Everton – Wolverhampton: Everton Score Late Winner To Reward Dominant Performance (3-2)
Everton dominated the first half with a good plan in possession to exploit Wolverhampton’s problems against the ball. However, the guests’ direct attacking play created chances as well, meaning they trailed the game by only one goal at half-time. Both teams then could not hold on to their performances of the first half after the interval, resulting in fewer goal-scoring opportunities. In the end, Everton scored a late winner and snatched the win.
Tactical analysis and match report by Jonas G.
The Premier League was dominated by a set of six top clubs in the last few years, leading to the question which teams would be able to break through this dominance in the future. The answers often include the two sides that faced each other on matchday four: Everton and Wolves.
Everton started with four points out of the first three matches, and especially considering the opponents (Crystal Palace, Watford and Aston Villa) they cannot be excited. Wolverhampton started their season already two months ago, with a win against Crusaders in the Europa League qualification rounds. They eventually made it to the group stage thanks to a 2-1 win over Torino last Thursday. The Wolves are undefeated in all nine matches this season, but are also without a win in the Premier League after three draws against Leicester, Manchester United and Burnley.
Following their EFL Cup win against Lincoln City last week, Marco Silva made three changes to his starting formation. Djibril Sidibé and Mason Holgate were replaced by Séamus Coleman and Yerry Mina in the back four of his 4-2-3-1 formation, while André Gomes came in for Morgan Schneiderlin. The attack set up with Gylfi Sigurðsson and Richarlison, together with the new arrivals Moise Kean and Alex Iwobi.
Wolverhampton saw four changes in the starting line-up compared to their win over Torino. Ryan Bennett, Rúben Neves, Rúben Vinagre and Patrick Cutrone strolled back into the side’s vintage 5-3-2 formation. Therefore, Jesús Vallejo, João Moutinho, Jonny Castro and Diogo Jota had to take place on the bench.
Everton exploit Wolverhampton’s weaknesses
As they always do, Wolves set up in a 5-3-2 medium block against the ball. The midfielders and strikers are expected to stay horizontally and vertically compact to deny any passes into the space between them. That forced Everton to build the attacks through their fullbacks, Coleman and Lucas Digne. The guests still tried to deny any passes inside their defensive block A defensive block is the compact group of defenders that defends a particular zone, either their own half in a medium defensive block, or the zone around their own box in a deep defensive block. and force the long ball to Kean to win the ball. This plan did not work out well, though.
Everton showed good movements to open Wolverhampton’s defense up, especially on the right side. Coleman played the ball to Richarlison, who was positioned on the wing, and made a run into depth. This run pulled Romain Saïs out of his position because he had to follow the fullback. The now opened space could be exploited by Richarlison either through dribbling inside or passing to Gomes.
If Coleman was in a higher position, Richarlison moved inside. The pass to the Brazilian was not possible, however, another solid forward option would be Moise Kean, who consistently made himself available between the lines. He was able to protect the ball against the center-backs well enough to lay it off to one of his team mates.
Everton used passes on the right side to attract Wolverhampton’s midfield. They could shift the ball to the other side thanks to poor vertical compactness.
Both moves resulted in Wolves’ midfield shifting to the right side of the pitch. Everton looked to exploit this with passes to the other side, through Gomes or Fabian Delph. Wolverhampton were not able to prevent Everton from playing these passes, though, as the distance between the strikers and the midfielders became too big after Everton advanced the ball on the wing.
As is sometimes the case in football, the goals did not have a lot in common with the overall tactical themes of the match. The first goal was scored after only five minutes, as Richarlison profited off a communication error between Coady and Patricio.
Merely six minutes later, the scores were level, as Adama Traoré bossed Digne in a one-versus-one duel, crossed the ball into Everton’s defense, which lead to an uncontested tap-in for Romain Saïss after comical defending by Coleman.
