The home squad lined up in their usual 4-4-1-1 shape, with Louis Saha finding himself up top with Tim Cahill withdrawn in the hole. Magaye Gueye got a start on the left, and Leon Osman took up the right midfield role.
Paul Lambert rolled Norwich out in a 4-4-2 diamond. Steve Morison and Grant Holt were the two strikers up top, with Wes Hoolahan dropping right in behind them as a playmaking attacker. Morison was the primary target man throughout the match, dropping left to accept aerial passes. The other three midfielders maintained a more defensive shape.
David Moyes’ tactic emphasized ruling the wings with his fullbacks. Osman and Gueye were asked to cut in and make diagonal runs, allowing Leighton Baines and Tony Hibbert to roam their respective touchlines. This was a necessity for the Toffees, since the three defending midfielders for Norwich were compact, restricting the central areas.
Early on, Everton’s quality of possession was better, with much of the first half-hour spent in their attacking third. Their best chance of that stretch came on a cross by Baines, which Cahill backheeled into Marouane Fellaini’s path into the 6-yard box. The Belgian international was able to get his foot on the ball, but John Ruddy covered right in front of it to end the effort. Osman also had a 16 yard effort headed off the line by Russell Martin. Saha also took a low shot from just outside the 18 which glided just past the far post. With all of that possession though, as is often the case with the Toffees, the finishing instinct was found lacking.
Norwich City took the lead in the 28th minute against the run of play on a superior effort by Holt. Morison was able to gain possession off a set piece and he passed it to Holt, being marked closely by John Heitinga. Holt used his right foot to roll the ball past Heitinga, turned quickly, and struck a left footed shot past Tim Howard against the far post and in. The direct route that the Canaries used through Morison earned them a halftime 0-1 lead at Goodison.
The match wasn’t a tactical battle by any stretch. The Canaries did get Tierney a little more involved down the left, but the 2nd half continued to see Norwich being more content to absorb the Everton attack than to dictate it themselves. Norwich City had a great chance to go ahead by two when David Fox sent a long ball into the area, and Holt headed it towards the net. The ball looked at the corner, but wouldn’t dip enough to get Holt his second tally of the match.
The change that turned the match for Everton was the addition of Royston Drenthe, replacing Gueye. In effect, Moyes had played Osman and Gueye as inside wingers the entire match, but it wasn’t until he subbed on the Dutch winger that they had the added pace and strong left foot to make that tactic effective. Drenthe remained mostly on the right, and in the 81st minute he cut inside off the wing and took a shot from the 18. Osman was able to redirect the shot past Ruddy inside the near post for the equalizer. Drenthe nearly pocketed the game-winner 6 minutes later, as he struck a hard, knucking shot that ended up too close to the keeper. He knocked the shot over the bar to preserve the tie.
There are too many matches like this for Everton. They’re barely averaging a goal per game, and this drought has left them looking up at most of the table. It will be interesting to see if Landon Donovan can provide the spark up front that the Toffees have been lacking. Moyes seems to be a manager that predicates himself on defensive security above offensive efficacy. Drenthe saved the point for Everton, but has had a difficult time getting onto the pitch. I assume that this is because Moyes likes players who will contribute at both ends, and the loanee from Real Madrid seems like a pure attacker. In any event, Everton need goals, being near the bottom in the league in goals scored, and maybe Donovan will provide some magic – at least for two months.