Great to see our players expressing themselves

Paul Traill 06/02/2022 16comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 4 - 1 Brentford
Last weekend I bought some new trainers from a shop in Birkenhead, and when I got home and tried to put them on, I found that the security tags had been left on. I therefore had to return to get them removed and jumped on a bus to Birkenhead yesterday morning. Dan then kindly picked me up from Birkenhead, and we were quickly through the tunnel.

While in the car, out of nowhere Ste suddenly gasped. It was the sort of gasp that is usually reserved for when someone runs out in front of you when you’re driving, and we all thought something serious had happened. And then he broke it to us. “I forgot my ticket, so I’m going to have to go to Goodison first to get a new ticket printed”. Phew!

We got to the pub pretty early, though as it got busier you really felt a palpable sense of optimism and excitement, while we watched West Ham United make extremely hard work of their fixture with Kidderminster Harriers.

Just on around 2pm Gary and Sue also joined us, and we got the much anticipated team news on our phones. Three central defenders began the game in Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane and Mason Holgate. Vitalii Mykolenko began at left back, with Seamus Coleman preferred to Nathan Patterson on the opposite side. We were a bit surprised to see that Frank had gone for two in midfield, especially given the problems this caused for his predecessor. It was great fun in the pub. For various reasons its been quite a while since many of us have been there together at the same time, and it was really great to see everyone.

We arrived at Goodison Park slightly earlier than usual which was just as well as it was pretty busy at many of the turnstiles. We got to our seats well in time for what was a very lengthy play of the sirens, which was followed by a long pause to build up anticipation that little bit more, before Z-Cars rang out. Frank Lampard received an excellent applause from the crowd.

Everton began the game a little edgy, and there was nothing really between the teams in the opening sparrings. It actually took Everton a little while to click into gear. This wasn’t helped by the early injury to Ben Godfrey who appeared to pull a hamstring, and was replaced by Yerry Mina.

While the old problem of not having enough bodies in midfield continued to hamper us as we conceded a lot of the ball in the centre, Frank did something about that and made a tactical tweak, and asked Demarai Gray to drift into the centre to pick up the ball. This gave us more of an out-ball and allowed us the opportunity to get up the pitch. Once we started doing this, the pendulum swung more in our favour, and we were soon ahead via a pretty routine corner kick. Demarai swung it into the mixer powerfully, and Yerry rose highest to quite easily head into the goal. This was met with jubilant scenes throughout Goodison Park. Yerry the man to christen our new era with a goal.

This settled our players and we seemed to have more of a calmness to our play. Brentford weren’t without opportunities though. Jordan Pickford made a relatively straightforward save from Sergi Canos following a somewhat defensive lapse. And just as the resultant corner was about to be taken the wind really picked up quite suddenly, and Jordan had to be alert to keep the ball out just under his own crossbar. Though we got to the break a goal to the good.

At half time, one of the lads around us travels down from Middlesbrough every game, and was saying how Middlesbrough away would suit him fine in the next round. It was nice to welcome Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli to the club at the interval also.

The second half was vastly enjoyable. It certainly helped that we doubled our advantage early in the half when Allan dinked a lovely ball through for his compatriot Richarlison, who finished very well past the onrushing David Raya. He reeled away in celebration before the ball had crossed the line which to us looked slightly premature but he obviously knew it was a goal. Brilliant work by both.

Everton flirted with the idea of ruining the day when Ivan Toney found himself away in the penalty area and was felled as he attempted to round Jordan Pickford. With no real complaints from any Everton players, it didn’t take long for Ivan to step up and put the ball into the corner kick, and at 2-1 you couldn’t help but get a little nervous.

These nerves were settled only eight minutes later when Mason Holgate nodded the ball in at the back post from another Demarai Gray corner kick. With the two goal cushion now restored, the supporters regained confidence, and Goodison Park became its raucous best. Everyone singing with a smile. Its been a long time since we’ve felt so positive about Everton. The players by this point were beginning to play with an arrogance and a swagger, and were popping the ball around smartly, a lot of the good work coming through Andre Gomes.

Frank Lampard used up his full quota of five substitutes (it’s five in the FA Cup rather than three), and three of them combined stylishly to add some gloss to the scoreline. Cenk Tosun had an easy ball to Seamus Coleman available, but instead picked up an intelligent run inside by Alex Iwobi who flicked smartly inside for Andros Townsend. With Brentford long since given up by this point and no pressure on the ball, Andros didn’t hesitate and pelted the ball into the net at pace. Goodison Park jubilant. Desperate for the toilet by this point I darted off with a minute or so to spare and so missed the applause for Frank at full time. We then all convened at the statue and headed back home.

