Tactical Breakdown: How can Rafa Benitez’s Everton halt Manchester City’s Winning Machine?

Everton (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images) /
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Everton (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

Everton need to remain defensively stable throughout the game

Both Spurs and Palace have provided a blueprint on how to shock Man City, and the best chance Everton have of winning this game is to follow that blueprint, mainly the blueprint taken by Vieira’s Palace.

Both Spurs and Palace’s main focus were defensive stability going into this game, with Nuno playing a back four plus both Pierre-Emile Højberg and Oliver Skipp playing as a double pivot. It isn’t a controversial statement to say these two are both defensive midfielders, they also had hard-workers Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura on the wing, with the world-class presence of Son Heung-Min scoring the goal that gave Spurs the three points that night.

When you look across London, you notice that Crystal Palace came in with a very similar approach. Two defensively solid midfielders in Cheikhou Kouyaté and James McArthur providing excellent cover for the breakout star of this season Conor Gallagher, who grabbed a goal and an assist to provide Palace with what could be their best result of the season after 38 games have been played. They also had two hard workers in Odsonne Eduoard and Jordan Ayew besides the tricky Wilfried Zaha.

When looking at how to beat Manchester City it’s difficult, they are a team that has a lot of the ball, create plenty of chances and focus on working the ball into open spaces, which has seen somebody like Joao Cancelo turn himself into arguably the best full-back in the world at this moment in time, but Palace were able to neutralise the impact Cancelo had by piling on the pressure.

They did the same thing to players like Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, who both had below-par performances, especially De Bruyne, who was subbed off for John Stones due to an Aymeric Laporte red card.

They also were prepared for the zonal style that Manchester City play, no City player ever plays in a similar zone to a teammate, for example, if Bernardo Silva starts to dribble out of his position in central-midfield, someone like Jack Grealish will stay out wide to provide an option for the Portuguese midfielder.

This can also be seen when Cancelo drifts inside if you play Football Manager this is often referred to as an inverted full/wing-back and it is what has allowed Cancelo to get involved in City’s attack so much this season. By neutralising Cancelo’s threat of drifting inside, this could force City to change their game plan and make mistakes when being hit by the Everton press.