Everton – Arsenal: Organized And Well-Calculated Pressing Stop Arsenal’s Good Form (1-0)

After winning five out of their last six Premier League fixtures, Arsenal’s good form was broken by an impressive Everton team, who maintained their shape and pressed effectively. Defensive woes continue under Unai Emery, having conceded 23 shots at Goodison Park and denting their chance of automatic Champions League qualification.

Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker.


Everton manager Marco Silva was forced to make one change to his Everton team, who eased past West Ham at the London Stadium last weekend. Michael Keane dropped out of the matchday squad due to a virus, meaning 36-year-old Phil Jagielka took his place to make his first start at Goodison Park all season.

He was paired with Kurt Zouma at center-back, with Jordan Pickford between the posts, as well as Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne in the fullback positions. Both Idrissa Gueye and André Gomes retained their midfield spots for the fourth consecutive match, with the offensive trio of Bernard, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison ahead of them. Dominic Calvert-Lewin completed Everton’s line-up, as Silva decided to stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation that had been very unbalanced for most of the season.

Unai Emery also did not rotate his squad much following Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Monday. Bernd Leno kept his spot in goal, a defensive three of Nacho Monreal, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Skhodran Mustafi in front of him. Aaron Ramsey was replaced by Mohamed Elneny, playing as a midfield pivot next to Mattéo Guendouzi, with wing-backs Sead Kolašinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in support. Emery’s only other change would see Alex Iwobi being replaced by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, alongside Mesut Özil, positioned just behind Alexandre Lacazette upfront. The 3-4-3 shape has been the go-to formation for Arsenal in recent times, having seen them win their last three matches in that system and keeping a clean sheet in each victory.



Everton target the left channel

It was clear from the start that Everton looked more organized and energetic than their opponents. Everton always rotate into a 4-4-2 medium block A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. out of possession, but this had a slight tweak. Gylfi Sigurdsson would often drift into the left channel in early stages, especially when Mustafi was in possession, to stop him playing the ball out from the defense. This gave Everton an overload When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. when they pressed, and the results were very successful.

Everton took the lead just ten minutes into the game, thanks to the unlikeliest of goal scorers. Making just his third start of the season, Phil Jagielka bundled the ball home from Lucas Digne’s long throw-in into the penalty area. Arsenal failed to deal with the high ball, which would perfectly bounce into the path of Jagielka, tapping the ball in from just a few yards, the oldest player to score in the Premier League this season.

Arsenal continued to struggle from this point on, Guendouzi and Elneny swamped by Gueye and Gomes every time they had possession. Everton’s pressing was immense, but well- calculated and only stepped up when they needed too. This stopped influential players like Özil and Lacazette getting on the ball in good areas, Lacazette receiving just two passes in the entirety of the first-half.


Everton’s pressing movements when the ball was being played out of the back by Arsenal.


Instead of trying to control possession, Everton utilized Calvert-Lewin’s aerial ability in order to get the ball up the pitch as quick as possible. With height advantage over Sokratis and Monreal, the striker positioned himself in between these two center-backs and dominated in the air.

Both Jordan Pickford and Phil Jagielka produced a number of long balls forward, with Richarlison making runs in behind. This created a number of opportunities for Everton in the first half, having gained easy access into the final third.  The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal.

However, the hosts failed to create any serious chances to extend the lead.


Emery changes Arsenal back into a 4-2-3-1

After a dreadful first half, which only had saw them have one shot at goal, Unai Emery made a double substitution at half-time. Mohamed Elneny and Sead Kolašinac were replaced by Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which saw Arsenal go from a 3-4-3 into a 4-2-3-1 formation.

This resulted in Arsenal controlling much more of the ball and start as the better team in the second half. Aaron Ramsey had Arsenal’s best opportunity of the match just a couple of minutes after coming on, Pickford punching Aubameyang’s header into his path, only to put the ball wide.

Arsenal were transitioning the ball much better in comparison to the first, finding space between the Everton lines. André Gomes had moments where he would step out of the midfield line to press, leaving space behind him and an easier access forward for Arsenal. Aaron Ramsey was most often the player who attempted to exploit this, but it was not done enough, and Arsenal’s positive start would soon fade way as the half progressed. The unbalanced 4-2-3-1 shape would see Özil become non-existent when moved more central in the number ten role. Aubameyang started as a left winger but received the ball in useless positions and was comfortably marked out of the game by Seamus Coleman.

Arsenal simply could not break through Everton’s mid-block, not having a single shot at goal during the last twenty minutes. Emery’s final change was taking off Özil for Alex Iwobi, a natural winger who moved onto the left, whilst Aubameyang was positioned next to Lacazette, a rotation which was very ineffective.



Everton somehow don’t score more

With Arsenal committing more and more men forward, this left acres for Everton to break forward with pace. Both Monreal – who was now playing as a left back due to Emery’s changes – and Maitland-Niles moved high up the pitch when Arsenal had possession, leaving space behind them for Everton’s wingers to expose. It was a miracle the score was only 1-0 as chance after chance was wasted by Everton.

Maitland-Niles struggled to deal with a long ball, allowing Bernard to go one-versus-one with the goalkeeper, only to shoot the ball straight at Bernd Leno. Gylfi Sigurdsson was getting into great positions throughout the game, begging for the ball to be cut back into his path on multiple situations. When Richarlison eventually did, Sigurdsson could only shoot the ball straight at Leno. Richarlison would soon have a chance of his own, Sigurdsson’s attempt was blocked by Sokratis, falling to the Brazilian in yards of space. His shot went wide. Every single one of these chances should’ve killed the game off.



Despite chances being wasted, Jagielka’s scrappy goal was enough to secure Everton’s third consecutive victory and back-to-back wins against clubs from the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ after going 25 matches without one.


Takeaways

After going through horrible winter form, Everton’s turnaround has been welcomed amongst supporters, even with no major switch in tactics. Silva has organized a team that can not only press very effectively, but to keep their midfield and defensive lines. However, there is room for improvement when Everton enter the final third. They still miss an efficient creator, but more importantly, an impactful and prolific number nine. 

Granit Xhaka was a huge miss for Arsenal, a central midfielder who could have provided Özil and Lacazette much better than Elneny. This was a huge opportunity for Arsenal to leapfrog their rivals Tottenham and sit in the automatic Champions League spot. Another very poor away performance has cost them points; however, they have the easier fixtures left in comparison to their rivals. Emery needs to improve their away form if he wants to make Arsenal’s job easier.

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Joel Parker (19) is an Everton fan. Whenever he’s not watching his beloved Everton, Joel spends his time analyzing all sorts of football. Chief editor and Founder of Toffee Analysis. [ View all posts ]

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