But what happened? Let’s take a look to see what the numbers tell us…
Blues effectively used a 5-2-2-1 set up
It wasn’t a perfect first half performance, but in terms of attacking threat, the Blues were oozing.
Alex Iwobi and Lucas Digne occupied the wing-back positions, enabling James Rodriguez and Richarlison to move in more centrally. This overload ensured the Blues had lots of options in the final third and were unlucky not to have more.
The clear thing from the first half was that Fulham were defensively terrible, but they were a threat going forward.
So, surely, even 3-1 up, the Blues would continue to put their frail defensive under pressure in the second half…
Blues park the bus against the league’s worst defence
As soon as Everton came out for the second half, it was clear that Richarlison and James had been asked to drop deeper behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
This enabled Fulham more time on the ball and, to their credit, they seized control of the game pinning Everton ever deeper back.
Everton clearly needed an outlet. A way to relieve this ever-increasing pressure. So, naturally, James and Richarlison were replaced by two central midfielders.
Whenever the Blues got the ball back, they’d look up and their only option was to punt a long ball to Calvert-Lewin which was all too easy and predictable for Fulham to intercept.
This midfield soup was similar to that used against Newcastle a few weeks ago. It didn’t work in the slightest then and it didn’t work in the second half here.
Three central midfielders on the bench again
Now, I just mentioned James being replaced by Tom Davies. Which, in itself wasn’t a bad substitution. James looked off the pace for large parts of the game and Davies put in a mature, composed and energetic performance when he came on.
The trouble is, once again, Carlo Ancelotti hamstrung his options to change the game from the first whistle.
The Blues started the game with three “out-and-out” central midfielders on the bench (Davies, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andre Gomes), with only Bernard and Cenk Tosun the available attacking options.
If Everton were left chasing the game at any point, who would they have turned to? Anthony Gordon, arguably Everton’s only true winger, was sat twiddling his thumbs (again), meanwhile.
Digne grabs 2 assists, Iwobi completes 5 dribbles
Of course, it wasn’t all bad and, hey, Everton picked up three points!
Indeed, Everton’s biggest threat against Fulham (in the first half at least) was the overloads enabled by Digne and Iwobi pushing forward in the wing-back roles.
Both players were excellent at doing this and created a host of chances. With the extra cover offered by three central defenders and two holding midfielders, the risk of pushing the two wing-backs was largely mitigated and I for one would like to see us utilize these two like this again.
In total Digne completed six key passes (the most by any Everton player this season), while Iwobi completed five dribbles (again, a record for Everton this season).
14 & 10 - There were 14 passes in the build up to Dominic Calvert-Lewin's second goal against Fulham making him the outright top scorer in the Premier League this season (10 goals). Poacher. #FULEVE pic.twitter.com/yk1Joauu9B— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 22, 2020
16 goals conceded in 9 games
However, even with three centre-backs on the pitch, Everton’s defensive woes continue.
The Blues have now conceded a whopping 16 goals in nine games. Admittedly, that’s the same as Liverpool, but the difference is that the Reds conceded seven in one game, whereas the Blues have conceded at least two goals in their last six consecutive games now.
Is it a question of personnel or is it a systemic issue?