2021 – A flamboyant team destroyed by Carlo’s meddling

Kevin Prytherch 18/05/2021 13comments  |  Jump to last

Think back to the start of the year. We were on a roll and playing to the team’s strengths. It didn’t matter if the opposition scored one or two, because we would score one or two more than them. So what happened? How did a team playing to everyone’s strengths suddenly become a shadow of itself?

We started the season in style. We had full backs who would be constantly pressing forward, overlapping the wider players and providing cross after cross for our Number 9 who would now remain exactly where he should be, conserving his energy for that quick sprint to be on the end of a cross. The reason this was successful was that each full-back had a player in front of them who would retain the focus of the opposition full-back; Richarlison was in front of Digne and James was (loosely) in front of Coleman. This meant that an opposition midfielder would try and pick up our full-backs and our overlapping full-backs would generally steal a march on the covering midfielders. This gave them the opportunity to put a cross in without as much pressure.

So what does Carlo do? We now set up with wing-backs, with a narrow midfield. There are no advanced wide players for the opposition full-backs to mark, so their full focus is now on our wing-backs. Neither wing-back is particularly skilful so struggles to beat a man and put a cross in. The result, far fewer crosses and frequent cut-backs from the areas in which the crosses used to be delivered. Well done, Carlo – you managed to negate our full-backs’ biggest attacking threat.


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And what about our number 9? He started the season barely moving from between the goal, he took up both centre backs due to his physical attributes and therefore created space for our wider players to cut inside. When Richarlison or James cut inside, the opposition didn’t know whether the full-backs or centre-backs should track them, space was created and Calvert-Lewin often found himself waiting for a ball with a stretched defence.

So what does Carlo do? We now play two strikers, both of which regularly drop deep to try and hunt for the ball. We are usually faced with two centre-backs marking our two strikers, both knowing that it is unlikely a decent cross will come in. The centre-backs usually aren’t stretched and can set up defending deeper, nullifying the pace we have. Well done, Carlo – you managed to negate another of our main attacking threats.

What about Richarlison in general? He started the year as a wide forward. His work-rate meant that we could transform from playing a front 3 in attack, to defending with two rows of four almost at an instant. He won tackles, made interceptions and broke from deep at speed. He contributed defensively, but when we broke, he made the sort of runs that were a defenders nightmare. The opposition didn’t know how to mark him, the full-backs were torn between holding their shape or accommodating his runs, the centre-backs either had to leave Calvert-Lewin one-on-one, or leave Richarlison to the full-backs.

So what does Carlo do? Play Richarlison up front, negate his runs from deep, and his defensive contributions, to turn him into an average striker. Well done, Carlo.

And James? He started the season playing wide right. He was suspect defensively; however, Doucouré often slotted behind him in defence as Richarlison covered the other side of the pitch. He was a nightmare for the opposition full-back as he drifted inside, finding those pockets of space between positions where the opposition didn’t know who’s responsibility he was.

His crossfield balls were spectacular, largely due to the fact that the overlapping full-backs created so much space out wide without an opposition fullback monitoring their every move. True we were suspect to a quick counter down our right, but the price was worth the risk.

So what does Carlo do? Change our whole setup to ensure that James plays centrally. He now often receives the ball in a crowded area of the pitch, or drops too deep to influence the game at the right side. His crossfield options are now limited and he cuts a frustrated figure. Well done, Carlo.

What about our esteemed vice-captain Sigurdsson? Sigurdsson couldn’t get a regular game at the start of the year, he swapped a few times with the underperforming Gomes but struggled in midfield. Why? Because he’s not a midfielder. Sigurdsson did nothing of note when we were doing well and didn’t start in a lot of the games.

So what does Carlo do? Carlo tries to find a way to incorporate Sigurdsson into every line-up, he plays him in midfield where he is frequently anonymous. He plays him in a Number 10, leaving 2 central midfielders (poorly supported by wing-backs who default to full-backs when defending) isolated and stretched, he plays him against teams who sit back despite never playing well against these teams for 4 years. Once again – well done, Carlo.

