When Oumar Niasse was signed for what was, at the time, a massive transfer fee of £13.5m for an untried prospect plying his trade in the comparatively remote environs of the Russian League, there was a justifiable fear among many Evertonians that he had been brought in to replace Romelu Lukaku.
After all, the Belgian had been making noises again about wanting away and while the club was clearly in need of back-up striking options, the Senegalese striker’s apparent pedigree and big price tag led to the inevitable speculation that his arrival was greasing the wheels for Lukaku’s departure.
In the following weeks and months, as the gangly 26-year-old made an embarrassingly ineffective start to life in England and was summarily written off by new manager Ronald Koeman, the notion that Niasse could realistically stand in for the Belgian was eminently laughable.
And yet, fast forward 13 months past Lukaku’s sale and Everton’s infamous failure to replace him by 31st August, the former cast-off finds himself with a second chance to prove that he can be some sort of answer to the gaping hole in the Blues’ forward line left by Manchester United’s new £90m man.
It may have been necessity — read: desperation? — on Koeman’s part combined with Niasse’s own professionalism, determination and commitment that brought Everton to this point but the events of the past few days have been quite the storybook narrative.
Ironically enough, for a player deemed not good enough even to merit a locker at Finch Farm with Everton’s U23s, Niasse could, if his heroic exploits against Bournemouth are any indication, end up saving the backsides of his manager and the club’s recruitment team at large this season.
He certainly helped bail Koeman out of another uncomfortable post-match inquest with a two-goal blast in the space of five minutes that turned this match on its head and delivered three points that seemed unlikely before he entered the fray in place of Wayne Rooney 10 minutes into the second half.
Wednesday’s League Cup win over Sunderland had been lit up by a resurgently strong performance from Tom Davies, an impressive display by Nikola Vlasic and, of course, Niasse’s his first Everton goal — a fine chest-down and half-volley that wrapped up a 3-0 win.
Koeman reverted to an increasingly questionable line-up for the visit of Bournemouth, however, with Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson shoe-horned into a formation with three “number 10s” ahead of the two holding midfielders, Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin. Handicapped in defence by injuries to Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane, the Dutchman was forced to field his only remaining centre-half partnership of Ashley Williams and Mason Holgate.
The result was a team bereft of pace and width but apparently sent out with instructions to compensate for those short-comings by moving the ball about quickly and switching flanks to open up crossing opportunities for Cuco Martina and Leighton Baines.
It was a strategy that worked to a point but yielded just one effort on target on the first 45 minutes, a deflected Williams effort following a corner with 10 minutes gone. The Blues weren’t terrible and there were some pleasingly neat interchanges in midfield but there was precious little being created in the final third.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin went close to finishing a nice passing move early on but couldn’t guide his header on target and Rooney was unfortunate to get his legs tied up trying to finish another decent piece of play late in the first period.
In between, Everton had been denied two possible penalties by the typically awful Martin Atkinson, first when Sigurdsson was crudely barged over in the Bournemouth box by Dan Gosling — a foul given anywhere else on the pitch — and then when Simon Francis caught Rooney with an elbow that left the veteran needing to have a gash to his eye patched up on the sidelines.
The Cherries had made a lively start to the game but failed to test Jordan Pickford in the first half beyond a daisy-cutter from Junior Stanislas that was easily gathered.
That changed four minutes into the second. Josh King picked up the ball from Charlie Daniels in an innocuous position wide on their left but after escaping the attentions of Holgate, he took up the invitation to keep running. Easily evading Holgate’s despairing slide tackle, the Bournemouth striker advanced unimpeded towards goal and drilled a low shot into the corner to make it 1-0.
An awful giveaway in midfield by Rooney seemed to have handed a second goal on a plate for the visitors but he was rescued by Pickford who made an excellent save with his foot to thwart Jermain Defoe.
Whether he was suffering from the effects of his wounded eye or was just having an off-day, Rooney was withdrawn four minutes later along with Klaassen allowing Davies and Niasse to make their entries to the fray.
Davies was booked less than 60 seconds after coming on for clattering through an opponent but he stayed on the pitch to make two telling contributions later in the half.
