Everton 0 - 1 Wolves

It’s utterly joyless being an Evertonian at the moment. Since the 11th of March, the Blues have played 14 games and their fans have had precisely two wins to savour in that time — that’s if anyone truly “savoured” the final-day win over Bournemouth rather than simply breathed a massive sigh of relief.

The glorious aberration of the 5-1 win at Brighton in early May is really the last time we Toffees have truly been able to celebrate anything. For weeks before, between then and the narrow win over Brentford, it was points desperately eked out here and there and a pervasive sense of crushing anxiety.

The new season, one greeted with only cursory optimism, has just been depressing, with mounting injuries, the ongoing failure to land a striker — one appears, in the form of Beto, to be close to signing, albeit an entire season and three more games too late — and, now, three successive defeats and no goals scored to start a league campaign, something that had never before happened in Everton’s history before today.

When added to last season’s worst-ever points haul, it’s just another sorry statistic from matters on the pitch to add to the utter failure thus far of Farhad Moshiri’s reign. And, of course, there was demoralising news off the field last Wednesday when it was revealed that MSP Sports Capital, arguably the most suitable potential owners of any that have emerged so far, won’t be taking an investment position in the club.

Today’s clash with Wolves was billed as an early-season relegation “six-pointer”, with both clubs expected to be battling it out at the wrong end of the Premier League table this season. It was a lot to put on only the third match of the campaign but it reflected the importance of Everton picking up points from bottom-half clubs, many of such games they lost last season which almost ended up costing them their top-flight status.

Frank Lampard oversaw home defeats to Wolves, Southampton, Leicester, failed to beat Nottingham Forest and Leeds and lost at places like Bournemouth and West Ham. Under Sean Dyche, meanwhile, the Blues played two home games against teams in the lower half of the table — Leeds and Bournemouth — and beat them both which at least offered hope that he could glean the points the club will need to again survive from those kinds of fixtures.

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So far, that hasn’t been the case but it hasn’t been for the want of trying and there hasn’t an awful lot you can blame the manager for in these opening two games at Goodison Park. Against Fulham, Everton recorded a higher xG without scoring than any team managed in 2022-23 and this afternoon against Wolves they had seven efforts on target. They had as many corners to the visitors’ zero but the less said about those the better. (Suffice it to say that how Ashley Young was allowed to keep curling the ball into Jose Sà’s gloves time after time without somebody else taking over set-piece duties was an infuriating mystery.)

No, in a game in which both teams had goals ruled out for offside and both goalkeepers made brilliant reflex saves to deny almost certain goals, this came down to quality — or the lack thereof — in the final third, more gilt-edged chances, and lax defending at the crucial moment from the captain, James Tarkowski. You could see why the club have pushed to sign Wilfried Gnonto this summer, a player with self-confidence belied by his diminutive stature and who can make things happen creatively, especially in the absence of Alex Iwobi.

Lewis Dobbin was handed his first senior start wide on the left and was willing and industrious but ultimately didn’t have the guile to get the best of Nelson Semedo. Youssef Chermiti came off the bench midway through the second half for his debut and Arnaut Danjuma shifted to the left and he also showed some nice touches and good hold-up and link-up play in the absence of the kind of service he, Beto and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will need. In that respect, Dwight McNeil and Jack Harrison can’t get fit fast enough.

The 2pm team news had at least given Everton supporters what they had been hoping for, with Michael Keane finally demoted to the bench in favour of Jarrad Branthwaite and the young defender put in an impressive display on his first Premier League start since May last year.

With Danjuma up front playing off Abdoulaye Doucouré, the Toffees’ intent was clear from the off as they pressed and harried Wolves in the early phase of the match.

Danjuma let fly from distance in the fifth minute his his shot sailed over and Nathan Patterson’s centre just eluded him a few minutes later after the much-improved Amadou Onana’s side-foot shot had been blocked before the Belgian threaded the Dutchman in beautifully with almost a quarter of an hour gone.

Danjuma was narrowly flagged offside and Sà denied him superbly anyway but it provided hope that Everton might find the cutting edge in the final third if they kept plugging away.

Just like Fulham a fortnight ago, Wolves were largely kept at arm’s length in the first half, with their best openings coming from sloppy passing from the home side in their own half. Fabio Silva was almost allowed in twice from successive giveaways by Idrissa Gueye and Onana but it was the home side who should have gone in at least a goal to the good.

James Garner’s half-volley bounced off Dobbin’s chest on the edge of the six-yard box and fell to Tarkowski but he lashed the ball disappointingly into the side-netting, Branthwaite headed a free-kick wide on the half hour and Danjuma could only place a cushioned first-time effort wide from close range.

