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Lukaku and Barkley drive Everton forward but concerns remain at the back - Three Thoughts

Some further reflections on Sunday’s welcome win over West Ham

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Rom to the rescue - again

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and Romelu Lukaku scoring against West Ham.

The Belgian striker scored the crucial opening goal on Sunday – the ninth successive game he has scored against the Hammers, a run stretching back to his Everton debut in September 2013. The must be sick of the sight of him by now.

It was also Lukaku’s 50th Premier League goal, becoming just the third Everton player to reach that milestone after Duncan Ferguson and Tim Cahill.

The goal came at a crucial time in the game and set Everton on their way to victory, highlighting the importance of Lukaku to the team’s fortunes this season.

Lukaku has been directly involved in 10 of Everton’s 15 league goals so far this season, with his burgeoning partnership with Yannick Bolasie – who provided a great assist on Sunday - proving particularly effective.

His header on Sunday moved him joint-second in the Premier League scoring charts on seven alongside Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

However, as we found at Burnley last week, when Lukaku has an off day or is starved of support there are precious little attacking alternatives.

The team’s other attacking players need to step up in order to relieve some of the burden on the Belgium forward’s shoulders.

There’s no doubt that a fit and firing Lukaku is good enough to sustain Everton’s challenge for the European places.

But that is heavily is dependent on keeping the 23-year-old fit - at least until the January transfer window opens - as well as providing him with adequate support.

Is Barkley heeding Koeman’s advice?

Extracting the best out of Ross Barkley and ensuring he fulfils his potential is one of the greatest challenges facing Ronald Koeman at Goodison Park.

The midfielder’s obvious natural talent, infuriating inconsistency and status as local home-grown favourite is an awkward combination for the Dutchman to handle.

In contrast to his predecessor Roberto Martinez, who chose to publicly laud Barkley at every possible opportunity, Koeman has taken the stick rather than carrot approach with the England international.

Dropped earlier this season and warned that time is running out if he is to fulfil his potential, Barkley has been made all too aware of the challenge in front of him.

To that end, Barkley’s performance on Sunday was hugely encouraging. He could have opened the scoring the first half only to be denied by a wonderful stop from Adrian.

He also showed a greater willingness to press the opposition off the ball and it was his determination to win possession in midfield that led to the second goal – his first in the Premier League since the opening game of the season.

Barkley has been accused of coasting through matches in the past, something you cannot accuse him of doing on Sunday.

Here’s hoping this performance will signal a turning point after a difficult few weeks.

Mixed bag in defence

Koeman once again showed his ruthless streak by dropping captain Phil Jagielka after a ropey performance at Burnley last week. His defence was also hamstrung once more by the absence of Leighton Baines while Maarten Stekelenburg failed a late fitness test on a foot injury.

That meant Bryan Oviedo retained his place at left-back, Joel Robles made his first appearance of the season in goal and Ramiro Funes Mori made his first start since August.

Their performances will certainly provide Koeman with food for thought.

Funes Mori’s all action ‘on-the-edge’ style has made him a crowd favourite but his lack of concentration and awareness is unlikely to impress Koeman.

The 25-year-old performed well in patches but then let himself down by ball-watching or being caught out of position at a critical moment. A central defender may well be on Ronald’s ever-increasing shopping list in January.

Oviedo’s first-team credentials have been rightly questioned in recent weeks, especially with ready-made replacements Brendan Galloway and Luke Garbutt out on loan.

However, to the Costa Rican’s credit he turned in his best performance of the season against West Ham.

The 26-year-old revealed last week that he (like many players) has had to adapt his game in order to fit in with Koeman’s tactics. He certainly seemed to have got the message on Sunday, looking bright going forward and alert at the back – particularly in making a last-ditch tackle to bail out a dozing Funes Mori.

Joel Robles is another who is seemingly on his way out of Goodison once a suitable replacements is found. In the short-term however the Spaniard showed he can still be a useful asset.

He commanded his area well - something he has been accused of not doing in the past, - and made two crucial stops from Mark Noble and Michail Antonio when the score was still only 1-0.

I doubt it will be enough for Robles to keep his place once Stekelenburg returns to fitness but it is encouraging to see some strength in depth amongst a squad that still looks painfully thin elsewhere.