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Strengths and shortcomings of Everton tactics

By Tore Fredlund  : 07/ 24/07
I am a football coach from Norway with the highest national coaching certificate, and am now coaching a team at our third highest level. As an Everton supporter for 30 years, nicknamed Latch, I have been to Goodison several times, with the Beardsley/Johnstone derby as my best memory. Next game live will be the Blackburn game. This season I have watched 15 league games live on the telly.

Observing as a coach, the most striking quality of the Everton team is the togetherness of the players, and the discipline and the will to play as a team. That`s a credit to the management. I can`t remember any incidences of fingerpointing at team mates, or players hiding when things are going against them. I am also impressed with the level of communication between the players. They act as a unit, and that is without a doubt why they often draw or win tight games.

Another strength is the defensive organisation throughout the team, and goals conceded are at the top end of the league. This is more to do with the way Everton defend as a team, and often deep, more than the quality of the back four. It also has to do with the safety-first principles of our attacking. Like many fans I am impressed with Lescott, and I think it has been healthy for Yobo to get more responsibilities, as the natural leaders (but not so good players) Weir and Stubbs have not been playing. He still has some leadership to learn though, I must say.

Andy Johnson`s pace has been a major plus this season and his goals important, although I don`t think that he is used well enough. He has to chase too many long balls, and is not often enough released behind the opposition's back four by our midfield players after combinations or from a strike partner, which is much harder to defend against.

Now I will discuss the two major shortcomings, Everton`s ability to control and Everton`s ability to change games. When I watch Everton, I don`t think we control games well. Our attacks are often short, and too often include only 2-3 players and 2 or 3 passes. I think there are three reasons for this:

  1. Our central midfielders are not good enough to collect balls from the back four, and start play, keep possesion to give teammates time and opportunity to go forward. And, quite often, they do not seem to try, which leads to many long balls, which are only won when Cahill or Beattie are playing really well. Carsley has been a great servant to Everton but, to improve as a team, Everton needs more allround qualities and athleticism in that position.

  2. The same goes for our full-backs. In the modern game you will not see the traditional wingers, instead the best clubs will use 1-2 holding players, while the other midfielders seek to engage in combination play in the middle with the strikers. The width of play in the attacking third is often the job of the full-back. Neville, Naysmith or Lescott will never do this regularly, and this in my point of view are the other positions where the club needs to add some quality.

  3. Regaining possesion. Too often, Everton will drop deep when they lose the ball, instead of trying to win it back high up. Especially at home this gives the opposition the time, momentum and the belief needed to take the game to Everton.
The last shortcoming I want to discuss is the simple fact that Everton never seem able to recover when they go a goal down. David Moyes is a great organiser of the team, but if his gameplan fails, I must admit to being hard pressed to remember a game this season that has been won from substitutions or tactical changes.

This has to change, and is what separates Everton from becoming a top 6 side. Some of it, I guess, has to do with Moyes's gritty conservatism and loyalty to his main players, while another obvious reason is that the squad does not offer that many different tactical options. But, in general, substitutions come too late, and with no real purpose. In many games I would like to see a change to a 4-4-2 earlier, and Van der Meyde used as a player to change games. He who does not dare

Everton`s failure to change games has lasted for years, and in my book is the main reason for why the team has performed so badly in cup competitions during Moyes reign.

I still believe Moyes is the right man for the job, and I think he recognises the weaknesses of the team, and given funding gradually will improve the squad. The ability to change games also has to do with experience, and Moyes is still very much a promising manager. I want to see him blossom at Goodison and not elsewhere. I also hope the fans have the sense, patience and supportiveness to appreciate the obvious strenghts he has given the team in recent years.


Great article from Tore — I hope he writes some more in the future.

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