Away victories are something of a rarity for Evertonians, but after the cup exit in midweek and the display Silva’s attacking force showed, it made this victory even sweeter. Marco Silva dropped Cenk Tosun in exchange for Richarlison playing up top and Bernard making his first start for Everton on the left. This was a gamble defensively, The Toffees have relied on Richarlison’s back-tracking and dropping in the half-space but playing him upfront given us a new way to break teams.
Leicester aren’t exactly a low-block team; however, they are compact defensively. Although there is room between the lines, teammates are closer together and multiple players cant be on the ball carrier very quickly. This is beneficial to not only the ball winners like Ndidi, but the slower, less agile defenders like Wes Morgan. Setting-up like this in defence is a good set-up for their counter-attacking, baiting in more opposition players to move forward (in this picture below, you can see Kenny as well as both of our midfielders), creating a lot more space further forward.
With the exception of Bournemouth, no opposition has broken through The Foxes defence to a great degree of success this season, so how did Everton go forward?
Richarlison still targeted his natural left side of the field with Sigurdsson on his right when Everton pressed the Leicester backline. When Everton won possession back and attempted to get the ball forward, both Richarlison and Sigurdsson would drag markers out of position (sometimes picking up two/three at a time). Dropping deep between the lines left bags of space for Bernard and Walcott to exploit, and at times Everton looked very dangerous.
This footage is just from the first 20 minutes of the game and you can see some half-decent chances being created. When facing a low-block team, Everton have struggled to create opportunities and have dropped points because of it. With movements we’ve seen from our front four, this could create multiple pockets of space to exploit the opposition.
Using this particularly benefitted Bernard, who proved to be our most technical player since the days of Mikel Arteta. Two-footed, agile, difficult to stop, Bernard was class at finding space and created chances from open play because of it (4 chances – most by an Everton player in 2018). Not only that but our front four were very impressive in pressing too, Bernard making 14 ball recoveries in total. Without giving Maguire and Morgan access to play the ball out from the back, Leicester were resorted to side passing and long-balls to try and break lines.
The hosts may not have had as many volume of shots but they still had quality chances. Leicester are one of the best counter-attacking teams in the Premier League, so conceding just one chance from a fast break is quite impressive from the Everton defence, unfortunately, this chance was the goal that they scored. Instead, the foxes targeted Jonjoe Kenny, giving the ball to Ben Chilwell on the left flank.
Chilwell was a threat in attack, narrowly missing with a shot just before the hour mark and did create a decent chance for Vardy in the first half. However, the left-back was often isolated in his channel without much support. James Maddison, who started on the wing further forward, was tucked inside playing closer to Vardy. Against an Everton team that held their shape well, Maddison’s influence was cut short.
After Morgan’s dismissal 25 minutes left of the game, Silva dropped Gylfi Sigurdsson deeper alongside Gueye as Davies would go off for Cenk Tosun. Not just that, but Richarlison would move back on the wing and Bernard shifting in the number 10 area. From there, Everton took much better control of the game, 5 attacking options targeting 10-men Leicester.
You can see the gradual improvement in Everton’s xG from the hour-mark, Everton having 9 shots in this time period to the full-time whistle. Dropping Sigurdsson deeper was 100% a benefit to his performance, not only having more time in possession but giving him the space to give access to his long-range weaponry. Maguire missing a golden chance towards the end was Leicester’s only opportunity that they looked like they were going to score after the red card, despite xG scores being close, Everton fully deserved the victory.
Overall, it appears that Marco Silva has adapted and set-up an actual game plan in away games rather than just sit back, defending. Losing away to Arsenal was incredibly frustrating, but every away game this season has had plenty of plus points which is a very good sign. Leicester are a very tough team to break down and points between us will be close for a majority of the season. A good three points for The Toffees with the fixture list soon working against us in the run-up to Christmas.
Stats via understat.com and @MC_of_a,
Up the Toffees.