Everton must find a way to play a more modern game

Everton (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images) /
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When Carlo Ancelotti joined there was hope finally for a better balance and greater tactical sophistication under the hugely experienced and successful Italian.

But, after a bright start which cruely gave Evertonians false hope of a brighter future, came a series of injuries which forced Ancelotti to become very negative and defensive and the season never got back on track.

During that campaign, the Toffees’ had lost a succession of matches at home during the Premier League season, a truly terrible record that ultimately cost them a chance of European football.

Many of those defeats had been charaterised by the same problem of slow, methodical and outdated football which was punished again and again.

Even sides in the bottom three or four came to Goodison Park and won playing with a degree of urgency, energy and commitment which the Blues’ seemed unable to produce. Once more this Toffees’ team seemed outmoded and unable to compete in the modern game.

Ancelotti’s successor, Rafa Benitez came into this season having been handicapped by a chronic lack of funds and with a ludicrously threadbare squad despite five years of profilgate spending.

Rightly, he looked at this team and pragmatically identified two key things that he needed to improve and could do so quickly, given all the constraints he was under.

First of all the side needed greater pace and width to ensure more and better quality ball was being delivered to his centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin. So, he brought in Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray to provide that.

And, he also recognised that he needed to get much more offensive productivity from his midfield. To do that, he urged Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan to play more freely than they had under Ancelotti and get forward much more so they could link up with a previously too-often isolated strikeforce.

At first all this worked quite well and Everton were a more dynamic attacking threat creating and scoring plenty of goals, much as they had done at the beginning of last season.

And the strange parallel with the last campaign continued. Once again after the international breaks interrupted momentum and all the key players picked up injuries, it basically fell apart with the team reverting to the lacklustre, one-paced and timid football we’ve seen so often in the past.

So, in one sense you could argue that Benitez had got it right tactically and made the most out of his limited resources. But, while that’s true in the short-term, looking at things from a broader perspective it only further highlights the issues.