Everton nearly levelled in the 69th minute when Sigurdsson won a corner on the right and Holgate nodded Williams’s subsequent header goal-wards, only to see Andrew Surman clear his effort off the line via the woodwork.
Parity was restored, however, 1 1 minutes from time when Niasse struck his first. Driving from midfield, he exchanged passes with Davies, the latter finding him with a pin-point pass towards the penalty spot, and took a touch before lashing an unstoppable shot past Asmir Begovic.
Five minutes later, when substitute Jonjoe Kenny’s centre to Calvert-Lewin was laid off to Davies and his attempted cross looped up to the back post, Niasse was initially foiled by Begovic on the line but he was able to pick up the loose ball and despatch it past the ‘keeper to make it 2-1.
Everton benefited from a let-off at one end when Lys Mousset glanced an unchallenged header over the bar from a corner when he could have done better but almost made it 3-1 at the other through Calvert-Lewin but he could only steer Jonjoe Kenny’s cross the ball over the crossbar.
Koeman suggested after the game that the victory and the dramatic manner in which it was achieved could turn out to be a turning point in the season. The manager should get credit for making the two changes that he did 10 minutes after half-time — the introduction of Kenny for Martina with 15 minutes left and the score 0-1 was a little harder to fathom even though the youngster did very well after coming on — but then his decision to drop Davies, for example, was questionable to begin.
It’s difficult to see the Blues kicking on back towards challenging the top six if he persists with chopping and changing while returning to the same formation and personnel for League games. It’s also hard to see how the Blues could have won this game without Niasse’s predatory instincts and neither factors reflect all that well on Koeman who might otherwise have been left reflecting on another League game without a win.
It will be interesting to see whether Niasse has earned a more prominent role in the team now, though, and if he starts what the impact will be on the line-up. Some Blues have been calling for a more conventional 4-4-2 formation, particularly at home, but whether Koeman is ready to eat the entire humble pie just yet remains to be seen.
Regardless of those ongoing concerns, there is no doubt that a come-from-behind win with a new cult hero in the side can only be a boon for confidence, something that was in short supply coming off the hammering at the hands of Manchester United. It’s certainly starting to course through the veins of a certain Senegalese striker and it can spread through the team, it could help make up for the shortage of creativity and speed in the side that has been so evident in recent weeks.
Two more home wins before the next international break and Everton tails could well be up again before the next away challenge, a trip to the south coast to visit Brighton & Hove Albion for the first time in the Premier League, looms.
Everton are back at Goodison Park for the second in a run of four consecutive home games that Ronald Koeman is hoping will provide a belated springboard for his team's season.
Davies, Lookman, Niasse and Kenny were all benched after their midweek victory as Martina, Schneiderlin, Klaassen, Rooney, and Sigurdsson all return to the starting line-up. At least Calvert-Lewin startsplaying centre-forward.
Michael Keane is out injured, and Mason Holgate is finally given a chance in his correct position at centre-half, with captain Phil Jagielka also out with an ankle problem. Dan Gosling starting for the Cherries.
The visitors kicked off and won an early corner. They then pushed the Blues back into their half, showing plenty of early intent, but Calvert-Lewin enabled the outball and the Blues won their first corner, delivered by Rooney, Williams heading weakly.
Much better football saw a ball out to Baines that he delivered well and Calvert-Lewin should really have scored but his header bounced wide. Martina's cross from the other side was collected by Begovic.
Sigurdsson got into a shooting position but he fired over as Calvert-Lewin was flagged offside. But Everton were now getting forward better and Sigurdsson fired in a decent free-kick to the far post that went for a corner, punched away, then another weak attempt from Williams, deflected to Begovic.
Improved speed of thought and movement was evident until Scheneiderlin slid in needlessly and foolishly to earned a really stupid early yellow card. After some Bournemouth pressure, there was a moderately speedy break, ending with Sigurdsson going down when he felt Gosling behind him but no penalty, said Martin Atkinson.
But Bournemouth were giving it a go dragging the 4-man Everton defence around a little to create some space. Some good possession and passing followed for Everton but it wasn't good enough to reach the Bournemouth area.
