In what was billed as an important game for two struggling teams, Everton came away with a 2-1 win after coming back from behind to consign Bournemouth to their fifth loss of the season.
In a rather eventful match that saw unlikely heroes, unsurprising flops and managers under pressure, what did we learn from a match pitting two teams in the relegation zone against each other?
Relief for The Toffees as their dreadful run is over
It wasn’t pretty, and the football wasn’t always free-flowing, but a win is a win, and a win is exactly what Everton needed this weekend.
The fans would have been apprehensive before this match, and when Everton fell a goal behind the atmosphere at Goodison Park threatened to turn toxic, towards the players and a manager who has been under pressure from sections of the fans.
Therefore, when the final whistle blew and Everton came out with all three points, the relief in the stadium was palpable. It sees Koeman’s team out of the relegation zone and will fill the Everton players with much-needed confidence.
However, the win still papers over the cracks
Undoubtedly a win, no matter how it came about, was necessary, and Everton’s main goal was accomplished. But, when looking back at this game, the same problems arise that have plagued the team since their first competitive games in the Europa League qualifiers.
The same criticism will be levelled at the players on the pitch, mainly how sluggish and slow the attackers looked, and the complete and utter lack of width for 90% of the game. Add to that the fact that Everton failed to test Begovic regularly, and one sees the same problems from every match this season.
As well as that, Koeman still seems unable to decide on a formation. Last week Everton lost to Manchester United playing five at the back, and this week he has once again resorted to four.
This may sound logical if not because Koeman has rotated these formations in almost every game Everton have played so far this season. This is seriously impacting on the players who are trying to settle as their roles keep changing and the shape of the side has no continuity. Maybe this win will convince Koeman to stick to four at the back for some time. The players need the manager to make his mind up.
£150 million spent, best performers were already at the club
The biggest criticism of Ronald Koeman this season is his unflinching desire to fit all of his new signings in at once, which has led to three attacking-midfielders on the pitch at the same time, getting in each other’s way and not offering much going forward.
This game should put this desire to bed. Everton’s best performers have been players already at the club, such as Calvert-Lewin, Davies, Holgate, Jonjoe Kenny and Niasse (more on him later). Of these four, only Holgate and Calvert-Lewin started, and it took the other three to come off the bench to inspire Everton’s comeback.
Add to this that some of Everton’s worst performers so far have been new signings, the likes of Klaassen, Cuco Martina and Sigurdsson, and Koeman has to accept that just because money was spent on new signings does not mean they should be guaranteed a spot in the starting eleven.
If Ronald Koeman wants this win to do more than just paper over the cracks, he has to learn from this game, and accept that some of the summer signings need to be relegated to the bench, at least for the moment.
Everton find unlikely hero in unwanted striker
As recently as a month ago, Oumar Niasse’s career was over at Everton. A player signed by Roberto Martinez in the winter transfer window of 2015, he hardly featured under Everton’s ex-manager, and Koeman’s arrival made things no better for the striker.
He was not given a squad number at the start of the season, was demoted to the U23s, and wasn’t even given a locker at the club. Fast forward to today and Niasse has three goals in two games, scoring a brace against Bournemouth off the bench and injecting real life into the forward line.
Now Koeman has to swallow his pride and consider the player for a starting spot. He may not answer all of Everton’s attacking problems, but he is helping.
Worrying signs for The Cherries
Considering the two teams that were facing each other, this match would see one club relieving the pressure and one pushed further into trouble. Today it was Bournemouth who got the short end of the stick, and this result sees them on a meagre three points, sitting in 19th.
After two consecutive wins against Brighton in the league and cup, Bournemouth fans would have regained a small amount of optimism. Their fixtures so far have been tough, having already played Arsenal and Manchester City. The wins against Brighton showed that the team still has quality and that the players had the potential to improve.
Today was not a good performance from The Cherries. Everton did not play well for most of the game, and yet Bournemouth did not want to put themselves on the front foot. They spent most of the first half giving the ball away and defending deep and only pressed after they scored.
They had chances to bury the game before Everton’s comeback, and their failure to win will worry the fans and a manager who, if this run continues, will find himself under increasing pressure.
Build around King, not Defoe
Josh King must have felt bewildered at his treatment by the manager since Jermain Defoe arrived. The Norwegian striker who scored 12 goals in the last 13 league games last season, has been pushed further down the pitch in favour of the new arrival.
While Defoe is a great asset, the English journeyman is nearly 35 years old, and Bournemouth should be focused on building the team around King rather than him. Defoe is a great player to have, but either play him as a striker with King or bring him off the bench.
With King scoring again today, The Cherries need to keep him happy lest he moves to a bigger club who will play him in his best position. That would be a disaster for Bournemouth.
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