Everton tactics: Tom Davies is helping Ross Barkley find space
Last Updated: 03/03/17 3:32pm
Ahead of Everton's trip to Tottenham, Sky Sports tactics expert Danny Higginbotham looks at how Ronald Koeman has found balance in midfield.
Everton's form has improved significantly in 2017 and they are unbeaten in the Premier League since the derby defeat to Liverpool before Christmas.
But why is that? As Higginbotham explains, the introduction of Morgan Schneiderlin and Tom Davies to the Everton midfield has been crucial.
It's not just their individual performances but the way that the two men complement the likes of Idrissa Gueye and Ross Barkley.
"Gueye has been sensational," says Higginbotham. "I think it's safe to say that he has been one of the signings of the season with the way he goes about things.
"With his energy and his endeavour he provides more protection to the team defensively because he's willing to get back into shape quickly too.
"What happens is that because you've got the energy of Gueye and Davies going forwards, and the full-backs as well, is that Schneiderlin is getting into the spaces.
"It's there that he is able to dictate play. He's fantastic at being able to pick a pass out whether it's to Seamus Coleman on one wing, to Leighton Baines on the other, or to forward runners.
"That's the effect that he has. He also helps the centre-backs out defensively when the opposition are looking to counter-attack."
While Schneiderlin is the perfect man to take advantage of the space that Gueye creates, the arrival of Davies has opened up opportunities for Barkley in more advances areas.
The England international was criticised earlier in the campaign by his own manager but has since turned things around and Higginbotham believes Davies has been the key to that.
"He has brought another element to Barkley's game because what we found earlier in the season is that he had little room for manoeuvre when he got the ball," adds Higginbotham.
"There weren't runners around him so what would happen is that because he's such a danger-man for Everton, teams would get two to three men around him to stop him.
"Now, all of a sudden, Davies is getting beyond him and because of that Barkley is getting that extra time and space.
"Barkley is now beginning to show the form that everyone knows that he is capable of producing."
The statistics bear that out with the player having contributed more assists in the 619 minutes he has been on the pitch with Davies than in the 1298 minutes without him.
"The midfielders for Everton balance off each other really well," concludes Higginbotham.
"I think that's the beauty of Everton and the way they are playing at the moment. What Ronald Koeman is doing is affording space to the players who really need that space.
"The 4-3-3 system with that midfield is allowing the players in front of them to be influential and that's been the key to Everton's upturn in form."