Everton 1 - 0 Stoke City
If the wisdom of Everton re-signing Wayne Rooney from Manchester United wasn’t universally accepted, the 31-year-old’s display over two legs in the Europa League tie with Ružomberok seemed to confirm the fears of the doubters that it wasn’t so much the Prodigal Son who had returned but the Prodigal Pensioner.
Rooney wasn’t alone in performing beneath himself on the European stage over the past few of weeks — the team as a whole were alarmingly disappointing against the Slovakian side — and if his contribution to this afternoon’s important Premier League opener is any indication of the season to come, then Messers Koeman and Walsh (and Kenwright, too, no doubt) will have been wholly vindicated in the decision to bring the Boyhood Blue home.
Rooney will have grabbed the headlines by scoring the winner against Stoke but it was the manner in which he dictated much of this contest, particularly in the second half, that was so pleasing to the Goodison faithful. Playing metronome to a side that had visibly settled once the manager had dispensed with a lopsided and, frankly, questionable formation, the Croxteth-born forward ran the show for Everton, spraying balls around at one end and chipping in with vital defensive interventions from set-pieces at the other.
His celebration following the only goal in first-half stoppage time was also a wondrous sight; the joy of scoring for Everton has not been diminished by 13 years away in Manchester with United.
That strike, a composed header back across Jack Butland from Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s sumptuous cross at the end of the best move of the match, was also the highlight of an otherwise abysmal first period. With Koeman determined to find a way of playing a three-man central defensive unit, Calvert-Lewin was deployed in an advanced wingback role, one that saw Idrissa Gueye occasionally dropping off to the touchline to cover his advances forward.
It was a role to which the young striker looked wholly unsuited and, thankfully, he was relieved of it for the second half when Cuco Martina came on in place of Ashley Williams and Koeman reverted to a more conventional back four.
Prior to that and the goal it was mind-numbing fare. Everton had almost no penetration for the first 12 minutes at which point the industrious Sandro found himself with space in front him but dragged a shot well wide of goal.
Good work by Gueye, again one of the standout performers for the Blues, then provided him with a shooting opportunity but it merely forced a routine save from the goalkeeper while his next effort following a corner bounced off target.
Overall, the tactics were puzzling, with a succession of floated balls to the flank aimed at Calvert-Lewin more often that not missing their target. Even the set-pieces were odd; Rooney and Sandro insisted on taking corners short, depriving the team of strikers to pick up the pieces in the box.
Stoke, looking every inch a Potters side with plenty of height sprinkled with flashes of limited end product from the likes of Bojan Krkic and Xerdan Shaqiri, offered even less threat in the first half. The former was the only one to remotely threaten Jordan Pickford’s goal when his attempted cross flew narrowly over his crossbar.
The visitors had a brief flurry immediately after the restart but Everton soon established control of proceedings and Calvert-Lewin, now playing up top in a three, had two chances to double the lead. First, he ignored the better placed Sandro and saw his eventual shot blocked; then, he seized on a slip by the otherwise impressive Kurt Zouma but was foiled at the near post by Butland.
In between, Stoke went close when Darren Fletcher arrowed a shot from the edge of the box that flashed just wide but for the most part Hughes’s attack was well marshalled by the unflappable Michael Keane alongside the typically solid Phil Jagielka.
Morgan Schneiderlin may have had another off day to go with those iffy evenings in the Europa League and Davy Klaassen struggled to make an impact (his role in the goal where he drew defenders away to leave Rooney unmarked might get overlooked) but Gueye was excellent. And Tom Davies, the unfortunate one to drop to the bench, showed how difficult Koeman’s midfield team selection will be when he came on for Klaassen after an hour to put in another accomplished display.
Despite their hugely improved second-half showing, Everton were still forced to endure a somewhat nervy last 10 minutes as Hughes threw on Peter Crouch and Stoke lumped more and more balls into the home area hoping for something to fall their way.
It was from the more cultured foot of Shaqiri that they almost grabbed a point at the death. The Swiss picked the ball up in central midfield following a corner, advanced into space outside the box and unloaded from 25 yards with a shot that was searching out the far corner.
Pickford, whose only real involvement up to that point had been to display some pleasing command of his area with decisive decision-making and action, was equal to it, however, diving to his left to turn the ball behind his post. It was a match-winning save from the young England U21 ’keeper and the first return on the massive transfer fee that brought him to Merseyside from Sunderland.
Overall, while there was plenty to ponder from that first half, it was encouraging that the Blues grew stronger after the break and that Rooney was spurred on by his goal to employ all of his experience and savvy to help control the contest after half-time.
Koeman acknowledged afterwards that the wingback idea hadn’t worked as he had expected while also admitting that his team needs to improve significantly if it is to achieve its aims this season.
