What can Everton learn from Reds success?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool holds off James McCarthy of Everton during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on January 5, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool holds off James McCarthy of Everton during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on January 5, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images) /

Waking up yesterday morning most Everton fans would not have felt particularly happy. Arch rivals Liverpool have got to the Champions League final and have the chance of winning another trophy while the Blues long wait for silverware goes on…and on.

Although it’s difficult to say but what, if anything, can Everton learn from their neighbours?

We’ve said before that the Blues need to take a fundamental look at the way they are playing football at the moment and to understand in which direction the game is moving.

This season has seen Manchester City gallop away with the league title playing the possession and pressing football that current City manager Pep Guardiola’s former club Barcelona turned into an art form.

And now Liverpool who play an even more cavalier brand of fast-paced, pressing and attacking football under Jurgen Klopp have reached another cup final.

Those teams that keep hold of the ball and can also press with pace and coordination are the sides that win the majority of football matches.

Everton’s approach has been very different this season. The Blues are normally playing in a defensive and negative way with men behind the ball, usually conceding possession and hoping for a quick break or a long ball to bring a goal.

It’s crude, old-fashioned and often ineffective football.

And on those few occasions when Everton do find themselves on the front foot, (like recently at home against an even more negative Newcastle United), they don’t have the ability to press as a team or possess the quality of passing or the individual creativity to break a team down.

For the Blues to make any real progress next season these weaknesses must be addressed.

I do obviously think it’s important that the team defend well and that this area shouldn’t be neglected. Everton need another centre-half to replace Phil Jagielka and a left-back as Leighton Baines powers are waning.

It’s also good to see the return to form of Morgan Schniderlin and his re-established partnership with the ever reliable Idrissa Gueye in central midfield. They can offer much-needed protection in front of the Blues defence.

In fact these two, along with Romelu Lukaku’s goals, were the main reasons Everton finished seventh last season.

But the Blues need to make a real effort to up their attacking game next term. Too often Everton have allowed their opponents to control matches and dictate terms. And the team don’t create enough efforts on goal.

The more chances you create the more goals you will score, it’s that simple. Manchester City and Liverpool are the two sides who have averaged the most shots per game and consequently have scored the most goals.

To further underline the importance of this fact, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, the league’s top scorer is also averaging the second-most chances per game, meaning that he’s missing a lot too.

Being caught between two stools is characteristic of those sides that struggle in the Premier League.

They find it hard to keep the ball, are often lacking in the precision and quality of passing needed to make the most of the possession they have, and fall into the trap of trying to defend deeply and in numbers to make up for those deficiencies.

And as we know the all-pervasive fear factor of relegation is also a big reason why so many teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League take this highly conservative approach.

That of course is why Everton eventually took the tried and tested route of bringing in Sam Allardyce when things looked really bleak early in this campaign. But his brand of no-risk football simply won’t enable Everton to progress.

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One team that have learned some of these lessons is actually Burnley.

Last season Sean Dyche’s team flirted with the drop and nearly fell through the trap-door. This season, especially away from home, Burnley have been much more adventurous and attack-minded and the results have come.

Dyche has recognised that to compete in the Premier League you have to try to win matches rather than just not lose them and particularly that you take the game to your opponent, especially away from home.

His teams don’t throw caution to the wind and are very strong defensively, conceding just 32 goals, but he has understood the need to adjust his tactics.

Burnley in fact have an away record bettered only by the top five. And they have climbed to seventh this season – that’s not a coincidence!

Allardyce has made a lot of Everton’s good form at home this season. But that should not be a problem for a team of the Blues supposed quality. Winning the majority of home games isn’t the issue.

To compete at the top table you have to be able to win away from home and take points off your closest rivals.

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Whoever is in charge when Everton open their next Premier League campaign in August, the Blues must significantly improve in these areas to have a chance of competing for honours.