In falling to a 2-0 loss at Manchester United it was clear Everton were missing midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure, suspended after his red card last Monday.
Losing the Mali international was always going to be challenging for Sean Dyche, because of how well Doucoure has been performing in the manager’s 4-5-1 formation.
The Everton boss decided to shift to a 4-4-2 and play two strikers up front bringing Ellis Simms back alongside Demarai Gray.
It meant abandoning the five-man midfield which had up to that point been his default tactical setting and had proved effective, with the Blues’ picking up twelve points since Dyche took over.
I had speculated whether he might have been prepared to revert to a classic 4-4-2 given the absence of Doucoure from his team.
He did and unfortunately it didn’t work as the Toffees’ were soundly beaten at Old Trafford yesterday lunchtime.
One of the consequences of Dyche’s decision was that Everton ceded control of midfield to their opponents and in addition, this also put more pressure on the defence than has been the case in the recent past.
In the first half, United had over twenty shots at goal and their Brazilian winger Antony gave Ben Godfrey, in particular, a torrid time running rings around him in that forty-five minutes.
Both centre-backs who have been pretty solid over the last few weeks also looked more vulnerable and both made several errors.
That the Blues’ were only one down at halftime was something of a miracle, thanks largely to Jordan Pickford and some very wasteful finishing from the home team.
After the break, Dyche made changes and the Toffees’ reverted to a formation similar to that 4-5-1 look. Everton were a little more competitive, but the match was already effectively over by then.
So, how do the Blues’ resolve this problem, given that Doucoure is absent for two more crucial Premier League games?
I think that based on the evidence of yesterday, the manager needs to either move Alex Iwobi back into the middle, where he thrived earlier in the season, or bring James Garner in from the start.
Iwobi or Garner would I think provide that additional body in the centre of the park, which it seems Everton do need.
They are though different types of player. Iwobi would be busy and hard-working but doesn’t offer much in attack.
Garner always looks very comfortable in possession and offers more ball-control together with a positive and progressive atttitude as he likes to get forward.
These then are the decisions Dyche needs to make if he is to get the Blues’ back on track starting with next weekend’s huge home game against Fulham.