Happy New Year...?
After four-straight league wins, Everton were bound to come crashing back to earth at some point; it’s a shame that collapse had to come on the first day of the new year against West Ham United, though. The enigmatic Toffees yet again looked all of the team that couldn’t find the back of the net earlier in the season, failing to generate any semblance of offense against the Hammers. Despite maintaining 61-percent possession, Everton registered just two shots on goal, with Bernard’s long-range try the only one to force any movement out of West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
And while Pickford wasn’t truly troubled in net, the Hammers more than doubled the Toffees’ output on target (two to five). What’s more, Everton attempted almost 200 more passes than the visitors but looked lost going forward. While the goal conceded was a result of an unfortunate deflection, it was indicative of Everton’s overall pathetic play on the afternoon.
Questionable Lineup Decisions
Being the master tactician he is, it was surprising to see Carlo Ancelotti get his starting XI so wrong. While coaches choose to rest players — in an attempt to prevent injuries — during the holiday period, Everton haven’t played since the 26th and won’t play again until the 9th. If Ancelotti were to rest his players, wouldn’t it make more sense to adjust his formation during the three-week period from January 12th through February 6th when Everton play six games? Against West Ham, Bernard couldn’t beat anyone on the wing and was too easily pushed off the ball.
Then there was Ancelotti’s decision to leave André Gomes on the bench in favor of the mercurial Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had an overall forgettable match. And to wrap it all up, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was taken off in favor of Cenk Tosun, the man who Ancelotti saw as more likely to score because of his blistering goal tally this season (zero goals). Oh, wait, that was the player he subbed off…
Speaking of head-scratching lineup choices, can someone please tell me how Tom Davies has managed to accrue 114 Premier League appearances? Since debuting for Everton on April 16, 2016, Davies somehow has surpassed the century mark. Over the course of his career at Goodison Park, Davies has scored five goals, provided four assists, and lost more aerial battles (124/76) and duels (512/447) than he has won. Why Ancelotti keeps selecting Davies I’ll never know. I mean, honestly, what can this guy do?
His shortcomings as a midfielder — a lack of pace and awareness cause him to get caught in possession, turn the ball over and fail to recover on defense — might be offset by progressive passing up the field, but he can’t even do that. In Friday’s fixture, Davies’ passes were continually intercepted due to lack of speed on the attempt. He also sent balls behind teammates that soared out of bounds. He even saw one ricochet off the referee. With such a limited, nay, prohibitive skill set, Davies will continue to hamper Everton’s success on the pitch. Not that Ancelotti has many options.