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Football Focus, Everton-Newcastle: Examining new-look Toffees under Martínez

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source:  In the first half of its 3-2 win over Newcastle United on Monday, Everton picked the visitors apart. Those 45 minutes, combined with other recent performances, showed the potential the Toffees have with new manager Roberto Martínez’s system.

It’s a similar possession-based game that he tried to instill at Wigan Athletic, but with Everton’s superior players, the results should be more impressive. Indeed, early in the Premier League season, Martínez’s men have proven to be among the most entertaining and positive sides in the league. Only Arsenal and Manchester City have scored more goals.

Everton has built its system on a simple passing to unlock spaces on the field for one-on-one isolation, usually on the wings. Outside backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman provide two of the more dangerous attacking options on the squad, and 19-year-old Ross Barkley has been a revelation in central midfield.

Leon Osman and Kevin Mirallas run the wings, never afraid to take defenders on with the ball at their feet, and Romelu Lukaku seems to have taken over the target role from Nikica Jelavić, who had a hard time getting involved in his early starts.

Building blocks of possession

The most obvious aspect of Everton’s system is the patience it displays in building up attacks. Short passes keep the ball moving and keep opponents constantly adjusting their positioning, aiming to open up gaps to exploit in midfield when defenders get stretched.

Of the 512 passes Everton attempted against Newcastle, 458 were short, as defined by Opta. Only 92 total passes came in the defensive third of the field, though, with most of the impetus put on the midfielders to initiate play. The Toffees completed 232 of 273 passes (85 percent) in the middle third, including 161 of 181 among the three central midfielders: Barkley, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy.

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(Chalkboards courtesy of FourFourTwo Stats Zone)

In his 500th Premier League game, Barry ran the show with his attempts to unlock the Magpies’ defense. His 75 attempted passes were the most on his team, and he completed 86.7 percent of them.

Looking at their passing charts, the three center midfielders played mostly short, fairly square passes. Every ball movement, no matter how small, causes adjustments from opponents. The more adjustments they are forced to make, the more likely they are to unknowingly open up spaces.

It’s soccer by chess, not checkers, predicated on one- and two-touch passing and a high tempo.

Short, short, long

Series upon series of short passes against Newcastle opened up options for the long ball that turned what usually becomes a 50-50 ball into sustainable possession. Atrocious defending from the visiting team helped the cause, particularly on Tim Howard’s assist to Romelu Lukaku in the 36th minute.

For an example of short-range possession turning into a plausible long-ball opportunity and one-on-one isolation, let’s pick up the end of a nearly 30-pass sequence by Everton. (It may have been more than 30 passes, but it began off-camera, so it’s difficult to be certain.)

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As usual, all three central midfielders are involved in the build-up. Osman tucks in on the left side, allowing Baines to get around him and provide another option. On the opposite flank, Coleman and Mirallas stay out of the play, waiting and expecting their teammates to realize the space they are in.

The short exchanges draw seven Newcastle defenders onto the near side of the field, as six Everton attackers work the ball around.

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A passing lane opens up for Lukaku to check in and play the ball back toward McCarthy, who recognizes the space Mirallas and Coleman have on the far side.

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A longer pass to Mirallas’ feet leaves him isolated against Newcastle left back Davide Santon, whom Mirallas already beat once on the dribble to assist Lukaku’s opening goal in the fifth minute.

Coleman advances to the inside (an underlapping run, as opposed to an overlapping run around Mirallas to the outside), dragging his defender away and giving Mirallas more space. Ideally, McCarthy should spin away and drag another defender with him.

Getting to goal

That’s the idea in Everton’s attack: overload the middle to isolate wide players, allowing for individual brilliance or a centering pass (or sometimes both) to get the ball into dangerous areas. The Toffees struggled to get on the end of crosses — Mirallas and Coleman completed one each, and nobody else had any — but the opportunities were created.

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(Chalkboards courtesy of FourFourTwo Stats Zone)

The majority of Everton’s passes in the attacking third went wide, although Baines and Osman on the left were more willing to take players on than Mirallas and Coleman on the right. Most crosses came from the right side.

Overall, Everton completed 21 of 27 one-on-one dribbles and 110 of 147 passes in the final third.

Developing dominance

Martínez recognizes that it takes much longer to build and sustain his vision than a smash-and-grab style, telling television cameras after the game, when his team had secured fourth place:

We were disappointed with the first three games. I thought we were really dominant, really good, and we should have got more points. It’s a great target, to get into the top four. Now, it’s only six games, but it’s something that gives you a good start, and that’s all it is: a good start. You could see the potential today. Some of the signs were terrific as a team, and then all the other aspects that we need to work and develop, and we’re looking forward to that.

