Everton opened the 2018 Premier League season with an absolutely wild 2-2 draw at newly promoted Wolves. Richarlison looked to be a budding superstar with a brace, Lucas Digne debut late on, Phil Jagielka was sent off, and well...it was just a lot. Missed you, football.
- Everton started confidently, but it was a bit of a surprise that their sure hand was displayed in defense, rather than the attack that looked the better unit in pre-season. Leighton Baines was particularly sprightly - perhaps inspired by finally having some competition at left-back.
- The Blues will have a major advantage over nearly every opponent this season in one specific area - set pieces. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Leighton Baines can strike a dead ball better than nearly anyone around, while Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, and Kurt Zouma will be straight menacing in the air.
- That point was proven early on, as Keane won a header deep inside Wolves’ penalty area that fell straight to Richarlison’s boot. The Brazilian made no mistake.
- Unfortunately, things pretty quickly went into full “Everton that” mode. Phil Jagielka was sent off for an orange card offense, and Ruben Neves immediately put the resulting free kick into the back of the net. We don’t agree with the call, but it was a close enough ruling to fully admit that the Toffees’ captain can’t be doing that.
- The reality, too, is that the ejection and resulting suspension for Jagielka could mean today was one of his last ever Everton appearances. Either Yerry Mina or Kurt Zouma will come into the team next week, and likely not relinquish their place(s) the rest of the season.
- Frustratingly, Everton had plenty of chances to get a second goal, both times through Theo Walcott. The Englishman made smart runs cutting to the inside, but Richarlison and Cenk Tosun suffered from some early-season tunnel vision that resulted in easy saves by Rui Patricio. Wasteful.
- It didn’t matter, because they’d get the second eventually. Everton have a game-changer that they didn’t last season in Richarlison, and he’s perfectly willing to take matters into his own hands. Some lovely play by Cenk Tosun and Leighton Baines played Richie into the box, and the finish - as difficult as it was - looked nearly academic. Golden Boot leader.
- For all the criticism they’ve received, it bears noting that some of Everton’s perceived “worst players” were outstanding today. Michael Keane, Morgan Schneiderlin, Leighton Baines, Mason Holgate. They all put in a committed shift, particularly defensively. It’s amazing what happens when belief is restored.
- Eventually, the length of time that Everton had to spend down a man bit them in the arse. It’s difficult to play any minutes with ten men, much less over 45 of them. Ruben Neves - a star, by the way - played a peach of a ball into the box, and Raul Jimenez powered it past Jordan Pickford.
Ultimately, the draw was a fair result. Everton were quite wasteful, particularly at the end of the match when Seamus Coleman missed an opportunity to provide Oumar Niasse with a tap in, but today we saw the full spectrum of what makes the Premier League so damn intoxicating.
It’s on to Southampton. See you Saturday.