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Martinez Adjusts As Everton Defeat Wasteful Chelsea

Emmet O'Keeffe
By Emmet O'Keeffe
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Sky's Martin Tyler was never too far away from referencing Everton's change in approach under Roberto Martinez during Saturday's 1-0 victory over Chelsea. Evidence of this tactical evoltion could be found in an average of 66% possession in their first three matches compared with an average of 52.9% last season. Tim Howard spoke recently about the 'cultural change' that has been apparent since Martinez replaced David Moyes and his attempts to replicate Barcelona's pressing high up the pitch to win the ball back quickly. However, implementing this strategy against Chelsea is more difficult and more dangerous than when playing against West Brom, Norwich and Cardiff.

Everton's team selection and approach to the game indicated Martinez recognised this to be case. New £13 million signing James McCarthy was only named on the bench with the Spaniard opting for a the more defensive-minded Gareth Barry to partner Leon Osman in midfield. Unlike their opening three games, Everton had significantly less possession than the opposition (43 % to Chelsea's 57%) and unlike those first three matches, they had three points to show for their efforts. Instead of pressing Ramires and John Obi Mikel higher up the pitch, Everton were content to drop their midfield closer to their defence to deny space for Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle between the lines.

Barry provided excellent protection for the back four and his energetic performance was a surprising development to those who watched his functional and seemingly joyless efforts under Roberto Mancini while Osman had the most tackles (6) and interceptions (4) of any player from either team. Everton always looked threatening on the counter-attack with Ross Barkley's very impressive dribbling ability and the pace of Kevin Mirallas. That this more pragmatic and reactive approach brought Everton an improvement in result was aided significantly by Chelsea's inability to finish the chances they created.


Chelsea had double Everton's number of shots with 22 and José Mourinho wasn't necessarily being misguidedly arrogant when he claimed after the match that during the first half the game looked 'easy to win'. Osman and Barry struggled to cope with Ramires' attacking surges and Hazard became more of an influence as the game progressed. The disappointing Schurrle and Samuel Eto'o both missed good chances and Steven Naismith's goal in first half injury time came firmly against the run of play.

After dominating the first twelve minutes of the second half, Mourinho's decision to shift Ramires to the right flank to accommodate substitute Frank Lampard in midfield alongside Jon Obi Mikel proved to be a mistake. The Brazilian had looked like Chelsea's best route towards finding a goal and his influence was curbed by being moved out a position where he wasn't on the ball nearly as much. While one can understand Mourinho's eagerness to introduce Lampard with Chelsea needing a goal, this change just didn't work. That, added to McCarthy's introduction with Mirallas replacing the ineffective Nikita Jelavic as the lone striker helped Everton to see out the final 20 minutes without too many alarms.


Based on chances created and general play, Chelsea were unfortunate to come away from Goodison Park with a defeat but Saturday did expose a few chinks in the armour. While Eto'o is only two years removed from a 37 goal season for Inter Milan and his goalscoring record for Anzhi Makhachkala was respectable (36 in 71), relying on the 32-year-old to hit the ground running in England and be the main striker in a side challenging for the Premier League is asking alot. The Cameroonian should improve on his debut performance but he will need to quickly given Chelsea's lack of other high quality options up front.

At Sky's Premier League pundit roundtable shortly before the start of the season, I asked Jamie Carragher how highly he rated David Luiz, given the reports of a possible £30 Million pound move to Barcelona. Carragher praised Luiz for his performances towards the end of last season in the Premier League and in the Confederations Cup but did admit there was a big debate whether the 26-year-old was a 'José Mourinho centre-back'.


That debate may be have playing out in Mourinho's mind since Saturday evening after Luiz was badly at fault for Steven Naismith's goal. Luiz rashly left his position alongisde John Terry in the box in an attempt to disposess Barkley 20 yards from goal when Schurrle and Ramires were already in position to stop a possible shot. When Barkley played the ball wide to the right, Chelsea were now outnumbered at the back post with Ivanovic forced to try and mark both Jelavic and Naismith. Luiz's first mistake was something that can happen from time to time but what will concern his manager was that after going to the edge of the box, he didn't seem to anticipate the potential danger of the situation at all. He made no real effort to get back in position, leaving Naismith completely unchallenged with an open goal to head the ball into. That wasn't the first time Luiz showed a lack of anticipation in defensive positions on Saturday and for all of his class on the ball and superb athleticism, this remains a huge question mark over his ability to become a high quality centre-half.

(Photos via Zimbio)


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