Efficiency and Resilience

The performance may have betrayed some fatigue and a lack of depth of quality in midfield but Carlo Ancelotti will be toasting a third victory on the spin as his defence dug in to shut Arsenal out in the second half

Lyndon Lloyd 19/12/2020 85comments  |  Jump to last

Old habits die hard and it makes these dogged and professional games where Everton get themselves ahead and then dig in to protect what they hold nerve-wracking to watch. Evertonians of any vintage remember all too well how often their side would try and sit back against opposition teams and inevitably concede to toss away points but they’re now having to get used to the pragmatism and game-management of Carlo Ancelotti, a man not averse to finishing a match with seven defenders on the pitch in the interests of seeing out a match.

This evening’s second-half against Arsenal was not a comfortable watch and it came on the back of a first period that wasn’t much better. But this was also the third match played by an injury-hit side in the space of seven days so, having got themselves back in front on the stroke of half-time, you could forgive the Blues if they sat back a bit and dared a team struggling for goals and points to break them down.

To be fair to Mikel Arteta’s side, they tried manfully but just lacked the quality to negotiate Everton’s increasingly low block consistently enough and by the end they were banging their heads against the same brick wall that confronted Chelsea and Leicester last Saturday and Wednesday respectively. It says much for how far the Gunners have fallen despite their impressive cup form that Everton almost completely ceded the midfield battle in the second half and only fleetingly looked like being punished for it.

And yet Arsenal did came close to wiping out their hosts’ lead for a second time early in the second half when David Luiz hit the crossbar and it needed a save from the returning Jordan Pickford in the closing stages to ensure that Ancelotti will toast a third successive victory this evening.

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A year into their respective managerial tenures, Ancelotti and Arteta find themselves in very different positions, Everton heading into Christmas sitting in the top three while Arsenal languish towards the bottom of the Premier League table. The visitors’ approach early was indicative of their lack confidence as the two teams sized each other up in cagey fashion for a quarter of an hour before the first real moment of excitement presented itself from the unlikely boot of Michael Keane.

The centre-half strode forward as space opened up ahead of him and unleashed a swerving missile of a shot that bent agonisingly within a whisker of the post from thirty-plus yards out.

Seven minutes later, Alex Iwobi, playing against his old club, capitalised on more space afforded him by Arsenal to whip the ball in from the right where Calvert-Lewin got a glance on it with his head and it flew in off Rob Holding for what would go down as a 22nd minute own goal.

Arsenal responded and three minutes later Eddie Nketiah found himself completely open to collect Kieran Tierney’s cut-back but he snatched at the chance and dragged it well wide. 10 minutes later, though, Arteta’s men were handed a route back into the contest.

Ben Godfrey, again performing admirably as a makeshift left-back, made an uncharacteristic error by giving the ball away as he tried to knock the ball forward for Richarlison and Ainsley Maitland-Niles intercepted before putting the ball in towards the six-yard box. Yerry Mina stooped low to head it away and Tom Davies clumsily felled Maitland-Niles as he tried to collect the loose ball giving referee Andre Marriner an easy decision to award a penalty.

Nicolas Pépé assumed responsibility for the spot-kick and calmly slotted it past Jordan Pickford to make it 1-1.

With Allan out injured, Davies had been asked to step into the breach and while he had a decent enough first 45 minutes, he was emblematic of a lack of creativity from the Blues that largely characterised their performance as a whole. It was a display crying out for the invention of someone like James Rodriguez and, in the second half, someone like Bernard, but in the Colombian’s absence, the onus fell in Iwobi and Richarlison, both of whom popped up now and then with decent contributions without ever really stamping their authority on the game.

Importantly, in the absence of any consistent imagination or ideas going forward, Everton fell back on the industry of Calvert-Lewin and their threat at set-pieces to reclaim the lead. The striker’s overall work-rate deserved a goal and he almost got it on the stroke of half-time when he tested Bernd Leno with an excellent left-footed strike from the edge of the box that was heading for the top corner until the keeper finger-tipped it behind.

From the resulting corner, Gylfi Sigurdsson delivered the ball to the near post to meet Mina’s run and the big Colombian defender steered a header impressively on goal and past Leno at his near post for his second goal of the campaign.

The challenge laid down to a side that had scored just three times in nine games was to earn their way back into the contest for a second time and Everton gave them the confidence they needed after half-time by allowing Arsenal to control the tempo and the direction of play.

Ancelotti’s back line looked comfortable dealing with it for long stretches but when Pickford flapped at an attempted punch under the attentions of Holding and the ball dropped to David Luiz, the Blues were relieved to see the defender’s shot come back off the face of the bar.

Forays forward by Godfrey and Richarlison ended with crosses just eluding their targets in the middle and Keane came close to ghosting on to a Sigurdsson free-kick but otherwise, offensive moments from Everton were few and far between until a corner came out to Iwobi and he lined up a half-volley that deflected wide.

That left Arsenal, with Willian dropping deep to direct attacks, to carry the bulk of the threat in the closing stages as Everton dug in resolutely led by the tireless Abdoulaye Doucouré, who was a stand-out again as he protected the back four, and Ancelotti managed the clock with late substitutions.

Arteta introduced Alexandre Lacazette and the Frenchman added a more potent dimension to Arsenal’s attack but it was another substitute, Joseph Willock, who popped up in front of goal but headed wide and Pickford repelled Bakayo Saka's shot/cross with a strong, one-handed save in stoppage time as Everton secured the victory.

So, hardly a performance to set the pulse racing but the win was paramount and the fact that it was secured without the team playing especially well in an attacking sense – not to mention without three of its best and most creative players – bodes very well as the manager deals with injury absentees and mounting fatigue as December wears on.

In that sense, with just two shots on target, Everton were a model of efficiency as they climbed into second place in the Premier League for the time being and go into to Wednesday's Carabao Cup quarter-final in a rich vein of form.

