Tactics Breakdown | Nottingham Forest 2-2 Everton

Full 90: Nottingham Forest 2-2 Everton

Not a bad result. An away point against an albeit relegation rival is a relative success against a side that hasn’t lost at home since September. I can understand potential disappointment due to how the game unfolded especially when going ahead early on. However on the whole, especially in the second half, gaining a point from the performance is an achievement.

A statistically even game, with both sides having relative possession, Forest edging with 57%, however with 417 short passes compared to Everton’s 286 there was a definite implication of who controlled the ball and thus the game.

Our average pass streak of 3 is poor and helps us to understand why we struggled to get a foothold. This struggle is emphasised further when looking at who played as our 9 for the majority of the game, Gray. To have success when playing with this profile of 9, quick interplay with players supporting from wide and in behind is necessary and we, unfortunately, didn’t achieve this. Gray aside our highest pass completion rate was Gueye, struggling with 76.7% of his passes. This alludes to the type of passes we were attempting to play, longer high-risk, hopeful balls. By no means am I saying that I disagree with the style of play, however, cohesion is needed when utilising a player’s skill set and the team’s tactics or nobody will benefit.


  • Everton average positions.

The lineup had a few enforced changes, the introduction of Ben Godfrey at left-back, he is not a left-back, Michael Keane solidified his place ahead of Coady and Demarai Gray played as the 9. The shape began in a 451 but transitioned to a 442 out of possession and an asymmetrical 4141 in possession.

Out of possession

– Everton’s defensive shape against Forest’s offensive shape.

– Everton’s 442 block.

As you can see in the image above, when defending the 451 transitioned into a 442 with the majority of the time, Abdoulaye Doucoure pushing up alongside Gray to form a front 2 and then Onana and Gueye protecting the back four.

This over the past two or three years has become the most popular defensive shape, utilised by Guardiola and City in the 20/21 season. It allows for increased coverage across all areas of the pitch and maintains a solid base.

It is an incredibly rigid system with the only in-game changes occurring if Doucoure is unable to step vertically and then his role is swapped with Onana.

On the whole defensivley we were sound limiting our opponents to an Xg of 0.9 and Pickford only making two saves. However, their first goal highlighted an issue thats been apparent for sometime.

– Space allowed for MGW.

Due to Forest’s set-up and his individual quality, Gibbs-White caused us major problems throughout the game, his ability to move inside from the left, picking up spaces that our midfield, especially Gueye, struggled to get tight to him. This occurred in their first goal of the game.

– Build up to Johnson’s first goal.

For our opponents first goal, it all came from Everton’s inability to get into shape quickly enough top prevent Gibbs-White from receiving the ball in space, being allowed to turn and run at Keane, who is forced to step out and leave a gap which is exploited resulting in their equaliser.

In an ideal world, Gueye and Onana are in there pivot shape protecting and covering areas of the pitch and they aren’t allowed this space, however unfortunately they were out of position. However, this isn’t a major worry going forward as we will begin to get more and more engrained within the system.

In Possession

– Our on the ball shape.

When in possession of the ball, we looked to get into an asymmetrical 4141 with Gueye connecting the defence and attack. As we look to move forward I believe we will need a more competent ball player in order to progress the ball more successfully.

The way Dyche utilises Onana is particularly interesting. Without Calvert-Lewin we do lack a significant physical profile at the top end of the pitch, thus pushing Onana forward alongside a player like Gray, who can drift wide, works well in principle.

However, these on paper ideas don’t always come to fruition. Onana lacks any sort of final third threat and would fundamentally suit not only him but the team in a deeper role due to his opening phase of play ability.

Again. here you can see Onana occupying Nottingham Forest’s centre-halves as Grey peels wide into a more familiar role.

Another interesting positioning choice is that of Alex Iwobi’s.

An untraditional wide role for Iwobi led to him coming deep to receive the ball with play ahead of him instead of roaming into pocked behind the midfield or even beyond their defensive line. I understand this choice as Iwobi is by far our most creative player averaging 1.61 key passes p90 and thus we need him on the ball as much as possible. However, even with Coleman’s recent resurgence he understandably isn’t quite offering the attacking threat needed to utilise a deeper winger. This has led to Doucoure or Grey pushing high and wide which is fin, but leaves gaps elsewhere.

Another constant theme of our attacking play was the overoading of the right hand side. (You can see this below and also above in the average positions).

Gray drifting wide and Mcneil and Onana occupying central areas allowed us to build a numerical advantage over Forest’s left-hand side. I haven’t seen us do this often enough and believe it suits McNeil, especially as his ability to create on the left combined with the attacking threat of his left foot on the right-hand side is a valuable weapon at our disposal.

Fundamentally, it wasn’t a bad performance, certain things we did well, but we still have plenty to build upon if we want to fight this relegation battle successfully.

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