While David Moyes complained that his players failed to match the fluidity of recent displays against Arsenal, Manchester City and Spurs, and the fall-out of Marouane Fellaini’s headbutt dominated the news, Everton at least managed to impress FA tactical experts. Peter Glynn, editorial manager at the FA’s new St George’s Park national football centre, has delivered a breakdown of how he believes the Toffees should have prospered. Glynn, who is also a UEFA B Licence coach, published his analysis on the FA website as an example to young tacticians across the country. He felt Everton had the better individual players who might have turned the contest.
“Leighton Baines’ incessant scampering and attacking forays provide Everton’s main offensive thrust and the left-back’s precise delivery and cute combination is a regular source of concern for opponents,” he writes.
“Baines’ partner in crime is Steven Pienaar.
“Stationed ahead of the full-back, the former Tottenham winger provides an effective foil for Baines’ surges. Like a pedestrian stepping out of the way of traffic, Pienaar often finds himself tucked in from his perch allowing his team-mate to overlap on the outside.
“Tellingly, Pienaar’s inside-left role provides Baines with a target to bounce quick give-and-go passes off, allowing progression up the field.
“David Moyes was quick to admit this performance lacked the fluency and rhythm that have underlined other displays this term. But their best moments, particularly in the first half, occurred when the visitors’ moved the ball swiftly with minimal touches.
“Credit where due, Stoke’s Andy Wilkinson and Jonathan Walters provided a testing barrier for the Everton’s left-leaning duo.
“However, even the most eager of defenders struggle to deny passages of play which mix accurate first-time passing and quick, timely movement. The threat is intensified when the passing is threaded behind the opposition, picking out incisive forward runs.
“After taking a fortuitous lead from an inadvertent own goal from Shawcross, it was from this method that Everton should have doubled their lead, something no other team has achieved at the Britannia this season.” Glynn points to Leon Osman’s first half miss as a pivotal moment.
“With eight clean sheets, the Potters possess the mantle of best defence in the league but on this occasion were picked apart by Pienaar and Baines.
“The midfielder pirouetted away from the increasingly congested central area, before prodding an expertly weighted pass in behind Wilkinson for the road-runner legs of Baines.
“The England star produced a telling first-time cut back that evaded the incoming stampede to find Leon Osman, who inexplicably guided the ball wide from 12 yards out. It would prove to be a key juncture for the remainder of the contest.
“Baines’ composure in the final third was demonstration of expert decision-making. Lesser performers make poorer decisions when it matters most. Awareness is necessary until the very final moment of execution.
“Pienaar’s involvement in the crafting of the game’s best chance highlighted his technical value. The 30-year-old, currently in his second spell at Goodison Park, regularly demonstrated the ability to roll and squirm away from opponents possessing a defensive brief to mark tightly.
“Belying his relatively slight frame, Pienaar is a master in the art of using his body weight and balance, leaning into opponents and using his low centre of gravity to roll and spin away from opponents.
“It is a technique demonstrated by the very best, and a hallmark of Spain’s pocket-sized midfield dynamos Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and David Silva.
“The necessity of such technique has intensified since the death of the old adage ‘pass to players in space’.
“The most effective players and teams are comfortable receiving and manoeuvring the ball whilst under close attention.
“Receiving in tight spaces tempts and draws the opposition to the ball, allowing the ball to be quickly moved to exploit the additional space.
“Young players must regularly be exposed to practices which help them become comfortable receiving and protecting the ball when tightly marked.”