All this stemmed from one game. Richarlison got sent off and we went into the Southampton game with Iwobi as his direct replacement. We lost, but our general attacking play was still decent up until Iwobi got the ball in the positions that Richarlison used to do the most damage. That was it though; Carlo had seen enough after one defeat in 9 games to make sure we were never going to show any form or cavalier approach again. We had 5 midfielders against Newcastle, 4 centre-backs in the team, defenders as wing-backs and a frequent switch to 3 at the back – nothing of which plays to our strengths.

For those who point to our squad, we had a squad at the start of the season. We had a young left-back who loves to get forward and overlap; Carlo never used him. We had a reserve right-back fresh from a year in Germany where he was nominated alongside Haaland for the Young Player of the Year; Carlo wouldn’t use him. We had some wide players in Walcott and Gordon who were shipped out on loan, and we had a couple of reserve strikers in Kean and Tosun.

None of the reserves were a patch on this first team players, but they could all come in and play in a similar style. Carlo, however, sends them all out on loan to leave us woefully short of any cover. We can point to a lack of squad but, if Carlo and Brands didn’t have the conversations at the start of the season about the lack of cover – well this is again a poor decision by the manager.

This has been our biggest opportunity to break the Top 4 that we have ever had, yet Carlo has completely messed it up with his fear of ever losing whilst trying to attack, his refusal to play to the teams' strengths, and either his woeful preparation for the season, or his refusal to play a younger reserve.

Well done, Carlo – you have destroyed the most promising team we have had for many a year.

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Reader Comments (13)

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Lyndon Lloyd
1 Posted 18/05/2021 at 17:21:59
I'm not sure you can say he "destroyed" a team that has won 11 games away from home playing a very set system that has yielded results even if it's been ghastly to watch.

And injuries, suspensions and the psychological effects of the Goodison derby did have a serious impact on that flamboyance and attacking ability of the team. Carlo had to cut his cloth accordingly but it had lasting effects and with James in and out of the side, he wasn't ever able to recapture that early magic.

I don't think there are many of us who would disagree that Ancelotti has also made some baffling decisions and that his approach has, at home, been far too pragmatic. Certainly when you look at the demeanour of 10 of the 11 players who were in that first-choice team that made such an exciting start to the season, the life appears to have bled out of them.

Next season is a big one. Carlo has promised better players and more attractive football. The return of full stadiums (please!) and a greater sense of normality should help but we'll have a very good idea this time next year just where we stand under the current regime.

It doesn't mean the manner in which this season has circled the drain in ever-tighter circles and the way in which we've thrown away a great chance to finish top 4 hasn't been agonising but let's see what first the summer and then 2021-22 brings.

Mike Gaynes
2 Posted 18/05/2021 at 17:58:04
This another one of your windups, Kev?

This season was lost because Carlo didn't use Jonjoe friggin' Kenny, or replace our superb left back with an unblooded kid? Really?

Sure, we had some great success at the beginning of the season, but anyone who would describe this team as "flamboyant" -- let alone "the most promising team we have had for many a year" -- has been putting the wrong kind of mushrooms in his goulash.

I looked at this club in September and saw an improved level of talent, no question. I also saw a club that wouldn't have been able to get a single player into the starting lineup at City, United, Chelsea or the RS... a club that totally lacked midfield creativity beyond James... a club that still needed replacements/reinforcements at five different positions.

I then posted here and predicted 8th. And no chance of Europe. I never changed my mind even during that early purple patch.

Sure, we could have and should have performed better at Goodison this season. But to say Carlo "destroyed" a team that relied heavily on clowns like Iwobi, Gomes and Holgate -- and got pretty much nothing out of its best attacking player after his October red card -- is just slightly bananas in my opinion.

Dale Self
3 Posted 18/05/2021 at 18:05:06
Not having it. Too over the top. There are discussions to be had and statements like these don't get us there.
Bill Hawker
4 Posted 18/05/2021 at 18:15:51
Injuries and suspensions had quite a bit more to do with our downward turn in form than Carlo. I'm not saying he doesn't share some of the blame because he does but I'd put about 80% of it on the players.
Thomas Richards
5 Posted 18/05/2021 at 18:18:28
Lots of flaws in this article.

Jonjoe Kenny?
Both should be starting?

James playing wide right exposes our right back. Opposition targetted this obviously.

DCL, the striker ruined by Carlo, is one in two for the season.

Poor effort Kev.

