10/02/2024 27comments  |  Jump to last
Man City 2 - 0 Everton

Everton kept the reigning Champions at bay for just over 70 minutes before Manchester City finally broke their resistance with an Erling Haaland double.

The Norwegian scored his first Premier League goal since late November with City’s first shot on target in this lunchtime kick-off and then wrapped things up on the breakaway late on while the Toffees barely threatened Ederson at the other end.

With Sean Dyche mic’d up with his coaching staff and watching on from the stands as he served a one-game touchline ban, Everton made a decent start and created the early openings but let themselves down badly with the final ball.

Dwight McNeil eschewed the chance to repeat Demarai Gray’s heroics from distance in this fixture last season and tried to slip Ben Godfrey in instead, the makeshift full-back sliding in on the keeper who managed to hold onto the ball.

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Then Jack Harrison looked to capitalise on a poor pass out from the opposition defence by playing in Dominic Calvert-Lewin but in a moment that summed up a woeful afternoon’s work from the striker, he ignored McNeil’s run to his left and dropped a lame attempt to chip Ederson wide of the target.

On the other side of the ball, the visitors were mostly excellent in the first half. Only Jeremy Doku, who twice skinned Godfrey down the hosts’ left, seemed able to make any inroads through Everton’s organised shape but his first cross was just too high for Haaland and his second was cleared away before it could find a sky blue jersey in the middle.

Everton’s best chance of the game fell to Harrison eight minutes before half-time when superb, determined work by Ashley Young down the right flank ended with his cross being diverted into the former’s path but with the chance to finesse a shot into the top corner with his left foot, he ballooned a poor shot into the stands.

James Tarkowski got away with a slip trying to play out from the back in one incident but put in an excellent block in a crowded penalty area in another on the stroke of half-time as the Toffees made it to the break all square.

The pattern continued into the second half and didn’t really change until Pep Guardiola introduced Kyle Walker and Kevin de Bruyne just before the hour mark.

Calvert-Lewin’s weak shot from distance had been the only attempt at goal to that point and Dyche had been forced into a change of his own when Godfrey, starting at right-back again, was forced off with apparent illness and replaced by Seamus Coleman but the dam eventually broke in the 71st minute.

Walker’s cross appeared to have been headed behind by a City head but referee John Brooks awarded a corner on their right, one which caused havoc in the box as Ruben Dias’s header bounced off Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite's clearance hit an opposition player. The ball fell to Haaland and he smashed it back across goal where Pickford got a hand to it but couldn’t prevent it from hitting the back of the net.

Dyche swapped Calvert-Lewin and Young for Beto and the returning Amadou Onana and the Blues were enjoying some promising possession down the right when a wayward pass from Harrison looking for Coleman was intercepted and the ball worked to De Bruyne.

He sent Haaland away into a race with Branthwaite which the striker won when the defender lost his footing and fell, leaving Haaland with the task of sweeping it wide of the stranded Jordan Pickford and inside the far post.

Everton had the ball in the net in stoppage time when Coleman won the ball of Jack Grealish in the middle and late substitute Lewis Dobbin found Beto who rattled it past Ederson but the Portuguese had been clearly offside.

De Bruyne almost put an unfair gloss on the scoreline when he tried to lob Pickford who had come well off his line to close him down but the Belgian’s effort dropped onto the roof of the net.

Overall, this was an entirely expected result, with the only surprising being that it took until the last quarter of the game before Guardiola’s much-vaunted treble-winners managed their first shot on target.

Everton set their stall out in predictable and effective fashion from a defensive point of view but they also had their chances in the early going to try and first blood. Unfortunately, their betrayed their depressing attacking limitations, with Calvert-Lewin particularly disappointing as the lone striker and on whom so much depended to get the team up the pitch.

No one expected anything from this fixture, of course, so attention now shifts to the altogether more important home clash with Crystal Palace in nine days’ time where it looks as though Onana will be in contention to start and the much-missed Abdoulaye Doucouré could make his return.


Reader Comments (27)

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Peter Moore
1 Posted 10/02/2024 at 18:47:10
Sadly, I agree, nothing expected from me in reality from this fixure. Heart wanted a win or a point even of course, but head said, 'virtually nil chance'.

