On Saturday, Everton managed to secure a point against Spurs in a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane. This result means that Everton have now come away with points in four of their last five away fixtures. That said, if it hadn’t been for the keeping heroics of Tim Howard, strong defending from the back line and the questionable finishing of Tottenham, the Toffees would have likely have been sent home pointless.
Don’t get me wrong, a point away from home against a club like Tottenham is good result, but I think many Everton fans were disappointed with the offensive play of the team. The Everton attack only managed to register eight shots and only three of those were on target. The only time the team looked even slightly threatening was Tom Cleverley’s shot at the fifteen minute mark. This disappointing attacking display left many wondering what the reason for this disjointed attacking effort was.
In this case, the answer is simple. Midfield width. Throughout the game, the left and right side of Everton’s midfield drifted too far into the center of the pitch, eliminating the number of options for build-up play. The lack of width clustered the midfield and allowed fewer Spur’s defenders to cover more Everton players. On the right side, Arouna Koné all but abandoned the flank several times leaving Seamus Coleman to deal with an entire third of the field by himself.
The player positions map, provided on Whoscored.com, shows Koné as being, on average, barely wider than either Romelu Lukaku or Ross Barkley were throughout the game. Considering Lukaku was in the number 9 role and Barkley was in a central attacking midfield position, Koné’s positioning was downright awful. Cleverley maintained width on the left much better than Koné did, but it still wasn’t as good as it needed to be or as good as it was after the introduction of Kevin Mirrallas in the second half.
While the players share part of the blame, specifically Koné, the personal selection is also to blame. We saw Martinez opting to field the same midfield we saw against Southampton and Manchester City. This choice came at the expense of Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu, the team’s natural wing players.
An interesting choice considering both were involved in midweek goals with the former soring one and the latter assisting three. The problem that I have with the selection isn’t that Koné and Cleverley are inferior players, but rather that they are natural to other positions, forward and central midfield respectively, which as we saw created a tendency for them to drift inward.
So, how does Everton make sure they don’t suffer from a width problem in the future? The solution on the right is to bench Koné and replace him with either Deulofeu or recently acquired Aaron Lennon. Not only are both of these players traditionally fielded as right midfielders, they have already shown that they are good enough to be in the starting XI and that they can employ the style Martinez wants the club to play.
If, for some reason, Martinez is intent on keeping faith with Koné, it would probably be best to field two strikers and shift to a 4-4-2 formation rather than the 4-2-3-1 formation currently being employed. Because of Cleverley’s injury, Mirrallas is already likely to step in on the left, which solves the other half of the width problem. With a home match against Chelsea coming up after the international break, we can only hope Martinez will switch things up in the midfield.