Doesn’t it make such a difference when you give players the freedom to express themselves? We’d never have seen Allan for example dink a ball through for RIcharlison like that a few weeks back, and the way Anthony Gordon ghosted around the field was nothing short of remarkable. The players seemed to have a freedom to go and do what they do best. Obviously I haven’t been privy to the coaching of Rafa Benitez at Everton, though he has been well-known for giving players so many instructions and I wonder if this has stifled many of their abilities. They certainly seemed more expressive, and wasn’t it enjoyable to watch? Hopefully Frank can continue to instil this, and as he has spoken about, continue to raise their confidence levels. And with Bournemouth or Boreham Wood at home in the next round of the FA Cup, there’s a real opportunity to make the quarter finals. The FA Cup could become a great opportunity for Frank.

False dawns…we’ve had many. But there is a real excitement about having Frank on board which I don’t think has really been there with any Everton manager since David Moyes departed. Let’s hope this is the beginning of something special as Lord knows Evertonians deserve it.

Player ratings:

Jordan Pickford: He was very vocal out there. He didn’t have loads to do but he didn’t overcomplicate anything. If you remember back to the first few months of last season, Jordan was all over the place and made several costly mistakes. Since Carlo took him out of the firing line for a while and have him see a sports psychologist, he’s been excellent for club and country. He’s now never an issue. It’s not something you have to worry about or talk about, which really highlights how remarkable a turnaround its been for Jordan. 6

Vitalii Mykolenko: He didn’t do anything wrong as such and had a steady enough game. He doesn’t strike me as the most confident of players. It’s very early days of course and hopefully that will improve as he settles. He’s going to be in for quite the examination from opponents these next few months I imagine, as its surely an area they will target. With Jonjo Kenny now the only back-up full back, he’s going to have to stand up to the task. 6

Ben Godfrey: It’s unfortunate for Ben that he limped off early and will likely be out for at least six weeks. I can’t really give him a rating.

Michael Keane: He did pretty well at the back and brought the ball out of defence quite well. 6

Mason Holgate: Had a very good game and it was nice to see him cap it off with a goal. I’ve been listening to a few of them Twitter Spaces with some Everton fan groups over the last few weeks, and I’ve found some of the comments on there about Mason to be a bit unfair. Some were saying they would drive him to Brighton for free if it meant he was leaving, for example. I can understand if people are frustrated with his performance levels, but Mason always tries his best and doesn’t deserve that. He’s been with us across all our managers now since David Moyes and from Ronald Koeman right through to now Frank Lampard they have all used him, and he’s actually captained the team on a number of occasions. The point I’m trying to make is that he must show a lot of character and commitment to the cause at training and in and around the club, because our managers all feel they can count on him. This tells me that he tries and cares. There’s others who consistently haven’t tried their best, so I don’t think its fair to go after Mason. 7

Seamus Coleman: Did quite well. Got up and down the pitch. Seamus can still do a job, just his body won’t allow him to do it every single game. He needs to be intelligently rotated. 6

Allan: He grew into the game and made a very good contribution with his assist. 7

Andre Gomes: Well done to Andre, who really made the most of his opportunity in the middle to give Frank some foods for thought in that position. Like Allan, he grew into the game, and by the end was playing with a real nonchalance. 7

Demarai Gray: He put in two corner kicks which resulted in goals and made a good contribution throughout. 7

Anthony Gordon: Anthony was excellent and is really beginning to look the part. He’s full of confidence. I didn’t realise what a brilliant ball carrier he was until yesterday. He’s an excellent dribbler and is full of commitment. He needs to improve his end product but is surely on the right track. I didn’t think we did, but it looks like we’ve got a real talent there. And I suppose if I have to give Rafa Benitez credit for anything, it would be for how he has given Anthony games and improved his output. My man of the match. 8

Richarlison: A constant thorn in Brentford’s defence. He took his goal very well and kept them busy throughout. 7


Yerry Mina (for Ben Godfrey): I wanted Jarrad Branthwaite to come on instead of Yerry, as I felt Jarrad would slot seamlessly into that left side centre back position, as this meant Mason had to shuffle across. However, fair play, the reorganisation wasn’t a problem and Yerry had a good game, and scored of course. 7

