A ROUTINE win against Reading was the ideal way to set up a Goodison FA Cup quarter-final this week against Wigan which represents a massive opportunity to book our fourth Wembley appearance in as many years.
It’s hard to recall a more limited opponent in recent history than Brian McDermott’s men. Whilst we struggled initially, the key to us taking control was utilising the right side of the pitch.
As most sides do against us, Reading overloaded to negate our left side which made the shift in possession from left to right to Coleman via Gibson crucial to expose the acres of space when we made the switch quickly. That led to the right side creating 47% of our chances compared to 26% from the left.
In terms of game changing quality, Pienaar was the stand out performer with his shift to the right flank instrumental in our second half dominance.
His stunning fifth goal of the season – a personal best – was excellent as was his through pass to Mirallas for goal three. With his skinny legs and mischievous streetwise cunning, Mirallas is the football equivalent of an urban fox and in the form he is in could do some real damage against Wigan, especially if they defend as they did last week against Liverpool.
The hammering inflicted by the Reds showcased the limitations of Martinez’s men, particularly in the backline where Boyce and Figueroa were repeatedly caught out of position up field.
Caldwell we know about from the drawn meeting earlier this season at Wigan when his touch-tight marking on Fellaini led to the Belgian being dropped into a deeper midfield role to ensure he didn’t get sent off.
In the return game at Goodison we played worse but won with Fellaini suspended. In general Caldwell is good in the air but like his defensive colleagues is quite rash when faced with quick footed opponents such as Luis Suarez last week.
We have benefited from this in recent history with Baines scoring from penalties awarded against them in three of the last four seasons. They’ve also conceded the most spot kicks (six) in the top flight this season. For this reason I’d be tempted to leave Fellaini deep and deploy the more nimble Leon Osman as the direct opponent to run at Caldwell and draw the foul.
Whereas Wigan have the worst home record in the league, their away form is comfortably mid-table with as many wins on the road as us. Down the left, Beausejour has usually done well against us with a couple of assists and a goal in recent matches and we will need to keep him on his right foot at all times.
The Blues haven’t lost in the last nine against the Latics and providing we play at full throttle shouldn’t have any problems disposing of them again this time.