My day began with a morning flight from Amsterdam to Liverpool. I'd visited the Netherlands for a little trip to watch some cricket in The Hague with my son. Having got home, we grabbed some lunch before making our way over to Liverpool city centre for a few jars in the Ship & Mitre, my father-in-law and I that is. We then sunk a quick one in the Vernon Arms before jumping on the train at Moorfields – if you ever get the train to Kirkdale, by the way, be sure to check out the new stadium progress out of the window, it's really taking shape.

We then grabbed a few tinnies from the off-licence and met the rest of the lads near the Holy Trinity statue. It was great to see the fellas again and enjoy a few beers. Before long, the coach went past with the players, greeted by a haze of blue smoke and rapturous applause. My father-in-law, visiting from Germany, loved every second of it.

After the coach had gone past, we still had plenty of time and enjoyed another beer or two before heading into the Lower Gwladys Street End, the atmosphere by now really bubbling away. I got to my seat and, as always at the beginning of every season, it was great to see all the usual faces. Everyone in good form.

I was surprised that Dele Alli didn't begin the game as I thought it was the sort of game that would have suited him, and as we well know, we didn't have any strikers available. Instead, Anthony Gordon was asked to lead the line in attack, supported by Demarai Gray and new-signing Dwight McNeil. Alex Iwobi and Abdoulaye Doucouré made up the midfield. It was great to see Nathan Patterson make his Premier League bow at right back, and James Tarkowski slotted into centre-back as if he's been a part of that back line for years. A class act. Jordan Pickford was the chosen captain.

Chelsea, of course, had an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. As I pointed out at half-time to the fella who sits next to me, it sits wrong with me that it wasn't long ago that Chelsea couldn't afford to stay overnight at a hotel for an away game… but, in no time at all, they can spend ridiculous money, including a £60M back-up left-back for a £50M left-back, whereas Everton have to wheel and deal like mad.

Anyhow, we began the game reasonably well I thought and were matching Chelsea early doors. Disaster struck on 8 minutes for poor Ben Godfrey of course in the dumbest of circumstances. Firstly, it was an awful backpass; secondly, what was Jordan thinking? That was never going to not be a corner, let it go; and thirdly, why didn't the linesman signal or the referee blow up? The ball was so obviously out of play and should have been dead. I sit pretty much in line with where Ben was stricken and I felt for the guy, he looked in severe pain and very worried. On the face of it, 3 months on the sidelines doesn't sound so bad given how much worse it could have been.

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Following a lengthy stoppage, Mason Holgate replaced him and was quickly into the action, heading out a couple of corners straight away as Everton valiantly defended Chelsea's set-piece onslaught.

It was a good effort in the first half, we stayed in it well, and nearly got to the break all-square. In fairness to Chelsea, they were turning the screw deep into stoppage time and Everton were pinned back, and cracked under the pressure. Abdoulaye Doucouré unnecessarily brought down Ben Chilwell, Jorginho delivered from the spot, Chelsea ahead at the break.

I wasn't aware at the time, and it was a bit before the goal, but we later found out in the pub that Raheem Stirling had benefited from a quite hideous dive in the build up, which burns a bit. I don't want to have a go at players for diving individually, because they all bloody do it, but for dives as clear as that, I'd like to see the referees do their job better, as this was as blatant as they come. With the VAR available, and diving seldom punished, I really can't fathom why there isn't an initiative to do something about this.

The second half was quite the dull affair. Though Everton showed plenty of huff and puff, Chelsea had us at arm's length for most of it and ran out the second half quite comfortably in fairness. We had a few moments when I just wished somebody would have put their laces through it but, as has been the case, our decision-making is pretty shoddy in the final third and we are left ruing opportunities.

Demarai Gray, Dwight McNeil and substitute Dele Alli all had chances to shoot and either did so at the wrong time or tried to play a pass instead and the opportunity faded. Chelsea frustrated in their successful efforts to grind the game down, and the game ticked out to a bit of an annoying defeat, which on another day we might have nicked a point from. Oh and Yerry Mina, come on man. This is beyond ridiculous now.

We congregated in The Winslow after the match and met some Dutch Evertonians who we've gotten to know well over the years, who were visiting for the game. With the match being a late kick-off, before we knew it, the time was almost 10 pm. Luckily for us, Gaz had stayed around on the soft drinks and was able to kindly take us all home.

