Sheffield Wednesday: Is this the tactical shift Garry Monk could make to beat 'nervous' Everton?
When asked about his side’s failings in their defeat to Sheffield United on Saturday, Everton boss Marco Silva used the word ‘nervous’ four times in quick succession.
The Portuguese finds himself under pressure from sections of the Toffees’ support after three reversals in their last four league games left them languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League.
With big-money signings such as Moise Kean struggling to settle and unrest reported among the playing staff, the feeling is that for Sheffield Wednesday, Everton are there for the taking in their Carabao Cup third round tie this evening.
Atdhe Nuhiu’s last-gasp equaliser against Fulham has surely injected a sense of optimism into the Owls camp Everton can only dream of, but up against one of Europe’s biggest spenders in recent seasons, it’s clear that the home side will have to perform to a level more than the sum of their parts to take the win.
One obvious tactical shift Garry Monk could employ is to instruct his side to perform a 'low block’ defensive style, allowing Everton possession in less dangerous areas of the field and pressing only in their own third of the pitch.
This ‘low block’ style has frustrated the Toffees on several occasions already this season, no more so than on Saturday, when the Blades determined defence forced Silva’s men into wide positions and allowed United’s defence to reorganise and go toe-to-toe with them in the air.
Everton’s average of 20.5 crosses per 90 minutes is the second highest in the top tier this season. They’ve scored only five goals in their six clashes.
It’s this poor use of the ball with an organised defence in front of them that has caused such frustration. Dominant duo Liverpool and Manchester City are the only sides to boast higher possession stats than the Toffees, who have had the ball 59.1% of the time so far this term.
They had 15 shots this weekend, registering three fairly tame shots on target. Opposition teams have been very conscious in allowing them to dominate the ball, it is the blues that have time and again failed to use it wisely.
They will have to keep an eye on the key men, of course, with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison among the Everton men able to make the most of any space at long range. With their form slipping Silva is expected to name a strong team for tonight’s clash and both could feature.
Assuming Everton’s midfield is set up in front of the Wednesday defensive third in the face of a determined low block, the Owls will have to be clinical in executing their counter attack. With this in mind, Monk may wish to inject pace into his midfield, with Jacob Murphy returning to the side on the opposite flank to Kadeem Harris and Adam Reach returning to a narrower role.
Could a 4-3-3, with the Owls resembling something closer to a 4-5-1 without the ball, be a sensible option?
Sheffield United recorded only two shots and had less than 35% possession on Saturday. The key to success against an Everton side low on confidence tonight may be to frustrate rather than obliterate.