Everton are beginning the World Cup imposed second half of the season with their backs to the wall. They had a successful trip down under and beat both Celtic and Sydney in a mini tournament more than a month ago. That was an improvement on their domestic work which was sad reading: 3 wins, 5 draws and 7 losses in the 15 league games, along with an atrocious defeat to Bournemouth in the League Cup.
In the glass half full column, we have had time to get most injuries healed, did some warm weather training and for the majority of the team had the opportunity to recharge with family and friends in preparation for this long second half of the season. Also, we are playing Wolves who currently sit at the bottom of the table with only 2 wins, scored a league low 8 goals and have conceded 24 goals. They haven’t won a league game since the middle of October. Wolves have lost seven of their past nine Premier League matches and taken just one point from the last 15 available.
Everton and Wolves have met 16 times in the Premier League. Everton have come out on top six times and there have been 5 draws. Last year, Wolves won both of their league games by a single goal.
Before the match lineup was announced, Wolves revealed that they had tied up the signing of a new player. Brazil forward Matheus Cunha has been brought in on an initial loan deal from Atletico Madrid. Cunha, 23, will join in the new year before signing a permanent four-year deal at the end of the season for a fee that could rise to £35m. Cunha had been linked with Everton on several occasions and reduces the number of available strikers on the market.
The hope of a Dominic Calvert Lewin return were quickly dashed even though he had taken part in full training yesterday. Frank Lampard addressed the absence before the match:
“He’s short on match fitness and he’s not been quite able to make it. He’s working hard at the minute and we’re hopeful that he’ll be involved in our next game at Man City.”
Yerry Mina took the place of Conor Coady who could not play against Wolves as a result of his current loan situation. The midfield remained unchanged. Up front, Neal Maupay, Anthony Gordon and Dwight McNeil started the game with Demarai Gray and Tom Cannon on the bench.
Head coach Julen Lopetegui was in charge of Wolves for the first time in a Premier League match, and was aiming to ignite their season. Wolves make only one change from their midweek Carabao Cup victory over Gillingham. Hee-Chan Hwang replaces Raul Jiminez up front. Wolves are unable to call upon the services of Pedro Neto, Jonny Otto, Chiquinho and Sasa Kalajdzic.
Everton started the match with a 4-3-3 formation. The first few minutes were spent the first few minutes penned in their own end under pressure from the visitors. Everton got the first corner of the match at the 6 minute mark. A perfect corner was headed in beautifully by Yerry Mina which was quickly followed by a dance lesson by the corner flag. The big man is such a threat on corners but his first goal for two years.
The goal settled the Blues down and they were more aggressive in the press and better in possession. The good play was undone when Wolves had their own corner and the set piece was finished nicely by Daniel Podence after Joao Moutinho lobbed the ball over the top of the Everton defenders. So much for two teams who are struggling to put the ball into the back of the net. 1-1.
The game opened up and good work from Vitali Mykolenko down the left side saw his move end in frustration. Gordon got onto the end of the great ball inside the penalty box but failed to grab full control before Max Kilman managed to intercept and clear. Neal Maupay then ran onto a poor Wolves backpass and an alert Jose Sa cleared the ball. Diego Costa then had a chance when he headed a nice ball from Hugo Bueno. Back down the pitch and it was Anthony Gordon who should have scored after Gueye broke up play and laid the ball into the path of Gordon but he could not get the ball past Sa.
The final ten minutes arrived and the pace of the game was not letting up. Everton’s midfield were working extremely hard and were breaking up the play nicely. It was Nathan Patterson who was given the first yellow card for an unnecessary push after the play had stopped. Neal Maupay then had a chance from a lucky bounce but his shot was directly at the keeper. Everton ended the half strongly and Wolves had very few clear chances.
The second half started with no changes to the teams. What was said in the dressing rooms? It was clear from the first half that both teams saw this game as an opportunity to get three vital points. It was Everton who came out the better of the two sides.
