ANCELOTTI VS MOURINHO: TACTICAL ANALYSIS OF THEIR HUGE FA CUP CLASH - RIGHT-BACKS KEY
Everton vs Tottenham Hotspur, Carlo Ancelotti vs Jose Mourinho or Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs Harry Kane. Whichever way you look at this, it looks special.
In terms of tactical battles, Carlo Ancelotti facing Jose Mourinho is one of the biggest in the game. Together they share five Champions League trophies.
In the seven times that the ex-Chelsea managers have faced each other, Mourinho has won four times, while Ancelotti won the other three occasions.
The eighth meeting comes on 10 February, where Everton and Tottenham compete in the FA Cup 5th round.
With both teams containing strong players based on current form, this game should come down to which manager can outsmart the other. What will they have planned?
How both managers will set up
Neither manager will want to change their team too much.
Mourinho will likely keep Tottenham in a 4-2-3-1, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg playing in a holding role and Tanguy Ndombele playing further forward in a box-to-box role.
Ancelotti will most likely set up similarly to how he set up against Man United, either as a 4-3-3, or a 4-3-1-2, depending on whether he wants to play James Rodriguez behind the two attackers, or on the right wing.
Either way James is likely to have a freer role where he can join the left wing.
How Mourinho will exploit Ancelotti (exploiting the wings)
Mourinho faced Ancelotti’s Everton team once this season already and came out losing 1-0 on the opening day of the season.
Since then, Kane and Heung-min Son have created one of the best goal contribution partnerships since Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. Son is likely to be paired against Mason Holgate, a makeshift right-back, something Mourinho will look to exploit.
The transition likely will not be a problem for Spurs. Everton is known for its submissive midfield, and with Allan still not back for their last game, it could be down to Tom Davies and Abdoulaye Doucoure to do damage limitation.
Spurs will look to play through the spine of their team, with Hojbjerb, Ndombele and Kane. The difficulty comes getting through the backline.
Lucas Digne plays in a very progressive role in Everton’s attack, creating an overload on the left flank with James Rodriguez and Richarlison. This is detrimental to the defence in two ways.
Obviously, this leaves space behind Digne that can be exploited, but also as Everton are drawn to the left of the pitch, this leaves Holgate, who isn’t natural at right-back, isolated against Son and Spurs’ left-back.
Tottenham will try to hit on the counter, working the ball to Ndombele and Kane, who will use diagonal balls to the fullbacks and the wingers to break Everton’s defensive line on either flank.
Everton will have to be careful of through-balls between Holgate and Michael Keane with Son attempting to get in behind as well.
How Ancelotti will stop Mourinho exploiting him (midfield defending)
Ancelotti knows the threat of Heung-min Son. Though Holgate is not natural at fullback, he isn’t being told to go forward. Against Manchester United, his average position was in line with the two centre-backs.
He almost isn’t playing as a full-back, but instead as a wide centre back. Therefore, his sole job against Tottenham will be to neutralise Son.
To stop the midfield being dominated, Davies will stay in holding. Doucoure will stay on the right to cover Holgate.
Andre Gomes will be on the left, to play passes into Everton’s left-wing overload, as well as to cover Digne’s defensive duties when he’s over-committed.
An important part of stopping Tottenham is to prevent long shots. Son, Kane, Ndombele and Erik Lamela isn’t even the entire list of Spurs players capable of shooting from outside of the box.
When they are in attack and Everton are in defensive roles, the midfielders must close down any potential shooting situations to neutralise this threat.
How Ancelotti will exploit Mourinho (the overload)
Mourinho will know this is coming, but that doesn’t mean he can stop it. Digne, James and Richarlison (arguably Everton’s three most creative players) combining on one wing will be dangerous.
Digne has the most assists from a defender this season, and he was out injured for a portion of it. Meanwhile James Rodriguez has 11 pre-assists so far this season.
The midfield isn’t likely to be controlled by the toffees, so expect diagonals to Richarlison to run on to, or to Calvert-Lewin to chest down to one of the three.
Their main attacking strategy will be to get the ball wide and get the ball into Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The other key tool will be set-pieces. With Richarlison playing, it’s inevitable that Spurs will concede a free-kick in the left channel.
Digne is a set-piece specialist. And even if he wasn’t, he gets to aim at three centre-backs and Calvert-Lewin who alone has scored five headed goals in the Premier League so far this season.
Everton have scored the most headed goals in the league this season, and just last game they equalised in the last second of the game against Man United with a Digne freekick.
How Mourinho will stop Ancelotti exploiting him (right-back restraint)
Though Tottenham’s right-back Serge Aurier will be tempted to run into the space behind Digne, this is a trap in itself. Over-committing on the right flank will lose Tottenham the game.
This will just leave space for Everton. Aurier needs to trust Lamela and Moura to exploit the space. Even with Aurier staying back, holding midfielder Hojbjerg will play a key role in nullifying James’ effect on the game.
If Hojbjerg can isolate James away from Digne and Richarlison, this weakens the overload and breaks down Everton’s best attacking outlet.
On set-pieces, taller more dominant players will have to command the box and get the first ball. This is important to prevent Michael Keane or Ben Godfrey flicking the ball on to players like Calvert-Lewin.
Who will come out on top?
Both managers will know what the other has planned and both will tweak their tactics throughout the game.
Everton are in danger if they try and dominate the game early on, leaving themselves open to a quick counter-attacks. And no-one wants to go 1-0 down against Jose Mourinho.
Tottenham are in danger if Aurier joins the attack too much, especially early on.
Ultimately, the game will likely be decided on whether Tottenham’s right-back can handle Everton’s overload, and whether Mason Holgate can deal with Heung-min Son.