KEOWN TALKS TACTICS: Everton are full of belief at the moment but will need to be at their best against Man City… here’s how the Toffees can beat Pep Guardiola’s league leaders
- Everton have had a resurgence of form in their recent Premier League outings
- Pep Guardiola is facing a selection dilemma against Sean Dyche’s resurgent side
- Here, I offer my advice on Sean Dyche’s side can beat the league leaders
Everton have a long and cherished history in England’s top flight but over the years, they have come perilously close to relegation.
I still remember walking off the pitch with Arsenal on the last day of the Premier League season on May 7, 1994, to discover that my former club had come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Wimbledon and save their status.
That was Everton’s greatest ever escape, and we saw similar scenes last season when they came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Crystal Palace and secure survival.
The Goodison Park pitch filled with people at the full-time whistle and blue smoke clogged the air as they celebrated another escape.
At Goodison two weeks ago, however, it felt as if the Everton faithful had lost hope that their team could do it again.
Everton have been in inspired form recently, amid their Premier League relegation scrap
The Toffees have the task of nullifying Manchester City talisman Erling Haaland on Sunday
Pep Guardiola will likely make a number of changes with a Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid to consider
Trailing 4-1 to Newcastle, thousands left early in despair, the realisation dawning on them that this could finally be the season they fall through the Premier League trap door.
Yet two games later, the belief is back. Their 2-2 draw at Leicester was encouraging, but the 5-1 win at Brighton stunned the football world.
That was a huge red flag for Manchester City ahead of this weekend to see how Everton scored five goals from counter-attacks, and surely it is too much to believe that Pep Guardiola’s team will allow themselves to be as vulnerable to breakaways tomorrow.
There are similarities between Brighton and City in how they build up play through midfield by using their full backs or centre halves to outnumber the opponent in central areas.
That was a tactic which Everton exploited to incredible effect with their five goals on the break, including two from Abdoulaye Doucoure, who was making lung-busting runs from deep midfield. Everton relied on a narrow 4-5-1 formation with their wide men, Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi, tucking in.
They protected their full backs, with Iwobi and Nathan Patterson doubling up on Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma. The only times McNeil and Iwobi left their full backs unguarded was when they were flying forward.
In midfield, Idrissa Gueye, Doucoure and James Garner sat deep to protect their defence, but when Brighton sent an extra man into midfield, like City will, one of those three pushed out to take care of that threat.
It was a plan executed perfectly. Everton wiped the floor with Brighton and their quality on the counter will not have been lost on Guardiola, who will make a number of changes ahead of the visit of Real Madrid.
Sean Dyche’s side were devastating on the counter and could exploit a similar trait in City that they found in Brighton
Man City will likely rotate a number of players ahead of their Champions League semi-final
City are chasing a special Treble and Guardiola is trying to pick 11 from his stellar squad each week to ensure they stay in every fight. He made seven changes for Leeds last week but City still won their 10th Premier League game in a row.
Tactically, I can’t see Guardiola leaving those channels as open as Brighton did.
Not after Everton demonstrated the damage they can do if you play to their countering strengths.
City can win in a variety of ways and Guardiola will feel confident that if his side can stop Everton from flooding forward at speed, they can move a step closer to a fifth Premier League title in six years — before turning their attention back to the Champions League.