 minutes of the match, just like in the first six weeks of the season, this setup worked well for the Toffees. Arouna Kone served as the faux left midfielder in the first month of the season, combining with Barkley and exploiting overwhelmed defenders on the left side of the box.

Since then, Martinez has insisted upon using this setup with alarming regularity, looking to recreate the early season magic. But, teams have adjusted, Kone has come back to Earth, and the Toffees have become downright predictable.

In the remaining 35 minutes of the first half against Bournemouth, Everton was shut down by intelligent defending by Bournemouth, which cut down the Toffees' ability to create down the left.

The upshot of the left-heavy attack, and the placement of players that went along with it, was the isolation of Aaron Lennon on the right side. In many matches this season, this has led to simply not getting the ball to Lennon, or Gerard Deulofeu when he has occupied the right side.

Instead, there was a slightly different effect this match, as made clear in the graphic below, courtesy of EvertonFC.com.

In the first half, only 18.2% of Everton's possession in the attacking third occurred in the central channel. Not only is that simply not a sustainable model for success in general, it meant Barkley had very little of the ball in important areas for the remainder of the half after the goal. His heatmap makes this clear.

This is not the first time that Martinez managed to marginalize one of his most important attacking players in a match this season. In particular, Romelu Lukaku and Aaron Lennon have frequently been completely isolated by Martinez's strange tactical decisions, which has taken the teeth out of Everton's attack on multiple occasions.

But, perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Martinez's continued tactical tinkering, even long after an experiment's usefulness has ended, is the way in which it forces players into positions on the field where they do not belong.

The most obvious instances of this are the continued use of central players as wingers, but there are more complex ways this affects the team as well. The graphic below indicates such an example.

In the 31st minute, James McCarthy played a cross in from the endline on the left side of the pitch. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a clip of this play, but allow me to create a picture of it in your mind.

Everton won the ball in the center of midfield and played the ball out wide to an incredibly open Baines, who was along the left sideline about 35 yards from goal. The Bournemouth right-back scrambled out to close down the Englishman, creating a space for an overlapping run from the left winger, who could get to the endline and whip in a cross.

Except, Cleverley was wandering the center of the pitch, because as much as Roberto Martinez might like to think otherwise, Cleverley is not a winger. He is a central midfielder. Ross Barkley was also in the center of the pitch, because, believe it or not, he also is not a winger. He is a central midfielder.

So, there was James McCarthy, making a winger's run into acres of space down the left wing. Baines played a well-weighted ball to him, but McCarthy, who isn't particularly pacey, had to hustle just to keep the ball in play. He had no choice but to whip a first time cross in with his left foot while on a full run.

The cross was even less accurate than the graphic indicates.

That has been the story for Everton players all season -- Martinez asks players to fill roles that they simply are not fit to fill, and other players have to go out of their comfort zones to try to fill those needs.

We've seen Barkley try to play as a No. 10, box-to-box midfielder, and winger in the same match. We've seen Lukaku forced out to the wing. We've seen Lennon play as a second striker.

In the second half, Everton stopped trying to play so exclusively through the left, got Lennon more involved, and creating the match-winning goal. The change came early enough to salvage Everton's match, but no such overarching change has come in time to salvage Everton's season.