He and Steve Walsh will also have to keep busy into the deadline finding recruits to fill the obvious gaps in the team, not least another seasoned striker who can hold the ball up and provide a physical presence up front. That, another creative outlet, an end to the Gylfi Sigurdsson saga and the defensive addition he is looking to sign and Everton should be in fine fettle for the rest of the season.
Reader Comments (45)
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1 Posted 13/08/2017 at 07:39:22
Slags to Koeman for the off-balance alignment he put out, but kudos to him for recognizing the problem and fixing it at halftime. Clearly the best setup for now is a front two of Calvert-Lewin and Sandro with Rooney just behind in the #10 slot and four in the back.
Not sure what to do about the midfield conundrum... Klaassen is still adjusting to life in the Prem and not looking up from the ball yet, and Davies was an improvement when he came on but made a crucial error to give Shaqiri space for the shot Pickford saved. Who plays? Who sits? Personally, I hope the answer to the first question is Lookman.
And I am genuinely thrilled by our keeper, whom I think gets underplayed a bit in this account -- he came out aggressively and got every ball he came for, sometimes against the odds against bigger players. And his distribution is simply outstanding. We've got a permanent keeper for sure.
2 Posted 13/08/2017 at 08:10:11
Keane and Pickford are fantastic signings for us desperately needed and are more than meeting expectations. They both are top quality. Calvert-Lewin worked hard and will have an important season .
The imminent arrival of Sigurdsson and possibly two others will sharpen the competition for places and sharpen the minds of those chosen to play. Also it will enable some rotation and retention of freshness throughout a busy season.
Sigurdsson apart, If the other twp signings are top quality we have a real chance of success this season. I can feel an energy coming back to Everton for the first time in a long time.
3 Posted 13/08/2017 at 08:49:19
This kid, played out of position, was getting some serious stick on the Live Forum during the first half and not for the first time. I'd like to know what his detractors find so objectionable about him.
He's a young lad learning his trade. He's quick, hardworking and skilful. He's not a right-wingbackor winger but he puts in a shift wherever he's told to play and yet still gets constant stick on here by a small group.
This kid, imo, is going to be a class act. He's like a young Sharpey or a raw Harry Kane. I know some ToffeeWebbers love to have a player to pick on e.g. Hibbo, Ossie, Rom, Ross etc . Now it seems to be Calvert-Lewin is an easy target but give the boy a chance.
4 Posted 13/08/2017 at 09:18:55
Calvert Lewin is one of these kids who will play anywhere he is asked. I listened to some people giving him a hard time yesterday, it was just plain unfair. Question the wisdom of playing him there by all means (although he did provide the assist for the winner) but don't hammer the boy if he is not top of his game when he's playing out of position.
Rhino swears by this lad and Koeman's determination to shoehorn him in would suggest he too sees a lot to like.
Another taking stick was Klaassen. He doesn't look the strongest, or the fastest, but you don't need to be Usain Bolt, the ball moves faster than any player, he has a quick brain and wants to play first-time passes in a team were intelligent movement and fluidity has been lacking. We need to get everyone switched on to moving the ball faster.
I had real concerns about Pickford. I knew he was capable of making great saves, I've seen him make enough, but I wanted to see how he would be when called upon after a relatively quiet game. What a save that was in the closing minutes. I thought it was good when I saw it the first time, but having seen it again this morning from behind the shot, I now think it was a brilliant one.
Negatives? Once again, the tactics and the selections were absolutely lamentable. The back 3/4 (or was it 5?) clearly didn't know who was expected to do what... and this obligatory two-man insurance policy sitting in front of the back four does my head in... against Stoke at home?
I don't see how a manager should ever be praised for putting right want he got so terribly wrong in the first place.
5 Posted 13/08/2017 at 09:22:48
Well done, young Wayne it was brill to see him show the vision and spray the ball about. It's a shame we may never see what him and Ross could have been like together, but hey football is a funny old game.
6 Posted 13/08/2017 at 09:33:53
7 Posted 13/08/2017 at 09:38:14
IMO we have goals all over this team. We need to be creating more chances. And in this respect the arrival of Sigurdsson can't come too soon. And as Lyndon said, a few other signings and we'll be ready to go.
8 Posted 13/08/2017 at 09:43:12
9 Posted 13/08/2017 at 10:00:38
The only thing (and this is not negative criticism) is decision making on 2 occasions in the 2nd half; had he squared or pulled back quicker, it would have been 2 - 0 without doubt. I understand the striker instinct but could have cost us. This will come with age and experience.
10 Posted 13/08/2017 at 10:01:35
I'd also like to offer some defence for Klaassen against the stick he's getting here on TW. I agree he's looked pretty poor so far and he could be a waste of money but he's got to be given time to adjust. I think it may be better to use him from the bench for a few games let's give him a fair chance.