Put Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne in our team and it would transform us, hey, but that is the case for every team I suspect. Too much top quality.

Tactically, I think our manager was spot on, the players were excellent in their execution of the plan for the most part, great effort.

No injuries was my biggest hope pre game.

May the lads gain full strength, form and fitness for the tests to come, starting with Crystal Palace next up.


Lyndon Lloyd
2 Posted 10/02/2024 at 19:41:56
I robustly defended Calvert-Lewin when Michael branded his performances as "pathetic" in a match report a few weeks back. Nice of DCL to spend the intervening period making me look like a prize arse, particularly today.

Playing as the lone striker is a thankless task but it's a hugely important role in our team, particularly at places like the Etihad. DCL is clearly bereft of confidence but he could start helping his cause immensely by being more considerate with his use of the ball. If he found another "hot coral" (apparently!) all afternoon, I don't recall it.

He wasn't the only one to waste what few chances we had to build attacks – we're demoralisingly poor going forward at the moment – but we're not going to get better in that regard without him improving. It'll start with him. Maybe he just needs a goal and hopefully Palace at home is the time.

Dave Cashen
3 Posted 10/02/2024 at 20:11:40
We are playing without strikers.

Our strikers are being asked to do a different job than that of a striker. They are expected to occupy two defenders, not just with their back to goal, but 40 yards away from it. That in itself is a thankless task, but when the rest of the team are 30 yards away and don't get up to support them (as happened repeatedly today), the task becomes impossible.

We either have to get up and support our target men (Calvert-Lewin or Beto) or we change tactics.

We ain't changing personnel.

Tony Abrahams
4 Posted 10/02/2024 at 20:29:20
I was going to write something very similar, Dave, and think that Dominic is being asked to do way too much donkey work.

I thought he did okay against Spurs, but he his being asked to play with his back to goal across the whole length of the pitch, and also run the channels. It must be soul-destroying at times when he's turning forward and nobody is really trying to support him.

Lyndon Lloyd
5 Posted 10/02/2024 at 20:57:55
Tony, what you and Dave say is absolutely true. He is being asked to do way too much, cover too much ground, win headers and flick-ons when there's no one around him or even going for the second ball.

My gripe is that, at the moment, he isn't even doing the basics when he has the ball and he is being too greedy in areas of the field where he has no right to be. We had three or four genuine openings against City and, playing the way we do, that's about all you can expect.

So you have to make the most of them and that's where you should be able to rely on an experienced Premier League striker to choose the right option or gamble on a ball coming in from the flank rather than hold back lurking behind or amongst defenders when he should be busting a gut to get in front of them.

Maybe the donkey work is knackering him out so he doesn't have the physical or mental energy when he does get an opening but, as Dave says, something has to change.

Tony Abrahams
6 Posted 10/02/2024 at 21:29:14
He should be made to play within the length of the penalty areas, with his back to goal, imo Lyndon, and he should only be forced to run wider for balls over the top which should get him running in behind.

It's easy for us watching from the sidelines or in the comfort of our living room but it's definitely not easy for Dominic right now, because, as you say, he's not being allowed to conserve any energy for when it's needed the most, although I'm not sure everyone will agree with this assessment.

Dave Cashen
7 Posted 10/02/2024 at 22:55:35
I do, Tony.

I think it's very difficult not to be greedy when you don't have a team mate near you. At one stage today, he looked for the cavalry 2-3 times, they didn't arrive and he was easily dispossessed. Give 3-4 top class defenders one man to mark and that will happen.

I think it's even worse than what you say Lyndon. I'm beginning to see signs of despair.

If we are going to persist in this way of playing, Beto is our only other option, but on the rare occasions he has started, he has barely had the energy to get off the pitch when he is substituted.

I've been reluctant to criticise Dyche; I can see his predicament. This way of playing can be effective if you have Doucoure. Somebody with the power and athleticism to get up and make it a two. Unfortunately we don't have anybody else. Jack Harrison is an honest little player but, like Garner and McNeil, he doesn't have that in his game.

I'm all for playing this way when Doucoure is fit. It may not be pretty, but it is a means to an end, but when he isn't, we may have to be a little bolder, braver as a unit. If we don't push up as a unit, our attacks will keep breaking down and our defenders will continue to see the ball come back at them.

