Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – tactical analysis

Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
Everton’s 4-1-4-1 with no ball possession.

The fourth round of the English Premier League saw the Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton winning against Brighton and enhancing the enthusiasm that is around the Toffees this season.

Ninety minutes under the rain, and two injuries within sixty minutes, however, Ancelotti can be quite satisfied with the final 4-2 score. He is leading the Premier with a full score of 12 points. To see something similar we must go back to 1969 when Everton ended up winning the title. 

While the organisation Ancelotti gave to his team, carrying over from last year’s work, seems already reaching a good level, it is not possible to say the same about Graham Potter’s team, but he can definitely rely on what his team showed in the last part of the game and hopefully start to build from there. 

The Toffees have played very compact in defence, where the main concerns are now related to the latest performances of Pickford, and with quite organised pressing that brought the team two goals and created even more opportunities. 

On the contrary, Brighton’s players have lacked in the organisation in both phases and they never seemed to be able to doubt the final score of the game. They suffered in transitions, and the technical mistakes have been punished by Everton’s key players. 

In this tactical analysis, we will examine the tactics of how both teams have approached this game,  understanding better the work done by Ancelotti and why Everton must be considered a top team this year. In this analysis, we will also highlight some of the difficulties from Brighton and what Potter will probably try to improve.


Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tacticsPremier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics

Ancelotti starts with a classic 4-3-3 with ball possession. Pickford defending the goal, with  Coleman (captain), Keane, Mina, and Digne forming a line of four. The midfielders are Sigurdsson,  Doucoure, Davies, with Rodriguez and Richarlison, having an interesting mixed role  (winger/attacking midfielder) supporting Calvert-Lewin, always the true finisher for his team.

Out of ball possession, Everton dropped into a 4-1-4-1, leaving very little space between the lines causing trouble to Brighton, who were never able to find the right pass and space. Davies guarantees protection just right outside the penalty box, with Doucoure and Sigurdsson instead ready to provide support for a possible counter-attack.

From Brighton’s side, the Seagulls did not show anything similar to what was supposed to be on paper, as the initial 3-4-2-1, rapidly became a 5-3-2 with their effort in limiting James &  Co. which partially worked out well for them. The major problem happened while the team was actually playing the ball, as two goals conceded came from two quick Everton’s counter-attacks and two others from set-pieces, due lack of concentration. 

Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
Everton’s 4-1-4-1 with no ball possession.

Set pieces – Everton’s specialities 

If it is true that in modern football set pieces are gaining much more importance, we can say that the Toffees are on the right path to make a masterpiece. They scored, including today’s game, already six goals this season on set pieces.

The opening goal from Calvert-Lewin came from a corner kick, took it quickly, and played short from Everton. Even if the majority of responsibilities are on Brighton’s marking, we must appreciate how the English striker is developing a sense of awareness in the penalty box and a  killer-instinct that probably only someone like Carlo Ancelotti could have seen in him.

The second goal was instead a perfect Colombian combination where the ex-Barcelona player Mina put the ball into the net from a perfect free kick taken by James from which it is possible to highlight how Brighton’s organisation does not work. Mina easily evaded Maupay’s marking and headed the ball undisturbed. This was also the first time that an assist and goal came from two Colombian players in Premier League history. 

In both episodes, Brighton’s defence was static and slow to react. Keeping eyes on the ball forgetting about the bodies behind. 

Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
Free kick taken by James, with Mina ready the anticipate

Between the two Everton’s goals, we had the momentary draw from Maupay who converted the first shot on target for his team in 42 minutes. 

The goal was a true gift from Pickford, who let the ball slip away from his gloves, giving the opportunity to Maupay to impact the game. A mistake from the English national goalkeeper that hopefully for Ancelotti had no impact on his team spirit and his defensive concentration. 

Brighton’s lack of ideas  

If the score could make you think about an equal first-half, it was not. Brighton’s goal was a gift and until then they were not able to shoot on target once. Brighton did attack with several bodies, however, was never able to create any real danger. 