The pattern of play continued, until Rooney was clearly elbowed in the eye by Francis, drawing a massive flow of blood, but no action from Atkinson as Rooney stormed off, raging at the referee, to get patched up.
A free-kick out wide, with Everton still down to 10 men, but £45M Sigurdsson horribly over-blows it way too high and beyond everyone. Rooney finally came back on, and almost released Calvert-Lewin, who slipped. But in the next move, Gueye slipped a great ball to Sigurdsson and his first-time low cross was straight to Rooney but the angry not-so-young man could not dig out a shot.
At the other end, a deep cross needed some smart defending from Martina to head it behind for a corner that almost fell to Gosling. Rooney tumbled in a challenge and that restarted the bleeding from his damaged eye. Martina had to block King, again giving up a corner that Pickford had to punch away.
the Blues had shown some forward intent at times with plenty of promising possession but had not really tested Begovic in the first half as Atkinson was roundly booed off the field.
No changes at the break, and the pattern continued with Calvert-Lewin seeing very little of the ball and possession going backwards and sideways far too much, Josh King picking up possession and driving through the Everton defence to slot home brilliantly, a simple lesson for the Blues in how to score goals.
Rooney then gave the ball away poorly in midfield and it looked like Defoe would score with ease but Pickford saved well with his feet.
Koeman was forced to act, bringing on Davies and Niasse for Klaassen and Rooney. Davies was full of it and earned a yellow from Atkinson for a harmless challenge as his first action on the pitch.
Bournemouth saw this as a massive fillip and proceeded to torment Everton, who struggled to respond, with Davies understandably restrained. Gosling almost got off a dangerous shot. Everton finally got to grips and pushed into the visitors' half, but Sigurdsson could not get a decent shot off and the ball inevitably went backwards.
Davies showed desire but his ball control let him down. Niasse did well in hold-up but Sigurdsson's looping header was well wide. Gueye was the next to give the ball away under zero pressure. Pickford tried to release Niasse wide right but badly overhit his long pass. Martina put in a decent cross that Niasse could not get to cleanly.
Calvert-Lewin went down too easily with Ake; no way that it could be a penalty but that was not going assuage an increasingly frustrated Goodison crowd. It was Holgate whose header from a corner was cleared off the line with 20 minutes remaining.
Niasse had a chance to break but his poor ball control let him down. Their slow build-up and floated crosses from Martina were being easily countered. In a popular move by Koeman, Jonjoe Kenny came on to replace Cuco Martina.
And it seemed to enliven the Blues, a wonderful move through the middle, and Niasse picking up a brilliant ball to feet by Davies, the forgotten man absolutely smashed a brilliant finish past Begovic to bring the Goodison crowd a moment to savour.
More was to come as Cook gave the ball away and Everton drove forward with a good cross from Kenny, then Davies firing in, his shot looping up off a defender's leg, and Niasse getting a shoulder to the ball but Begovic somehow pushed it out, yet, sheer determination from Niasse, he pounced on the loose ball to poke it in — his second goal inside 5 minutes. Goodison went delirious with joy.
A glorious chance for Calvert-Lewin was created by a tremendous driven cross from Kenny but the 20-year-old striker could not keep it down. At the other end, Pickford had to be brave to deny Gosling in the air.
Everton played out the 4 minutes of added time and secured a must-win victory that for a while looked out of their reach but for the intervention of a three fine young substitutes who showed Koeman's older favourites how the game should be played.
Everton: Pickford, Martina (76' Kenny), Holgate, Williams, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin [Y:16'], Klaassen (55' Davies [Y:56']), Rooney (55' Niasse [Y:79']), Calvert-Lewin, Sigurdsson.
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Vlasic, Lookman, Sandro.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Adam Smith, Francis, Ake (83' Mousset), Daniels, Ibe, Gosling, Surman, Stanislas [Y:90+4'], King (79' S Cook), Defoe (75' Afobe).
Subs not Used: Pugh, Ramsdale, L Cook, Fraser.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
From My Seat: Bournemouth (H)
After what seems a very long and eventful route from our drubbing v Spurs, we all rock up back at Goodison to play our sixth league match after only mustering four points from our previous five league matches, just one win in cup competitions proper and in the bottom three of the fledgling Premier League table. Was it any wonder that fans were less than fully confident? With the Echo reporting that both Keane and Jags were unavailable through injury — Keane reportedly on crutches — well, could it get any worse? Well it could but also it could get better and indeed it did.
