Everton needed to win against Chelsea on Saturday. After having lost matches to lesser opposition across the last month and a half, the team needed both the three points as well as the confidence that a win against a top six side can fuel. With the 1-0 victory that ensued, Everton demonstrated what they are made of and made up for the loss to Southampton all at once. A brilliantly organized defense kept one of the most offensively dangerous Premier League clubs without a goal, although the woodwork had something to do with that as well, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s own skill won the Toffees the penalty that Gyfli Sigurðsson converted to seal the match early on.
But the schedule is getting no easier, with Leicester City coming up in just hours, and a struggling Arsenal outfit following suit on the weekend, the Toffees all of the sudden have a real possibility of grabbing six or more points with less difficulty than may have been previously expected. Across three tough opponents, that is a dream after our disappointments earlier this season. A few players from the last match in particular deserve praise and the expectation that they can perform to that standard more matches than not.
Alex Iwobi, Ben Godfrey Shine, while Everton Focus will remain crucial
With Everton sitting in seventh place currently, only five points off of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the top of the table, pulling Leicester down to within a point of ourselves before hosting a massive match against a slumping Arsenal could lift us back into European contention by mid-December. The importance of this, albeit before the winter window, should still excite Toffees; after a hot start, the team cooled and found bumps in the journey, yet to go into January just off the top of the table would be a turn towards the proper direction as the second half of the seasons beckons.
In order to continue the form that we witnessed on Saturday however, which could’ve used a bit more offense from Everton, the players that performed so well will have to continue to do so. Alex Iwobi was as noticeable as anyone against Chelsea, performing marvelous skill techniques against some of the best talent in world. His passes were generally effective and he ran well on the break, of which Everton appeared to control more often than not throughout the game. And when the Royal Blue lost the ball, both Iwobi and Richarlison tracked back and defended with such vigor and energy that Chelsea were unable to pay their fluid brand of attacking football with any real success.
Ben Godfrey too played really marvelously, and as he and Mason Holgate played on either side of Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, the defensive play was noticeably better. With four in front of Jordan Pickford as well, instead of three, the team seemed more confident with their responsibilities and assignments. When the wingers up front tracked back to defend, with the entire shape compressed, Everton appeared the more athletic, ambitious and hungry club, as they well should’ve been. But for all the tinkering the boss has had to do, this bit felt most effective; it only remains so however, should these players continue to trend in this direction. Should all of the aforementioned continue to play to the levels they demonstrated against Chelsea, neither the Foxes nor the Gunners will enjoy their time on the pitch very much.
At Least a Victory and a draw out of the next two in the Premiership remains Crucial
Can we achieve this? Yes. Remaining focused as an entire club is key towards this ambition, and Don Carlo knows this as well as anyone in the world. He also understands how to instill this into his players, who appreciate his intellectual qualities and empathetic spirit equally. As the matches come quick and aggressively this time of year, the team will have to respond to both their manager and their own success in real time, playing three matches in just a weeks time, against some highbrow competition. Leicester City have been a top team the last two seasons and their own determination is always commendable, beating them will be no cakewalk, while Arsenal is as desperate for a victory and goals this week as Everton were against Chelsea. The Gunners are in a far more dire position than even Everton was before the last victory, and so Don Carlo should expect the former Toffee Mikel Arteta to come in looking for three points.
The middle off the pitch will have to be on lockdown under the control of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and whoever else the boss chooses to accompany them, but after the Chelsea victory, a formula against a side that will control possession has been found. Centre backs Godfrey and Holgate on the outside provide cover and limited offensive upside and this can only play to our strengths once we regain some defensive depth between Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman.
But what is as important as anything remains offensive production, which to be frank, was bailed out by the defense against Chelsea. Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, James Rodriguez and or Alex Iwobi MUST score more consistently, but they require help from teammates just as consistently too. Against a tough three across two competitions coming up, Everton must remain sharp and hungry, for without that, they will be unable to keep the tenacity with which the assaulted Chelsea with; they will need that to be sure, not only during this holiday season, but during the rest of the season and beyond.