Gueye shines in promising dawn of Koeman era

While important, the enormous psychological boost of avoiding defeat could prove to be more important 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.

Lyndon Lloyd 14/08/2016 38comments  |  Jump to last
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.

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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.

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Reader Comments (38)

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John McGimpsey
1 Posted 14/08/2016 at 08:02:25
Not a bad first run out yesterday. What was very concerning was the bench that to me only had the two youngsters that were worth keeping. The rest need to be offloaded asap.

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.

Paul Conway
2 Posted 14/08/2016 at 08:03:34
Excellent debut and clearly showed signs of what's to come in an Everton shirt. One could say he hit the ground running. He was completely at home and can only get better surrounded by more talented players. The price tag is starting to look cheap at the price and could well offset some more expensive signings.

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!

Karl Parsons
3 Posted 14/08/2016 at 09:03:30
Talk about chalk and cheese!

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

Terence Tyler
4 Posted 14/08/2016 at 09:46:23
Very pleased with Gueye's performance yesterday, for me Joint man of the match with our goalkeeper. A big upgrade on Osman and McCarthy. A bargain at £7 mill.
Thomas Kelvin Jones
5 Posted 14/08/2016 at 09:58:24
Koeman's fitness assessment seems to be spot on. A 100% fit Everton side yesterday would have bagged three points against a very good Spurs side.

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.

Eddie Dunn
6 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:15:51
I was not impressed with Baines yesterday. I know he was up against a handful in Walker, but he was exposed regularly for pace, was caught napping out of position and failed to stop the cross for their goal, as well as being beaten in the air a couple of times.

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?

Mark Tanton
7 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:20:39
This won't be a very popular view but I think Baines is past it, sadly. He's no spring chicken and he has had injury problems recently too.

He's been a brilliant player, one of Moyes's best signings in fact, but he is on the way down not up.

Ian McDowell
8 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:21:40
Fair result all in all. Everton needed the second goal when on top as Spurs were always likely to get a rocket at half time, and have a spell when they were on top.

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.

Stan Schofield
9 Posted 14/08/2016 at 10:56:44
Gueye is a great signing. Full of spirit in addition to his obvious ability. He, Stek and Williams indicate that Walsh & Koeman know exactly what they're doing.
Mike Manchester
10 Posted 14/08/2016 at 11:08:09
Gana was awsome. Would love to see his personal highlights from that game. Natural born defender. So good...
Paul Kennedy
11 Posted 14/08/2016 at 11:21:14
It's great reading the positive reports on the new players – this in stark contrast to the negativity being posted before and during the signing of Gana and Stek. Real positive feel today... upward and onward!
Kase Chow
12 Posted 14/08/2016 at 11:43:09
Baines is one of my favourite players to ever have worn the blue Everton shirt. Ever. But his ability to stop crosses is very very poor and that's a basic requirement of a full back.

I think Galloway would have done better in that situation.

James Power
14 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:26:06
Does anyone know why the attendance was so low? Under 35,000 according to the bbc
Stephen Brown
15 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:27:29
James - the club has tweeted saying that's incorrect, attendance was 39,600 .
Mark Tanton
16 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:28:15
I wondered that - was strikingly low. It's reported everywhere else as 39,386 or something though. BBC wrong.
Mike Powell
17 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:30:09
We need at least 4 more players. Sorry but golden boy Deulofeu was dreadful. The keeper and Gana were the two who stood out.
Brent Stephens
18 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:31:23
34,494 in the Observer as well. It never looked that low in the ground. Grauniad error.
Steavey Buckley
19 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:47:21
In the second half, Everton went down to 10 men. It feels that way when Kone became a second half substitute. If Everton are forced to rely upon Kone for attacking inspiration, Everton are in a bad way and shape.

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.

Tony Abrahams
20 Posted 14/08/2016 at 14:49:30
We all see a different game, but I can't agree with either Eddie or Mark, regarding Baines.

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.

James Power
21 Posted 14/08/2016 at 15:28:00
Thanks Stephen, I thought it looked fairly full.
Eddie Dunn
22 Posted 14/08/2016 at 15:53:50
Tony, I know he gives his all, and he is one of my favourite players, but since the demise of Pienaar, he hasn't had either the instruction to, or the inclination to get to the bye-line and whip in a cross. The piece of play you mention illustrates the point that his teammates are not utilising his ability.

