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Everton v. Chelsea: 5 Thoughts

Everton got its first league win of the Roberto Martinez era yesterday, beating Chelsea 1-0 at Goodison Park. Here we take a closer look at some of the key storylines that led to this positive result.

Steven Naismith and Leon Osman were two unexpected catalysts for Everton's victory.
Steven Naismith and Leon Osman were two unexpected catalysts for Everton's victory.
Chris Brunskill

1. Strong showing from the central midfielders

Undoubtedly, many Evertonians groaned when they saw the lineups come out for Saturday's game; Leon Osman had retained his role in the center of midfield, and was joined by Gareth Barry. Ossie has had a particularly rough start to the season, often looking a step slow and giving the ball away cheaply, while Barry was the one signing Everton supporters were certainly unsure about, given the high wage bill he brings, and his reputation for being overrated. Surprisingly enough though, Everton's victory anchored on the strong performances from these two England internationals. Barry completed 33 of 44 passes for the game, played particularly strong early in the game, helping Everton get a foothold in the match, and made the crucial tackle in the 29th minute when Tim Howard's poor giveaway could have certainly led to a goal. Ossie's passing was strong as well, completing 38 of 47, including the cross that ultimately led to Steven Naismith's goal. Perhaps most importantly though, Osman was able to cut out most of the poor turnovers that plagued his game in earlier matches, and was defensively sound as well.

2. Birthday boy Steven Naismith was actually...good?

Naismith got the goal that won the match, but his performance was much more than that. He was a bundle of energy from the opening whistle, taking on defenders, and linking well with Seamus Coleman. Naismith was also constantly back helping Coleman on defense. In truth, I don't feel he played a particularly skillful game, but his work ethic and ability to be in the right place at the right time was ultimately a huge factor in Everton's victory.

3. Seamus Coleman - player of the month?

When I saw recently that Seamus Coleman was one of the players nominated for EPL Player of the Month for August, I wasn't sure how to feel. Coleman has been very very good for Everton so far this season, but I hadn't given much consideration to exactly how good he had been. After yesterday's performance, my doubts vanished. Coleman completed 22 of 26 passes, was nearly flawless in defense, and connected exceptionally well with Steven Naismith down the right. Coleman also had a hand in the goal, though it largely went unnoticed. It was his late run into the box just before Osman's cross came in that attracted the attention of both John Terry and David Luiz, leaving Nikica Jelavic completely unmarked at the far post. After Jela headed back across goal, Terry was caught still marking Coleman, leaving Naismith totally unmarked to nod it into the back of the net.

4. Howard Webb's late decisions

Referee Howard Webb had two late, crucial calls to make in situations where Everton could have put the match away, and appeared to get both calls right, though both were a little unfortunate for Everton. Seamus Coleman drew a foul and yellow card from Eden Hazard in the 80th minute, just outside the box. Perhaps another ref on another day would have given the penalty (or perhaps the referee that gave David Moyes' Manchester United a penalty at the end of the first half of their game against Crystal Palace yesterday. The footballing world is certainly full of little ironies). Two minutes later, David Luiz pulled down Kevin Mirallas at midfield when Mirallas was likely away to goal, and Webb only brandished a yellow card. I do not envy the match officials' their job, and I thought Howard Webb called a solid match yesterday, but if Chelsea had put a late goal in, we might be talking about these decisions differently.

5. Developing some patience

I have never supported a team before that is so focused on possession (being a NY Red Bulls and US Soccer fan), so there have been plenty of moments through this transition into Martinez's style of play that have frustrated me, and I know I am certainly not alone. Looking for the extra pass, be it to avoid playing a long ball out of the midfield, or to find a more open man in the attacking third, has been a hit and miss operation for Everton at times this season. Even toward the end of the first half, I found myself losing patience again, calling for players to just whip crosses and shots in where they could. I'm happy to admit that on the goal, Everton and Martinez proved me wrong. The play started with Ross Barkley with the ball at the top of the box, and the young lad could have easily taken a shot or tried to play a ball in to Jelavic himself, but rather he slid it wide to Osman, shifting the defense across and opening Jelavic for an unmarked header at the far post. This goal served as a reminder for me, as well as many Evertonians no doubt, that Martinez's style of play can be effective for this squad, and we must remain patient.

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