Gordon broke down the right side and put in a blistering cross into the box which was met by an outstretched Nathan Collins to give Everton another corner. Iwobi tested the keeper from the corner but he was deemed to be offside. Everton continued to press forward with good play down the wings. Another good chance went begging when Idrissa Gueye could not get a shot away after being played in by Neal Maupay.
Wolves finally challenged Pickford when Bueno received the ball inside the box and hit a shot towards Everton’s goal, Pickford parried it away before Gordon cleared . Both sides made early changes after both managers saw a need to mix things up. Demarai Gray was brought on for Dwight McNeil who had contributed little in the match. Julien Lopetegui then made a triple change with Matheus Nunes, Ait Nouri, and Adama Traore replacing Buene, Hodge and Hee-Chan. This was quickly followed by a yellow card for Daniel Podence.
Wolves were starting to impose themselves on the game. A heavy challenge by Max Kilman on Idrissa Gueye was looked at by VAR but the yellow card stood. Everton were willing to press but were dropping back nicely into a good shape when it was required. Everton continued to drive forward with Gordon and Patterson leading the way. Lopetegui then withdrew Daniel Podence who was injured and brought on Gonçalo Guedes.
There was no surprise around the ground when Yerry Mina went down with cramp. Both Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate warmed up but it was Godfrey who was brought on to finish the game. The game was very stop/start and Ruben Neves was given a yellow card for a challenge on Mykolenko. More changes as Moutinho made way for Toti. This was followed by another yellow card which was give to Toti.
The ensuing free kick was lined up by Demarai Gray who forced Sa to scramble to his right but the swerve took the ball wide. The Gwladys Street End erupted and then got back in the game. Lampard rolled the dice and brought on both Abdoulaye Doucoure and Tom Cannon in place of Maupay and Gueye. Would it make a difference?
Demarai Gray whipped in the ball and it was Doucoure who forced a great clearance off the line. It was then Mykolenko who drove the ball wide of the net. The final five minutes arrived and the outcome of the game was still up for grabs although Everton were bossing possession. Patterson made a great play and put the ball into Cannon who had the ball taken off his head by Toti. The Everton pressure was building and the arrival of 5 minutes was appreciated by the Evertonians.
James Tarkowski had a chance but could not get it past Sa. Stoppage time saw neither team get the chances they so desired. Too much passing and not enough forward pressure from Everton led to a Wolves breakout which saw Adama Traore put the ball across the box which was met by Ait Nouri who smashed it into the back of the net.
Heartbreak for Everton. Real frustration for the Goodison crowd and for the Everton fans around the world. The boos rang down on the players and the future is looking bleak.
Everton had twice as many chances as Wolves (12-7) but the conversion rate is the issue. With only 11 goals this season it was the finishing that ultimately saw the lead disappear and the game lost in the final minute. Just not good enough but there is no doubt that we know what we don’t have.........goals. We had 7 shots in the box with only one getting over the line. Calvert Lewin may be back for the Manchester City game but perhaps it is time to give Tom Cannon a start.
The January window is almost ready to open and what happens is going to have a huge impact on the remainder of Everton’s season. Will financial constraints limit business to exits and free transfers or will the potential exits help to fund some needed additions? Frank Lampard spoke to the need in his pre-match comments:
“Do we need help up top? Yes, I think we can do loans and buys, we will look at both but I want players to improve us now, not just to come in and be squad players. They have to come and help us.”
It was nice to see Anthony Gordon putting pressure on defenders. He had several chances today but was unable to get that final touch to put the ball into the net. For the first half of the season he has been inconsistent and nowhere near the player that made such an impact last year. The impending new contract will hopefully allay any departure fears and allow him to focus on how he contributes to Everton’s success. It will be interesting to see how the contract is set up and whether this will only ensure a larger transfer fee if approaches are made.
The corner flags today were chosen by Everton season ticket holders. We could use these guys for the rest of the season!