Sorry about the headline –it should read “From Hull to Everton” but I could not resist the minor alteration.
Having had the time to reflect and digest the game from last weekend, what conclusions can be drawn – apart from it being quite boring and uneventful.
Both teams showed a lot of endeavour but lacked creativity and flair cancelling each other out for the most part. With us opting for a traditional 4.4.2 system and Hull going for a wide of the mark 3.5.2 and actually using two new signings these set ups seemed to nullify each other.
Whilst we had Bentaleb providing the midfield platform and Paulinho and Eriksen getting forward in support of the strikers (not too sure if that is a correct term at the moment) we lacked width, while they had quite a lot.
For us there was no one wide left and although Lennon was wide right, we rarely supplied him with the ball. Adebayor was running around – a lot and mostly in the midfield – while Soldado seemed to go absent yet again. We all know from his time at Valencia that he can score goals but his confidence is severely lacking at the moment.
It was interesting to see what Bruce – the opposition Manager – had to say afterwards – “I thought they played four up top really.
“They played two strikers, they played Lennon high and Eriksen off the front. So Tim’s philosophy is: ´We’re going to come here and beat you´.”
That certainly makes a refreshing change from the regime we had before Christmas where it was one up front and no-one in support. Now at least we are getting the ball – and players – into the box. Defensively, for the first half of the season, the role of everyone seemed to be “Get behind the ball at all costs” – while now it is more “Get behind the ball if you can”.
Yet again against Hull we had more possession and more shots at goal – nothing new in that – yet again we failed to score more than once in the game.
Having again had the chance to reflect and consider things – who was our MOTM last week?
Most other websites are undecided – giving that award to either Vertonghen or Paulinho. Strange that both were returning from injury and they were still short of real match time. Does that say anything?
With their return to full fitness, including a wonderful turn and strike from the Brazilian for our equalizer, the imminent return of others means there is at last true competition for places and hopefully this will breathe more life into our play and our team selection.
Are the guys who have been picked for the past half a dozen games or so getting complacent? Or is it that the returnees are so much more “up for it”. If it is the latter, then get Sandro, Kaboul and Townsend back on the pitch as soon as possible.
But, for the first time since Tim took over, we failed to win away – admittedly it did not harm our position in the Premier League too greatly, as we still remain three points behind Liverpool but are also now one point behind Everton after their narrow win at the weekend. No use in comparing us to the top three as they are looking to be all but out of sight.
With Everton visiting us this Sunday we are faced with a must win situation – failure to collect all three points will leave them ahead of us and potentially further still behind Liverpool , even though they have a somewhat tricky home fixture to Le Arse.
How many of us are secretly hoping that the old enemy from across the way will do us a favour and actually win at Anfield? Would a decent and innocent, but very hard, tackle put Suarez out for a while – at least until the end of March when we visit them?
But for this weekend, a win is essential, and a good one. Everton have struggled for goals away from home, even though they have drawn six of 12 on their travels this season, their strength has been their home form.
Of course, for them the three points will be equally vital – for exactly the same reason they are for us – so this should be an exciting and open encounter. Under Martinez – for a change – they will not come and park the bus, the coach, the 747 (insert your own idea Jose!) and will aim to come at us.
They know we are vulnerable when teams attack us – even at the Lane – Liverpool did it, Citeh did it, even WetSpam have done it, so why not Everton?
But, when teams come and defend, and defend deep, we do struggle to break them down and that has been a weakness for many years. If lower teams come at us – not necessarily at home – and we are able to catch them on the counter (like we have done recently against Southampton and Swansea) we can score and score enough for a convincing victory.
Everton will aim to come and get a victory. They will aim to get the ball to their quality players – Barkley (if fit) and Baines (always fit) – so we have to cut off the supply and then get the ball to our quality players.
Players like Eriksen. Deployed in the right area – behind the main striker – no use in having him wide left as he will always drift infield and leave our left back exposed. That means he has to play as the so-called No 10 – in and behind a lone striker.
Two months ago such a thought would have been unthinkable but now, almost anything is possible.
So, the front two are sorted – who to fill the rest of the team – and that really depends on who is fit to play.
When fit Sandro and Paulinho have to play. They are naturally athletic, energetic and skilful. On their day – not too often recently granted – they are awesome. They could well be the central pairing for Brazil at the World Cup in a few months – so why not for us now?
Out wide is where we have skill and talent in depth. We can call upon Lennon (too many have been detracting from his performances of late), Townsend (needs to get back into the top flight following his injuries) and Lamela (probably the most skilful of the trio – if not the swiftest). Chadli is a strong and powerful understudy while Siggy has shown a willingness to come off the bench and provide late support.
And that ignores the recent performances of Bentaleb and Dembele – both of whom have played well and will do so again.
In defence, it really is again a matter of who is fully fit as I would dearly love to see a Kaboul/Vertonghen central pairing but the longer Younes remains sidelined the longer I worry if he will ever come back.
Dawson and Chiriches have done okay but the pressure of playing every game for the past few months seems to have got the better of them both.
Walker and Rose are shoe-ins – mainly because the understudies are simply not up to the task – but their displays have been acceptable especially going forward. Rose in particular – since his return from injury – has been impressive but he has been caught out defensively when exposed, possibly due to Eriksen being asked to pay ahead of him and not covering back or even staying wide.
A simple case of picking eleven players and giving them all roles to play. No use in telling them to go out and enjoy themselves. Or run around a bit.
Football is a team game. By all means pick the best eleven players at your disposal, but make sure they all know their role – when we have the ball – and more importantly when the opposition have it.
Formations may not matter but the balance to the team does.