Everton vs Newcastle United – Tactical analysis

A quick look at last night’s entertaining match at Goodison between Everton and Newcastle United.Newcastle have a poor record going to Everton, having only won 1 of 9 visits to Goodison before this fixture. Everton are strong at home, with a tight pitch and intimidating atmosphere and Newcastle were missing 4 first XI players. Everton, on the other hand, were full strength besides missing Darron Gibson.

The 2-2 draw is a terrific result for Newcastle, having come from behind twice and credit to Pardew for his half time changes that shall be discussed below.

Newcastle started in a much demanded 4-3-3 shape, with Papiss Cissé the lone striker. Pardew chose Marveaux on the right and swapped Ben Arfa over to the left, in order to deal with the most potent fullback-winger combination in the league – the Bainaar threat. Ben Arfa would be up against the experienced (but slow) Tony Hibbert and the more disciplined Marveaux was given the task of protecting the injured Simpson’s replacement James Perch (fullback is generally his strongest position). Vurnon Anita and Jonas Gutierrez were sitting centrally behind Yohan Cabaye in a 5 man midfield. Demba Ba was on the bench and Steve Harper started in goal for the injured Tim Krul. Newcastle named only 1 out and out defender on the bench.

Everton started in their usual 4-4-1-1 shape, with the bullish Fellaini in the space behind Jelavic, a fellow Belgium in Mirallas on the right and Pienaar on the left. Osman and Neville sat in central midfield. The defence was as expected.

Passing tempo:

What stuck out in the opening twenty minutes was the speed and tempo of Everton’s passing. Quick spreading of the play from right to left, with Everton’s midfielders rarely taking more than 2 touches, Newcastle’s numerical advantage in central midfield was nullified. Mirallas and Pienaar were drifting infield from wide, leaving space for the fullbacks to get forward. The right footed Pienaar is excellent at using his body to protect the ball when cutting in from the left and this leaves space for Baines to overlap and whip in those trademark crosses. Newcastle dropped incredibly deep, with neither Taylor nor Williamson being brave enough to hold the line as both lack decent covering speed. Fellaini was constantly drifting over to the left side in the final third to challenge Williamson for headers (not as physical in the air as Taylor) and with neither Gutierrez nor Anita stepping infront of him Fellaini brought down numerous long passes in dangerous areas. Jelavic’s constant movement was preoccopying Taylor (until his injury).

Build up:

Newcastle’s build up was non-existent, with Anita still getting used to the Premier League (perhaps slightly intimidated and not really looking for the ball) and the limited Gutierrez not capable of quick passing out the back. Newcastle miss Coloccini massively in their build up. His ability to carry the ball into the midfield from the defence and create an extra man is missed when Williamson plays. It was clear on one occasion when Anita played the ball to Perch, who, lacking proactive movement/option from Williamson, stalled on the ball and lost the ball, resulting in a dangerous transition and a narrow miss by Pienaar. Harper played numerous long balls to an isolated Cissé, who is very average with his back to goal.


Marveaux struggled to control Baines and the goal was a very predictable situation. Newcastle stood off as Baines had the ball (deciding not to press with numerical advantage), Baines played a 1-2 with Pienaar and Gutierrez merely observed as Baines ran past him. Harper’s reactions were an indication of his age but he is not to blame for a poorly defended goal. Much deserved lead for Everton at half time.


With Pardew unable to make alterations until halftime (due to his touchline ban), the second half saw big changes to personnel and tactics. Marveaux off and Ba on, Newcastle switched to a 4-4-2 formation, with Anita moving to right back, Perch to centre mid and Gutierrez switched to the right wing (with a focus on tracking Baines).

Demba Ba’s introduction was instantly effective, with Newcastle winning the ball in midfield, Cissé and Ba each occupied a centre back 1v1 and Ba pulled away off the shoulder of Jagielka (who is slow in transitions). Cabaye played a pass similar to his assist for Cissé against Swansea last season and Ba finished well on his weaker foot.

Ba is a much more all round 9 than Cissé (who is a natural poacher only) and he had a massive impact, controlling a number of long balls on his chest and linking play with Ben Arfa (who improved in the second half). His work rate and runs troubled Jagielka and Distin, and his introduction created much more threatening 2v2 situations for the strikers against the centre backs.


The last half an hour saw the play switch from one side to the other in an enthralling “classic Premier League” game. Desperate defending, goals disallowed and a last minute equaliser, the game finished breathless. The madness of the match was summed up when Cabaye made an advanced run late into injury time but failed to receive the ball. High up the field, out of position and in a dangerous transition for Everton with Cabaye raggedly jogging back, the camera showed Pardew screaming into his phone to get the message down to the bench for Bigirimana to come on for him. Panic stations ensued.


As a final note, what the Pienaar and Baines combination highlights is how important it is to have the right partnerships and balance in teams, especially with your winger and fullback. When Pienaar drifts in, Baines has a great intuition when to time his runs to join the attack or when to be more conservative. It would have been interesting if Newcastle had managed to sign Debuchy in the transfer window for this reason alone. With Ben Arfa more at home on the right side due to his ability to protect the ball with his body and tendency to cut in on his natural left foot (the exact same to Pienaar on the opposite wing), an attacking right back like Debuchy would be ideal to overlap past Ben Arfa to provide more width. The French duo have a good relationship in the national side to this extent, both playing down the right in the Euro 2012 French warm up games. This would also help when teams use defensive wingers to double up on Ben Arfa. In theory, Newcastle could create their own ‘Bainaar’.

Alan Pardew, post match:

“We just lacked belief [in the first half]. You cannot enter any games lacking belief.

“I knew changing the belief at half-time was the key ingredient. Half-time gave me a chance to put belief in the team. In the second half we gave a good account of ourselves, and not many teams will twice come back here with the players we have missing.”

Demba Ba’s agent, Alex Gontran, Sep 18:

“How could you put your best striker with full confidence on the left wing? The choice to put Demba on the left last season was good for the club, because Cissé scored 13 goals, but there was a lack of recognition for Demba. It is more difficult to play well when you don’t have the confidence of your staff.”


About Andy Forrester

Andy Forrester is a professional football match and opposition analyst based in Qatar. All views are his own.

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