After a horrifying start to their 2019/2020 campaign in the Premier League, winning only two of their eight league matches, Everton was looking for a solid home victory to get them out of their bad track. West Ham United, on the other hand, was hoping to gain their momentum back after few disappointing results including a harsh defeat in the League Cup, to a League One opponent.
Both teams are not among the top scorers in the league, to say the least. In fact, Everton has one of the worst attacks in terms of scoring with only eight league goals (0.82 goals per 90mins) while West Ham is just slightly more impressive with 11 league goals (1.14 goals per 90mins).
In this tactical analysis, I will try to show how Everton were able to gain victory using the spaces created between West Ham’s back lines and how West Ham tried to catch Everton off guard with their counters.
Everton lined in a 4-2-3-1 which has been their main formation this season. Jordan Pickford was the goalkeeper with Yerry Mina and Michael Keane as centre backs. Lucas Digne was stationed as the left full-back with a mission to join the attack as much as possible while Djibril Sidibé was on the right side. In the middle, the local Tom Davies and André Silva were the playmakers for Everton staying close the back four in charge of carrying the ball from the back forward and also creating passing lanes to front players. Theo Walcott was on the right side of the attack aiming to use his speed against the defence and being the target man for long balls, whenever they were unable to bring the ball from the back. Bernard was positioned on the left flank making constant movement inward, to allow space for Digne to get forward but also pairing with him whenever the French man received the ball, in order to create numerical superiority. Alex Iwobi was at the heart of the attack searching for pockets of spaces and joining the attack as a second striker and Richarlison was the sole striker making a lot of movement to the sides.
West Ham lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation mostly on defence but on offence it was more of 4-2-3-1 set up where one of the centre midfielders pushed forward while the other help managing the attack from the back. Roberto Jiménez was the man with the gloves. Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Ryan Fredericks and Arthur Masuaku established the back four. Declan Rice was the defensive midfielder covering spaces behind the midfield line and allowing the full-backs to go up when needed. Mark Noble and Manuel Lanzini were positioned in the middle of the pitch. As said, one of the two pushed forward while the other help building the attack from the back. Due to Everton’s defensive play, their rule became more crucial on the counter, as we will see later in this analysis. Felipe Anderson and Pablo Fornals were on the sides and Sebastian Haller was the target man up front.
Everton’s build-up consisted of two main routines. The first, direct links to Iwobi and Bernard. The two kept positioning themselves just behind the West Ham midfield line, on the two sides of Rice who was unable to cover both players, which resolved in free space the two utilized.
The second routine was passing the ball at the back until the opportunity comes to play a long ball to either Digne or Walcott. With Digne, it was mostly up to Bernard moving inside forcing West Ham defence to become narrow and allowing the space for the left full-back. As said before, it was interesting to see is how the two paired together once the ball reached Digne in order to exploit numerical superiority. The two images below show just that. The first image shows Bernard’s position in the middle and the space available for Digne and in the second image, just a moment later, how Bernard is sprinting towards Digne to receive the ball.
West Ham Counter-attacks
The passing map above shows the struggle West Ham had in the match at build-up. Everton were able to cover the passing lanes to any inside channel forcing West Ham to go sideways. The following image shows the initial plan of West Ham. Noble pushing forward dragging Silva with him to create more space for Lanzini and Rice at the back. In addition, Fornals and Haller stayed tucked in allowing Fredericks to join
But soon they realized it will be difficult to work their way through the middle and tried to create combinations on the flanks. When on the counter West Ham tried to exploit the fact that Digne went up often and attacked on the right side, drawing out the Everton’s centre midfielders and utilizing the space behind them. At this stage, it was up to Lanzini and Noble to find the gaps to receive the ball. The below image is an example of such a scenario.
As mentioned, Everton gave a big effort in preventing any passing lanes to West Ham’s central players. In the images below we can see how Iwobi and Silva are staying close to Rice not allowing him to receive the ball. These two images are just a few seconds apart but this is to emphasis that even when the ball is moving from one side to the other, Iwobi and Silva are following Rice to prevent the pass to him.
West Ham style of press was less effective due to the responsibility of the two central midfielders to press Everton’s central defenders, along with Haller. Once one of either Lanzini or Noble started the press, it immediately allowed Davies and Silva more room to act as seen in the next image.
In the second half, West Ham made some adjustments moving to a 4-4-2 on defence which worked better for them, since they were able to limit the space for Davies and Silva as seen in the image below.
In this analysis, we saw how Everton’s tactics were to exploit the fact the West Ham had only one defensive midfielder to take implement a numerical superiority in the second third of the pitch. Everton was then able to use that to bring the ball forward or to utilize their fast runners on the flanks with long balls. West Ham tried their luck bringing the ball from the side inward but will hope to do better on their next match at home.
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