Everton began the second period the brighter as well and created the first genuine opening when Doucouré was played in behind the full-back but he elected not to test the goalkeeper and tried to find Garner in the centre but delivered his cross behind the midfielder and the chance was lost.

A couple of minutes after that, after Danjuma’s attempt to flick the ball home was bundled behind by Sa, Garner’s shot was parried to Branthwaite but he planted his header from the rebound straight into the keeper’s arms.

Wolves, growing into the contest just as Fulham did on the opening day, then had their best spell of the game and appeared to have taken the lead when Hugo Bueno whipped a ball in and Silva nudged it home but the offside flag came to the Toffees’ rescue.

Jordan Pickford then hesitated almost fatally coming for a long pass and Silva nipped in behind Tarkowski but the Portuguese missed the target and the Everton keeper made amends a couple of minutes later with a terrific reflex save to deny Matheus Cunha.

Pickford’s exploits were matched by Sà at the other shortly afterwards. He had already pushed Danjuma’s shot away but when Garner delivered a wicked cross to the back post, Doucouré met it with an unconvincing header that looped up and the keeper had to change direction and paw it over his crossbar.

Chermiti replaced the willing and industrious Dobbin with 23 minutes left and soon forced a corner trying to divert Danjuma’s cross past Sà and Doucouré thought he had grabbed the winner when he finally found the composure in front of goal to take it wide of the keeper and slot home but the linesman’s flag, confirmed by VAR Graham Scott, cut his celebrations short.

That just left Sasha Kalajdžić to enter the fray with five minutes left and within two he had delivered the killer blow as he stole in between Tarkowski and Patterson to flick a deep cross from the Wolves right inside the far post.

Dyche replaced Danjuma and Gueye with Tom Cannon and threw Keane on as a desperate auxiliary striker but Everton were unable to fashion anything in the five minutes of added time.

Dyche will again be doing his best to cling to the positives, as he must and should. It was another case of the Blues living and dying by the fine margins and being left to count the cost of missed chances as the visitors found the decisive goal to render the effort from Everton meaningless by the final whistle. (If you want some metrics on which to hang an optimistic hat that rather prove the point, Michael Greenall's stats should help.)

Beto, should he come through his medical and become the fifth signing of the summer, should help. He may not be prolific but he is big and will provide that much-needed focal point up front in Calvert-Lewin’s absence. Beyond that, there is hope that the likes of McNeil and Harrison can provide thrust on the flanks and that in Iwobi and Danjuma there’s sufficient flair to bridge the creativity gap but the importance of picking up those elusive first points grows with every passing game.

Reader Comments (26)

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Ray Mutch
1 Posted 27/08/2023 at 17:30:44
Hello Lyndon, I can see, as ever, that you provide a fair and balanced report despite the fact that it must be tearing you and every Evertonian apart.
Peter Mills
2 Posted 27/08/2023 at 19:52:14
We would benefit greatly from some experience, character and leadership in the team. Are there any modern day players of the calibre of Reid, Gray, Barry and Gough?
Brent Stephens
3 Posted 27/08/2023 at 20:24:29
Yes, as per the final paragraph, our hopes now rest on the new signings (and injured players, once fit again) providing the impetus we badly need.

I'm hopeful that the tide will turn. If we can get something at Sheffield Utd away, and then hold Arsenal at home, we go into games against Brentford away (okay, a bit of a test also), and Luton and Bournemouth at home, before that short trip across the park – by which time our confidence might be significantly higher.

John Connor
4 Posted 27/08/2023 at 20:27:32
All the stats presented look impressive, but the missing stat is that we have scored no goals so far this season, despite the many chances created.

Generally teams have mid-fielders contributing to the goal tally, defenders from set-pieces etc, but we seem to be hanging our hat on the premise that only a forward can score.

For all the chances v Fulham and then again yesterday, we should have had at least one. I don't at this stage think we will go down or even be threatened this season; however, the longer this barren spell goes on, the more difficult it will be to instill a winning mentality and regain confidence.

Next week against a poor Sheffield Utd side is massive, we don't want to go into the first International break without a point or a goal.

Tony Paleo
5 Posted 27/08/2023 at 20:35:11
Nice report but shame about the result. I think there were some positives to take out of that game but as usual, we have no bloody luck.

Hopefully with Beto and Danjuma or Clvert-Lewin or Cannon and Chermiti we can finally change to a 4-4-2 and lessen Gueye's role in the team. We need McNeil and Coleman back on top form asap though!!!

Well done to Branthwate for an excellent performance;
hopefully he will cement his place in the team and grow into an excellent player for the club.

Tony Everan
6 Posted 27/08/2023 at 21:25:06
The positives are we are buying a striker who will convey the odd chance, but also wins headers so the likes of Doucoure, Danjuma may well feed of Beto too.

