Willie Kirk’s Everton went into this game having won their first three league games of the season, and despite losing 3-1 in the FA WSL Cup to Manchester City, were looking to win four league games in a row for the first time since 2011, emulating their male colleagues who have also made a perfect start to the Premier League season.
In contrast, West Ham visited Merseyside coming off the back of three consecutive defeats in the FAWSL, one of which was a 9-1 drubbing at home to league leaders Arsenal. This tactical analysis will examine how Everton caused so many problems for Matt Beard’s side on the day, whilst also providing an analysis of what West Ham did successfully, and which tactics served them well.
The hosts Everton lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation which remained as such for the duration of the game. Sandy Maclver took her place in goal; Ingrid Moe Wold and in particular Danielle Turner provided width as attacking full-backs, whilst Megan Finnigan and Rikke Sevecke were the duo in the centre. Damaris Egurrola dictated the tempo and made some key recoveries as the deepest midfielder, just behind Abbey Leigh Stringer in centre midfield. Valerie Gauvin played as a lone attacker but was always being supported by Claire Emslie on the left, Izzy Christiansen centrally, and Nicoline Sorensen on the right.
In contrast, West Ham lined up in quite a narrow 4-4-2, with Mabel Arnold in goal. Full-backs Cecilie Redisch Kvamme and Maz Pacheco were given a license to get forward, with Gilly Flaherty and Grace Fisk at centre-back. Emily van Egmond and Ruby Grand lined up in centre midfield whilst Leanne Kiernan on the right and Adriana Leon on the left supported Kenza Dali and Rachel Daly in the attack. In the 73rd minute, West Ham substituted Nor Mustafa on for Kiernan who played in a very advanced forward position but ultimately was unable to influence the course of the game.
From the first whistle, Everton played a very aggressive press, not giving the West Ham players any time on the ball in all areas of the pitch. Most notably, whenever West Ham tried to play the ball out from the back, they were met with a blue wall of Everton players. Gauvin led the press from the front while Christiansen, Egurrola, and Stringer supported her effectively.
In the above image, we can see the West Ham centre-back Flaherty has no options in front of her so she is forced to turn back and pass it back to the goalkeeper, Arnold. This led to difficulties at times during the game as Arnold’s distribution was erratic. Out of the picture, the rest of the Everton midfield is also pressing and in doing so, forcing the goalkeeper to kick it long. In the example below, the West Ham defence has been forced to go back to the goalkeeper with the oncoming Everton press cancelling out any easy passing options for her, she is forced to go long again and concede possession.
The above examples are from early on in the game and whilst Everton understandably couldn’t maintain such an aggressive press for the duration of the game, it did allow them to set out their stall early on and put West Ham on the back foot, where they remained for most of the encounter.
Threat down the left
Everton possessed a threat down the left all the way through the game, with Turner supporting and running beyond Emslie on numerous occasions as illustrated in the image below. West Ham’s left-back Pacheo played in a very advanced position all afternoon, and therefore the West Ham defence was left looking like effectively a back three which gave Everton space for overlapping full-backs to exploit.
Emslie took advantage of the support she was being given and it allowed her to cut inside and attempt more dribbles than anyone else on the pitch, as shown on the graphic below.
Almost all of Everton’s attacking success originated down the left-hand side. Indeed, both second-half goals came as a result of good recovery work in midfield, followed by good play down the left-wing. As is clearly shown in the graphic below, Everton were far more dangerous and used the left wing more often as an attacking outlet to great effect.
Centre midfield dictating play
Whilst Everton’s attacking outlet was on the left, they controlled the game in the middle of the pitch, particularly through the physical presence of both Egurrola and Stringer. Stringer in particularly dictated the play in the first half, dropping deep to receive the ball and always looking to play out into the channels or over the top. Egurrola is also capable of playing this role and often showed great composure receiving the ball in tight situations and making space for herself to play an attacking ball forward, as illustrated below.
Everton built their play around Egurrola, she was by far Everton’s most accurate passer on the day, completing 37 passes out of 40 (93%). Below we can see how central she is to the way they play.
Both players were also able to break up play in key defensive and attacking positions, Egurrola ending the game with 15 recoveries, the most out of any Everton player, and the second-most on the pitch. This recovery below led to the second Everton goal and put them in the driving seat.
West Ham threat
West Ham got most of their attacking joy by attacking quickly and running directly at the Everton defence, as opposed to playing neat passes around them. A key architect of this was Dali, who created an early break for the Hammers but unfortunately, her good work in midfield was not given its reward as the move petered out in the passage of play illustrated below.
Dali was very involved in everything West Ham did well during the first half, and got herself on the scoresheet in the 24th minute after West Ham recovered the ball as a result of Everton being unable to properly clear the ball. Kvamme laid the ball off to Dali, whose scuffed shot found its way into the bottom corner, as seen below.
No West Ham player lost the ball as much as Dali did in this encounter, though perhaps instead of focusing on her wastefulness, some credit should be given as she was the one West Ham player who was trying to make things happen. Most of her losses were as a result of an attempted forward pass, and whilst she lost the ball 17 times, she recovered it 8 times. Dali also contested in the most ground duels in the whole game – 29 in total, constantly battling it out in the middle of the park against Everton’s Egurrola.
Whilst Everton will look back upon this as a comfortable victory, West Ham created some half-chances early in the second half and with a better final ball, may well have given Everton a tougher afternoon.
West Ham’s only goal came as a result of some sloppy defending resulting in Everton’s first conceded goal of the season. Despite this, Everton were deserved 3-1 victors and showed more assurance on and off the ball than their London rivals all afternoon. That is now four wins in four for the Blues which puts them in second place in the league, though despite having maximum points, they are nine goals worse off than Arsenal, who have hit the back of the net an incredible 23 times in four games.
This loss, West Ham’s third on the bounce, leaves them in tenth place and with the unenviable prospect of playing an in-form Manchester United side next.