Arsenal Opposition Report – Everton
Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti meet once again in the reverse fixture of both managers’ first game after being appointed. A lot has changed for both teams with Arsenal looking to build on their 4-0 trouncing of Newcastle, whilst Everton are aiming to continue their fantastic form.
This opposition analysis will analyse Everton under Carlo Ancelotti and what our opponents may have in store for us tactically.
Since Ancelotti’s arrival, a resurgent Everton have picked up 17 points from a possible 24, with the Toffies winning three of their last five games. In those five games, Everton have scored 10 and conceded seven. They currently sit in 9th place, level with 8th place Wolves on 36 points, two points more than Arsenal.
Ancelotti has continued to deploy the 4-4-2 that had served him well at Napoli. The 4-4-2 system allows for teams to set up compact and tight, whilst maintaining the threat of two strikers. The midfield two play a pivotal role in protecting the channels and the half-spaces when in defence. This allows the backline to comfortably defend with width, without the spaces between them and the full-backs being exploited. One of the two strikers often drop slightly deeper to help the midfield two should they struggle with numerical superiority. With the 4-4-2, Everton can attack by stretching the pitch without their players becoming isolated or disconnected.
Everton press using a man orientated system, which allows them to press their opponents and remain compact. A trigger for the press is often when a targeted centre-back receives the ball. The ball side forward will attempt to press them and force them onto their weaker foot or inside into traffic. The rest of the team then attempts to shut down passing options and move up the pitch as one. Often the space then comes between the midfield and defensive lines. Arsenal will need to occupy this space and have players who are comfortable receiving the ball with their back to goal. It’s imperative that Arsenal get players around the receiver of the ball, whilst the wingers run in behind, otherwise Yerry Mina and Michael Keane will be able to comfortably step out and disposes him.
Everton look to create diamonds when building the play up from deep. Dependent on which flank the ball is, it will determine if the left or right midfielder goes across to aid the ball progression. In the image below, an integral part of this mechanism is Sigurdsson getting tighter and closer to Digne and Keane. If either Digne or Bernard get disposed, then Sigurdsson is there as a “false full-back”. It’s a similar sort of role to Xhaka on Arsenal’s left. He sits in and helps construct the play from deep and is also there defensively should he be needed. The role of the midfielders at this point of the build-up play is more about aiding the flow of passing and spotting runs from deeper.
When attacking, Everton look for their four in midfield to play tight and close together. This helps prevent space which the opposition could potentially counter-attack into as well as ensuring the team is connected and can move the ball effectively. Staying connected also helps them overload the wings and pull opposition lines apart as they attack the channels. Everton look to attack based on pre-rehearsed moves. If a winger gets to the by-line, Calvert-Lewin will run from a wide position to the centre of goal, taking the full-back with him. Richarlison will then wait in space for a pullback or deflection. Bernard will then make an overlapping run from deep into the space vacated by the full-back. If the wingers are playing wide then the full-backs will tuck in slightly to protect the open space and have an advantage in defending the wide areas if the opposition counter.
Everton want to win the ball in a medium block and hit the ball into the channels as fast as possible. If they win the ball in midfield near the centre circle, then they will look to use quick combinations to draw in the opposition midfielders. In the process, the forwards and wingers will look to force the defensive line to drop back, with aggressive sprints. They want to stretch their opponents and create space to attack the channels. Supporting runs come from the midfielders and full-backs, who look to make runs into open space rather than offering a passing option.
Everton don’t look to counter-press but they much rather get behind the ball and then push up the pitch with a man orientated press. Because this is Everton’s modus operandi, there is no confusion. The players know if the ball is lost, they have to get back into shape and then press. Everton are well drilled at this and are very well organised. They leave very little space and exploitable gaps when in defensive transition. They look to protect the central zones first before getting out and covering the wide zones.
Everton’s medium block defence looks to maintain a narrow compact structure. They want for the ball to be played and kept in front of their shape with the wingers tracking back to deny 2v1 situations against the full-backs. When they drop to a low block, the midfielders occupy and protect the space between the centre-backs and full-backs. This allows the full-backs and wingers to defend the width, without allowing space in the channels which could be exploited. Ancelotti likes to keep a very high line in order to press effectively and deny space between the lines. The pace of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe could cause Everton a lot of problems providing they are released at the right points. Arsenal will have to create numerical advantages deep in order to have enough time to be able to execute these passes.
When defending out-swinging corners, Ancelotti’s men look to use their smaller players as blockers against the oppositions larger players. This prevents them from attacking the ball easily and allows Everton’s taller players to run uncontested from deep and attack the ball. The chances of the Everton players winning the ball is greater, due to them being able to meet the ball with greater momentum, rather than a standing jump. If the situation arises, the Everton players are also clearing the path for Pickford to come and claim the ball. He can come out into an area of greater space, knowing that any flicked-on second ball should catch any player contesting him offside.
Everton are in strong form and will make it very difficult for Arsenal. They will press high and look to destabilise the Arsenal defensive lines. Arsenal want to play possession-based football, moving the ball out through the thirds across the pitch. Arteta wants the transitions from defence to attack, from winning the ball to scoring, to be seamless and one flowing movement. Without creating new passing patterns and structures, which will derail Everton, this may be difficult. Arsenal will need to be brave in carrying the ball and laying it off in order to break down the Everton block.