So we begin with a somewhat encouraging defeat, our first opening day loss since 2011. It's apparent to all what is required. Let's make sure we get that striker in, because as far as I can tell, especially with the other incoming additions, the rest of the squad will more than do.

Player ratings:

Jordan Pickford: I don't know if this performance was somewhat inflicted by the pressure of the captain's armband, but blimey that was a poor display. Let's hope that's him getting a shocker out of the way early. 4

James Tarkowski: What a centre-back he is, the best we've had since Phil Jagielka. His reading of the game is exemplary, and he's very organised. A great signing, he'll be brilliant for us. 8

Ben Godfrey: I won't judge him given his length of time on the field and sad departure. I just hope he makes a full recovery.

Yerry Mina: Had a decent enough performance but I've had about enough of this. I'd sooner play Michael Keane each game because at least you know what you're going to get. If you've got a player you can't depend on, then how you can justify continuing to include him? I guess he'll be gone come the Summer in any event. A real frustration. 6

Vitalii Mykolenko: He did pretty well, both at left-wingback and inside centre-back. I dare say he's a better inside centre-back than a left-wingback. 6

Nathan Patterson: He's still quite raw, and before his injury, I can see why Frank wasn't convinced he was ready. However, he's an exciting player and loves to get forward. We have to keep on playing him and let him learn. He can be a valuable asset to us in attack which, given we have a shortage of goals, could be very useful. 7

Alex Iwobi: He was fantastic and continually showed intelligent use of the ball and bundles of energy throughout. I'd like to have seen him get an opportunity to get further up the pitch. It's a shame Tom Davies was injured and Allan seemingly not ready to return from injury as one of them could have been useful, even as a substitute. Hopefully we can see him further forward next game because he makes things happen. My Man of the Match. 8

Abdoulaye Doucouré: He had a good game. He began the second half with a whirlwind, possibly trying to make amends for the penalty he conceded. A good effort throughout. 7

Dwight McNeil: He did okay. I've seen better debuts but also a lot worse. He seems to do the basics well and I look forward to assessing him more as I see him play more. 6

Demarai Gray: A bit disappointing, he didn't offer a great deal. 5

Anthony Gordon: He worked hard but it was always going to be tough for him up there on his own. That part when he chased the ball down and regained possession was great though. I look forward to seeing him back on the wing next week. 6


Mason Holgate (for Ben Godfrey): I thought Mason did ever so well, especially being thrust straight into action so early in the game. 7

Dele Alli (for Dwight McNeil): He got involved as usual and did pretty well. I think he should have begun the game. 6

Ruben Vinagre (for Yerry Mina): I was very impressed with Ruben, he certainly likes to attack. I'd have him starting games at left-wingback instead of Vitalii. He looks a good all-round player. 7

Reader Comments (14)

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Dale Rose
1 Posted 09/08/2022 at 07:38:40
What a great article. Always a good read, Paul.

A striker would have made all the difference. Things are certainly moving in the right direction.

Jerome Shields
2 Posted 09/08/2022 at 08:36:03
Though I thought the penalty was harsh, it really was the half-hearted defending on the wing that got players sucked in giving the space for the run into the box that was the problem.

Everton lose more goals getting sucked in on that wing, allowing a free ball to run on to in the penalty than any other defending area. Mina in an under-pressure defence was too deep as usual.

Mal van Schaick
3 Posted 09/08/2022 at 08:51:41
I enjoyed reading your article, Paul, and you gave an honest insight into travelling over to watch the match and your appraisal of the game and individual performances.

A defeat is a defeat whichever way you look at it, but it looks like you have taken some positives out of the game, and we are all hoping that, if we continue to add a few more to the squad, especially a goal scorer or two, we’ll be well placed to finish in a better league position than last seaon.

Brian Harrison
4 Posted 09/08/2022 at 10:18:54

I was rather puzzled by your headline – "An Encouraging Defeat - Somewhat." But then read your article and it was obvious why you chose that headline.

As you say you had a few pints in the Ship and Mitre and a Pint in the Vernon Arms, then a few cans waiting for the coach to arrive and another beer or 2 before entering the ground.

So 6 pints and a couple of cans no wonder you thought it was an encouraging defeat.

Christine Foster
5 Posted 09/08/2022 at 10:20:15
Paul, pretty good overview and ratings were bang on.

I would say how great it is to have a centre-back directing the defence and leading by example. Compared to what we have had for some time, it's head and shoulders above that.

