Last season, apart from the occasional flicker from Calvert-Lewin (7.0m), Richarlison (8.0m) or Digne (6.0m), Everton’s FPL lights were barely switched on. This was particularly the case during project restart where they ended the season with just a single win in the their final six games.Embed from Getty Images
The main problem with Everton was the midfield. Or lack of.
With Andre Gomes (5.5m) injured for the majority of the season, the options available were Tom Davies, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Fabian Delph, Morgan Schneiderlin, and young Anthony Gordon. Doesn’t exactly scream creativity, does it?
However, they have now addressed this issue with a whole host of new signings in the off season. James Rodriguez (7.5m), Abdoulaye Doucoure (5.5m), and Allan (5.5m) have all joined, giving Carlo Ancelotti new options and fresh faces for his line-up.
Allan is very much a holding midfielder and won’t add to their creativity directly, but by adding a player of his quality into that position, this enables the other midfielders more freedom to express themselves, and not just the new signings, but also Gomes too.
The worry of course with plenty of new faces arriving – particularly so close to the start of the season – is how quickly they would gel together. All three arrived within eight days of the opening fixture at Tottenham, and therefore would have had minimal training time together.
As it turned out, though, those fears were unfounded. The Everton we saw on Sunday looked like it had been playing together gfor a long time. The passing was slick, movement was slick, and possession was good (albeit aided by a lacklustre Tottenham performance).
How did they line up?
The predicted line-up from many was a 4-3-3, like this:
This wasn’t necessarily a million miles off, but as it turned out there were subtle differences in how they actually played. Watching the game, Allan (as expected) was very much the shield in front of the back four, with Gomes (to the left) and Doucoure (to the right) both playing box-to-box roles, taking it in turns to push forward when the opportunities arose. So a reasonably standard 1-2 midfield triangle.
It was Rodriguez and Richarlison though, who were the interesting pieces for me. Richarlison wasn’t quite the second striker we saw for a lot of last season, and instead played wider on the left looking to stretch the defence, but with the intention of making runs into more central positions, be that in behind around the back of the RB, or cutting in between the lines of the RB and RCB. This is not to do him a disservice though – he was still Everton’s most advanced player across the course of the match.
On the flip side Rodriguez certainly did not play so high up the pitch, and was much more central. He wasn’t quite in the ’10’ role, but he clearly has the license to float into the central areas and influence play from this position, making the formation an inverted 4-2-3-1, or at times, a diamond-shaped 4-4-2. His movement into the centre, combined with Richarlison’s wider starting point, allowed the two to link up heavily.
Not all teams will be as accommodating as Spurs were on Sunday, but multiple times in the second half the Colombian found his Brazilian teammate with passes from centre to left that created opportunities. How Richarlison didn’t come away with attacking returns is perhaps still unknown!
Looking at the average positions from the game, we can see how this translates. Key numbers to look for:
- 7 – Richarlison
- 19 – Rodriguez
- 21 – Gomes
- 16 – Doucoure
- 12 – Digne
Everton had 48.9% possession in the game which is pretty reasonable for an away team, but while their 736 touches of the ball was fourth highest of all teams in GW1, their touches in the opponents half (235) and touches in the final 3rd (104), were 16th and 18th, respectively, among all teams. Now you can argue much of this is due to Spurs dropping off and allowing Everton possession in deeper, less dangerous positions, but it’s worth noting.
Chance creation was good – the 13 that the Toffees produced was only bettered by their Merseyside rivals with 14. Importantly, 53.8% of those chances were created from central areas. This is a small sample size of course but if this continues then this strengthens the appeal of the likes of Rodriguez, Doucoure and Gomes, but would dampen the enthusiasm towards the two full backs, Digne and Coleman (5.0). Having said that, Digne still topped the crossing stats for them, with 7 in the game.
When looking at goal threat, this is also reasonably positive. Their 15 attempts were again only bettered by Liverpool (22), with 10 of these coming inside the box and four of the 15 being on target. Richarlison was the biggest culprit here, having seven of the attempts himself (five in the box), and the frustration for his owners will be with his wastefulness – just one of his attempts was on target.
Despite it just being one game, I think the outlook is positive for Everton. To play in such a cohesive manner just a few days after some of the players joined, particularly with all of them being central midfielders, shows very good signs. Ancelotti is a fantastic manager and he looks to be assembling the players that he wants for the system he wants to play.
They have a super fixture run with their next six comprising of WBA-cry-BHA-LIV-sou-new. Aside from Merseyside derby those are all winnable games, and after the GW1 performance confidence will be high.
Who are the key assets?
If you want to jump on straight away, I personally think Calvert-Lewin is the best buy at 7.0m. He’s the focal point of the attack and at that price there is some fantastic value available. For the same reason, that’s why I think Richarlison is a hard buy at 8m. Particularly now he’s in the forward category it’s hard to fit him in at that price point with the like of Jimenez, Ings and Werner available for just a little more cash, and the likes of Wilson, Adams, Mitrovic, or even Bamford potentially offering value at 2m less. Having said that, Richarlison looked very dangerous v Spurs so if you fancy a flier on him I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a bad idea – he’ll get his points.
Rodriguez is a fantastic player, and his left foot is a sight to behold. At 7.5m he’s a great option and probably has a 5g 12a season in him. With the Utd/City assets at front of mind, personally I’m happy to watch him for another game or two before jumping on, but he could well be a fantastic lower-mid priced asset.
Digne for me is also a wait and see. Pickford (5.0m) made a couple of decent saves on Sunday and commanded his box well, but we all know he has a few clangers in his locker which will lead to some CS wipeouts. Digne has that attacking threat though, both from open play and from set pieces, so again, I’m not recommending avoiding him, but personally I’m looking elsewhere – for now!
Anyway, I hope this was useful – good luck all.