Everton were mostly awful but had a couple of bright spots in today’s 1-1 draw at home against Aston Villa, needing a late Theo Walcott header to tie the game. The Blues’ 11-match unbeaten streak at Goodison Park continues even though the performances have waned considerably since the beginning of the streak earlier this year.
Youngster Jarrad Branthwaite had endured a torrid debut over the weekend at Wolves, and was pressed into action after just a quarter of an hour as Mason Holgate limped off injured again. After a physical start, he settled into the game and showed a lot of the calm and composure on and off the ball that had caught the Toffees scouts’ eyes ahead of his January transfer.
Speaking to evertontv after the game, manager Carlo Ancelotti commended the 18-year-old for bouncing back.
“I am really happy with him, he is really young, a kid. But he showed quality and personality and character.
“He is really calm with the ball, really comfortable, and really aggressive without the ball. He can be a fantastic player for us.
“The squad is really young but to compete we have to improve quickly. You have to show character and personality, then you can improve quicker.”
After the limp defeat at Wolves, Ancelotti had demanded a response from his players, and received a somewhat mixed answer, especially early on today. The Blues were good on the ball and looked even good at times but the lack of self-belief and confidence was clear to see.
Once the Blues had fallen behind midway through the second half it didn’t look like they had an equalizer in them, but Walcott did well to pop up with the crucial tying goal at the far post.
“The fact we showed a good spirit to avoid the defeat was important. We could have won this game if we played better in the final third. We built up quite easily but didn’t have good quality in the final third.
“We have to be more efficient, keep the ball, play with more creativity. We forced a lot of passes when we could play more easily. There we have to improve.
“The past four games we didn’t create a lot of chances. I want to see a good spirit [in the final two matches], that is it. We have to try to play better, with more quality. We have to finish this season well and prepare well for the next one. We have time to do this and the players have to be focused to finish well.
“It has been a difficult season for everyone but focus on this [playing well in the closing two fixtures].”
The veteran Italian refused to criticise his desperately out-of-form players any more after they have already been on the wrong end of repeated shellacking from fans and national media alike.
“The spirit was good, the attitude was good. We tried to play how we wanted. The start was good, after that we lost a little bit of control of the game.
“In the end, we didn’t want to lose, we wanted to keep our home record and we were able to do that with the spirit. The game was balanced and a draw was fair.
“The team has a good spirit, the players are professional and, in general, the quality is good, but they weren’t able to show it all the time [in the past four games].”