At the conclusion of a weekend rife with remarkable results across European football, it’s no surprise that Everton’s
The Goodison Park rout wasn’t as spectacular as Barcelona’s
Everton put four past the Premier League’s worst team at home. For a team that’s blessed with one of the finest young cores in European football, that should be no great surprise. But it’s a win, regardless of opposition, which served up tangible signs of necessary progress for this team and for their manager, Roberto Martinez.
In the lowest ebbs of a moribund 2014-15 season, this is the kind of match Everton would have surrendered points. A team bunkering in and unwilling to traipse beyond the halfway line triggered panic in the stands, subsequent hot heads on the pitch and a string of undesirable results.
The Toffees just didn’t have an antidote for piercing sides who sought to convolute and spoil. Passes would be pinged from side to side, back and forth, allowing teams to get set, become emboldened and often, forge an unshakeable foothold in the match.
Without the probing, floating no. 10 player Martinez openly craved during the summer months, overcoming this type of opponent was always going to be the biggest of many tests for this team in 2015-16. We all know Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu are devastating when the pitch opened up in front of them, but that’s a scarce luxury in the Premier League.
It’s why the emphatic nature of the win against Aston Villa shouldn’t be dismissed. This is a side who, despite their obvious flaws, had frustrated Manchester City’s illustrious talents a fortnight ago and from the off, had little intention of advancing beyond their own final third. For those in blue it was a familiar assignment, but one which they failed routinely during Martinez’s second season in charge.
Thankfully, Everton seem to have rediscovered their poise in these kinds of contests, as there was an authoritativeness in every aspect of their play. As Sid Lowe of The Guardian expertly put it, it was like watching a match in fast forward.
John Stones and Ramiro Funes Mori recycled the ball quickly, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy knitted moves together shrewdly and the aforementioned attacking trident were sharp and savvy in their attacking darts. The first and fourth goals on the day were not only testament to the raw talent of the players, but the attacking cohesion Martinez has instilled into this team.
There’s a renewed balance about Everton, who have found the firepower and finesse to blow away packed defences. West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Villa have all tried to stifle the Toffees this season, tactics which would have seen them earn a draw at least in the previous campaign; Everton have scored 13 goals in matches against these sides, all who were determined to defend.
That’s due to an adventurous swagger which will delight Martinez, as he seeks to build a squad that’s adaptable to all circumstances.
Earlier in the season, Everton showed their counter-attacking prowess with a devastating display against Southampton, as they’ve done against Wolfsburg, Manchester United and Arsenal previously, and the Catalan will be contented in the knowledge this is a team with all the tools to play on the break.
But it’s getting the better of those gnarly outfits in the Premier League’s swollen lower reaches that’ll determine just how prosperous a campaign Everton enjoy. Teams like West Brom, Sunderland, Aston Villa, who have been swatted aside; sides such as Bournemouth, Norwich City and Stoke City, who’ll be tasked with nullifying this Toffees offensive forays in the weeks to come.
So while it’s easy to discount the significance of the win over Villa, as has been the case for a lot of Evertonians in the aftermath of the Goodison Park triumph, it represents another surefire sign that this is a young team and a young manager who have recognised their errors and are slowly starting to set them right. For one of the youngest XIs in the Premier League, the ability to appreciate these flaws and make consequential tweaks is a hugely encouraging trait.
If these positive refinements continue be made, it’s inevitable that plenty in the soccer stratosphere will cotton on to the talent bristling in every facet of this team. When that day does arrive, this enterprising Everton squad seem increasingly well equipped to deal with the variety of challenges which accompanies that kind of recognition.