With the 2020-21 season right around the corner, Everton took the pitch for their final pre-season friendly as they welcomed Preston North End to Goodison Park. With their newest signing, Allan, watching from the stands and not much time left before they travel to Tottenham, the Blues were surely looking to put in a good performance, but were without some key starters due to the international break. Time for the young guns!
With Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, Lucas Digne, André Gomes and Seamus Coleman all playing for their national teams this weekend, some key youngsters got the start for the Toffees. Most notably, Harry Tyrer, the 18-year old lifelong Evertonian in net for Everton with Lewis Gibson alongside Mason Holgate at the back, Niels Nkounkou getting his first start at left-back and Jonjoe Kenny on the right to fill out the defence. Richarlison also saw his first start of pre-season, playing alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin with Anthony Gordon, Bernard, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott rounding out the midfield.
The match got off to a perfect start for the Toffees as they applied the pressure early and were rewarded just seven minutes in. From Richarlison, to Walcott, to Kenny flying down the right side and into the box, sliding it past the Preston keeper Connor Ripley. In the second half, Calvert-Lewin would get his second of pre-season, rolling the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box off of a beautiful cross by Richarlison.
The biggest moment of the match did not involve a goal or a scoring chance, though. It came late in the first half and surely have Everton fans holding their breath. After a poor effort defensively, Mason Holgate, in an attempt to recover from his mistake, got his leg caught under Preston’s Josh Harrop, seemingly twisting his knee or ankle before immediately grabbing the area in pain.
The centre-back would receive treatment for the next few minutes before gingerly walking off under his own steam and being replaced by Kyle John. It could be a rough start to the season without a healthy Holgate and that was made pretty obvious toward the end of last season. It was revealed post-match that he left Goodison on crutches.
Defensively, Everton were admittedly a little open at times in the back and it is a shock that Preston didn’t at least bag one goal, but that is also in due part to an impressive showing from young Tyrer. The 18-year old showed impressive skill parrying away multiple one-on-ones and making some top class saves. No, Everton fans, he isn’t replacing Pickford any time soon (I know that’s what you’re thinking, don’t lie), but it is a good sign for the future.
Another good sign for the future were the full-backs for the Toffees; Nkounkou and John were both impressive going forward. After his performance in the first friendly, many were hoping for another top notch performance from the young Frenchman and he delivered. He was an imposing presence going forward, putting in great balls, linking up well with the midfielders and even adding a pretty little pirouette to retain possession and eventually set up a scoring chance.
John was even more of a surprise because I’m not sure many expected to see much of him in this game, but after Holgate picked up a knock, he was thrust into action by Carlo Ancelotti. Going forward, he provided a tantalising ball into the box almost every time he got a chance and was unlucky not to see an assist on the scoresheet after this one.
Now, it is only a friendly against a Championship side, but it is still a good sign seeing the younger players putting in good performances whenever they get on the pitch. Let’s hope for more of that as we head into the season.
One of the more embarrassing moments of the game came for poor Yannick Bolasie. After a beautiful build up play down the left, Bolasie found himself all alone, a yard out from goal with no goalkeeper in net, and still managed to miss. A tough look for the winger who hasn’t seen much playing time since his serious leg injury a few years ago.
All in all, the Toffees looked good going forward, but there are still holes defensively. The back line will look significantly different come matchday next weekend, but it still may be without one key piece in Holgate.
Without him and the help of their seemingly revamped midfield just yet, the Toffees will have a tough time against Tottenham next Sunday, but there has been improvement and that is really the most important things in these pre-season friendlies.