It is quite something to take a look at the teams Everton have managed results from since the slump in form commenced back in early October. Improbably, all of the points gained over that timeframe have come against commonly-accepted “big six” sides, a win and three draws from four matches. Excepting Manchester City and Liverpool, the remaining five opponents presented winnable opportunities and yet the team failed to deliver. Manager Rafa Benitez needs to figure out why his side typically overperforms versus stronger outfits, yet underperform in supposedly easier matches.
Points #EFC won since the start of October:— EFC Statto (@EFC_Statto) December 16, 2021
Manchester United + Tottenham + Arsenal + Chelsea = 6
West Ham + Watford + Wolves + Manchester City + Brentford + Liverpool + Crystal Palace = 0
Coming of Age
Youngster Anthony Gordon has seen an unprecedented amount of first team action this season, one in which it seemed likely during the summer that he would spend on loan. Although his end product has typically been found wanting, he has demonstrated energy and pace when called upon, but last night, facing reigning European champions Chelsea he raised his game to another level. This time, in a badly depleted Everton side, the 20-year old showed improved maturity, showing for the ball, giving his team an outlet and battling until withdrawn in the final minutes. He’d given his all, including a wonderful assist for goal scorer Jarrad Branthwaite from a free kick to claim a point for the Blues.
⚔️ Anthony Gordon won a match-high 10 ground duels vs Chelsea - also a personal career-high. pic.twitter.com/Gg4WVwSEmd— Matchday365 (@Matchday365) December 16, 2021
I’ve thought for a while that, in a team devoid of obvious leaders, that Jordan Pickford often shows the characteristics of a captain. The goalkeeper has always been an agile shot-stopper but — despite showing general improvement over the past 12 months in terms of consistency — his all-around game has thrown up some vulnerabilities and deficiencies. At Stamford Bridge, as one of the few experienced players able to take to the pitch, the ex-Sunderland man put in maybe the best performance of his Everton career. With club captain Seamus Coleman sidelined, the England #1 marshalled this young and weakened team, commanding his area and pulling off a number of spectacular saves to deny Chelsea time and again.
Pickford made more saves from shots in the box v Chelsea than any Everton GK’s made in a PL game in over 10 years. Highest return for xG prevented of his PL career— Matt Cheetham (@Matt_Cheetham) December 17, 2021
What a Night!
Making his first premier league start for his club for almost 18 months, the 19 year old Branthwaite was thrown into what looked beforehand as an unwinnable match. True, Chelsea were missing their primary striking options, but the overall strength of the side they fielded was formidable, whereas the Blues deployed one of the weakest teams in their recent history. Few Everton fans expected anything but an embarrassingly heavy defeat. Yet the young Cumbrian, who had endured a difficult loan spell at Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers last season, rose to the occasion and battled through a torrid opening to gradually assert himself, showing composure beyond his years and then capping this off by grabbing the equalizing goal.
Jarrad Branthwaite vs Chelsea— Football Talent Scout - Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) December 16, 2021
☑️2 tackles won
☑️1/1 aerial won
☑️4/6 duels won
19 years of age. Only his 4th Premier League start. What a night for him! pic.twitter.com/IfwTBuluWz
Under the Radar
This was a night where the team as a whole battled manfully against incredible odds, dodging bullets, riding their luck and gritting out a result. The youngsters garnered well-earned praise in particular, alongside goal keeper Pickford, but the oft-criticised Michael Keane put in one of those resilient, stalwart efforts that characterized his time playing for Burnley, the type that encouraged Everton splash out big money on him. Since then, his career at Goodison Park has experienced plenty of ups-and-downs but on Thursday night the big man anchored the Toffees’ 3-man defence impeccably and demonstrated calmness on the ball, registering the highest pass accuracy of anyone in Royal Blue, despite often coming under pressure. An unsung hero.
Michael Keane's stats against Chelsea:— EFC Statto (@EFC_Statto) December 16, 2021
Touches - 35
Successful passes - 15
Successful forward passes - 10
Successful long balls - 5
Pass accuracy - 79%
Recoveries - 5
Clearances - 5
Aerial duels won - 4
Successful tackles - 3
Interceptions - 3
Shots blocked - 2#EFC #CHEEVE