Second Third in the Table
As winter brought a chill over the grounds at Finch Farm, the sunny days from Everton’s fast start quickly faded; the Toffees compiled a record of 1–1–4, dropping points to the likes of Newcastle and Burnley. Two weeks ago, things looked bleak with a holiday period filled with games against Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Three matches into that stretch, Everton have won three and taken the maximum nine available points. With the mercurial Manchester United and a suddenly vulnerable Manchester City in the final two games, Everton could realistically finish with a 5–0–0 record, 12 points and a berth in the Carabao Cup semifinals. While we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves — as was learned from October 25th through December 5th — positivity is bubbling again at Goodison.
Even though the Iwobi-at-left-wing-back experiment failed, the Nigerian international is showing his value within the Everton team on the right. Working with Carlo Ancelotti undoubtedly has helped Iwobi’s confidence and form reach another level; he is starting to realize the potential that led the Toffees to shell out a hefty price to acquire his services from Arsenal.
It was Iwobi’s work on the right wing that led to the opening goal against the Gunners. After receiving a cross-field pass from Tom Davies, Iwobi cut inside and delivered a strike to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was robbed of his 12th goal of the season — the score was recorded as an own goal after the ball bounced off Rob Holding’s thigh. Not only was Iwobi impressive going forward, he did well to quiet Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka on the wing, effectively limiting the left back’s offensive potency delivering crosses into the box.
When Yerry Mina gets all of his 6’ 5” frame in front of a defender on a set piece, the opposition can only hope he misses the target. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Mina paced to the front post to get on the end of a Gylfi Sigurdsson corner. Despite getting a hand to the ball, Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno failed to keep Mina’s powerful header out of the back of the net. It was Mina’s goal that earned Everton three points and a jump up the table.
Dealing with a depleted Arsenal attacking corps, Mina made life difficult for Eddie Nketiah, Nicolas Pépé and Willian, who were unable to match the physicality of Everton’s imposing center-half when they pushed inside. Having played in 12 of Everton’s 14 league games to date and trailing only Michael Keane with 48 clearances, Mina’s recent consistency has been vital to the team’s recent uptick in form.