Everton 1 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur
When Ronald Koeman gave the frank assessment that his squad was 70% of where it needed to be in terms of fitness for the start of the season, some pondered whether the Dutchman was employing some mind games ahead of today’s game against Tottenham Hotspur.
In any case, his opposite number Mauricio Pochettino claimed not to have been tuned into the Koeman’s pre-match press conference but it’s clear that Everton’s new manager is a refreshingly straight talker – he meant exactly what he said. The yardstick was always going to be relative to what he perceived to be the ideal level he wanted his new charges to be and the evidence that the Blues aren’t ready for the way he wants them to play was stark in the second half of this 1-1 draw.
You suspect that had he had another two weeks — and a couple more signings — behind him, Everton might have won this game; as it was, despite missing two key players in the form of Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman through injury, they preserved a valuable point against a team that finished third last season and was at full strength today.
Those two absentees required a degree of improvisation from Koeman, with Gerard Deulofeu deployed as the furthest man forward, ably supported by Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley, while James McCarthy was handed a wing-back role to the right of a central trio of Ramiro Funes Mori, Phil Jagielka and debutant Mason Holgate.
It was a system that seemed to serve the Blues well as they carried out a clearly apparent strategy of pressing from the front and permitting the visitors to have the ball until they got to Everton’s defensive third. At that point, blue shirts would collapse the spaces, choke off attacks by Pochettino’s side and spring onto the counter-attack
And for all but five minutes of the first period, they were operating in that mode to both defend a one-goal and attempt to add to it thanks to Barkley’s wickedly-struck free kick. Mirallas had been chopped down by Victor Wanyama not far from the Spurs penalty area and Barkley whipped in the kind of set-piece delivery that give goalkeepers nightmares. Unsure if an Everton player would get a decisive touch in front of goal, Hugo Lloris was forced to hesitate, allowing the ball to bounce past his despairing dive and into the far corner.
With less than five minutes on the clock, it represented a terrific start for the home side and they’d almost doubled their advantage before a quarter of an hour had elapsed when, first, a great ball from Gareth Barry found Deulofeu but he scuffed his shot somewhat and it was easily saved. Then, another Barkley free kick from another foul on Mirallas by Wanyama picked out Jagielka on the edge of the box and Lloris had to palm his looping header over the crossbar.
Despite the slight apprehension in the air before kick-off at the lack of transfer activity and those injury concerns — Coleman in particular is a blow as he will be out for what Koeman termed as “several weeks” — Everton were well on top in the first 45 minutes and Pochettino’s much-vaunted outfit were restricted to just a Christian Eriksen shot that was comfortably gathered by Maarten Stekelenburg in the 27th minute.
Again, much was owed to the strict adherence to a defensive shape, a fevered desire to win the ball in the middle of the park and at the centre of it all was another player making his official Goodison Park bow, Idrissa Gueye, who had one of the most exciting debuts in memory.
Early comparisons with one of last season’s standout stars at Leicester, N’Golo Kanté, based on last weekend’s friendly with Espanyol were well-founded — the Senegalese midfielder was a revelation in front of the back four and an easy pick for man of the match with his uncanny ability to repeatedly shut the door on Spurs.
Of course, as was a constant theme last season under Martinez, the fear was that without turning their attacking superiority into more goals, Everton could rue not taking their chances before the half-time interval. The two best fell to Mirallas and Deulofeu respectively, although neither were easy, particularly the one that fell to Mirallas after the Spaniard had played him in superbly but, faced with an almost impossible angle, his shot was blocked behind for a corner.
Deulofeu’s, which came as a result of impressive anticipation of an ill-advised Jan Vertonghen backpass, was better but Michel Vorm, on only six minutes earlier for Lloris who sustained a hamstring injury, closed the angle smartly, gave the Everton forward very little to aim at, and saved with his legs.