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Jerome Shields
1 Posted 19/12/2020 at 22:44:43
The fact that Everton have played themselves back to the top end of the League is going to change the whole dynamics of the team and Finch Farm. They going to now believe they deserve to be there and the squad has a wide range of players that where involved in getting them there. Under performing players who be worked on even more.

Wandsworth will continue his improvements and there will be a confidence in him, that he really knows what he is doung.

Exciting times at Everton and credit to Moshiri.

Steve Hogan
2 Posted 19/12/2020 at 22:50:14
Carlo now getting a tune out of all of his team/squad, that's the difference. The second half wasn't pretty, but that was a team giving it's all.

It wasn't the manager's first choice eleven certainly, but those that come in all battled hard for the shirt, which hasn't always been the case.

Three of his 'certain starters' in recent week's, Digne, Allan and Rodrigues all out injured, but in fairness to the Ancellotti, he hasn't whinged one iota, unlike the 'media darling' across the park.

Onwards and upwards, Wednesday night will be another battle, but who would have predicted nine points from the last three games.

Early days, but Godfrey look's like he will be instrumental in Everton's development in the long term, just unsure of his position, what an athlete though.

Alan J Thompson
3 Posted 20/12/2020 at 02:28:21
Again it was the pattern of the previous two games but it seems we solve one problem while undoing the solution to a previous one.

I said earlier in the season that we would see the best of Richarlison when he had someone beside him who was putting away the half chances and while you can't criticize his work rate it seems that by playing him out wide we are back to the one striker in the box which seems to be drying up both their scoring rates. Perhaps the answer lies in having a left back who can get comfortably up and down the line.

I thought Davies covered for Allan admirably and was unlucky with the penalty, the Arsenal player throwing himself between Davies follow through and the ball. The way things are going it won't be long before free kicks are given for kicking the ball hard and hitting an opponent anywhere above the knee!

Still, another win against the "not quite" Top 6 and for now very close to the position we would most covet but I do wonder if we will play this type of game against the bottom six.

Onwards & Upwards!

John Pierce
4 Posted 20/12/2020 at 03:45:17
I think with this side playing the last three games, changes will be afoot Wednesday. It's knockout: no problems with Carlo going for it.

We are likely to see Coleman start, Holgate moved inside and Mina rested. Potentially James for Sigurdsson seems logical.

Man Utd will rotate with important games either side and in close proximity. As alluded to above, it's important not to dry the service up for both Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.

Jerome Shields
5 Posted 20/12/2020 at 06:33:50
I had a look at the game again. Arsenal are not playing for Arteta and he will not survive as manager.

In the main, most Everton players played well, but Richarlison is below par. In other games, Mina's weak clearance and Pickford's wild punch would have cost us 2 points, but the momentum was there to win.

Ancelotti has brought Everton a long way, shattering the glass ceiling that has dogged Everton for over 20 years. I am sure he will think there is still work to be done.

Olsen will be in goal against Man Utd seemingly on rotation, but Ancelotti will not have liked that punch. Mina will be rested, a decision helped by the weak clearance, with Colman available.

Sigurdsson I expect will start, on the merit of his essential contribution. Rodriguez will be an impact sub, not necessarily a Sigurdsson replacement.

Richarlison will be selected on his worthwhile workrate contribution and potential. But he does need to improve and did miss opportunities to bury Arsenal. He did give away possession more than he should have against Leicester. It could be his agent is mucking about with his head.

Bernard is in the last chance saloon and is not buying in, with Tosun as a bench warmer. The two youngsters on the bench are now part of the squad.

Calvert-Lewin's final-third passing has come on in leaps and bounds and he will score. Godfrey, Holgate, Keane and Iowbi are turning into the backbone of the team. I thought Davies was seamless and unlucky with the penalty.

Ancelotti will keep trying to improve. . . and Everton should become more clinical.

Rick Tarleton
6 Posted 20/12/2020 at 07:57:00
Normally, I totally agree with Lyndon's analyses, and I agree with 90% of his assessment. Where I felt he was rather harsh was in his judgement on Davies. Davies was our defensive midfielder and when he is facing the ball, he's a good player. He also was always available and off the ball frequently gave the defenders an easy outlet.

It was like all of the last three matches, a gritty and workmanlike performance. It may have lacked a little va va voom, but was effective and for those of us of the Blue persuasion, a very enjoyable experience. Ancelotti has given this team grit, and I believe this commodity will give us hope of a top six finish, and I hope good cup runs.

Martin Mason
7 Posted 20/12/2020 at 08:35:10
A good win against a skilful but poorly functioning Arsenal. I was really pleased to see Davies and Iwobi play well, they are developing into the required standard and it's like getting 2 new players. Remember that Davies is at best 3rd choice and that central midfield role is difficult. Doucouré was on another level, what a steal.
Danny O’Neill
8 Posted 20/12/2020 at 08:50:38
I said on the forum late yesterday that I feel for Arteta. It would seem right now, he is playing out the classic being a good player and coach doesn't equate to having what it takes to take on the number one role. Also, don't make the first job a big one or the dream job. Go and earn your spurs and work your way up. Duncan made a wise early call when there was talk of him landing the Everton job.

Davies is good cover for now and played reasonably well yesterday. I won't repeat from the other thread, but if Gomes gets criticised for stupid fouls and giving away possession, then Davies is on a par.

I like the 4-2-3-1 set up. I would rather see Richarlison on the right and see us rotate Sigurdsson and Rodriguez in the Number 10.

Mal van Schaick
10 Posted 20/12/2020 at 09:16:30
We have a solid back four and the work rate and commitment of the players in the few games is fantastic.

This will be our most important transfer window and will define our final position in the league. Another well rated midfielder and top class forward would stand us in good order for any further injuries and will enhance the strength in our squad.

Robert Tressell
11 Posted 20/12/2020 at 09:19:02
Martin @7.

Doucouré always looked like a good athletic box to box player. But in this ultra-defensive approach he has shown a level of discipline and reading of the game I didn't think he had. He really has been excellent. It's a good reminder about just how far you can go with hard work. I don't think we've seen this since Moyes left. It must be horrible to play against.

