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Talking Tactics

Everton must stop set-piece goals to challenge champions

Adrian Clarke 25 Sep 2019
Everton set-pieces

Adrian Clarke says Marco Silva's side must be more robust when defending dead-ball situations as they prepare to host Man City

Adrian Clarke is looking at key tactical talking points ahead of Matchweek 7.

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While converting quality possession into goals has been problematic for Everton this term, they must primarily focus on resolving their defensive deficiencies as they prepare to host Manchester City.

Set-pieces have been a particular weakness.

Four of the last six goals the Toffees have conceded have come from set-plays: a long throw against Wolverhampton Wanderers, a wide free-kick and corner against AFC Bournemouth and another corner against Sheffield United.

It is an issue that has plagued Everton ever since Marco Silva took charge. Since the summer of 2018, no side have conceded more set-piece goals in the Premier League.

It was also a weak area when Silva was in charge of Watford and Hull City, so you can expect Man City to target their hosts from dead-ball situations.

Set-piece goals conceded under Silva
Season Club Matches Goals PL rank
2016/17 HUL 18 11 1
2017/18 WAT 24 12 3
2018/19 EVE 44 20 1

Everton have also been vulnerable to through-balls in recent weeks.

Lys Mousset, Callum Wilson and Wesley have all scored against them after running in behind.

Under Silva, the Toffees like to press and keep the ball inside opposition territory.

But with two attacking full-backs and a centre-back pairing that is not especially mobile, they are vulnerable to passes played in behind them.

This will be a cause for concern as Everton now ready themselves to face Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, two of the best in the business when it comes to movement in the final third.

Staying compact

Everton may therefore choose to hold their line a little deeper on Saturday evening.

Tempering their desire to win the ball high up the field, and adopting a more pragmatic approach, feels like a sensible option.

But if they do decide to close City down in advanced areas, the entire team must commit to the tactic.

If the front players press while those behind them sit off for fear of being bypassed, it could create huge holes in central areas.

The task facing midfield pair Morgan Schneiderlin and Fabian Delph is tough enough without that scenario unfolding.

Role reversal

However Silva decides to approach this match tactically, it will be a different type of contest to the ones Everton have had so far in 2019/20.

Five of their six opponents to date have been happy to sacrifice the ball and the Toffees have averaged 60 per cent possession, second only to Man City.

But this has not really suited them.

In fact, Everton's two victories this season have come in the matches where they had their lowest share of the play.

Everton possession and results 2019/20
Fixture Possession Result
SHU (H) 69.8% L 2-0
AVL (A) 64.8% L 2-0
CRY (A) 64.8% D 0-0
BOU (A) 59.5% L 3-1
WOL (H) 58.7% W 3-2
WAT (H) 44.1% W 1-0

Everton will be disappointed with their performances and results so far this term, especially as they are yet to face one of last season's top-six clubs.

A tally of only five goals from six outings will be a source of enormous frustration.

But we may not have seen them perform in the style that suits them best.

If they are better equipped to play on the counter-attack, a tactic they are likely to be forced to adopt this weekend, we should see positive signs against City.

Also in this series

Part 2: Blades midfield providing cutting edge as well as graft
Part 3: Arsenal must nurture bond between Pepe and Aubameyang

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