When Ronald Koeman gave the frank assessment that his squad was 70% of where it needed to be in terms of fitness for the start of the season, some pondered whether the Dutchman was employing some mind games ahead of today’s game against Tottenham Hotspur.
In any case, his opposite number Mauricio Pochettino claimed not to have been tuned into the Koeman’s pre-match press conference but it’s clear that Everton’s new manager is a refreshingly straight talker – he meant exactly what he said. The yardstick was always going to be relative to what he perceived to be the ideal level he wanted his new charges to be and the evidence that the Blues aren’t ready for the way he wants them to play was stark in the second half of this 1-1 draw.
You suspect that had he had another two weeks — and a couple more signings — behind him, Everton might have won this game; as it was, despite missing two key players in the form of Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman through injury, they preserved a valuable point against a team that finished third last season and was at full strength today.
Those two absentees required a degree of improvisation from Koeman, with Gerard Deulofeu deployed as the furthest man forward, ably supported by Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley, while James McCarthy was handed a wing-back role to the right of a central trio of Ramiro Funes Mori, Phil Jagielka and debutant Mason Holgate.
It was a system that seemed to serve the Blues well as they carried out a clearly apparent strategy of pressing from the front and permitting the visitors to have the ball until they got to Everton’s defensive third. At that point, blue shirts would collapse the spaces, choke off attacks by Pochettino’s side and spring onto the counter-attack
And for all but five minutes of the first period, they were operating in that mode to both defend a one-goal and attempt to add to it thanks to Barkley’s wickedly-struck free kick. Mirallas had been chopped down by Victor Wanyama not far from the Spurs penalty area and Barkley whipped in the kind of set-piece delivery that give goalkeepers nightmares. Unsure if an Everton player would get a decisive touch in front of goal, Hugo Lloris was forced to hesitate, allowing the ball to bounce past his despairing dive and into the far corner.
With less than five minutes on the clock, it represented a terrific start for the home side and they’d almost doubled their advantage before a quarter of an hour had elapsed when, first, a great ball from Gareth Barry found Deulofeu but he scuffed his shot somewhat and it was easily saved. Then, another Barkley free kick from another foul on Mirallas by Wanyama picked out Jagielka on the edge of the box and Lloris had to palm his looping header over the crossbar.
Despite the slight apprehension in the air before kick-off at the lack of transfer activity and those injury concerns — Coleman in particular is a blow as he will be out for what Koeman termed as “several weeks” — Everton were well on top in the first 45 minutes and Pochettino’s much-vaunted outfit were restricted to just a Christian Eriksen shot that was comfortably gathered by Maarten Stekelenburg in the 27th minute.
Again, much was owed to the strict adherence to a defensive shape, a fevered desire to win the ball in the middle of the park and at the centre of it all was another player making his official Goodison Park bow, Idrissa Gueye, who had one of the most exciting debuts in memory.
Early comparisons with one of last season’s standout stars at Leicester, N’Golo Kanté, based on last weekend’s friendly with Espanyol were well-founded — the Senegalese midfielder was a revelation in front of the back four and an easy pick for man of the match with his uncanny ability to repeatedly shut the door on Spurs.
Of course, as was a constant theme last season under Martinez, the fear was that without turning their attacking superiority into more goals, Everton could rue not taking their chances before the half-time interval. The two best fell to Mirallas and Deulofeu respectively, although neither were easy, particularly the one that fell to Mirallas after the Spaniard had played him in superbly but, faced with an almost impossible angle, his shot was blocked behind for a corner.
Deulofeu’s, which came as a result of impressive anticipation of an ill-advised Jan Vertonghen backpass, was better but Michel Vorm, on only six minutes earlier for Lloris who sustained a hamstring injury, closed the angle smartly, gave the Everton forward very little to aim at, and saved with his legs.
Though the Blues would initially continue in the ascendancy early in the second period and great work by Barkley put Deulofeu in again before an excellent covering tackle by Eric Dier denied him, the match pivoted around the hour mark when Spurs equalised and, physically, Everton seemed to hit a wall.
An old Achilles heel from the past few seasons reared its head in the 59th minute when Kyle Walker swept a cross in from the right and Holgate couldn’t prevent Erik Lamela from stealing in front of him to steer a header past Stekelenburg.
It was a harsh moment for the young defender who had, a couple of examples of nervy distribution aside, looked very assured on his senior debut up to that point. It’s also a moment he will undoubtedly learn from over time.
