Everton will be looking to build on a decent away performance at Tottenham, as they take on the struggling Queens Park Rangers this weekend. Shaun Maloney’s free kick has almost certainly condemned QPR to relegation, but the Toffees must be wary of a side that is full of genuine quality.
The onus will be on Everton, buoyed by the return of Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar, to take this game by the scruff of the neck and secure all three points. As per usual, manager David Moyes will have some sure-fire tactical ploys to ensure Everton are victorious come Saturday evening.
There were a lot of pundits who felt that Everton and QPR would be finishing in about the same position prior to the inception of this campaign. QPR actually started life back in the Premier League after their hiatus with a 1-0 win at Goodison Park in 2011.
But almost two years on, while Everton have arguably slightly overachieved, under Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp, the Loftus Road outfit have come well short of even reserved expectations. Their current squad looks bereft of any kind of trust or confidence in each other.
Their cause will not be helped by an Everton team who have been gathering a head of steam in the league as of late, sparking hopes of a late charge for European Football. For Coach Moyes, anything but a win here will surely extinguish those flickering hopes. Here is how their manager will look to prevent that from happening:
Beware Of Counter Attacks
Watching QPR as of late, all of their goals seem to come when hitting teams on the break, particularly when they utilise the pace and quality of Loic Remy. The Frenchman's thunderbolt against Wigan, his strike against Fulham and his opener against Southampton have all come from counter attacks.
From an attacking perspective, this is undoubtedly where QPR pose the biggest threat to Everton. In Remy, Adel Taarabt, Andros Townsend and Junior Hoilett, on their day they can counter with pace and a real purpose. They look to spring attacks from deep, dropping the ball behind the opposition back-four for the likes of Remy to run onto.
Everton look pretty well equipped to deal with this threat, however. Both full-backs are very energetic and should be more than capable of recovering quickly when Everton lose the ball, whereas Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin are two of the quicker centre-backs in the league.
One defensive area Everton will need to sharpen up on is the way in which both full-backs are protected by the wide midfielders in front of them. Against Tottenham, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman were pinned back by their opponents because the Everton midfield was far too narrow and unwilling to work backward.
The reintroduction of the industrious Pienaar will surely assist in this area. Whatever flank he has played in the past, he has always showed he is capable of working back and standing up defensively. Manager David Moyes has also called on Kevin Mirallas to “toughen up” in recent days; an improvement the Belgians defensive work will surely be one facet the Everton boss is referring to.
QPR Under Pressure
In many of QPR’s game this campaign, teams haven’t had to really do that much to win. Their games have been littered with basic mistakes. Even manager Harry Redknapp has not able to eradicate the self-capitulation, rash decision making and individual errors that have infected the teams play throughout a disastrous campaign.
With this in mind Everton have to put them under constant pressure. Expect them to close down every ball, contest every tackle and really test a group of players who look all but ready to throw in the towel.
If the Toffees can do this, Coach Redknapp’s side could be the masters of their own downfall. But if they stand off early and allow the QPR players time on the ball, they will grow in confidence. Despite their league position, they have some good players who are more than capable of doing some damage.
Expect Everton to fly out of the traps in this one. They will press high and look to break whatever lingering spirit this QPR side might have left by forcing them into early mistakes.
The performances of Kevin Mirallas have been well documented as of late. Back-to-back sensational individual goals against Stoke and Tottenham have made absolutely sure of that.
But truth be told, the Belgian flyer has made these opportunities from minimal time on the ball.
For a player who is in red-hot form, Everton haven’t really gotten the ball to him that much. The side has been set up to attack primarily through Baines for so many years and can often look very set in their ways going forward. In Mirallas, they have a player who can really hurt opposition defences. The need to utilise him.
Expect Mirallas and Pienaar to swap flanks throughout the 90 minutes. QPR will look to sit deep and attack directly, so space will be at a premium between the lines. But Mirallas needs to be clever in his movement and create angles for his teammates to find him.
You get the impression that the Everton players are sometimes a bit slow in picking out passes to Mirallas. It has been a long time since Everton had a player who was as pacey and direct as the Belgian (Andrei Kanchelskis was perhaps the last), so it is a new experience for all concerned. This is something the team will need to negotiate quickly, because with the form Mirallas is in, the more Everton can get him on the ball, the better.
As I have already alluded to, Baines and Coleman had a tough time against Tottenham. Both players put in uncharacteristically reserved attacking displays, but expect to see them marauding forward again in this contest.
With QPR dangerous on the break, the Everton full-backs must replicate Tottenham’s tactic from last week. Baines and Coleman need to push right up the pitch. This means that Townsend and Hoilett will have to constantly track them back and Coach Redknapp’s side will find it difficult to spring from deep with so many players in defensive areas.
If the QPR wide men don’t fancy tracking back, you would fancy Baines and Coleman to cause no end of problems in the wide areas, such is their ability to link up with Mirallas and Pienaar.
Neither of the QPR full-backs are particularly astute in their defensive duties, with both Armand Traore and Jose Bosingwa more comfortable when in advanced areas. If they are boxed in by Everton throughout the contest, both players have mistakes in them.
Keep It On the Deck
Marouane Fellaini coming back into the side certainly makes Everton a much stronger outfit. But they have been prone to going too direct, too early into their Belgian talisman when things aren’t quite going their way. They need to steer well clear of this tactic.
With Chris Samba in the back-four for QPR, the direct style would play right into the Londoners' hands. Samba has really struggled in recent weeks when teams have played neat and incisive passes around him. But if you launch a ball up front, the chances are he’ll go and win it.
Victor Anichebe will most likely start with Fellaini, giving Everton a really physical presence up front. But they must utilize both players correctly. Fellaini is more than capable of linking up in some of Everton’s eye-catching passing football and getting on the end of crosses into the box. Whereas Anichebe is a handful when he gets tight to defenders and passes into feet with his back to goal.
Neither really excel, however, when it comes to winning the ball from long punts upfield.
The two forward men, utilized in the correct manner, should cause no end of problems. Everton need to keep their patience, play smart and the goals will ultimately follow.
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