I don't think Man City deserved that today, but most games go for nearer 100 minutes than 90 these days. It's a big ask to expect your players to go all that time without one of them suffering a momentary lapse of concentration.

Tony Abrahams
8 Posted 11/02/2024 at 08:24:11
If I'm being honest, Dave, I'm very surprised Dyche hasn't tried to play 4-4-2, although you could definitely argue that Beto and Calvert-Lewin haven't really complimented each other when we have tried it.

The cup game against Luton frustrated the life out of me because, if we would have had a midfielder player who could pass the ball, then I believe we would have been out of sight by half-time.

But the other thing that frustrated me was that I thought we played the system totally wrong from a defensive point of view, considering the way the game has gone now with a lot of teams flooding the midfield.

Robert Tressell
9 Posted 11/02/2024 at 09:05:38
I think Dyche is using Calvert-Lewin to create set-piece opportunities for us. That's his role in the side right now and he's better at it than Beto. Personally, I would give Beto and others more minutes generally but not yesterday. We'd have been on the end of a hiding.

I don't think we should play 4-4-2. I can only think there's some kind of nostalgic attachment to this system. No team in world football would play Beto and Calvert-Lewin as a double act. They are both far too limited on the ball and have little to offer dropping deep or wide.

Much, much different to, say, Vardy and Okazaki at Leicester — who were even then only very loosely a double act because Okazaki's true positioning made the formation more like 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1.

Where you have genuine striker partnerships (like Dzeko and Lautaro recently at Inter) the formation is 3-5-2 to ensure a competitive midfield trio. And that worked because of Inter's quality in midfield and on the flanks and Lautaro's high technical ability.

Unfortunately, with what we've got, 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1 is the way to go.

Joe McMahon
10 Posted 11/02/2024 at 09:24:27

It's so frustrating, we really have become over the last 25 years (Lukaku aside) a club that specialises in non-scoring goalscorers.

Even strikers who notched 20-plus goals before they came here were ruined by the isolated striker tactics. Awful to watch low low-scoring team year after year.

Robert Tressell
11 Posted 11/02/2024 at 09:42:33
Joe I think the problem is in the wing / forward positions and Number 10.

You need speed and high technical ability in these positions - and we've had very very few players like that.

Calvert-Lewin would be doing fine at Villa with Bailey, Diaby etc in support.

Brian Harrison
12 Posted 11/02/2024 at 10:37:47
The system we play only works when Doucoure is fit and playing and Dyche seems unwilling or unable to change to a formation when Doucoure isn't playing. He seems to always find a place in the side for Young and Harrison who offer very little.

Yes, they both put a lot of effort in but, in the Premier League, you need more than effort to win games. I don't think McNeil is anywhere near the form he showed prior to his injury, but again like Harrison, he starts every game, why Dobbin doesn't get more minutes, I don't know.

As for Calvert-Lewin, he is being asked to do far too much work, especially seeing Doucoure isn't there to provide help. While he is arguably still our best option up top, I don't think you can keep playing him when he is in such awful goalscoring form. Lets not forget he has had some great chances to score in the 18 games he has played without a goal.

I said a few weeks back, I wonder if it's the way Dyche has us playing that is why whoever he has played up front doesn't seem to work. He plays 2 holding midfield players who very rarely make runs beyond the forwards, so the defensive side of our game looks strong but is that because for large parts of the games the midfield 2 sit just in front of the back four?

I did really worry that, with us unlikely to get anything from City and Luton home to Sheffield Utd and Forest at home to a Newcastle side who have lost a bit of form of late, I feared a gap may have opened up between us and the clubs just ahead of us.

Thankfully both lost and let's hope Chelsea win at Palace which, apart from our result, will make it a good weekend for us.

Clive Rogers
13 Posted 11/02/2024 at 11:18:38
Brian, I agree with your opinions.

Young has been a passenger the last two games imo, hardly getting involved at all. What has he offered us over the season, no goals, no assists I can remember?

Calvert-Lewin was at his lowest ebb yesterday, distribution poor and fluffed our best chance. He needs to be omitted but Beto doesn't look up to Premier League standard. I doubt we will make a bid for Harrison in the summer.

