It goes without saying that Everton’s defensive record has been somewhat abject this season.
The Toffees have already conceded more goals in the Premier League during the current campaign – 41 to be exact – than in the entirety of last season, when a final total of 39 goals were shipped in a campaign that saw Roberto Martinez’s men defy expectations and finish in fifth position with a Premier League points record for the Goodison based side.
Undoubtedly, scoring more goals would alleviate the pressure on the defence and aid the Blues in turning defeats into draws, and draws into victories but, with the current first team squad have drawn blanks in nine of the past fifteen league encounters, and with confidence low amongst Everton’s attacking players, it is up to Martinez to ensure that his defensive tactics are as robust as possible.
One particular area of concern for the Spaniard to consider is the amount of goalscoring opportunities that the Blues concede from the centre of the park.
This season alone, Everton have shipped 53% of the goals against them via the centre of the field of play – 24% down their inside right flank, and 29% down the inside left.
This prominent area of the pitch was the subject of 57% of the goals conceded during the Catalan’s debut season in charge of the Toffees last season too (36% down the inside right, and 21% down the inside left), which lends further credence to an area of the 41 year old’s tactics that is exploited by opposing sides time and time again.
One logical explanation would be the lack of defensive cover that the Blues’ wingers, or inside forwards, offer their full backs when Everton are not in possession of the ball, resulting in Everton’s central midfield pair, for any particular game, having to aid their defensive colleagues in preventing crosses from the wing positions.
It would not take much to determine that this, in turn, leaves the Toffees vulnerable in the central positions to shots on goal – a conclusion backed up by the statistic that Martinez’s charges concede almost two thirds of the opposition’s overall attempts on goal from the middle of the park compared to the flanks and byeline.
In an attempt to combat this, the Blues boss could instruct his wide players to increase their defensive duties which, naturally, would allow the defensive midfield pair to shield the central areas much more effectively, and cause opposition offensive players to think twice about how to break down such a stubborn resistence.
Of course, such a tactical move would leave the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Arouna Kone isolated up front, and could result in Everton becoming hemmed in their own half. However, the Blues are not without pace in their side, and are an outfit that are known to execute counter attacks with devastating effect ever since Martinez took charge almost two summers ago – as shown in matches against BSC Young Boys, West Ham United, Wolfsburg and Astona Villa over the course of the season.
This one slight tweak to Martinez’s overall tactics won’t make the Blues world beaters overnight, or rectify what has been a disappointly poor season compared to last season’s standards, but if shoring up the inside channels provides a solid platform for Everton to go out and get positive results in the league and, in turn, secure mid-table safety by the campaign’s end, it might be an adjustment worth making.