Premier League football has returned and it came back with a bang, the first two games resulting in 13 goals before the 3.00pm matches even kicked off. Even then you had the shock at Stamford Bridge and Huddersfield’s very impressive display against de Boer’s Crystal Palace side (remember Frank de Boer? The only other option than Koeman?). With goals flying around everywhere, it only meant that Goodison would lack it; of course, it had to be Rooney to break the deadlock and win us the game. If this was a game in mid-October, I probably wouldn’t be up for writing an analysis of it, however the first game back always brings up a good amount of talking points and provide a lot of important statistics.
The Blues in the Back Three
We’ve talked a lot about formations and the Everton system on the blog, so it was interesting to see Koeman pick a back three formation… having Klaassen and Rooney behind Sandro Ramirez in a 3421. This meant that Schneiderlin and Gueye would drop deeper in holding midfield roles whilst having a back three of Keane, Williams and Jagielka.
For solidarity and keeping shots away, a defensive five of that with wing-backs is so, so effective.
When Stoke tried to break, instantly we had enough numbers to cover. Koeman’s defensive unit can rotate between zonal and man-marking throughout the game, you can instantly see Everton covering all spaces on the field. Everton’s defence had a big problem of stopping chances being created from the centre of the pitch, so seeing us change into a 352 mid-game – Klaassen dropping deep with Rooney joining the frontline – this is a major positive.
One player in our back three has a very important role and that is Ashley Williams, dropping a few yards back to become the sweeper. Want the best out of Williams? This is the role you put him in. He is a lot better with two centre-backs aside him, enabling him to cover any long balls and create a 2v1 against an opposition player.
There’s no doubt that this will be the go-to formation against stronger teams, and with very tough teams coming up, I won’t be surprised if we are unchanged as time goes on.
Koeman changed the team into a 433 in the second half, which instantly provided much more width for Everton to use.
Using the Target Man
Koeman loves a tall forward, Lukaku last season and Pelle at Southampton are examples. I rate Calvert-Lewin, but a lot of Everton supporters are puzzled why he’s in the starting line-up so much. It’s due to him being used as a target man, a very good plan B option. The crazy thing is DCL was starting as a wing-back, so Gueye was covering his defensive duties.
As you can see, Everton’s main route of creating chances came from Jordan Pickford’s distribution towards the young striker. DCL gets a lot of stick from our supporters, but his role is incredibly important and he handles being out of position very well.
Calvert-Lewin produced an incredibly cross for Rooney yesterday, a very well worked goal from the Blues. To be given a target-man role whilst playing out of position shows just how much Koeman values him and to be honest, I can definitely see why. Unless we see a tall forward join this transfer window, expect DCL to be regularly involved this season – something I don’t mind if he offers this.
Considering how Everton fans would be bricking it every time we conceded a corner, especially against teams like Stoke, a few years ago, then we have developed to become a very hard team to concede from corner kicks.
Stoke had 7 yesterday, every single one failing to threaten us, pretty crazy when you consider how dangerous The Potters are from them. The way we set ourselves is very interesting in these scenarios. Not only do you have man-marking but you also have our actual defensive 3 lined up on the 6-yard line.
Once the runs from the attackers start to happen, those man-marking will follow whilst those on the 6-yard line hold their positions. Not only does this help Pickford if any short balls come but it instantly stops the second phase, even if passed short, we still press high.
I produced a video on our defending on set-pieces last season and saw the developments, we still have everyone back including Sandro and Rooney who instantly provide the counter-press from the second-phase (once again, a big problem a few years back). The amount of goals we’ve conceded from corners has shortened over time, this will continue to happen.
Potential Future Problem: Build-Up Play and Creating Enough
There is a huge disconnect between what our midfield does and what our attack does, our build-up play is an issue. It’s good having a target man in Calvert-Lewin as an option, but currently that’s our option A and not option B. If DCL is replaced by Mirallas, then where does our attack come from? Currently we are very, very reliant on long balls, which are mostly distributed by Pickford. Rooney and Sandro are not aerial players by any means, if this is our only tactic we are going to struggle.
Another talking point amongst Everton supporters was the role of Davy Klaassen. Right now, Klaassen has the same problem as Barkley – not having the runners around him. He’s currently relied on being the only player to take the ball forward and dribble past the opponent. I’m not saying he’s like Ross, his link-up play is 10 times better, but if he is going to fit in then he needs a runner next to him to be another option. For me, it’s the only disadvantage of having Schneiderlin and Gueye in the same starting 11, neither of them can carry the ball forward enough.
Against Stoke, not one player completed a single take on and we only attempted three all game. In comparison, the visitors completed 10 out of 13 attempted. It’s a very worrying statistic, we simply don’t have enough runners, Lookman is left on the bench, Barkley has been abandoned and Klaassen doesn’t get the ball enough.
Considering how often Everton have stumbled at the first hurdle, I’ll take a 1-0 win against a very difficult Stoke City team. I believe Koeman has worked a lot on Everton defence over the summer, the new additions to the squad performed and we were capable of shutting Stoke down every time, but for me our offence is a major concern. That first 45 was a huge worry, barely anything created, changing formation helped massively but without a playmaker, we are going to have plenty of more games just like Saturday. I don’t want to be to negative, it’s the first game and we still have another two weeks of the window left to bring players in, but with big games coming up, it’s important that we get our team to perform at its A game. Onward and upwards.
Stats via Squawka and Whoscored,
Up the Toffees.