2020 might feel in many ways like it’s been an interminable year but it wasn’t all that long ago that Everton, under Sam Allardyce, were ranked rock bottom in the Premier League in terms of attacking production. 20th for shots taken, 20th for shots on target, 20th for chances created and 20th for chances created from open play.
While there was always the feeling that Farhad Moshiri would choose to get his over-arching dream back on track by binning the most unpalatable managerial appointment in the club’s history at the end of 2017-18, nothing was guaranteed and that uncertainty made for sobering times for Evertonians.
Fast forward two and a half years and the outlook at Goodison Park has been transformed. In between, Marco Silva's tenure may have come to an unsuccessful end but he was at least responsible for the arrival of Richarlison and thanks to the Brazilian, the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti and three astute signings this summer, Everton are now an entirely different proposition from an attacking perspective.
So far this season, they’ve played three matches in all competitions and had 64 shots on goal. Admittedly, 32 of those came against League Two Salford City on Wednesday with an almost entirely different team but the statistic does, perhaps, underline a general shift in mindset since last season.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the platform that a primarily defensive acquisition in the form of Allan has been to the side going forward but it's James Rodriguez, a player who promises to be a goldmine of assists for the Blues, who is, predictably, grabbing the headlines.
In his first two games as an Everton player, the Colombian has created more “big chances” than André Gomes, Tom Davies, Fabian Delph and Morgan Schneiderlin created in all of last season combined and 40% of those Gylfi Sigurdsson carved out in 2019-20. He weighed in with an assist this afternoon, scored what will hopefully be the first of many goal in royal blue and generally underscored the size of the coup Ancelotti and Marcel Brands effected when they acquired him from Real Madrid.
And it's Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a player who flew under the radar somewhat last weekend despite scoring the winning goal against Tottenham, who stands to benefit most from the transformation in midfield. The 22-year-old ensured that the lion’s share of the limelight was his this time by grabbing his first hat-trick to bury a spirited West Brom as Everton ran out 5-2 winners to temporarily top the Premier League table for the first time in three years.
Although the Baggies levelled the game early in the second half through an admittedly brilliant Matheus Pereira free-kick when they were playing with only 10 men following Kieran Gibbs’s dismissal in first-half stoppage time, it was pleasing (from the perspective of analysis of the Toffees’ performance) that James’s goal had put the home side ahead because it largely negated any notion that Ancelotti’s men wouldn't have won had it remained 11 vs 11.
It's true that West Brom gave Everton a scare in the first 20 minutes or so and Ancelotti acknowledged afterwards that the visitors had been better than his own for much of the first half. It's to Slaven Bilic’s credit that his side came out with as much fire, energy and attacking effectiveness after looking so short on quality against Leicester in the first game back in the top flight. But, by the same token, there is a swagger and a determination about this new-look Blues to go with their impressive new signings that breeds confidence that they will create the chances to drag them back from losing situations.
There were warning signs from a defensive perspective, however; precedents that will give the manager and his coaching staff things to work on for when they face more difficult opposition in the near future. Indeed, had Jake Livermore’s shot flown a few inches to the right and not cannoned off the outside of Jordan Pickford’s post, Everton would have been 2-0 down with a quarter of the contest played.
The England ‘keeper had betrayed some early nerves at the back when he knocked Yerry Mina’s first-minute back-pass straight to Matheus Pereira and the Brazilian teed up Grady Diangana for a low shot that Pickford had to get down to save. But it was Mina’s backing off and then failure to engage Diangana as the winger broke at speed that had Ancelotti berating him angrily in the 10th minute. West Brom’s new signing from West Ham took full advantage of the space allowed him by hammering a shot past Pickford to give the visitors the lead.
Everton had by that point already had one great chance that Calvert-Lewin could only head wide when he looked odds-on to score while Richarlison also fired off-target, Calvert-Lewin saw another effort deflected behind and Allan lined up a 25-yarder that was too close to Sam Johnstone.
The game was surprisingly open, however, and Pickford parried away a shot from Pereira before Darnell Furlong’s cross from the right picked out Livermore sitting five yards off Mina but he found the woodwork rather than the goal.
