Barkley and Davies’ brilliant teamwork
This current Everton midfield set-up is a sight to behold and their strengths were on full display today. Idrissa Gueye was a wrecking ball all over the pitch, Morgan Schneiderlin was defensively stout and composed, but it was the duo of Tom Davies and Ross Barkley that impressed me the most against Hull.
As we’ve seen under Roberto Martinez, Ross Barkley has struggled when called upon to play out wide. While he certainly has the tools to play the position, he never seemed to have much of an impact while playing the position under the previous regime. But under Ronald Koeman, Barkley has found a way to make the position his own and the team is reaping the benefits.
Barkley will line up on the wing and Davies will set up in the central midfield position, but as the game moves along they rarely stay in those positions. Both players have this far done an excellent job of moving inside and out, stringing passes together and creating havoc for the defense. There was no better evidence of this than the first goal. Barkley cuts inside, passes the ball out wide to Davies who crosses it in for the Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal. It’s a beautiful but effective bit of play that has been wildly successful for Everton over their recent run of form.
This kind of play is so refreshing to see from Everton. It is free flowing, forward thinking play that had been sorely lacking in the past. Koeman seems willing and able to let these players express themselves within the confines of his system and the team and manager have been reaping the rewards.
Koeman has no problem switching up tactics
Speaking of refreshing moments from Everton, look no further than Koeman’s 56th minute substitution of Calvert-Lewin for Ramiro Funes Mori. Up by a goal and seeing that Hull were scrapping their way back into the match, Koeman decided to alter his game plan. By bringing on Funes Mori, Koeman switched to a more defensive 3-5-2 in order to secure a crucial home win for his team.
A simple move, and one that has become familiar this year under Koeman. Let us not forget that even a season ago this team was being managed by a man that would stick with the same tactics for an entire season, regardless of the success or failure of said tactics. This is not an attempt to dwell on our former manager, but instead to applaud the current one. It is wonderful to see the manager survey the current state of the match, realize his initial gameplan is no longer working and switch things up without a second thought.
No doubt Everton’s fortunes in this match were helped by a questionable red card on Tom Huddlestone 15 minutes later, but the point still stands. Everton may not always win, and Koeman’s tactical switches mat not always work, but at least we have a manager that is willing to diagnose problems mid-match in an attempt to get as many points as possible.
Lukaku backs up his comments, scores two goals
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve likely heard about Romelu Lukaku’s controversial mid-week interview. Seemingly questioning Everton’s ambition, the striker seemed to be laying the ground work for a potential transfer away from the team this summer.
Despite these comments, Lukaku was greated warmly by the Goodison faithful and ended the day with an impressive performance. Lukaku undoubtedly struggled throughout the match, being called offsides a number of times and struggling with his first touch. With things not going his way, there were even a few moments where Lukaku seemed disinterested in the game and was not playing with his full effort.
About halfway into the second half, Lukaku seemed to find that extra gear and started to make things happen for his team. His teammates were feeding him the ball with room to run at the defense and even took a few well struck shots that went just wide of the Hull City goal. Lukaku then beautifully set up Enner Valencia for his 78th minute goal before scoring two of his own in extra time.
While his contributions on the scoresheet may not have directly lead to an Everton win, it was great to see Lukaku back up his words on the pitch. Had he come out and completely disappeared as he has in the past, we may not be sitting here praising his performance as we are now. It is fair to disagree with his blunt talk in the mid-week interview, there is no doubting the talent and ambition of Romelu Lukaku.