Film Focus: Key Questions Facing Everton Ahead of Clash with Manchester City

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Film Focus: Key Questions Facing Everton Ahead of Clash with Manchester City
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Everton's penultimate game of the season plays a key role in deciding the destiny of the Premier League title.

Manchester City visit Goodison Park and must take all three points or risk losing ground to Liverpool.

Everton, whose top-four ambitions have faded, are in the unusual position of knowing a win would help out their rivals, putting the Reds back in control.

With the aid of some film, stats and graphics, here's a look ahead to the Toffees' final home bow.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

 

Is Anyone Fit?

Before any tactics, analysis or predictions are discussed, a pressing concern for Roberto Martinez is exactly who can take the field.

Kevin Mirallas, Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar, Bryan Oviedo, Lacina Traore, Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka all missed the Toffees' previous match, and will—at the very least—remain doubts for this match. 

Additionally, Leighton Baines and Steven Naismith struggled with knocks against Southampton, while Gareth Barry is ineligible to face his former club.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

In short, Martinez has his most depleted squad to pick from, with anything between seven and 11 players missing.

 

Who Replaces Gareth Barry?

Arguably, the biggest is Barry.

On and off the balland at both ends of the pitchthe Manchester City man has provided the Toffees with control, enforcing Martinez's possession-based style to perfection.

Primarily, he is the Toffees' chief passer, tasked with keeping a high tempo while gradually moving his side up the pitch.

via BT Sport App

This starts in defence, where he slots back to help his centre-backs, looking to attract opposing markers up the field. 

If this doesn't work, he's asked to find a way through two banks of four, either by finding a diagonal pass or by beginning a series of quick combinations.

via Sky Go App

Unsurprisingly, Barry has been his side's leading passer in 21 of the 31 Premier League games he's started this season.

Most attacks have his imprint on them at some stage, and his ability to disrupt opponents makes his influence just as vital off the ball.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

So, who can replace him?

Ross Barkley and Leon Osman are the main options, but neither will fully cover his skill set. Barkley has the ability to play or pass through an opponent, but is perhaps more of a risk playing deep inside his half.

Osman would be a safer choice on the ball, but can be passed alarmingly easily by opposing midfielders. This is Martinez's biggest call for Saturday.

 

Will Martinez Change Formation?

Due to an overly populated treatment room, as well as Barry's ineligibility, Martinez will also be toying with the idea of changing shape.

Everton have predominantly lined up with a 4-2-3-1 system, but the Catalan has increasingly used a more counter-attacking 4-3-3 during recent matches.

Not only would this condense space in the middle, making Everton's core more compact, but it would also allow Naismith and Romelu Lukaku to combine more freely in attackas was the case against Arsenal.

via Everton TV

As the above graphic shows, Lukaku would frequently burst in from the right, taking his full-back with him while also grabbing the attention of a centre-back.

Naismith would then capitalise on this, regularly looping around behind the Belgian, creating a classic overlap.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Their interchanging brought success against Arsenal and was also the case for long periods of the 2-0 win over Manchester United.

 

Sacrifice Possession, as vs. Manchester United?

Shape may not be the only trait mimicked from the Manchester United game.

Everton also changed styles in that game, abandoning Martinez's philosophy of possession football in favour of a counter-attacking approach.

This resulted in just 39 percent possession, the Toffees' lowest tally of the season, yet the win was one of the more convincing.

Despite allowing United to dominate possession, Everton recorded 17 shots while restricting their opponents to ninejust three of which came from inside the box.

via Everton TV

As the above graphic shows, Everton's breaks were deliberate and well rehearsed in training. Runs were expected, and the Toffees regularly capitalised on a dishevelled back line.

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This will almost certainly be a method revisited during this game, with possession sacrificed in favour of more cutting-edge attacks.

City will be given the ball and asked to play through a heavily populated final third; any turnover will see Everton commit to the break and seek out space left at the back.

This is the Toffees' best way of taking the points, as has regularly been the case in this fixture.

 

Statistics via WhoScored.com and Squawka.

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