It was uncomfortably close, but in the end, Everton were able to prevail over Slovakian side MFK Ruzomberok in the Europa League. The Blues won both legs by a score of 1-0, with Leighton Baines scoring in the first and Dominic Calvert-Lewin netting in the second.
Despite his perspective towards the media, it’s unlikely that Ronald Koeman will have been very pleased with his side’s performance the last two Thursdays. However, the Toffees advanced, and at this point, that’s all that matters.
Not all of the new signings impressed
Lets get this out of the way now - Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, and Davy Klaassen were very good in this game. Keane’s passing in particular is outstanding, while Pickford shows an ability to command his area that Evertonians will have greatly missed.
Due to some issues deeper down the field, Klaassen had trouble getting a firm grasp on the game. Even still, when the Dutchman was able to get on the ball, he showed a deft touch and eye for a clever pass.
That’s the good news. The bad news? Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez were truly abysmal.
Unlike during friendly matches, Rooney’s first touch and passing ability completely abandoned him during both Europa League legs. The legendary Englishman was all over the place. That included the horrific moment when Tom Davies played a laser-sharp ball into Rooney’s feet, only for Everton’s new number 10 to step on top of the ball, and promptly land on his ass.
Sandro, at least, showed a willingness to run, but that was about it. Ramirez was too trigger happy, and easily frustrated when he felt a Ruzomberok player fouled him. The Spaniard was much better in the first leg when Koeman deployed him out wide. Don’t expect these two to partner up top very often.
What’s the deal at right (wing) back?
Mason Holgate. Cuco Martina. Jonjoe Kenny. Tom...Davies?
Without Seamus Coleman, Everton have a massive hole on their right flank. It looks like the youngster Kenny is headed out on loan, but Martina was so poor in the first leg at Goodison Park that Ronald Koeman felt the need to shoehorn central midfielder Tom Davies into the role.
Davies is a wonderful player. He’s tenacious, runs hard, and has a good eye for a pass - but he’s clearly not a defender. Furthermore, Mason Holgate is not a right back by trade. If Koeman can’t trust Holgate or Martina, the Blues may be in serious trouble until Coleman returns.
This match did not require Idrissa Gueye
Speaking of wonderful players - Senegalese international Idrissa Gana Gueye is one of them. Gana was the signing of the season at Goodison Park last year, and easily the nearest to Romelu Lukaku in terms of the Blues’ most valuable performer in 2016/17.
Gueye should not have been named to the starting eleven in Slovakia. When Everton can expect to have most of the ball - particularly when they lack a true creative midfielder - Gana is a poor tactical fit. Many darting runs by Sandro went wanting, in addition to Rooney being forced to drop deep for the ball more than anyone would have liked.
Morgan Schneiderlin was forced to do all of the distributing from midfield, while Gana repeatedly turned the ball over at inopportune moments. Gueye performed poorly, but then again, it wasn’t all on him - his manager did not place him in a role to succeed.
In the end, Everton got the result they wanted, and there were a few encouraging signs from both legs. Leighton Baines looks ageless, as always. Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to thrive in his proper position, while Keane and Pickford have integrated seamlessly.
All the same, there’s plenty for Ronald Koeman to work on ahead of the Premier League opener against Stoke City.