Thomas Richards
12 Posted 20/12/2020 at 09:26:03
Ultra defensive approach?

Only Liverpool and Chelsea have scored more than Everton this season

Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 20/12/2020 at 09:53:51
Agree Thomas. It's not ultra-defensive. It is controlled and we are defending much better.

6 goals in 7 days against teams touted as Champions League hopefuls at the beginning of the season and one of those as potential challengers to Liverpool's crown. That is not ultra-defensive.

Danny Broderick
14 Posted 20/12/2020 at 09:54:58
Wrap them in cotton wool. Same team against Man Utd. Such a shame Allan isn't fit. Davies will have to be very careful playing against the biggest cheat in the league – Fernandes.

We'll also have to watch them in the box as well as no doubt they'll be throwing themselves to the floor looking for penalties. Hopefully Rodriguez will be fit for the bench to make a cameo.

Dave Williams
15 Posted 20/12/2020 at 10:33:04
How was Tom careless or responsible for the penalty? The ball was heading straight for him and a player threw himself at it behind Tom who could not possibly see him. No way it was down to Tom who played a very good and disciplined game.

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 20/12/2020 at 10:42:18
If you're being ultra-critical, Dave, and acknowledging it's easy to say from the comfort of an armchair, whereas Tom makes his decision in real time split-seconds... but, with a bit more awareness of the Arsenal player bearing down on him, Tom doesn't stick that leg out. The Arsenal player isn't getting a first-time shot away and there is a least one Everton defender in front of him giving us a second bite.

If you rewind slightly, it's actually a sloppy ball from Godfrey that creates the problem.

But, like I say, that's being hyper-critical. Tom played well last night and Godfrey was immense. Silly fouls are an area of Tom's game he must address, as was Keane's ability to anticipate and read the game. He appears to have improved on that no end.

Thomas Richards
17 Posted 20/12/2020 at 10:47:38
Gomes got slaughtered on here for the non-penalty tackle last week. If he had done what Tom did, he would have got more of the same.

Davies, in my opinion, won't be good enough to play in the evolving squad. At best a sub's spot now and again as more players come in over the next two transfer windows.

Terence Leong
18 Posted 20/12/2020 at 10:57:37
I thought it's quite brilliant to see Keane stride out and take that pop on goal. He's done that on a few occasions already, one of which led to a Calvert-Lewin's goal.

I think that's one area of his game that he can be encouraged to develop, as I can imagine more teams will slowly begin to sit back against us. We don't shoot from distance enough.

Tony Abrahams
19 Posted 20/12/2020 at 12:01:37
I take your point, Thomas, but to compare the two tackles isn't being fair to Davies, imo, mate.

I think the laws of the game need drastically changing, because it was a penalty by the letter of the law, but it was just a case of Maitland-Niles busting a gut and anticipating getting there before Davies. He knew this might just get him a penalty, even though, on a scale of 1-10, the danger was definitely nearer the bottom numbers.

Jerome Shields
20 Posted 20/12/2020 at 12:22:52

I forgot to mention Doucouré who is becoming the backbone of the team as well. He does play better when Allan is not playing for some reason. Seems a bit confused what his role is when Allan is playing. I have seen him hesitate making himself available for a pass. No such problem recently.

Thomas Richards
21 Posted 20/12/2020 at 12:33:29
Agree 100%, Tony. An unavoidable penalty.

My point was the ripping Gomes got for a tackle that was clean.

Francis van Lierop
22 Posted 20/12/2020 at 13:30:01
Wow, three wins in a row that most of us never saw coming, considering the injuries.

Not a great match yesterday, but fighting spirit prevailed. Doucouré and Godfrey were very good yesterday. That gut-busting run of the latter down the wing, wow...

More of the same on Wednesday, please!

Paul A Smith
23 Posted 20/12/2020 at 13:43:02
I think Gomes got stick because he often takes that chance and could have made a certain win much more difficult.

Circumstances dictate the analysis and every instance is different. Davies was sleepy but also unlucky with how the ball fell to him.

Most importantly, it didn't affect him and he went on to play steady and never hid throughout the game which, to be fair, he never does hide.

Lester Yip
24 Posted 20/12/2020 at 13:44:08
I think Davies is an unselfish player and played wherever the manager asked him to play. What's his best role? Is he a defensive midfielder? Or box to box?

He's been used to plug holes with his energy and grit. Well, Phil Neville played that role too and maybe Tom is down that path. If we want to trim down the squad, players with versatility is a good thing.

Thomas Richards
25 Posted 20/12/2020 at 13:51:49
Back four gave the pass into Davies a miss the whole game, even when he was in plenty of space.

I don't think they trust him to be honest.

Jim Harrison
26 Posted 20/12/2020 at 13:56:58
Few years back, when Tim Sherwood got the Aston Villa job after being binned by spurs I read what I considered to be a good article that basically said he didn't deserve the Villa role. He hadn't earned his right to manage one of the most successful and venerable sporting clubs in the land.
He hadn't really managed apart from his short, ultimately unsuccessful spell at Spurs. There were many other candidates with better CV's but not the celebrity.

I couldn't help thinking the same thing whenever I heard Arteta being touted as a possible solution for Everton, and couldn't believe that Arsenal took a punt on him. He had played for them for 5 seasons, so a bit of familiarity, but had only been a coach for a few seasons. I don't see what he had done to earn the opportunity to manage a club of the size and prestige of Arsenal.

Being a coach working under a great manager is no guarantee of success as manager. Quieroz, Kidd, Phelan and, to a lesser degree, MacLaren have never ascended to great heights even though spending time under the best manager in British history, for example.

He may turn out to be a great manager in the future, but I am glad we managed to get hold of a guy who has more than earned his right to manage one of the most successful and venerable sporting clubs in the land.

Danny O’Neill
27 Posted 20/12/2020 at 14:09:39
Bryan Robson Jim. The spectacularly disastrous Gary Neville Valencia experiment. Dare I say Gareth Southgate, although I'm giving examples of players here rather than coaches. Southgate has been more comfortable with the national team as that is more of a coaching role than being a club manager.

