This Everton FM23 post has been written for us by @TheHaIfSpace
Since Sean Dyche took over from Frank Lampard in February, Everton has been statistically about as average as you can be; 3 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses. It may be worth noting that 2/3 wins have come against top 10 opposition, most notably the 1-0 victory against Arsenal.
In terms of performances, it has been night & day from when Lampard was at the helm, Dyche has brought with him a level of fight, pro-activity & ownership for one’s actions on the pitch. I don’t want to pigeonhole him with these emotional characteristics because tactically he has been quite brilliant.
With the task of replicating Dyches’ system on FM I will admit, I struggled. As an Everton fan, I see every match but it wasn’t until I went through every match looking for patterns of play or how the team shape alters when in specific scenarios I noticed just how fluid the system is.
The first thing we’re going to do is set our team up when in possession. We know Sean Dyche has previously been tarnished with the old ‘long-ball’ English stereotype but at Everton that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everton Football Club was built on getting fans off their seats & playing a fast-paced style of football, which is what we’re going to try and emulate here.
We’re going to start off playing keeping our shape ‘Fairly Narrow’. Everton has only had on average since Dyche took over 38% of the ball & a lot of Frank Lampard criticism is that Everton was too easy to play against, so far that reasoning is we’re going to keep our initial shape quite tight as when we lose the ball, we don’t kill ourselves reorganizing.
We’re going to keep our passing length to ‘Standard’ as Everton doesn’t just wellie it forward and chase after it, there are times when the midfield 3 will retain possession and allow the wide players to progress up the pitch. That being said, Everton plays a lot of ball down the channel or half-spaces if you prefer. These are simply just balls played into space that allow the team to advance and give the defence some breathing room.
We don’t need to over-complicate this section too much, just as long as we’re getting the ball into dangerous areas so that our midfielders who burst forward have something to connect with.
In the transition is where Sean Dyche’s philosophy comes to life. When losing possession (especially high up) Everton will always have bodies darting back to cover as much space as possible and cut off any potential passing lanes. We selected a fairly narrow team shape earlier and what we’re looking for is for the ‘Regroup’ selection to work in harmony with our shape.
A lot of the time Everton has players, mainly forwards and wide players isolated in 1v2 or 1v3 scenarios so we expect to lose the ball… We just need to make it as difficult for the opposition when we do.
When possession is won by Everton the initial thought is to be positive and progress the ball as quickly as possible. Someone like Amadou Onana is brilliant at carrying this out, he’s so energetic and has one thought on his mind when the ball is won… Get forward.
When Pickford has the ball at his feet anything can happen, we’ve seen defence-splitting balls like the one for Demari Gray against Nottingham Forest in the 1-1 draw and we’ve seen him keep it simple and slow play down by circulating the ball with Tarkowski and Keane/Coady. I think it’s fair to say though that the majority of Pickford’s distribution lands at the feet of the wide players.
When out of possession Dyche and his teams are notoriously organized, Everton will happily soak up pressure and wait for the counter to present itself. I’m potentially being a little harsh on Everton here by suggesting that it’s a low block they play with because they’re times when Everton press right up to the opposition’s penalty area and try to win possession early.
I think having a low block while pressing often is a happy medium so we’ll stick with that, getting stuck in is a way of life for Evertonians. Under the lights at Goodison, the crowd almost playing on the wing, and the players feed off that energy. Ask any Evertonian about Phil Neville, they won’t speak of any goal or assist… They’ll mention the tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo that turned the season around. For Evertonians, things like that live long in the memory, I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen Tarkowsi’s tackle on Oliver Skipp since Monday!
Let’s get down to individuals now, shall we?
The backline is going to be as simple and straightforward as you can imagine. Pickford as our Sweeper Keeper is comfortable with the ball at his feet and has the ability to fulfil this role. Easy.
Mykolenko & Coleman as our fullbacks, we don’t want anything spectacular from these. Simply stay tight to the CBs and cover the gaps in the half-spaces, when they win possession, we want them to give it to a more technical player.
Tarkowski & Keane as our centre-back pairing. Again, nothing too fancy or complicated here, if we have to deal with crosses, we’re more than comfortable in that area. Simply it’s a good solid pairing with good mentals & decent physicals whose aim will be to break up play and stop the ball from entering the box.
Now, let’s talk midfield.
We’ll start with our wide players, Dwight McNeil & Alex Iwobi. The Defensive Winger role is seriously underused on FM in my opinion and these two players fit that role beautifully. Within this Everton midfield, there is an awful lot of rotating happening, McNeil will come centrally while Doucoure will move out left, or Doucoure will play almost as a 2nd striker and Onana & Gueye will form the flat 4. There’re times when Iwobi will fit in as a makeshift full-back and form part of a back 5. When I said earlier, I struggled, it was for this reason.
Quite complex for a ginger Englishman with a blocked throat.
The midfield 3 of Idrissa Gueye, Amadou Onana & Abdoulaye Doucoure is where Everton’s magic is produced. Most Evertonians don’t expect Amadou Onana to be here post-summer, with finances in ruins and the fact he simply is that good it’s hard to disagree.
I was undecided about what role Onana should have because the way he plays is quite complex, I finally settled on the Segundo Volante (S) as it allows him to link well with our other DM, Idrissa Gueye who has been selected as an Anchor (Self Explanatory) but it also allows him to support Doucoure and the striker with late runs from deep. He also possesses some solid physicals which make him fit the role perfectly.
Doucoure was out of the fold under Frank Lampard but under Sean Dyche, he has been Everton’s Mr Versatile. We mentioned above how he shifts lefts and supports the striker so I think having him as Central Midfielder (A) is the correct role as it allows him to support both attacking & defensive play while also surging into the box to support the strikers.
At last, we’re onto our striker, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin injured it’s been a bit of a mash-up between Demari Gray, Neal Maupay and now Ellis Simms but here I’ve settled on Gray.
As I mentioned earlier, Everton’s attackers will a lot of the time be outnumbered and isolated so we need someone who can hold the ball up & is quite technical so they can create their own chances and space.
Primarily what we need in our attack is a player that can link midfield and attack, which is the main function of the Deep Lying Forward.
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