Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton finally got back to winning ways with a 3-2 victory over struggling Fulham after fielding a team which boasted a number of key tactical changes – but one niggling issue threatens to reoccur if it is not addressed.
A system change caught headlines in a game which saw Alex Iwobi fielded out of position at right wing-back, with a central defensive trio causing Lucas Digne to be shifted into a more advanced role in what was an unorthodox approach by the Italian.
Everton returned to winning ways, having previously suffered a winless four-game drought, but all should not be considered as peachy. This is no new tactical dawn for Ancelotti’s side, and defensive woes continue to plague the Toffees.
Jordan Pickford was left thoroughly exposed on the left-hand side for Bobby Decordova-Reid’s equaliser for Fulham, whilst Yerry Mina’s woeful positioning opened up the perfect moment for on-loan Ruben Loftus-Cheek to fire to the net after a deflection off the Colombian defender.
Everton were lucky to come away with three points after Ben Godfrey had previously conceded a penalty for a stamp on Loftus-Cheek, only for the ground to give way to the Cottagers’ Ivan Cavaleiro from 12 yards.
Owing to recent results, Digne playing out of position failed to yield the best defensively from the Frenhcman, although he did well to set up two goals. Moreover, a new right-back in January may well be the solution to upgrade a problematic position for Ancelotti’s side unless Iwobi settles with comfort into his new role.
Equally, Everton were simply not good enough defensively. The Toffees thrived off chance creation, but it severely risked surrendering a win. Ancelotti conceded his side’s weaknesses and agreed that defensive work needed to be done, saying:
I don’t think it’s a winning system, because there are no winning systems. But we tried to be a bit more compact in the middle of the defence. We still, even with three defenders, could be more compact but we have to work on this.
I think that this system gives us the positivity to use the middle of the pitch, put crosses in this moment for Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
“I think the individual performance of the three centre-backs was good. Collectively we have to do better. Sometimes we were too open in my opinion, we have to stay close in certain situations.
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Whilst Ancelotti is largely correct, the centre-backs were plagued by occasional moments of poor positional judgement for both Fulham goals.
Ancelotti should count himself lucky: more discipline at the back is needed, and if funds allow, a new right-back must be prioritised over any other position in the January winter window.