Koeman turned to his bench a few minutes later but the feeling that there was little there that could improve on starting XI was validated as neither of Arouna Kone — a waste when he replaced the exhausted Deulofeu and offered nothing by way of an attacking outlet — or Aaron Lennon — industrious but, again, largely ineffective in an attacking sense after he came on for Mirallas — made much of an impression.
Instead, the momentum shifted irrevocably in Tottenham’s direction and but for Stekelenburg, who made two outstanding saves, the Londoners might have won. First the Dutchman made a point-blank stop to deny Vincent Janssen a goal on his Premier League debut in the 80th minute and then surpassed that with a quite brilliant reaction to swat Lamela’s deflected shot over his bar three minutes later.
Those twin interventions arguably preserved a point and gave Everton their fourth opening-day draw in succession. While important, the enormous psychological boost of avoiding defeat could prove to be more important than the point in the long run — an injury-hide side shorn of their top goalscorer and running at 70% capacity managed to hold off one of the teams likely to be challenging in the top four this season through a combination of discipline, tenacity and sheer hard work, a far cry from a few months ago when Goodison was enveloped in despair.
Of course, there were some frustrating aspects like some of the decision-making at times by the forward three and Barkley’s relative anonymity will give Koeman something to work on with the England international in the coming weeks. But with the manager still looking to land more signings that could take his team to another level by the end of the window and so much evidence of the style of play he wants to bed in at Goodison, things are looking very promising for the season.
Everton's 2016-17 Premier League campaign kicks off with a tough assignment against last season's 3rd-place finishers at Goodison Park.
Ronald Koeman's first team selection for Everton is hampered by Coleman missing out with a knock, and Romelu Lukaku is also out with an ankle injury he picked up against Espanyol. No place for new signing Ashley Williams, who is way behind in pre-season preparation but Idrissa Gueye makes his debut for Everton.
Spurs kicked off but soon conceded a free-kick that stalled down the right as the early play was particularly scrappy. Barkley tried to advance to the byeline but Wanyama had the measure of him. Holgate in a back three called upon to clear decisively early on.
Wanyama took out Mirallas conceding a free-kick a fair way out that Barkley curled over everyone, it bounced almost in slow motion in fornt of the diving Lloris who totally missed it s the ball bounce up inside the post and the Park End net. Great start for Everton and Ross Barkley!
Spurs responded with some determined attacking and blocks were required, especially from Jagielka. Deulofeu got forward well and cut inside but rather scuffed his low shot at Loris.
Everton conceded possession for a spell but then moved the ball around nicely until the loose forward ball into the Spurs area. Blues were forced to indulge in some pass the parcel around the back to retain possession, Wanyama getting called for another clip on Mirallas, and another free-kick opportunity but this one well out, yet fired in brightly by Barkley and headed on well by Jagielka, forcing the save from Lloris.
Kane was penalized, perhaps unjustly, for a strong shoulder-barge that sent Funes Mori flying, and once again, Everton stoked the ball around nicely, a tremendous cross in from Baines that Barkley got underneath rather, under some defensive pressure.
Spurs persisted in driving down the middle but the Blues were defending well, and denying them space, with Holgate looking very good. Deulofeu got loose and played the ball forward for Mirallas, both down the right, but his low shot was straight at Lloris when more invention was required on the shot.
The standard of football overall was already an order of magnitude better than the garbage Martinez had served up for the understandably critical Goodison crowd, with far better tempo and good defensive shape to keep Spurs in check.
More Spurs pressure but it was kept at distance, with Eriksen finally making a shooting at Skekelenburg. Some excellent distribution from Funes Mori almost put Lloris in trouble with Deulofeu prowling, and then picked out Barkley well on the edge of the area. /p>
Spurs tried to get the ball forward earlier and almost caught the Blues out but Gueye was alert to the danger. Deulofeu got a chance to run at the Spurs defence but was both indecisive and selfish, missing a ball to Barkley. He did better on the next attack but it was Barkley's touch that was too heavy.
Michel Vorm was a surprise change, the Spurs keeper Lloris coming off at 35 mins, with a hamstring problem.
Alli ran at Jagielka but it was like running at a brick wall, such was the control of the Everton skipper. Mirallas then did well to steal the ball and retain possession through Stekelenburg, with Holgate pumping a great ball forward down the right.
