Rooney dazzles in Goodison return
The talk of Wayne Rooney’s demise will have to wait for another time as the former Manchester United star shone on his return to Goodison Park. Deemed surplus to requirements by Jose Mourinho, Rooney looked as though he still had plenty left to offer Everton in a well-rounded performance against Stoke City.
While Rooney’s goal will be the most talked about moment of the match, it was his playmaking abilities and defensive workrate that stood out the most, especially in the second half of the game.
Frequently falling back into the midfield to receive the ball, Rooney put on a passing clinic throughout the match. His vision and skill allowed him to pick out teammates in consistently dangerous areas that kept the Stoke defense constantly on their heels.
When he wasn’t slicing up the Stoke defense, Rooney was tracking back into midfield to win the ball back for his team. With Everton’s defense looking unsure at times, Rooney did an excellent job of relieving pressure from his defense and holding midfielders. Time will tell if Rooney can remain impactful on a weekly basis, but this match was a promising sign.
Other new signings largely impress
Davy Klaassen, Michael Keane, Sandro Ramirez, Jordan Pickford and Cuco Martina all made their Everton debuts to varying degrees of success.
Pickford stood out above the rest with a confident display in net for Everton. The 23-year-old was forceful and committed when coming off his line and made a highlight reel save to preserve Everton’s lead late in the game.
Keane and Sandro both played key roles in Everton’s victory with the former dominating the air in the defensive third and the latter playing a key role in Everton’s lone goal. Both players showed flashes of their massive potential and figure to play key roles in Everton’s push for the top four.
Finally, Klaassen and Martina both put in solid shifts for Everton, but failed to stand out from the crowd. Klaassen appeared to be a victim of a crowded midfield and a lack of chemistry with his teammates. Klaassen’s work at Ajax has shown his credentials are legitimate, but it appears time is needed to carve out where he fits in the Everton midfield. Martina for his part was fine at right back. Bringing some normalcy to the position after a scattered first half, Martina looks like a solid and capable right back, but a player that will not blow you away with talent.
Struggles with formation
Ronald Koeman started the season off with his trusted 5-3-2 formation, but the players appeared to be unable to execute properly. With Dominic Calvert-Lewin starting at right wing back, Everton were put in an odd place positionally.
Playing high up the pitch, Calvert-Lewin was acting more as a traditional winger, forcing Idrissa Gueye and Michael Keane to fill in the gaps along the right side. This caused the formation to become wildly unbalanced, leading to a clogged midfield. This imbalance also led to players being isolated on the left and an overall ineffectiveness among the team.
Things did come together for one perfect build-up that lead to the lone Everton goal. Seeing a need for a change Koeman shifted back to a traditional back four and organization and inter-play immediately improved.
Koeman is in a tough situation without Seamus Coleman to lean on. There seems to be a lack of trust in Martina or Jonjoe Kenny to play the right wing back role, forcing Koeman to shoehorn Calvert-Lewin or Davies into the role. Stoke rarely found opportunities to exploit this weakness, but better teams in the league could take advantage of Everton’s right back sized hole.