As the emotional high from yesterday’s 3-1 win over Chelsea begins to die down, one longer-term consequence of that victory is that Everton might well have finally found the right formation going forward.
Duncan Ferguson’s team selection and formation certainly proved to be the right one for Everton yesterday lunchtime. But is it perhaps the template for the longer-term?
I’ve always felt that the Blues would be best served by a 4-3-3 system, if they have all their players available, but perhaps the Toffees should stick with the set-up Ferguson went with.
Playing two banks of four gave the Blues much greater solidity than they’ve had recently and a good shape. Importantly when they were coming under the cosh in the second half as Chelsea sought to get an equaliser, that shape and structure held firm, despite some wobbles.
Given how important it is for Everton to get points as quickly as possible, maintaining this sort of organised and disciplined structure does seem really critical at the moment.
One of the reasons why I wasn’t convinced about a 4-4-2 is that Everton lack natural out-and-out wide players. The forwards who might play in that sort of position, like Richarlison or Theo Walcott, seem better suited to be in a more narrow position tucked in like an old inside forward.
However it actually worked well yesterday. Alex Iwobi and Walcott were both industrious, snapping into tackles and harrying the Chelsea players as well as getting forward quickly. Walcott in particular was very effective and dangerous.
Ferguson also understood that Richarlison is most effective when he can play more centrally, not as an orthodox centre-forward, but rather coming in from a wider, looser position and making those well-timed, powerful and bustling runs into the box. This is something that Marco Silva, despite having a good relationship with the Brazilian, didn’t appear to get.
I’m not sure whether longer-term, Iwobi especially is best suited to playing wider on the left. I feel that he’s most effective playing more centrally from a deeper position, getting on the ball and running at the opposition, which creates space for him and others to exploit.
If Ferguson or whoever might replace him as permanent manager continues with this system, Bernard would probably be a better fit there. It would also enable him to reignite his productive understanding with Lucas Digne.
Most important though to making this system and formation work, is an effective and consistent centre-forward. So Dominic Calvert-Lewin is crucial to this tactical approach.
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Everton’s struggles finding a reliable centre-forward, and particularly Calvert-Lewin’s own patchy performances, are a major reason why moving to a 4-3-3 always seemed the best option.
However it always felt like there was a potentially good centre-forward inside Calvert-Lewin and yesterday was surely his best game for Everton yet.
As well as his all-round performance, what was most important was the clinical nature of his finishing. That has been the biggest weakness in his game, ever since he got into the first team.
Critically therefore can Calvert-Lewin continue to deliver the kind of performance he produced yesterday and lead the line with energy while also regularly scoring goals too?