Both Everton and Newcastle United had similar 4-week stretches leading up to the 7:45 pm kick-off at Goodison Park.
Everton had suffered an exasperating last-minute defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, while Newcastle United were still scorched from West Ham’s torrid counter-attacks. Before the weekend, though, both clubs had enjoyed bountiful November point returns.
Head-to-head, Everton had owned Newcastle for a number of years. In fact, not since the 28th of December 2014 had Newcastle taken points from the Toffees.
This was a doubly enjoyable match as it was Alan Pardew’s final match as manager, although it did usher John “I still think I’m the best coach in the Premier League” Carver.
When Newcastle Had Possession
In this match, Newcastle having possession was a rarity; Everton saw the ball 76% of the time to Newcastle’s 24% share.
In attack, Newcastle utilised a mix of long balls and short passing, and they tended to favour their right flank. 3 of their 5 most frequent passing combos were the following: Yedlin > Atsu, Yedlin > Schär, and Atsu > Schär. This highlights how Fabian Schär has turned into a support midfielder in attacks, allowing Yedlin to push up while remaining an outlet for recycling possession.
When they weren’t building through the right flank, the ball was typically distributed via long balls from the back. Dubravka, Fernandez, and Schär were responsible for nearly 70% of all attempted long balls in the match.
In defence, Everton applied a high amount of defensive pressure, reflected with a PPDA average of 6.0. Outfield players tended to close down as possession was lost, and applied their brand of counter-pressure even through the latter stages of the match.
When Everton Had Possession
Roughly 85% of Everton’s passes were classified as ‘short’, and slightly over 40% of their attacks were focused down their left flank. Lucas Digne was an important cog in the match, as the top passing sequence was Yerry Mina > Digne. Other sequences, such as Digne > Gomes & Digne > Richarlison, also featured high passing volumes.
Andre Gomes was also an important factor for Everton’s buildups. In fact, Gomes had the highest possession share of everyone on the pitch, seeing the ball 11% of the time. Along with that possession share, Andre Gomes also initiated at least 8 passing sequences with each Everton attacker – his influence was hard to ignore.
In defence, Newcastle United had a slightly poor PPDA average of 13.8. This means that Everton was able to pass the ball nearly 14 times before a Newcastle player attempted a defensive action.
In the first half, Newcastle would begin closing down Everton players roughly as the halfway line was breached. In the second half, that defensive pressure was dialled back, and Newcastle players tended to stay in their defensive zones rather than close down.
Whereas most matches tend to have frantic opening stages, this one actually demonstrated patterns that’d be reflected throughout.
By the fifteenth minute, the possession share we’d see at full time (Everton 76%-24% Newcastle) was already established. Also, Everton had attempted 7 shots to Newcastle’s 3.
Most notably, in the 16’ Gylfi Sigurdsson found space at the right edge of the box and picked out Richarlison. Richarlison attempted two shots on goal, though Fabian Schär was able to snuff out both.
19’ Rondon (EVE 0-1 NEW)
Fernandez does well to hustle possession off Lookman in the middle of Newcastle’s half. He then passes the ball to the left wing, finding Jacob Murphy. Murphy finds acres of space to run into on the left hand side, closely tracked down by Seamus Coleman. Jacob takes the ball close to the byline on the left, now under pressure from Coleman and Gueye, drops his shoulder and puts in a cross for Rondon to latch onto.
38’ Richarlison (EVE 1-1 NEW)
After a plethora of corner kicks, Sigurdsson was bound to deliver one that would end up in goalscoring opportunity. Delivering a corner from Everton’s right wing, the ball ricochets between Fernandez and Mina, then subsequently moves to Lascelles on the far post. Lascelles’ first touch completely betrays him with the ball moving through his legs to Richarlison for an easy tap-in.
45′ to 60′
There were no changes in selection nor approach for either side, and the second half picked up where the first let off: Everton controlled nearly 80% of possession from 45’ to 60’.
