Top class defensive effort from Everton
It’s fair to say that this match was one of Everton’s finest defensive performances in recent memory. Ronald Koeman’s work on that side of the ball is finally starting to pay off and we are seeing defensive performances that match the talent on the squad.
Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams were unmoved by the constant onsalught from Manchester City’s talented attacking group. They closed down players quickly, kept the attack largely out of the box and threw their bodies in front of opposing shots. Jagielka’s two conceded penalties were disappointing, as was Nolito’s game-tying goal, but overall, this match should be a blueprint for how to handle the increasingly high-powered attacks in the Premier League.
Last, but certainly not least, Stekelenberg put on a show in goal today. Stopping one penalty shot is impressive, but two has to be considered a master class. Add in the number of acrobatic saves that single-handedly kept Everton in the game and you have the easiest Man of the Match selection this season.
A pragmatic strategy from Koeman
Tottenham and Swansea City both used the high press in an attempt to stop Manchester City’s fast paced offense. Swansea was unable to use the strategy to any success, while Tottenham was able to shut out City employing the press. Instead of repeating this strategy, Koeman did the exact opposite. It may not have been the prevailing strategy, but it was the right one.
While Koeman has tried the press throughout the season, with varying degrees of success, he instead used a counter-attacking strategy to catch City off guard. In some ways, this was a bold strategy, allowing City’s high-priced and supremely talented attackers to maintain the majority of possession. They passed the ball around the Everton third, but were rarely able to get any meaningful chances.
Despite seeing very little of the ball in the first half, Everton were able to find more space in the second half. Koeman’s counter-attacking strategy finally paid off when Romelu Lukaku found himself in a one-on-one situation with Gael Clichy and slotted home to take the lead.
A draw that felt like a win
Having suffered a number of disappointing results over the last few weeks, Everton were in desperate need of a good performance. And despite losing the opportunity to come away with all three points, this feels like a satisfying performance. Pep Guardiola’s Man City have been the talk of the Premier League this season, and it was nothing short of impressive for Everton to not only hold them to one goal, but to also come away with a point.
The first half of the game was a nervy affair, and it felt like a matter of time before City starting pouring goals into the Everton net. Thanks to a great defensive performance, that moment never came. If Everton are to realize their European dream, they need to not only improve against the lower table teams, but they need to steal points from the perennial top-four squads.
Everton’s schedule will only get more difficult over the coming weeks and they will need more gutsy performances like this in order to stay in the top half of the table.