The teams came through and Holgate was to partner Williams and Rooney, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Klaassen and Martina returned. Niasse who has been the topic of many on ToffeeWeb was on the bench after scoring in the Sunderland cup match. Dominic Calvert-Lewin retained the centre forward slot. I was pleased to see the manager show some faith in the young man as I have an idea he will come good very good in fact. Big, strong, heads well and shows well in the finer points department.
Our Referee was Mr Atkinson and an interesting stat was proffered in the Room of Nonsense that we have never won when he has officiated. There were times in the game that I was not surprised by that stat but by the end that stat is no more… thankfully.
The game set off in lively fashion with both teams ready to spray it about a bit. Bournemouth forced an early corner and the Blues did the same soon after. Both came to nought. The game became a bit of a stalemate with both teams adept at keeping each other at arm’s length.
Baines, who was our captain today, received a ball out wide and delivered a good cross that DCL got his head to and really should have scored but he resembled a man with a fifty pence head and the ball ended up away from its intended target. Sigurdsson saw a bit of action but nothing came from his efforts as one shot went over the bar and then a good cross was wasted by Williams. I still can’t work out if Sigurdsson has a designated position or he just goes where the fancy takes him. Equally that applies to other players too and in my opinion needs addressing as at times we play like strangers.
We had a big shout for a pen when Sigurdsson went down in the box claiming a push by Gosling but the ref would have none of it which did not endear him to the faithful one little bit.
From a cross into the box Rooney seemed to be clearly elbowed causing him to go to ground in the box but the ref said no foul. Then Rooney left the field with blood all over his face and neck and raging at the ref as he went off to be patched up. Wayne was not amused and neither were the fans as massed booing took place in venomous fashion but Mr Atkinson was unmoved. With Rooney off the field we slowed things down as much as possible using keep ball.
We did gain a free kick just outside the box and Sigurdsson who may not know where he is playing does appear and take the dead ball kicks. This was not one of his better ones as it went high wide and handsome and is still orbiting Anfield.
Rooney returned and a decent move took place when Gueye found Sigurdsson who fed Rooney in the box but the Crocky kid was still fuming and made a mess of it. Bournemouth had a nice little spell and Martina had to head away two dangerous crosses for corners the first of which saw Rooney take another tumble and set off his bleeding again and had to leave the field having what looked like very strong words with the liner. While he was off the second corner came in and Pickford did well with a solid punch. Half time came and the referee was given down the banks loudly.
During the break many changes were put forward but as the players reappeared it was apparent none had been made. During the break our centre forward of yesteryear one Daniel Amokachi was paraded and got a good reception.
The second half started and we were anticipating a renewed effort to get more attack-minded and more shots on target but we had little chance to put anything into practice as before 5 minutes had elapsed Josh King picked up the ball wide and then proceeded toward our goal. He just seemed to glide past our defence pick his spot and drill home. What a Sickener, what a downer a goal given away.
Rooney was looking out of control, still seething after those fouls on him but he was doing us no good in that mood and this was magnified tenfold when he simply gave ball away in poor fashion and just watched as Defoe strode on goal with only the keeper to beat. ‘Oh shit!’ cried many but it was a good save with his leg from our keeper that saved the day and he was afforded an ovation.
With Rooney out of control and our visitors getting more confident our manager needed to act and this he did, hooking the brooding Rooney and the ineffectual Klaassen and replacing them with Niasse and Davies. Both were to play a significant part in securing a win. However, Davies was soon in bother for a sliding tackle that won the ball cleanly but blundering ref gave a foul and a yellow which brought more vitriol rolling down the terraces.
While these two were finding their feet the visitors had some nice attacks but had no penetration. Davies started to maraud and unsettle their defence but avenues quickly closed so we had to go backwards to start again which upset the crowd no end.
