Chris Hughton’s side sit above them in the league table having scored more goals, conceded fewer, and have won two of their last four games compared with Everton’s one during the same period.
The Toffees sit 15th in the early Premier League table, just two points away from the drop zone. They also have the second worst goal difference in the division, with only a dire Crystal Palace side below them in that particular column of the league table.
If football is boiled down to a simple game of scoring goals and not conceding them, then Everton aren’t very good at the moment.
An analytical preview of how Ronald Koeman’s side could approach their next game could come down to something as basic as ‘score but don’t concede’, and while this might not make for the most insightful of reads, it does hint that the club need to return to the basics.
Such basics are normally the starting point for a promoted side such as Brighton, and the focus is generally on not conceding in order to stay in the league.
None of the clubs who came up from the Championship are into double figures in terms of goals conceded, but Everton are already on 12.
Shoring things up could be a simple as a change in personnel. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has generally impressed since arriving at the club, but most of his highlights will be on the attacking side of the game in terms or distribution and the launching of counter-attacks.
However, he also has the ability to sweep up behind the defence, and could facilitate the return of Phil Jagielka to Koeman’s rearguard, even in a high line.
The 35-year-old centre back is still spritely enough considering his age, and has the defensive and general football nous to guide the team from the back. As soon as he’s recovered from a recent hamstring problem he should be put straight into the side in place of the increasingly error prone and unstable Ashley Williams.
A partnership of Jagielka and Michael Keane would provide various strengths, and the latter’s recent performance on the right of a back three for England showed his ability to carry the ball out from the back. Jagielka also spent some time in midfield earlier in his career, so between them they should eradicate the combination of panic and pointless possession which has crept into Everton’s build-up play at the back.
This change would allow Mason Holgate to be used at right back, and depending on the opposition either he or Jonjoe Kenny should be used in the role. The latter offers a more attacking option, and even though Holgate isn’t too shoddy when it comes to contributions in advanced areas, he offers more aerial ability in defensive side of things if needed. The other option in the position, Cuco Martina, has failed to consistently convince in any of his outings since joining the club, and should be dropped.
In front of the defence there are plenty of options for Everton who have brought numerous midfield players into their squad in recent years. Getting the right balance is key, but at times like these they might be better of going with a combination of energy and creativity rather than a defensive midfielder such as Morgan Schneiderlin.
A duo of Idrissa Gueye and Tom Davies running between the boxes could provide a base for an attacking four to do some damage. The creativity of Gylfi Sigurdsson aligned with the pace of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Oumar Niasse, and one of Ademola Lookman or Sandro Ramírez could be the best option in the absence of a target-man centre-forward.
Koeman may feel like the task facing him needs some abrupt tactical changes, but looking at the bigger picture with a clean slate may present a clearer solution. He has a big squad in certain areas, but it the way forward might be to stick with a constant spine, only changing the occasional player depending on the opponent and only rotating when fitness issues require it.
After this trip to Brighton they face a difficult run of games against Lyon, Arsenal, and Chelsea, and they won’t be games for experimenting in. They need to save some face on the south coast, setting the foundations for this set of fixtures where their performances will have to improve even if the results don’t come.
An away trip to Lyon aside, November is more forgiving, and the task for Koeman now is to make sure he’s still in a job when it arrives. A return to basic balanced tactics and some hard working, intelligent, and determined players in the starting XI could help raise morale throughout the squad, and put a difficult start to the season behind them.