The pace slackened somewhat ahead of half-time, Spurs playing the game at walking pace, the Blues forming an organized defence in front of them. Deulofeu again had a chance to run at Spurs but could not beat Dier.
Deulofeu got one on a plate when he anticipated a poor backpass but his execution was nowhere near smart enough, giving Vorm the opportunity to block it away. It ended an excellent half from Everton nevertheless.
Spurs edged possession in the first half ans that's how things continued as they game resumed but Everton were still too strong for them in defence and Barkely was able to break strongly, feeding Deulofeu who could not beat Dier but won the first of three corners that were delivered well by Mirallas.
McCarthy fed Deulofeu with good movement but again his run in was thwarted too easily. He then took a poke from the edge of the area that Vorm collected easily, when a pass would have been the better choice.
Spurs second switch was surprisingly the excellent Dier, scarified for another striker, Janssen. It led to a better play from Spurs, and a setup for Alli who fired high and wide. At the other end, Mirallas tried a snapshot onto the top corner that had the power taken out of it via a deflection, allowing Vorm to save with ease.
But a superb cross in from Walker, a fine header from Lamela and Spurs were level. So much for all that good defensive structure and discipline. So much for all those chances squandered by Deulofeu.
Spurs looked much brighter and full of energy., as the Blues struggled to restrain them. But Deulofeu did feed a nice ball to Mirallas on the run but the Belgian could not dig out the shot. No-ne on the bench who could do much different for Everton, as Koeman looked on impassively, with Spurs threatening to turn the Blues over.
Barry looked to release Deulofeu but he had strayed offside, and was visibly starting to fade after 65 mins, finding himself offside again. Time for Arouna Kone, perhaps? Yes, the change was made on 68 minutes.
Gueye was far too easily disposed in the middle but it was mopped up. However, the game was being played almost entirely in the Everton half, Janssen winning a corner headed away well by Barkley. Back came Spurs but Gueye did well to break up play and set Kone free, then get into the Spurs box for the return ball. Funes Mori tried his shooting skills from some distance, drifting wide with Vorm scrambling.
The Blues won a free-kick similar to Barkely's scoring one, but his execution this time was poor, unable to clear the first lone defender. The 70% fitness comment seemed to be all too accurate, as Lennon replaced Mirallas, who had sadly produced no end-product to speak of despite putting in some effort.
Everton had seemingly weathered Spurs' peak post-goal impetus and now set about holding on for the draw. They almost gave one up off a Spurs corner, Stekelenburg producing a magnificent point-blank save off Janssen. But it was all Spurs pressure into the final 10 minutes, Barry upending Rose dangerously on the edge of the Everton penalty box. Eriksen curled it well enough but just over Stekelenburg and over the bar.
Lamela got free doen the right and a supeb block defelced it, nmaking the save by Stek extremely difficult as he pushed oit up onto the bar and away. But pressure from corners was intense, as Koeman made the final change: Cleverley on for Barry.
Kone did well to release Barkley but he almost stopped and crossed a lame ball before going down with cramp. All hands at the back as Spurs kept coming forward, and another corner to defend, headed away by Barkley.
Into 3 minutes of added time, and the Blues able to play some possession football to relieve the pressure, and play down the clock, clinging to a vital point that should really have been three with better finishing from some good opportunities. But most will be happy that Spurs did not win this one.
Holgate, Jagielka, Funes Mori;
McCarthy, Gueye, Barry (84' Cleverley), Baines;
Deulofeu (68' Kone), Mirallas (77' Lennon).
Subs not used: Robles, Galloway, Davies, Oviedo.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (35' Vorm), Rose, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Walker, Wanyama, Lamela, Eriksen, Dier (56' Janssen), Dele Alli, Kane
Subs not Used: Mason, Onomah, Winks, Davies, Carter-Vickers.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
From My Seat: Tottenham Hotspur (H)At last our season starts and the Room of Nonsense is soon abuzz as matchday friends meet up and discuss the goings on of the close season. The majority of opinion is: let us let the dust settle and see how the squad looks after August 31st and how we are shaping up by Christmas. Appointing a new manager is always somewhat of a gamble but it would have been an even bigger gamble not to... It seems to be a three-year project so making the first observation of any discernible sense of the direction we are headed is best left to the first check mark of Christmas and then how we are looking during the run in.
