Another three points for the Blues as Everton’s unbeaten restart continued.
But it was far from comfortable viewing for Evertonians – well, in the second half at least…
A Game of Two Halves
Blues weather second half storm
It’s one of the oldest and most overused footballing clichés out there, but this really was the epitome of a game of two halves.
Despite surrendering possession somewhat in the first half (40.3% to Leicester’s 59.7%), the Blues looked very dangerous on the ball, especially down the left side. Everton also looked considerable sharper one week on from their 1-0 win over Norwich.
Of course, the second half was all Leicester City. The Foxes enjoyed 70.5% possession and had nine shots to Everton’s three after the break.
Ancelotti switches from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 to 5-4-1
Carlo Ancelotti’s “experience” is often revered. But, in this cliched game of “two halves”, the Italian wasn’t afraid to make key changes in order to stem the flow of Leicester attacks in the second half, especially after the introduction of James Maddison.
Despite a wonderful first half showing, there was some apprehension amongst Everton’s more experienced fans that 2-0 can be a difficult lead to defend for a large period, especially if the opposition start well.
And so it proved. After making two substitutions at the break, Iheanacho scored with his face after five minutes to turn up the pressure on Everton.
With Leicester dominating in the middle against Everton’s two creative central midfielders, Tom Davies was introduced in order to curtail the Maddison and restrict Leicester.
The Good Side of Davies
Vast improvement with 86.7% pass success rate
After a truly dismal first half showing against Norwich last week, Tom Davies gave us another reminder of what he can bring to the side, with a disciplined and composed performance.
Indeed, after completing a meagre 60% of his passes last week, Davies completed an excellent 86.7% against Leicester – the best numbers of any of the Blues midfield or attack.
But it was also his composure under pressure that really caught the eye. Rather than panicking and giving the ball away, he was able to drop the shoulder several times (completing two dribbles in the process) in order to retain possession and buy the Blues more space and time. These moments were even reminiscent of that goal he scored against Manchester City in the 4-0 rout a few years back.
This is the Tom Davies we need to see every week.
Slide to the Left
Richie x Gordon x Digne criss-cross caused problems
Everton looked a real danger on the ball in the first half, with the link up play down the left between Richarlison, Gordon and Digne causing Leicester some real issues.
The first goal was a real delight to watch. Digne provide an excellent headed lay-off to Gordon after an exuberant pass, before the teenager played a mature pull-back into Richarlison who fired home.
It took Anthony Gordon just 120 minutes of Premier League football to record his first assist and that will surely be the first of many based on this well-rounded display.
Anthony Gordon (19) in only his 2nd @Everton Premier League start ⤵️— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) July 1, 2020
✅ 79 minutes
️ 1 assist
2 key passes
2/3 dribbles won
⚔️ 7/11 duels won
4 tackles won
❌ 2 interceptions
5 ball recoveries
Settling in. An interesting prospect! pic.twitter.com/3w20AFvbpJ
Lack of Options
Just 3 subs made
Everton’s squad remains threadbare due to injury and it could be a cause for concern heading into a very busy run of fixtures.
The Blues can barely name nine subs at the moment, as currently permitted, with Ancelotti opting to go with two keepers on the bench once again.
However, in a tight game like this, it was very hard to see what other changes the Italian could have made – even to kill a bit of time.
As well as the two goalkeepers, the only other players on the bench were the largely untested Beni Baningime and Jarrad Branthwaite, left-back Leighton Baines and then the erratic Moise Kean. Aside from Baines, none of these players are anyone you want to throw into a high stakes game late on, where any rash decision could throw away a lead.
Nevertheless, this was an excellent three points, despite a hard-to-watch (for Evertonians) second half performance. The Blues are now just two points behind Arsenal in seventh with six games to go.