Robert Tressell
6 Posted 18/05/2021 at 18:50:57
Let's not forget that Carlo managed to instill some early season flamboyance. That brilliant spell stopped abruptly once the injuries hit and we were forced to rely on a very plodding cavalry.

The only way he managed to get a tune out of a patched up side was to grind out a win.

And by that stage we were also beginning to see that James Rodriguez is a difficult player to accommodate. A problem as well as a solution.

Opposition clubs were targeting our right back because he had no defensive cover. Our flamboyant start got found out.

Despite a few big results against Man Utd, Spurs and the RS it's been fairly lame since. I think this is because of a lack of forward options. Gordon is not really ready but may have helped a bit. Kean is ready but replaces DCL rather than complements him - plus he obviously hated every minute here so wasn't the answer. Neither was King in January but beggars can't be choosers.

Until we have forward options, especially on the flanks, it will continue to be turgid. We're forced to defend by better teams (something we're not bad at) or forced to huff and puff our way to slow attacks against poor and mediocre teams (something they find all too easy to repel).

Carlo has definitely underperformed, don't get me wrong. The home form and style of play is a disgrace. But the real issue is we spent a limited budget on 4 good players - but didn't have anything remaining for the 4 players we still desperately need.

That's why there's no more flamboyance.

Barry Rathbone
7 Posted 18/05/2021 at 18:56:41
Never go by early season results every year at least one team flies out of the blocks only for reality to come calling as weak squads take their inevitable toll. "Fizzy pop teams" a manager once called them (Shankly?) - we were this seasons flavour.

The bigger picture is we need (and have needed for decades) a revolutionary to not only gut this place but get recruitment right in toto from minute one. To be immediately successful and lay solid foundations for the next incumbent because dynasties don't exist at this club. After Sir John Moores we relied on the gods of fortune occasionally smiling on us drifting along wallowing in self pitying history rather than grasping the nettle with a bit of forward planning.

The MASSIVE problem with all this is men capable of such transitions are as rare as hen's teeth, maybe Bielsa is doing it at Leeds and arguably Wengers reinvention of Arsenal and Simone at Athletico but then it's back to Clough, Revie and Shankly!!

From the evidence so far and previous history Ancelotti is not a dynamic visionary so until some one comes in and rips up the existing blueprint the stupor will continue unabated.

Joe McMahon
8 Posted 18/05/2021 at 20:39:16
Sorry Kev, flamboyant. Nah, I don't think so. James if he was fit yes, but we ain't got Henry, Aguero, Bergkamp and Cantona as a front 4 or David Silva behind em.
Ray Robinson
9 Posted 18/05/2021 at 20:46:17
Flamboyant? Does that mean go up in flames? We've got results by pragmatism. I wasn't fooled by the early season good form.
Ray Jacques
12 Posted 19/05/2021 at 20:45:16
Dear me, what a load of crap. Another expert.

The players aren't good enough. The man needs time to sort it out, two of three years.

Phillip Warrington
13 Posted 20/05/2021 at 05:26:18
It would it be worth chasing Arturo Vidal for a couple of seasons, as he is apparently looking for a new challenge, to gel the team together. It seems to me we have a line of defenders, midfield and attacking players that never seem to link together or back up players who, for whatever reasons, get out of position or running into or creating space for team mates to make simple passes without pressure.

I believe there is some talent there and we have proved it at times but they would have to be the most disjointed and unmotivated Everton team I have witnessed in supporting Everton for 50 years. Don't get me wrong: we have had worse teams but at least they seemed to give a shit.

Jerome Shields
14 Posted 20/05/2021 at 06:33:05
Flamboyant team done in by a lack of pace. It sticks out a mile that this team is a yard short all over the pitch. Sitting back and not getting forward, lack of movement to receive the ball and yards out of position on runs.

The problem with Carlo's tactics are they are being implemented in slow-motion, either by a badly trained squad or players who are not applying themselves at training. Everton are being held together by Carlo's tactical structures, rather than player implementation.

Ajay Gopal
15 Posted 20/05/2021 at 11:06:40
Thomas (5),

Carlo did start both Jonjoe Kenny and Neils Nkounkou for 1 game – the home fixture against Newcastle, which we lost 2-1. He obviously was not impressed – because Kenny was sent out on loan shortly afterwards, and Nkounkou did not even make a substitute appearance after that in the season.

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