The Stones transfer was on the agenda and the popular thought was that he had not been playing for us since he put his transfer request in and had it turned down; also, he did not seem to relish receiving advice on defending from the Park End.
Friday night games were discussed and mixed views on those. Crystal Palace (H) is our first one so a reminder to you to beware of flying roof slates in Goodison Road. It seems to be always windy when we play them at home.
It was how we would line up and start the season that was uppermost in most conversations; if we had formed a selection committee, it would have been chaos as so many permutations were put forward. We had to wait for official confirmation of the starting eleven and subs and believe me, you didn’t need a clock or watch to know 2:00pm was almost upon us as heads went down to palm of hands in eager anticipation of our team being electronically transmitted to those hand-held appliances that would tell all. At first glance, it was noted no Lukaku or Coleman, which was a blow, but most agreed the line-up was the best we could muster; so, until reinforcements can be acquired, we go with what we have got.
The walk up was carried out in good spirits with a warm glow both inside and out. On reaching Goodison Road, the familiar outlets were all back and thriving: the Fat Van heaving but still no bacon; Blue Dragon had a queue. A quick glance at the stadium and work is progressing with the facelift, as indeed it is inside the stadium, the walls were that white, sunglasses should be provided.
We all had our new season ticket cards and determined what picture was on the back. They also had new card readers and apparently these were malfunctioning and queues quickly built up. Still into the ground and Z-Cars rang out. For the players’ handshake, new music accompaniment this season and to me it was more suited to a funeral than a footy match. Each player got a grand ovation as his name was called; then the new way of kicking off was demonstrated by Spurs.
From the off, we looked to be at it and last season’s 3rd-placed team was being pressed, harried and bullied. "How long they can keep this up?" I mused. Within five minutes, Mirallas was making ground at pace and was impeded by Wanyama; our Ref, Mr Atkinson, awarded a free-kick outside the area on the Bullens Road side. Barkley delivered a cross that had players rushing toward the goal but it just floated on and into the net and goal. It was such a goal that there was a split second between ball hitting our brand new white net and the roar. (White nets are better than those dark blue ones!)
No sitting back after the goal as we continued our pressing game and, with just a further 10 minutes passed, we almost had the second. Wanyama felled Mirallas once again. It was further out but Jagielka got his head to it and looped the ball goalwards but the Spurs keeper turned the ball over the bar. Our new man, Idrissa Gueye, was catching the eye more and more with his seemingly tireless chasing, harrying and tackling and, along with Barry, Spurs were not getting things their way. Walker did on a couple of occasions give us a glance at what damage he could do with speedy marauding runs but Baines coped rather well again with some help from Barry and Gueye. When a Spurs man did get through and threaten, Jags was strong and resolute and blocked his run, well-timed tackle that.
During the odd Spurs breaks, it was fascinating to observe our back line as it seemed to go from a flat back four to a three or even a two-and-two as the type of threat evolved. The half moved on with Everton causing the most trouble but Spurs needed marshalling on the break. They had one good effort but our man Stekelenburg handled well. Mirallas and Deulofeu were always a thorn in their side and some speedy movement was getting them where Spurs did not want them to get and a Mirallas shot had to be turned around by the keeper. Toward the end of the half, the Spurs keeper Lloris had to go off with what looked like a hammy and be replaced by Vorm.
As the half was almost done, a poor backpass by a Spurs defender had Deulofeu pounce and go in on goal one-on-one with the stand-in keeper who came to narrow the angle but Deulofeu, who had time on his hands to try to move away to create an angle, chose to shoot but straight at the keeper who blocked his effort away. "Oh, we could have done with that." I thought as the half shortly ended.
The half-time chat was almost exclusively regarding the difference in philosophies between the Dutch man and the Spaniard. People were liking what they were seeing but were agreed we are a long way from the team he wants to build — but a start is being made.
Second half and it was to be quite different to the first. Spurs straight out of the blocks probably with sharp words ringing in their ears. We were being pushed back but that desire to work, tackle and press was still there and a breakaway was sought whenever possible. The Spurs manager had seen enough and on the hour mark our ex-player, Dier, was replaced by new signing Janssen. He started in bullish mood and looked for a healthy tackle whenever he could. He cut one back for the nark Dele Alli to entertain the crowd by skiing it rather high.
