Frank Lampard began his Everton reign in spectacular fashion, putting four past Brentford with just an Ivan Toney penalty in reply at a raucous Goodison Park yesterday. The first time the Toffees have scored four goals since February last year and the first time we’ve taken the lead in a game since October 2021. A clear plan, strategy, style of play and players who have been somewhat disappointing so far this season stepped up to breeze into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
It was clear from the moment the whistle blew that the players were instructed to trust each other and have confidence in playing out from the back, “enjoy the ball” as the new manager had exhorted in training this week. The midfield this season has often been bypassed with the central defenders playing aimless long balls down the throat of the opposition.
Andre Gomes, a key part of the possession style we played, touched the ball 97 times. This is the most an Everton played has touched the ball in a game this season. Comparing this to our last game, Allan and Gomes (Allan replaced Gomes after 50 minutes) touched the ball a combined amount of 51. Allan also touched the ball 77 times this game. This shows a clear emphasis of playing through the middle of the pitch, something which has been obvious in the training videos released during the week.
The key to us playing out from the back was the patience of the defenders and subtle movements from the midfield players. Rather than forcing the ball or rushing to get it away, the three centre backs would stay patient, waiting for an opening before playing the ball into a midfielder in space.
This was most evident with the second goal - Michael Keane held the ball for a while and Allan made a small movement between the lines to create space where he’d receive the ball and turn before playing a fantastic looping ball through to Richarlison to score. All our midfielders have been criticised for not wanting the ball but when the manager instils confidence and trust into the players, they prove they have the ability to play this way. Lampard has been open and honest in the fact it may not work all the time and it’s going to be a long process to implement this way of playing but the early signs are extremely promising.
A statistic that provides further evidence of the way we played was the number of aerials won by the Brentford defenders. No player in the whole team won more than two headers, whereas in the previous game, the centre half pairing managed nine headers between them. This isn’t to do with our forwards being fantastic in the air, it’s simply due to the lack of long balls aimed into these areas. Brentford are known for being great in aerial battles so playing this way would be playing into their hands. Both Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina (who have both played the previous two games) had a higher pass completion than the last game due to them being patient and waiting for the correct pass and movement of the midfield.
Defensively, the high press was organised and worked very well. The forwards would crowd out the central areas, forcing the defenders to play the ball into wider positions. Once the ball had been played to the wider centre backs or wing backs, that’s when the press would be triggered. With the central structure, this prevents Brentford playing into the midfield and breaking lines to progress the ball forward. This would also force them into aimless long balls, with their three centre backs attempting 19 long balls and only three of them reaching their intended target.
Everton 4-1 Brentford - Tactical Analysis Thread:— Matt - Tactically Everton (@TacticallyEv) February 5, 2022
Although wide men on paper, Anthony Gordon and Demerai Gray weren’t limited to these areas. The wing backs would provide the width, stretching the Brentford back 5. This created space in central areas. Gray and Gordon picked up positions between the defence and midfield, this makes it difficult for the opposition to pick them up. This is because they don’t have one player marking them who is responsible for tracking them as they drift into positions that the defenders can’t move into without being out of their defensive structure. The link up play between the two and Richarlison was excellent and they gave Brentford a difficult afternoon.
Another impressive achievement was limiting Brentford to one shot from open play. Of course, the poor performance of Thomas Frank’s side does factor into this, but credit must be given to the Everton defence. Lampard’s men managed 12 shots from open play and still managed two goals from set pieces, something we haven’t seen in a very long time. Paul Clement is believed to be behind the corner setups so props to him for allowing us to score and not concede from these situations. The manager tends to take a lot of credit but the coaches he has brought in will have a vast influence on the way we play, and they spend just as much time on the training ground as the manager.
A lot of fans have been calling for a three-man midfield for the whole season, so a few eyebrows were raised when seeing the team selection. A two-man midfield can be effective but it has to be partnered with the correct tactics and Lampard got it spot on. The defenders have the license to travel into midfield, the midfielders have been given the confidence and instruction to always want the ball and the work rate of the forwards allows us not to get outnumbered in central areas. The defenders have the flexibility to come into midfield areas whether that be with the ball or to track a man, knowing the rest of the defence can shuffle into a back four when they vacate the position.
We can’t get carried away as it’s only one game against a side that didn’t play well but it’s fantastic to see a style implemented and carried out effectively. The real test comes on Tuesday night against Newcastle who are battling it out with Everton towards the foot of the table. With the new January additions who were cup tied this weekend coming in, Lampard will have a plethora of options to choose from. If I’m the manager, I would find it difficult to drop any of the players who performed so well at the weekend so it’s going to be an interesting team selection in this midweek fixture.