A Case for Change: Adapting Everton’s Shape

Three-Four-Three please, Marco!

I made the point last year before that horrid winter period and I think it might be time to propose it once more, albeit it might be a little biased considering the flexible, dynamic 3-4-3 is a personal favourite of mine, that doesn’t mean there aren’t considerable explanations for hyping it up.

The main reason; (the lack of) Idrissa Gana Gueye.

I wasn’t Idrissa’s biggest fan I can’t lie, he did what he did, and he did it fantastically, but he had his flaws, flaws that clever sides easily exploited (i.e, Southampton away). So personally it was a no brainer to cash in on a near-30 year old midfielder who’s market value wasn’t going to get any higher, just as long as we replaced him properly and by properly I mean improved on and whether we’ve done that or not remains to be seen.


Marcel Brands will be hoping though that he has done exactly that following the purchase of 23-year-old Jean-Phillipe Gbamin for a solid fee of just £22.5m. I’ve long time been a big fan of our newly-named JP, he’s excelled immensely since his move to Mainz where he proved his worth through his silky passing on the ball and his versatility that’s seen him deployed as a holding midfielder, centre back or even right-wing back for the German outfit. I even stated last summer that bringing in Gbamin could be a really smart move, only problem here, is that it was to complement Gueye rather than replace him.

That doesn’t mean Gbamin can’t be the rightful heir to Gueye’s thrown, he’s just quite the different player. Idrissa went looking for the ball, roaming about tackling everything and everyone, pouncing on opposition mistakes, starting attacks for the front four ahead while Gbamin is more of a number 6, sitting in front of the centre backs, acting more so as a defensive shield rather than a ball-winning juggernaut.

Losing Gueye though is obviously significant, considering his defensive output (4.5 tackles and 2.3 interceptions p90), meaning we’ve now got quite an Idrissa-Gueye-shaped-hole in our midfield. We’ll likely be a lot more open compared to last year, especially when attempting to defend counter attacks or whenever we lose the ball in the middle third.

So sensibly we have to change the way we play or at least how we organise ourselves when on the ball, something Silva has decided not to do so far in the opening games.

I’ve mentioned in previously articles on here how Gana’s partner last year, Andre Gomes, currently lacks the discipline to play in a pivot next to someone without being quite as good defensively, almost someone to sweep up behind him and from what I’ve seen from Gbamin, that’s not him, especially not in a double pivot with Gylfi Sigurdsson ahead and neither Fabian Delph or Tom Davies are that ether.

As seen by clips here from the two opening games of the season, it’s easy to see how open we’ve became already and how vulnerable we look when we initially lose the ball. That’s normal, but usually for us Gana Gueye would be there to swoop in, collect the ball and everything would be fine (most of the time). But now we have to adapt, this is why the 3-4-3 formation could be so beneficial for us, the three defenders would provide the cover that we previously didn’t need with Gana helping us out. Our full backs bomb forward constantly, which means we’re usually left quite vulnerable to counter attacks anyway but having an extra defender there instead of say Gylfi Sigurdsson would probably prove more valuable.

Take Mason Holgate for instance, the likely candidate for the third centre back position, or Yerry Mina on the other side, would be able to step into midfield during build up play, and considering we seem to bypass the zones behind the striker anyway, overloading wide areas (as seen below) and pursuing the strengths of the wing-backs which therefore gives the freedom of Richarlison and one other besides Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Moise Kean could be key, especially when attempting to break down the low-block that most away teams use at Goodison Park.

So already “CHANGE THE SYSTEM” is screaming out to me, and hopefully to you. Gomes and Gbamin will quite probably be the go-to first choice midfield for this season and considering Silva is almost addicted to having a double pivot as the keystone of the team, I find it unlikely we would ever switch from the dull 4-2-3-1 to the more effective 4-3-3, albeit there’s potential the signing of Alex Iwobi changes that.

The 4-3-3 would most definitely get the best out of Andre Gomes, JP would fall back into his natural number-6-role, and then you could fleetingly switch between Sigurdsson, Iwobi, Bernard in the other number 8 position, rotation definitely seems a focus for Silva this year too.

Slight problem there though, it means Gylfi Sigurdsson would still be playing, and not in his natural role either. The 4-3-3 takes away the second striker duty away from the team, playing deeper means more responsibility for the Icelandic international, responsibility he’s more often shied away from.

Solution? Yep, you guessed it, 3-4-3. Instead of deploying Gylfi as one of the midfielders, you use him more so in the Ross Barkley role of the latter stages of the 2016/17 season when he arguably played his best football. It’s likely you will get more joy from him not as the customary No.10 but as a tucked in winger/attacking midfielder (above) that has the freedom to roam in the half spaces rather than just solely behind the number 9 where he’s almost hidden. The overloading in wide areas would consequently be quite useful for when we’re building-up attacks, Sigurdsson becomes more involved, Coleman is allowed the freedom to gallop forward, while Mason Holgate acts as an out-ball that can consistently play the ball back into midfield with varied positional rotations and combinations ahead of them.

Gylfi Sigurdsson? Problem solved.

The 3-4-3 remedy is probably just simply wishful thinking as I doubt, we’ll see such whirlwind changes from a manager who’s already been here 13 months but football’s not football without hope, nor optimism (lol). The likelihood is that Silva does change, but it’ll be the personnel that changes and not the structure of the side and that could still be a good thing. It’s evident that the back five will pretty much stay the same barring injuries, same goes to that tedious middle pivot but the front four will probably be subject to heavy rotation as the season goes on. Switching between players has never been something Everton have ever really done, and when they have, it’s not been successful. But fortunately, now they have the ammunition to do so. The collection of attacking players under Marcel Brands now gives Everton continual options ahead of the midfield, and the combination of creativity, ingenuity and pure directness through the likes of Richarlison, Iwobi, Bernard and Moise Kean is actually quite exciting.

Marco Silva might get a few things wrong this year, but he most definitely has a wealth of player quality to lean on in sticky situations, something we didn’t have last year and that alone is encouraging.

Encouraging enough to think that on the face of things, Everton should secure top 7 quite comfortably this year but Everton Football Club and Marco Silva never seem to do comfortable, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

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