Tactical Breakdown: Analysing How Everton Use Marouane Fellaini
David Moyes' Everton side is the best it's ever been thanks to several key performers in important areas of the field.
Leighton Baines has been his consistent, brilliant self this season, but it's arguable that Marouane Fellaini's new role is the catalyst for just three defeats in 30 games for the English Premier League side.
Let's take a look at how Everton use Fellaini and then subsequently how that opens the pitch up for everyone else.
Who'd have thought Fellaini would prove a lethal second striker?
The Belgian holding midfielder has undergone a drastic change in his game over the past 12 months, going from screener to primary scoring threat.
Circled is Fellaini, in the supporting role behind lone striker Nikica Jelavic.
It became apparent through 2012 how good he was at using his chest and bringing the ball down with consummate ease. That got the cogs in Moyes' brain turning, and he developed an ingenious way of using Fellaini's size and technical skill.
Stick him up front and you've got an unwanted 4-4-2 formation with Fellaini battling a hardened centre-back—what a waste. Drop him off the forward line slightly, and you've got a huge chance of winning every aerial contest he enters.
When he pairs up with a holding midfielder, you know who's going to win that matchup. He drops deep enough to stop the centre-back creeping up on him, unless he spots a weakness and punishes the opposition (Michael Carrick still has nightmares).
The result is an easy option to shift the ball 30, 40 or even 50 yards forward. The passing charts for each of his games are astounding.
Far post threat
His increased exposure in the forward areas makes him the go-to guy for crosses and free kicks too.
He's become a superb foil at the far post, giving his teammates a really easy target to hit. Loft it in and the ball is fair game; Fellaini will likely win the knock down. If you scuff the kick and it falls short, it's going straight into the mix for someone else to battle for.
Baines is a crossing wizard, but his Belgian colleague makes it easy for him.
Opening up the left
Aside from the aerial presence, the ease of use and goalscoring threat Fellaini provides, perhaps the primary reason he's so important to his side is that he allows Everton to boss games from the left.
All his good play has allowed Baines and Steven Pienaar the space to form the most potent left-side partnership in the EPL, as teams don't have the resources to double-mark three players.
Take this example from Everton's win over Southampton. Fellaini attracts the attention of no less than six players in the middle of the park, lays the ball to his teammate who threads Nikica Jelavic for a goal.
Later in the same game, Fellaini picks the ball up from deep, releases Seamus Coleman down the right who crosses for Kevin Mirallas to finish. He makes it look easy, and it's all done in three or four moves.
Everyone is looking at the Belgian, and it allows the Toffees so much room between the centre-backs and on the flanks.
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