After a dire display in Southampton last week, it was another dismal defeat as the Blues head to the opposite end of the country on Sunday.
But what did we learn from this performance? And can we take any positives?
5 Changes and 5 Centre-Mids
Lunacy or genius from Ancelotti?
[NB: This section has been written before the match and won’t be changed.]
Jordan Pickford out. No wingers. Five central midfielders.
This was one of the most surprising Everton line-ups in years.
With the creative forces of Richarlison, Lucas Digne and James Rodriguez all out, we all knew change was coming. But Carlo Ancelotti didn’t stop there, actively choosing to drop Jordan Pickford in favour of Robin Olsen, while no wingers made the line-up, with Alex Iwobi, Bernard, and most disappointingly, Anthony Gordon consigned to the bench.
It seems as though Carlo is intent on dominating the middle of the park, giving freedom to Niels Nkounkou and Jonjoe Kenny to push forward.
The big concern with this line-up though seems to be a lack of pace and creativity. Indeed, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Nkounkou will be key to providing DCL with service.
[Note after performance: Well… yeah. That was even worse than feared.]
5 centre mids with nowhere to go
I’m not sure this should come as a surprise, but Sigurdsson and Gomes aren’t wingers. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Even with Ancelotti’s plan to have Fabian Delph drop in for Nkounkou in possession and Abdoulaye Doucoure do the same for Kenny on the right. Unfortunately, though, that just wasn’t a sufficient outlet.
The only real attacking option that Everton had was to play the ball into Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s feet, but that’s just not his strength. He’s at his best the less he’s involved with build-up play and can focus on being in the right spot at the right time in the penalty area.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andre Gomes made 2 successful passes to Dominic Calvert-Lewin between them in the first half (1 each). Indeed, Fabian Delph made more successful passes to Calvert-Lewin than them combined (3). #EFC #NEWEVE— EFC Statto (@EFC_Statto) November 1, 2020
Completed just four forward passes
There’s been quite a bit of discussion about Andre Gomes in recent months and the question of what he actually brings to the side.
He doesn’t chip in with many defensive actions, nor does he score goals, create many chances or provide assists. Of course, football can’t (yet, at least) always be broken down into succinct numbers. So does he provide some kind of unquantifiable qualities?
Well, the most obvious ability is to “keep things ticking”, i.e. keep the ball moving and recycling it if need be.
The trouble is, his numbers just aren’t supporting even that at the moment. Although playing in a bizarre false winger role, Gomes completed just 76.7% of his passes – the lowest of any Everton player.
For a winger, 76.7% pass success isn’t necessarily terrible. But that’s on the assumption that a winger tries more difficult passes in the pursuit of creating chances. Unfortunately for Gomes, it was simply a matter of being loose in possession.
Of the 30 passes that Gomes attempted, just four were successful forward passes. And, of those, all four were less than 10 metres in distance (two in the corner and two around the centre circle).
Flawless debut from big Swede
In a surprise (although largely popular) decision, Jordan Pickford missed his first league game for Everton, with Carlo Ancelotti favouring new loan signing Robin Olsen between the sticks.
And the 6’6 Swedish keeper, despite conceding two goals, couldn’t have done more on his debut. He made a fantastic save in both the first and second half and completed a remarkable 88.2% of his passes.
Before the match, Carlo revealed that Pickford will start against Manchester United next week. However, if Olsen had perhaps added a penalty save and a clean sheet here, it would have been very tough to argue for a Pickford return.
As it stands, I think we can expect some hefty rotation between the pair until Christmas, which, if it can raise the consistency of Pickford’s performances, can hopefully prove to be positive competition.
Feed the Dom
8 league goals in 7 games
Aside from a glancing header from a free-kick in the second half, it took Everton 91 minutes to provide Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a chance to score. And like he often does in and around the six-yard box, he showed his poacher’s instincts to nip in ahead of the goalkeeper and slide the ball home.
If only he had some service in this game. Maybe play at least one winger next time, Carlo?