The half moved on with both teams either giving the ball away or misplacing passes leading to both reams going sideways and backwards. This suited the visitors as the clock was ticking down and they were in front plus for a long period in that half they were blatantly time-wasting and getting our crowd even more at boiling point. We had a chance with 20 to go when from a corner Holgate had a header cleared from the line.
With 15 to go and no real threats on their goal, we were having some joy down our right but Martina could not get his crosses right and they were easily being cleared so Big Ron swopped him for Kenny, much to the delight of the crowd. He started well making some good runs and well-hit crosses that were unsettling Bournemouth and from one of these Davies was found central and he delivered a super pass to the feet of Niasse. Two paces right as he turned on a sixpence he hammered home. The roof came off the roar could be heard in L1.
Within 5 minutes Kenny was off again and his cross into the box was pushed away but only to be picked up by Davies who looped one up from by the far post. The keeper seemed to flap it away but the predator Niasse poked out a leg, leather met netting and we were on the way to our second win. That roar was heard in Birkenhead. Bournemouth not time wasting now as the clocked ticked to 90, 4 more were added which we saw out by playing exclusively within a yard of the corner flag at the junction of Bullens and Gwladys. Final whistle and we are up and running.
All in all a good day out. A win which was vital in terms of confidence. Niasse comes in from the cold. Will Big Ron apologise for his treatment of the lad? He should.
Games come thick and fast now which will decide how our season will pan out. If the manager and his staff do only one thing I hope it will be to get players playing as a team and not so many strangers. As much as I love a win and we won today but we really need all the players on the same wavelength and singing from the same hymn sheet to really kick on with all our new signings integrating sooner rather than later.
UP THE BLUES
Niasse brace gets Koeman out of jail
I began the day in Torremolinos, finishing off a nice week away with the family. I was initially supposed to travel elsewhere in Spain to meet some work colleagues, but with that trip cancelled I had to arrange a flight home and with a home game at 3pm Saturday, I managed to get on an un-cancelled Ryanair flight from Malaga at 11:10am. The rest of the family already scheduled on a later flight.
Arriving at 13:25pm, I was sat on the very back row so was allowed off the flight very quickly, too quickly for the airline’s liking in fact as they allowed about a dozen of us off the plane before realising we weren't supposed to be out. Luckily, rather than send us back on the plane, they let us go straight to passport control, and with only hand luggage with me, I was able to scoot through very quickly and meet my Dad on the other side who kindly took me straight to Goodison Park. Quite a nice feeling, jetting in straight to the game. I even had time to meet the guys in the pub for a quick pint before we were onwards to Goodison Park.
We were all agreed that a win was vital and that the team needs to start delivering. Personally, I'm giving Ronald the benefit of the doubt for now. We really could have done with an easier start than what we had, but if similar results follow in the few games you have to ask questions. Others are less forgiving, one of the fellas comparing out style to the Doomsday work of Walter Smith.
After an impressive return of two goals mid-week, Dominic Calvert-Lewin retained his place in attack. Given it was a must-win game I was surprised to see Tom Davies relegated to the substitutes bench, with the struggling Davy Klaassen retained. Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Cuco Martina and Morgan Schniederlin were all back in, and with Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane both injured, Mason Holgate was given an opportunity alongside Ashley Williams at centre back, though perhaps the biggest cheer was for Oumar Niasse, when his name was read out as substitute. Ex-blue Dan Gosling, veteran Jermaine Defoe and Norwegian Joshua King, a player I'd liked us to have made a move for, all featured for The Cherries. Everyone's favourite referee Martin Atkinson officiated.
Bournemouth probably shaded the opening few minutes but Everton managed to stabilise into the game albeit without creating an awful lot. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney were probably the most effective players in orchestrating the few attacks we had, though a Dominic Calvert-Lewin header which was well-wide, and an Ashley Williams effort which had the sting taken out of it en-route to Asmir Begovic, where the fruit of our labours.
The first half flashpoint came when Simon Francis caught Wayne Rooney with a stray elbow when challenging for a ball in the penalty area. Rooney went down clutching his face and got up to give Martin Atkinson a barrage of abuse before leaving the field for treatment. We couldn't see the damage done to Rooney's eye from our seats, but having seen it since on TV, it didn't look pretty. That said, i don't think it was a penalty either. Simon Francis didn't elbow him intentionally.