Andros Townsend (for Anthony Gordon): He’s a very good professional to have and has made a very good contribution in his short time at Everton, also scoring twice in the FA Cup. He took his goal well and had good involvement throughout his 20-odd minutes. 7

Jonjo Kenny (For Vitalii Mykolenko): With Ben Godfrey now injured it is even more likely that Vitalii will be playing games. This makes Jonjo potentially our only recognised full back cover for Vitalii, so Frank probably wanted to keep Vitalii fresh and give Jonjo a bit of game time. Jonjo did quite well and didn’t let anyone down. 6

Cenk Tosun (for Richarlison): He also got involved and had a good impact on the game with a few neat touches, and then had a big hand in our fourth goal. Well done Cenk. 7

Alex Iwobi (for Demarai Gray): Also got involved and it was a very nice assist for Andros’s goal. 7

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Reader Comments (16)

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Jon Harding
1 Posted 06/02/2022 at 20:00:22
Thanks for taking the time to write up such a detailed report.

But one question remains. Not about Benitez's moribund tactics but how did you get out the shop without setting off an alarm if the security tags were still on your new trainers? Be honest now!

Paul Traill
2 Posted 06/02/2022 at 20:33:02
Haha, good point Jon. I didn't notice any alarm but when I got home and looked at them and found the security tags my wife said "oh yeah, I remember hearing an alarm as well left". 🤷
Paul Kernot
3 Posted 06/02/2022 at 21:26:03
Great description, Paul. Thanks for that.

I came home 4 years ago. Got to see all 3 home games during the Christmas period 2017-18. Downside was that they were under Allardyce. Wish I'd waited til now.

Re Jon's quip about your trainers, I live on the other side of the world now but sadly, our reputation follows us everywhere. Mostly in the form of jokes and mostly from ex-pats not from Liverpool but it's still there. Most who've been to Liverpool do however also mention our homour & friendliness.

John Raftery
4 Posted 06/02/2022 at 22:02:28
Thanks for the report, Paul. I thought the biggest difference yesterday was the back line pushing up to the halfway line instead of standing five to ten yards inside their own half. I noticed Lampard constantly waving them forward in the first half. Old habits die hard. New methods will take a while to be fully embedded.

As a result, the team looked much more compact allowing our midfield duo to control the game for lengthy periods. The only time we lost control was after we scored the second goal. Brentford threw men forward and suddenly all the familiar issues of defensive vulnerability came to the fore with players out of position and floundering. A better team than Brentford might have embarrassed us.

Thankfully, the third goal killed the game off and we could enjoy the last half-hour of a home game for the first time in ages. It will be interesting to see how our new manager sets the team up on Tuesday and if and how he uses Donny and Dele.

Paul Kernot
5 Posted 07/02/2022 at 02:46:35
Interesting indeed, John.

As you pointed out, fast-breaking teams with speedy strikers & wingers would expose that system with a pass similar to Allan's yesterday (& James in the Derby). Particularly minus Godfrey's speed.

That's pretty basic stuff though. Surely Frank & his coaching team are far savvier than to play the same style against all opposing squads.

Kieran Kinsella
6 Posted 07/02/2022 at 03:52:40

Thanks to the podcast. Now I read this and hear your voice!

Tony Abrahams
7 Posted 07/02/2022 at 08:31:01
I suppose that’s one of the good things about having an ex-midfield player in the dugout John, because they more than anyone will know how big this area of the pitch is, and they will be constantly screaming at central defenders to push up because of this.

I rarely take my eyes off the football, but this was also something Steven Gerard was constantly saying to his Villa defenders, and although we are sure to get done with a ball over the top from time to time, I’m certain the benefits will more than outweigh this issue?

Robert Tressell
8 Posted 07/02/2022 at 08:52:08
Saturday's formation / style is very similar to how Wolves have been playing for a few years now.

I call it 5-2-2-1 but it's basically the same thing as 3-4-3.

It revolves around two intelligent, fairly deep-lying central midfielders – Neves and Moutinho. Neither of them are especially athletic but they have excellent technique and play close together to create short passing options before the ball is moved forward / to the flanks.

The athleticism comes from the wing-backs and, in effect, two number 10s (eg, Podence and Trincao this season, Traore and Neto previously) who switch between wide and central positions helping to create overloads and passing options. They also prevent Moutinho and Neves being outnumbered in central areas.

We did the same thing with Allan, Gomes, Gray and Gordon. They all seemed to enjoy it.

