Sean Dyche makes three changes to the Everton side beaten 2-0 at Old Trafford last weekend. Vitalii Mykolenko comes in for the injured Seamus Coleman with Ben Godfrey moving to right-back, while James Garner and Neal Maupay also started. Dominic Calvert-Lewin returned to full training but was still unavailable. Stanley Mills and Isha Samuels-Smith were on the bench.
Fulham also made three changes following their home defeat to West Ham last week. In came Kenny Tete, Harry Wilson and Daniel James with Cedric Soares, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Carlos Vinicius moving to the bench. Aleksandar Mitrovic has another five games of his suspension left to serve.
The game started with Everton pressing less than they had done in their recent home matches. The first half was an end to end affair with both teams getting the ball into threatening areas but the finishing was indicative of two teams who lacked confidence. It was Harrison Reed who was quickest to react after Harry Wilson curled a ball off the far post. After the goal Everton started to get the ball more and a slide rule pass from Garner to McNeil was nicely slotted into the corner to even the score. Everton had a couple of other chances but they could not increase their lead.
Everton started on the front foot and early chances for Mykolenko and Dwight McNeil had Fulham scrambling. Unfortunately, it was their first foray into the Everton half that resulted in Harry Wilson putting the Cottagers back in front after a nice cutback from Willian. Fulham remained on the front foot and started to pile up the number of corners.
The third goal came when Dan James took a ball lovely into his path and Pickford had no chance. Everton tried to muster a comeback but there was just not enough in the tank. The introduction of Ellis Simms was made too late and the Everton fans started to head for the exits long before Anthony Taylor blew the final whistle. The boos rang down and that is not a good sign.
Everton Man of the Match: Dwight McNeil
Everton returned to Goodison Park in what had to be considered as a must win match. Ellis Simms has made two starts this season; at Old Trafford and Anfield. What does he have to do to get a chance in a match that we should be pressing to win the match rather than survive. He has not had the chance to feed off the crowd and give the team a real target man. Neal Maupay at 5’7” and Tosin Adarabioyo at 6’5”. What chance did he have on any balls put into the box? When he gets chances, he rarely converts with only one goal to his name and an XG of less than 4 for the whole season. The two first half chances could have put the game out of reach. Ellis Simms must start against Palace. DCL might be ready but he can’t be starting.
Conceding the first goal has been a death knell for Everton this season. They have conceded the first goal in 16 of their 30 games and have only recovered to win once with four draws and 12 losses. The positive once again comes from their home games where conceding the first goal only 6 times. At home, we should be on the front foot, today for most of the game, we were not.
Sean Dyche is a quietly efficient manager who develops a plan and is also willing to change it when needed. Today, after going behind early, hechanged the system and every Everton player looked better in a 4-2-3-1, as opposed to the 4-4-2. Unfortunately, when they went behind in the second half for the second time there was no response from the manager and the weary Goodison crowd started to show their frustration. Bringing Tom Davies on for Gueye was not the move that was needed. It took 74 minutes to bring on the big centre forward and the jeers from the fans was telling. Shutting up shop at the back end is always a good plan but when that is not working, trying to score a goal is the only route to a result.
James Tarkowski was just not up to it today. He was caught out for two of the goals. A leader works harder when the difficult moments happen. Today, Tarkowski’s shoulders dropped too early in the match. The defense, of which he is the leader, just wasn’t working together and too often, the clearing of the ball was landing on the foot of a Fulham player.
The first half of the match showed what Dwight McNeil brings to the table. McNeil’s well-taken strike had just 0.09 xG behind it, finding the very bottom of the bottom corner to tie the game. The former Burnley wideman also had a team-high 39 touches and passed 11 times in the final third, creating two chances in the process. Contesting eight duels in total, the winger was successul with two of three dribbles, and won possession six times with one of those coming in Fulham’s own defensive third. Unfortunately, his levels dropped off dramatically in the second half as Fulham took control of the match. A decent target man might have improved his chances of contributing to more goals.