I wouldn't say we were quite "on the ropes" for the remainder of the half, but we had to hang on in there as Bournemouth got in and amongst us in the final third, but we got to half time unscathed at 0-0 and needed to improve second half.
It was nice to see Daniel Amokachi take to the field at the break to the sound of 'All Together Now' by The Farm - our 1995 FA Cup Final song of course. He famously came off the substitutes bench to score twice at Elland Road of course in the semi-final on the road to Wembley that year in what Joe Royle described as "the best substitution I never made". Ironic then that another African Everton player would make the headlines this afternoon in similar circumstances.
We began the second half sluggishly, and Bournemouth quickly capitalised. I thought that Cuco Martina had done well to squeeze up on Junior Stanislas to try to apply pressure up the pitch, but with him doing so, nobody pressed with him or covered his defensive position so when Charlie Daniels found himself in the vacant space, the break was on. Daniels fed Joshua King who ran at us, evading Mason Holgate's desperate challenge and finished with aplomb into the corner, in off the post with Jordan Pickford no chance.
Goodison Park turned very hostile towards Koeman and the team, and when Wayne Rooney gave the ball away in midfield, Joshua King fed Jermaine Defoe who was thwarted by his ex-Sunderland team mate Jordan Pickford in goal, the latter saving well with his leg. The natives were getting restless and Ronald had to change it. That he did, with Davy Klassen and Wayne Rooney replaced by Tom Davies and Oumar Niasse. "Here's your chance Oumar" we all thought/willed. "Go take it".
As we re-adjusted we had a very painful five minutes or so when we just couldn't get on the ball as Bournemouth popped it around nicely in our half of the pitch, much to our frustration. We just couldn't get a hold of it at all. When we did finally, briefly, get going again, Martin Atkinson stopped the game for a non-existent injury, to I think Junior Stanislas. It all seemed so premeditated by Bournemouth who were already playing their time-wasting tricks as all their players instantly ran to the touchline for a pep-talk with boss Eddie Howe. Needless to say, Stanislas was absolutely fine and didn't even require treatment. That's my chief gripe with Martin Atkinson. The bet referees, you don't tend to notice in a game whereas Martin Atkinson has to be centre of attention throughout and the game is often so stop-start.
This didn't half irk the supporters and the tide seemed to turn. All of a sudden our players seemed more daring and more willing to gamble and we were nearly level when the lionhearted Dominic Calvert-Lewin's header was cleared onto the inside of the post and away by Andrew Surman.
That was unlucky but we were getting closer, and the Gwladys Street sensed it, Oumar Niasse's efforts endearing to the crowd, and if a script was written, it had to be for Oumar. He worked a one-two with I think Leighton Baines and manafged to get himself inside as the ball was given to the excellent, innovative, Tom Davies. He threaded it through. Oumar mis-controlled but persevered, and smashed the ball past Asmir Begavic to the crowd's delight. It was also brilliant to see that he knew the draw wasn't enough for us, and he was quick to grab the ball to get the game re-started. With 77 minutes played we still had time to force what 15 minutes earlier would have seemed a very unlikely win.
Win we did. It still wasn't especially pretty up until the winning goal just five minutes later, but we persevered. Jonjoe Kenny's under-hit cross was collected by Tom Davies who drove at goal from inside the penalty area. It was blocked but the ball looped high up into the air for what seemed like an eternity, and who else was under it but Oumar Niasse who's header at goal was desperately blocked/saved on the goalline. That may have been in anyway but it mattered not, as Oumar was quickly on hand to volley in the rebound. The crowd went wild as Oumar went off celebrating. My eyes, for some reason, were drawn to Martin Atkinson who first began pointing at his watch before standing there, seemingly gutted that we had scored.
Including the four minutes of injury time we still had 12 minutes to navigate, but we got through it. Dominic Calvert-Lewin probably should have made the game safe when he volleyed over from close range following a cross from impressive young substitute Jonjo Kenny. The miss nearly cost us also, when Bournemouth substitute Lys Mousset flashed a header narrowly wide from a corner kick. I thought he'd scored for a moment.