11 Posted 13/08/2017 at 10:05:57
12 Posted 13/08/2017 at 10:42:37
Koeman messed up big time at first, but at least he's got that silly formation out of the way before the harder games come.
The big questions to come will be: will he leave Klaassen on the bench until he settles in the Premier League?
If and when we get Sigurdsson who will sit behind the striker or strikers, him or Rooney?
Is Calvert-Lewin our target man?
And lastly... Jags or Williams?
13 Posted 13/08/2017 at 11:03:03
Kenny Keane Williams Baines
Klaassen Rooney Mirallas
Subs: Schneiderlin, Besic, Jagielka, Martina, Stekelenburg, Lookman, Sandro
When Sigurdsson joins, he should replace Davies next to Gana, with Davies, Klaassen, Mirallas, Bolasie (when fit) and Lookman fighting for the 2 attacking MF slots next to Rooney. Calvert-Lewin should be supported by an experienced Premier League Centre-Forward Giroud would have been ideal, but Benteke is a very decent option IMO. Rooney will need to be managed carefully so that he does not burn himself out. I feel that this is going to be a long season (which is a good thing) and we need our key players to be used intelligently.
14 Posted 13/08/2017 at 11:18:44
I've no issues at all with new signings performances; Like Daey I've just moved to a new job in a new country, I'm competent and willing, but I need to learn a new culture, get a feel how the place works and build my confidence... I'm being paid well and know I'm not performing at my peak... I feel bad enough so have no idea how he feels with 40,000 fans judging plus keyboard managers on his case; one game, and Stoke at that!
Hats off to Ron for putting his hands up, its early days and we all know we need 2 or 3 new signings; lets get behind the team, get through this tough run and come out fighting together. We're a work in progress and the feel good factor is great after years in the dark.
15 Posted 13/08/2017 at 11:24:39
Darren, I also like Klaassen, and think he will become a very good Everton player, but sometimes first time football, is not always the answer, even though when it's played right, there can be no answer to it!
First half was as bad as the worst of both Roberto, and Walter, and I would have to question why a man as experienced as Koeman, could come up with such an ill thought out formation, because it was absolute putrid, and had me fearing the worst for our team.
I'm glad you brought up Rooney's celebration Lyndon, because although I'm sure most of us have called him a little scouse bastard, or much worse, his eyes when he looked up to the park end, after his initial celebration, showed me that Everton has never left him?
First of many hopefully, but I've got a feeling he'll be setting more up than scoring, if Koeman, can just go and finish this major rebuilding of our team!
16 Posted 13/08/2017 at 12:28:39
19 Posted 13/08/2017 at 13:09:26
Slightly worried by Klaassen but much more concerned by Schneiderlin (will admit to never being his greatest fan and being a bit bemused by the praise heaped on him last season) as I can't see him offering anything to the team. Other than negativity and slowing everything down
20 Posted 13/08/2017 at 13:14:11
21 Posted 13/08/2017 at 13:44:43
Baines seems bemused by everything.
Can Jags and Williams get up to speed.
How will Coleman perform with everything in front of him changed.
And will Barkley sort out his differences. And get onboard the "project ".
We have been bedding in players since the Martinez era. Some are still bedding in. And now its Koeman turn.
And will Koeman stick to a settled side? I have my doubts. As he strikes me as a manager that has to always be making changes. Show who's boss. Some strange decisions. And mostly not to the benefit of Everton.
I suspect that next season , we will still be talking about having to bed players in.
22 Posted 13/08/2017 at 15:17:15
Schneiderlin or Barry? Schneiderlin has been poor, what does he do to affect the outcome of game? Barry is slow in movement but hasn't this always been the case? He has the best football brain in the club and can see a pass.
Answer: Barry all day long.
What to do about the total lack of creativity?
Answer: Sign Sigursson and swap Barkley for Ramsey.
What to do about the lack of a goal threat?
Answer: Sign Group or break the bank and sign Vardy.
23 Posted 13/08/2017 at 15:42:32
I too agree, that the team isn't up to speed and, more time will be needed in order for the new players to find their feet. That said, I have been pleasantly surprised by: Pickford, Keane and Rooney. As for Calvert-Lewin, I've no doubt he has the ability to be a top player even though he's still a little raw and finding his feet, so I think people need to be more patient.
The only addition I'm unsure about is Klaassen; but, again, surely it's too early to make a proper assessment.
24 Posted 13/08/2017 at 16:28:15
If those first ten were like the next 35, then some of my ire is waned. But my 36th minute of viewing was a pure delight. Great build up, superb cross and what a header! To sing his name out again after all this time was just brilliant.
Rooney ran the show in the second half.
Not a great performance by any standards yet again, we looked rusty but 3 points is a good start.
Now get Gylfi, Hoedt and a goalscorer in and we may just worry those touted to end up above us.
Oh and StubHub can fuck right off.