The other positive is Branthwaite, who looks like a Premier League defender already. There will be bumps in the road but yesterday he looked the most assured out of all four of them.

Just one observation about Branthwaite was on about the half hour mark, Pickford collected the ball and was about to boot it upfield. Branthwaite gestured to him to say, just calm down a bit let the team breathe, the long one is not on. It was a 21 year old directing the England keeper.

It was just a moment when I thought that the lad looks like a organiser and captain in the making. He’s still young with much experience to be gained but there’s is a touch of class about him.

For next week I think we may see Myko back in for Young, who was disappointing. His dead balls were thoughtless and predictable, he must improve or be dropped.

Also Gana needs to up his game or he will be on the chopping block soon, he was clueless in possession yesterday, we need better from him. If Adam Wharton comes in he may well lose his starting spot.

Kieran Kinsella
7 Posted 27/08/2023 at 21:33:31

Another early Branthwaite moment was when Young sold him short almost identical to Keane last week. Like Keane he missed it and the attacker got through and I was thinking “here we go again” but unlike Keane he didn’t drop his head he spun round and made an excellent tackle to win it back.

Neil Copeland
8 Posted 27/08/2023 at 21:50:19
Does anyone know why Branthwaite was booked? His challenge with Sa seemed more of a coming together and didn’t look like any intent from where I was sitting so it seemed harsh to me.
Steve Cotton
9 Posted 27/08/2023 at 21:54:36
Cos he baulked him Neil, stopped the game moving
Kieran Kinsella
10 Posted 27/08/2023 at 21:56:50

To me it looked like Sa deliberately charged into him and feigned a foul but the ref bought it

Tony Everan
11 Posted 27/08/2023 at 21:58:48
Yes Kieran, he was alert and mobile enough to deal with it. He looks like he has filled out a bit since last summer too. Less gangly and a bit more toughness and robustness about him.

Also he looks the grounded type and I don’t think he will get carried away with it all, unlike some of us do! But he’s one of the best youngsters to come through for a long time so, why not? We need a bit of happiness and hope from somewhere and Branthwaite delivers it. Hopefully he gets some leeway from fans this season as he’s not going to be the finished article just yet.

Sheffield away will be a test for him, I watched them today, low on quality but they fought well. A physical side that will take advantage of any weaknesses.

Kieran Kinsella
12 Posted 27/08/2023 at 22:11:23

You’re right he seems very sensible in interviews too. Plus it’s not the easiest thing in the world to go from a few games at Carlisle, a few dead rubbers at Everton and then play for PSV. In this age of money of course they’re not the European level force they were 30 years but still a massive club, with manic fans and intense rivalries with Feyernoord and Ajax. He seemed to take it all in his stride very well impressing everyone except that ne’er do well AVDM who released some contrarian attacks on him in response to the almost universal praise from everyone else in Dutch football.

Neil Copeland
13 Posted 27/08/2023 at 22:11:26
Kieran, that was the way I saw it too, seemed nothing in it at all.

Steve, that would make sense in respect of the yellow but it looked more like Kieran described.

Neil Copeland
14 Posted 27/08/2023 at 22:16:16
Tony and Kieran, I was surprised at how comfortable he seems in possession. My heart was in my mouth to start with but the longer the game went on the better he looked and more comfortable I felt.

Reminded me of John Stones a little but takes fewer risks or at least so far.

I really hope we can keep him for at least a couple of seasons, looks a proper footballer.

Tony Everan
15 Posted 27/08/2023 at 22:28:24
Kieran, Neil, and the biggest compliment of all, they wanted to make him their record signing and looked like they were still trying recently.

With regards the booking it was my instinct that there was no malice at all, more of an accidental coming together, possibly Branthwaite was focusing on further up the pitch. The ref misread it.

Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 27/08/2023 at 22:29:00
I’m hoping that Dwight McNiels absence is not too long and when he comes back he can provide the central midfield brains that are so obviously missing at the moment and add to the teams goals and assists which are desperately missing and can help the team enormously not only with points but with entertainment value as well, with Harrison and Danjuma adding flair and a few goals to the squad.

We have been short of entertainment for an awful long time at Goodison Park what a joy it would be to go the game again and expect the Blues to win a game and send us home happy and with more expectation there was more to come.

Neil Copeland
17 Posted 27/08/2023 at 22:35:11
Dave, it’s funny that you say that because I was thinking exactly the same earlier. Playing McNeill through the middle in a no10 type role could work out very well.
Barry Hesketh
18 Posted 27/08/2023 at 23:02:31
Everton have only won one in every three home league games since the two-all draw with Liverpool on 17th October 2020, I used that date because it equates to three full seasons on home soil.

We have won 19, drawn 9 and lost 29. We have averaged a goal a game during that period, scoring 57 and conceding 78. We have failed to score on 17 occasions only two of which ended in draws.