Though the Blues would initially continue in the ascendancy early in the second period and great work by Barkley put Deulofeu in again before an excellent covering tackle by Eric Dier denied him, the match pivoted around the hour mark when Spurs equalised and, physically, Everton seemed to hit a wall.
An old Achilles heel from the past few seasons reared its head in the 59th minute when Kyle Walker swept a cross in from the right and Holgate couldn’t prevent Erik Lamela from stealing in front of him to steer a header past Stekelenburg.
It was a harsh moment for the young defender who had, a couple of examples of nervy distribution aside, looked very assured on his senior debut up to that point. It’s also a moment he will undoubtedly learn from over time.
Koeman turned to his bench a few minutes later but the feeling that there was little there that could improve on starting XI was validated as neither of Arouna Kone — a waste when he replaced the exhausted Deulofeu and offered nothing by way of an attacking outlet — or Aaron Lennon — industrious but, again, largely ineffective in an attacking sense after he came on for Mirallas — made much of an impression.
Instead, the momentum shifted irrevocably in Tottenham’s direction and but for Stekelenburg, who made two outstanding saves, the Londoners might have won. First the Dutchman made a point-blank stop to deny Vincent Janssen a goal on his Premier League debut in the 80th minute and then surpassed that with a quite brilliant reaction to swat Lamela’s deflected shot over his bar three minutes later.
Those twin interventions arguably preserved a point and gave Everton their fourth opening-day draw in succession. While important, the enormous psychological boost of avoiding defeat could prove to be more important than the point in the long run — an injury-hide side shorn of their top goalscorer and running at 70% capacity managed to hold off one of the teams likely to be challenging in the top four this season through a combination of discipline, tenacity and sheer hard work, a far cry from a few months ago when Goodison was enveloped in despair.
Of course, there were some frustrating aspects like some of the decision-making at times by the forward three and Barkley’s relative anonymity will give Koeman something to work on with the England international in the coming weeks. But with the manager still looking to land more signings that could take his team to another level by the end of the window and so much evidence of the style of play he wants to bed in at Goodison, things are looking very promising for the season.
Reader Comments (38)
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1 Posted 14/08/2016 at 08:02:25
All this running around shite with no end product is something we all knew when Lennon and Cleverley came on... As for Kone... I give up. Time to bring in the numbers as Sharpy said way back in May.
2 Posted 14/08/2016 at 08:03:34
Can't wait to see Williams and Bolasie slotting in. We are starting to shape up into a real Koemanesque outfit. Happy days ahead for long suffering Toffeemen!
3 Posted 14/08/2016 at 09:03:30
The shambles of the last two seasons replaced with well managed organisation. Bull shit replaced with straight talk. Back passes replaced by forward passes. Substitutes strategically used opposed to sitting on Catalan hands. All of which thankfully brought the Goodison roar back.
The shape of things to come fills me personally with excitement for the future. I agree with the view the signing of Koeman being monumental. OK, so one swallow doesn't make a summer and much work needs to be done - but leadership has to come from the top and in Moshiri and Koeman we now have that. The new coach's straight talk will not just be pointed at the players if they fail to perform. Those within the corridors of power NOW also need to perform (likewise) as I'm sure if they fail to deliver to his specification they too can expect a dutch blast.
One final shout out to the people who made and delivered the huge sign in the Street End saying something like "Our Motto is the standard we expect". Delivered a precisely the right time to remind ALL that our pride of this amazing football club knows no bound.
Happy Sunday laa x
4 Posted 14/08/2016 at 09:46:23
5 Posted 14/08/2016 at 09:58:24
How many times did it happen last season, where Everton were ahead comfortably and we all knew to well that they would capitulate in the final half-hour... 6, 7, 8 times?
Thanks to Koeman, we all know it's down to poor fitness levels, which in his own admission will take up to three weeks to crack the whip and get them in shape.
To think, if Martinez would have noticed this basic lack of fitness problem (as thousands of fans had done) he would still be the Everton manager.