In Spurs' next attack, though, disaster struck for the Blues when Walker made one of his runs, Baines didn’t get close enough to him, and he was able to flash the ball across the 6-yard box; Lamela got in front of Holgate and directed a header expertly into the corner of that white net. "Damn and blast" came to mind! This took the wind out of our sails somewhat and we were getting a little ragged but great effort was put into trying to keep pressing and tackling and trying to fashion breaks but it was at this point you understood our manager's comment that the players are only 70% fit enough for his tactics. Where Barry, Gueye & McCarthy had been tireless and determined, the load was taking its toll and Spurs were now with the upper hand.
Where last season, we probably would have folded, our players soldiered on and our new keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, took centre-stage with two huge saves. Spurs were gaining corners and from two of these he made excellent saves. First, a close-range shot from Janssen was blocked by his body; from the scramble ,the ball went up in the air and he was up and after it and palmed it away. He then showed excellent reactions when an incoming missile was diverted over the bar.
We were under the cosh and, with some extremely tired players, our manager lent a hand by making subs that would help. First, on 70 mins, Deulofeu was replaced by Kone (not the Sunderland one); then on 75 mins Lennon replaced Mirallas, and finally on 85 mins Cleverley replaced Barry.
The subs were of value as they helped the duo of McCarthy and Gueye do their best to stem the Spurs tide; even though those these two were on their last legs, they dug in and helped see out the game with three added minutes. Just after our last substitution, Barkley was seen lying on the ground but, after a word with Mr Atkinson who was enquiring after his health, he got up and carried on. Whistle went, we all cheered and people were leaving the stadium with smiles on their faces as bright as the L4 sun.
MotM: Jagielka. A rock from start to finish and didn’t flag.
A good day out and a game that left this fan quite optimistic that an upturn in fortunes is a possibility with this new manager.
Of our new signings on view, Gueye was a bundle of energy and showed terrier-like tendencies. He was a little like Bracewell, who earned the nickname ‘dog shit’ because he was everywhere, and so was Gueye today. With a few games under his belt, I can see him becoming a firm favourite with the faithful.
Stekelenburg had a tidy debut. His kicking with either foot was fine; he came and caught crosses; and when required showed excellent reflexes. It was said that Joe Hart’s agent was at Goodison today so, if any truth in that and something happened, the England man would have to earn his place on today's form.
The walk back to our watering hole was pleasant today as most seemed happy and thought we could progress. I sincerely hope so.
WBA next. Hope Lukaku is fit. See you there...
UP THE BLUES
Goodison Park is BACK!Friday was fervent in the office with that new season buzz. Everyone telling you about their fantasy team, everyone all of a sudden an expert on how the league will pan out. These 'experts' being the same who told me there was "no way" Ronald Koeman would leave Southampton to join Everton. Yes, many of these 'experts' are Reds.
I happened to be heading over to the game pretty early, and it was just as well I did, as I was able to catch up with a mate from the South who was up with a couple of his Tottenham Hotspur chums. They were having a few jars in The Winslow Hotel so I joined them for a couple before heading to the more regular surroundings of The Brick to catch up with Gary, Ste and Sue whilst watching the Champions, Leicester City, begin the defence of their crown with a surprising defeat to seemingly relegation doomed Hull City. What a turn up for the books that was!
We got the team news in the pub, which included six changes from the team which finished last season versus Norwich City, two of which are new signings in goalkeeper Maarten Steklenburg and midfielder Idrissa Gueye. Mason Holgate debuted in a three-man central defence alongside Ramiro Funes Mori and captain Phil Jagielka with James McCarthy featuring at right wing-back. Gareth Barry joined Idrissa Gueye in the midfield with Ross Barkley, whilst with Romelu Lukaku injured with a cut to the heel, Kevin Mirallas played just off Gerard Deulofeu in a somewhat untested attack. Tottenham Hotspur featured England quintet Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. They possess quality throughout in Hugo Lloris, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Victor Wanyama and you knew that, with Tottenham's physical nature and high tempo game plan, we were to have our work cut out, especially with Martin Atkinson officiating.
We left the pub at the usual time (about 2:45pm) and if this is what it is to be like all season, we'll be making our way to the ground a shade earlier. The queues outside the Lower Gwladys were long. The game was a sell-out which didn't help, and as we got closer to the front we realised Everton had changed the ticket reading software which was causing a few issues, not least for myself when my card simply wouldn't work. The gentleman behind me, seemingly disbelieving of my ability to place a card on a scanning device, snatched my card from me to try doing it himself though it still didn't work of course. Eventually a steward came along and let me in, taking my card off me. It was all so Everton. We eventually sat down a few minutes into the game.
