West Ham United faced Everton in what was a contest between two top-half of the table sides that have been in rather inconsistent form throughout the season. West Ham started the match with a 4-4-2, playing Marko Arnautovic up front alongside Lucas Perez. The Hammers were however missing Felipe Anderson on the left-wing and captain Mark Noble was reduced to the bench. Everton fielded their usual 4-2-3-1, which has grown accustom to featuring Richarlison on the right-wing. Everton had an extra man in midfield, and it does seem for the time being at least, that Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the sides first-choice centre-forward.
Everton counter-attacks and subsequent overloads
West Ham’s and Everton’s respective systems meant Everton proved very effective on the counter-attack. Everton transitioned from defence to attack very quickly throughout the match, with West Ham’s shape not having had time to reorganise and struggling to outnumber Everton’s frequent overloads. Much of the counter-attacks were led by the wide players which resulted in quick balls being played into the penalty-box, where the movement of Calvert-Lewin was put to good use. Calvert-Lewin tended to drag the marking centre-back out of position and at times shoot, sometimes forcing set-pieces.
The speed in which Everton transitioned, as previously mentioned, meant that Everton tended to outnumber West Ham on the counter. One example during the first-half resulted in a 3v5 situation, with Bernard on the left-side offering good energy and willingness to force the ball forward. Much of the ability to switch from defence to attack quickly came as a result of the space given to Everton by West Ham’s shape.
West Ham left open spaces in midfield and defence
Everton’s aforementioned counter-attacks, and general play to add were made that much more of a threat by how open West Ham’s shape was. West Ham’s approach meant they tried to stretch the pitch and get their wide-midfielders on the ball, but they were slow to re-organise during Everton counter-attacks, were outran out wide, lost the one-on-one duels out wide, and did not defend the box well, either.
Because of West Hams’s midfield’s deep positioning and lack of willingness to press, Everton’s attackers had more space when on the ball, and movement in the final-third was given that much more freedom. Gylfi Sigurdsson is far more effective as a no.10 in Marco Silva’s system when he has time and space to turn and play the ball through to runners ahead; Sigurdsson is less effective when players ahead are static and unable to find space. Because of how deep West Ham’s shape was in its own half, Sigurdsson rarely faced a marker close on, and the pivot of Idrissa Gueye and Angel Gomes – who’s ball carrying progressed play into West Ham’s half well, were able to push further forward, as well. Gueye made a surprising amount of runs into advanced areas, contributing to the overloads Everton tended to make against West Ham’s defence.
The wide players and their movements
Everton were most excellent out wide. Both their full-backs and wingers defended well, and both were tight against West Ham’s own wide players in their own half, pressing to win the ball back quickly. Richarlison even made four tackles, proving a good suit on the right-side if you consider tracking back a necessity. On the other end of the spectrum, both sets of full-backs and wingers were great outlets going forward. Richarlison made a few runs in behind the defensive line on the right, and on one opportunity forced a very good save from goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski – on of the signings of the season. Everton’s second goal was great from an Everton standpoint, but terrible from a West Ham one; the run made by Seamus Coleman to play a low cross into the box, which was then tapped in by Bernard (who made a good run inside), was very good, but West Ham were poor in not tracking the run, which was blatant and somewhat predictable considering the ongoing narrative of the match. This was also Bernard’s second goal for Everton.
Bernard was the best player on the pitch; energetic, willing to track back, and direct on the counter, Bernard was also varied in his dribbling and movement, willing to take the full-back on the outside and cross into the box, or cut inside to either pass infield, or go for goal himself. Bernard has only got better as the season has progressed, and Bernard is now a key component of the side and in the process, has formed a contingency with Lucas Digne on the left-flank. Bernard’s approach compliments Digne’s own approach nicely, in a similar fashion to the partnership of Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines.
West Ham lack pace in attack
West Ham’s 4-4-2 was void of the ability to really take advantage of Everton’s high-line. This only benefited Everton’s pressing in midfield areas. Marko Arnautovic tended to drop deep when West Ham were in possession, to create space for potential runs, but West Ham’s attacks simply lacked those runs. West Ham’s full-backs and wingers were defended against well by Everton and any runs made or attempts to combine out wide were minimised. Everton pressed from the front and in numbers, although West Ham showed some slight promise in build-up when able to break through into the second-phase, but even with quite an amount of the ball, lacked the movement from wide players and an instigator in midfield; West Ham lacked creativity, to put things simply. Felipe Anderson was sorely missed. Anderson would have pushed the full-backs back and would have been more of a threat in transitions/1v1s.
Formation change for West Ham/Subs
West Ham did eventually make a formation change, switching to a 4-3-3. Both Michail Antonio and Javier Hernandez were brought on to add a necessary sense of speed to attack, and the addition of Mark Noble was to bolster West Ham’s numbers against overloads. Yet, West Ham continued to be slow on the attack, and were often left vulnerable to counter-attacks, still. The midfield struggled to cover ground, and the Everton full-backs supported attacks constantly, often taking advantage of poor spacing and shape.
This game was opposite of what could have arguably been predicted prior to kick-off. Everton were good on a the counter, and had more shots (17 to 3) against a side missing perhaps its key component in attack. Manuel Lanzini was left isolated in a wider role and West ham should have fielded a three-man midfield from the start; that would have also arguably dealt better with Everton’s attempt to overload in the opposition half.