Our very own Colin Harvey arguably fell into this category too. Great player, outstanding coach at all levels, didn't quite cut it as a manager.

Alan J Thompson
28 Posted 20/12/2020 at 14:14:02
Thomas(#25); Next you'll be saying he had his boots on the wrong feet, you're just making it up to put Tom Davies down.

As my father used to say; the word honest is used in more lies than any other word.

Joe McMahon
29 Posted 20/12/2020 at 14:14:44
Danny @27, I think Robson kept West Brom and Boro in the PL. It was Gareth (I send my kids to boarding school) Southgate that relegated Boro.
Jim Harrison
30 Posted 20/12/2020 at 14:23:35
Danny 27

Yes, those all as players, but I don't think many trained as coaches under him?

There was at one point 3 or 4 ex players from utd all managing in the PL, Keane, Bruce, Hughes and Robson, but again I don't think they coached with him. And also didnt go on to achieve big things.

John Pierce
31 Posted 20/12/2020 at 15:07:35
Gomes got ripped for making a low percentage, unnecessary tackle whilst on a yellow when the player was going towards two/three Everton defenders.

Davies should, as mentioned above, should had a better picture of what is happening around him. Both were poor pieces of play, Gomes, however, was brain dead in his approach. Rightly one got more criticism than the other. Also, the narrative of their games was that Gomes was generally poor, Davies was not.

Danny O’Neill
32 Posted 20/12/2020 at 15:12:08
Forgot about Keane Jim. And yes, I realised as I was typing, they were more players who jumped into a top flight job straight from playing, which is even more of an unknown than what Arteta has done.

Interesting Joe, as that kind of leads into another narrative; we just aren't producing good coaches and managers and haven't done for some time now.

Avoiding relegation is what the likes of Bruce and Allardyce have made a living from. Back to Jim's point, they've not really achieved big things.

Tony Everan
33 Posted 20/12/2020 at 16:48:14
Davies is by no means on the same level as Allan but yesterday I thought his inclusion ahead of Gomes as justified. He was confident and positively involved until the penalty, then he seemed to drop off a bit.

In the second half, I thought Sigurdsson was showing fatigue and slowed right down from his new level. Davies was less of an influence and we became a bit ragged. Arsenal were finding it easier to pass through the midfielders.

With having three games in a week and the effort the lads had put in previously, we held on well. I think, to maintain our league position, we will definitely have to rotate certain players a bit and also hope Gbamin can come in and add some more quality to the midfield when needed in the months ahead.

It's clear we are a work in progress for Mr Ancelotti, this team has been excellent, but it is not the finished article yet.

Thinking ahead, if we sign a couple of players of the same calibre as Doucouré and Allan in the next summer window, we will become a stable and consistent force, very realistically challenging for the top 4 and establishing ourselves as one of the major teams in the Premier League.

Danny O’Neill
34 Posted 20/12/2020 at 17:31:24
Definitely work in progress, Tony. We addressed the immediate problem of centre-midfield in the summer.

I think backup or competition for Dominic and a wide player for the next window as well as full-back cover. 3 players and, as you say, of similar calibre to what we bought in the summer. I trust the current regime to identify players that will improve on what we have rather than splashing ridiculous money on players that didn't in previous years. That is where Ancelloti's influence and network comes in.

Keeper not a priority just yet and, in Godfrey plus the improvement in Keane and Mina, I'm quite comfortable with the centre-back quartet of those 3 plus Holgate.

I am also hopeful of Gbamin. With him in the team, it gives us options to go very attacking with a 3-5-2. I know we have all been scarred of late with a back 3, but that was with a 3-4-3 with no genuine holding midfielder sat between defence and Allan or Doucoure. Not saying every week, just gives us options to mix it and not be predictable.

Then, next summer, we raise the bar again. Step by step and continuous improvement over time.

Tony Everan
35 Posted 20/12/2020 at 18:18:55
I agree with those positions, Danny. What I like at the moment is the incredible strength in depth we will have with the way Holgate and Godfrey can operate at full-back when needed.

I would like a forward with pace to burn as a complement to our attack, and the ability to cause panic from the subs bench. Tosun and Bolaise will be gone, maybe in a few weeks, so I think we will be looking for someone.

I think, in the modern game, any forward we buy has to be a complete player, or can become one. Richarlison is a menace offensively but his inclusion never weakens the side defensively. Iwobi is well on his way to achieving that, but it's still early days. Calvert-Lewin is the Premier League top scorer and contributes to the physical and combative side of the game more than anyone. What I'm trying to say is that we can't sign talented players who will be passengers.

I'd be looking for a Sadio Mane: goal threat, fast, agile and a pain in the ass with an edge too. Sam Hoare flagged up a young (Mane-type) lad playing in Germany I think, who is looking promising. Can't remember his name...

Right-back is still on the agenda, and just has to be addressed next time round. We all love Seamus but we have to be proactive, like we were with Leighton. We need a right-back ‘Digne' – if Mr Brands can find one.

The fortunes of the club this season could rest on Jean-Philippe Gbamin hitting the ground running or André Gomes stepping it right up. Tom Davies isn't too far off, but he is still looking like a cover player. All that or Allan coming back and having a clear run without injury.

I think Carlo will be looking at these three very closely between now and the summer because we need top-class cover for Allan to avoid being too weakened. Can one of those three step up to the plate?

Another thing to look forward to is the inevitable switching of James Rodriguez in the No 10 position. Sigurdsson has been much, much better there these last 3 matches (until fading against Arsenal). I can see a sharing of that position between those two players. It is a job share that may reap dividends for the club and keep both players fresh and fit playing their best football.

Robert Tressell
36 Posted 20/12/2020 at 18:45:47

Sam often mentions Krepin Diatta, the young Senegalese playing in Belgium. He'd be good. But probably not available till summer.

More obscure options are Abdellah Sima of Slavia Prague who West Ham are looking at. He's 19 also of Senegal. Looks absolutely exceptional all-round centre-forward.

