The Blues nicked a goal in a game seemingly destined for goallessness – and it was enough to send Everton back to second in the league.
But what did the numbers tell us about the performance?
Blues at Near Full Strength
Despite facing Man City in just 48 hours
On last week’s podcast, we discussed how we may approach having two matches just 48 hours apart.
There’s no way a player can be fresh playing just two days after a previous match at this level. Of course, they are well-paid professional athletes and I have no doubt they can play both games, but they won’t be at their sharpest.
I had anticipated/hoped Carlo would make widespread changes (particular to attacking players) in this game, with the hope being that even a less than full-strength side could beat the Blades, while only our best side can beat Man City.
Instead, Carlo picked a near full-strength side for this one, with Anthony Gordon being the only surprise inclusion from the start.
It’s certainly a selection dilemma: do you put out a weaker side against Sheffield United and risk not picking up any points across two games, or do you boost your odds against the Blades but significantly reduce the chances of getting a result against City?
Carlo picked up three points at Bramall Lane, but it’s hard to see a tired or rotated Everton getting a win against City in a couple of days.
Sitting Full-Backs Return
The Blues have conceded just once in four games with this back four
Mason Holgate returned to replace Seamus Coleman at right-back for this one and Everton looked solid at the back once again.
With a back four of Holgate, Mina, Keane and Godfrey starting, the Blues have conceded just one goal in four games – and that was a sloppily conceded penalty by Tom Davies.
Lucas Digne is still some way off a return, so it looks like this could continue to be Everton’s setup throughout January. And, if the Blues can stay in the top positions, who knows if Carlo will even want to break the mould to bring Digne back in right away.
Everton not conceded a shot on target in the second half of last three league games
Another key component of Everton’s recent defensive surge has been simply to not allow the opponents and chance or space.
The Blues are happy to sit deep when needed and crowd out the opposition.
For the third league game in a row, the Blues didn’t allow their opponents a shot on target in the second half.
A first win without the Brazilian
After the Blues failed to win when Richarlison was suspended a couple of months ago, much was made of the fact that Everton had never won when Richarlison was unavailable – a run that had stretched across eight games.
But that unwanted record has now come to an end.
That’s not to say the Blues didn’t miss the Brazilian – creativity was at a premium at Bramall Lane – but it was refreshing to see Everton dig in and find a goal in the latter stages.
EVERTON WIN WITHOUT RICHARLISON KLAXON— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) December 26, 2020
Threes goals/assists in last four games
For the past 18 months, it’s looked like Gylfi Sigurdsson’s number was up at Everton.
But since he returned to the starting eleven against Chelsea, he’s looked like a player transformed. A player with a point to prove.
That’s two goals and one assist in his last three games.
7 - Gylfi Sigurdsson (7 - 3 goals, 4 assists) now has more direct goal involvements in 18 appearances in all competitions this campaign than he managed in 38 games last season (6). Rejuvenated.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 26, 2020