Man United concede fewer shots at Old Trafford under David Moyes but have sacrificed attacking potency – quite the opposite to Roberto Martinez’s impact at Goodison Park
By George Ankers
It is safe to say that David Moyes has found his first season at Manchester United even more difficult than was widely anticipated and the Scot may well find himself pining for the good old days when he returns to Goodison Park on Sunday.
There will be no such sentiment from the Everton faithful, whose top-four hopes took a blow thanks to Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat by Crystal Palace but who have thoroughly enjoyed Roberto Martinez’s debut campaign in the Toffees’ dugout.
Indeed, in many ways, the Spaniard has brought more of Manchester United to Everton than Moyes has retained at Old Trafford and the statistics bear out the marked difference between the two sides’ directions.
|UNITED IN SPIRIT?
|EVERTON v MAN UTD, PL 2013-14
RELATIVE TO MAN UTD 2012-13
|-0.3||CHANCES CREATED P/GAME
|-11||PASSES IN OPP HALF P/GAME
|+4.7||IN FINAL THIRD
|0.9% worse||OPEN-PLAY CROSSING ACCURACY
|-0.7||GOALS SCORED P/GAME
|-0.1||GOALS CONCEDED P/GAME
Firstly, while there should still be no doubt that the Scot did a fine job on Merseyside, Martinez has made Everton a more dynamic team on several fronts. While their projected total of 429 chances created this season (from 384 so far at 11.3 per game) would fall short of 2012-13’s 483, they rely less on set-pieces, with 33 assists from open play already in 2013-14 compared to 32 total last year.
Their average possession has risen from 52.5 per cent to 55.9%, thanks in large part to an increase in passing accuracy from 79.5% to 83.4%, which also explains a greater number of passes in the opposition half (288.2 per game compared to 273.8 in 2012-13).
The most thrilling aspect is the new manager’s encouragement to attack opponents directly – last season, Everton attempted 506 dribbles and completed 39.9% of them but, this term, they have already attempted 820 at a much-improved 53.2% success rate. This willingness and confidence to produce moments of magic likely explains a slight drop in passes in the final third (158.7 per game to last season’s 162.4) – a fair trade-off for results like Ross Barkley’s incredible solo goal against Newcastle.
This more adventurous attacking mentality is reflected in a shift of focus away from the defensive game. Martinez’s Everton make only 12.2 interceptions per game compared to 15.6 in Moyes’s final season and they face on average one more opposition shot every match. However, attack is proving to be the best defence, with the Toffees nonetheless on course to concede two fewer Premier League goals and keep four more clean sheets in the process.
Perhaps predictably, the opposite has happened to United, to whom Moyes has brought his more pragmatic philosophy. The Red Devils make 2.8 more interceptions per game when compared to Sir Alex Ferguson’s last campaign and, perhaps surprisingly, have conceded 0.6 fewer goals per game as a result of the 0.6 fewer shots faced that come of it.
It has come at a cost, however. At just 10.1 per game, this United side create 1.5 fewer chances per game than last season, with 0.4 fewer open-play assists, 6.2 fewer passes per game in the opposition half and 2.6 fewer in the final third. Though they have attempted 20.2% more dribbles, execution has been found wanting, with a 1.5% drop in dribbling success from the 2012-13 vintage.
Moyes’s men are more likely to find a team-mate with a pass than Martinez’s Everton and are more likely to make a pass in the opposition half – but those passes trend toward the wrong end of that half. While 55.1% of the Toffees’ opposition-half passes are made in the final third, the same goes for only 51.7% of United’s. The Merseysiders are more likely to get it where it counts.
It is a reflection of the more sterile football played by Moyes. When comparing both current teams to last season’s champions, the blue shirts come out more favourably in the most decisive ways. Martinez’s men are better at creating chances, controlling possession, making accurate crosses in open play, dribbling past opponents and keeping clean sheets.
Moyes’s side are less likely to face a shot – on-target or otherwise – and more likely to make interceptions but more likely to concede, having let in 38 to Everton’s 34. What seems like a sensible, defensive reaction to trying times is seemingly only leaving the Scot’s side more vulnerable.
All this was borne out in the two clubs’ first meeting this season, when Bryan Oviedo’s goal gave Everton a deserved 1-0 win at Old Trafford. United had the greater passing accuracy (82% to 79%) and, at home, enjoyed 54% of possession, while taking 18 shots to their opponents’ 15, but the Toffees had the greater ambition and were well worth all three points.
Moyes has tried to adapt to a tough new job by sticking to what he knew from his last but all the evidence suggests that both he and United would be better off by learning from his successor.
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