Everton success out of left field

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It can be said that Everton regularly exceeds the expectations of most followers of the English Premier League. David Moyes, their mercurial manager, has taken his side into Europe four times over the past eight years despite not having significant resources available to him. This commendable record has been achieved through astute recruitment of talent, defensive cohesion and attacking fluidity achieved mainly driven by the vision and hard work of Moyes. And as far as the current season is concerned, the Toffees stand in 3rd place with nearly one-seventh of the number of league games having been played. Soccernet’s Richard Jolly breaks down the tactical reason for Everton’s attacking success which has seen the team win 3 & draw 1 out of the 5 games they have played so far.

“The best left side in Europe” was Alan Pardew’s verdict on Everton earlier in the week. While the Newcastle manager’s view may have involved an element of hyperbole – Real Madrid’s left-sided pair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo would certainly attract a few votes for that unofficial title – Pardew named the pivotal players in Everton’s tactics. A 3-0 win revolved around the three men he identified.

He bracketed Marouane Fellaini along with left-back Leighton Baines and left-sided midfielder Steven Pienaar in that description. The Belgian has an idiosyncratic take on the role in the hole but it is notable that, from a central starting position, he drifts to the left. It helps Pienaar and Baines outnumber opponents, but so does the variety in their play; while the right-footed South African can look infield and open up space for the overlapping Englishman, they can alternate with Pienaar on the touchline and Baines ‘underlapping’. 

That an entire team’s focus is on the left is apparent in different ways. Baines had the most touches of any Evertonian at the Liberty Stadium, followed by Pienaar, with the left-back also proving the most prolific passer, attempting the most crosses and, along with Fellaini, completing most key passes. But even players in central stations gravitated towards Pienaar and him.

This analysis is backed up by an Everton FC tactical blog which looks into how the team’s left side enjoyed success over Newcastle’s defence last week. Meanwhile, two of the club’s three goals against Swansea were also set up from the left. The question is, will this approach see Moyes’ men qualify for Europe once again or can teams adapt to this threat and nullify it as the season progresses?

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