Everton may have just picked up one of the best bargain deals this summer, that was a common *sensible* thought on July 15th when the club completed their second signing ahead of the 2019/20 campaign. A double Premier League winner, three League Cups, one FA Cup, 20 caps for England and more importantly, three years under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola. You get the gist of why the Toffees may have been interested in the former Aston Villa captain.
Yet, while some shrugged, others pointed and laughed, some even quite disappointed, Marcel and Marco were rubbing their hands.
The re-structuring of Everton’s midfield this summer was the arguably the biggest point of concern for most Evertonians, and rightly so. From the likely departure of Idrissa Gueye, to the Andre Gomes loan deal ending, this was an opportunity to start a fresh, scrap the shape and personnel and bring in players of pure athleticism, discipline and creativity. Marco Silva players.
Partly, Brands and Silva succeeded in doing this. The acquisition of JP Gbamin seems promising, he fits the formerly mentioned bill of athletic, disciplined and creative enough to develop the midfield that would push Silva’s ideas further along. Just a shame we now won’t see him until November.
Other than that, Andre Gomes returned (yay!), Morgan Schneiderlin stayed, James McCarthy left and our flaccid pursuit of Abdoulaye Doucoure ended before it began (thankfully).
Enter; Sir Fabian Delph of Bradford, Yorkshire.
Statistically, Delph comes across well enough for a midfielder who was basically used as an unorthodox inverted left-back in Guardiola’s unorthodox system. So fundamentally, he played as a defensive midfielder anyway, presumably the role Silva will ask Fabian to play here. 2.9 tackles and 1.8 interceptions p90 demonstrate he’s good enough to fill Gbamin’s gap, who was meant to fill the gap left by Gana Gueye.
He backed that up with a promising 4 tackles and 2 interceptions against Wolves on Sunday which followed the 12 times he won possession against Lincoln in midweek.
So that’s promising, meanwhile, on the eye he provides the composure & aggression that a Marco Silva midfield needs and notably brings that so-called “winning mentality” that Everton definitely lack.
The key to this signing though, could be the unlocking of the player potential around him, in particular, Andre Gomes. As previously noted, I’m not Gomes’ number one fan, but it wasn’t his fault he was locked in a system that hindered both himself and the team. The 4-2-3-1 held Everton back for various reasons, but fortunately that seems like it’s about to change.
The Wolves game was the first time we saw Everton adapt between systems effectively under Marco Silva, (about time) but it’s better late than never.
The still above shows how in possession, Everton switched to the more dynamic 4-3-3, the system that apparently the gaffer favours the most looking back from his time at Watford.
With the ball in the final third, Gomes can push forward, providing another option as we overload the wide areas with Kean, Iwobi and Digne just behind while the third midfielder (Delph) acting as a shield for the pair of centre backs.
Again, in this still, Delph sits in to cover the attacking options that have been unleashed ahead. This time, Everton overload the right-hand side with Iwobi, Gomes, Coleman pushing on to break down the vulnerable space behind Wolves’ left-wing back.
The key word there? Unleashed. In games against tougher opposition, especially away, Gomes will need to sit deeper, focus more so on the space behind him rather than the spaces ahead but it’s in-game situations such as these that Everton neglected last season. But at home, when the Evertonians urge that players continue to surge forward, to dominate the ball, create chance after chance, it’ll be up to the partnership of Gomes and Delph to control games and to ignite attacks.
Having one deep-lying number 6 (Fabian Delph), and allowing Andre Gomes to roam as one of two number 8’s, gets the best out of Everton’s midfield.
Fabian Delph offers a lot, he’s effective at what he does while having the equanimity and ingenuity to support the attack and protect its defence. But not all the time. The Wolves game proved that Silva has found a way to potentially combat against low, narrow blocks. Away from the futile and impotent 4-2-3-1, we can now deploy wide overloads, continuous positional rotations around the 18-yard box while being able to push 3 or 4 players into the box if the ball gets pushed wide to the full-backs.
But away from home, when dominance and control will be unlikely, tactics would need to change to prevent being overran by counter attacks and lofted balls over the top of the high defensive offside trap.
Everton did show one way to tackle this but unfortunately Goodison Park’s horrid camera angles didn’t show it so you’ll just have to trust me eyes that saw it from the Top Balcony, but stopping Seamus Coleman from galloping forward continuously, ineffectively overlapping Richarlison and instead combining with Keane and Mina to create a back three, while the rest pushed forward ahead of defensive-shield Fabian Delph, was just one attacking structure that appeared often on Sunday afternoon.
By not propelling both full-backs forward, the centre backs become less exposed while Coleman even has the pace to cover the space in-behind that will remain to be Keane and Mina’s biggest flaw as the club’s first choice partnership.
Through this, Marco Silva has shown the tactical flexibility that was severely lacking at times in his debut season, especially during the winter periods and it all stems from the signing of Fabian Delph.
He enables various systems; a secure midfield following the departure of Idrissa Gueye and could possibly unshackle Andre Gomes.