Everton vs Leeds: Three Things to Watch for from the Blues

A week ago, Everton FC made a positive start to their 2021-22 Premier League campaign by outclassing Southampton at home. Thanks to goals from Richarlison, Abdoulaye Doucouré and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton grabbed all three points and started the season on the right foot.



For matchweek two, the Toffees will travel to Elland Road in West Yorkshire to take on an energetic Leeds team. A season ago, Leeds finished ninth in their first Premier League season since 2004. That result saw them end the campaign one position above Everton, who wound up in tenth place when everything was said and done. 


Therefore, it should be a good early season test between two clubs looking to improve upon the results of a season ago. 


Everton were great on the road in 2020-21. However, the reintroduction of full capacity crowds could certainly impact that trend. As Everton head into their first away fixture and second competitive match of the 2021-22 season, here are three things to look out for.


Rafa’s Tactics


In his first game at home, manager Rafael Benítez set up his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Initially, this saw Richarlison on the left flank with Demarai Gray in the number 10 spot.


One thing that stood out from the season opener was Rafa’s willingness to shift things around from a tactical perspective. After a bit of a shaky first half, Rafa made two key changes that helped lead to second half success. 


On the attacking end, Benítez swapped the positioning of Richarlison and Gray. This change resulted in cleaner link up play, which generated more threatening chances.


On the defensive end, Rafa had centerbacks Mason Holgate and Michael Keane switch sides as well. The pair looked much more comfortable after the change was made. In the second half, they bounced back nicely from an ugly miscommunication 22 minutes in leading to Southampton’s goal. 


In Everton’s first Premier League game under Benítez, we saw high-tempo, direct, attacking play. This trend continued even after the Toffees went 2-1 up. 


It will be interesting to see what, if any, alterations Rafa makes to his tactics ahead of the clash with Leeds. 


It is still far too early in the season to know if the 4-2-3-1 is Rafa’s ideal formation with this group of players. However, this match should be a great opportunity to see if there are any obvious differences between the ways that Everton will set up at home and on the road. 


How does Everton cope with the tempo of Leeds?


In their first season in the Premier League, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds earned a reputation as a tireless team that can cover ground with the best of them. It will be intriguing to see if the Everton manager does anything special to anticipate this factor. 


This could take the form of tactical shifts such as playing more long balls to beat the press. It could also be reflected in personnel switches. With Ben Godfrey supposedly still in isolation, Everton are likely to be without their quickest defender for the second week in a row.


As a result, we could see a midfielder like Allan in a defensive role to prevent the back four from being exposed. Given that Everton still have a few unavailable players, it is unlikely that there will be too many major changes to the starting 11. 


After losing heavily to Manchester United in their opening fixture, Leeds will surely come out fast in this one. There is no doubt that they will want to give their home fans plenty to cheer about. 


Subsequently, it will be crucial for the Everton players to make sure they are on the same page and communicating well in order to weather the initial storm. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford could be very important in that sense. 


Pickford stepped up nicely when Holgate and Keane were struggling in the first half against Southampton. He is more than capable of doing the same if called upon once again. 


Andros Townsend – Dominic Calvert-Lewin Connection


One thing that appeared regularly throughout the Southampton match was Andros Townsend’s ability and willingness to deliver crosses into dangerous areas from the right wing. The 30-year-old used his head to pick up an assist on Richarlison’s equalizing goal. He also used his feet to whip dangerous balls into the penalty area on multiple occasions. 


It has been well documented over the past few seasons that Lucas Digne is a great crosser from left back for Everton. If Townsend can consistently cross like he did last weekend, it gives Everton another avenue to manufacture aerial service for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.


Calvert-Lewin has always been great in the air, which he showed again with his goal against Southampton. If Everton can get consistent service from both wings, it would be a great step towards getting the most out of the 24-year-old striker.


If Townsend does start again on Saturday, look to see whether he continues his high volume of crossing.  


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– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)

Featured image courtesy of @Everton.

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