Let’s get the bad out of the way, shall we? What is Jordan Pickford doing... Gareth Southgate must be looking at the match highlights and shaking his head. Two defenders inside the six and Pickford tries to play it out of the back? In a forgettable performance, he did make one quality save on a curling Josh Morris shot.
Despite a second half with some clear breakdowns, Everton played well as a team and mostly dampened Fleetwood’s attack on a rain-soaked night. I also have decided to omit Niels Nkounkou from my official three thoughts, mainly because he’s already getting the love on social media (and I wrote about him after the Cup win against Salford). I do wish to credit the 19-year-old, however. Another defensive gem of a game, his passing was also superb — what a back-heel flick to Moise Kean for the Toffees’ fifth goal. This is what proper recruiting looks like.
The Bright Spot
For a player who looked lost at times last season, Bernard proved to be the impetus in the middle of the pitch for Everton yesterday. Even factoring in competition level, Bernard had himself a day. He was lively in the early stages of the game, getting on the ball and finding open lanes in Fleetwood’s defense. His moment of brilliance, an assist in the form of an over-the-top ball to Richarlison, broke the deadlock in the 22’. Bernard wonderfully picked out his Brazilian compatriot, as Richarlison opened his scoring account for the season.
Plain and simple, Bernard is a crafty player and his skillset is best suited for a more central role. In the center of the field, Bernard is able to look up and pick his passes, finding open teammates up the pitch, or playing one-touch passes with the defense to maintain possession. He picked up the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch against Fleetwood and looked threatening for the entirety of the first half. At times invisible in the second, he only needed one moment to remind Fleetwood Town of his presence. An Anthony Gordon cross from the right-hand side fell to Bernard at the top of the eighteen and the diminutive midfielder struck the ball perfectly, with searing pace, past goalkeeper Alex Cairns. My man of the match, Bernard deserves more recognition than he’s getting.
Richarlison finally starts his 2020/21 scoring campaign
When he missed an open net against Tottenham on opening day, Richarlison looked like a player desperate for a goal. The Brazilian had to wait four games to score as he was unable to convert against Salford and West Brom — despite having a myriad of chances. In yesterday’s affair, on a well-timed run, Richarlison got his head on the end of a cheeky Bernard pass. Against Fleetwood, he made runs in behind defenders and did well in his hold-up play. Per usual, his movement was quality and he made several quick and incisive passes. For the second goal of his brace, Richarlison cut inside from the left-hand side, glided by two Fleetwood defenders, played a ball to Alex Iwobi and continued his run, flicking the ball past Cairns. And while he won’t be credited with an assist, he did “allow” the ball to run past for Iwobi’s goal. Richarlison must have eyes in the back of his head! With two goals to his name, Richarlison has a favorable run of fixtures in which he’ll look to add to his tally.
After yesterday’s win, Iwobi said, “Everyone wants to play and I’m trying my best to play in all competitions — hopefully I can give the manager a headache and play as much as I can!”
For all the excitement that surrounded Iwobi upon his arrival from the Emirates in the summer of 2019, the Nigerian has failed to make a significant impact. Obviously he’s heard the criticisms and is aiming to create a difficult, albeit a positive, choice for Carlo Ancelotti. Against Fleetwood, Iwobi took another step in the right direction. On Richarlison’s first goal, Iwobi, with his back facing the goal, hit a back-heel pass into the path of the Brazilian, who calmly slid the ball into the net. Iwobi also looked comfortable on the right wing, forging a fruitful partnership with Jonjoe Kenny (At 24 and 23, respectively, the development of Iwobi and Kenny will be paramount to the long-term success of the Toffees).
Iwobi was also the beneficiary of a Richarlison miskick, as the ball fell to him in the middle of the box — he would not miss. The NIgerian international also did well to win key fouls when Everton were trying to see out the game, and he laid the ball into Gordon’s path for the team’s fourth goal. He’ll want to improve his one-on-one conversions, but Iwobi certainly is giving Ancelotti something to think about.