Tactical Breakdown: Can Rafa Benitez’s Everton stop the ruthless Brentford?

Everton(Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Everton(Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Everton (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

So, why are Brentford such a difficult task for Everton?

It’s mainly down to the way Brentford play, with heavy pressing, structure and a monstrous physical presence in the form of Ivan Toney.

Frank’s strategy when it comes to pressing is pretty simple actually, he’ll highlight a trigger for Brentford to look out for, usually when a team takes a heavy touch in defence, which will see players like Toney and Bryan Mbeumo press the opposition’s centre-backs or sometimes even goalkeeper, something Mbeumo did fantastically against Arsenal, closing down Bernd Leno whenever he got the chance.

They are currently sat fifth for both pressures and successful pressures, with the Bees focus when it comes to pressing being to put the opposition in difficult situations in the defensive third and the midfield. Brentford can win the ball so much in midfield due to their choice of formation, usually playing a 3-5-2, utilising talented ball-winners like Frank Onyeka, his 3.14 tackles per game place him in the top 10% of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues.

However, Brentford’s most impressive midfielder has been their Danish lynchpin Christian Nørgaard, a player who has stepped up as one of Thomas Frank’s most important players this season.

Nørgaard has been vital in both defence and attack, winning the ball back almost six times per game (5.88 tackles + interceptions). The Danish midfielder is top of the charts when it comes to tackles completed and seventh in interceptions, showing his defensive versatility.

Nørgaard is also fantastic at progressing the ball, being sat in the top 15% of midfielders for progressive passes per 90, highlighting how Frank’s system heavily relies on Nørgaard’s ability to win the ball and then distribute it further up the field for Brentford’s talented attackers.

Both Mbeumo and Toney have been fantastic for Brentford this season, with Toney specifically adapting to the Premier League with relative ease. The 25-year old has scored three goals and provided two assists in 12 Premier League appearances, but it’s the physical presence he brings, bullying defenders like Virgil Van Dijk and Ben White to assert himself in this league.

Toney contributes effectively in both attack and in Brentford’s relentless pressing attack, being ranked in the top 15% of forwards in Europe’s top five leagues for tackles, but what’s impressive is Toney’s aerial ability, his five aerial duels won per game are in the top 7% in Europe’s top five leagues, and this is probably what is causing Everton fans to panic going into the game.

This is a problem for the Toffees, who have conceded six set-piece goals, which is one-third of the total goals that they have conceded this season, with Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane struggling due to Everton’s use of zonal marking, which is something that Rafa has tried to incorporate, but Marco Silva’s time at the club proved that Everton struggle with zonal marking.

With dangerous aerial threats in Toney, Ethan Pinnock and Pontus Jansson; they could all give Everton’s zonal marking scheme some real trouble at Goodison Park, and if Keane and Godfrey aren’t on the ball then Brentford could punish the Toffees from set-pieces.

Everton need to be focused for the full 90 minutes if they want to pick up three points, catching Brentford off guard with quick, counter-attacking football, but without somebody like Demarai Gray then Everton could struggle, especially with their complete lack of pace up front.