Southgate would not have been impressed by Pickford coughing up the luckily disallowed goal. Gray made such an impression when he came to the club but I feel is struggling. Gordon should never have played as the front man... words fail me on that one, he isn't a great finisher, he is a speed merchant, a supplier.

Given that McNeil had little service and no-one to supply, the whole forward line was totally ineffective, even Dele Alli looked like someone had tied his laces together.

But Lampard is going about restructuring the team, partly by plan, partly by necessity. Villa next and I think, hope, we will get some points on the table – especially if we can start two or more of the alleged new signings yet to arrive!

Paul Traill
6 Posted 09/08/2022 at 10:36:39
Brian #4 it was three pints and then three tinnies before the game, not six pints and two tinnies, but I take your point. That's still plenty. 😁👍
Jack Convery
7 Posted 09/08/2022 at 18:37:48
Great report. Keep 'em coming for us poor sods who can't get to the match these days.

May I say you have a very understanding wife!!

Ajay Gopal
8 Posted 10/08/2022 at 06:46:13
Paul, I enjoy your comments on the TW Podcast as well as your match reports. I was able to see only most of the 2nd half and then the highlights

My comments:

I agree that Dele should have started at centre-forward (especially after he had scored a couple of goals in a friendly from that position) in place of Gordon. Gordon should start on the wings, and Gray I think is best as an impact substitute. I wonder if the complicated transfer deal that Everton worked out with Tottenham is having an effect on how Lampard would like to use Alli?

The Godfrey incident was shocking on many counts – his careless giveaway of the ball (oh, how Holgate or Keane would have been slaughtered if it had been them making that mistake!), then Pickford trying to keep the ball in play and actually gifting it to the opposition in a very dangerous area, the linesman totally failing to react in time and stopping play, Godfrey's rash lunge into the Chelsea player (he could have badly injured that player), but instead got injured himself and will now not be available for 3-4 months. Just terrible decision-making all around.

I agree with you, Paul, regarding Mina. The guy is just a liability – not so much in terms of his actual defensive capabilities (although I honestly don't see what others seem to see in him) – but his constant injuries and breakdowns make for a very unsettled defense which has been a major contributing factor in the "Goals Against" column. He has not been a consistent contributor to Everton – just let him go, even if it is at a throwaway price. But I guess he won't pass the medical!

My predicted starting XI against Villa:


Holgate Coady Tarkowski

Patterson Iwobi Doucoure Mykolenko

McNeil Alli Gordon

Subs: Begovic, Keane, Vinagre, Gbamin, Onana, Gray, Rondon

I don't expect Onana to start games initially – Lampard will bring him on gradually, which would be the right approach, IMO. Remember, he started in just 11 league games for Lille last season, and the French League is not as physical, intense or competitive as the Premier League.

Now, if Gana were to come in, he would playing right away, no question about it.

John Raftery
9 Posted 10/08/2022 at 14:43:58
Thanks for the report, Paul. I agree with all your ratings and that Iwobi was Man of the Match.

I’m really not sure if Mykolenko will be better at left centre-back than left-wingback. Going forward, he provides a goal threat, makes decent crosses and tackles well when tracking back.

That noted, it is progress to have players who are more versatile compared with some of their predecessors.

Andy Crooks
10 Posted 10/08/2022 at 20:56:26
Another great read, Paul. Great report of a Blue's day out. Have to say though, I've been keeping an account of your alcohol intake, in a fatherly way,( you know, all that unit s stuff). We really need to talk!!
Dale Self
11 Posted 10/08/2022 at 21:04:06
Ah let him be, Andy. When he starts holding fort in hotel rooms like Keith Moon then might be the time.
Danny O’Neill
12 Posted 11/08/2022 at 03:37:22
Good read, Paul. Sorry I was late to reply.

Now onto to Villa and putting one on the Huyton gobshite.

New look Everton squad that has potentially got even better this week with more to come.

13 Posted 11/08/2022 at 16:07:11
Bit harsh on Pickford only getting a 4. I wouldn't say he was good by any stretch, but I can't remember him making a save.
Martin Mason
14 Posted 11/08/2022 at 16:44:26
Pickford a 4? Some of you guys are totally hilarious.

For many clubs, a segment of their fans are a liability and that is unfortunately true of our great club. We have a poison at the core of our support that we would be far better off without... but never mind, all clubs have it so it's a level playing field?

In general, though our support is superb.

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