It was almost perfect. Almost.
Everton are into the fourth round of the EFL Cup, but what did the numbers tell us about this 5-2 win over Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town?
Flawless First Half
Two goals, 79% possession, 13 shots
Although facing a League One side, Everton should be applauded for the flawless first-half performance they put in.
The Blues absolutely dominated possession (79%), but unlike in the past, this was purposeful possession with a great intensity to the play. The Blues also had 13 shots to Fleetwood’s zero, while also playing 150 passes in the final third – more passes than the Cod Army recorded in total.
2 more mistakes
Made in isolation, the two mistakes that Pickford made against Fleetwood would be no cause for concern.
The trouble is, these certainly aren’t isolated mistakes.
The first goal in which he was dealt a difficult ball to deal with was eerily similar to the first minute of the West Brom game, in which the Baggies could easily have taken an immediate lead.
Pickford’s composure on the ball should be commended. But he needs to learn when to simply clear his lines.
After a completely dominant first half from Everton, Pickford gave Fleetwood a breath of fresh air by gifting them a goal and a way back into the game.
Pickford has many world-class qualities, but until he can all-but stamp these needless (and all too frequent) errors in his game, there’s no way that he can maximise his potential.
It’s a massive season for Pickford if he wants to maintain his position as Everton and England’s number one.
Passing it back to him was a mistake, and the pass itself could have been better. But... Pickford had an opportunity to clear and decided to dally.https://t.co/hdwYwcccuz— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) September 23, 2020
Just six changes for a trip to a League One side
After making 10 changes last week, Carlo Ancelotti clearly felt that a stronger XI was required to stem any potential threat from Fleetwood this week.
That meant Pickford, Keane, Digne, Richarlison and DCL all kept their places, while the other positions were full of senior first-team players (with the exception of Nkounkou).
The Blues were imperious in the first half, playing with a rarely seen relentless intensity – and a decidedly marked improvement from the 20 minutes either side of half-time against Salford.
There’s no doubt about it: Carlo Ancelotti is gunning to win the League Cup for the first time in the club’s history this year.
3 key passes, six great crosses, 1 assist
Everton have splashed the cash since Fahrad Moshiri arrived at the club, but the Mersey millions have often been misplaced.
But one thing that hasn’t changed at the club is the eye for a bargain. David Moyes was famed for bringing in a £2 million Mikel Arteta, Cahill for £1.5 million and, of course, 60-grand Seamus Coleman. But with a Holgate, Calvert-Lewin and Branthwaite all brought in for similar fees, it seems like Everton are better at buying cheap than splashing the cash.
And the latest – and possible biggest – bargain yet looks to be Niels Nkounkou – who the club signed for £250k in the summer.
The 19-year-old left-back was full of energy once again, relentless causing havoc to Fleetwood’s defense, making three key passes (the second highest on the pitch) and six flashing crosses (the joint highest) before ending the game with an audacious back heel on the by-line to set up Kean for Everton’s fifth and final goal.
Everton sold Ibrahima Bakayoko to Marseille for £4m in 1999.— Tony Scott (@Tony_Scott11) September 23, 2020
21 years later we've had them off again.
Niels Nkounkou - £250k!
Everton have never won the League Cup
Nine league titles. Five FA Cups. One European title… but Everton have never lifted the League Cup.
It’s not exactly the most glamorous of titles – but lordy, lord: after 25 years we’ll take what we can get.
Manchester City started their trophy haul with a League Cup in 2011, while Chelsea did the same in 2005. Could Carlo Ancelotti start to embed Everton’s winning mentality by winning the EFL Cup in 2021?
Beat West Ham United at home in the Fourth Round next week and the dream gets that much more real.