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Everton at Leicester City: Tactical Analysis - Another Puzzling, Failed Experiment for Martinez

On the road against the Premier League champions, Roberto Martinez decided to overhaul his regular formation and adopt a 4-4-2. Predictably, the experiment blew up in his face.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

First off, congratulations to Leicester City for a remarkable journey to the Premier League title and an excellent performance this weekend against Everton. The Foxes were ruthless and effective in front of their home supporters when it would have been easy to simply look ahead to their championship celebration.

Leicester deserved to win on the day, and even if Roberto Martinez's stumbled upon an effective tactical setup for this match, it may not have made a difference in the final result.

That being said, Martinez put forward yet another display of managerial panic and incompetence that reflects his knowledge that his time at Everton ought to be coming to an end.

Let's start by looking at his lineup:

I cannot be critical of Martinez's personnel choices on the back line, largely because he's missing so many players at the back. With Jagielka and Funes Mori missing in the middle, one of the youngsters was always going to get the start alongside Stones in the center of defense. It isn't ideal, but there was no other alternative.

At right back, Martinez decided to end the Muhamed Besic experiment and give Bryan Oviedo a chance with Seamus Coleman and Tyias Browning still unavailable. Again, it wasn't ideal, but there were very few alternatives for Martinez.

So, Everton was forced to play with a significantly weakened back line against the Premier League's best team this season, a team with a forward who had 22 goals coming into the match, the Premier League's player of the year on one wing, arguably the league's best central midfielder this season, and the most dangerous counter-attack in all of England. These were factors out of Martinez's control.

To compensate for these factors, most sane managers would put out a midfield designed to protect this vulnerable defense corps from an exceedingly dangerous opponent. Roberto Martinez, we are learning, may well not be sane.

Instead, Martinez went with an out-and-out 4-4-2 for perhaps the first time all season. There are a number of issues with this setup, but the primary problem was the lack of defensive cover coming from the central midfielders.

Ross Barkley was asked to play a deeper role than he is accustomed to, and the reality is that he isn't going to provide much defensive cover when asked to play that role. He wasn't awful in defense, but he certainly didn't contribute much, as his defense map shows (courtesy of

This map reflects the first 63 minutes of the match, before the substitution that pushed Barkley into his natural position. He had one interception in the box and a few recoveries up the pitch, but little else in terms of defense.

This left James McCarthy with entirely too much work to do in front of the back four. No single midfielder, much less a player who has had his fair share of struggles this season, is going to be able to slow down this Leicester attack on his own. As a result, Leicester found space regularly in the center of the field while on the attack.

Additionally, this central midfield setup gave the Toffees no way to work out of the back once they recovered the ball on defense. With Oumar Niasse and Romelu Lukaku up toward the midfield stripe, Tom Cleverley looking as lost as ever playing out of position on the left, and Aaron Lennon isolated on the right, Everton's defenders had only two regular targets -- Barkley and McCarthy.

With constant pressure coming from the Leicester players, these two often had to play the ball square or back to their defenders or keeper, as their passing maps from the first 63 minutes of the match show.

The result was Everton's complete inability to regularly get forward.

This inability led to one of the most peculiar possession graphics I have ever seen.

Everton outpossessed Leicester 58.8% to 41.2%, which is a relatively common possession margin in a Leicester City match (according to, the Foxes average 44.7% possession per match). Despite the substantial lead in possession overall, over 30% of the match was spent in Everton's defensive third, with just under 20% spent in Everton's attacking third.

On the rare occasions Everton did get forward, the ball frequently fell to Leighton Baines in a wide position on the left. Things tended to fall apart from there.

It has been a rough year for Baines overall, but his struggles in attack on Saturday are the fault of the players around him and the system he was forced in to. A look at the average positions of Everton's players makes this clear.

For the overwhelming majority of the match, there was no one anywhere near Leighton Baines in attack. His passing was underwhelming, of course, because he had no one to pass to!

This issue was the most prominent Everton had in attack, but it is also representative of the general struggles the Toffees had all match. To put it simply, Everton's players appeared to have no idea where they should be or what they should be doing in this match, and it isn't the first time it has been this way.

Martinez continue to tinker, but has yet to stumble upon anything that works. His players continue to appear more and more confused and frustrated by the ineffective changes. The team's results have been horrific, with performances that have more often than not warranted the results.

There is little else that can be said about the current state of this club. Roberto Martinez is running Everton Football Club into the ground.