This a report looking at Everton’s defensive shape and Manchester City’s attacking shapes.
This was a very intriguing game with Manchester City dominating possession with 63% whilst making nearly double the number of completed passes 496 vs. 253. However as good as Manchester City were in recycling and maintaining possession Everton’s defence was excellent in the first half. Manchester City lined up in their now custom 4-2-2-2 with when in possession changing to a 2-2-4-2 Clichy and Richards pushing on past Barry and Toure. In addition when building from Hart, Toure would act as a modern centre back starting the move from the back before drifting forward unmarked with Barry occupying the middle at all times. Everton played a standard 4-4-2 with Fellaini moving forward with Phil Neville coming into the midfield but as the half moved on Everton’s shape and role of players changed as we will discuss.
0 – 15 Minutes
As anticipated in the preview City attacked Everton down their week right with Everton trying to hit City on the counter attack with Baines and direct balls to Fellaini and Cahill. The key combination of Nasri, Aguero and Clichy with Barry in support was excellent with City always having Richards as an outlet wide right against Baines. Manchester City threatened to open up Everton earl and should have scored through Dzeko after Jagielka’s mistake. What was interesting was the way David Moyes set up Everton to close out City restricting them to one shot on target after 33 minutes.
In the first half Everton’s defence was exceptional with the Moyes changing the shape as the half went on. Fellaini and Cahill both applied pressure to the CBs as Everton tired to prevent any direct forward passes to Silva and Nasri with Neville man marking
the former. In the first 5- 10 minutes Everton struggled to maintain City with them really applying pressure down Everton’s right however from 15 minutes on Everton didn’t look like conceding. This was down to the shape taken up by Everton and the fantastic Rodwell who after Neville tried, man marked Silva pretty much out of the game who was unlucky to receive a yellow card for a challenge that saw him win the ball. Osman with no natural winder to occupy him was able to tuck in and play as a withdrawn CM when out of possession. However with the clever Silva trying to drag Rodwell out of the position Osman had huge gaps to cover between Nasri and Toure which City really should of done better with.
The final piece of the jigsaw saw Neville almost play as a sweeper in front of the back four with his key role being to protect the area
between Hibbert and Jagielka which with Everton defending the 18yrd box prevented any quick give and goes between Aguero and Nasri.
25 – 45 Minutes
As City pushed on Everton needed further reinforcements in the middle of the park. This was provided by Cahill and Fellaini with the former actually making a 3rd CB for the last 15 minutes preventing Dzeko exploit the space left by Rodwell marking Silva and Neville plugging the left. Fellaini dropped in as a more orthodox CM with a role of blocking the recycled ball from Barry. As a result of this City were nullified through the middle with Aguero and Dzeko both ineffective. Running out of ideas and space City tired to
exploit Everton round the side of the full backs however as highlighted in the pre match review City have only scored one goal from a cross and looking at the quality of crosses you can see why.
Mancini in an attempt to create more space in the middle for Dzeko and Silva moved Nasri wide right. While this created space, it also allowed Everton back into the game with Osman being able to revert back to the left side while Cahill and Fellaini were not required to drop as deep to push forward again. As a result Everton from 48 minutes were on top of the match and started to create on the counter attack through Baines and Coleman.
The two critical moments in the game happened within 6 minutes of each other. Mancini realised he needed to change things with Dzeko and Aguero still ineffective and brought on the talented Balotelli on 60 minutes. Added to this Everton where forced to substitute the excellent Cahill on 66 minutes after he dived in on Kompany but ended up worse off. As a result Everton lost the leader, key defensive cover and best player and City had more mobility. 2 minutes later City scored with a moment of brilliance from Balotelli and Aguero who for the first time had space to run.
The move started with a dubious through taken by Nasri ending at Aguero’s feet who had the space to dribble from right to left un opposed. As seen in the picture the space left by Cahill’s absence wasn’t picked up by Fellaini.
As Aguero dribbled the ball Silva dragged Rodwell into the box who was till carrying out his man marking duties with Balotelli moving the oposite direction to outside the box. This move gave Balotelli the space as Everton’s defence was momentarily moved out of kilter with no midfield cover in the middle for the first time.
From this moment on Everton were always going to find it hard to get back int he game while trying to push forward to get an equaliser leaving more space for Baletelli to probe. IOn the end a dire mistake by Drenthe gifting the ball to City before Silva now with time and space showed is class holding of Distin and Jagielka to play an inch perfect ball for Milner to seal the win.
This was an interesting tactical battle between two excellent managers. The key change came when Cahill was froced to leave the ptich and Dzeko was removed from play. While City desrved the win with out this I thin the result could of been very different, well a dra at least.