A full-time score of 1-0 in favour of the hosts means Carlo Ancelotti continues his perfect record of winning the opening game commencing his appointment of every team he has managed. Following a streak of positive results the Evertonians enjoyed under interim manager Duncan Ferguson, the Toffees will be hopeful the new brand of attacking football will further their recent ascension up the Premier League table.

Having lost four out of their previous five visits to Goodison Park, Burnley would have been keen to wipe the slate clean with three points at full time. A challenge made all the more difficult as Everton’s good run of form at home continues coupled with the appointment of their Champions League-winning manager taking charge at the helm for his first game. Burnley did well to deny Everton any more than one goal but they will be disappointed they did not create and execute a chance of their own to take at least a point from the game.

The tactical analysis below tells the story of the game from a tactical standpoint. Here we offer an in-depth analysis of the tactics deployed by both managers, including how Ancelotti seems likely to bring a new brand of football to Goodison Park.


Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis tactics
Lineup [Cr. Wyscout]
Everton: 3-4-3

Fabian Delph made a surprise return to the starting lineup as he partnered Gylfi Sigurðsson in centre-midfield. Seamus Coleman occupies the right side of the back three beside Yerry Mina as Mason Holgate moves back from midfield to play the left side.  Djibril Sidibé and Lucas Digne play similar roles as they take up the respective right and left wingback positions. The Brazilian duo Bernard and Richarlison are tasked as the playmakers between the lines as they are positioned just behind the English target-man Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Burnley: 4-4-2

The six-foot forwards lead the line as Jay Rodriguez and Chris Wood play as a pair in a long-direct game plan. Supported closely behind by wingers Dwight McNeill and Robert Brady and central-midfield pairing Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood. Phil Bardsley and Charlie Taylor were kept busy on the flanks while James Tarkowski and Ben Mee were the last line of defence to protect Nick Pope in goal.

Everton’s build-up

In the few days since Ancelotti’s arrival, Everton have learned and adapted in a short time to a very progressive style of football engineered by the 3-4-3 shape. Everton dominated the majority of possession throughout the game, utilising a possession-with-progression approach – we saw goalkeeper Jordan Pickford exercise a lot of short passes from the back and defenders patiently build-up play with overloads in midfield.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis tactics

Observe the formation above, in particular, the shaded area highlighting the 4v2 overload in midfield in favour of Everton. As the back three exercised a lot of horizontal passing with the superior numbers in midfield, this allowed for gaps to appear for Everton to make positive passes forward to split the line of pressure. The yellow lines represent the frequent attacking runs made by the wide centre-backs and wingbacks which helped Everton penetrate as they moved into the final third.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis tactics

Notice the ‘left-centre-back’ in possession, considering two teams with balanced formations we see why Everton could build-up play patiently and retain possession for longer periods. In this freeze-frame of tactical pieces, we can see the LCB in possession has options for attacking passes and options for safety to play backwards and retain possession if progress is denied temporarily. The Everton players seemed to know and use this new system quite well which allowed them to play quite fluently in times of pressure.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis tactics
Possession data detailing Everton’s superior possession throughout the course of the game. [cr. Wyscout]
Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis tactics
Everton Passing Network [cr. Wyscout]
Everton’s pass map network, accounting for the passing combinations of three or more passes at a time. The thicker black lines emphasise the major passing channels while the more substantial blue circles represent a player with more touches of the ball. As we account for Everton’s 67% possession average, we can see in part what passing sequences brought about this success.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Mina patiently builds play out from the back, notice all vertical and horizontal passing options.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

RCB Coleman, take a positive touch past the first line of pressure where he is supported inside by Gylfi Sigurðsson.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Sigurðsson receives and lays off a forward pass for the advancing Sidibé to progress. Notice Richarlison has dropped deep to offer an outlet to play forward.

In the above three images, we see a common pattern exercised by Everton to progress play forward into the opponents half. Starting with the balanced distance between the back three and the inside options of the two central midfielders. This superiority allowed Everton to play around or through the pressure at the opportune moments. The switching of play mattered before playing forward.  Everton looked to exploit Burnley’s weak side if Burnley were compact on one side, they would make the switch quickly and progress forward to the central-midfielders who would link with the wing-backs with a one-touch pass beyond the pressure. This is not football we are used to seeing from Everton, however, Ancelotti has made an impact already in the style of football Everton will look to develop.

Richarlison & Bernard playing between the lines

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Left-attacking-mid and right-attacking-mid Bernard and Richarlison took up very valuable positions between the lines as Calvert-Lewin occupied both centre-backs. Allowing more freedom to receive and play forward centrally as well as in the half-spaces. If the Burnley central midfielders dropped deep to mark-up, then this would enable Sigurðsson and Delph to progress and receive the ball higher up the field without pressure. This along with the overloads in wide areas was key to Everton’s ability to penetrate.

Everton penetrating in wide areas

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Moments after Burnley turned over possession, Everton attack and look to penetrate from the right flank. Notice the position of the right-centre-back.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

After receiving and laying off a pass the RCB continues to make a run forward into space in the box. Meanwhile, Richarlison comes forward to receive a pass and continue to play forward. The RM advances to offer Richarlison a safe pass into space.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Having received and turned away from pressure, the RCB is in a prime position to target a shot on goal or assist the CF in converting a chance. Everton used variations of these passing patterns from wide areas to exploit the gaps and play through the pressure. But for lack of perfection of execution and movement in the ideal time, Everton would have found the net on more than one occasion in this game.

