LAST Sunday's sterling performance at Goodison Park marked the latest manifestation of a trend beginning to sweep through European and world football. Namely the art of manipulating a game and controlling proceedings while paradoxically enjoying a paltrier share of possession. Roberto Martinez bullishly asserted post-match that Everton had dominated the match – and, superficially and statistically at least, they did. However, the desperation with which the Spaniard was switching formations and making all manner of offensive changes in the second half would suggest otherwise. Persistent chopping and changing of tactics during a game rarely implies a level of comfort in the manager's thinking. Atletico Madrid last season were an exhibition in orchestrating games without the ball. Real Madrid famously employed similar tactics against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final earlier this year, to the tune of a resounding 7-1 mauling. In the case of Atletico, their success in this regard was founded on the tireless running of frontman Diego Costa, a resolute solidity defensively (and ability to concentrate at the back for 90 minutes when faced with constant pressure) and a tenacious swiftness on the counter-attack through the likes of Arda Turan, David Villa and Koke. At Goodison , the Palace line-up and approach mirrored this system. Fraizer Campbell never stopped running, the back four diligently held their positions and demonstrated an assuredness under waves of pressure, while Joe Ledley, Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon turned defence into attack with devastating power and efficiency. Everton may have had the lion's share of the ball but time and again they were forced to thread passes down blind alleys or simply switch the ball back and forth from either wing. Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Leon Osman had all the time in the world on the ball but no options to distribute it. Fans and players alike would grow restless at this perceived dithering; forcing Everton into attempting risky, percentage balls and inevitably yielding possession. Joel Ward and Martin Kelly would tuck inside to form a compact back four, which also served to draw opposing full-backs Leighton Baines and John Stones into the space vacated down the flanks. This move proved inspired from Palace as Bolasie and Puncheon were able to surge into the unguarded territory on either side of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka. It was poor really from Martinez to fall for this tactic as a similar strategy had worked to perfection back in April – yielding exactly the same scoreline. It is exceptionally refreshing to see this exciting new brand of football beginning to take hold. Similar tactics saw Leicester City and West Brom claim famous victories against elite opposition on Sunday. Numbered are the days when smaller teams stay compact and cling to the hope of a fortunate draw. Such teams now do so with increasing purpose and desire to win games. These tactics have been good enough for Jose Mourinho for years, so are certainly good enough for Palace.
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