A single goal to nil victory for Everton has happened 11 times, and on the other 17 occasions that Everton scored only once, only 6 games produced points.

Of the seven occasions that Everton scored twice, it produced three wins, one draw and three defeats

Everton have scored three on five occasions and all of those games were won.

Everton haven't scored more than three goals on home soil since they beat West Brom in September 2020.

All in all the last few years have been very disappointing from an Evertonian point of view, particularly given our away record is pretty abysmal too.

Terry Farrell
19 Posted 28/08/2023 at 07:22:01
Hi Neil, glad you are talking about Branthwaite cos he is fantastic. I was fearing we would sell him to get cash in but he needs to be one of the foundations of our team going forward.

I remember speaking to a Carlisle director when we were buying him years ago and he said the kid is going right to the top and his attitude is spot on and he is from a down to earth family.

Would love it if Godfrey could finally find fitness and form alongside him mybe in a 3 with Tarkowski? He has the strength and pace but is no way a full back. Could do a Ratcliffe role?

Jerome Shields
21 Posted 28/08/2023 at 07:38:52
At Everton, fine margins are important and getting beaten in the final quarter by a poorly defended goal for whatever reason is not acceptable. Changes in tactics and players needed to be made by the manager and weren't.

The predictability of this was part of the opposition's manager training plan in the week prior to the game. The opposition's substitions and play making the difference in the Fulham and Wolves games.

Everton forward play was that predictable that the opposition's goalkeeper’s training ground displays resulted in MotM accolades. Again, this was down to the Everton manager’s one-dimensional approach and inability to change and adapt.

The Aston Villa game was a total exposure of the above. Margins were not in the equation in that game. The players simply did not turn up.

Neil Copeland
22 Posted 28/08/2023 at 08:32:22
Hi Terry, I like the sound of that back 3 although not convinced that Godfrey will recover sufficiently and rediscover his form. Although he did well initially as a full back under Carlo I agree it’s not his best position. Age is very much on his side though so you never know.

Good to hear from you mate.

Ajay Gopal
23 Posted 28/08/2023 at 09:03:02
Good to hear all the positives about Jarred. There was one other moment that stands for me - I think Young had got caught upfield and Wolves broke quickly down their right flank, and at one time their winger had a couple of yards on JB who was the last defender, and it looked certain to be a one-on-one opportunity for the Wolves attacker. But JB with his long strides caught up him in about 10 yards and clean as a whistle tackled him off the ball and coolly passed it upfield. It was so nonchalantly done, it was breathtaking. Hopefully, Jared can keep developing with Everton, and we won’t need to sell him for the next couple of years at least.

Like others above, I believe that once we have McNeil and Harrison fit, we will have a much more composed mid-field that is also comfortable with the ball. McNeil, Onana, Garner and Harrison acting as a compact midfield 4, with 2 out of Calvert-Lewin, Beto, Chermiti, Danjuma, Iwobi, as our front 2, would put my relegation fears at ease. Bring in a fit and hungry Dele Alli as the ‘X’ factor and I am optimistic that we should be seeing an uptick in results soon.

Bob Parrington
24 Posted 28/08/2023 at 10:02:27
Hey guys and gals,

Last 2 seasons we started well and then almost sank. This season has started badly and we will finish up mid-table.

Er – Think positively!!!!

John Raftery
25 Posted 28/08/2023 at 11:24:28
Bob (24) I agree.

With the new players coming in, we look stronger than we did 2 years ago after the loss of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison through injury. To take one area of the team Benitez selected for his first match in charge: Who were the two centre-backs? They were Keane and Holgate. They were still there for the final home game that season against Palace.

Once Dyche has had a few weeks to integrate the new players, and a few of the injured players return, we should have a more competitive team with better choices on the bench.

Peter Moore
26 Posted 28/08/2023 at 12:23:30
Thanks for your balanced report Lyndon. It's certainly very understandable and easy to be pessimistic about this season, given the results and experience of recent years. Dyche has a task on his hands to keep positivity and highest levels of focus and effort needed, but he must of course.

Here's hoping Beto signs, stays fit and proves up to prem standard.

Pushing optimistic levels to stretching point, I wish for DCL to recover from his latest bad injury soonest and, with Beto, have two proper strikers competing and maybe even combining! Fed by McNeil, Danjuma and others, we will hopefully have a much improved cutting edge soon. We certainly need it.

Really pleased Branthwaite played well. May he retain his place and build a long standing partnership with Tarkowski. Up the Toffees.

Peter Mills
27 Posted 28/08/2023 at 19:44:31
Well said, Ajay#23. That piece of play was right in front of me, and people were up on their feet cheering that moment.

We are desperate for such vignettes of class.

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