Crystal Palace – Everton: Silva’s team struggled to break through the low Palace block (0-0)
Despite high amounts of possession, Marco Silva’s Everton still look no closer than last season to breaking down a low block. Crystal Palace kept Everton at bay with a compact 4-4-2 system, but failed to adapt their style until late in the game, thereby missing a chance to sway the result in their direction.
Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker.
The football world’s priciest league returns with much excitement for all clubs involved. With great money comes great expectations, and the first match-up would see two clubs on different sides of the spectrum.
Having sold Aaron Wan-Bissaka early in the transfer window, Crystal Palace did not make many progressive signings to an already ageing squad. Injury prone James McCarthy and Jordan Ayew – a player who seems to sign for Palace every window – were the two biggest permanent signings. However, retaining Wilfried Zaha from the hot pursuit of both Everton and Arsenal is without doubt their biggest success. As a homegrown player who contributed to forty per cent of their goals in the league, his work is pivotal.
Everton would once again flash the cash in another summer window; but with a more of a dose of intelligence with Marcel Brands at the helm. The signing of 19-year-old Moise Kean from Juventus certainly turned heads, and the purchase of Alex Iwobi is a much smarter buy than what it looks. Despite making a high number of summer deals, Everton still lack depth in both midfield and center-back positions with such a big season ahead. Can Everton’s big bucks finally force themselves into the top six?
Though a new season beckons, both teams resided to lineups and formations from last campaign. Roy Hodgson bounced back and forth between a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 system throughout last campaign and favoured the latter in this game. Jordan Ayew would start upfront next to Christian Benteke, the only surprise being that Wilfried Zaha would start on the bench.
Marco Silva also continued with his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. With Idrissa Gueye now gone, Morgan Schneiderlin stepped in next to André Gomes – now at the club permanently. New signings Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Moise Kean would start on the bench.
Everton self-inflict problems thanks to shape
Silva’s team dominated possession in the opening stages of the game. When Everton held the ball, they were expansive but failed to produce any sort of buildup play through the center of the pitch. Positional-wise, Everton tend to be extremely unbalanced, the 4-2-3-1 formation often evolves into a 4-2-4 shape, with no direct passing lanes open to Gylfi Sigurdsson who places himself next to striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
In this setup, it is very difficult for Gomes or Schneiderlin to pass to anyone else other than each other, the fullbacks or backwards when in possession. They act very piacular when Everton attempt to buildup from the back. Gomes or Schneiderlin drop between the center-backs or place themselves behind the position of the fullbacks as they go forward.
Everton’s shape when building up from the back causing them problems.
This created a very top-heavy passing system, with the defensive and midfield lines receiving much of the ball whilst the attackers fed off scraps. Everton’s only consistent way of breaking into the final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. throughout the first half would be from long channel passes towards Calvert-Lewin upfront.
Crystal Palace’s 4-4-2 low block A low block refers to a team that retreats deep in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents around their own box. handled Everton’s ball-retention with ease, allowing Silva’s team to pass the ball around and maintaining their shape at all costs. Both Joel Ward and Patrick van Aanholt did have the odd moment were space opened for Everton to string some neat passes in the flanks, but overall this was minimal.
Crystal Palace eventually swing momentum
With both teams struggling to create any sort of direct shots at goal, Hodgson’s team managed to get the upper hand in the later parts of the first half. Crystal Palace flooded the left channel, both strikers consistently positioning there, with van Aanholt also constantly overlapping them. The aim was to target Seamus Coleman, with Palace switching the ball from right to left towards Christian Benteke.
Crystal Palace’s very direct play clearly targeted Everton’s right fullback Coleman.
This created a great aerial battle between Benteke and Michael Keane in the Everton defense. Making these passes was pivotal for Palace, as it enabled them to have some sort of presence in the final third.
As expected, Crystal Palace’s main way of creating chances would be from winning set-pieces. A quick free-kick caught Everton with their backs turned, James McArthur making a brilliantly dinked ball into the penalty area. Max Meyer’s attempt was deflected over the bar.
The following corner would also cause Everton problems. Inswinging, towards the back post, Jordan Pickford was totally out of position, the header deflecting out for another corner. A let off for Everton.
Palace pickpocket Everton midfield
With the game for the taking, Hodgson switched to a more pressing style in the second half. Palace moved out from their low block, something which almost cost them as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s shot was cleared off the line. However, with more numbers forward, they were able to provide more pressure on Everton’s double pivot, 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. Schneiderlin and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who had replaced Gomes due to injury.
Pushing the defensive line higher enabled Palace to overload on Everton’s double pivot.
Palace dispossessed both men on a number of occasions and would instantly find themselves against Everton’s high defensive line. With an overload of players on their left flank, Palace created two one-versus-one scenarios in quick succession. Everton were caught off balance, Christian Benteke winning possession on the halfway line and finding Jordan Ayew, who had slipped behind into the box behind Schneiderlin. A great piece of goalkeeping kept the deadlock, Pickford closing down the angle and remaining big.
A few moments later, Palace would create another similar opportunity. Andros Townsend playing the ball behind the Everton backline, enabling Max Meyer to have the ball with only Jordan Pickford in his way. Pickford saved again. With pressure increasing on Everton’s right flank, Richarlison had to drop back to help Coleman in defensive situations.
Both teams struggle to take the victory
Although Hodgson’s did move his Palace team further up the pitch, neither manager made any major adjustments to their teams. Both Zaha and Kean came on, replacing Ayew and Calvert-Lewin, but no tactical change was followed by either team which could have swayed the game in their favour.
Any sort of Everton creativity had vanished – if there ever was any – by this point, Richarlison having the closest opportunity from just outside of the area – swinging the ball just wide of the post. Lucas Digne was forced into making a last-ditch clearance; van Aanholt exposing Coleman’s positioning and delivering a decent ball into the area.
Morgan Schneiderlin’s dismissal resulted in Everton dropping deep and losing an attacker upfront, Sigurdsson replaced by Tom Davies in order to keep their two banks-of-four at the back. All in all, the match lacked any sort of great opportunities.
Both Crystal Palace and Everton failed to exploit the weaknesses in the opposition. Hodgson’s compact and organized 4-4-2 formation was great at holding off any Everton attack, but struggled to build many attacking moves. If Palace had utilized their pressing game earlier on in the match, they could have created better chances in the first half. The next game against Sheffield United will be an important one, with trips to Manchester United and Tottenham to follow.
Everton’s attempts to break down a low-block make for a pretty dismal viewing. With virtually no buildup play going through the middle and no adaptable tactics to bypass this issue, Silva’s team showed no changes to tackle what was clearly the last campaign’s penultimate problem. Despite this, neither team deserved to win or lose, and the goalless draw was a fair result.
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