Someone may be able to up with stats on this but I've never seen Wolves as being particularly susceptible to a ball played over the top. Boly, Saiss and Coady are not Godfrey quick either – though not as slow as Keane.

I'm not sure whether we'll stick with this formation or whether it was forced on us with basically only two properly fit centre mid players – but it's not a bad way to set up.

I actually wanted Potter or Nuno to replace Ancelotti last summer because I thought the squad we had then was easiest to fix by playing 5-2-2-1.

Things have moved on a bit since then, of course. Interesting to see how we set up in the league games now.

Christopher Timmins
9 Posted 07/02/2022 at 09:51:36
Paul, thanks for the report on Saturday's proceedings. We can only hope that things will continue to improve under Frank starting with a good result tomorrow night.
Rick Tarleton
10 Posted 07/02/2022 at 10:59:21
We managed to get five seats together, having booked before Lampard's appointment was announced. Me, two sons, two eldest grandsons, set off for the 260-mile round trip. Trips to Goodison are for me increasingly rare and hard to accomplish, age and health issues make it quite an event.

Anyhow, we parked in Stanley Park, one grandson spent enough in the club shop to fund Dele Alli's wages for a week or two and entered the ground me and the non-driving son had a couple of beers, incidentally what an awful selection we were offered, but that's a sidetrack.

We entered the seats in the main stand around the penalty box, Gwladys Street, end threequarters of the way back.

The atmosphere was excellent, none of the feeling of gloom that has been prevalent in my recent visits. The game started and Everton looked in control, they had enthusiasm. Holgate did a classy shimmy after winning the ball and a cheer went up.

I felt the three-man defence was excellent, Mina got the first goal, Keane who I quite rate, was outstanding and Holgate thoroughly deserved his goal.

Brentford were poor, but Everton possibly made them look poor. The atmosphere was excellent and my older grandson who is as committed as I was at twelve, despite having spent a few years as part of Leicester City's youth set-up, revelled in the singing and general joy of the occasion.

A lovely day and I hope that on Tuesday night the same positivity continues. Lampard has started brilliantly, long may it continue. COYB.

John Raftery
11 Posted 07/02/2022 at 15:35:24
Tony (7), I totally agree.

There will be games in which we get caught out, notably those against the top teams. Against the rest, though, we should be able to control the majority of possession and score goals.

If the likes of Richarlison, Gray and Gordon are receiving the greater percentage of the ball higher up the field they are more likely to be produce the goods than when they are picking it up deep in their own half.

Mike Dolan
12 Posted 07/02/2022 at 15:36:23
I always feel I'm at the game when I read your articles, Paul, so much so that when you mentioned that late in the game that you had to go to the bathroom the first thing that popped into my head was ‘bring me back a meat pie'.

Great beginning to the new era. You are so right about both Gordon and Holgate they can be really excellent players. Also Michael Keane becomes a different player when Yerry Mina is also in the team.

Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 07/02/2022 at 17:33:46
Your title says it all, Paul. Players enjoying playing football.

I've mentioned some of the other players on other threads, so I'll pick up on your Holgate comments.

I've been reluctant to criticise him. Played in multiple positions by multiple managers, he's had no consistency so hasn't been able to establish any consistency. Great to see him on the scoresheet yesterday and loved his celebration with Kenny who wasn't even on the pitch at the time.

Andrew James
14 Posted 07/02/2022 at 22:13:47
Thanks for the report Paul, I always enjoy them (well enjoy might be the wrong word when we are bad but anyway).

Nice perspective on Mason Holgate. He, like Pickford, Davies and a host of others, has been subjected to a revolving door of coaches and systems.

Allan has this pass he likes to play. It just doesn't always result in a goal. But I've seen him dink it from the half way line and it's often targeted at Richarlison. Glad to see it came off this weekend.

Lastly, Gordon must be the most pleasing without lots of fuss young Evertonian we've had for ages. He's managed to bypass all that expectation put on Barkley, Davies, Baxter, Rodwell et al. He just has got on with it. I think it is fair to say he cannot be charged with the usual accusation of "Championship player at best" which is what some of those other players had levelled at them.

Dale Self
15 Posted 07/02/2022 at 00:03:10
Good stuff, Paul. Always a nice read to see how you all get to the game and take in the surroundings. Hoping for a rewarding conclusion to that next report. Keep it going.
James Flynn
16 Posted 08/02/2022 at 00:35:36
Thanks Paul,

I rarely comment in your threads, but always read them and appreciate the time you take to post your game-day experience.

Please keep them coming. Good stuff every time.

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