The use of the attacking midfielders in the half-spaces and the overloads in wide areas combined with shorter passing distances allow for Everton to play this unique style of attacking football. In the games that follow, I would expect to see a much higher xG rating for Everton followed by the conversion of goals. Everton’s breakthrough goal came from a similar position where Calvert-Lewin executed a low header from a cross in the very same position in the box.

Burnley Defending

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Pressing from the front, notice to complete a front three, the LM McNeill joins the front line to create a high-block as Everton advance. The use of having three is to deny the opponent simple horizontal solutions to play through or around. Once possession was played wide to the LCB or the RCB, Burnley would engage the press as a unit and try to deny Everton time and space to play back across or forward.

But for the lack of marking in midfield and Everton’s superior numbers, frequently the defenders would play through to a midfielder who was unmarked. Burnley was successful on a few occasions denying Everton progress and winning possession and throw-ins in Everton’s final third.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Here we see Burnley’s organisation in defence. Observe the yellow shaded box in front of the goal. This represents the goalmouth, and it is the responsibility of the full-back and the nearest centre-back to deny delivery into this area. Notice the nearest centre-back is keeping his run in front of the near post while the central-midfielder gets goal side of the opponent to deny any cut-back opportunities. The centre-back and full back on the far side are tasked with marking up the attackers in the box to deny them any chance to connect with a cross that may be delivered.

Burnley’s long-direct attack

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Going forward Burnley seemed to utilise the long-direct approach to contest for headers in the opponents final third. Immediately they will become compact to the area of the field the ball is contested to smother the play and win second balls. In the above image, we see the CF is about to take down the ball and play his supporting midfielder.

In this occasion, Burnley’s attacking play developed forward with moments of little promise on the edge of the box. As a consequence, Burnley were left quite stretched and out of shape in transition, however, Everton’s did not exploit these moments with any counter-attack as we would have been so used to seeing.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

In transition, Burnley had clear intentions to move into and exploit the spaces left vacant by the opponent’s attack-minded defenders. Whether it was the RCB or LCB of Everton, in recognising their team regaining possession the Burnley strikers would move from a central area into the wide areas to receive a long pass from deep. In the image above we see the supporting defenders signalling to Brady coming into possession to play early and forward to the striker.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Moments after Brady plays a long pass forward into space we see a cross over movement of the two strikers to counter-attack well and take up more threatening positions.
This was perhaps the best moment of all the Burnley attacks although they were unable to produce any attempt on goal. Subsequently, this also meant Burnley were stretched and not best placed to defend an Everton attack.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis
Long Pass Data [Cr. Wyscout]
Here we see Burnley’s intentions to exercise the long pass option to the forwards. Match that up against their low possession and low rated xG and we better understand why this strategy did not offer much value going forward on this occasion.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis
Burnley Pass Network [Cr. Wyscout]
Burnley’s passing network, detailing passing channels exercised in sequences of three or more passes. Notice the density of the lines in comparison to their opponents, Burnley were not looking to get success with possession football on this occasion.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis
Burnley’s changing formations throughout the game. [cr. Wyscout]
Burnley’s change of formations and personnel throughout the game. Here we see Sean Dyche opted for three strikers to play high as they were chasing an equaliser in the late stages of the game.

Everton’s defence

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis

Defending from the front, Everton were disciplined in their units. Pressing together and dropping together they were efficient in denying Burnley any confidence in building from the back. Although we cannot claim those were Burnley’s intentions. As the centre-back’s split Calvert-Lewin the CF would engage the press, simultaneously the Everton midfield would get tight to the Burnley midfield to deny them any opportunity to receive without pressure.

Behind the CF were LAM & the RAM who although were not man-marking on most occasions would still deny Burnley their vertical passing channels. Subsequently for this, before Everton had time to win possession higher up the pitch, Burnley would opt for a long direct ariel ball for their striker to contest.

Premier League 2019/20: Everton v Burnley - Tactical Analysis tactics

Everton in the defensive organisation, observe the positions of the ‘RM’ and the ‘LM’ as they drop back to make it a defensive line of five players. Burnley had not shape or intentions to play possession football but they were denied central opportunities due to Everton’s compactness and numerical superiority. The ‘CM’ for Everton can engage the press with greater confidence he is covered centrally while the wide players can anticipate a transition to attack.


The Toffee’s go marching on with three points into their next game of the Christmas fixture period with confidence in their new and developing style of football. It will be an interesting few weeks ahead for Everton as they play some big games in the league and the FA cup. The Everton faithful will be hoping they found their man in Ancelotti after his winning start.

Burnley on the other hand still needs to collect more points over the next few weeks to still be at a safe distance of the bottom three places in the league. Burnley’s attacking football does not show much promise based on recent performances, nonetheless, Sean Dyche has enough Premier League experience that will help guide his team through this busy period even if they go without any compliments of champagne football. Results are what matters, especially in December and I’m sure the Burnley manager will have his team ready when he hosts in-form Machester United on Saturday.

Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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