Steve Griffiths
14 Posted 11/02/2024 at 11:34:34
Robert (9), Excellent post and I agree with everything you say.

Calvert-Lewin is simply the best striker we have, in doing what the manager wants. Which is told to hold the ball up and win free kicks in advanced positions.

Beto simply doesn't have that skill set and is why I think we'll see more and more of Chermiti (next season) than Beto, who I think may be sold or loaned in the summer.

Eddie Dunn
15 Posted 11/02/2024 at 12:10:11
I agree with Dave and Tony above but not only was Dpmenic being asked to do too much but McNeil failed to take on his man on the few occasions he had the chance and Harrison seemed to be programmed merely to harass and track back.
The fact that we failed to force even one corner showed our inability to threaten.

It was a committed display from all of the team and I am grateful that we were not spanked but we showed zero ambition.

I think Dobbin is worthy of more minutes and I would move McNeil inside to the No 10 role. McNeil is a lovely footballer but slow, so it might suit him.

Christopher Timmins
16 Posted 11/02/2024 at 12:13:30
Yesterday was the first time in a long time that I was lucky enough to attend a game. Unfortunately, my tickets were with the home fans, a mild mannered bunch without a hint of aggression. Maybe that's what comes with winning so much.

I was seated at the opposite end to our supporters but in line with them. My admiration for them went up another notch yesterday, they are amazing.

On the pitch, we played a very high line at times in the first half, I was surprised at same. We defended well, Mykolenko, Branthwaite and Tarkowski were all very good and only Godfrey was a cause for concern, Doku caused him problems. Pickford was largely redundant except for the two goals.

The back 4 came under more sustained pressure in the second half as we were pushed back but the introduction of our captain was a help. Their first goal was opportunist in nature and, once we went behind, we were unlikely to get back on level terms.

I am not going to get involved in the Calvert-Lewin debate, however, it has to be said that he is not at his best at the moment, but he is in good physical condition after such a long period when he suffered injury after injury.

I would also say that any striker would struggle to do the job that he is being asked to do given the current set-up. It can't be easy for him to keep his morale at a high level when he becomes more and more isolated as games progress.

We are a mid-table team and hopefully when the final whistle blows at around 9:55 pm on the 19th we will be out of the bottom 3 after taking 3 points from Palace and after having clawed back all or some of the points lost as a result to our outrageous points deduction.

I could not help thinking back to the times, fairly recent by the way, when we were a match for our opponents, we put 4 past them one Sunday afternoon when Tom Davies looked like he might be the real deal. Now sadly, the gap is huge.

Though a member, I won't see Goodison before she hears her final whistle. Too many sad recent memories, it's like remembering a parent who spent a significant time in hospital just before they passed, your memories of them are coloured.

My next day out will be a Premier League game at BMD, a new dawn.

Joe McMahon
17 Posted 11/02/2024 at 13:50:44
Robert, it's many forwards over the years than can't do it all on their own.

Calvert-Lewin would have suited better at several clubs, not just Villa.

Robert Tressell
18 Posted 11/02/2024 at 14:32:14
Joe #17, indeed and it's no coincidence that Lukaku got his goals in a side that had exceptional full back play, plus Barkley, Mirallas and Deulofeu.
Jim Bennings
19 Posted 11/02/2024 at 15:43:23
Lukaku though was good enough to make his own goals and chances.

The only other striker we've had in recent years was Louis Saha, who was sublimey talented with two feet and had great pace.

Dom isn't a good footballer, I'm sorry he just isn't and there isn't another club in the top half of the table who will show the blindest bit of interest in bidding for him this summer.

He's a limited 6-yard box player that needs spoon-feeding chances every game and even then he doesn't make the most of them enough.

Dave Cashen
20 Posted 11/02/2024 at 18:04:35
Lukaku played in the only Everton team in recent years where the emphasis was on creating chances for the striker. He was the only forward used as an out-and-out striker – Apart from a brief spell for Calvert-Lewin under Carlo Ancelotti.

He wouldn't have lasted five minutes with this team. He simply would not have been prepared to put in the sort of graft Dyche is demanding. He was agitating for a move every week when he was getting chances put on a plate. There's no way he would have stuck around for this.

