Everton put together one of their most complete performances on the road at one of the top six sides in a long, long time to come away from North London with a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur and get the 2020/21 season off to a flying start.
It took solid performances from front to back to get the job done though, with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford making a couple of key saves to keep the hosts out, and Richarlison creating a handful of excellent chances but unfortunately failing to score any.
However, it was the three new signings Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez who all showed their quality that elevated the Blues and led them to the win, and Carlo Ancelotti saw it too.
“The game was good, it was what I expected from the team. It was not easy but the new players brought energy and quality. The others also supported the adaptation of these three really well. The performance was brilliant.
“The players who are able to play football don’t need a lot of time to adapt. James knows what he has to do, and Allan and Doucoure were the same. It is up to them to show their quality and I think they did.
“We have to give continuity. The problem we had last season was we were up and down, in a lot of performances. We have to try to have more continuity and we will see in the next game. But this game told us we can compete with everyone.”
James was incredible pretty much every time he touched the ball playing out on the right, and with him joining up with Ancelotti for the third destination in his career is off to a great start.
The veteran Italian manager went on to explain why he targeted the Colombian superstar.
“We considered the physical aspect - James is not the fastest player in the world but he has a lot of quality, so we have to use him to show his quality.
“He is not a winger, not a right winger, but he can come inside and when he comes inside and receives the ball between lines he can be really dangerous. We are not worried about the physicality. If I was worried about this, I would sign Usain Bolt and not James!”
Allan looked every bit the tackling machine he has been at Napoli, while the indefatigable Doucoure showed off his wheels with an excellent last-ditch tackle to stop a Lucas Moura counterattack from becoming something more dangerous.
“I think we have a good combination in midfield. We have players with quality – Gomes, James – we have Allan who is really good in position [awareness], we have Doucoure who can work box-to-box more.
“The combination of the midfielders are good this season. Last season, we had a lot of players with quality on the ball but in football you have to play also without the ball.”
The new Blues had not had much chance to practice this week, and it’s been a very short preseason for the rest of the side as well.
“This performance gives us more confidence for the future. We showed what we can do. For the players it was important to show what they can do.
“It’s not easy for everyone to prepare for the start of the season. There was not a lot of time. The new signings had one week of training.
“[The new players] adapted really well. The performance was good.
“James Rodriguez brings his ability to control the ball, to do the right passes, to keep the team comfortable with the ball.”
Notoriously slow starters after drawing six of their last eight season-opening games, the Blues looked calm and composed throughout today as they were able to put away the Spurs with a minimum of fuss.
“This was important. But it’s only the first match of the season. We have to see what is going on. I think we can compete with this squad in all the competitions.
“We have to fight to reach Europe. The work we have to do is quite clear.”