Everton at West Ham: 5 Thoughts

Ian Walton

In what was an imperfect performance by both sides, Everton picked up two late goals to defeat West Ham 3-2. Here we look at some of the key factors from the victory at Upton Park.

1. Roberto Martinez made some interesting personnel choices.

Undoubtedly, just about every Evertonian groaned when they saw that the starting 11 that defeated Chelsea would be starting against West Ham; Nikica Jelavic remained up front, and Lukaku only made the bench. Steven Naismith, who scored the winner against Chelsea, had also retained his starting position on the right. Jelavic was largely invisible through the first half, receiving only 14 passes, with just half of them in the attacking half. Naismith, whose play I complemented last week, was equally ineffective. While he is a hard worker in defense and willing to take players on, he simply is not a very good passer, which was required of him to help break down the West Ham defense. After making two changes at the break that pushed Leon Osman out to the left, Ossie was injured and forced to leave the game. Martinez, down a goal at the time, elected to bring on Bryan Oviedo rather than Gerard Deulofeu. The choice ended up being a solid one, but one that at the time may have led to some head-scratching.

2. Romelu Lukaku completely changed the game.

Certainly no one needs me to tell them this, but it could not possibly go unmentioned. From Lukaku's first turn with the ball, it was clear Everton now have a striker of a totally different class. Lukaku was strong on the ball, drew defenders to himself, and provided the teeth for what was often times a toothless attack in the first half. The joy from Lukaku's late winner was tempered by his apparent head injury, which we can only hope will be soon forgotten (no pun intended).

3. Leighton Baines is a free kick wizard.

Even amidst all the newspaper nonsense regarding him this week, Bainesy did what he always does; he put his head down, worked hard, and was a consummate professional. It just so happened that this week, that involved scoring two spectacular free kick goals, first tying the match at one, then again at two, 21 minutes later, paving the way for Lukaku's winner. After Baines' first goal, commentators were critical of West Ham keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, who left Baines too much room at the far corner, in respect of Leighton's ability to curl it up and over the wall to the near post. On the second goal, Jaaskelainen made sure to cover the goal where he was beaten earlier, and Baines capitalized, beating Jaaskelainen in the exact spot he thought he might be beaten on the first goal.

4. Gareth Barry quietly controlled the game.

For Roberto Martinez's system to work, we need players at the middle of the park who can be trusted to pass the ball effectively and constantly. If Darron Gibson ever gets healthy, it appears we will have two players who can run the possession based game-plan extremely well. Barry dominated the headlines in last weeks victory over Chelsea, but with this week's star performances by Baines and Lukaku, Barry has, understandably, been overshadowed. But the numbers speak for themselves; Barry completed 79 of 88 passes, received more passes than anyone on the pitch, yet managed to commit only one foul in the defensive third, made four clearances, four tackles, and two interceptions. If skill players like Baines and Lukaku can continue to produce, and Gareth Barry can continue to control games, Everton can be seriously dangerous.

5. The defense needs to avoid brief moments of switching off.

Everton has now given up four goals in league play through five games, not in any way a bad number, especially when we consider that the first goal given up in this match was largely due to an unlucky deflection. However, the other three goals we've conceded all share the unnerving trend of happening largely against the run of play, and from just one or two poor plays or decisions. Against lesser teams, Everton is going to see a whole lot of the ball; that has been Martinez's plan from the start. But that means that the defense must always be on their toes, as they may only see 5 or 6 good chances against in the course of 90 minutes. We've seen already that it is easy to fall asleep at the wheel, and it's a trend Phil Jagielka and co. must sort out.

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