Everton’s win in the first match at Goodison Park against Watford was a medley of emotions. The atmosphere when the air-raid siren wailed and the flags were raised across the stadium really was spine-chilling, as was the crowd reaction to Bernard’s eventual match-winning goal. Watford looked comfortable in possession for large portions of the second half but, while injury to Lucas Digne left us somewhat out of shape for the final 20 minutes, they never truly threatened Pickford’s goal, bar the one Troy Deeney strike that was saved rather profanely.
Before I properly begin, I want to make it clear that I’m fully aware that we’re not halfway through the season, we don’t have a lot of competitive minutes to stick our teeth into and criticise down to the finest detail. However, one can be optimistic and there’s plenty of reason to be confident as an Evertonian for this season.
The fixture computer seems to have had a glitch or two when writing out our calendar for the second season running (see 4 consecutive games against top 6 teams on two separate occasions this season), yet it has also been very lenient to us in the first ten games or so. With the exception of reigning champions Manchester City, we don’t play a top-6 side until December, which happens to be the first Merseyside derby of the year. This can be interpreted in two different ways - either we have the opportunity to get a head-start on rivals by picking up points against sides that finished below us last season, or we watch game after game in a window of uncertainty where we won’t truly know our potential until three months into the season. For the sake of optimism, I’ll be backing the former statement for the first couple of months, but the latter genuinely needs to be considered.
Four points out of a possible six against two strong mid-table sides and playing neither with a full-strength team. To me, it bodes well. It could be a while before we see the best of them, but in the first chunks of game time in their Everton careers, both Moise Kean and Jean-Philippe Gbamin look as if they’re here to make a name for themselves. Alex Iwobi, Fabian Delph and Djibril Sidibe are yet to play a competitive minute but are undoubtedly keen to make an impression. The key thing, however, is that our first-team regulars from last season are already performing at a good level which they should hopefully be able to maintain given their strong pre-season and early match fitness.
Our Achilles heel of late has been creating clear-cut chances and putting them away. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has come under fire from Everton fans of late due to his lacklustre goal tally since making the first team. This is justified, but he’s not the biggest problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think Gylfi Sigurdsson has the pace or imagination to create chances for his teammates consistently, or at least not often enough. His skill and commitment cannot be questioned, but sadly he lacks the speed both physically and mentally to rival the very best in the business.
On the plus side, there were excellent signs that are continuations of last season’s closing form as well as new positives to welcome into the team. Gbamin and Gomes worked very well together at the weekend, seemingly complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and providing a tactically sound midfield duo. There’s clearly still more to come from them which is a good sign – Watford are no pub team and they both did a pretty good job of protecting the back 4 for the majority of the game and turning defence into attack.
Off the bench, Moise Kean added a different dimension to the attack even if it didn’t completely revitalise it. He definitely doesn’t appear to be a ‘vanilla’ striker; instead, an energetic young prodigy who is keen to impress and possesses the confidence to vary his approach to every in-game situation and consistently fool defenders. Remember, he’s only 19 and by no means the finished article. His current attributes may develop or they may dwindle; likewise, other traits may flourish and give him new tricks to keep in his sleeve. But crucially, he has the luxury of holding the key traits to succeed as a striker in the English game. That being said, the career-defining moments are all ahead of him. If he continues to impress, Everton will have pulled off an astonishing deal; but, if he lets the pressure get to him, his rapid progression in the game could be affected.
While I’m impressed that we’ve kept two clean sheets in our opening two games, I would take claims that we’re now a ‘solid defensive unit’ with a pinch of salt. Sloppy errors in possession and allowing crosses or dribbles to be completed without challenge are just a couple of things that are all too common in Everton’s so-called ‘high pressing’ mentality. It is well documented that Everton have conceded just five league goals since February 9th, but very often we find ourselves avoiding conceding by the skin of our teeth. Simply put, we’re defending very well but we’re also riding our luck.
I will make it clear that I’m not being pessimistic with my criticism, rather realistic. Everton are not a perfect side and we are far from it, but we have a very solid base very early in the season which we’ve not had for years. Add to this the fact that some of our summer recruits appear to be the real deal and this season could be one to remember. We’ve said this before, though, so we must take each game step by step and not get carried away.
Reader Comments (3)
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1 Posted 21/08/2019 at 20:21:13
2 Posted 21/08/2019 at 22:06:32
Sidibe could well be a nice little signing; I wouldn't be surprised if he cements himself into a first-choice by the end of the season, perhaps not even at right-back but as a centre-half, he is certainly big enough.
As with everything you've said, Matthew – this is a good base for the start of the season; real competition for places.
3 Posted 21/08/2019 at 22:59:39
At the back, Keane and Mina will take time to form an effective partnership. They've done okay so far, no doubt, but it'll be a while before they're a completely cohesive unit.
In front of them, we have a massive change in personnel where Gueye used to be. Any one of Gbamin, Schneiderlin, Delph or Davies could sit in there and the back-line will, again, take time to adapt. Whoever makes Gueye's position their own will play a different game to him for sure.
In attack, Sigurdsson has simply been poor during the opening two games. Richarlison the same, though he's never looked quite as good on the right as he did on the left. One can understand him being out there, since Bernard is fast becoming a player that needs to be on the team sheet. I don't think Silva has gotten the front four working quite right just yet but the imminent additions of Iwobi and Kean provide options – both of which will take time to fully take root. Whether Iwobi plays wide or can oust Sigurdsson from the central position is something that also remains to be seen.
In short, there are little partnerships all over the pitch will need time to form. My hope is that we can use the fixture list to our advantage and come away with decent, if not amazing, results against our mid-table rivals. Hopefully, by the time we play the better teams, the initial settling-in period will have passed.
Of course we had a similar fixture list last season and we all know how we fared.
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