Everton hosted Norwich City in a game that a lot of Everton fans thought could be a potential banana skin after a small blip in form from Rafa Benitez’s men. A goal in each half from a penalty by Andros Townsend and then Abdoulaye Doucoure, saw Everton take the three points. Whether you thought we played well or not, winning the game is the most important thing and we did so with relative smoothness.
I mentioned in my tactical preview of the game, that I really hoped Lucas Digne would be fit enough to start. His link up with Anthony Gordon midweek was very good and it was the same again this weekend, except with Alex Iwobi playing just in front of him this time. We saw a staggering 48% of our attacks come down our left hand side. As a result, Digne touched the ball more times than any other player on the pitch with 83 touches. Iwobi certainly improved on his performance at Queens Park Rangers midweek and his link up with Digne was key to victory here. He made two key passes and kept the ball a lot better, with a 92.1% pass accuracy. I also mentioned in my preview about the likelihood of getting more crosses into the box. Digne and Townsend attempted 16 between them.
As you can see from the average positions above, Norwich really tried to pack out the midfield. They let the centre backs have the ball, but tried to restrict them from getting it into the midfielders. We didn’t play into their hands, getting the ball to our fullbacks who would double up with our wide midfielders and create an overload on the opposition fullbacks.
This would more than often keep Aarons and Williams really defensive, when usually they’d like to get forward as much as possible. Aarons is the 7th most successful dribbler in the whole league this season but we restricted him to just one yesterday. He’s often their biggest attacking threat but we saw very little of that, credit to the way we setup. Digne played as a left sided midfielder for most of the game yesterday, with Iwobi either sticking wide with him, or drifting into the central spaces. They were a real threat down our left and credit to Alex Iwobi for an improved performance.
Yerry Mina, although he didn’t have an awful lot do, was very assured in his performance yesterday. In my eyes, he’s undoubtedly our best defender and it’s no coincidence we play better when he’s in the team. He often looks very unorthodox on the ball but he can play from the back excellently, probably better than any other defender we have. He finished the game with an 89.7% pass completion with 4 accurate long balls. Defensively, he completed 2 tackles, 3 interceptions and 6 clearances. His interceptions and clearances were the highest of all Everton players, with only Doucoure bettering him on tackles. We restricted Norwich to very little all game with both their shots on target coming from long range, which Jordan Pickford dealt with well.
Speaking of Pickford, I thought he deserved a mention after coming back in yesterday. His ability to pick a pass is something which is vital in this team. If we’re looking to hit wide areas often, we can skip out the middle man due to his accuracy. Even if we don’t win the header or it doesn’t go to someone’s feet, we can win the second ball when it drops. It can often get us out of sticky situations. If the centre backs are in trouble, just lay it off on his left foot and if needed, he can easily reach the opposition penalty box. Watching Asmir Begovic in recent weeks, he’s a lot more reluctant to play out from the back. You’ll see him go long, not really into a specific area on goal kicks. This is probably due to the fact that he’s a lot less comfortable with the ball at his feet, so if he can get the ball into the opposition half, he eliminates the chance of having it at his feet.
It was another immense display from our midfield duo, Allan and Doucoure. With the 6 tackles between them, once again their proving to be one of the best midfield pairings we’ve seen at Goodison Park for some time. The pair cover so much ground and rarely look outnumbered even against a midfield trio like Norwich yesterday. They compliment each other so well. When one goes, the other stays. More often than not, it’s naturally Doucoure who gets forward more but Allan certainly isn’t restricted to being a defensive midfielder. Yesterday we saw him pop up in the box to win a penalty and he’s even grabbing a few assists so far this season.
My only worry is keeping the pair fit all season. When one of them drops out, Andre Gomes and Tom Davies simply aren’t on the same level as these two. We look significantly weaker without them in the team. Hopefully, Jean-Philippe Gbamin can turn out to be a competent back up but unfortunately he looks like he’s going to struggle to stay fit himself.
A little mention, once again for Andros Townsend. He’s received a lot of praise this season for his work rate, determination and passion for the team already. Although this is completely justified, he needs a lot more credit for his actual footballing ability. He already has 4 goals and 3 assists in all competitions this season, has stepped up and taken a penalty and by the sounds of it, setting a fantastic example for the youngsters coming through at Everton.
Everton fans will appreciate someone who gives their all for the shirt, even if it compensates for a slight lack in ability. Thankfully, Andros has shown both so naturally he’s becoming a real fan favourite at Goodison Park. Also, a little reminder he cost us exactly £0.
It may not have been the prettiest, most dominant performance we’ve seen but like I stated earlier, it was a potential banana skin. We had to get the three points to settle the nerves of Everton fans who could see us slipping down the table after a couple of bad results. We head to Old Trafford next week, who haven’t looked perfect especially defensively. There’s an opportunity now, in our biggest test of the season, to show the league what we’re really about. A result away to Manchester United will turn a lot of heads and fans of all clubs will have to start taking us more seriously.