Everton had settled into the game nicely by this point and with Everton now pressing much more than in our previous few seasons the crowd were visibly and audibly more up for the game, especially once the ground erupted when Ross Barkley's free kick missed everybody and nestled into the net past the outstretched arm of Hogo Lloris. A great start by Everton.
The three centre-back partnership was emptying everything Tottenham threw at them with all three centre-backs emerging from the first half with credit. The whole team did in fact, everybody doing their jobs from the back to the front and on another day we would have been further ahead at the break with Phil Jagielka, Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu all thwarted by Hugo Lloris or his replacement Michel Vorm. It was a fantastic first-half effort and we were good value for our half-time lead.
I spent most of the break catching up with some of the guys around us where we sit and before you knew it the second half was upon us. If ever you wanted to see the proverbial game of two halves this was it as Tottenham threw the proverbial kitchen sink at us after the break; despite our first half dominance, we were perhaps lucky to escape with a hard-earned draw.
The visitors equalised when Eric Lamella got in front of young centre back Mason Holgate to head past Maarten Stekelenburg on the hour mark. The defending was a little slack from our promising young defender, though I felt the efforts to the stop the cross from our more experienced duo of Leighton Baines and Gareth Barry could have been much better.
Tottenham gained momentum from this and, if not for two outstanding saves from our impressive new goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, we might have been licking our wounds from a punishing defeat. It's hard to tell which of the two saves was the more impressive. The experienced Dutchman showed great reactions to get down and stop Vincent Janssen's close range prod at goal, and then got up sharply to punch the ball out atop the resulting melee. His second save late in the game was equally smart when Eric Lamella's drive deflected massively off Mason Holgate. Stekelenburg again showed great reflexes to re-adjust and pop the ball over the crossbar.
Whilst the game was a real challenge and the result was one we would have taken prior to kick off, the mood was very positive after the game as we sunk a few beers in the city centre. We have to accept that the season is going to be a learning curve as we adapt from one style to the next and get the players fitness up to scratch.
We'll have to show patience along the way, though our newer style is making Goodison Park feel more like home again. I'm already grateful for that.
Maarten Stekelenburg: After the goalkeeper problems we had last season, it's great to have a goalkeeper who knows what he's doing. He comes for crosses and keeps hold of things well, and his two late saves literally won us a point. If he can stay at this standard, I'll be more than happy with him for a couple of years. My Man of the Match. 8
Funes Mori: Stuck to his task at the back well. 7
Phil Jagielka: Marshalled the back line well, particularly in the first half. 7
Mason Holgate: Though he was at fault for the goal, I was impressed with his defending and reading of the game. 7
Leighton Baines: He looked to me like he was perhaps carrying a knock as he struggled through the game, I thought. Maybe he isn't quite accustomed enough to the wing-back role? Regardless, the game was a struggle for Leighton, and he might perhaps feel a little culpable for the goal with his failure to stop the cross. 5
James McCarthy: Coped very well in a rather unfamiliar position. It will be interesting to see if he makes it into the middle once Seamus Coleman returns. 7
Gareth Barry: Nice to see him retained and he did pretty well breaking up play in the middle. 6
Idrissa Gueye: A very impressive debut from Idrissa, especially in the first half. He makes a lot of tackles and interceptions and keeps things simple. Dare I say it, he reminds me a little of Lucas at Liverpool. Looks like we've got a good player on our hands there. 7
Ross Barkley: Had a very good first half but showed frustrating moments of carelessness with the ball in the second half. Nice to see him start the season with a goal again (the third time he's done that!) and let's hope for a strong campaign from Ross. 6
Kevin Mirallas: Worked hard for the team and seems quite suited to the role up front. I predict a good season from Kevin. 7
Gerard Deulofeu: Did well first half but tired in the second and subbed before 70 minutes. It's not his most effective position up there, but he was required given our resources. 6
Arouna Kone (for Gerard Deulofeu): When the ball comes to him, he's pretty good at retaining it and keeping possession, but this is countered by lack of attention and not doing the basics right at times. Your manager shouldn't be having to tell you to show yourself for a corner, for example. We need another striker, two even if Romelu Lukaku exits. If Kone is to stay, he should only be third choice striker in my opinion. 5
Aaron Lennon (for Kevin Mirallas): He was lively but our team was drained once he entered play so his efforts weren't ultimately effective. 6
Tom Cleverley (for Gareth Barry): Got involved. 6
For one reason or another — often financial — it's been rare that Everton have gone into a new season feeling fully prepared and, once again, the Blues approach a kick-off to the campaign with a degree of apprehension in the air.