That provided a bit of a wake-up call to Everton to tighten things up a bit more and renew their efforts going forward. And after Richarlison had seen another effort deflected wide and Michael Keane had headed a corner over the bar, Calvert-Lewin struck his first of the afternoon to restore parity.
Abdoulaye Doucouré and Seamus Coleman exchanged passes down the right flank and the Irishman accelerated past his man on the outside, clipped a dangerous cross into the six-yard box where Richarlison and Furlong challenged for it and it fell to Calvert-Lewin who back-heeled it over the goal line. The referee’s assistant’s flag went up straight away against the Blues No. 9 but a check by Video Assistant Referee, Simon Hooper, corroborated the Brazilian’s fervent assertion that he hadn’t touched it. The last touch before Calvert-Lewin’s had been Furlong’s so the goal stood.
A loose touch by DCL at one end allowed West Brom to power forward again on the counter-attack and Pickford had to bat away another shot from Pereira. A succession of corners back at the Park End, however, as the first period wound down was followed by a piece of individual brilliance from Rodriguez.
The Colombian needed just one touch after receiving the ball on the edge of the box following 18 consecutive Everton passes, Richarlison’s purposeful run and a timely block by Gomes on an opponent to set himself for a swing of his wand of a left foot and the ball arrowed into the far corner of the goal past Johnstone’s despairing dive.
That might have been the last action of the half had it not been for Gibbs’s inexplicable rush of blood to the head immediately after the restart following the goal. An innocuous-looking coming together with Rodriguez ended with the West Brom man striking James in the face and earning a straight red card, one that made the visitors’ task that much harder. His manager would also get his marching orders from Mike Dean for remonstrating with him on the field after the whistle for half-time and he spent the second half watching on from the stands.
West Brom initially made a decent fist of their situation, though, because after Allan had conceded a free-kick 25-yards from goal, Pereira swept the resulting free-kick over the defensive wall (for some two of the four players elected not to jump to try and block it for some reason) to make it 2-2 less than two minutes into the second half.
And while West Brom continued to attack with belief despite their numerical disadvantage, Everton’s irresistible attacking options eventually prevailed. Richarlison won a free-kick in the 54th minute, Lucas Digne swung in a free-kick, the Brazilian connected with a close-range header which the keeper did well to push away off his line but Keane was on hand to tuck away the rebound.
Eight minutes after that, Everton scored arguably the pick of their five goals on the day. An initial attack had been repelled but the Blues retained possession, worked it across the outside of the penalty area before James knocked a perfect ball over the top to Richarlison who knocked it goal-wards past the keeper and Calvert-Lewin slid in to toe it over the line and make it 4-2.
Then, after Doucouré, who had been on a yellow card since early in the first half, made way for Gylfi Sigurdsson, Calvert-Lewin wrapped up his hat-trick. When Digne’s free-kick glanced off the walk and over, Everton won yet another corner which was curled in by Rodriguez and Calvert-Lewin met it with the back of his head to send it flying in past the stranded Johnstone.
It could be argued that no one deserved to get a goal more at that stage than the tireless Richarlison and he would have the ball in the net with a wonderful finish from Sigurdsson’s arcing ball into the box but the flag went up — correctly this time — to deny him his first of the season. On the evidence thus far, he shouldn’t have to wait much longer.
Perhaps out of mercy for a beaten side, the Blues eased off the pedal in the final 20 minutes and Ancelotti threw Alex Iwobi and Moise Kean on for the closing stages and apart from an excellent volleyed cross by Digne that Richarlison glanced wide, there wasn’t much danger of the Baggies’ margin of defeat getting any wider.
So, three wins out of three in all competitions and a brief stint at the top of the Premier League represent a terrific start to the new season for Ancelotti and Everton. The exciting thing about this team now is the variety of options they have going forward and the multiple threats they carry in the final third.
Demonstrably capable of scoring from set-pieces (as they were last season as well), the Toffees now have a player in James capable of conjuring a goal or assist from seemingly innocuous situations to add to the goal-poaching talents of Calvert-Lewin. Once they had gone back ahead in this game, there was only going to be one winner.
Again, on the defensive side, there is work to do, particularly given that Ancelotti has three central midfielders who are all capable of operating in a holding role but who also like to get forward. The problem this afternoon was that too often they were all caught in advanced positions together and that caused problems on a number of occasions, including for the opening goal.
Whether Allan is content to sit in like a traditional No. 6 or whether the manager has to work out some sort of rotation when the team is going forward is something for the Italian to work out but he has at least had the issue exposed without any cost in points which is as positive a development early in the season as you can ask for.
Fleetwood in the cup next with, we expect, another extensively-changed team before a different kind of challenge looms at Selhurst Park against a Crystal Palace side that also has two League wins from two to start the campaign. Come away with a win from that one and Everton will have added another piece of evidence to support to the notion that they can be top-six contenders this season.
Reader Comments (18)
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1 Posted 21/09/2020 at 05:36:19
After the initial ballooning, Pickford put in a good performance and has improved on his previous wastefulness in distribution. Seamus Coleman and Digne were solid and contributed well in attack. The midfield was good, but initially suffered from loose of possession from Gomes and forwards not being available to receive a pass and not being able to maintain possession.
Defence was poor as you say when West Brom counter-attacked, Mina getting caught. His performance in the wall was poor at the free-kick.
The midfield got better as Allan and Dourcoué got an increasing grip. Calvert-Lewin was trying to get in position to get the one touch, recommended by Ancelotti. Such a simple coaching recommendation was exactly what Calvert-Lewin needed. Richarlison put in a great performance, though he was getting special attention most of the game.
I thought Iwobi looked better, fitted well into play. I was disappointed in Kean, and Sigurdsson's dependability, gratefully, is an issue that Everton do not depend on.
2 Posted 21/09/2020 at 06:38:52
Dunno where to begin with, but have to say these are exciting days for the long suffering blues..
Could this be our year??? as usual there are issues at the Sky 6 with Mourinho's implosion coming a year earlier..Chelski can sort out the goalie.. United have a Davy Klaasen 2.0 as their only signing to date.. So could this be our year where we show some semblence of consistency and with some luck on our injuries.. Will we gatecrash the Top 4????
PS : When you see Gylfi spraying crossfield passes (which he didnt even attempt the whole of last season), something special is gonna happpen at this club!!!!! COYB NSNO.. from India..
3 Posted 21/09/2020 at 07:15:48
Pickford in nutshell for the first goal. No doubt crap defending by Mina dropping off but the shot goes pretty much in the middle of the goal. Not a mistake as such but one those that infuriates me with him as it should be saved. Goes unnoticed how many of those shots he lets in.
Anyway, hes the keeper for the season so Ill stop banging on about it and live in hope that he sorts his act out on a consistent basis.
So many positives going forward, Hameggs and DCL rightly getting massive praise but Richarlison has been utterly brilliant these opening 2 games. Such a winner and our talisman. Hope he stays manage a year.
4 Posted 21/09/2020 at 10:03:49
But with no fans in the stadium it seems to have created a different perspective for players, they now seem to have thrown off the shackles and are having a real go.
I have absolutely no idea how the season will pan out, we are still to see how Man City will start the season, our neighbours seem to be strating this season as they did the last.
Watching the games over the weekend it seems refs have decided so far this season if a ball touches a hand of a defender in the box, then they are going to award a penalty. They used to only award penalties if it was deliberate hand ball, then last season it was changed to if the arm is in an unnatural position, but even that seems to have gone out the window.
VAR seems to be playing a bigger part than it did last year, at least the match official seems to be using the monitors on the side of the pitch more than they did last year. But there seemed to have been a few dubious pens awarded over the weekend.
With Branthwaite and Holgate out for a number of weeks and Gibson out on loan till at least January, I assume Carlo will have to play both Keane and Mina against Fleetwood and hope neither gets injured. I presume both Carlo and Brands are frantically trying to bring in another CB within the next few days. There were reports of us taking Tomori from Chelsea, but after Lamphards comments after the game yesterday that seems unlikely.
My other area of concern is if either DCL or Richarlison get injured, we don't seem to have any ready made replacements, as young Keane is still searching for some form. But its been a very encouraging start and our next league outing is away at Crystal Palace another team who have started the season with 2 wins so another tough test, but one that we are very capable of winning.
5 Posted 21/09/2020 at 10:07:14
I am loving it, 2 wins out of 2, but I am certainly not getting carried away. I think we have to improve further to make the top six come next May.
Ugly wins are great, you get nowhere without them. I thought this was an ugly win. I thought in the first half West Brom showed more spring, more energy and impressive counter attacking with great pace. We were caught out of position and Mina looked lost with it at times.
We could have easily been 2-0 down and West Brom would have caused us similar problems in the 2nd half with 11 men on the pitch. Gibbs idiocy ended the game. This game plan and set up will not be lost on rival managers and we will have to address it.
Pickford continues to infuriate me, madness one minute and brilliance the next. He had my nerves jangling after about 20 seconds on Saturday. Overall I think he has done well these last two games.
Keane and Digne are looking on top of their game, Seamus is doing well I think, Mina looked indecisive against the counter attack pace of WBA, should have jumped on a 30 yard free kick, like he needs more games and to sharpen his decision making. I am not too down at all on Mina though I think he played well in the most part and well against Tottenham. He will get better with a run of games.
The midfield is now a midfield we can be proud of, just shows the importance of the signings we have made. Special mention to James Rodriguez, what a privilege it is have him at Everton. Another sublime performance and his exquisite goal changed the dynamic of the game and added to Gibbs's being tipped over the edge.
Then we get to Richie and DC-L. These two have gone up another level this season. Richarlison hasn't scored but he has blown me away with his commitment to the team and his contribution, what a player! DC-L is equally impressive, finding the net and taking on board Carlo's and Duncan's advice. Long may his scrappy 6 yard goals continue. Without the bread and butter, you can't make a sandwich.
We are knocking on the door now of being serious top 4 challengers. places 3 and 4 are totally up for grabs. Places 5 and 6 are very achievable with this team. We should fear no-one.
I think we need one or two strategic signings to keep us on course for the long hard season. A bit more strength in depth where it matters, so that injuries or fatigue do not drastically affect form. These next 2 weeks will see a bit more business that will help us consolidate our excellent start.
The players I am thinking of are back up players, quality yard dogs to shoulder the burden and keep the team ticking over through the winter. Think Hojbjerg and Doughty of Tottenham. Pig ugly strong quality yard dog players but players who will carry the team physically when needed.
Liverpool sign them, Winjaldum, Milner, Oxlade, all physical, all sometimes fringe, all ready to fight and facilitate the ugly wins that put clubs into Europe and leave others missing out.
6 Posted 21/09/2020 at 11:00:05
Would we have reacted the way we did against WBA if there'd been the palpable tension that's normally present at a packed Goodison?
Hopefully by the time fans return our form will have been so good that the mindset of match-going blues has become a tad more positive!
7 Posted 21/09/2020 at 11:07:30
I have said elsewhere that I don't get the criticism of Pickford.
The early bad touch was from a stinker of a hospital pass that he had to somehow deal with. The first goal had him left exposed by a defence that failed to challenge a man who ran 40 yards with the ball and was shown the whole of the goal. Apart from that, the keeper was decisive and dominant.
Going forward, I am not alone in thinking it strange that young Gibson is going on loan when we have 2 injured CBs and Mina only a knock away from a fortnight's rest. We have to get cover here in one form or another quickly. Whether that is a loan of a senior man currently out of favour or a youngster needing a chance, or even John Stones, who surely needs to leave Citeh for the sake of his career, I don't mind. But we could get caught short in that department.
We also need some cover at the business end. Apart from young Gordon, we have Bernard, Kean, Walcott, Iwobi and (amazingly, Ramirez and Bolasie). None of these seem likely to inspire belief in the event of injury to our current front three. I understand that we have to have 2 players leave for every one that comes in now in order to trim the squad. So it may be that we have to stick with these or let them go for a song, if they can find clubs to take them. It may be January or next summer before we can bring in serious replacements. I hope that is not the case or the deliveries to Finch Farm of cotton wool to wrap the strikers up in will need to be considerable.
8 Posted 21/09/2020 at 11:14:26
I think that most clubs have begun the season realising that draws aren't really good enough to keep you out of that lower to middle tier and every team has their eyes on all the points on offer, that will change as the weeks pass and as things settle down. Hopefully, Everton will win a good few more in the coming weeks and months.
9 Posted 21/09/2020 at 12:03:35
10 Posted 21/09/2020 at 14:13:51
Pickford - hospital ball that made him look nervous early on, but not his fault. I think we need to get off his back a little because he's looked more solid in the last 2 games. Absolutely no chance for the freekick, no keeper would have saved that. The first goal was a strange one, why are we looking at Pickford when the lad has been allowed to run from his own half without even half a challenge? At least push him out wide. Sam@3 "the shot goes pretty much in the middle of the goal" have another look mate, it hits the back corner, that's not the middle of the goal.
Seamus - outstanding for me in the first 2 games, particularly as he's doing the job of 2 players. As much as I love James and what he's brought to the team, It's going to be a very tiring season for Seamus as he's got zero cover in front of him.
I'd expect teams to start roughing up Digne more than Richy in the coming games seeing as the James-to-Digne-diagonal seems to be our main switch.
Let's make hay while the sun is shining boys...but don't get too carried away.
11 Posted 21/09/2020 at 15:32:49
It's been a mere 35 years...
12 Posted 21/09/2020 at 15:37:17
They were Alex Young and Duncan McKenzie.
I think I'm about to add a third: James Rodriguez. His touch, his confidence in his own skill, his innate ability to see what lesser mortals cannot and the sheer charisma of his play make him able to be admitted to the august group.
I look forward to seeing him play in the flesh. This is a player that younger Evertonians can idolise and who can help Everton to achieve a level they havenot reached for almost forty years.
13 Posted 21/09/2020 at 16:17:43
14 Posted 21/09/2020 at 17:11:36
We should get Nick Pope - he only let four in last night and one last Thursday. Or maybe that bloke Kepa from Chelsea - the Chavs supporters seem to have lots to say about him, or maybe De Gea or possibly Hart who's not let any in yet (because he's been warming Spurs bench). Liverpool's Alisson (that's a girls' name isn't it?) has let in 3 despite playing for a team that lost very few matches last year so presumably has a decent defence.
I don't think there is a better keeper in the Premiership. All have strengths and weaknesses, and Jordan's weaknesses seem to be fewer and less of a problem than the vast majority of the others.
15 Posted 21/09/2020 at 18:23:56
Seriously. How can you say that:
"but the shot goes pretty much in the middle of the goal".
The shot goes directly into the corner of the goal. If we are going to slag-off Pickford lets keep the facts real. Yep, he was shite last season but YES he's played well the first two games so far, particularly against Spurs.
Pickford is our keeper and it looks to me that Carlo is not replacing him, so lets support the guy.
16 Posted 21/09/2020 at 19:10:37
There seems an increase in professional sportsmen becoming infected, I see Gundogan from City is having to self isolate after testing positive, and it was only a couple of weeks back both Mahrez and Laporte tested positive.
There were pictures all over twitter today of Allan saying farewell to his ex team mates at Napoli with friends and girlfriends there yesterday. So not sure if he will have to self isolate coming back from Italy.
Seems Premier League players think they're above the rules that apply to everybody else. We have had both Greenwood and Foden arranging for girls to visit their rooms while in Iceland on International duty. Now the season is back up and running I wonder how many teams will have to field under strength teams because of positive Covid tests.
17 Posted 21/09/2020 at 19:18:49
18 Posted 22/09/2020 at 17:17:20
At the start of the 1984-85 season, EFC started with a 4-1 home defeat to Spurs which was quickly followed with a 2-1 away defeat at West Brom. And if you know the history... at the end of the season we were crowned champions.
Dare we Evertonians dream?
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