Talking Tactics

Coady and Tarkowski transforming Everton backline

By Adrian Clarke 10 Oct 2022

Adrian Clarke explains why Everton's centre-backs offer more than just clearing their lines

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 11.

Conor CoadyJames Tarkowski

Frank Lampard has praised his new central defensive partnership of Coady and Tarkowski for "setting the standards" at Everton this season.

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Both players arrived at Goodison Park in the summer and have settled in remarkably well to form an impressive pairing in the Premier League.

Everton average just 42 per cent of possession and tend to concede territory, so it is admirable that they boast the joint-best defensive record in the division, letting in only nine goals so far.

Coady and Tarkowski's combined tactical nous and leadership has played a key role in that.

They are sure to be tested by their trip to Tottenham Hotspur this weekend but are performing with enough confidence to make life difficult for Antonio Conte’s side.

Most clearances 22/23
Player Total
Joachim Andersen 65
Chris Mepham 53
Kurt Zouma 52
James Tarkowski 50
Tosin Adarabioyo 44
Conor Coady 40

Soaking up a lot of pressure this term, questions have been asked of Tarkowski and Coady but their defending has been consistently resilient.

They have used their experience wisely to take up the right positions, protecting their penalty area very well indeed.

Lampard’s side have been forced to make more clearances than any other Premier League team, with 19 more than next-closest AFC Bournemouth, but their centre-backs have handled that challenge with ease.

As the table above shows, both England internationals feature among the top six for players who have executed the most clearances.

Body on the line

Former Burnley stalwart Tarkowski has been in magnificent form, performing with class and dominance.

He has also bailed his side out of trouble on numerous occasions, putting his body in the way of shots on goal.

By some distance he leads the way for the most blocks this term, making an incredible 18 in just nine appearances.

Most blocks 22/23
Player Total
James Tarkowski 18
Rodrigo Bentancur 11
Ruben Neves 10
Max Kilman 10
Effective passing

We knew that Coady was a wonderful long-range passer from his success at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and he has continued in the same vein during this loan spell at Goodison Park.

The 29-year-old has made 78 long passes, with 36 of them being successful.

That figure is one behind Tarkowski, who is also very comfortable pinging lengthy diagonals towards the wing.

Both are among the leading lights in the division for accurate long passes.

Tarkowski's pass accuracy
Season Pass acc. Long pass acc.
2016/17 67.6% 41%
2017/18 73.1% 43%
2018/19 69.4% 38%
2019/20 70.8% 40%
2020/21 70.1% 45%
2021/22 68.8% 48%
2022/23 78.6% 53%

Tarkowski is accustomed to moving the ball forward in a direct manner, but the quality of his passing has improved markedly at Everton.

Showing greater patience on the ball, he is now less likely to attempt a stream of hopeful long passes. Instead, he is becoming more selective in his decision-making.

This has improved his pass accuracy from 68.8 per cent last season to 78.6 per cent in a Toffees shirt.

Solid system

Everton’s tactical framework demands that their full-backs tuck in when the team are out of possession.

This compactness stops their centre-backs from becoming stretched, helping Coady to settle in as part of a back two instead of a back three.

There is no doubt that in and out of possession, Messrs Tarkowski and Coady have made positive impacts for Everton.

They will make it difficult for Spurs to get past them in north London.

Also in this series

Part 1: Eze's dribbling skills can torment Leicester
Part 2: Brentford defence must go back to basics
Part 4: Foden can strike right at heart of Liverpool weakness

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