Here is all that needs to be said about Everton’s match yesterday:
One of the worst games I've watched with two of the best goals this year. Mad.— Sean Lunt (@Sean_Lunt) August 24, 2017
Welcome to Everton Gylfi Sigurdsson pic.twitter.com/Xx8twNjdqa— Mark Robbo Robinson (@RobboGTFC) August 24, 2017
Of course that craziness followed Monday’s match with Manchester City which was as inspiring in its performance as it was heartbreaking in its outcome.
To be honest, the worst thing that happened to Everton is that Kyle Walker got sent off.
It gelled Manchester City and forced Pep Guardiola to completely rearrange his squad to get forward in order to salvage something.
Not that Everton shouldn’t have done a better job seeking a game-winning second goal, but the Toffees definitely sat deeper and failed to be consistently dangerous on the counter-attack.
However, in the 41 minutes leading up to Walker’s dismissal, Everton had walked into the Etihad, gone toe-to-toe with the most talented team in the Premier League, and had earned a goal advantage.
Everton didn’t sit and counter against the Citizens.
No, the new-look Toffees pressed when they lost the ball, maintained possession, and created opportunities from numerous attacking avenues.
Wayne Rooney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin paired together beautifully, and Everton found themselves able to create overloads and overlaps, alleviating pressure and forcing Man City’s more luxury players to take part in the dirty side of the game.
This match was a real example of what Koeman is working towards with this side.
A glut of talented midfielders who cover ground, get into tackles, and move the ball forward. The addition of Gylfi Siggurdsson will only serve to accentuate this style as the Icelandic wizard will take up a ‘wide’ role a la Ross Barkley last year.
Gyfli will be able to cut inside, switch the field, and create space for midfielders and defenders to make runs and link up with our forwards.
Speaking of forwards...let’s get to your questions!!
Is it possible that the long-sought striker has been in front of our faces all along? #DCL— Anthony Barrovecchio (@ambarrovecchio) August 21, 2017
Yes AND no.
There is no doubt that Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s performances thus far have been nothing short of inspiring.
After signing with Everton late last summer, leading the U-23’s to the Premier League 2 title, and then scoring the game-winner in a World Cup there is no doubt DCL was chomping at the bit to prove himself with the Toffees.
And boy has he ever.
I am not one to overstate a players potential or abilities based on a handful of games, but early in this season it appears as though DCL may be one of the key players for the Toffees.
He has been involved in most of the key moments Everton have been part of this season.
There was his beautiful assist against Stoke:
Boss goal this, Klaasens run tears a hole in the Stoke defence pic.twitter.com/OGen0oFS59— Everton Goals (@evertongoals) August 12, 2017
Then he wrapped up the series with Ruzemberok with a well-taken finish
Dominic Calvert-Lewin vs MFK Ruzomberok. pic.twitter.com/x5uKkgkS5o— Everton Goals (@EFCGoalss) August 3, 2017
Finally, he helped create another beautiful team move against Manchester City that resulted in Rooney’s goal.
In addition to his production on the score sheet, DCL possesses (and has shown) numerous qualities that do not make the headlines, but go a long way towards earning the points.
The young England forward might be slight of build (he will fill out once he hits puberty...not his eyebrows...those are already filled out) but DCL has shown an unbelievable ability to hold the ball up and bring his teammates into the game.
Or as some of you might know it: the thing Rom struggled to do.
DCL was able to offer a consistent outlet for a pressured backline, and when they did find him, he almost always kept the ball or drew a foul to relieve the pressure City was putting on.
If you have watched any Everton matches the past few seasons you could argue that this one attribute has stifled the Toffees attack and chances against Top 6 teams more than any other single issue.
If DCL can continue to develop this skill, and score at least every other match this season he can be a legitimate option to lead the line.
When I said the answer was yes AND no I wasn’t lying.
While DCL has shown the current ability to pitch in, he is not ready to start over 30 matches and lead Everton to glory.
Instead, Calvert-Lewin is in desperate need of another true striker to split the work load with. There is no doubt that as the season rolls on, and his legs feels the lack of summer rest, the young forward could lose some of his effectiveness.
I think that the biggest impact Dominic Calvert-Lewin has had on Everton is that that there is no longer a need to sign a big money top tier striker.
Rather, Everton can sign a proven scorer who will not be expected to shoulder the majority of the scoring load, but rather chip in 10-15 goals to compliment the contributions DCL, Rooney, and the rest of the Toffees new look front line will most assuredly make.
This question might be the one that Everton fans have struggled to grasp more than anything else, myself included.
