Yesterday’s pre-season victory over Preston North End raised some interesting tactical questions for Everton going into the new Premier League campaign.
While the focus of the 2-0 win over the Championship club was that untimely injury to Mason Holgate, there were aspects to how Everton set up and performed, that could give Carlo Ancelotti some useful food-for-thought.
It was obviously a warm-up game against a lower-league team that had actually played 24 hours earlier, so we need to take that into account!
However, the Toffees looked very much in control throughout and played some excellent attacking football at times, although Preston did create a few good chances.
It was certainly a considerable improvement on the team’s previous outing, when they produced a very poor effort in a 3-3 draw at League One Blackpool, which had highlighted all the old problems with the team.
One thing to mention straight away was that Ancelotti’s very young side lined up in a 4-3-3 of sorts and this suited both full-backs in particular.
Jonjo Kenny thrived being able to get forward as often as possible, which is his strength and Niels Nkounkou the Blues young left-back, also enjoyed the freedom to attack as well.
Kenny in particular, was very much involved in most of the Blues best play early on and scored Everton’s opener after a good link-up with Richarlison. Unfortunately Holgate’s injury meant he had to move inside to central defence to replace him. Might he be the answer at right-back if the team is playing in this way?
Once again this was a pre-season game against Championship opposition, but it does show how effective this formation and system can be when you have two naturally attacking full-backs who are given licence to get forward.
It highlights the point that a team’s tactics and formation can play an important role in overcoming a players weaknesses and maximizing whatever qualities they do have. And as we’ve said, with Allan’s arrival, Everton can more easily adopt and play a 4-3-3.
Another aspect of this formation, which raised similar interesting questions, was the impact of the diminutive Brazilian Bernard, who was playing as one of the three midfielders alongside Sigurdsson and the lively Anthony Gordon.
I wrote quite a long time ago when the Blues attack was really struggling, (yes I know that’s quite a regular issue!), that I thought in order to get the best out of this enigmatic little player, Everton might need him playing more centrally.
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At the time I was thinking perhaps as one of three forwards, a-la Roberto Firmino, where he has the opportunity to get on the ball, knit play together and be much more consistently involved than when he is playing out wide.
Well he got that chance yesterday. He was involved in much of the Blues best work, prompting and probing with real quality and showing his ability to keep the ball moving forward really well.
Bernard is another Toffees player who I don’t think suits an orthodox 4-4-2. When he has the chance to play in the middle, he is much more able to influence the game and show his particular skills.
I’ve said that the Brazilian should be one of those players available for sale if a buyer comes along. But maybe, based on yesterday’s evidence if he does stay at Goodiison Park, he could still have a role next season, giving Ancelotti another attacking option perhaps as a regular substitute in that more central position.