The game finished in satisfying fashion when Junior Stanislas, probably Bournemouth's chief culprit of time-wasting earlier in the game lost his rag and earned himself a caution as Dominic Calvert-Lewin won a succession of throw ins and then a corner kick to tick down the clock. It was a nice moment, particularly for the young players and Oumar Niasse as we celebrated our win. After the game I got the train back home with Ste, and by the time I arrived home I only had about 15 minutes to have a quick coffee before heading on to Manchester Airport to pick up the family. It was nice to see them again, and nice to crash out for the night with a takeaway, and Match of the Day following an important win.
Pickford: Made an important save to deny Jermaine Defoe. Had that have gone in, at 0-2 you struggled to see a way back. Otherwise, he claimed and dealt with crosses when he had to. He's yet to find his range with his kicking at Goodison Park but he keeps on trying. That's the only way he'll get it right. 7
Baines: Has seemed somewhat out of sorts these last few games I think. 5
Williams: He did OK at the back. Nothing more or less than OK though. 6
Holgate: Had a tough afternoon and will be relieved to come through with the three points. All part of the learning curve. 5
Martina: He kept on coming forward and joining in the attacks, even if he crossing wasn't quite up to scratch. Didn't do badly but it was a good substitute by Ronald Koeman and Jonjo Kenny did offer a fresh attacking impetus plus more tenacious defending. 6
Schneiderlin: Was our best player in the first half, constantly making tackles and trying to get us moving forward. Not quite as effective second half but he did put the graft in. 6
Gueye: Also a bit out of sorts but, even when playing poorly, his presence throughout the pitch is probably felt by the opposition. 5
Klaassen: Though he worked hard in the first half, as usual he hardly saw the ball and the game seemed to pass him by. It was no surprise to anyone that he was hooked when Koeman made his substitutions. He's struggling and may need the whole season to get up to speed in this league. 3
Sigurdsson: Probably his best game for us yet and I think he's getting there. He worked hard at both ends of the pitch and showed a few nice touches of class on the ball. I think he'll become a good player for us, and game by game, he's slowly getting there. 6
Rooney: Was doing OK but then his injury really disabled him and he couldn't effect the game after that. Was rightly substituted. 5
Calvert-Lewin: He has the heart of a lion and doesn't let himself get bullied or intimidated. I loved the way he kept on getting up, winning headers and putting hid body on the line. Perhaps the bravest player we've had since Tim Cahill. From being pretty sceptical of his ability last season, I've gone full circle and feel we have a player with great potential on our hands. Surely he'll get a good run of games now until our next attempt to try and sign a striker in January. Well done Dominic. Keep on going. 8
Davies (for Klassen): I thought he was outstanding and should have started the game. The composure, intelligence and flair he shows for his age is quite phenomenal. While Niasse rightly wins the headlines given his Everton plight to date, Tom Davies' impact shouldn't be overlooked given he set up both of the goals. Well done Tom, I hope Ronald takes head and keeps him in the team, particularly as we are currently in no position to experiment, we need the wins. My man of the match. 8
Niasse (for Rooney): You've got to be delighted for the man who has had a torrid time at Everton and got on with it without even a murmur. His play and touch remains clumsy (maybe with games that will improve), but he has a big heart and keeps on going. He likes to play off the shoulder of the defender, and always looks for the pass. It's great to see he's worked his way in and, until January at the very least, he'll get opportunities. Here's your big chance Oumar, make yourself irreplaceable. Congratulations. 8
Kenny (for Martina): While we were saying Vlasic or Lookman should have been introduced, credit to Koeman for instead turning to our young full back as he, like his fellow aforementioned substitutes, came on, made a telling impact, and suggested to me that he should be in the team for our next game. Well done Jonjoe, another one that has waited patiently for his opportunity. Fantastic. 7
Everton are back at Goodison Park for the second in a run of four consecutive home games that Ronald Koeman is hoping will provide a belated springboard for his team's season.
The optimism that had been engendered by big spending early in the summer, progress to the Europa League group stage and two positive matches to start the Premier League season may have evaporated by what became an increasingly dispiriting run of results after that but Wednesday's win in the League Cup rekindled some hope for 2017-18.
