Sunderland Tactical Match Review (A)

Seven points from nine for the blues, prior to the tedious international break. Lowly Sunderland were our opposition on Monday night. Managed by a startled David Moyes wielding a potato peeler as he stared down Ronald Koeman and his dazzling array of weaponry. Lukaku, Barkley, Mirallas and Bolasie all starting: talk about taking a knife to a gun fight, eh?

 

00

 

Seamus Coleman came straight back into the side, Mason Holgate can consider himself unlucky, given the standard of his play in the Irishman’s absence. It would appear that this side is what Koeman would consider to be his best, at the moment. Jermain Defoe and an assortment of Subbuteo pieces stood between Everton, and our best start to a premier league campaign. Win by four, and we’d go second. If Koeman managed to guide us to victory, he’d be the first Everton manager since Thomas McIntosh in 1919 to win the first two competitive away fixtures of his tenure. So, on with the match…

Less than a minute in, and there was already a hint of what was to come. A cross from Bolasie toward Lukaku, and as the ball squirted away with Lamine Koné challenging Lukaku, Jordan Pickford was alert to the loose ball, and managed to dive on it just before Lukaku was able to get a toe on it…

 

01

 

Sunderland set their stall out early to retreat deep when out of possession, and try to hit Everton on the break. Jermaine Defoe drew a smart block from Jagielka on the edge of our box, before we tried to exploit the way they were playing…

 

03

 

Idrissa Gueye taking advantage of Jack Rodwell and Jan Kirchhoff leaving too large a gap between themselves and their defence, who are sat deep (concerned about our pace in behind). A quick one-two with Ross Barkley allowed Gueye to drive forward into the empty space, only to drag his shot wide. Encouraging stuff from our midfield dynamo, who made sodium reacting with water look static, over the course of the evening.

We breathed a sigh of relief on ten minutes, when Jermaine Defoe skied an opportunity- the kind of half chance he normally has ice in his veins for. A deflected nothing shot took the most fortuitous Sunderland flight as it looped over our defence and into the path of Defoe…

 

04

 

Only for him to put his chance over the top. Good goalkeeping from Stekelenburg who is on his line as the initial effort is hit on the edge of the box, and manages to cover six yards towards the ball as it drops towards Defoe, who will have been aware of him. Stekelenburg mightn’t be the long-term plan at the position, but he’s begun life at Goodison very well.

Down the opposite end, and Jordan Pickford made a stunning save to deny Lukaku the opener. A brilliant, early, whipped cross from Yannick Bolasie was met powerfully by Lukaku, only for Pickford to make the reflex stop…

 

05

 

There was very little in the way of quality for the rest of the half. Sunderland were so eager to shift the ball from back to front quickly that they were frequently wayward in their passing: of those who started the game for Sunderland, they attempted 52 long balls throughout the match, and only 14 were deemed ‘accurate’ (26.9% accuracy), compared with Everton’s 42 of 64 (65.6% accuracy). Defoe was isolated, and his frustration was palpable as they were unable to give him the ball in the areas he wanted. It was our concentration that was hurting us in the first half. Lax at times with the ball, we were careless in possession when approaching the crowded final third…

 

06

 

You can’t afford to get your passes wrong when things are this tight, but we often did. Ross Barkley was most guilty of this, but that was in part because he was as busy as anyone, looking for the ball. But it was a disappointing evening for Ross, and he would go on to be replaced at half time. During the break, I noted on twitter how no player has had less touches of the ball (10) than Lukaku in the first half, but that he was the only player on either side to register a shot on target (2)- what I meant by this was: get the ball into him with a bit more good service, and he would take advantage.

Into the second half, and Deulofeu replaced Barkley, with Kevin Mirallas slipping inside. It improved us immediately. For what already feels like the umpteenth time this season, a Koeman substitution paid off wonderfully. Koeman’s substitutions look likely to pay the full value of the £10.75 million awarded to Roberto Martinez in compensation, through league placings alone. Deulofeu played with urgency, and gave us impetus to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Minutes in, and his positional awareness was already causing Sunderland problems…

 

07

 

Dropping into space here to receive the ball from Phil Jagielka, before turning and driving at the Sunderland defence…

 

08

 

Only showing some rust as he didn’t quite manage to thread this ball into Lukaku, and Sunderland were able to scramble clear. From the clearance, the ball was worked back to Yannick Bolasie, whose shot drew a diving save from Pickford, only for the ball to manage to evade Deulofeu and Lukaku, both in close. We were beginning to ask questions.

