Pre-Season: A Tactical view

The negativity across all social media platforms surrounding Everton at the moment is rife. Some of it (with only the one signing in, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines still being part of our defence and no sign of Lookman or Theo for nearly 3 weeks) is quite reasonable, most of it (pre-season results or the Michael Keane hate – bare with me) isn’t.

Last season I would have easily considered myself to have been one of the ‘top moaners’ as the club limped across their 51 game-finish line, however, on reflection, it’s time for some well-needed patience throughout the club from the newly employed Directors at the club to the new partnership of Silva and Brands. It will take time to bring in the players they believe are the best for the system they want, and it’ll probably take even more time to ship those already at the club who either don’t or are just simply past their sell-by date. It will then also take time to implement the style they want, with the players they want, in the formations they want, all while trying to achieve a 7th place finish that would put them back on the heels of the top 6 again before Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh decided to transform into the kid who’d just received his £130m pocket money from their Iranian godfather.

I’m not saying finishing 7th won’t be achieved this season (it’s quite possible), I just don’t expect it to be perfected in the way they’d want it too. There will be poor results, and slumps of form but if we maintain our home form from the past 2 seasons (not too hard) and improve our away results (something Silva achieved quite quickly with Watford early into his reign) then 7th should quite easily be our initial target going into the season considering 10 sides were beaten more than 16 times last season and 13 teams the year before. However, it won’t be completed in a way in which Idrissa Gueye is suddenly threading balls through defences, or through a high-pressing, full-throttle style of play that people will expect almost instantly, just because Watford had a decent start last season. We’ll have glimpses but not the full package, this is a long-term project that won’t guarantee success but if given time, will prevent a return to the incompetence of Ronald Koeman or the prehistoric tactics of Sam Allardyce.

Silva’s Tactical Signs 

Despite the poor results against Blackburn and Rennes, I’d say overall I’ve been quite content with our performances so far. Take into context the continuous double sessions, including a morning and afternoon of training the same day against Blackburn which was telling throughout the whole 90, as well as the injuries to Walcott, Lookman and Holgate and the late arrivals of Gylfi and Gana and with only one signing in the door so far, the squad is nowhere near what it’ll become in September when the team is in full flight.

Yet despite that, there have still been some signs that going forward Silva’s message is starting to come across. The full-backs are no longer looking to go long to the striker first time, there’s a lot more than just Cenk +1 other when going forward and the team look comfortable with the ball at their feet again.

 

For instance, albeit nothing come of it, there’s Davies driving forward like similar to his 16/17 self, then quick one-touch play in our build-up opening up the opposition easily all with 6 players in the opposition third. Yes, no real clear opportunity was created but there are signs that the team understand that no longer will ‘hoof ball’ be accepted as the first port of call when creating chances and there will now be a technical focus during games.

Again, from the same clip, the image proves the focus on attacking intent with 4 players in the box, with Sandro and Davies just behind. There’s an overload going forward that was missing for the majority of the season. Cenk’s not isolated, both full-backs are high up (Coleman being the highest, Baines just outside of this image) and wingers Sandro and Mirallas are narrow enabling potential options for one-twos or loose balls. It all may seem quite minimal, but it’s overloads similar to this that the team lacked so much of last season which led to the club scoring just 44 goals, the lowest since 05/06 season.

 

Our Brazilian Blue

Finally! It’s been a long time coming, Everton has their first Brazilian since 2010, and this kid is serious. Richarlison only struck 5 goals and 4 assists in his debut season are hardly groundbreaking numbers, yet at 21 his potential ceiling is massive. As seen with the increasingly popular expected goals (xG), at 12.05 he sat at the 14th highest in the league and at 21, in your first season in the Premier League, 12 goals would have been a fantastic total. With him so young, you’d expect him to massively improve especially in a better side and under an attacking manager such as Marco Silva. Therefore, improve finishing and composure all while continuing to get into the same positions while having a similar amount of shots (3.02 per90) and touches in the opposition box (8.82 per90), you would expect his xG to rise and his actual goals to significantly peak.

His impact on the pitch already has been instant, so much that it’s already clear he’s one of the best players in the side. From his direct runs with the ball to his incisive runs of it, Richarlison adds an effective presence to the side that’s been missing for some time on the left side (as seen in both clips below)

 

 

Simply from just these 2 clips, the Brazilian is showing signs of adding that extra quality that Everton is missing. Someone able to carry the ball, beat players, open up the defence and both score and create goals (don’t forget he should easily have 2 assists from Blackburn and Rennes). And although a lot was said about the price tag, the £35m man not £45m or £50m, still implements exactly what Marco Silva wants from his squad almost instantly and with the potential stay of Ademola Lookman, Everton has could have 2 of the best wingers in European football within the next 3/4 years.

 

The Michael Keane criticism 

I won’t lie, I may or may not have used quite a few profanities across social media to voice my opinion towards Michael Keane (who I still can’t believe we chose to sign over Andreas Christensen, now a Chelsea starter or Harry Maguire, now a World Cup icon and a current Man United target) over the past 9 months. Albeit it’s not his fault he’s performing so poorly, slightly that’s the case anyway. For instance, it’s not Michael Keane’s fault the Koeman/Walsh marriage decided to squander £25m on someone who performed above average in a side known for their low-block, concrete wall style defending and then decide to play him in a high-line alongside Ashley Williams, a player who has suffered the exact same issue.

So yes, true, it’s not directly his fault. Keane can’t somehow advance his pace or mobility (I’m sure he must have tried at least), and he can’t change the way Ronald Koeman, or now Marco Silva wants to play. Yet I still have my hope he can make it here, there is a slight possibility that you can play him next to someone quicker and more assured with the ball at the back, Keane’s confidence may grow and we might actually see the second coming of Paulo Maldini as we were initially promised in summer 2017.

 

Conclusion 

Pre-season hasn’t been THAT bad, it hasn’t been great, but it also hasn’t been the disaster that ‘Phil’ and his 29 followers are making it out to be. Currently, as of writing, there are 7 teams with a similar or worse record over their pre-season and over the previous weekend (28-29 July) only 4 teams outside of the top 6 won with Burton, Dijon, Brentford and Ipswich the opponents.

Add that to the expected 3/4 more signings, Lucas Digne to be one of them within the next 48, and the departures of the players who simply aren’t good enough (Pennington, Bolasie and  Kevin Mirallas), then all of a sudden with a squad quite easily competing around about where we expect during Silva’s first season.

Patience is needed during the season no matter how the season pans out initially. Both Marco (I hope) and Marcel are here for the long-term, as are we, so may as well just sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s no guarantee of success, but I’m a lot more confident with these two at the help rather than Sam Allardcye and Sammy Lee.

As always, Up the Toffees!

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