6 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:15:51
He is still way short of what he once was, and I wonder if Oviedo should be given the job next week at the Baggies?
7 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:20:39
He's been a brilliant player, one of Moyes's best signings in fact, but he is on the way down not up.
8 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:21:40
Gueye is exactly what we needed in midfield. A really athlete winning the ball back, making interceptions and harassing the opposition.
Once the game was at 1-1 we didn't have the options on the bench to really alter the flow of the game. Hopefully there will be some more additions to come this week.
9 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:56:44
10 Posted 14/08/2016 at 11:08:09
11 Posted 14/08/2016 at 11:21:14
12 Posted 14/08/2016 at 11:43:09
I think Galloway would have done better in that situation.
14 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:26:06
15 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:27:29
16 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:28:15
17 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:30:09
18 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:31:23
19 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:47:21
As for the defence, it is the same as usual. The defence having to rely upon reinforcements to bolster them. Everton need strong defenders who don't take prisoners. As for the wing back pairing of McCarthy and Baines they did not get as far as the half way mark. Another failed experiment.
Delboy needs to understand that finishing is part of the job of being a striker. Everton could have won yesterday if he took his chance and scored! So it is back to the drawing board.
New faces are desperately needed if Everton's season is not going to end up like last season. Spurs were not that good yesterday.
20 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:49:30
He should have cleared his lines better, as should Jagielka, in the passage of play that resulted in the Spurs equilizer, and he could have done more to stop the cross, but other than that I thought he had a very good game.
He does a lot of running for the team, and I counted at least twice yesterday, when Baines ran at least 60 yards, to try and go on the overlap, and his team mate chose the wrong option, and tried to go inside.
21 Posted 14/08/2016 at 15:28:00
22 Posted 14/08/2016 at 15:53:50
I suppose that after 10 games or so, we will have a better idea if it is a question of fitness, I hope he improves but have to say I was impressed with the dynamism of Oviedo in his last outing.
23 Posted 14/08/2016 at 17:25:45
Also I suggested on a recent post that Stekelenburg has all the credentials to give Everton a couple of swansong seasons if we're lucky. Surely looked that way yesterday.
More impressive than the result was the visible collective spirit in the team. Even if they were knackered (no bullshit from RK there then). Jags back as solid as always; evergreen Barry, and that tiny little opposition irritant Gueye was superb.
It all looks good for the future. I keep thinking we need to be patient. However, I think Moshiri has spelled it out to Koeman that he is being impatient for all the right reasons. Money obviously but also the imperative is to get back into the European elite asap. Hence buying very good experienced players at the same time as developing the young players.
I really liked what I saw yesterday and believe we are in safe hands, including the goalie's!
24 Posted 14/08/2016 at 17:51:00
The ground was (eventually) full but the crowd at kick-off time was 35,000.
25 Posted 14/08/2016 at 17:59:18
We might get it right by Christmas!
26 Posted 14/08/2016 at 19:40:56
Love the new signings though, very impressive!
27 Posted 14/08/2016 at 19:43:15
Based on his performance, big Stek should get the benefit of the doubt, at least until August 31st, if not until the next transfer window. I know it's a little early to be thinking Neville Southall, but would Joe Hart (Bobby Mimms) have done any better?
And the money saved could reinforce so many positions that were exposed yesterday back up for Seamus, backup / replacement for Baines (I don't think Galloway is ready yet), a couple of midfielders and at least one striker. There's too many has-beens and wannabes on the current squad, but they would make somewhat good backups (McCarthy, Lennon, Duelofeu to name a few).
However, game 1 is just over, we are only 70% fit, and if anybody can get the best out of our current crop, it's Koeman, so I guess time will tell. Either way, we still need to buy... and soon.
29 Posted 14/08/2016 at 20:58:01
However, I was happy to only concede one goal. I would have heralded Koeman as the second coming if he could have saw out 85 mins without conceding. However, that was expectedly beyond our squad at this early stage.
