Carlo Ancelloti arrived as Everton manager two weeks after a dismal 5-2 thrashing against local rivals Liverpool last season. Less than 12 months on, Everton are lying on top of the Premier League, after drawing 2-2 against Liverpool. What has changed? How much of an impact has the signing of James Rodriguez had?
In December 2019, an unbeaten Liverpool hosted an Everton side hovering over the relegation places.
Marco Silva, the under-pressure Everton manager lined up with a 5-4-1 formation, against a slightly weakened looking Liverpool. Silva’s plan was to use the back five to play a high press against Liverpool’s attack, however, this was a tactic not deployed by Everton’s midfield or their attack.
A combination of a high line and a non-pressing midfield made it easier for Liverpool to play out from the back and easily beat Everton’s offside trap. Everton’s attack was also ineffective. Calvert-Lewin often found himself isolated and struggled in the aerial battles against Van Dijk and Lovren.
35 minutes into the match and 3-1 down, Silva switched to a 4-4-2. This helped Everton’s build up play in attack, but the miscommunication in defence continued, the lack of press of in midfield made it too simple for Lallana in the role of number 10 to link up with Origi.
The match not only finished 5-2, but also finished Silva’s tenure in charge of Everton.
Sitting on top of the Premier League with a 100% record, Everton welcomed Liverpool to Goodison with a live chance to win their first Merseyside derby in 10 years.
Everton lined up with a 4-3-3 formation with Richarlison and Rodriguez playing on the wing in support of Calvert-Lewin as striker. A formation Everton has used since the signing of James Rodriguez, with Ancelloti previously electing to play a 4-4-2. Liverpool mirrored this formation and played a high line to pin back the Everton wing-backs.
Everton built up their attacks from the back, with their central midfield aiming to escape the press by releasing the wing-backs. Everton’s wide attackers Richarlson and Rodriguez remained high forcing Robertson and Alexander Arnold to remain back.
Whilst Richarlson aimed to run at defenders, Rodriguez tried to switch on to his left, and it was his left-footed cross that saw Richarlson header it on to the post. The substitution of Iwobi for Doucoure allowed Rodriguez to drop centrally, and again his range of passing troubled Liverpool, his through ball to Digne lead to Calvert Lewin’s equaliser.
Everton drew the match 2-2 but showed themselves as potential top 6 contenders.
A combination of a change of tactics from last season and the addition of Rodriguez has seen Everton change from a bottom half team to top 6 contenders. Pass accuracy and attempts have increased from last season, as has goals per match (up from 1.16 to 2.33).
Everton have also found a goal scorer in Calvert-Lewin, who is now finishing his chances. However, Rodriguez is the star man, the team seemingly built around him, and surely Everton’s season relies on his fitness.