Another one is Kamaldeen Sulemana, the 18-year-old Ghanaian playing for Nordsjaelland in Denmark. He's an exceptionally fast tricky goal-scoring winger.

I'd love us to pick up these sorts of players now, so that they can be readied for the first team when Richarlison inevitability leaves.

Santa Krsh
37 Posted 20/12/2020 at 18:51:03
Jim Harrison 30, You missed Paul Ince!! Who I think managed Blackburn during the same time.

Back to the subject, did anyone notice how we went back to our last season like midfield show in the last few minutes?? Saw Davies dropping into defense and Sigurdsson as usual a bystander... I hope Allan comes back asap.


Tom Harvey
38 Posted 20/12/2020 at 20:31:39
Definite improvement, more spirit and more cohesion within the team.

Ancelotti is starting to take a more pragmatic approach, he was a bit gung-ho with James in the team hoping to win games with mostly flair, but he's finding out there are other ways to win them.

However, here's the 'but'... we're riding our luck too much and have to start showing more ability, cunning and composure when trying to kill a game off. Just thumping the ball back to the opposition and enduring another wave of pressure is not the way to go, Arsenal were very unlucky in not getting the draw; we need to start playing some quality possession football.

Patrick McFarlane
39 Posted 20/12/2020 at 20:57:47
Tom #39
Whilst I agree that Everton can't continue to play like we are for the remainder of this season and expect to be successful, I have to say that it is far easier to become a more expansive team when it has a string of positive results behind it.

As for luck, well that old adage that "the harder you work the luckier you get" springs to mind. That's what the current team is doing, working extremely hard and it is deservedly reaping the rewards.

The really difficult part comes next with three great results in the bag: Can the team continue to work as hard, regardless of the tactics employed or the stature of the opposition, the question being will they take their foot off the pedal and revert to believing that they don't have to put the hard yards in?

All that the team has achieved in recent weeks, despite the points haul, is to put themselves back in the running, but the 'big six' with Leicester replacing Arsenal, they will be hard to finish ahead of, due to their greater experience and probably more capable squads.

What I do like about the current run is the re-awakening of the morale and camaraderie that is on show from the players, which is vital in our quest to upset the applecart, and even if the team fails to achieve anything meaningful this season, that spirit will only help us to progress.

This Everton side is capable of winning one of the cups if it continues to retain solidity, whilst having a threat in attack and it doesn't let its work ethic fall away.

Tony Everan
40 Posted 20/12/2020 at 21:02:48
Robert, Thanks yes, Diatta. it's a big step up to reproduce the skills and form in the Premier League. With these types of player who obviously have plenty of ability and potential, our recruitment has to be thorough as to their chances of making it.

I'd be surprised if Brands wasn't keeping tabs on him and a few others. It looks nailed on that a bigger club will take a gamble on him in the summer.

Tom Harvey
41 Posted 20/12/2020 at 22:23:41
Patrick McFarlane @ 39,

Confidence is a wonderful thing when it's on your side; and you're right – the more of these wins we get, there is a snowball effect.

I just want to to see the midfield when gaining possession in these situations, when we are under pressure, be more composed instead of looking for the Calvert-Lewin long ball every time and move up as a unit while keeping possession.

We don't have to try to score as quickly as possible every time we have the ball. Against the Gooners, we got the ball and tried a goalscoring counter-attack every time; they dispossessed us and still had most of their men around our penalty box and so could reassert pressure. If we had played out at a slower pace, it would have forced Arsenal to run back to defend their own penalty box; their men in their own half is much safer for us.

Paul A Smith
42 Posted 20/12/2020 at 22:28:11
Tom, I think we can play like that all season. Ancelotti will know all the averages but he's playing to strengths at the moment.

The seeing games out and not riding our luck will come when more quality is in the 11.

I'd like to think Coleman, Digne, Allan, and James, can be as disciplined as their replacements and, in regimental performances like recent ones, we automatically have more quality with them in the side.

1-0 jammy will do me every week, though, and I don't believe we have to be entertaining with our resources.

We can't have a bad window, though we have to keep the squad in good shape to keep up there.

Bit weak in central midfield, I think... and another forward would be great.

Tom Harvey
43 Posted 20/12/2020 at 23:23:56
Paul @ 42

I'm pleased he's found a working and robust formation.

The irony is that I don't see where James will fit into it? He's not a defensive type of player and doesn't seem to have the fitness to get up and down the pitch all match.

He needs a stable group around him to get his passing game going and give him options, the way we are playing at the moment he'd be on his own and closed down.

I'm interested to see how Ancelotti fits him in again.

Darryl Ritchie
44 Posted 21/12/2020 at 02:52:11
Re Tom Davies: in the first half Arsenal attacked up the centre. That allowed Davies to be able to to harass the Gunners, which he did quite well. In the second half, Arsenal changed tactics and the majority of their attack was on the left, effectively taking him out the play. The ball was rarely near him.
Jerome Shields
45 Posted 21/12/2020 at 05:33:57
Robert #36

I don't think that Richarlisons transfer out is a given. Of course his agent will have filled with ideas, The one weakness, in his game his passing , which will cut down his options. He is more of a power runner, who uses pace to get into a shooting position. If he doesn't get in that position he is easily snuffed out and is devoid of ideas if he finds he has no option but to pass.

He does work hard and his industiousness gets him goals. His suitability for a lot of top flight teams is questionable. He is below par at the moment possibly, because transfer has been playing on his mind during Evertons bad spell. There may not be that many suitors.

Martin Mason
46 Posted 21/12/2020 at 08:58:11
Danny@14 Fernandes being a cheat is no worry, all footballers are cheats. The worry is that he is far and out the best player in the EPL
Martin Mason
47 Posted 21/12/2020 at 09:05:37
My only worry against Arsenal was that they saw Mason as a weakness and went for him. They passed him and Iwobi too often for comfort. They were very good on the LHS though.
Martin Nicholls
48 Posted 21/12/2020 at 09:12:45
Patrick McFarlane - off topic, but I've seen no posts from "John, snr" lately. Is he ok? Has he had/been offered vaccine yet?
Jim Potter
49 Posted 21/12/2020 at 09:43:45
We are showing great resilience and a dogged determination to defend collectively.