Three key words in that quote show where Martínez is trying to go: “develop,” “potential” and “dominant.”

Everton has only scratched the surface in the first six games of the season, still fine-tuning many aspects of its game. However, the flashes it showed against Newcastle and in previous matches paints a picture of a team that can, has and will dominate games and opponents.

Good soccer is a living creature; it needs to be nurtured and grown. By the time spring rolls around, Everton should be much closer to adulthood.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fabinho to Manchester United, Chelsea in for Alonso

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - AUGUST 17:  Fabinho (R) of Monaco scores his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League play-off first leg match between Villarreal CF and AS Monaco at El Madrigal on August 17, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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Manchester United has looked strong at times during its opening two matches of the Premier League season, however, Jose Mourinho is still looking to bring in help.

The Red Devils are reportedly looking to add Monaco fullback Fabinho, but the reported move won’t come cheap, according to the Sun.

[ MORE: Bravo signs for City ]

The 22-year-old will command over $32 million, but it remains to be seen how desperate United is to meet Monaco’s fee. Two seasons ago, Manchester City was reportedly in the running to sign the Brazilian defender, but the price tag scared the club off after bringing Fabinho in to watch a match.


Marcos Alonso has become the latest target for Antonio Conte and Chelsea.

According to Sky Italy, the Blues have made an offer of over $22 million for the Fiorentina left back, as the Premier League side continues to chase defensive help before the end of the transfer window.

[ MORE: Solo ban about more than comments ]

Alonso has had a great deal of experience in England prior to landing in Serie A. The 25-year-old previously spent time with Bolton before joining Sunderland on loan in 2014.

Meanwhile, Chelsea continues to monitor centerback Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli, who has been seen as one of the team’s biggest targets during the transfer window since John Stones signed with Manchester City.


Sunderland looks set to bolster its midfield as the Guardian is reporting the Black Cats are closing in on a deal for Sevilla’s Vicente Iborra.

The 28-year-old has played a key role for Sevilla during its impressive run in the UEFA Europa League over the last three seasons, all of which the Spanish side has claimed the trophy.

Additionally, David Moyes and the Black Cats are reportedly interested in bringing back Yann M'Vila from Rubin Kazan. The French midfielder spent last season on loan at the Stadium of Light, and the combination of M’Vila and Iborra would certainly provide Sunderland with much needed help in Moyes’ first season in charge.

Premier League projected lineups, stats – Week 3

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City with his players during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here and below you will find projected lineups for each team, plus some quick stats on the encounter.

[ MORE: “Goal Rush” to debut ]

With two weeks off after this weekend, it is time to make the most of the action.

[ MORE: Full TV schedule ]

Let’s take a look at the 10 games on Saturday on Sunday.


Hull City vs. Manchester United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

  • 49 of Jose Mourinho’s 58 league defeats as a manager have come away from home (84%).
  • Mike Phelan was Manchester United assistant manager between September 2008 and May 2013 – during this time, United won three Premier League titles.

Projected lineups
Hull City: Jakupovic; Robertson, Davies, Livermore, Elmohamady; Snodgrass, Huddlestone, Clucas, Meyler; Diomande, Hernandez
Man United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Pogba, Fellaini; Martial, Rooney, Mata; Ibrahimovic


Chelsea vs. Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • Chelsea have won the Premier League title in both of the previous seasons Burnley were in the division.
  • Burnley have picked up just two points from 11 previous visits to London in the Premier League (W0 D2 L9), scoring six times and conceding 28 goals.

Projected lineups
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Kante; Hazard, Costa, Oscar, Batshuayi
Burnley: Heaton; Lowton, Mee, Keane, Ward; Boyd, Defour, Arfield, Marney; Vokes, Gray


Watford vs. Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Watford have lost all six of their games against Arsenal in the Premier League, although they did beat the Gunners last season in an FA Cup quarter final match (2-1).
  • Watford have had the fewest shots on target (3), fewest total shots (11) and lowest number of touches in the opposition box (20) so far in the 2016-17 Premier League.

Projected lineups
Watford: Gomes; Britos, Prodl, Cathcart; Amrabat, Capoue, Geudioura, Behrami, Holebas; Ighalo, Deeney
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud


Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • This fixture has seen 136 goals scored in Premier League history, only three fixtures have seen more: Newcastle v Tottenham (138), Liverpool v Newcastle (138) and Tottenham v Arsenal (137).
  • Harry Kane has never scored a Premier League goal in the month of August, despite playing nine games and 545 minutes on the pitch in this month.

Projected lineups
Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier; Lamela, Alli, Kane, Eriksen; Janssen
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Mane, Firmino; Strurridge


Southampton vs. Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Sunderland have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last seven Premier League matches against Southampton (15 conceded).
  • Southampton have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 14 Premier League matches; a run stretching back to February. Before this run, they’d kept six in a row.