However, as much as Everton dominated possession here, they were unable to produce any shot attempts. In fact, it was Newcastle who were able to break toward goal, with 2 shot attempts in the 15 minutes after half time.
The Final 30′
As Everton’s influence on the game became unshakable, Newcastle players found their tempers running short. Starting with Mo Diamé’s yellow at 60’, Newcastle received 5 yellow cards in the final third of the game.
Newcastle’s defensive pressure was nearly non-existent at this stage, as Everton completed 8 out of 10 dribbles during this stretch. However, even though the Toffees attempted 6 shots, 2 were blocked and 4 missed the target altogether. Along with allowing 0 shots on target, the Newcastle defence had 31 clearances during this time, typifying their bend-but-don’t-break setup.
Key Tactical Point
Everton’s Ball Dominance vs. Newcastle’s Back 3
With Newcastle utilising 3 centre backs, that meant there was one less attacker to both contribute to buildup and also apply defensive pressure to Everton’s midfielders. By shifting a body to the backline, this allowed an already possession-focused side even more space to prod for vulnerabilities in Newcastle’s setup.
While Newcastle are blessed with having depth at the centre back position, allowing for 4 strong options to select for a 3-back setup, the tactic still allows for confusion and breakdowns. In this match, the middle of the 3 (Lascelles) typically shadowed the forward, Cenk Tosun, while Fernandez marked Ademola Lookman & Schär handled Richarlison on the left. Richarlison’s craft movement challenged Schär’s decision-making, in terms of staying in the defensive shape vs. anticipating attacking exploits.
Nearing the end of 1st half, Fabian Schär had tried to close Richarlison, who was positioned in front of the Newcastle’s 18-yard box. Richarlison attempted a shot, and it had fallen up the pitch to Gueye. As Schär recognized the vulnerability at the back, Gueye spotted Digne further up in space. Digne then fired a cross to Tosun.
While a Back 3 can provide defensive stoutness, sacrificing a midfielder for the extra defender allows for this sort of prodding & pulling from the opposition. No setup is perfect, and Everton did well to find opportunities such as these.
By The Numbers
Fabian’s confidence in defence has grown with each appearance, and this was perhaps his most assured performance. He broke up play all over the pitch, was aggressive in snuffing out potential dangers, and he only committed 2 fouls in spite of the sheer amount of shutdowns and ball recoveries.
Along with that, his propensity to catalyze attacks, either through diagonals or by dribbling forward into space, has given Newcastle an extra flavour in attacks.
Fabian Schär’s influence was felt throughout the match on this day, and it was almost always a positive contribution.
Honourable Mention: Ki Sung-Yeung
Andre Gomes was the fulcrum of Everton’s side. He had the most touches of everyone on the pitch, and he also attempted & completed the most attacking third passes.
Gomes kept a lively tempo on the ball, and he was also of the biggest contributors toward defensive actions for Everton. Andre Gomes’ vision on the ball and his industriousness off the ball was arguably the biggest factor in Everton’s controlling the balance of play.
Honourable Mention: Richarlison
A Back 3 setup coupled with conservative defensive pressure translated into an evening of Everton dominating the ball. And yet, Newcastle were able to connect more shots on target, as Everton were unable to find the target in the 2nd half. Everton were perhaps the better side on this day, but Newcastle soaked up their pressure and did create danger on the counter. Their performance fully merited the clinched away point.
As is usually the case, Rafa puts it best:
“We were defending well and well organised, and doing a fantastic job, the only thing we were not expecting was the chances on the counter-attack that we could have been more clinical with. We scored a great goal but we still had two or three chances in the first half, and a couple of chances in the second half, it could have been different.
…we have to give credit to them, they are a good team and they played well. It was not easy to play against our team or break us down. You cannot forget they have won their last four home games, they did well in the Merseyside derby too… But, again, I will say that when you get a point against a good team, away from home, you have to be pleased.”