Since bursting into the Premier League spotlight just over a year ago with a spellbinding run and goal against Manchester City, Everton’s young midfielder Tom Davies has struggled to live up that standard that he’s set for himself.
Happily, in this latest run of games, the 19-year-old (yes, he’s still that young!) is starting to get back to some of the form that saw him make 37 appearances for the Blues last season. More importantly, he’s sparking an otherwise-moribund midfield just when the Toffees were basically resigned to this season petering out into obscurity and even getting drawn into an unexpected relegation battle.
Davies spoke to evertonfc.com after Saturday’s win, and talked about his goal -
“It was a great win for us and I am very proud to get my first goal of the season. It is always good to score – but doing it in front of the Gwldays Street was extra special.
“Gylfi did well and I have a lot to thank him for. I hung back and the ball fell nicely for me, so I could not miss that one.
“I am starting to feel I can cement a place in the team and have been progressing in the past few games.
“That position is where I like to play, and those two [Rooney and Gueye] allow me to get forward and do what I do. It is really helpful for my game and I think the three of us work well together.
“For me to get into the team, and to be playing and scoring here, is an unbelievable feeling. It is hard to put it into words.”
The position that Davies speaks of is a critical one that the Blues have struggled at this season. Playing as an ‘advanced destroyer’ in-between the lines, the teenager can put opponents under pressure even before they start to build, creating turnovers and general chaos which then puts the Blues’ under pressure.
Here are his position maps for the last three games he’s featured in since returning to the squad from a previously-unmentioned injury (more on that later).
Click here to read a more detailed analysis of how Davies fits into this latest avatar of the midfield that we’ve seen in the 4-3-3 formation Sam Allardyce has been using lately.
While it’s difficult to attribute Davies’ recent turnaround to any one particular factor, it is interesting that he was out of the squad for almost the whole month of January with an unspecified injury. He returned to the squad in the Leicester City game and looked energized from the break, so we can speculate that he might have been playing hurt around the Christmas - New Year period when the Blues struggled.
Also, on a more light-hearted, Samson-ian note, Davies has resorted to a man-bun to manage his previously unruly ‘ket-wig’, and that has also coincided with the uptick in his form.
Everton have a warm weather training break in Dubai this week and return to action in a fortnight with a FA Cup fixture break this coming weekend. While the Toffees have been good at home, almost matching the top six, but it’s away where the Blues have really struggled, and the players are all quite aware.
“We definitely feel more confidence in front of our own fans and need to take that mentality and attitude into our away games – then we will get some more results.
“We need a few more results but we definitely want to be looking up, rather than thinking about what is behind us. We will aim to finish as high as we can.
“It was a tight first half against Palace – they are a good side and quite direct. We struggled to get into the positions where we could hurt them. But scoring the goal straight after half-time opened up the game a bit more and we became a lot more fluent.
“It was vital to win, we were not good last week. But our home form has been good and to come back and do that was brilliant. We were glad we could put on a performance for the Everton fans.
“We are disappointed we did not get the clean sheet, but a win is a win and we are all buzzing.”
It is testament to how evenly-fought the Premier League is, especially outside the top six, that the Blues might still be able to string together some decent performances in this hellish season and still end up seventh place and possibly in Europe again.