The quarter final should be a cracker.

Godfrey looks undroppable.

I'm sorry to say, I was glad Gomes was out injured. His first touch is now poor, his pace is way too slow and his tackling decisions are highly dubious at best. I hope he can recover his form and fitness but he's sadly dead weight currently.

We need James' creativity back asap (even if we'll inevitably suffer defensively for that).

With Allan out for presumably some time perhaps Carlo moves Holgate to defensive midfield and Seamus back in?

Iwobi has worked hard over recent games but his end product is so often underwhelming. I'd like Bernard or Gordon in for while. The former was excellent v Man Utd.

Pickford is a dilemma. Makes some important saves still, but I wince every time a cross comes in. If I say he still exudes signs of a headless chicken then I feel I owe all poultry an apology for the comparison. If he could get through a few consecutive games with no crises then the confidence could finally return. Fingers crossed.

Keane has been consistently superb all season and I'm pleased because he's a sound bloke.

It's nice to be in our lofty position and I hope we push on to really give it a go. Such a pity we had that really poor run.

Here's to a great new year - in so many ways.

Merry Christmas Fellow Blues.

Dave Abrahams
50 Posted 21/12/2020 at 09:49:26
Tom (41), you hit the word we need more than anything else at the moment, composure, how I’ve longed for that even in these last three winning games, composure and calmness, someone to put their foot on the ball and look around to make a sensible pass, not a wack or hoofing the ball just down the pitch.

Strangely in the last couple of minutes, Davies, who comes under more stick than most on here, with Everton under increasing pressure, brought the ball out of the penalty area and with no Everton player ahead of him to pass to, calmly aimed the ball fifty yards down the field but out of play, giving us seconds to regroup and leaving the Arsenal team to go back and start again from scratch, not pretty I admit, but was needed at the time.

John Keating
51 Posted 21/12/2020 at 09:51:28
This past 12 months is a learning curve for everyone at the Club, players and management.
Ancelotti now knows what he has, what they can and can’t do, positions and systems they can and cannot play in
The players now realise the expectations and requirements they have to produce under the, probably, most experienced manager they have ever worked under.
Of course there will be set backs along the way. That would be the case with whoever came in.
As long as there is recognisable improvement then, in my opinion, that’s what counts.
The haters will never change their position but using the money Ancelotti is on is just nonsense.
We have players at this Club who are on or nearly on the same money! Who gets slagged the most? Ancelotti or the player?
The media are totally focused on Klippety and his injury ravaged squad performing miracles and undoubtably retaining the league
Man Utd are now fantastic and the RS nearest challengers
Leicester are going to push them both
Meanwhile Everton?
Let them all get on with it. We may hit the ropes again but as long as we can see improvement and pick teams and tactics to suit the opposition then lets be glad
Clive Rogers
52 Posted 21/12/2020 at 09:51:38
Jerome, 45, correct, Richie loses the ball far too easily and too often for teams like Barca etc. His strength is his pace and the fact that he is always dangerous.
Tony Abrahams
53 Posted 21/12/2020 at 10:52:52
I thought Iwobi, was drifting towards his old self during the second half the other night Martin@47, and wasn’t working hard enough defensively to help Holgate at times.

Tierney and Saka, were two of Arsenal’s most willing runners though, but watching the game, I definitely wished we had signed Maitland-Niles, rather than Iwobi.

Patrick McFarlane
54 Posted 21/12/2020 at 11:03:11
Martin #48
All is relatively fine with John Snr, he was given the vaccine yesterday, which is good news. As for him posting on here, I believe he has taken a sabbatical from posting for the time being.
Tony Hill
55 Posted 21/12/2020 at 11:13:24
Dave @50, Davies did well overall, I thought, despite the penalty. It was pleasing that Ancelotti praised his contribution.
John Burns
56 Posted 21/12/2020 at 11:37:33
Patrick 54. Please wish John a very Happy Christmas and I’m sure we all look forward to him being back on TW.
Tom Harvey
57 Posted 21/12/2020 at 12:06:53
Dave Abrahams @ 50

Yep, Davies had a very good game, considering he's not getting much game time this season, he looked composed.

As you said, he had not many options when he did have the ball. The problem is that Richarlison and DCL are seen as the solution to our problems when we're under pressure, but more often than not they're dispossessed and it comes right back to us.

They're just not performing as unit in midfield, our game management is poor because of this, when we should be slowing the game down and keeping possession, we're trying to score a dramatic goal to kill the game.

Paul A Smith
58 Posted 21/12/2020 at 15:22:02
Tom 43 I wouldn't worry about James mate I think hes the most gifted player at the club by a long way.

Just because he has no pace doesn't mean he won't work hard. I think he does that. If he plays over Sigurdsson we have better pass ratio, smarter movement and faster vision.

Sigurdsson has done well lately and his hard work has paid off but James is better at everything.

Everytime we have a talented player it seems to be a natural inclination from a large portion to assume they don't work hard?

I can never understand that.

John McFarlane Snr
59 Posted 21/12/2020 at 15:53:19
Hi all, I feel that I should have the decency to acknowledge the concern that some have expressed regarding my well being. I am pleased to report that I am currently in good health, and as my nephew John [AKA Patrick] states, I received my Covid-19 vaccination yesterday.

I'm not sure whether or not I will resume contributing to this site, because I consider the response to a post I submitted was both ill-mannered and offensive. I will, however, extend Season's Greetings to 'friend and foe' alike. Best Wishes, John.

Tony Abrahams
60 Posted 21/12/2020 at 16:15:19
All the best John Mc, I wish I was going to one of your get togethers in total freedom, but I'm glad you're okay, and hopefully it won't be long until a few of us can meet up again mate!

