Through wide areas, Hull City has found a lot of its success, and Steven Naismith has become the centerpiece of Everton’s alternative system of play.
Hull Raids The Flanks
When Ahmed Elmohamady went on trial with Steve Bruce’s Sunderland in 2009, the Egyptian flank-raider changed his career. The Wearside club tried to sign the converted right back, but failed to bring him to the Premier League until a season-long loan was penned a few months later, and after impressing at right back, Elmohamady was signed to a permanent deal.
After Bruce and the Black Cats parted ways, he did not get regular football until Bruce signed him to Hull, where he became an integral part of the two-wing back system that helped the Tigers gain promotion to the nation’s top flight. The Egyptian is decent defensively, but his contributions going forward must be recognized. A lot of Hull’s goals originate from the flanks, especially Elmohamady’s. If you have been following Hull’s last three games, one finish per game has originated from that right side.
Elmohamady provided the assist on the first two goals, while Liam Rosenior whipped in the ball that led to Eliaquim Mangala’s error. On the other side, Andrew? Robertson was signed to run the left flank, after Rosenior struggled there last season. With Elmohamady and Robertson being the first choice full backs, Rosenoir was simply and extra body to get in the way of Manchester City’s inverted wide players. Rosenoir’s Egyptian teammate stood ahead of him to provide a double block on the right flank.
While moving Elmohamady into midfield was a match day tactic, attacking down the flanks is a theme. In their first six games of the season, 40% of attacks have come down the right side and 36% have come from the left.
As a result of its wide game, Bruce has a solid pair of strikers in his team in Abel Hernandez and Nikica Jelavic. Both are more than capable of getting onto the end of crosses. In the center, Tom Huddlestone, Mohamed Diame, and Jake Livermore provide the right amount of strength and power in the middle of the pitch.
With so much strength on the flanks, Hull is extremely versatile. Bruce is a tactically adept manager, who can have his team play 3-5-2 and get away with it due to the width from the full backs, and a diamond 4-4-2, which met mixed reviews against West Ham, when Diame was first introduced the lineup. Of course the 4-4-2 is an option as well.
Nevertheless, Hull’s best chances come from the flanks, as the wide players whip the ball in over and over again.
The Scottish Messi
If you take a look down Everton’s roster and think about Roberto Martinez as manager and that he’s hip, modern, and dresses pretty well, you would probably think that Everton play 4-2-3-1. It’s pretty self-explanatory who the back four would be. James McCarthy and Gareth Barry would make up the midfield engine, while Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith, and Aidan McGeady – give or take Christian Atsu, and Ross… oh, too soon.
Last season, though there were times when Naismith was deployed as a center-forward with directions to drop deep to get the ball. He might not have the dribbling ability of Lionel Messi, but we can put the same label on them when it comes to their off-the-ball movement. The deep-lying – ‘false nine’ slot is nothing new for attackers, though it seems to be utilized more amongst intelligent footballers with solid finishing abilities, than ones with creativity on the ball.
The match against Arsenal got a lot of attention, because the Toffies dominated the match and came away with a 3-0 victory, but the Naismith-based system has continued since their triumph, and it has almost become the default for Everton.
Martinez’s model works with his attacking personnel. Romelu Lukaku is a big boy who can hold up play, though he’s also a dynamo going forward. Playing him down the right is lethal, because he can run into the space opened up by Naismith’s runs away from goal. Many coaches believe that it is more dangerous to have forwards heading towards goal, as opposed to playing with their backs to it. Lukaku on the flanks gets him running at defenders. The United States’ national team would tell you, that in the Belgian is more than capable of doing so successfully.
Lukaku works as a wide forward, because he uses his power to act as a battering ram. Mirallas plays down the left, which might not be ideal, but his roll is similar to that of winger, which he is accustomed to in the 4-2-3-1. In the coming weeks, McGeady will have to fill in for Mirallas, who suffered a hamstring tear against Liverpool that puts him out for four weeks.
Naismith’s role in the squad is to drop back and link up play. He helps out the center midfielders and leaves a huge hole ahead of the center backs, as seen below.
The problem with the shape is that when Lukaku’s movement becomes stagnant the game plan is thwarted. Against Liverpool, it was hard to penetrate the Reds, because Moreno stayed close to Lukaku to limit the space he could get into. To make this tactic as successful as the gaffer would like, Lukaku will have to find new ways to get into space and blast through such areas, in which Everton can exploit its opposition.
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