Stop us if you’ve seen it before. Everton are good at home, rampant and even dominant at times at Goodison Park, sweeping one and all aside. However, the same lineup (not this season, because that has yet to happen!) goes on the road and looks deflated and unmotivated.
A big part of this has to do with squad selection and formation of course, with every Everton manager in the last decade - Sam Allardyce, David Unsworth, Ronald Koeman, Roberto Martinez, David Moyes - guilty of doing exactly this. It’s the mindset of trying to win every winnable game at home, and scrabble for enough points away for a decent showing overall.
*Everton were 2-0-3 at home and 0-2-2 away (2-2-5, 8 points, 18th) after 9 games under Ronald Koeman this season. They then went 2-0-0 and 0-1-2 (4-3-7, 15 points, 13th) after 5 more games with David Unsworth.
Playing conservatively away works when you have the defensive shape and discipline, almost like the Blues had when they visited Manchester City earlier this season and came away with a 1-1 draw. There was the away leg of the Merseyside Derby too, with an ultra-defensive setup, where the Toffees also garnered a draw.
However, as chaotic as Everton have been this season when defending coupled with a number of players being in terrible form and/or not settling into the squad, the conservative approach when away has simply not worked, no matter what level the opposition. 8 points in 13 away games is simply unacceptable and will set a record low at current pace.
Take a look at the games the Blues have played this season, with the formations and final results.
Difficult to make sense out of this hodge-podge of formations, lineups, fixtures and results, but we can draw some conclusions -
- the Blues have played their best football in the 4-2-3-1 formation
- the 3- or 5-man backline does not work with the current personnel
- never play 5 in the back against Arsenal ever again
- matching Chelsea’s 3-4-3 is a bad idea for the Toffees
- Tottenham easily cut through the 4-2-3-1, as even Juventus found out
- the aggressive 4-3-3 away at attacking AFC Bournemouth didn’t work
- Blues will likely need to go 4-5-1 against Watford FC again next weekend
- Burnley have struggled, and an attacking 4-2-3-1 away is needed
- as for City and Liverpool at home, anything but five in the back
With 11 games left to go in the season (five home, six away), let’s see if the Blues can start to show some semblance of a spine or we will indeed have to clean house top to bottom this summer.