Starting off all Wrong
Boreham Wood have deployed a 352 formation all season and this knowledge, along with a scarcity of central midfield options available to Everton in the FA Cup, probably convinced Frank Lampard to revert to the 343 we'd seen him use in his first few matches as manager. Typically, it is a sound strategy to counter two centre forwards with three centre halves. However, the way Boreham Wood set up, essentially with all ten outfield players behind the ball for extensive periods of the match, led the Blues into a slow, harmless possession game for the entire first half.
So deep were the visitors, that the Everton defence fell into a pattern of largely passing the ball between themselves in the vain hope of drawing the National League side out of their defensive shell. Switching to a back four at half time, with the removal of Nathan Patterson in favour of Richarlison, gave the visitors' more to think about and presented the Blues with more options in forward areas.
As a result, whilst maintaining their near 80% domination of the ball, the bulk of Everton's possession was shunted forward from the middle third of the pitch into the final third. In the first half, only 24.3% of play took place in the away third, but in the second period this ballooned to 42.6%. The Blues shot count increased from six, with only two on target at half time, to 17 and eight respectively in the second period. Under such pressure, the opposition defence eventually cracked.
Full Back Options
It was encouraging for the capacity crowd at Goodison Park - amazing in itself considering the calibre of opposition - to get to see the debut of Nathan Patterson, as well as another viewing of Vitalii Mykolenko, who’s missed the last few matches. The Ukrainian, who was withdrawn with a dead leg after 59 minutes, put in a competent showing at left wing back, but wasn’t as involved as he might have been in the Boreham Wood half, though he did manage a shot on target and a key pass. The 22-year old was neat and tidy on the ball, but the game was crying out for some crosses from the by-line and this didn’t really happen. Understandably, the player is going through a difficult period on a personal level, given the upheaval in his homeland and fans will need to be patient with him.
The game was crying out for a change at half-time, but many would have been disappointed to see Patterson hauled off, with Jonjoe Kenny shifted from central defence to right full back. The Scotsman had been deployed at right wing back and had looked willing going forward, although none of his four crossing attempts had hit their target. One issue may be that he and Andros Townsend, playing in an advanced right side position, appeared to be getting in each other’s way at times. Hopefully the withdrawal of the 20-year old, for what Lampard called tactical reasons, doesn’t bruise the youngster’s confidence.
Kenny played the first half on the right of a back three, though he was given a great deal of licence to get forward in support, such was the lack of threat from the Boreham Wood strikers. After the interval he was shifted to right back and after Mykolenko’s exit, to left back. The Liverpool native ended up with 110 touches, just one behind Abdoulaye Doucoure and five key passes, including setting up Salomon Rondon for Everton’s opening goal and was certainly a big factor in his team’s victory. The academy graduate, whose contract is up in the summer, is proving himself a useful utility man.
Raising their Game
This was not the sort of match that players operating at the level of the Premier League can easily get themselves motivated for, but it can’t be allowed to pass without comment that the Blues played very poorly over the first 45 minutes. Yes, the opposing team were from the fifth tier of English football, but this game was televised live on free TV in the UK and Goodison Park was packed. For an hour, the possibility offered itself that the National League outfit might benefit from a sloppy error on the part of their hosts, or a goal from a set-piece and Everton didn’t kill the game off until the 84th minute, when Rondon fired home his second. No doubt Lampard would have liked to be able to take off a few key players after an hour, such as Doucoure, Allan or even Gordon, but this was not possible, given the nature of a one-goal lead and the embarrassment if something went wrong.
Worse, Richarlison, who will likely start up front for the Toffees in Monday night’s crucial Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur, had to come off the bench to play the last 45 minutes, so lacklustre was the team’s first half effort. Doucoure, only recently returned from an injury layoff, played the full 90 and Allan, Gordon and Michael Keane were only removed in the last five minutes of the match. This was less than ideal, given the importance of the upcoming Spurs game.
True, Lampard got the set-up wrong, though he took action to correct this error as soon as he was able. Formation aside, however he definitely had not instructed his charges to play so slowly from the outset, with so little imagination and variation in their approach. Although things improved a lot after the restart, in terms of tempo and positioning, given the gulf in class between the two sides, the Blues should have been able to use their superior movement and technical qualities to open up the low block the visitor’s offered. It was apparent early on that Everton would likely have enjoyed much success just by getting to the Boreham Wood goal-line and either firing low crosses through the six-yard box, or cutting the ball back into the area to be attacked by runners from midfield.
What is certain is that Lampard’s men will need to be a great deal better on Monday in order to get a needed result at a difficult venue.