No doubt he knows where the net is, but his own personal glory is/was far more important to him than any of the world class teams he has been fortunate enough to play for. You only have to look at his winners medals (or lack of) to see that.

He left nearly 8 years ago. He won't be coming back. He has about as much relevance to our current situation as Gary Lineker

Tony Abrahams
21 Posted 11/02/2024 at 18:35:51
I haven't got any nostalgia towards 4-4-2, Robert, but do believe it can still be a very effective system, just as long as it is played correctly.

I think it is most effective when you concede one half of the pitch, and don't really press, until the opposition come into your half.

We don't have enough partnerships in our squad for it to be effective though, because when thinking about it logically, the only two players that really complement each other seem to be our two central defenders.

We don't have our fullbacks linking with the players ahead of them, we don't have midfield players complementing each other, and Beto and Dominic also look to be on completely different wavelengths when they are on the pitch together.

This means that the team is doing better than the sum of its parts right now (if you take away the asterisk) even though Calvert-Lewin is suffering because of this.

Jim Bennings
22 Posted 11/02/2024 at 19:11:28
If we allow creative players to leave on a regular basis and replace them with non-creative and non-scoring players, then you end up with a team that struggles in the final third.

I understand we couldn't do anything with regards to the Sigurdsson situation; I also understand the release of James Rodriguez due to the cost and everything else.

But we've lost Gordon, Townsend, Gray, Richarlison in the last 18 months and we've replaced them with probably not as good players, let's be honest.

They all work hard and they are all 10/10 for endeavour, the likes of Dwight McNeil, Jack Harrison, James Garner etc etc – but there's no touch of class and no pace there at all anymore.

I don't really think Dyche can do anything else with this crop of players than he's already doing, as much as our style of play is tepid at times. We do eek out more presentable chances than some fans will have you believe, we just don't have quality in the final third, midfield or strikers.

John Atkinson
23 Posted 11/02/2024 at 19:23:53
In all reality, did anyone expect 3 points away at Man City? I had everything crossed for a draw and me bollocks still hurt! I really want to see Dobbin in for Harrison. Patterson should have had half of a game. I rate him. Subs should be done around the 70-minute mark.

I know we're going to be safe because we do have the ability to beat the teams around us. Living in Sheffield, I was chuffed for my United mates and thankful for us not going 4 points from safety!

Why we didn't sign Haaland when he was on trail under Big Dunc, god only knows!!

Mark Murphy
24 Posted 11/02/2024 at 19:38:06
John that's a good shout: Dobbin in for Harrison.

Give the lad a go – tell him he's got to match Harrison's work-rate but show he's got the edge around the box.

And if Calvert-Lewin's header or shot glances off any of his extremities on the way in, for fuck's sake, give it to Dom!

Robert Tressell
25 Posted 11/02/2024 at 20:17:14
Jim #19,

Saha and Eto'o are definitely our most talented, technical forwards in recent years. Yakubu was an excellent finisher. Lukaku had incredible physicality and an ability to create his own chances too.

All better finishers and, probably, footballers than Calvert-Lewin.

Calvert-Lewin is completely different of course. He is competent technically, has excellent physical attributes and works tremendously hard. As we've seen in the right set-up, he'll score regularly. In the wrong set-up, he will work his arse off and sacrifice his goalscoring in the process.

There would be plenty of interest in him if available. The obvious team is West Ham. With good full-back play, Ward-Prowse on set pieces and Kudus, Bowen and Paqueta playing off him Dom would probably score regularly but also create a lot of space for the talented attacking trio.

But even Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd might quite like to have this sort of player as an option.

Jim Bennings
26 Posted 11/02/2024 at 20:42:18
A fair assessment, Robert, I'm not going to argue with that.

I do think that, with the 2 years Dom had out, though, he's regressing as a physical athlete; the attributes he had 4 years ago at the age of 23 and prior to injury, I don't see him getting back to be honest.

John Atkinson
27 Posted 12/02/2024 at 14:53:08
Mark #24.

I think if we give Dobbin a few games, he'll become another Branthwaite!

I like Harrison for his industry but he gives up possession too easily. He does have a goal in him though.

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