Thanks to Dominic Calvert-Lewin's double and a first goal in Everton colours for former outcast Oumar Niasse, Koeman's men easily brushed Sunderland aside with their first win in over a month. The reward may have been a daunting trip to Stamford Bridge in the next round but it was clear from his press conference yesterday ahead of the visit of Bournemouth this weekend that that will be a challenge for another day.
“Easy one,” the Dutchman quipped when asked for his reaction to the fourth round draw. “If you like to win a title, you have to beta all the teams. Of course, it's away at Chelsea but, okay, it's not important for now.
“Let's hope [last night's result] will be positive and what we need. The first step was yesterday and this Saturday is really important. Every game is important and you play to win every game but with the last (recent) results, of course, we need a win at home.
“[N]ow we need to show we are still strong and I'm confident after what I saw yesterday because the best medicine to get that confidence is good performances. You need a good feeling and that comes from winning games.”
Short of facing winless Crystal Palace, a home date against 19th-placed Bournemouth could be as welcome a game as Everton could hope for as they seek to pick up their first Premier League points since the 21st of August. The Cherries lost all of their opening four fixtures but registered their first victory in the League last weekend with a 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion and then beat the same opposition after extra time on Tuesday in the League Cup.
They, too, could becoming into the weekend with a bit of confidence, particularly given the fact that forwards Jermaine Defoe and Josh King are off the mark, but they have yet to come away from Goodison Park with a point, having lost 2-1 and 6-3 on their previous visits to L4.
It would be hard to see a repeat of last season's goal-fest, however, given Everton's struggles in front of goal this season. Averaging a paltry two shots on target per game in the League so far, the Blues have been worryingly toothless in attack but Calvert-Lewin, currently the team's top scorer, has made a strong case for leading the line as a conventional striker.
The 20-year-old has been deployed wide in an attacking three, as a wing-back and as a centre-forward with mixed results but he is showing that when played in his natural central position, he can score goals. Koeman is reluctant to place too much of a burden on his young shoulders but with Niasse still something of an untried quantity and Sandro Ramirez still adapting to England, Calvert-Lewin looks to be Everton's best goalscoring hope at the moment.
Koeman's problem, of course, has been one of formation and personnel — namely, how to shoe-horn his varying No.10s into a coherent starting XI that will improve the team's woeful offensive production without undermining the individual talents of its component parts.
Gylfi Sigurdsson has been largely anonymous since he arrived in a club-record deal last month and while he has scored the Toffees' only two League goals so far, Wayne Rooney hasn't really provided the leadership and influence that Koeman would have been hoping for when he signed him from Manchester United.
Whether the manager can accommodate both players in the same line-up remains to be seen but he has been given a further option by the form thus far of Nikola Vlasic who was impressive against Sunderland in the cup. Like Tom Davies and Calvert-Lewin, the Croatian has been showing Koeman that youth should be no barrier to more consistent selection in the starting XI, particularly if the older guard aren't producing.
While inconsistent with his line-ups, Koeman can be conservative in his approach which makes predicting the team for this weekend challenging. Phil Jagielka's reported injury in midweek might preclude his involvement and see Ashley Williams and Michael Keane continue as a partnership. Jonjoe Kenny was given a belated first start of the season on Wednesday but may have to be content with a place on the bench, with Mason Holgate replacing him either as a wing-back or conventional right-back.
Much of the talk around Everton's poor form has focused on the failure to replace Romelu Lukaku but it's the lack of fluidity through midfield, service to the forward line and an over-reliance on two holding midfielders that have been the bigger issues and that is where Koeman needs to focus his energy over the next few months.
While the team lacks pace, there are goals in the side if he can get his charges moving the ball forward effectively rather than lumping it forward or passing it aimlessly from side to side trying to find an opening. Eddie Howe is famous for his own emphasis on passing football and his team isn't especially renowned for “parking the bus” but the Blues should expect them to come to Goodison looking to keep it tight, especially with them knowing how hard Everton have found it making chances.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday 23 September, 2017
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Last Time: Everton 6-3 Bournemouth
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Williams, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin