That's what Rafa is here for

Paul Traill 26/09/2021 56comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 2 - 0 Norwich City
Despite mass unnecessary petrol panic, Gaz kindly offered to drive, saying he would arrive at my house at midday. And just as the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past midday, I began to nose outside my living room window to see if he had arrived. I then checked my phone only to find he had messaged nearly 15 minutes earlier saying he was early and waiting around the corner. Oops.

We picked Ste up on route and the discussion was of our trepidation of facing a 15-game Premier League winless Norwich City. It would be typical of Everton to lose, we all thought. These are the games in which Rafa really has to earn his corn, I said. Particularly so as, under our last two managers, these are the games we have lost.

We arrived at the pub early to catch the Chelsea vs Manchester City match, and also had a view of the Manchester United vs Aston Villa match on the far screen. I still can’t get over how much I’m enjoying being able to get to the pub, especially before the game. Dan, his son and his mother joined us, and it was great to see Sue call in for a drink too. I even ran into a few lads from our local cricket club. The Guinness flowed and in the blink of an eye it was gone 2:30 pm and it was time to make haste for Goodison Park.

You couldn’t miss Norwich City in fluorescent pink though it did not aid their fortunes much as they produced a performance which, though full of effort, lacked confidence and they struggled to make many serious inroads to threaten Everton. They had a few moments from distance which were well handled by Jordan Pickford, and I thought on loan midfielder Mathias Normann had quite a tidy game, but there wasn’t a lot else on offer.

Everton on the other hand did what they had to do. Not a stellar performance by any stretch, but a professional one which saw us steer away with the 3 points. Yerry Mina did an excellent job of dominating Teemu Pukki, the Fin not afforded a sniff throughout.

With Norwich City’s goal threat largely alleviated, we were able to create opportunities at the other end. The first of which should have been scored by Andros Townsend after a ball from the left finally found its way to him via Salomon Rondon; the second of which Andros Townsend did score, this time from the penalty spot after Allan was clearly tripped in the penalty area by ex-Liverpudlian Ozan Kabak.

Match referee David Coote somehow didn’t give the penalty first time but was advised to look at the monitor by the VAR official. Thankfully, the penalty was given and Andros Townsend stepped up to send Tim Krul the wrong way and put Everton ahead. That’s four goals and three assists so far for Andros who is making an excellent beginning to his Everton career. Hands up, who was underwhelmed when he arrived? I sure was.

Towards the end of the half Norwich City made life a bit more uncomfortable for Everton as we switched off slightly in defensively, but we got to half time unscathed.

The second half was mostly comfortable throughout. Norwich City had plenty of the ball but could do little with it, largely due to good snappy defensive work by Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, it was nice to see Jonjoe Kenny and Tom Davies chatting and sharing a joke with ex-Evertonian Kieran Dowell.

On 77 minutes, we showed Norwich City how it was done. Great work by Allan winning the ball back and carrying it forward. He fed Demarai Gray who calmly ran forward and slipped in the correct ball to Abdoulaye who you always felt would score.

It felt like that was game over as Norwich City’s already fragile confidence visibly drained. So much so that Rafa Benitiez even afforded a debut to Academy product Lewis Dobbin who was given 6 minutes including stoppage time. I was trying to think at the time – when were we last in a stadium to see a young player from our Academy given a debut? There were several away in Nicosia of course a few years ago, but that was a little different given the whole first team were kept behind to prepare for a Merseyside derby.

As far as I’m aware, Anthony Gordon has only really played since during Covid with no crowd, and there were also debuts for Tyler Onyango and Thierry Small in the FA Cup during the pandemic. Are we going as far back as October 2017 when Beni Baningime impressed away at Chelsea in the League Cup? Or poor Morgan Feeney sent on from the substitutes bench a month later in a battering at home to Atalanta? Or am I missing something more glaring between now and then?

Anyway, that I spent the final few minutes thinking about that probably sums up how flat the game had gone by then. Norwich City were out of ideas and going through the motions to see the game out, Everton happy with that too. It was all but over, and you feel it already is also for Norwich City in the Premier League. It will be… unless something drastically changes anyway.

And a word on Rafa Benitez. I can’t say I was behind the appointment; moreover, I was quite vehemently opposed to it, but what can you do? The QPR match was very disappointing and I feel we’ve been a bit lucky in both our other home wins, but getting Rafa in, you feel like games like this are the ones in which he will get the job done. As it was with Sam Allardyce if we’re honest. A big reduction in the number of silly home defeats we have overseen under the helm of our last two managers will be welcome relief to all.

Player ratings:

Jordan Pickford: He was alert and ready when he was needed. It’s great to have him back. One of the frustrations with the Summer was Everton being unable to pay £2.7m for the services of Robin Olsen, a good goalkeeper who can be relied upon in Jordan’s absence and has proven he can put genuine pressure on Jordan which has made him a better goalkeeper. I understand it, if the money is very tight, then we have to prioritize it but I find it frustrating nonetheless. Asmir Begovic does not put pressure on Jordan and is a step down for our back-up keeper, underlined by his failure to save any of eight penalties on Tuesday evening, one of which he got both hands to at a good height. A long-term injury to Jordan may really come back to bite us. 7

Lucas Digne: It all of a sudden seems popular to complain about Lucas but I have no complaints. He always makes himself available and is always committed. He’s lost form with his crossing and deliveries but he will get it back. I feel he could probably do with a bit of a break but, with no back-up left-back, and that he is France’s first-choice left-back, makes this unlikely. Stick with him, we could do much, much worse. 6

Michael Keane: Not the best of starts to the game but he grew into it. As with Lucas, we could do a lot worse than Michael, another who is always committed and always available. 6

Yerry Mina: Yerry was excellent and dominated from the very beginning. He’s a fine centre-back on his day. My man of the match. 8

Ben Godfrey: He still appears some way short of fitness but he is getting there. He also grew into the game. 6

Allan: Come to think of it, another who grew into the game and he was very good in the second half. He played a very big hand in our sealant goal and won the penalty for our first one. That counts as an assist, right? 7

Abdoulaye Doucouré: Funnily enough, I didn’t feel he’d had his best game, but the praise he has received for his performance from fellow supporters and media alike has been excellent so it shows what I know. He was very good in the final quarter of the game. While others tire, his energy is endless as it showed with a good sprint to get into position to fire in our second goal. A great player. 7

Andros Townsend: What a signing he is turning out to me, and he seems a brilliant character to have around too. He works hard all day long, gets up and down the pitch and is chipping in with vital goals and assists. Well done, Andros. We’re delighted to have you here. 7

Alex Iwobi: He had a pretty good second half after a generally anonymous first one. I try hard to like Alex Iwobi, it's always been a strange signing because we signed him seemingly without identifying a clear position for him. I feel, under three different managers now, that Everton have tried to keep him involved as best they can, but he can never seem to settle into a position enough to continue giving him a run of games. In the second half, I felt he faired a little better in his favoured number 10 role when he and Demarai switched positions for a short while. Though, when they switched back, Demarai carried the ball forward and set up our second goal. Would Alex have been able to do that? Probably not is the answer. Still, let’s hope he can either a) do enough to become an important player who regularly contributes, or b) do enough to catch another team’s eye so we can recoup some of the investment and put it back into the team. We need a solution with Alex either way. 6

Demarai Gray: I didn’t think he had his best game, but that’s what good players can do – come alive at vital moments, and he sure did that to assist our second goal. Well done Demarai, like Andros, very impressive so far. 6

Salomon Rondon: He’s clearly nowhere near fit so it's unfair to judge him now. Nobody, not he nor Rafa, were expecting him to come in and have to start three matches in a week, but needs must such are the injuries at present. Plus he is our back-up striker, and at 32 we are asking a lot. Let's judge him once he is fit, and a full 90 minutes in the bank will have done him the world of good. 5

Anthony Gordon (for Andros Townsend): It’s nice to see him given an opportunity given he was one of the positives against QPR. He did okay, perhaps needs to bulk up a little bit as he can be easily shrugged off the ball, but he’s a growing lad with a slight build so there is only so much you can do about that. He looks a good player. Good enough? Time will tell but it’s good to see a local lad get some opportunities. 6

Tom Davies (for Demarai Gray): A bit hit and miss. 5

Lewis Dobbin (for Alex Iwobi): Great to see a dream come true for a young man, let's wish him all the luck in the world. Not really on long enough to judge but, as you would expect, he was full of energy and did his best to get involved. Spare a thought though for Ellis Simms, who was warming up next to Lewis, both of them eagerly hoping for the opportunity, but it was Lewis who was called back and not Ellis. He’ll have been gutted. I hope his opportunity comes soon.

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Reader Comments (56)

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Barry Rathbone
1 Posted 26/09/2021 at 15:39:06
Agree with the Rafa comments. I doubt many Evertonians wanted him – a fact he would have known yet still gave it a go. I think fans like courageous individuals so he should get points for determination particularly as his early venture into this lions den has been surprisingly good.

Still early but doing okay...

Mike Gaynes
2 Posted 26/09/2021 at 15:46:58
Great report, Paul, and I completely agree with your conclusions, and most particularly your comments about Rafa. I too was strongly opposed, but it seems he may turn out to be a very good decision by Moshiri. Yerry was the clear MotM for me as well.

This may turn out to be a win to cherish. I believe victories will be scarce over the next two months.

Glad you and your mates are able to enjoy the Guinness at the pub again. I envy you that weekly opportunity.

Adam Carey
3 Posted 26/09/2021 at 16:26:00
Regarding Simms, I'm sure someone mentioned in yesterday's live-feed that he either played for the Academy late in the week or was injured in his last game for them. I wonder if he was just filling a spot so we didn't have another game without a full subs bench?

I think we were a bit flat throughout but even with Norwich having a good 20-minute spell early in the 2nd half, they never looked like really threatening us. Man Utd will be a hard test next weekend but 13 points on the board against teams where we should be getting results is a good place to be in.

Jim Bennings
4 Posted 26/09/2021 at 18:20:02
We can't really complain, given how piss-poor we have been at Goodison for 18 months, it's comforting to have three wins from three games.

We weren't great but we didn't need to be and we will absolutely need to be much much better at Old Trafford and certainly next time at Goodison against Moyes's ever-improving West Ham side.

It's a shame that pre-Rafa Benitez we wasted so much money on shit players for megabucks and only the likes of the marvelous Doucouré, Allan and one or two others are exempt from that list.

Benitez has worked a minor miracle plucking Demarai Gray for £1.7 million and the workaholic Andros Townsend for free. Townsend has a fantastic attitude and he's everything that we wanted Alex Iwobi to be but sadly never will be.

Gray constantly occupies defenders and when you have that kind of pace there's always a chance on the horizon.

Doucouré has been immense this season and it just shows that last season, it was clearly Carlo holding him back with ultra negative formations – at home in particular.

The reason so many of us don't rate or like Gomes or Davies in the heart of midfield is because when you see Doucouré, all pace, power, athleticism, you quickly understand that is exactly what you require in midfield to dominate matches.

Allan seems to compliment him so well. Here's one question, though: if Allan ever does score a goal, will we riot??

Dennis Stevens
5 Posted 26/09/2021 at 19:44:17
Fuck me, Paul, I hope Benitez proves to be a better and more successful manager than Allardyce – who, let's not forget, fared no better than Unsworth in the league. He did not, to my mind, prove himself worthy of succeeding the caretaker manager.
Nicholas Ryan
6 Posted 26/09/2021 at 19:52:50
Interesting to think what might have happened if Benitez had been in charge of all the money squandered by the others?!
Phil Wood
7 Posted 26/09/2021 at 20:18:36
Totally agree with your report, Paul.

Great to see the younger players getting some time in even if it is through necessity.

I was very happy to get Rafa in as manager as I felt the Club has had a series of "soft" managers who were happy to toe the party line. He is a hard-headed pro who will not accept interference and will demand what he needs to succeed. If things don't work out under him, then I don't think they would work out for anyone under the circumstances.

A brave appointment (amazingly) and I still cannot believe he has had the balls to take the job on. This makes me admire him even more.

Jon Wit
8 Posted 26/09/2021 at 20:36:14
Thought we might slip up here, it's to Benitiez credit that the rudder is still steady and the team did a professional job despite us still missing key players.

If Doucouré hadn't have been injured, I wonder if we'd have sneaked a European place? That was what I felt at the time anyway. Benitez is getting more out of him though.

Man Utd will be a test – it's a shame we aren't at full strength.

Phil Wood
9 Posted 26/09/2021 at 21:11:17
Jon (8),

I fear for the Man Utd game. It has always been a difficult fixture and they are licking their wounds at a time when we have a dearth of players.

I will be watching this from behind the sofa with a bag of lucky rabbits' feet. Fantastic if we can get a result but happy to think we can move on to good results going forward if it is not to be.

Dave Abrahams
10 Posted 26/09/2021 at 21:18:52
Paul, there was another Norwich City game, possibly the last home game of the season when Norwich were already relegated, we won 3-0 and Dowell along with Connolly played, not sure if they made their debuts, and Jonjoe Kenny came on as a sub, not sure if it was before 2017.
Andy Crooks
11 Posted 26/09/2021 at 21:35:53
Top stuff as usual, Paul.

Iwobi is a mystery to me. I have a feeling that he is the most talented player at the club and will prove it soon. But... could be I am the worst judge of a player on ToffeeWeb.

I have no doubt, though, that Mina is a really fine player. Agree, Paul's Man of the Match.

Have to say this, Tom Davies is a credit to our club. A really good player and a lad who strikes me as getting it. After Seamus Coleman, I admire no player more.

Michael Kenrick
12 Posted 26/09/2021 at 21:57:31
Amazing memory, Dave @10!

Dowell started but it was along with Pennington, not Connolly (who stayed on the bench as an unused sub). Kenny came on for Pennington when he suffered a hamstring injury.

But it was before that game in Nicosia that Paul mentions: last match of 2015-16.

Alan McGuffog
13 Posted 26/09/2021 at 22:05:33
Phil... six games in, joint second. We will lose at Old Trafford, no danger. It's how we respond after that.

I think we'll respond well. We'll have a decent season. Won't pull up any trees.

Obviously this will piss off those on TW with a pathological dislike of the manager and are wishing him to fail.

Joe McMahon
14 Posted 26/09/2021 at 22:19:48
Not me, Alan, I wanted Rafa after Martinez left. I've never been a bitter and ain't bothered about LFC links as they have a winning mentality.

Before anyone chokes on a Sunday night glass of Creme de Menthe, that would not include Dalglish or Carragher!

Craig Walker
15 Posted 26/09/2021 at 22:29:18
We beat Norwich 3-0 with Unsworth in charge at the end of one season. Think it might have been Tim Howard’s last game for us.

Joe. I wanted Benitez instead of Silva and took a lot of stick for it. I think we’d be in a better position now if he’d been appointed instead of Koeman, with hindsight.

Hope he does well for us and the fans start to appreciate having him here.

Nick Page
16 Posted 26/09/2021 at 22:33:31
“Iwobi is a mystery to me. I have a feeling that he is the most talented player at the club and will prove it soon.”

Andy, IMO he's the biggest fraud I've ever seen on a football pitch. Arsenal pulled our pants down. He's a training ground maverick. Loses the bottle as soon as he steps over the white line.

Terrible decision-maker. Can't shoot. Won't tackle. Does okay as a sub late on but that's it. Add to the long list of massive failures Everton have had via the Sky 6 cast-offs and will get zero money back for.

If Moshiri had any interest in actually running this club, Brands would have been slaughtered for this signing and a few others. What does he actually do, the Dutchman? What's our return on investment here?

I thought he was well connected but our academy is even more rank average than our first team …. which, curiously is a 100% improvement over the rubbish served up last year due to two players who came in for basically nothing. Everton that.

Paul Birmingham
17 Posted 26/09/2021 at 22:49:47
Jim, if Allan hopefully scores, there will be a riot and I dare say an over oad for the St Johns, as he's getting closer every game.

But all things considered, Rafa has done well, QPR aside – the starting team was the wrong team in my view, it should have been a team to win the game in 95 minutes.

Next Man Utd. I'm sure when Bob the Pole done them in the 3-0 win there, back in 1992-93, it was his last starting game for Everton, due to form, injury, and Walker? That was probably the end of an era when Everton had a win at Man Utd in the league for years.

Enough said, but nows the time. Era, late 70s, BL, AK, etc, we'd skin them, early 80s, and by the 90s, it was tbh, like the last decade. But last season they were lucky.

Now to gain the victory; Man Utd are not as good as they believe, and why can't Everton go for the win?

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
18 Posted 26/09/2021 at 23:32:22
We also beat Man Utd in 2013-14 with Bryan Oviedo and Martinez no fear. Otherwise, yes 1992-93 although we had drawn the last 2 seasons.

As for academy players making their first appearance:

Nathan Broadhead – late sub at Brighton last season
Nkounkou got at start at Newcastle last season
Anthony Gordon was a half-time sub at West Ham in January BC and also a late sub at Chelsea in our last game BC (before covid).
Beni Baningime came on as a sub at Leicester, October 2017

All of these were away games when in Martinez's last season.

We used Keiran Dowell as a late sub in April 2016. Jonjoe Kenny, last match of that season when Tom Davies made his first start having been a sub a month earlier against Southampton, as did Connolly while Pennington played the last 4 games of that season. All of them had their first match at home.

So Lewis Dobbin's is first home debut game since that Norwich game.

Pretty sad state of affairs. Holgate and Calvert-Lewin were polished off at the academy but were brought in, as was Branthwaite. But at the moment, Tom Davies is the only regular player over the last 5 years, with still to be decided about 2, fairly certain 2 others won't, and 4 have already been sold or released.

Jim Bennings
20 Posted 27/09/2021 at 06:38:21
To join the Iwobi debate, it really is one that would never reach a conclusion.

He would make an outstanding 5-a-side player, doing short 3-yard passes and giving it back.

The trouble with Iwobi is that he's not fast enough to play on the wing, he doesn't go past players. He's not clever enough or doesn't score enough or get enough shots in to be a Number 10.

Again, I compare him with Townsend, a player that keeps it simple with one touch then cross or one touch, come inside and shoot; he always knows what he wants to do, whether it comes off or not.

The only solution I can see with Alex Iwobi is a move for a decent fee to somewhere like Crystal Palace; a fresh challenge and just maybe he may find a position he excels in.

Phil Wood
21 Posted 27/09/2021 at 07:14:25
Paul (17),

How times change.

I was at that 3-0 win at Old Trafford in 92-93 and the Man Utd fans hated Fergie and wanted him out. Banners around the ground telling him to get back to Scotland.

History shows that, by the end of the season, he had become a god to them.

Danny O’Neill
22 Posted 27/09/2021 at 09:02:44
Excellent read as always, Paul. I refrained this week in anticipation of yours as they're way better! I've done the match to death on the other threads, so just a few comebacks on some of the posts.

That kit. Enough said. I wish I'd taken my sunglasses.

I'd agree on your Man of the Match in hindsight. On some of the players I hadn't given mention to elsewhere. Amongst other things, one thing Townsend brings is experience and leadership. Alongside Allan and Seamus, we now have something we've often been void of in recent seasons; multiple leaders on the pitch. I would also add an encouragingly maturing Pickford to that bunch.

I too have not been concerned with Digne. I think we are less reliant on him going forward now as we are playing with proper wingers in Gray and Townsend. Maybe that explains it, but it would be good to see him on the overlap more often.

I'd forgotten about Kabak being at Norwich. I watched him play for Schalke – he played alongside Kenny. Still only 21, so very young for a centre-back. I think he'll develop into a very good player.

Great to see young Dobbin get on the pitch, having heard a lot about him. Obviously not enough to make any judgement, but he didn't seem fazed and made some nice touches.

I'm sort of with Andy on Iwobi. There is a talent in there. I think his problem is decision-making. He never seems to know what he wants or is going to do. As I've said elsewhere, sometimes that works in his favour as neither do the opposition!

On Europe, Jim, I would say probably bordering on definitely. Many point to the 10th place finish, but we were one game away.

Joe – we need to add Gerrard to that list!!!

I will riot, Jim.

Finally on Benitez. He is focussed and professional. He cares little for reputation or his own popularity. He demonstrated that by taking the job and, so far, he's doing a job. At the end, did he tentatively walk into the middle to applaud the supporters? I heard cheers and a few boos, but not sure who they were directed at. He seemed to get a good reception from the Enclosure as he walked off.

Brian Harrison
23 Posted 27/09/2021 at 10:18:03

Not sure how you give both Iwobi and Godfrey a 6, seemed to me they were the worst two on the park for us. But it just highlights the fact that everybody sees the game differently – that's what makes football so fascinating.

I know Godfrey had Covid and that may account for his poor performances this season. Benitez has subbed him twice already this season, and he seems a shadow of the player he was last season.

I know many on here are always clamouring for Godfrey to be paired at centre-back with Mina but, for me, he isn't physically strong enough in the air and his positional sense is not the best, maybe that's why Benitez quite rightly prefers Mina and Keane as his centre-back pairing.

Doucouré and Allan look an excellent pairing in midfield – certainly the best we have had for many a year, and with Benítez's additions of the brilliant Demarai Gray and our hardworking new penalty taker, Townsend, who so far has never given anything less than 100%.

Norwich were poor and we should have scored more against them, but a wins a win and another home win. But I think we are all aware that we will meet far better sides than we have in our previous 6 games and they will give us a truer idea of our finishing position.

I can't get used to seeing Benitez in our dugout and probably never will but, even being a staunch critic of us appointing him, it would be churlish not to admit that he has made one excellent signing and one very good squad player for next to nothing, and has got us playing on the front foot more than we have for a while.

I am still to see a side dominate for long periods but again Benitez has only been here a short while and he will need time and patience to turn us into a side that can dominate games.

So a good solid start to the season which I am very pleased with as I feared a bad start and because of who was managing us, this might have made playing at Goodison a not too pleasant experience.

But that hasn't happened and, after a solid start, I think fans – even ones like me who didn't want him here – will now give him some slack should we have a dodgy spell... as I am sure we will. I also think that, given we have been missing our main strikers for a few games it puts what Benitez has done into an even better place.

Tommy Carter
24 Posted 27/09/2021 at 10:30:06
@ Brian.

Doucouré and Allan are an okay pairing.

Allan is nowhere near the level of Gana Gueye and as a pairing, these two have nothing on Barry and McCarthy of 2013-14.

Allan and Doucouré should rightly overrun poor opposition.

Against better teams, they will be chasing the ball for 90 mins. That's just the reality of where we are at. We have no ball players at all in our team and we are simply a counter-attacking outfit, capable of absorbing counters against us.

The pace and dynamism of Gray and Townsend has meant that, in the short term, we can offer a more potent threat. This is a distinct change in philosophy from Ancelotti who was the first man since Martinez to attempt to introduce players in midfield who are comfortable on the ball and will try and keep hold of it.

Now I'm not saying that Ancelotti managed to implement this but having a midfield featuring Gomes and James suggested to me that this was what he was attempting to introduce.

Under Benitez we will more often than not beat the teams we should beat and lose to those better than us. We won't be able to outplay the bigger and better teams and it will be scrappy hard fought victories by the odd goal if we do beat any of them. We might win the odd one but we will lose most of them.

And if you want to break the top 4 or win a cup competition, you need a hell of a lot of luck to keep progressing when being outplayed.

There'll be a few tough away days ahead of us I'm sure.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
25 Posted 27/09/2021 at 10:33:03
Question for all those who watched the 90 minutes – Paul, Dave, Michael, Lyndon.

Aarons. Based on Saturday – is he a replacement for Seamus or has Brands been right not to go all out to get him?

Kevin Molloy
26 Posted 27/09/2021 at 10:39:04

He certainly fancied his chances in his one-on-one with Digne. It was almost like he knew he'd beat him, which is slightly concerning.

I am starting to get the impression that teams feel he is becoming a weakness for us defensively and want to test him. There's been a few occasions this season where fullbacks (not wingers) have just powered past him.

If he keeps this up, we could be looking for two fullbacks in the summer...

Danny O’Neill
27 Posted 27/09/2021 at 10:52:33
Phil, he didn't stand out for me. As Kevin said, he took on Digne a couple of times, which I think led to the yellow and then the non-yellow that Farke was complaining about.

Nothing special, but then difficult to gauge a player in a poor team. Put them in a better team and they can look totally different.

Brian Harrison
28 Posted 27/09/2021 at 10:52:41

I have to disagree with you that the pairing of Barry and McCarthy were a better pairing than Doucoure and Allan. They had a good first season during Martinez's first season but, while Barry was a very good defender, neither him nor McCarthy were much of a threat in and around the opponent's box. I thought McCarthy was average and you're right: Gana had a terrific engine and I would suggest only Kante has a better engine.

Tony Abrahams
29 Posted 27/09/2021 at 11:24:57
Tommy @24,

Do you think, if Benitez had been given any money, he would have continued with the distinct change that you claim Ancelotti made, or do you think he's happy with our current midfield?

Danny O’Neill
30 Posted 27/09/2021 at 11:48:38
I'd also have to disagree, Tommy, but you made me think of parallels.

A player who clearly has / had the class but we have him a the end of his career (Allan / Barry) and another with bags of energy and still young enough to get better (McCarthy / Doucouré).

The only thing was, McCarthy didn't push on and didn't improve. That may be harsh as the lad was plagued by injuries; one of them a horrific leg break. I'd say Doucouré especially is superior to McCarthy.

Tony, I'd say he would have added one to either compliment those two or at least be able to rotate depending on game volume and formation. I still think we're okay with Gomes (on his day and against the right team) and Davies (used correctly), but those two are good providing they stay fit.

Amongst other things, our season took a turn when both Allan and then Doucouré were hit with injury last season. Given he knew the limited spending resources, he obviously prioritised what many called for: pace and width.

We still need that centre-back! That's where I'd have put Benitez's money even though many disagree with me on that. Apologies for pulling out one of my many scratched records again!

Mick O'Malley
31 Posted 27/09/2021 at 12:07:35
Tommy @24,

I agree with you about Barry and McCarthy, they made a more solid pairing, but we're a bit limited going forward.

Tony Abrahams
32 Posted 27/09/2021 at 12:12:55
I'm of the same opinion, Danny. If Mina and Keane are the best central defensive pairing at Everton, it's not a partnership that can really move the team forward imo.

It's also rumored that Benitez wanted to swap Davies for Longstaff, which tells me that our manager was trying to engineer change, but obviously didn't have the money to do this.

Mike Corcoran
33 Posted 27/09/2021 at 12:33:06
Lamenting the loss of the engine of Gana and agreeing with the opinion that Godfrey hasn't really shown us anything great yet at CB. Hate the old square pegs thing but if we need an engine behind Allan and Doucoure in a 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1, then if Coleman returns for Man Utd, there's probably never been a better time to be forced into sticking Godfrey in at defensive midfield to snuff out Bruno et al. Can't honestly see Tom Davies being effective there against the better teams.
Dave Williams
34 Posted 27/09/2021 at 12:50:34
Aarons is too small. He really is quite tiny and would be exploited by teams putting a big guy on him. At the sort of money Norwich are talking about, I think he is considerably overpriced. That said, he looks pretty quick and comfortable on the ball but not £25-30M!
Tony Everan
35 Posted 27/09/2021 at 13:05:30
Dave, There must have been a whole lot of clubs looking at him, but none took he plunge at that kind of money. He looked good once or twice going forward but managers must see defensive weaknesses, his height may be a concern as teams will look to exploit it. It must be harder for him mentally seeing Godfrey and Buendia go, Norwich are largely devoid of top level talent now. He’s a good player but from what I have seen I rather have had Dumfries who was bought for about 16m I think, Inter got a good deal. At Norwich’s asking price of 25-30m Brands will be looking elsewhere.
Bill Griffiths
36 Posted 27/09/2021 at 14:06:04
I posted before the game that it would be interesting to see how Aarons performed given our lengthy documented interest in signing him.

I watched him quite closely during the game and my personal opinion just based on Saturday's game is that he's just average. I doubt he'd be good enough to do well at any team with Top 6 ambitions.

David Pearl
37 Posted 27/09/2021 at 14:34:49
I was also paying attention to Aarons. He did okay, nothing special.. or at least not £30 mil worth. Showed Digne a clean pair of heals and could be interesting if he was available around £20 mil.

As it is, he is playing for perhaps one of the worst premier league teams l have ever seen come to Goodison. Having gotten rid of Buendia l have no idea what kind of ambition Norwich have... and that was really disapointing to see. As was how we sat back second half and invited them to have a go.

Looking ahead l'm not expecting us to finish any higher than 8th this season. Next season, let's see if our manager really is looking at Maupay and the like. How long before we can start spending again, and what kind of player will we be looking at?

I'm agreeing with Tommy as above, noting we have no ball-players left. We just gave away one of the best. Bernard was another let go who didn't hit the heights but could play. I don't know how long Benitez will be here and, if it's for a few years, the kind of players he will bring in, will they be to play counter or what? He has taken us back to basics. Perhaps it's what was needed.

Ray Robinson
38 Posted 27/09/2021 at 15:41:31
I thought Aarons was eclipsed by Brandon Williams who I thought was Norwich's best player. Aarons skinned Digne a few times but didn't do enough to warrant the hype.

In our game against Southampton, I thought Livramento was an excellent full-back. We definitely need cover in the full-back positions. Godfrey, who certainly looked as if he was still suffering the after-effects of Covid, has a big season ahead of him if he wants to consolidate the excellent start that he made last season.

I hope I'm wrong but I have some nagging doubts, largely because I'm not sure yet what his best position is. It should be centre back but, just like Holgate, he doesn't look commanding enough.

Mina and Keane, imperfect as they are, remain the best centre-back pairing in my opinion.

Tommy Carter
39 Posted 27/09/2021 at 15:51:07
@ Tony 29

It’s interesting Tony. I think Benitez favours a counter attacking type system and for that reason I think he would’ve changed up no matter what. I think even with money he’d have gone for the profile of players like Gray and Townsend, pace and direct.

They have had an obvious impact already. However agains the better teams, where defenders are better and more astute they will struggle to influence the game.

Against Burnley and Norwich etc they may get 5/6 opportunities to make an impact. Against the better teams this may only be once a game.

It is for this reason Gray did not make the grade at Leicester. As they seek to break from Europa League to Champions League places they needed players like Gray in the big games to produce when it mattered most. And he didn’t.

We will see this as we enter fixtures against the better teams. It is just the way it is. So short term I think there is an obvious impact here that we will benefit from and we should beat the teams in and around us and certainly below us. However, long term this is no plan for success, unless the quality of the type of player he brings in vastly improves. And for that he’ll need money.

Max Aarons - the exact kind of signing we need to stay away from. We don’t need or should want this kind of player. A solid and consistent full back we need. Benitez has had success with Steve Finnan and Alvaro Arbeloain the past. This is the exact profile I want at the club.

Like Coufal at West Ham, Matty Cash, Lowton - these are good examples of solid premier league right backs who can be bought at decent value.

Jim Bennings
41 Posted 27/09/2021 at 16:13:45
Can't really read too much into Aarons skinning Digne several times, no disrespect to our Lucas but he's not and never has been a terrier of a defender.

I think there must be many a right back out there that would do a solidly dependable job for Everton.

It's something that should have been dealt with 3 years ago I'm fairness, given the fact that Seamus Coleman didn't just jump from 22 to 32 in the space of a few weeks; we have seen his steady decline coming on and the injuries become more and more frequent.

I can't get my head around just how bad Jonjoe Kenny must be when you are forced into playing Ben Godfrey or Mason Holgate at right-back; neither exactly cut the mustard for that role.

Tony Abrahams
42 Posted 27/09/2021 at 16:26:00
Digne, has never had real competition since he came to Everton, because even Leighton Baines was criminally underused, but I never saw him get skinned several times on Saturday though Jim, even if I don't think he his playing particularly well.

I can't understand why Brands never sold Jonjoe Kenny to Burnley last January? Absolutely baffling why he never, and especially because he was sent to a team on the wane in Scotland.

That just helped continue his stagnation, which had began when he came back from Schalke. He never got into Everton's first team at a time when he had got used to and needed to play real competitive football.

Mark Murphy
43 Posted 27/09/2021 at 18:28:28
"We have seen his steady decline"

Whoa there, Jim! I wouldn't pack Seamus off to Jodie Comer's guest house just yet. Still something to offer I reckon.

Robert Tressell
44 Posted 27/09/2021 at 20:38:58
I like Aarons but seems quite unlikely we'd go for him now. The rumours dried up when it became apparent we had no money.

Now that the departure of Rodriguez has gone through we might well sign Maitland-Niles in January.

I wouldn't even be surprised if we got him and either of the two young Scottish RBs (Patterson and Ramsey) we've been linked with. This might allow Maitland-Niles to operate in midfield too a bit.

The only way we'd sign Aarons is if none of these deals came off in January and relegated Norwich are prepared to sell for more about £15m to £20m or so in summer.

Nick Page
45 Posted 27/09/2021 at 21:35:06
I think Everton, from here on in, would be far far better utilising a Moneyball-type approach to transfers. Not buying Sky 6 cast-offs. We've pissed £500m up the wall on all sorts of shite, with no discernible strategy, most of which is and has been unsellable. Brands has done nothing. Kenwright continues to stick his oar in.

The only problem is it needs an overhaul from the ground up and a new way of thinking but I think it needs doing as we're going nowhere fast with this hit-and-hope approach. Once you implement this and put the right staff in place, it permeates the whole club via the Under-16s to the Academy because we look for a type of player based on stats.

I'm actually amazed Moshiri never went with this but uncoupling the trainset from the Fat Controller was always the problem. I would be interested to know what The Esk thinks of this – cheers, Paul.

Tony Abrahams
46 Posted 27/09/2021 at 21:41:14
You hit on something very pertinent, Nick, because it's nearly impossible to get rid of average players when you're paying them well over the odds, and this is where I'm hoping Benitez makes the most change.
Nick Page
47 Posted 27/09/2021 at 22:59:11
I think it's the only sensible strategy to be honest, Tony. If we want to see an Everton side compete, you can make that side with this approach but it needs very disciplined thinking and implementation. Even with a little bit of money it can work wonders. And it has longevity coupled with financial discipline. I'm amazed – or actually not at all – that we haven't done it as it cures so many ills.
Sam Hoare
48 Posted 27/09/2021 at 23:27:02
Max Aarons is clearly overpriced. Especially when you look at Livramento who Southampton got for under £5M (where were you on that one, Marcel?!!).

I agree with Tommy @39, a solid, dependable right-back who can be relied upon to do all the basics well will suit me. Easier said than done perhaps but a lot of mid-table clubs have managed to sign decent right-backs over the last few years so I don't know why we have struggled so much.

Tommy Carter
49 Posted 27/09/2021 at 23:27:58
Aarons is a similar story to Sigurdsson, Iwobi, Zaha, Keane … who else is in for him at the prices being quoted?

Answer is nobody and we should treat that with the caution it deserves.

Much better value to be had for Everton Football Club.

If we had a brilliant starting XI but needed a potential star full-back to augment the team, then this signing would make sense. But we don't. And it doesn't.

Although right-back is a priority position for us, there is no benefit on gambling on who could be a world class right-back for huge money, or, an expensive flop – when a solid and steady right-back of a good age will do the job.

Mike Gaynes
50 Posted 28/09/2021 at 00:05:19
Tommy, you haven't given up on the Iwobi-at-right-back idea, have you?

Good callout on Brandon Williams. He's the first guy I've ever seen just do a burn on Godfrey. Left him behind.

Mike Gaynes
51 Posted 28/09/2021 at 05:55:06
Ed #51, we won't be "getting rid" of Gbamin. His contract runs to 2024, and as a player on £65,000/week who hasn't played in two years, he has no marketability. And you can't just donate him to Goodwill and take a tax deduction.

He'll get a chance to play. And we'll find out then if he still can.

Ben King
52 Posted 28/09/2021 at 08:41:54
Gbamin: on one hand, I sympathise with the lad and his injury issues.

But on the other… my gosh, what's the issue now? How many injuries??? Toothache, Covid, what next? Ear infection???

Peter Neilson
53 Posted 28/09/2021 at 09:13:05
Gbamin has had a terrible run of injuries. I was looking forward to seeing what he could do this season, maybe still will? On his salary the club might have insurance in place to cover most/all the basic, depends if they could get it when he signed but he already had quite an injury record. Also his contract might stipulate a salary drop after 12 months or so injured. Depends if the club was diligent.
Clive Rogers
54 Posted 28/09/2021 at 10:10:21
Aarons is 5ft 10ins tall. Is that classed as tiny nowadays? Just wondering.
Ajay Gopal
55 Posted 28/09/2021 at 11:59:26
Great report as always, Paul. You always bring home the atmosphere at the ground for those of us less fortunate who are unable to attend the games in person. However, I do think you have been very generous in your ranking to some of the players, but that is okay.

On the issue of when we will be able to resume spending, I have no idea – but Rafa seemed to hint in the last pre-match press briefing that he expects some money to be made available in January. The exits of several highly paid players like Bernard, Kean and James and the disappearance of Voldemort ("He Who Shall Not be Named") would surely have resulted in savings of about £400-500k per week in wages, so that would have helped towards meeting FFP targets.

I expect quite a few good options to be available in January as clubs figure out who they don't need after the start of the season. For example, Danny von de Beek might be interested in game time and Man Utd may be okay with off-loading him. Similarly, Maitland-Niles from Arsenal.

Someone mentioned Sean Longstaff – he is in his final year of contract and he should be available for a bargain. (He scored a screamer and then missed an absolute sitter in last weekend's game.) Rafa probably knows him from his Newcastle days - so, it would be easy for him to fit in.

Most of the money should go to our primary right-back target – if that is Nathan Patterson from Rangers, then put in the bid that gets the signing done.

I would like us to get in a forward on loan as a backup. I really liked Mbaye Diagne when he was loaned from Galatasaray to West Brom in the latter part of last season. He made 16 appearances and scored 2 and assisted 3, but what impressed me most was his work rate and ability to get in the box and trouble defenders. He is a very Benitez type of player.

John Hammond
57 Posted 28/09/2021 at 14:30:14
Good report Paul. Simms has just returned from injury so I'm sure he understood, why Dobbin got a few minutes and he didn't. Hopefully we see both of them a bit more.
Peter Neilson
58 Posted 28/09/2021 at 18:15:29
Ajay, although he’s been linked by the media, if we do have money to spend I don’t really see why we would sign Longstaff. If Tom Davies can’t get a game I can’t see why he would. Maybe Benitez will see it differently but I wouldn’t see this as strengthening the squad.
Paul Tran
59 Posted 28/09/2021 at 18:33:31
Good report Paul, meat & drink to us exiles.

We don't have to play great. What we have to do is win consistently, then we can worry about playing great.

Right now, I would love an Everton team that consistently beats the sides below us and has a puncher's chance against those above us. That's the base you build from. The base that would probably get us into Europe. We've spent five years throwing money at players without remotely thinking of that base. That's why we're in the current financial & mid-table mess.

What we're seeing now is far better than what we've seen since Ancelotti finished our season prematurely by bringing back Allan, James & Doucoure from injury far too early and stuffing them for the rest of the season.

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