One Dimensional Blues
Manager Rafa Benitez has Everton playing counterattacking football and this approach had served the team well, certainly up to and including the Manchester United game, but the rapid, incisive breaks have dwindled recently. Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Conor Coady stated after the match that they knew how the Toffees would want to play on the counter, so their approach was to keep hold of the ball. This negated opportunities to break and Everton looked impotent throughout the first half. Alternative approaches must be worked on as the team is just too predictable at the moment.
Iwobi Scores! We Riot!
Well, an exaggeration perhaps, but the Nigerian attacker managed a very rare goal last night, giving his team a fighting chance to earn a point. Bizarrely, Iwobi is a lethal finisher against Wolves (netting 3 times in 4 games), something that has otherwise eluded him throughout his Everton career against teams not named Wolves (60 matches, 0 goals). If Benitez can figure out what it is about Wolves that gets Iwobi’s goal-scoring juices flowing then he will have solved one of football’s great enigmas.
Alex Iwobi's Premier League stats at Everton (since 2019):— Matchday365 (@Matchday365) November 1, 2021
⚽️ 3 goals
v. other opponents:
⚽️ 0 goals pic.twitter.com/alkZltflpt
A Slump, or Something More?
Everton’s bright start to the season has unquestionably come to a shuddering halt, much like last season. Whatever the reasons: injuries to key players, lack of tactical flexibility, vulnerability on set-pieces - only one win in seven matches with five defeats is something that will be keeping Benitez up at night and the pressure on the new man is starting to build.
The sole win was against lowly Norwich City, possibly the weakest team to appear in the Premier League in recent years and that was a home fixture in which the Blues hardly impressed. You could argue that the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford was the only convincing performance by the Toffees over this period.
| Everton’s last 7 games.— The Everton End (@TheEvertonEnd) November 1, 2021
❌ 3-0 Aston Villa (A)
❌ 2-2 QPR[lost pens] (A)
✅ 2-0 Norwich (H)
1-1 Man Utd (A)
❌ 0-1 West Ham (H)
❌ 2-5 Watford (H)
❌ 2–1 Wolves (A)
- 14 Conceded
- First time Everton have lost three consecutive PL games to non “Big-6” sides since 2014. pic.twitter.com/gBnTSjtZaD
A Missed Opportunity
With some tough matches dominating the Blues’ schedule until the end of the year this match, whilst hardly easy, Wolves presented a reasonable opportunity to get some points on the board. Everton’s recent record at Molineux was pretty good, having lost only one of the previous six meetings, with two wins and three draws. But those looking for a reaction, a statement following on from last week’s implosion against Watford were disappointed.
The travelling contingent witnessed a nervy, borderline incompetent performance from their men in that first 45 minutes, strangely passive, sitting deep and asking no questions whatsoever of their hosts. Trailing 2-0, Everton left themselves a mountain to climb as the second half commenced and as a consequence fell short.
Can Everton Play?
Last season Carlo Ancelotti suggested that his players lacked the quality on the ball to play progressive football and so set up to play a low-block catenaccio style game, which kept Everton in the hunt for a European finish until the wheels fell off down the stretch. Similarly, Benitez has the Blues operating as a counter-attacking team, allowing the opposition the ball and looking to break and shoot with a minimal number of passes in the build-up. In twelve matches in all competitions, Everton have posted a possession figure of only 41.5% and had the edge only once (51% vs Burnley), sharing control of the ball with Watford.
Monday night, the Toffees defensive approach gave them no chances to get into advanced positions as they were starved of the ball, or the opportunity to break but trailing by two goals came out in the second half and played more proactively. With a higher line and chasing the game, the Blues ended up with the second highest number of touches in the opposition penalty area of the weekend (outside of the “big 6”).