A couple of weeks ago in their home game against Southampton, Everton became the first team in the Premier League this season to have two teenagers in the starting lineup (Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin). Though the last time Everton had done that wasn’t that long ago - actually it was the last game of the previous season (Kieran Dowell, Davies) when U-23 manager David Unsworth took over the side with Roberto Martinez having been released - but before that? Who remembers.
Against City, Everton had two teenagers on the scoresheet for the first time in the Premier League era (Davies, Ademola Lookman). The pair became Everton’s 16th and 17th teenage scorers, no other clubhas more in the top flight.
Mason Holgate is becoming a core member of the squad, and he’s just turned 20. For all the flak that Ross Barkley gets, he only turned 23 just over a month ago. Star striker Romelu Lukaku is close to becoming the Blues’ highest Premier League scorer and is only 23 as well.
November was a torrid month for the Blues - they got smacked around handily by a dominant Chelsea side, were lucky to draw 1-1 at home against a soon-to-be-fired Bob Bradley’s Swansea and then lost away at Southampton. In Ronald Koeman’s first game back at his old stomping grounds, Everton kicked off with one of the oldest starting elevens in the Premier League this season, an average age of 29.8 years.
Then a few days later, he spoke to the media saying that the youngsters in the system were not ready to play at the senior level yet. This was despite the fact that Unsworth had guided the Under-23 side to the top of the Premier League 2 table.
With how poorly Everton were doing, murmurs of discontent about Koeman’s disdain for youth were doing the rounds. His history at the Saints when he had disparaged the youth system resurfaced. What was going to happen next with Everton?
Simple really - Koeman unleashed the youth and the Toffees’ season suddenly turned around.
Davies came into the squad and immediately injected energy into a lethargic midfield where Gareth Barry was struggling. In the hammering at Stamford Bridge Davies had looked like the only spark of life. But from Boxing Day onwards, and especially now with Idrissa Gueye away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Davies is a fixture in the starting lineup.
Holgate has been used in spot duty but has appeared very calm and assured whenever he’s played. From an appearance as a sub against Manchester United, and as a right-sided centerback in a three-man backline in wins against Leicester City and Manchester City, the youngster has played very well.
Calvert-Lewin is unfortunately out with an ankle injury until the end of February, but in his debut appearance as a substitute against Arsenal, he looked lively. The teenager then came close to scoring his first Everton goal to complete an improbable comeback win against Hull City, but his header flew just wide. He has provided an additional dimension to the right wing, and has done well in a support role behind Romelu Lukaku.
Lookman came in at the beginning of the January transfer window, with the Blues shelling out a princely sum of £11m for the highly-rated forward, and he’s already looking like he has an eye for goal. Watch his movement off the ball to anticipate a pass, and then how coolly he capitalizes on the miscue to slot home through the goalkeeper’s legs.
The youth brigade are evolving Everton to a style that is closer to the full press that Koeman wants his side playing. After the win over his old friend and Barcelona roommate Pep Guardiola, Koeman quipped -
"We’d like to continue with that attitude. I think we started to play with that attitude against Arsenal at home and after that we showed it more.
"It was not always the final result that we like but the team is changing the personnel is changing, that’s a good way and we showed that."
With a core of players like Holgate, Tyias Browning, and Brendan Galloway in the back, Davies, Dowell and Barkley in the middle, with Calvert-Lewin, Lookman and Lukaku up front, Everton are potentially looking at developing a squad that can have them contending regularly for a European spot.
Everyone at Everton Fc's academy should be proud of this. pic.twitter.com/yVTwsTPfiu— Tony Scott (@Tony_Scott11) January 16, 2017
We’ll leave you with pop icon, the late George Michael in one of his less remembered hits from the Wham! days - ‘Young Guns (Go For It!)’. Everton fans of a certain age and above will have been reminded of the song and the Toffees glory days of the early ‘80s as they saw strong performances from their youngsters in the win yesterday.