Wolves create chances with direct attacking play
After this chaotic start, it became clear thatEverton also had a good idea to press Wolverhamptons’ buildup. Out of a 4-4-2 formation, the two strikers Kean and Sigurðsson split the pitch to prevent any switches of play and force the center-backs to play long balls. To achieve that, they waited for the ball to be played to either Bennett or Willy Boly. Kean denied passes back to Conor Coady and Sigurðsson marked Neves. Out of this basic orientation, one of the strikers could pressure Boly or Bennett and force him to play a long ball.
While Kean and Sigurðsson worked well, Everton struggled to get turnovers. This was down to a lack of compactness in their defense. Wolverhampton could often win the second ball and advance through the wings. Adama Traoré on the right side was the most dangerous player in the first half. He used his acceleration to get past Digne multiple times, as had been the case in the situation leading up to Wolves’ equalizer.
Kean and Sigurðsson split the pitch and denied any passes to the other side.
Because the roles Kean and Sigurðsson had to play were pretty exhausting, the intensity of the press decreased by the end of the first half. The wingers Richarlison and Iwobi were supposed to pressure Boly and Bennett respectively, but they lacked support in these situations. Because the rest of the team did not shift to cover the spaces left by the wingers, the guests could play out of the pressure with ease.
More mistakes and less chances in the second half
Everton adjusted their tactics just a little bit coming into the second half. After relying on crosses to create chances after switching the play in the first half, they tried to use more combination play on the wings to advance the ball into the box. While still dominating possession, the hosts were not able to attract Wolverhampton’s midfield to one side as good as they did in the first half, though.
Therefore, it was harder to exploit the spaces on the far side. In addition to that, Everton played more inaccurate passes and the decision making by the attacking players – especially Richarlison – was poor. Because of that, they were not able to dominate the match as they did in the first half.
However, the guests struggled to keep possession of the ball.. This was down to a more compact Everton side that was able to win the second balls. The game was dominated by mistakes on both sides, and was therefore mainly played in the middle third If you divide the pitch in three horizontal zones, the middle third is the most central area. of the pitch, with both teams struggling to advance the ball into the box.
Only from the 70th minute onwards were the Wolves’ able to have longer possession spells. If Everton lost the ball and the counterpress After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. did not result in an immediate turnover, the hosts dropped deeper. Wolverhampton still focused on playing the ball to one of the wingers as fast as possible. Both Traoré and Vinagre were quieter in the second half, though.
The guests still scored the equalizer with fifteen minutes to go. Every throw-in near the opposition’s box was taken by Bennett. The center-back is able to throw the ball into the box like a cross, mimicking Rory Delap in his prime. Towering center-back Boly moved into Everton’s box in these situations, in order to use his strength in aerial duels. He eventually won his duel to flick the ball to the far post, where striker Raúl Jimenez scored the goal.
Ironically, Boly also lost an aerial duel five minutes later, against Richarlison, who scored his second goal of the game. In the buildup to that goal, Everton started on their right side and shifted the ball to the left wing. After a simple one-two with Bernard, Digne was able to get the cross into the box. Meaning that after a chaotic start and a lukewarm second half, Everton were able to add three points to their total.
These areas were well defended in this match.
Everton were the better team and deserved the win. Their tactics to exploit the big distances between Wolverhampton’s midfield and strikers was good, however, they struggled to create break-throughs and capitalize from the spaces they opened up. Many attacks in the first half ended in crosses, and although the box was occupied by three to four attackers, crossing is a pretty inefficient way of attacking and the guests were able to clear most of these situations.
Wolves disappointed with their performance in possession as well as out of possession. They are still waiting for their first win in the Premier League, with four matchesplayed. They sit in seventeenth position going into the international break. Nuno Espírito Santo has to work on his team’s defensive compactness, as this was the foundation of a successful 2018/2019 season. It should be considered that the Wolves had to play eight matches in the last four weeks and fatigue may also be the reason for some of the problems.
All in all, both teams showed that they are likely to end this season in the upper half of the table, to make the next step and threaten Chelsea or Manchester United for the sixth place, they still have to improve.
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