Dave Abrahams
61 Posted 21/12/2020 at 16:27:24
John (59), glad you are well, I bet you are enjoying the present decent form and winning spell by the Blues, I’m getting my vaccination tomorrow, do you get a sweet if you don’t cry!! Best wishes John, I hope we are both back at Goodison in the near future.
Tony Everan
62 Posted 21/12/2020 at 16:47:28
John Mc, All the best to you and your family. Keep posting, give it another chance.
Andrew Keatley
63 Posted 21/12/2020 at 16:54:53
John (59) - It is great to hear that you are in good health, but not at all great to hear that another poster's response to you has left you feeling that way. In amongst the shrill opinions and marked point-scoring on this site (which often make this site a very interesting place), your calm and measured posts are always something of a tonic. I hope to read more from you.
Dale Self
64 Posted 21/12/2020 at 16:58:20
John (59), I have always enjoyed your voice here please carry on. I will offer that it was the roller coaster ride we've just been on that may explain some of the rudeness, myself included.
Peter Mills
65 Posted 21/12/2020 at 17:00:31
Best wishes John Mc.
Danny O’Neill
66 Posted 21/12/2020 at 17:39:55
All the best John, good to hear from you.
Jerome Shields
67 Posted 21/12/2020 at 21:14:16
John #59,

Good to hear from you and glad to hear you are well. Merry Xmas and Best Wishes.

Jerome Shields
68 Posted 21/12/2020 at 21:19:50
Clive #52,

Some Glam Club may have a punt. But, in the Covid crisis, they are few and far between and it wouldn't be good for his career. He did kind of threaten a move, but it was more agent-speak. Bet his agent's phone isn't ringing too much.

Dale Self
69 Posted 21/12/2020 at 23:40:21
I like Patrick's point to the team's coming together through tough times. When you see teams go to the flag to celebrate a goal, others don't show the boyish emotions that I see in this Everton group. They look to be building some durable footballing relationships that will blossom on the field eventually. There really does seem to be some serious buy-in on the tactics.
Don Alexander
70 Posted 21/12/2020 at 00:24:09
To John McFarlane (Snr), I implore you to resume your contributions. Like many of us, your critic/s occasionally overstep the mark but your insight and history strike a real chord with more than a few (see above).

And for those at Finch Farm, something different seems to have happened very lately, to our benefit. One of our most controversial contributors has cited "reliable info" that Davide Ancelotti has been showing previously comfy but ineffective players, defenders especially, the importance of "body position" when defending. About time too, and one penalty being the only score against us from three teams with very expensive and proficient attacking units says it all.

I'm happy to win "ugly" for now. Winning in that way is guaranteed to improve squad morale.

If Moshiri wants to further improve fan morale, and his bank balance quite soon, I suggest he takes note of the reality of this season, with the vulnerability of the Sky Babes, and forks out for a couple of notable players in January to make top 4, never mind "6", achievable.

David Currie
71 Posted 22/12/2020 at 01:48:07
All the best to John Mc Snr.
Darren Hind
72 Posted 22/12/2020 at 03:49:08
All good points, Lyndon.

On the face of it, this would appear to be a classic case of getting 9 or 10 men behind the ball, working their arses off and defending the lead for their lives. I've seen people say it's unsustainable. I don't agree.

What I saw was economy of movement. Our centre-halves defended deep; our full-backs stayed home, our wide men were disciplined... But it was in midfield where I saw the biggest difference. Davies and Doucouré did not charge around tackling everything from the lino to the corner flag. The simply stood in front of the Arsenal team and challenged them to break them down. Both were unspectacular, but their positioning was flawless.

When you get good players doing the very basics in defending, staying compact, holding their ground, sticking to their individual tasks within the collective effort, there are very few teams in this league with the ability to open you up. Champions League football awaits any team who can do this consistently and effectively.

There is of course a trade-off. What do we do when everyone is fit? James has the ability to get us all on our feet, to open up any opposition, but his presence immediately reduces the collective discipline. Allan will not be content to simply stand his ground; of course, he will win us more possession but, every time he goes ball-hunting, a gap appears between our midfield and defence.

And what about the full-backs, would Coleman and Digne be able to quell their desire to get down the lines? Do we need them too? People who had seen Godfrey in the flesh had already told us he was fast, but I think we were all startled by the devastating turn of foot he showed us on the rare occasion he did break ranks.

Who gets back in? Do we change our style to accommodate certain individuals? Do we risk points in order to entertain?

Is "playing the right way" more important than accumulating points?

Kieran Kinsella
73 Posted 22/12/2020 at 04:29:09
Darren 72,

So in a nutshell you’re foregoing the traditional turkey and cooking up Mike Gaynes magnifico crow for Christmas? Enjoy.

Jerome Shields
74 Posted 22/12/2020 at 08:00:09
Darren #72,

This is well-observed, which I had not considered, and shows Ancelotti's team's good individual coaching. It shows an acceptance of the limits of certain players. It's a form of back to basics.

I can't see Ancelotti not trying to push beyond these limits. Against Arsenal, the early goal was vital, as it is in all Everton wins. It takes the initiative of setting up shop away from teams. In Arsenal's case, it forced them to come out and play, changing tactics.

To get into the Champion League, there has to be consistent wins against lower-placed teams, as Arsene Wenger showed throughout his tenure. These are the teams that set up shop. Everton have often bust a gut in the first half to break them down, not getting the early goal, only to deflate in the second half.

This is the conundrum you have correctly observed that Ancelotti faces in team selection and why coaching has to raise the limit of certain players.

There are quite a few Everton players that like the comfort zone of play in front of them.

Robert Tressell
75 Posted 22/12/2020 at 08:47:56
Darren @72. I agree with some of what you say there. But the current style relies on scoring first. That takes a bit of luck. If we go a goal down and have to chase a game, then the current approach may well be found wanting. It'll also be hard to use this style against other very compact teams.

We'll need a variety of tactics and personnel to keep us where we are. The good news is that Carlo now has two very different tactics he can use and a core of about 14 or 15 first-teamers who give him consistent performances and different options.