Projected lineups
Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Fonte, Van Dijk, Targett; Hojbjerg, Davis, Clasie, Tadic; Long, Redmond
Sunderland: Pickford; Love, Djilobodji, McNair, Van Aanholt; Januzaj, Gooch, Rodwell, Pienaar; Defoe, Watmore


Everton vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Lukaku has not scored or assisted a single goal in any of his last 10 Premier League appearances for Everton, a run stretching back to March 19th.
  •  Stoke have scored just one first half goal in their last seven Premier League matches, with five of their six goals in this period coming after half-time.

Projected lineups
Everton: Stekelenburg; Holgate, Funes Mori, Williams, Baines; Barry, Gueye, Barkley, Deulofeu; Bolasie, Lukaku
Stoke City: Given; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Imbula, Allen; Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic; Crouch


West Brom vs. Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM ]

  • Alvaro Negredo has been involved in all three of Middlesbrough’s Premier League goals so far this season (one goal, two assists).
  • Saido Berahino has just one goal and no assists in his last 26 Premier League appearances for WBA (1420 mins played).

Projected lineups
West Brom: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Olsson; Gardner, Yacob, Fletcher, Phillips; Rondon, Berahino
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Barragan, Friend, Gibson, Nsue; Downing, Clayton, Forshaw, Ramirez; Stuani, Negredo


Leicester City vs. Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Swansea are winless in their last 12 games away to Leicester in all competitions (D3 L9), losing the last six in a row.
  • If Leicester City lose this match, they’ll be only the sixth defending top-flight champions to win just one point in their first three games of the following season (no sides have 0 points).

Projected lineups
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Hernandez, Fuchs; Mahrez, King, Drinkwater, Albrighton; Vardy, Musa
Swansea: Fabianski; Kingsley, Fernandez, Amat, Naughton; Cork, Fer; Routledge, Barrow, Sigurdsson; Llorente


Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

  • Crystal Palace have won just two of their 21 Premier League games in 2016 (W2 D5 L14).
  • Eddie Howe’s side have won three of their six away trips to London in the Premier League (W3 D0 L3).

Projected lineups
Crystal Palace: Mandanda; Ward, Tomkins, Dann, Souare; Townsend, Cabaye, Puncheon, Ledley, Zaha; Benteke
Bournemouth: Boruc; Franics, Cook, Smith, Daniels; Ibe, Cook, Surman, Fraser; King, Wilson


Man City vs. West Ham – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

  • Manchester City have lost only one of their last 10 Premier League meetings with West Ham on home soil (W8 D1), though it did come last time out in September 2015 (1-2).
  • Aguero has scored 37 goals in 47 Premier League games against London teams and six in eight league apps against West Ham United.

Projected lineups
Man City: Caballero; Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Silva; De Bruyne, Sterling, Nolito; Aguero
West Ham United: Adrian; Byram, Reid, Collins, Masuaku; Nordtveit, Kouyate; Antonio, Noble, Payet; Valencia


Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys in business

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 15:  Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here. Let’s keep rolling before the international break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Hull City 1-3 Manchester United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Chelsea 4-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-3 Arsenal – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Liverpool – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Southampton 2-1 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Everton 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

West Brom 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 2-0 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Crystal Palace 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 West Ham – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule for 2016-17 – Week 3

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur and Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur celebrate during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane on August 20, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)
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Week 3 of the 2016-17 Premier League season as we prepare for a two week break following this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

It all kicks off with Tottenham Hotspur hosting Liverpool (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) at White Hart Lane in a eagerly anticipated clash between two to four contenders.

Then Chelsea welcome Burnley to Stamford Bridge (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with the Blues eager to not draw with the Clarets like they did at home two years ago as Antonio Conte‘s men aim to make it three wins from three to open up the season.

Rounding things off on Saturday, Hull City and Manchester United clash at the KCOM Stadium (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) with both teams looking to maintain their perfect record so far. Jose Mourinho’s men will be the heavy favorites but can beleaguered Hull shock everyone once again?

On Sunday West Bromwich Albion host Middlesbrough at the Hawthorns (8:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with newly-promoted ‘Boro aiming to stay unbeaten. Rounding off the weekend, Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City welcome injury-hit West Ham United to the Etihad (11 a.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) as the Citizens aim to keep their 100 percent record intact.

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App, plus you can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.

FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday

7:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham vs. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Burnley – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford vs. Arsenal – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Stoke City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Swansea City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Sunderland – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Hull City vs. Manchester United – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday

8:30 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Middlesbrough – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. West Ham United – NBCSN [STREAM]