With goals, I think we'll be dangerous, but until then there is a distinct lack of promise in my opinion. That performance wasn't something to trouble the top 4.
30 Posted 14/08/2016 at 21:12:06
31 Posted 15/08/2016 at 03:00:19
I feel you are being a little over critical of Baines. He still offered much in terms of width and penetration to the left flank which was not evident from the right flank. He will return to his best champions always do.
As for replacing him with Oviedo, that would be a deceive move in the wrong direction. I wouldn't have Oviedo within a bulls roar of first team football unless we are in desperate times. I would rate most of our good kids ahead of him especially in the fullback role were he was so badly exposed last season. Remember the 'Anfield Train Wreck' and his woeful part in it.
No, Oviedo, Besic, Gibson should have been outed at the end of last season.
32 Posted 15/08/2016 at 03:29:41
I agree we are still carrying a lot of dead wood at the moment , however while Baines might be a little past his best there are more pressing needs that need to be addressed before we begin to think of replacing him.
We badly need some firepower front the fact that we are still relying on Kone three years after it became apparent that he is totally useless says a lot.
33 Posted 15/08/2016 at 05:26:14
I didn't really like the subs though (all like-for-like subs), but let's give Koeman some time. Should have been 2-0 up and won the game.
Pochettino also seems like a great manager, made the adjustments to get back into the game and should be happy to get away with a point.
34 Posted 15/08/2016 at 10:21:12
The only worry I have over Leighton, is that if we carry on playing him as a wing-back, I'm not sure he has the skill to really go past a man, one on one. I think he needs someone to play with, as Eddie says, because he's a very, very good, give and go player.
Koeman, is very refreshing, because he talks a lot about how energy, is very important. So on that basis, I think we will still be seeing quite a lot out of Baines, for a good while yet.
35 Posted 15/08/2016 at 13:09:53
36 Posted 15/08/2016 at 13:35:04
Of all the players in our squad that require coaching or motivating just how many seconds each season does he demand for the glorification of his ego ?
"Past his sell by date", well that's a fucking beauty, anyone who reckons there's any truth in that needs to be gently lead away to take a lie down in a padded room to the gentle sound of the breeze, the aromas of lavender with oil of fuckwit and hefty shot of elephant tranquilizers.
37 Posted 15/08/2016 at 13:44:27
38 Posted 15/08/2016 at 14:05:05
I would guess that he's not at full fitness, perhaps from resting the ankle over the summer, but I still think he's top quality and will show it. And hopefully RK will rest him more, which will give Galloway more opportunities - also a good thing.
Oviedo, one of my favorites, is only 26 and remains a valuable squad player, providing important cover. Michael #31, Oviedo played completely out of position at Anfield (right back) and was still our best defender on the day, so of all those who were "brutally exposed" he was the least culpable. Definitely worth keeping IMO.
39 Posted 15/08/2016 at 18:44:04
Oh my, are they really that desperate?
40 Posted 17/08/2016 at 09:33:16
He's as hard working as any player in the league, he has a left foot like a wand, he's everything you want in a modern day full back.
I'd love to think he will get a decent run of games over the next month or two, and he will get back to were he was at.
With Yannick in front of him he will have a regular partner, who is quick and strong, and will have all the attributes to cover Baines as well as keeping the oppositions full back out of our half, allowing Baines to cover the oppositions wide attacking player.
I don't think Baines played particularly well v Spurs though, some of his decisions were a little dodgey to say the least. He didn't seem to realise just how much quicker Walker was than him. I don't think Baines could blame Mirallas for a lack of support either, as I feel Kev worked hard as anyone.
As I say, Baines has been suffering with bad injury's recently, so hopefully the worst is behind him now and he's ready to return to the old Bainesy.
Having breaks during international weeks will also be a big boost for him.
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