Trossard and Maupay were not able to find the right space between the lines, and most of the time  they found themselves with their back to the goal. Hard for them to turn an easy life for Everton’s defenders to anticipate. 

March and Lamptey, offensively, had played as wingers, however, the quality and amount of deliveries inside the penalty box were too weak to preoccupy the experienced Mina and Kean. 

Everton’s concentration and organisation also impacted the game of Bissouma and Alzate, rarely able to find any free space to attack.

Maupay concluded his game with a total of three shots, two blocked and one on target, which makes his game appreciable, but the overall offensive performance lacked in fluidity, ideas, and pace. 

Very interesting and important to point out is the body of orientation of the Seagulls in the below footage, as they are all oriented facing their goal, while only Webster, who is running with it, is facing the net. A clear picture of how the offensive mechanisms from Brighton were not aligned during the first half.

Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
Brighton trying to find space

Everton’s pressing and counter-attacking 

If during ninety minutes two goals, similar in dynamics and movements are scored, it means two things: one team makes certain movements perfectly, while the other team makes the same mistake more than once. 

Everton started the game with good aggressive pressing, however, the earlier goal as well as the immediate 2-1 right before half time, made the Toffees more relaxed while applying the pressing during the second half, but still keeping it organised. 

The 3-1 is generated by a quick turnover. The pass from Trossard is too slow and predictable and gets intercepted by the former Real Madrid man, James, who plays quickly the ball for Calvert-Lewin. Then a deep pass is played to Iwobi who crosses and finds James who was completely free in the penalty box.

Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
James is about to recover the ball and start the counter-attack
Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
James will easily score served by Iwobi

March does not follow James and does not provide any assistance to his defence. Webster is attracted by Calvert-Lewin and James will easily put the ball in the net.

The fourth goal is a replica of the third, just with different players involved and on a different side of the pitch. 

This time Brighton was not trying to build up from their half, but they were already attacking.  Once again we can appreciate the body orientation of the Toffees, and their pressing style, which brings Alzate to make a mistake. The Colombian does not control the ball properly giving the  possibility to Everton to counter-attack

Doucoure will recover the ball starting another lethal counter-attack. Supported by Calvert Lewin (the below footage also shows how focused he was a few seconds before the ball was recovered) and Iwobi, he will find space in the penalty area providing perfect assistance for  James, who was once again completely alone. Webster once again was not marking and he did not receive any support on his side.

Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
Toffees’ efficient pressing. Alzate will lose the ball giving the opportunity to Doucoure to start a run
Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
Seagulls are all looking at the ball forgetting completely about James – Webster is too far away and    alone again

Brighton’s reaction – from where to start 

It is true that the Seagulls have a lot of work to do, but surely there is something good to bring home there.

Even if during the last fifteen minutes of the game, Everton had lowered the intensity and tried to administrate the ball possession, Brighton was able to play more of the ball finding more solutions, having more bodies inside the penalty box, and reducing the distance between the forwards and the midfielders. Being able to play with more bodies near the penalty box, giving them the opportunity to improve the manoeuvre and generate more danger for Pickford and  Kean. The major intensity produced eight corner kicks in the last fifteen minutes, and Brighton’s players have shown more confidence in moving the ball.

Confidence that lacked for three-quarters of the game and in such a competitive league Brighton paid the price against an Everton that is certainly a team structured to battle till the end of this season.

Premier League 2020/21: Everton vs Brighton – Tactical analysis tactics
Brighton’s attack with more confidence and midfielders are getting closer to the penalty box, increasing the passing lanes options


Although only four games have been played, Ancelotti’s work is paying off and with some small adjustments in defence, Everton seems ready to battle for the title this season. The team has already an organized structure and a clear idea of football. The key-players are already understanding their role giving a boost to the entire team. Potter instead, has a lot of work to do. More concentration is required as well as the right balance on the pitch. The intensity shown by his team during the last part of the game is from when he can start to work and hopefully create a more solid midfield.