A Game of Two Halves

By Gareth Cooper 30/09/2015  0 Comments  [Jump to last]
Looking back at the emotional shift that occurred for myself (and the bulk of Evertonians) on Monday night, I started thinking that this is becoming something of a habit. More often than not this season, I've felt that squirming feeling of doubt poking at my faith in the Blues to come out of games with a win. This is because, for some reason, we seem to have taken an age to kick-start ourselves into action, or, like Monday, need the opposition to spur us into action with a couple of swipes to the gut.

The good news is that we do eventually get going and start playing the way we can, but my question is: Why are we not getting into this position earlier in games? Why in most of our games (excluding v Chelsea and Southampton) do we only get going around the hour mark?

My take is that this is a case of the exceptions proving the rule (in a round-about way). In those two games, the way Mr Martinez set us up was slightly different to our other matches. He went with a formula used for some tough games last season (the best example I can think of is the home win v Man Utd) built around solid defence and potent – and most importantly 'fast' – counter-attacking. This to me is how Mr Martinez likes to tackle games against teams he feel pose the most potent attacking threats, by encouraging them on to us and then hitting them hard in the gaps they leave.

I would say, based on the Chelsea and Southampton games, this style has worked pretty well this season. The only duff attempt was v Man City, who themselves attack in a more calculated manner (IMHO); albeit I don't think we were too bad that game.

Back to the original thrust... In games we expect to win, or the perception is we need to attack or break down teams, the chemistry from the start isn't quite right. Mr Martinez won't be too gung-ho attacking and the speed of play slows, taking away our most threatening players' edge. The set-up is more conservative and I feel this is a slight hangover from last season when we were often exposed at the back. The football may be neat, and thankfully we look much more assured in defense, but we rarely make the breakthrough, especially against well-drilled defensive units of the Pulis ilk. We are then prone ourselves to the odd error (Mr Barry this time) and the suckerpunch.

As I said before, the good news is we seem able to respond (Barnsley, Reading, West Brom, Watford), if a little too slowly for our increasingly fraying nerves. The real frustration for me is the loss of points through drawing with teams we could beat. The missing piece of the puzzle for me is how we take these teams on earlier in the game avoiding the need to bring our shovels every week to dig ourselves out of self-dug holes!

Get this right and maintain our defensive poise and we could be looking at another Martinez Season 1, rather than the somewhat disappointing sequel. Getting this part of our game to click will be all-important given our run of fixtures from November to January against very 'beatable' teams. The right approach could leave us in a very strong position come the New Year.

Do others see this the same way, or are there other takes on our early season form?

Finally, and off topic, made up with the performance of our young lads at the moment. The future seems a brighter shade of blue.

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