Everton must overcome selection uncertainty

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Everton speaks with Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton and Ben Godfrey of Everton during the Premier League match between Burnley and Everton at Turf Moor on December 05, 2020 in Burnley, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Everton speaks with Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton and Ben Godfrey of Everton during the Premier League match between Burnley and Everton at Turf Moor on December 05, 2020 in Burnley, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images) /
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After Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Burnley, Everton must find a way to solve the continuing uncertainty and instability in tactics and team selection.

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti continued with his 3-4-3 formation at Turf Moor with Alex Iwobi reverting to right wing-back while in another selection change Fabian Delph came in on the left.

Again though in the first half hour of the game as they had against Leeds United and to some extent also Fulham two weeks ago, the Toffees looked unbalanced and disjointed with the midfield at times overrun.

Then came the injury to Delph and Ancelotti was forced to reshuffle his cards once again. He went to a back four with Iwobi and Ben Godfrey now as his two full-backs.

This worked reasonably well, giving the Blues much improved stability in defence and midfield and enabled Everton to get back into the game.

But although that was an enforced change, the constant switching of systems and players isn’t conducive to long-term stability and consistency. Of course much of this is a consequence of the endless injury problems that Ancelotti has to deal with, culminating last week with Lucas Digne getting hurt in training and then Delph on Saturday.

The Blues manager has also been wrestling with his team’s chronic defensive problems. It seems that whatever combination or group of players Ancelotti goes with, his defence just can’t stop leaking goals.

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Although the Toffees have managed to reduce that from the usual two-a-game to one in the matches against Leeds and Burnley, Everton have now conceded eighteen goals and have only achieved one clean sheet all season – in the opening game at Tottenham. As we’ve said before that kind of defensive frailty will undermine the Toffees season.

Ancelotti tried a 3-4-3 in the past three games in an effort to overcome injuries and these defensive weaknesses. I thought this might help if the Blues could find the right balance in that back three and the wing-backs were able to provide the critical defensive and attacking support.

The effectiveness of the wing-backs are crucial to make this formation work. They must have genuine pace, solid defensive ability and be able to get forward and provide quality attacking support to the forwards.

With Digne and Iwobi together in that position Everton appeared to have that necessary quality out wide, at least on paper.

As for the centre-backs, Ancelotti has tried almost every combination he can. He started with Micheal Keane and Yerry Mina, then tried Keane, Mina and Godfrey, then Keane, Godfrey and Mason Holgate. Finally on Saturday after the injury to Delph, it was back to Keane and Mina!

This bewildering merry-go-round of defenders isn’t going to help create a settled defence and it probably has contributed to the number of goals the team is conceding. Injuries are a big part of this situation, but defenders need time to develop an understanding.

In midfield there has also been a considerable turnover of personnel. Originally Andre Gomes lined up alongside Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure then when he lost form Gylfi Sigurdsson came into the team. Then recently in the 3-4-3 it’s just been Allan and Doucoure.  Again on Saturday he went back to his original first-choice three when Delph went off.

Understandably, Ancelotti is under pressure to solve these problems and so he has been experimenting. I think if Digne had not got hurt he would have been right to give the three-man defence more time to bed in.

Next. Can Iwobi solve right-back dilemma. dark

But having ended up back with his original 4-3-3 at Burnley, I feel that even if this makeshift back-four isn’t ideal, given the need for some stability it is probably best for Everton to stick with the same side that finished against the Clarets when they face Chelsea on Wednesday.