By James Nalton.
The graphic below from the Twenty3 Toolbox compares Everton’s passing network from the whole of last season to that from their first game of the 2020/21 Premier League season against Tottenham Hotspur.
One of the main alterations made by Carlo Ancelotti is the switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. This change in shape has been facilitated by the signings of Allan, James Rodríguez, and Abdoulaye Doucouré, with all three making their debuts at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of the game was the play of James from the right-wing position.
His switches of play were particularly eye-catching, as indicated by the arrow connecting him (RW) to Richarlison (LW) in the above graphic.
Those big James switches to Richarlidon are a left footed version of Trent AA to Robertson.
Richarlison is gonna enjoy himself with J Rod!
— Tim Vickery (@Tim_Vickery) September 13, 2020
Weak points remain the distribution of Jordan Pickford and the apparent isolation of the centre-forward, but it’s better to have one isolated centre-forward than two.
There were signs, though, to suggest James could work well with goalscorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin once the striker begins to realise that if he makes certain runs, James will find him — especially against higher defensive lines.
The working of the ball down the flanks remains, but the extra midfielder allows for more control in the centre of the park.
The central midfielders actually looked comfortable when exchanging passes with each other, and their movement was also reasonably good considering this was their first competitive game together. James made five key passes, but Doucouré was just one behind him with four.
Richarlison found himself in good positions as a result, and was able to complete 11 dribbles (shown below). He may have missed two good chances, but he still played an important role and won the free-kick that led to the goal.
There are still things to iron out, and there is the early season caveat, but as shown in this article by Twenty3’s Mark Thompson, early-season passing maps can often set the tone for the rest of a campaign.
All in all, this was an encouraging team performance from Ancelotti’s side, and the new signings slotted in just as the manager and his recruitment team will have hoped. Now it’s time to fine-tune and build on this positive opening day result.