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.

William Cartwright
23 Posted 14/08/2016 at 17:25:45
Saddened to read the criticisms of Baines, but I can see the end is nigh, probably before the season is out? I really hope not as he is one of my all time favorite Everton players, up there with Kendall, Ball and Harvey. However he doesn't "look right" if that makes any sense.

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!

Nicholas Ryan
24 Posted 14/08/2016 at 17:51:00
The problem with the crowd figures, is that some of the 'card-readers' at the Bullens Road turnstiles malfunctioned, leading to delays.

The ground was (eventually) full but the crowd at kick-off time was 35,000.

Chris Williams
25 Posted 14/08/2016 at 17:59:18
Yes there was a problem with the card readers, as well as the escalator in the Top Balcony not working.

We might get it right by Christmas!

Steve Davies
26 Posted 14/08/2016 at 19:40:56
Kone needs to be shipped out. A very poor striker. Just get him off the wage bill. He offers nothing.

Love the new signings though, very impressive!

Shaun Wilson
27 Posted 14/08/2016 at 19:43:15
Great first half, then back to the same old Everton. Kone coming on highlighted how short of players we are (would Moyes mind swapping Kones?!)

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.

Ryan Payne
29 Posted 14/08/2016 at 20:58:01
Promising? I felt that we had all the attacking danger of a blunt spoon. Other than a fluke of a free kick, Everton showed nothing to suggest they can score a goal without Lukaku.

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.

Andy Crooks
30 Posted 14/08/2016 at 21:12:06
A really comprehensive and incisive match report, Lyndon. For those who rarely get to games, the work that you, Michael, Ken and Paul do is just magnificent.
Michael Farrelly
31 Posted 15/08/2016 at 03:00:19
Eddie (6) & Mark (7),

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.

Mike Dolan
32 Posted 15/08/2016 at 03:29:41
I thought we did really well yesterday. I am very impressed by the manager he just handles himself like a winner. Deulofeu might not have pressed enough for Koeman but I don't think I have ever seen him work harder and that bodes well for the future. I can't wait to see how he handles Lukaku who gives you nothing off the ball.

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.

James Wong
33 Posted 15/08/2016 at 05:26:14
I forgotten how great direct play can be until this game. Del boy and Barkley still need to get rid of the ball earlier when in trouble, but otherwise signs are promising. The passing was much quicker in possession which meant Tottenham couldn't press as easily.

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.

Tony Abrahams
34 Posted 15/08/2016 at 10:21:12
Michael 31, I really hope you are right mate. I love Baines, for his work-rate, and his honesty, he's a true team-player, if ever there was one.

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.

Michael Farrelly
35 Posted 15/08/2016 at 13:09:53
Tony (34) totally agree with you mate how does Baines giving and Bolasie going sound! Could be a special combination very different to the telepathic understanding that Baines & Pienaar shared but perhaps just as productive. Let's hope anyway.
Tony Draper
36 Posted 15/08/2016 at 13:35:04
Is Bainsey really 100% again following that ankle injury ?

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.

Tony Abrahams
37 Posted 15/08/2016 at 13:44:27
Do for me Michael, but I think Koeman, might just come up with a different formation, for this team.
Mike Gaynes
38 Posted 15/08/2016 at 14:05:05
Totally disagree with the criticism of Baines. To the contrary, as I commented on the Forum, I thought he gave us all a reminder of what an outstanding player he can be on two good ankles. He showed pace, the usual fine touch, and excellent anticipation at the back. In particular, Eddie Dunn #6, he shut down Walker completely. What were you watching?

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.

Gerry Quinn
39 Posted 15/08/2016 at 18:44:04
Did you know that Aston Villa are talking to Steve Round about a role as Technical Director?

Oh my, are they really that desperate?

Anthony Dwyer
40 Posted 17/08/2016 at 09:33:16
I'm a huge fan of Baines, I'd go as far as to say he's been the most out standing full back in the Premier League in years (taking away last 18 months for bad injury's).

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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