Barnsley 0-3 Everton – A Tactical Deconstruction

My Background (copied from my Everton v Norwich analysis)

Not another Footy Manager-obsessed, Bielsa-fanatic, football tactics hipster reeling off buzz words like ‘double pivote’ and ‘catennacio’ again, I hear you cry? No, certainly not. Football has often been made far too clever for its own good by these types of blog sites.

I hold a UEFA B Licence and currently work as a full-time football coach for an English Premier League club; I also have six years’ experience as a first team manager in the Welsh Leagues.

I have been a member of this site for many years, but under a different username. I will continue to use that to voice my opinions, etc but will use this account to (hopefully!) provide an insight into the game without too much opinion.


In relative terms, we are still early on in the pre-season schedule and this was our first ‘real’ match after the behind-closed-doors workout game in Austria. From scanning the videos and photographs uploaded onto the official social media accounts, it seemed as though there had been a heavy emphasis on fitness training (as many expected).

One of the other videos was from a basic “crossing and shooting” drill; rest assured, although this is beneficial in practising these techniques, this was almost certainly used as a “rest” exercise after a fitness session, given the large amount of rest time for each player waiting their turn to either cross or finish.

In terms of new faces, the only ‘in’ has been Stekelenburg, so Koeman is perhaps still assessing his squad before committing big money to key positions. It is clear where players are needed, but I would imagine that the delay is either to do with contractual negotiations on those that he has made his mind on, or how much money to allocate to particular positions (i.e. is centre midfield in more need than centre back, etc.)

Team Selection

Koeman opted for a youthful looking starting eleven with the only real surprise of Deulofeu playing as the lone striker.



Everton started the match with a standard 4-2-3-1 formation. Robles in goal, whilst Tom Davies continued at RB, Baines at LB. The young pairing of Holgate & Galloway played at CB, with Gibson and Besic as two holding midfielders in front of them. Dowell played as number ten, with Mirallas on the left, Lennon on the right and the surprise choice of Deulofeu up front.

Tactical Approach and Main Differences From Martinez’ Everton

Martinez Approach (copied from my Everton v Norwich analysis)

Under Martinez, Everton played (and very rarely deviated from) the 4-2-3-1 formation. He would use playmakers rather than wingers in the wide positions; these playmakers would take up central positions to receive short passes from deep, as his side looked to build play slowly up the pitch “in between the lines.”

Team Shape

There wasn’t much difference in the team shape today; however, the personnel choices in wide areas was, I’m sure, a relief to most Evertonians. Koeman decided on two wingers playing in the wide areas and played with real width. There was also regular interchanging of positions between the “front four” both in and out of possession.

Without the Ball

Similar to the Norwich match under Unsworth, the initial instruction was clear; when we lose the ball, press high up the pitch to win it back straight away. If we don’t win it back, get back into formation. The wingers’ defensive duties were to track the opposition full backs and “double up” with their own full back in wide areas.

It was also interesting to see how we pressed the opposition backline with the striker and four immediately behind him, thus just leaving one of the two ‘holding’ midfielders back to cover.

High Press.jpg

Another feature of this “high-press” saw our full backs push forward and “lock on” to the opposition wingers. The coaching point here is to give yourself a few yards off the winger and only go to close whilst the ball is travelling to him. This is to prevent you from leaving your position too much and being done by the channel ball in behind you. Your objective then is to either ‘nick it’ ahead of their winger or force him to play backwards. Coleman was excellent at the stealing of possession in these situations when he came on.

High Press: Show Inside.jpg

Again, as with the Unsworth match, it was refreshing to see that our team had clearly been given instructions and responsibilities on shape without the ball. Our wingers always tried to show the opposition full backs ‘inside’ rather than down the line, as that is where we had numbers to steal possession high up the pitch.

With the Ball

When in possession of the ball, the following was notable:

1. Goal Kicks

As with the Martinez era, the centre backs were instructed to “split” and one midfielder dropped in between the two to receive the ball and play forward.

CB Split 1st Half.jpg

This was the same in the second half with different personnel.

CB Split 2nd Half.jpg

However, one important difference here (and as alluded to by Koeman in his post-match interview) was what the full back did with the ball when he received it (see point 2 below).

2. The Channel Ball

On a number of occasions, particularly on the right hand side, we got the ball to the full back (Tom Davies) who then played it long down the channel for Deulofeu to run onto.

Channel Ball 1.jpg

It should also be noted that Lennon’s movement was excellent in this phase; by moving infield, he drags his marker with him, allowing for the creation of this space. This was hugely effective in bypassing the opposition press.

Channel Ball 2.jpg

There was then a clear instruction given to the opposite winger (Mirallas) and Dowell to get into the box and attack the ball.

Channel Ball 2, Mirallas Arriving.jpg

We nearly scored twice from this in the opening 12 minutes (firstly, Lennon then Mirallas).

3. Number Ten Receiving “On the Turn” and Playing Forward Quickly

In the first half, our holding midfielders looked to feed Dowell, who would take a minimal amount of touches before releasing Deulofeu on the channel side of the centre back. Under Martinez, the number ten was often used as a “wall” to bounce the ball back off to the centre-mids as we built slowly.

Chances Created

Many of our chances were created from cutting the ball back from the byline, but as previously mentioned, the main outlets were always the ball into the channel from deep or into the number ten to play the striker in early.

1-0: Mirallas free kick. No analysis required.

2-0: This came from Deulofeu getting “channel side” of his centre back and an excellent through ball. A calm finish beneath the keeper.

3-0: Barkley picking the ball up in the pocket. Very positive play, as he turned his marker and unleashed a rocket.

Chances Conceded

We actually conceded a lot of chances during this match and I am certain that Koeman will have been unhappy with aspects of our defending.

1. In-Swinging Crosses from Deep, Hitting the Back Post

We really struggled to deal with this in the first half with both full backs losing their runners and also the centre backs being caught underneath the ball.

2. Short Corners

I was shocked at how poorly we defended the short option. Numbers-wise, we brought everybody back to defend the corners. The coaching point on opposition taking a short corner is to send TWO defenders; one to engage the man, the other to support in case of a pass or first man being beaten by the dribble. We conceded a clear cut chance from this in the first half then no more than five minutes later, fell for the same trick again. We were far too slow to react to the short ball.


As mentioned, as with last season, we looked very susceptible to crosses. I would liked to have seen our full backs and wingers get slightly closer to the crossers to prevent them from delivering with quality, but it was the aerial ability of our centre backs and goalkeeper that concerned me most, particularly in the first half. This was a huge thorn in our side last season and I am sure Koeman will be addressing this in the coming weeks. Incidentally, we looked better when Funes Mori came on and it should be remembered that our centre backs were too youngsters in the first half.

Barnsley enjoyed their best spell of the match during the first half from the 30th minute to the 45th minute. The opposition were “ahead” of us in terms of matches played so far in pre-season and also, our players are no doubt still adapting to the high-press of Koeman’s play, so I am sure our fitness had a lot to do with us dropping off in the way that we did.


A comfortable and enjoyable win with plenty of positives to take for our new manager. We also have an achievable “to-do” list in terms of improving, particularly given Koeman’s playing background. It would be hugely surprising if the defensive issues are not addressed during training this week.

Despite his finishing letting him down on a few occasions, Deulofeu’s performance was a highlight and he showed that he is more than capable of playing “on the shoulder” in the striker’s position. Mirallas also looked a changed man, whilst Davies again looked comfortable out of position at right back.

We now eagerly await the next match; hopefully with an injection of new talent and with aerial defensive deficiencies addressed.

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