Roberto Martinez is a manager loved by all hipsters and football fans, the Everton fans embraced him into their arms. After his first season in charge, the decided to put a banner up on Goodison Park to resemble their trust, joy and confidence in their new boss. Not even one season removed from a season even the most optimistic Everton fans could imagine, Everton are caught in a relegation battle, surrounded with the likes of Hull and Sunderland. With reality setting in, Martinez needs to dig deep into his tactical mind to produce a tactical response that will drag Everton out of this mess they’ve got themselves into.
So, where’s it all gone wrong?
It’s pretty obvious where things have gone wrong for Everton, at the back. Their defensive performances have been shaky at best, a ghost of their performances last season. Martinez has tried a back 3 and a back 4 to try to solve Everton’s defensive woes, but none have prevailed. While watching the toffees against Arsenal at the weekend, i picked up on so many defensive flaws which made me tear my hair out as a defensive enthusiast. I saw a fatigued Everton side, who seemed very disjointed, with little communication. This is partly down to the amount of changes Martinez has been forced into making due to injuries, and is partly down to the increased games and travelling around Europe due to their Europa League commitments. Last season,on average, Everton conceded 1.03 goals per game, this season, that figure has shot up to 1.44 goals per game aswell. With all the changes to the defence, Everton seem to lack confidence in themselves defending, as they seem to be all over the show, lacking an understanding with each other.
It really confused me when I watched the game tape and it looked like Everton were deprived of a structure at the back, as Martinez is a very good coach who drills a good structure into his players. But on inspecting the game tape further, it became clear goals and chances came to the opposition from simple mistakes. These mistakes included losing the ball in a dangerous position, giving away the ball cheaply, hitting a poor pass, or simply making the wrong decision. Because Martinez likes to play with high pressing wing backs, who regularly join the attack, it makes it essential for the midfield to retain possession and not lose the ball cheaply, as doing so really exposes the centre backs.
As the next picture shows, Luke Garbutt, the young, highly talented left back, is left exposed from Jagielka as he went to join the attack, only for Everton to lose the ball cheaply, giving Arsenal a glorious chance to score and a lot of space to create a shot on goal. The black arrow shows the gaping gap between Garbutt and Jagielka. Garbutt should be much tighter in and on line with the other 3 defenders, to create no room for error for the attacking team. Instead he has been caught racing up the pitch, and Arsenal exploit this gap by going through it (pink arrow). This is simply too easy for any team, you can’t allow them that kind of space next to your own box.
This isn’t the only time Everton were caught out with the wing backs, this next picture shows James McCarthy filling in for Leighton Baines at LB, as Baines has been heavily involved with the most recent passage of play. Because McCarthy is filling in at left back, there is no shield/ wall for the defenders, giving more space for the opposition to run at them. This leaves them extremely exposed as they have to focus on keeping shape and dealing with the attacker, while retreating backwards. The result of this is a very disjointed line, with the centre backs almost too deep but the wing backs still too high up. This once again leaves space in between the wing back and centre back, giving too much room for the opposition to exploit and it allows the attacker to make an easy run into a lot of space.
That isn’t the only defensive flaw I spotted while watching Everton this term, I also realised they have a tendency to chase the ball a lot. I appreciate that this may be to close the man down, but there is simply no need for the whole defence to swarm around the ball and leave all other areas exposed for the opposition to play a neat ball and had an easier chance to score. This shows that there is no communication along the back line, and the blame has to go to the defensive “leader”, which in Evertons case, is Jagielka. His performances haven’t been amazing this season, which correlates to Everton conceding 39 goals already, where’s last year, they conceded 39 by the end of the season. As the next image shows, there are 7 (!) players chasing the ball to block the shot. This is the wrong thing to do as all structure has been lost, and it obstructs Howard’s view greatly, meaning the shot has an increased chance of going in.
The third major defensive flaw I managed to pick out is their set piece defending. It has been considerably poor this season, with once again communication being a main weakness for Everton. They seem, on this next image, to be caught between zonal marking and man marking, something which always spells trouble. We can see that some Arsenal players have been picked up for man marking, but we then see other Everton players in a desolate space with no man, which implies a zonal scheme is being used. But because some players are man marking, there is the main space on the edge of the 6 yard box and the front post left completely stranded, giving the corner taker and the striker (Giroud in this case, who happens to be very good at heading) an easy target and running lane, as highlighted by the red box.
The million dollar question- How do you fix it?
It has been experimented with a couple of times this season, but I believe that the 3-5-2 system would work a treat for Martinez.