So I think there's a decent chance we can keep up the good form – albeit with some disappointments to be expected. Top 6 remains doable.

Ray Robinson
76 Posted 22/12/2020 at 09:12:53
Some decent observations in there, Darren, asking some telling questions rather than providing answers that only you know. However, I can't help feeling that, if Ancelotti persists with such tactics – in my view, justified over a short period, in the interest of pragmatism – you'd soon become the first to condemn him for pug-ugly football. Best of both worlds for you, Darren, eh? Allardyce certainly wasn't afforded such understanding when he tried his own brand of pragmatism.

As Robert says, it depends so much on us getting the first goal and shots that are currently hitting our woodwork not going in.

Even then, we could be only a Pickford error or an undisciplined tackle away from turning a great result into a disappointing one.

How long do we stifle the supply line to Calvert-Lewin?

Not sustainable in the long run – especially against more moderate opposition.

That said, same again tomorrow night against Man Utd with the same favourable result will be perfectly acceptable!

Thomas Richards
77 Posted 22/12/2020 at 09:21:13

Having not won a trophy for almost 26 years, the style of play matters not a jot to me at this stage of Ancelotti's reign.

I have no doubt whatsoever that a more attractive style will develop.

Jerome Shields
78 Posted 22/12/2020 at 10:19:09

That's what caused the poor results run as you say ;Hitting the Bar, Reckless tackles and Pickford errors. Mina and Docoure put in great performances against Asenal. But when Mina has to come out of his comfort zone of playing deep and has to defend on the turn he gets the head staggers. Dourcoure when Allan plays bombing forward, is out of his comfort zone and doesn't show for a pass.

There have been improvement though Keane especially. Holgate and Godfrey make Everton less predictable. Iowbi and Davis are able to carry the ball more. Sigurdsson is more confident. Maybe Richarlison is not as comfortable with the current system. Calvert Lewin final third play has improved

Managing the reintroduction of Colman, James, Digne and Allan will be the challenge, for the reasons you outlined. I suppose, Ancelotti would consider his a movement to the next level.

Kevin Prytherch
79 Posted 22/12/2020 at 10:31:04
Carlo can't be fooled into thinking that these tactics will be effective against teams that defend. Silva found out, to his detriment, that playing a 4-2-3-1 that's compact without possession does not work against sides that defend. Silva was too stubborn to change until it was too late.

Keep this formation against Man Utd and Man City, it works and we're good at it. But against Sheffield Utd, we can't play the same way. We'll look slow and ponderous and, unless we get an early goal, we will allow The Blades to play themselves into the game – like we have done with so many teams.

The same goes for Sigurdsson. He is very effective in the Number 10 role against teams who attack us, it affords him the time and space he needs between the lines. He proved this in Silva's good run against the better teams. He is hopeless against teams that defend deep against us.

If Carlo is worth his money, he will realise the need to mix it up and not work on the mantra of “Well, it worked in the last game...”

Thomas Richards
80 Posted 22/12/2020 at 11:02:13
You don't win 20 trophies in 5 different countries without the knowledge you hope Carlo has, Kev.

You make good points there, mate, but he knows.

Eddie Dunn
81 Posted 22/12/2020 at 12:14:07
It is interesting that Leicester play counter-attacking football and have often been mooted as the example that we should be keeping up with. However they also struggle when opponents play them at their own game and their home form reflects this, as does their away form.

Spurs were lauded recently as potential champions and they were unlucky to lose at Anfield playing on the break. Ironically Leicester followed up their defeat to us with a superb counter-attacking display at Tottenham.

So there are quite a few teams doing what we do. They all seem to struggle when asked to control a game and break down teams sitting deep.

Thus far, it is only our neighbours who have the answers as Man City and Man Utd have struggled when trying to play possession football.

Tony Everan
82 Posted 22/12/2020 at 13:44:58
Kevin 79, It's a good point and we will likely see a different approach against defending teams. James Rodriguez pulling the strings in the No 10 position instead of Sigurdsson could cause all sorts of problems for such teams. Seamus would help open it up a bit more down the right.

We will miss Digne's assists from the left in such games, but Godfrey looks adept in he role and can make some excellent forward runs that could destabilise Sheffield and other similar teams.

Kieran Kinsella
83 Posted 22/12/2020 at 14:07:33

I think it's funny how football goes in roundabouts. Everyone has been lauding Leicester and Spurs for counter-attacking ruthlessly with minimal possession.

When Roberto Martinez came along at the height of the Pep era everyone was judging teams based on possession. I remember when we drew under him at Arsenal and McNulty banging on about how the fact we had 60 percent of possession indicated we were so great.

Jerome Shields
84 Posted 22/12/2020 at 15:20:03
Eddie #81,

Our neighbours set up shop against us defending deep, even targeted our best player. In the second half, they harried outside the box countering all the time. A lower half Manager could have coached them, the dirty pack. I even think our poor spell coincided with teams following the same tactics.

Inadvertently, Pickford got them back and then they had the cheek to cry wolf. We are now in second place making sure they don't get away with it.

Robert Tressell
85 Posted 22/12/2020 at 17:11:02
I don't honestly think there are many genuine Ancelotti sceptics out there. This time last year we were a complete mess, Calvert-Lewin was a joke (to many) of a centre forward and there was a lot of talk of Moyes and Arteta becoming our manager – or a Watford / Southampton style appointment from aboard.

If you had then been offered our current league position, Allan and Rodriguez, Doucoure and Godfrey with Calvert-Lewin as an England International at the top of the scoring charts – well you'd have been in dreamland.

There's more to come from this group of players and Ancelotti. There have been a few crap performances and mistakes too. But I'm right behind this side as we enter Christmas and I think we're in really good hands.

Paul A Smith
86 Posted 22/12/2020 at 19:10:49
Some good posts above about our current system. Darren, Robert and Kevin all make good points and, as someone else said above, Carlo has seen it all. Surely that's something we all agree on?

Mistakes will be made and tired players will be picked with not much option. As long as they work their socks off, the formation shouldn't affect us.

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