Carlo Ancelotti must take decisive action to move Everton forward.

And it will be a completely different task to those he faced at the likes of Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

But during an uncertain transfer window there are key structural considerations that will be at the forefront of his thinking alongside Marcel Brands.

Everton have been linked with big names across Europe but they should be placed within a context of how they can fit into the adaptable 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 blend Ancelotti has favoured at Goodison Park.

This requires a detailed recruitment plan as each position requires an understanding of how players are expected to impact the play when in possession and how they should set-up without the ball.

Looking at how Everton fared in possession since the arrival of Ancelotti and there has been a reliance on crossing into the penalty-area for the aerially dominant Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

While that was a successful tool at times, they come unstuck with very few alternative methods of attack.

And one area they can address to change that is through improved ball progression in midfield.

The middle of the pitch was a consistent problem last season and it is worth considering the issues faced in terms of carrying the ball.

A 4-4-2 formation may appear simple on paper but what Ancelotti demands from his midfielders - most notably the two wide players - is something different to the traditional values of the aforementioned formation.

As shown in the image below, we see how the midfield varied in its average positioning since Ancelotti arrived in December.

The average positions of Everton’s 4-4-2 since Ancelotti arrived (Image: Twenty3)

The positioning of Digne suggests frequent crossing but the varied roles of Bernard, Andre Gomes, Tom Davies and Theo Walcott prove interesting.

To some extent, their respective positions show why there have been issues in terms of carrying possession into the final third. According to Statsbomb data, via FBRef, Everton ranked as 14th by successful dribbles in the Premier League last season.

Part of that can be explained by a tendency to make progressive passes on a more regular basis to provide crosses into the penalty area but it points towards an issue that Ancelotti needs to resolve.

In the scatter plot below, we see how Everton’s midfielders and forwards rank in terms of ball-carrying and ball progression compared to other players in the Premier League.

Everton’s midfielders and forwards ranked in terms of ball carrying and progression (Image: @_reecechambers)

Perhaps the most noticeable finding from the above is that only Richarlison ranks significantly above the averages for successful dribbles and progressive distance per-carry.

Both Alex Iwobi and Bernard rank relatively well in one of the metrics but all Everton players included are some way off others.

As you can see from the leading names in the graph, players ranking well tend to play for sides who either rely on one sole ball carrier or deploy a counter-attacking method of attack - as shown by Adama Traore and his impressive numbers.

So what does this mean for Everton and the 4-4-2?

Perhaps the biggest issue with a lack of ball carriers in attacking areas is that they are predictable in attack and risk losing possession.

Everton's predictability is best illustrated by the fact that Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin scored 13 goals apiece last season. Of those 26, nine of them were headers and six of them were assisted by either Digne or Djibril Sidibe.

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Everton have become effective in supplying the front two through advanced full-backs but the goal-scoring threat past that is superficial. No other player registered more than three goals in the league last season.

That will need to be resolved in the transfer market but attacking midfielders with quality do not come cheap.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are prized assets at Everton and Ancelotti must find them a sustainable supporting cast to achieve his goals.

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