Talking Tactics

Iwobi can reinvigorate Everton midfield

By Adrian Clarke 1 Dec 2019
Premier League - Burnley v Everton

Adrian Clarke says Marco Silva should consider using the Nigerian in a three-man unit to add protection and boost side's threat on the break

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points ahead of Matchweek 14.

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As Everton prepare for a difficult run of fixtures, starting with a trip to Leicester City on Sunday, Marco Silva may contemplate reconfiguring his central midfield.

After Idrissa Gueye's departure for Paris Saint-Germain last summer, there has been a lack of solidity in the middle of the pitch.

Injuries to Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Fabian Delph have exacerbated the problem, but within Silva's preferred 4-2-3-1 system the midfield unit have laboured.

Everton's front four players are instructed to close down opponents but when their rivals beat the press with smart distribution, the pair playing behind them in the double pivot have been exposed. So too have the defence.

The Toffees have conceded four goals from incisive through-balls in this kind of situation and three more from turnovers or counter-attacks that have bypassed their midfield.

It is imperative Silva's side are more compact when they visit Leicester and in their matches against Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Losing the free role

The least disruptive switch would be to change Everton's shape to 4-3-2-1.

While that move would take Gylfi Sigurdsson away from his free role behind the striker, he has yet to deliver enough end product to justify that freedom.

With such a testing run of matches, it would be logical to sacrifice that position and bolster the midfield with an extra body.

In a 4-3-2-1 or 4-5-1, Sigurdsson would compete with Richarlison, Bernard, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott for the two narrow attacking midfield spots.

Sigurdsson's attacking contribution
2019/20 PL Total
Minutes 879
Goals 1
Assists 1
Open-play key passes 13
Big chances created 4
Shot conversion rate 5.9%

Morgan Schneiderlin excelled as a mobile defensive midfielder at Southampton but has struggled to replicate this form at Goodison Park.

Todd Cantwell eluded him to score last weekend and in the previous fixture Sofiane Boufal beat him to set up Danny Ings for a tap-in.

Schneiderlin needs to be quicker in possession and has lapses in his positioning.

Iwobi suited to deeper position

If Silva does opt for a midfield trio rather than a pair, he could use Iwobi in that unit.

The Nigerian is not known for his defensive qualities but many of his best performances for Arsenal came when he was in a deeper role inside a midfield three.

Comfortable on the half-turn, he is excellent at linking play and moving the ball between the lines with early forward passes.

Across the next five matches, Silva's side will need to break quickly from a solid base and Iwobi's qualities are well suited to those counter-attacking tactics.

Iwobi and Tom Davies, an industrious player who also looks to make vertical passes, as the table below shows, could be the ideal men to operate either side of a holding midfielder. 

Forward passes by central midfielders
Player Forward pass %
Tom Davies 41.0
Alex Iwobi 37.5
Jean-Philippe Gbamin 35.7
Morgan Schneiderlin 30.8
Fabian Delph 30.7
Andre Gomes 30.6

Davies is better suited to a box-to-box role rather than the holding position so, fitness permitting, Delph would be the man best-equipped to play in front of the back four.

Silva could also consider 4-5-1, 4-2-2-2, 4-1-4-1 or 3-5-2 formations but the aim would be the same.

When Everton's press does not work effectively, they need the right structure or personnel to cope.

Changes to their set-up at King Power Stadium on Sunday could give the Toffees a much-needed lift.

Also in this series

Part 2: Norwich danger man Hernandez can outflank Arsenal
Part 3: Jesus has attributes to take leading role

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