25 Posted 13/08/2017 at 16:36:36
26 Posted 13/08/2017 at 16:58:02
Geoff #22, disagree on Jags. Yes, his distribution is poor. It's been poor for ten years. But he's still immense at the back. Was immense yesterday at some key moments.
I also want to say a word about Baines. I went purple yesterday reading some of the Forum comments that he's "finished" and "done" etc... I wonder if those moppets were choking on their suds a little at the way he played. All over the field, making tackles, knocking Crouch off a header who's a foot taller, and getting the ball to Klaassen and Rooney when and where they wanted it. "Finished" my dog's ass... he's still top quality in my book.
27 Posted 13/08/2017 at 16:59:31
Well I can dream can't I?
28 Posted 13/08/2017 at 17:08:19
Geoff (#22): "what does he do to affect the outcome of game?"
According to the official Premier League stats, Schneiderlin had four tackles, SIX interceptions and seven recoveries yesterday. That is one absolutely fecking brilliant defensive game. It would take Barry five full games to match those numbers at this point in his career.
Yes, Morgan's been really poor passing the ball so far, but he'll get back to last season's form. But you asked how he affects the outcome? Same way Gana does. Winning the midfield.
29 Posted 13/08/2017 at 17:10:24
All of course depending on the fixtures not changing and being able to get tickets... could be the run-in to our league win after all. Up for it?
(Just watched Lukaku's 2nd for Man Utd.)
30 Posted 13/08/2017 at 17:12:48
31 Posted 13/08/2017 at 17:22:35
32 Posted 13/08/2017 at 20:06:07
33 Posted 13/08/2017 at 21:35:06
He is still a class above most players and given a free roll in the team will prove the doubters wrong. Let him go wherever he wants to on the pitch, he has the skills to make something happen no matter where he plays.
34 Posted 13/08/2017 at 22:02:17
Playing ridiculously out of position yesterday in the first half, he still delivered. Very like the young Sharp. Keep the faith. It seems clear to me that he hasn't been loaned out because he can break through sooner rather than later.
35 Posted 13/08/2017 at 22:36:46
Playing in different positions may serve him well in developing other parts of his game, like taking on players and passing, but soon he will be pushing for a central role.
Kudos to Koeman for buying him, and trusting him. At £1 million this could turn out to be a Coleman-like steal.
36 Posted 13/08/2017 at 23:09:51
Negatives: Can wait until we don't win or someone scores against us.
37 Posted 13/08/2017 at 23:58:09
Sandro is so similar in terms of build so I hope he learns off the best English centre forward in the game since Shearer.
Rooney always is better when getting match time because he is lighter and leaner. He's close to that now for us. So, if he can stay injury-free, we have a 15 goal a season player in him.
38 Posted 14/08/2017 at 00:05:10
Also, can you learn that thing that makes great players great? I'm not so sure.
39 Posted 14/08/2017 at 00:33:27
On your first, I'm sad to say that to me Ross has never shown that he has an aptitude to learn. He's failed over five seasons to kick on from the mega-talent he sporadically showed when he was a teenager.
But never mind, he'll never have to work for a living after footy will he?
40 Posted 14/08/2017 at 00:53:18
41 Posted 14/08/2017 at 01:51:37
We saw what Rooney could do in the 2nd half. It's only guess work but I'm pretty sure if that was Ross in his position, in that game, after such a terrible first half, he would have gone missing as he had so many times in similar situations as he doesn't seem to possess the determination Wayne does.
It would be great if Ross signed a new contract and then learnt the 'know how' or 'missing element' from Rooney. Having said that as we know Ross is second to none in pure ability.
Unfortunately if Gylfi does sign, and with the players we already have, Barkley's Everton career definitely would be over. That's if it isn't already.
42 Posted 14/08/2017 at 01:56:10
43 Posted 14/08/2017 at 09:19:11
Baines may no longer have the legs to maraud to the byline but he is being used as a distributor from deep.
Our deepest players are at the back left and our most advanced players are at the front right.
Baines is the 'quarterback' with Jags providing the defensive cover and Calvert-Lewin becomes the point man.
44 Posted 14/08/2017 at 13:21:19
46 Posted 14/08/2017 at 13:41:34
Calvert-Lewin genuinely looks a prospect, Sandro is willing and may turn out to be a good finisher, at the moment he looks at the opposite end of the continuum to Lukaku. A willing , unselfish runner, but an iffy finisher.
Klaassen is my worry, he looks neat, but lightweight for this league. Rooney had a good game, not a great one, and the hyperbole was to be expected. We still need Barkley and Sandro's movement would help. I want to see Davies in, possibly on the right of a four man mid-field. Schneiderlin is a good reader of the game, but his distribution is restricted, do we need both him and Gueye?
Let's see how we go after a difficult group of opening fixtures.
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