It was good, wasn’t it?
But was Big Dunc’s method a sustainable model? Or was it just temporary relief? Let’s find out...
Blues go with two strikers for the first time this season
The announcement of the starting line-ups brought a fair few groans from Evertonians, especially given the inclusion of Morgan Schneiderlin and Gylfi Sigurdsson, with Moise Kean also on the bench.
However, there was also an interested murmur as to whether the team would line-up in a 4-4-2 set up. The murmurs turned out to be right, with Duncan Ferguson unsurprisingly looking for a no non-sense performance.
Get Stuck In
Blues make most tackles (37) in a game this DECADE
Right from the off, it was clear what Ferguson had asked of his players: get stuck in to them.
The Blues harried and tackled at every opportunity. Everton had averaged 18.5 tackles per game this season prior to this game, but against Chelsea they managed an incredible 37 – the highest managed this entire decade and exactly double their season average. It was also the most tackles any Premier League team has made in a game since the start of the 2016/17 season.
Pickford only played one short ball all game
There was another clear instruction made to Everton’s players… play the ball long.
Jordan Pickford, who often plays out from the back, made 36 passes against Chelsea with only one being less than 50 metres in distance. Everton played 72 long balls against Chelsea, with Mason Holgate playing just four of his 11 passes short (for context, he normally averages over 30 passes, less than three of which are long).
The Blues had little appetite for sustained periods of possession and saw just 30% of the ball (and just 25% in the first half).
Three assists in nine appearances from right-back
Although there were a lot of positive performances in Saturday’s early kick-off, Djibril Sidibe deserves a special mention.
I was very sceptical when we signed him and even more so after his first appearance or two. But the French full-back is improving with every game and is proving himself to be a real threat going forward.
His crossing from the right flank is the best I’ve seen in a Blue shirt – although his competition effectively consists of Tony Hibbert, Phil Neville and Seamus Coleman – so it’s not the most Beckham-esque of competition.
Nevertheless, his ball for the opening goal was on point yet again. What’s more, he’s also currently averaging more assists per 90 minutes played (0.4) than any other player in the league, with Trent Alexander-Arnold his nearest rival with 0.38 assists per 90 minutes.
Another win after an early goal
Everton’s last nine wins have come after scoring in the opening 20 minutes. So, Duncan Ferguson’s high-octane start played perfectly into our promising start, positive result hypothesis.
The big question about these kind of performances is whether they’re sustainable. How would Everton have fared if they didn’t get the early goal? These adrenaline-filled performances are brilliant to witness, but often they’re typical of the new manager syndrome.
If Big Dunc is a legitimate contender for the job, or even caretaker for a handful more games, there are two big questions: 1) could he maintain this team’s intensity and 2) does he have the tactical nous to adapt if we don’t score early or even fall behind?
It was a high-octane, adrenaline-filled performance. Classic new-manager-bounce stuff.
But will this be working in three months?