Ashley Williams was unhappy to see Jack Rodwell afforded enough time in the middle of the pitch to slide a pass into Jermaine Defoe, before he closed him down and blocked his shot, but it was Williams who retreated deeper than his teammates, playing Defoe onside…

 

09

 

Gueye and Barry are circled to the right, having been trying to win the ball back, before the ball made its way to Rodwell. It was a rare moment of disorganisation from us, and it was pleasing to see Williams demanding more from his midfield, even if it is pointed out to him that he’s the one playing Defoe onside, when they review the footage at Finch Farm. Lamine Koné actually won a header over Phil Jagielka from the resulting corner, but headed straight at Stekelenburg. There was to be no repeat of May’s debacle, and we would go on to take a stranglehold on the game from this point on- built off the back of the absolute dominance of Gueye and Barry in midfield. Barry was superb all evening- it felt like he didn’t put a foot wrong throughout. He was our midfield metronome: as always. As good as he was with the ball at his feet, he does some of his best work when the opposition are in possession- to illustrate, nobody on the pitch won more tackles than him (7) – and we had 67% possession! Gueye? As cliché as it is, it’s been like playing with 12 men. Nobody on the pitch touched the ball more than Gueye (120), the second most touches belonged to another of our own- Ashley Williams, but he only managed 86. Sunderland’s entire starting five man midfield managed 131 touches between them. Gueye was everywhere…

 

10

 

He covers more ground than Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.

If it hadn’t been for a heavy touch, Deulofeu may have opened the scoring, having been released in behind with an excellent ball over the top from Bolasie, some 30 yards away. Deulofeu’s touch took him wide, and although he managed to cut back inside and get his shot away, it was well blocked. Idrissa Gueye (who else) seized on the loose ball, and fed it to Seamus Coleman whose cross-cum-shot was almost turned in by Lukaku at the back post…

 

11

 

We opened the scoring on the hour, through Lukaku- bagging his first in 13 for the toffees. It was a Sunderland corner, and Deulofeu managed to scamper clear with the clearance. His intended pass was cut out, and who was there to pick up the loose ball? Who else: Idrissa Gueye…

 

12

 

Who stands a beauty up to the back post, begging for Lukaku to put it in…

 

13

 

And Lukaku obliges, setting the toffees off on our way to another 3 points.

Then something unfamiliar happened: as the game entered its final half hour, as our opposition began to feel the pace, we found another gear. Bolasie, Gueye and Lukaku each grew stronger as the game wore on. Gueye continued to buzz about, and fed a couple of nice passes into Lukaku’s feet in dangerous areas. Lukaku was proving to be the kind of physical menace that he’s previously only threatened on the odd occasion, and Bolasie was beginning to electrify us down the left flank. It cannot be said enough: the days of us being happy to have Tom Cleverley playing wide left because it meant Arouna Koné wasn’t, are long gone.

Sunderland had a pretty good chance to equalise not long after. On a break, Ashley Williams tried to press high up, rather than the more conventional- drop & try to buy teammates time to get back- Jagielka did just that, and once the ball was moved past Williams, Duncan Watmore had time to get his head up and see Wahbi Khazri in space on the back post, with Everton now desperately short on cover…

 

14

 

A better player would’ve seen his teammate free, and it would’ve been a good chance for them. We were fortunate in this instance, but it’s a sign that as good as we’ve looked defensively, there are still improvements to be made. But last night was ace, so I don’t want to make too much of it. I’m choosing to embrace this royal blue rose, and ignore the thorns.

The second and third came soon after. The second was the result of a classic piece of wing play from Yannick Bolasie, slowing his movement to stand his man up, only to then accelerate past him to the by-line, and lofting a perfect cross with his left foot, Lukaku couldn’t miss on the back post for 2-0. The third was a thing of beauty, playing some keep ball, trying to frustrate the opposition and the crowd, we eventually picked up the pace, and Kevin Mirallas played a delightful ball through for Lukaku- the best compliment you can pay him is that you never thought he was going to miss…

 

15

 

Slotting with ease, to end a 25 pass move from Ronny Koeman’s silky blues.

That was pretty much that, from then on. We conserved energy, Sunderland had lost all hope, and the remainder of the game was played out at a genteel pace. Deulofeu was released in behind again, but couldn’t quite get the ball under control in time to get his body between the ball and the covering Sunderland defender. A bit more rustiness from the Catalan winger, but he played a big part on us taking hold of the game, even if he was a touch quieter in the final twenty minutes or so.

There must’ve been something very therapeutic about this win for the squad. Just May it was when Sunderland comprehensively dismantled us, and we went back there and we’ve completely gotten that out of our system, now. It could’ve (should’ve?) been more than three, but from a personal standpoint, I think it’s even more pleasing how solid we’re looking. Sunderland were afforded just 2 shots on target at our goal, meaning in Ronald Koeman’s first four league games, we’ve conceded an average of just 2.75 shots on target on our goal. For context, the last four of the Roberto Martinez reign- which included a trip to the stadium of light- we allowed an average of 7.75 shots on target per game. Koeman has come in and steadied the ship quicker than anyone could realistically have hoped for. The fact he’s done that while winning games, gives us all reasons to be hopeful. Imagine what we might be like when we eventually put together a good performance for a full 90 minutes…

For more really questionable logic, you can find me here: https://twitter.com/EvertonMusings

Everton Musings
Everton Musings

Latest posts by Everton Musings (see all)

No Comment

You can post first comment.

Leave A Comment

Please enter your name. Please enter an valid email address. Please enter a message.