Everton must sometimes consider new tactics

The evidence from the last few games indicates that Everton might need to look at adjusting their tactics sometimes to get the most out of the current players.

The Tottenham match in particular showed that perhaps Everton are in danger of becoming a little too conservative and defensive in their tactics at times.

This game was a match up between two high-profile coaches who have won a sackful of trophies all across Europe.

Both have a reputation for prioritising defensive solidity over an excessively extravagant, attacking approach. This played out on Monday night and in truth the two sides cancelled each other out and neither deserved to win.

Against Spurs, in my view the Toffees were too negative and tactically obtuse. Carlo Ancelotti picked a funny team with three central midfielders in Tom Davies, Andre Gomes and Gylfi Sigurdsson playing behind the attack.

I’m not honestly sure what he was trying to do, as it wasn’t a conventional 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3, but it didn’t work and the Blues were dreadfully tepid, unimaginative and lacking energy and commitment in the game.

Gomes and Sigurdsson in particular were basically anonymous and contributed nothing to the team either defensively or in attack.

I’m not at all suggesting that those tactics and formation were solely to blame for the defeat, clearly too many of the current crop of players lack the right mentality to win these sort of games.

However, there is a sense that possibly the Blues need to be a little more flexible and take a more attacking approach against a team that are there for the taking, as Tottenham clearly were on Monday night.

I have recently praised the impact that Ancelotti is having on this team and I stand by that piece. He is right to be focused first and foremost on ensuring that Everton are solid, well organised and can keep their shape, as this has been a major weakness of Blues teams recently.

His approach has brought the Toffees plenty of points since the former Napoli coach took over in December, and he has certainly steadied a sinking ship.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a bit more positive in terms of individual game-tactics and I did feel that he got the team selection wrong on Monday.

That match was one in which the Blues should have been more adventurous against a side that have struggled and were coming off a bad loss at Sheffield United in their previous outing.

I think it’s quite possible to maintain the basic shape he’s aiming for and still have enough flexibility to give the team more attacking options. That’s why I would have picked Djibril Sidibe and Anthony Gordon in the wide midfield positions.

Both could have been drilled to support the defensive effort, (as Gordon has done so well),  but would also have offered a bit more offensive energy and creativity too.

It might not have worked of course, and obviously Ancelotti felt that he needed to continue to focus on shoring up the centre of midfield.

Overall there is though an increasing sense that the game has moved on, at least temporarily, to a much more attacking culture among the top clubs, with the success of Manchester City and Liverpool and their coaches Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

Both emphasise pressing and high-energy, although City are a bit more focused on ball-possession and controlling the whole tempo of the game, while Liverpool are content to concede possession a little more, but then quickly winning the ball back very high up the pitch.

Critical to this working is having pace and energy throughout the team and playing football at an almost frenetic speed. In the long run I think Everton must try and replicate this to be successful.

The approach of coaches like Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez, so successful a decade or so ago, are perhaps now seen as a little too rigid and inflexible by today’s top Premier League clubs striving to win the big prizes at home and abroad.

Rule changes, which make defending a high line and playing offside more uncertain, and the dearth of quality home-grown defenders like John Terry or Jamie Carragher, that used to be such fixtures for top English clubs, are all part of the reasons for that.

It’s also of course one reason why many of the so-called ‘lesser teams’ in the Premier League, prefer to often defend so deep and in such numbers.

Ancelotti has shown he was more than happy to go with an attacking philosophy when he took Chelsea to the league and cup double in 2009-10, with the London Blues notching up a then record 103 goals scored. You don’t get that many playing defensive football. And his Real Madrid sides were certainly not goal-shy either!

Obviously he had much better attacking talent at those clubs than he does at Everton! But I would like to think that Ancelotti is biding his time and when he has the players that he needs, he go over to a more high-tempo, offensive strategy without jepardising that hard earned team shape.