With the supporting cast Everton offers being matched by their more than fair wage scale, you would think stikers would be disgruntling themselves across Europe for a shot to lead the line for Everton.
But they aren’t.
Here’s my theory:
Strikers want to be told they are special, that the team needs them to sign so that their goals can lead the squad to glory, and generally have their egos stroked to the point they want to join your side.
I just can’t see Koeman doing that for anyone short of Lukaku’s abilities, and as I outlined above, I don’t believe Everton are looking for that player any longer.
What are they are looking for is a proven European (preferably Premier League) goal scorer who is willing to come battle for time with Rooney, DCL, Sandro etc... and be expected to keep a good attitude about limited chances to play.
THAT’S why it’s hard to find the right striker.
But when the Toffees DO find the player who fits that mold they will be that much closer to achieving their goal of finishing Top 4.
Can we keep defending like this all season? I'm very impressed with defense with back 3 or 4. Pickford has also been awesome!— tom (@suptom121) August 22, 2017
I sure hope so!
Of course, there was another chink in the defensive armor when Hajduk Split’s Radosevic drove a 35 yard ROCKET past Jordan Pickford. In the keeper’s defence, that ball swerved wickedly right at the last second and there was little he could do. Likewise for the City equalizer, the volley was too powerful and well-placed for him to do anything.
Those aside though, the Blues defence as a unit has been very impressive and we would hope that continues, starting this weekend at Chelsea.
Just a reminder of how far we have come in such short time.
this is where we were roughly 18 months ago, can't believe some of our fans think we haven't improved pic.twitter.com/wF04PrgRRX— cameron (@efc_cameron) August 19, 2017
We actually used to have to start John Stones.......
Will Davies start any of these matches? Deserves to start but there are too many players with big price tags or reputations that will start— MBP (@Philatty) August 21, 2017
Of course this question came prior to Monday and Thursday’s matchups happened, so of course we know the answer to be YES!
It’s obvious that despite the numerous impressive additions in midfield, Ronald Koeman’s trust in Davies in big games is unwavering.
Starting against City for the second time this calendar year, Davies helped patrol a midfield that went to-to-toe with the most talented side in the league for the first 45 minutes before second half changes in response to Kyle Walker’s red card unbalanced things.
(Not an excuse, just the reality.)
After playing a tough 60 against City, Davies was brought on for the final 20 minutes to help finish off the tie with Hajduk Split and performed his job admirably.
As for Sunday, with Morgan Schneiderlin suspended I have little doubt that you will see Tom and his lovely locks in the XI against Chelsea.
Hopefully he can conjure up some of his magic:
You're given the power to guarantee an Everton win in one of the next three, but have to take an L in the other two. Which game do we win?— Anthony Barrovecchio (@ambarrovecchio) August 21, 2017
As this question was asked on Sunday, it presumably pertained to:
@ Machester City
@ Hajduk Split
and of course as you beautiful readers know
@ Manchester City (1-1)
@Hajduk Split (1-1)
@ Chelsea (TBD)
So as it stands, we have yet to LOSE any, but we are also equally devoid of WINS in that same period.
So does that make the match against Chelsea a win-win situation or a lose-lose situation??
Look, I know Everton didn’t pick up the three points against 10-man City, but considering the extra work our guys legs have put in in Europa League and the team still learning each other, I take a lot of positives from the encounter.
As for Hadjuk Split, in any type of progression tournament the one and only goal is to advance, which we have now done twice. A tie may not sparkle in the headlines, but the Toffees got the job done and moved onto the Europa League group stages.
So what should we expect heading into Chelsea?
Well, missing Morgan Schneiderlin and Davy Klaassen means some reconfiguring of the midfield, and without the teams metronome, Schneiderlin, it may prove difficult for Everton to establish the same amount of possession as the side did against Man City, so I expect any result Everton are to get will come in the form of a scrappy counter-attack and bunker method.
I don’t care what form it takes, as long as it takes the form of a win.
If we do fail to get a result?
Why is no one kicking off we are playing M-Thu? Thought Koeman would have spoken out at least— Ian G (@IanG1878) August 21, 2017
That he did. When asked about that exact topic in the pre-Hadjuk press conference:
“I totally agree with Jose [Mourinho] about what happened to Man United last season.”
The Manchester United manager had griped AT LENGTH about the difficulties faced by his side due to lack of flexibility and understanding by both the Premier League and Europa League.
(Mourhino complaining? Shocking.........)
“The TV money decides a lot, and it is even more difficult to play Thursday and we played Monday night.”
“European football makes it even tougher”
“But it’s what we like.”
After yesterday’s advancement to the group stages, I think Koeman will be a (momentarily) satisfied man.