The second clash of the Premier League‘s third matchday saw Crystal Palace and Everton battle it out. Both sides had two wins out of two before the match started, so the clash was set to be an interesting battle, particularly in terms of tactics. Everton had enjoyed a lot of possession in their last two matches, while Crystal Palace found joy on the break, so there was a clear clash of styles.
After an exciting encounter, Everton emerged 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. Here, we take a look at how the two sides were set up in our tactical analysis.
Before we begin the analysis, let’s take a quick look at the teams that both managers fielded.
Crystal Palace lined up in their recognisable 4-4-2. The defence remained unchanged, as Vicente Guaita stood between the sticks, with Cheikhou Kouyaté and Mamadou Sakho in front of him. Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell were on either side of the back-four, while James McCarthy partnered James McArthur in midfield. Andros Townsend was on the right flank and Eberechi Eze got a full debut on the opposite side. Wilfried Zaha was supported by Jordan Ayew up front.
Everton’s lineup remained unchanged from their last Premier League outing. Jordan Pickford was in goal, while the defence was comprised of Séamus Coleman, Yerry Mina, Michael Keane, and Lucas Digne. Abdoulaye Doucouré and André Gomes were supported by Allan in midfield. Ex-Real Madrid man James Rodríguez and Richarlison were deployed on either wing, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the main man in attack.
Everton’s movements in possession
As we have seen throughout this campaign, Everton’s formation drastically changed when in possession.
One key difference to what we had seen in the last two matches was the fact that when Everton had the ball around the halfway line, André Gomes would stay in Allan’s midfield line, while Abdoulaye Doucouré was the only midfielder that pushed up to join the two wingers centrally.
This tweak was probably made for two reasons. First of all, Gomes would help Allan in neutralising Crystal Palace’s threat on the counterattack in case Everton lost possession, so Carlo Ancelotti’s men deployed a sort of a double pivot. To add to that, this would also allow the ex-Barcelona midfielder to operate in larger pockets of space and dictate his side’s play from a deeper role.
Doucouré didn’t push up to be a number 10, but rather to create space for James Rodríguez to work his magic.
In this example, we can once again see how André Gomes is with Allan in midfield. But on the far side, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Séamus Coleman, and James Rodríguez have exchanged positions. Doucouré is standing where a right-back would generally be, Coleman is in the position of a right-winger, and James has drifted inside into a number 10 role.
However, all of those players are uninvolved in this particular instance because they are opposite to where the ball is. This is where André Gomes’ long passing range and accuracy come into play, as he switches the ball across to the right side.
You can see how the interchanging of positions had caused problems in the Palace ranks. All of that led to James Rodríguez, the dangerman, to drift into a nice pocket of space in the attacking third and that always spells trouble for the opposition.
In this particular case, James found the advanced full-back, Séamus Coleman, in behind the defence with a first-time pass completed with his ‘weaker’ foot. The Irishman then squared it for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who turned it in to give Everton the lead.
Throughout the match, it was those three players on the right – Abdoulaye Doucouré, Séamus Coleman, and James Rodríguez – who caused problems for Palace with their movements. Everton knew that getting James on the ball in the attacking third was their best bet to create a chance, and that was the ultimate goal of their attacking movements.
Crystal Palace’s shape without the ball
Crystal Palace were aware that they would have to sit deep and absorb the pressure before springing a counterattack, so they had to have a solid formation when they didn’t have possession.
Palace made sure that Everton’s defence never had too much time on the ball by lightly pressing them. They did so by making a slight change in formation to a 4-1-4-1. James McCarthy dropped into holding midfield to prevent any balls from being played in between the midfield and defence. Wilfried Zaha was tasked with chasing the ball around, while Jordan Ayew dropped into the midfield line and man-marked Allan, preventing the ball from reaching him.
When Everton broke past the press and crossed the halfway line, Palace reverted to a 4-4-1-1, with Ayew once again trying to mark Allan out of the game, while the midfield and defence were asked to stay close to each other and close the space in between the lines.
That is how Palace attempted to keep Everton away from their goal, and they succeeded for most of the match, but a couple of lapses ended up proving costly.
Everton’s defensive formation
Crystal Palace started to push much further up the pitch in the second half, so Everton had to maintain a good shape in defence.
To keep Palace out, they tried to crowd them out of the attacking third. They achieved this by switching to a 4-5-1 as the two wingers – James Rodríguez and Richarlison, dropped into the midfield line to defend the wings. The back-four tucked slightly narrower to deal with any dangerous balls into the box.
If Everton managed to push Palace a bit further away from the attacking third and towards the halfway line, the Toffees’ midfield line also moved forwards. However, Allan held position and stayed in the pocket of space created, making sure that the Eagles didn’t have any free room between the midfield and defence.
The only ways in which Crystal Palace could have broken this resolute stand would have been through supreme individual quality (which arguably only Wilfried Zaha possessed) or any individual mistakes and/or lapses of concentration on Everton’s part. Neither of those two factors took centre-stage, so Carlo Ancelotti’s men were able to hold on to their lead.
Yet again, Carlo Ancelotti’s smart tactical tweaks and Everton’s newfound quality in midfield were the telling differences in this clash. Crystal Palace’s main weapon in attack – their counterattacking threat – was negated by the presence of André Gomes in a deeper position, and they had to rely on set-pieces to trouble Jordan Pickford. But once again, it was Everton and James Rodríguez’s touch of class in the crucial moment that won the match.
Another three points have taken the Toffees to the summit of the provisional Premier League table on matchday 3, which should be considered an achievement in its own. Evertonians should certainly be excited for what this season has in store for them.