Where the team has looked “under cooked” in previous seasons because of World Cup hangovers or just generally disjointed pre-season programmes under Roberto Martinez, this time the club is behind schedule due to the managerial changes that have seen Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh come in to replace the Catalan's failed regime, and what the new boss blames on a late start to pre-season.
Koeman hasn't been reticent when it comes to highlighting the shortfall in fitness of his new charges and even bringing forward the start of pre-season training hasn't provided him with enough time to address what was a noticeable problem under his predecessor last season.
And even though he was earmarked early, Koeman wasn't unveiled as the new Everton gaffer until mid-June, while Walsh's appointment wasn't confirmed until five weeks later. So there has been a lag when it comes to putting squad-building plans in place once the Dutchman had had a chance to fully assess what he inherited in terms of players.
Koeman's latest comments suggest, however, that he had expected to have landed more signings than the three he has managed to date, the club having pursued their targets but becoming frustrated in their attempts to get deals over the line.
The upshot is that Everton won't begin 2016-17 or their challenging assignment against what was an impressive Tottenham Hotspur outfit last term in as strong a position as anyone at the club would have hoped. Fitness doubts over Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku, two players without equal in their respective roles among the current Everton squad, and the fact that new defensive acquisition, Ashley Williams, won't be ready have further complicated the situation.
Still, as ToffeeWeb's more in-depth preview of the new season concludes, even if he begins his first season at Goodison in less-than-ideal circumstances, Koeman still has plenty of talent to work with. The club's sequence of warm-up games in which they failed to win any of their last four friendlies may have thrown up concerns that the old habits of the Martinez era will die hard but they are inherently poor indicators of how things will go when the real business gets underway this weekend.
While much of the side will pick itself, two factors will be important in determining how Koeman sets his side up tomorrow. Firstly, whether he opts for a back three or a more conventional flat back four; and, secondly, whether Lukaku will have recovered sufficiently from the gash he sustained to his heel in last weekend's friendly against Espanyol to start.
Ordinarily, Williams's unavailability would surely make a back four, with Phil Jagielka, fit again following a hamstring injury, lining up alongside Ramiro Funes Mori, the most likely solution. If Coleman misses out, however, Koeman could be looking at a choice between two inexperienced players — either Mason Holgate in a three-man unit or Tom Davies as an emergency fullback.
Lukaku's availability will be an equally important factor in how the Blues line up from an attacking standpoint. The Belgian is expected to play, which should pave the way for Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu to play alongside him as the wide attackers in front of Ross Barkley, Gareth Barry and expected debutant Idrissa Gueye.
If Lukaku can't play, then it would seem, based on his pre-season form, that Deulofeu would be best deployed in the No 9 role where his pace and mobility can be used to unsettle Spurs' back line, with Mirallas and Barkley pushing on in supporting roles.
Like Everton, Tottenham have been relatively quiet in the transfer market this summer but making targeted additions up front, in the form of Vincent Janssen and in midfield with the purchase of Victor Wanyama from Koeman's old club, Southampton. Mauricio Pochettino is no stranger to playing with two strikers and, with Moussa Dembele suspended, both of those two new signings could make their debuts tomorrow.
Overall, the Argentine may feel that the most pressing area of concern in his squad after last season is psychology, with Spurs having looked at one point as though they might be able to pip Leicester to the title before they faded badly at the last and dropped to third on the final day of the campaign. Certainly, Tottenham looked formidable in many respects last term and until that final-day hammering at the hands of Newcastle, they had the best record away from home in the top flight.
That will make for a stern test as Koeman makes his Goodison bow but the optimism of a new season coupled with a raucously expectant crowd and the unpredictability of opening-day fixtures could stand Everton in good stead. It goes without saying that a victory to kick off the new campaign over a top-four contender would transform the mood among Evertonians, particularly with the promise of more signings to come before the deadline.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Last Season: Everton 1 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur
Predicted Line-up: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, Gueye, Barkley, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Lukaku