Responding to adversity
After the absolute heartbreaker of losing a derby on a freak goal, the way the team opened the first half despite the short rest showed a lot of resolve. We controlled the game and deserved a lead. Despite this, we gave up a goal at 19’. A team with less character would have bemoaned two straight games of unjustly finding themselves behind and folded, but this Everton team did not. The result was terrible, but coming back and tying that game before halftime showed a team fighting much harder than they did at any point last season.
We can both expect better of the team and also appreciate the strides forward despite dropping points.
Shambolic goal to give up
Yerry Mina should have had the clearance, and Lucas Digne should have rotated over to cover Rondon. Just a complete switch off by the whole left side of our defense. In a game in which Everton had 76% of the possession and forced fourteen corners, counter attacks were going to be the only threat we had to deal with all night. Mina is probably our most athletic defender, and Digne had the pace to be in the right position, and neither came through when they needed to.
Rafa Benitez is a class of manager well above Newcastle’s standing, but he is also a pragmatist to the bone. His pragmatism cost him his position at Real Madrid, but it is exactly what the Toon need in order to survive the drop amidst constant speculation of the club being sold by (joke of an owner) Mike Ashley. It is actually a compliment to Everton that Newcastle dug in so deeply just to get a draw against us, but it is not an opportunity he ever should have been given.
A different look in attack
If you had asked me to start the season, a front four of Gylfi, Cenk Tosun, Richarlison, and Ademola Lookman is exactly what I would have wanted to see starting regularly by this time of year. It has not played out that way, in part because of the play of Bernard and Theo Walcott and in part because of the Richarlison-at-striker experiment.
I have no issues with Silva’s team selection so far this season. I think it has been fair and it is clearly working overall, but we should not look at today and right off this set of attackers.
Cenk Tosun is excellent off the ball, Lookman is probably our most talented winger, and Richarlison is not a natural 9. I believe that with regular minutes this crowd can work if it needs too. Neither Cenk nor Ade have had regular minutes and we cannot expect them to be perfectly fluid when they come in. Lookman in particular had bright moments, today, and given how young he still is and how well Silva has spoken of his work in training, I think we will see much more of him in the second half of the year. Tosun, on the other hand, is coming to a serious crossroads in his Everton career; some are going to want him gone in January, but I think he still has something to offer and I would rather let Dominic Calvert-Lewin develop than sign another striker.
Monday’s game against Watford is massive. It is the exact kind of game we have to win if we are going to fight off Manchester United for sixth (and as long as Jose Mourinho is employed there we have every reason to think we can finish sixth). I’m disappointed in the result, but I am nowhere near discouraged. There is still every reason to love the direction the Everton project is going.