“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” – Tommy Lasorda (Former Baseball Player)
Off the back of an encouraging performance away to Swansea, Everton faced a trip to the Black Country to face Tony Pulis’ West Brom. West Brom’s season prior to the Toffees visit has been a mixed bag. Six played, winning a third, losing a third and drawing a third of their games. Everton, on the other hand, are threatening a good season, but are still yet to find their best eleven and a real consistency to performances. So which Everton would we get on Monday night?
Gerard Deulofeu came in for his first league start since joining the club on a permanent transfer in the summer. Funes Mori started his first game- alongside Phil Jagielka after John Stones picked up a knock in the Swansea game with Jagielka shifting across to right centre half, and Brendan Galloway and Ty Browning continuing at the fullback positions. Coincidentally, Tony Pulis would go on to bemoan defensive injuries to Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson (despite being able to replace them with Jonny Evans and James Chester. Both of whom Pulis signed himself. For a combined sixteen million pounds.), which is a fair complaint, but given that Everton were without three of their starting four (with only twelve premier league appearances amongst their replacements), and Mori making his full debut, Pulis’ troubles don’t appear to be quite so bad.
Deulofeu, wide and advanced, was isolated and struggled to get involved for much of the first half, but was causing problems when Everton did manage to work the ball to him. Steven Naismith enjoyed his second successive start, and Ross Barkley continued to be given free reign to support Romelu Lukaku, ahead of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy in midfield.
Onto the game and the first half reeked of West Brom v Everton on national TV. A midfield arm wrestle with little in the way of skillful play. Both sides were fairly measured in possession but weren’t creating any opportunities in front of goal. Everton were struggling against the deep defensive line West Brom were playing, and were frustrated by the discipline shown by Tony Pulis’ men as they sought to pack as many men tightly behind the ball as possible, when out of possession. Everton were unable to get Barkley into the kind of space between the lines of West Brom midfielders and defence that he has been thriving off, and were unable to get the ball to Deulofeu in a position to threaten the opposition. The tempo wasn’t quite there from Everton. A familiar problem was presenting itself- facing an organised defensive side, they were failing to get the ball to Deulofeu and the rest of the side lacked the imagination to pose any real questions of West Brom. Everton would try to get the ball forward quickly to Lukaku on a couple of occasions, but any time they did, he was far too isolated…
Twenty five minutes in, and an innocuous moment which would go on to have considerable ramifications on the remainder of the game, although it wouldn’t appear to be the case for some time. As Lukaku sprung a break, turning just inside the Everton half after a long West Brom free kick was cleared, Jonas Olsson (number 3, playing left sided centre half in the average positions picture) tried to turn with the Belgian and injured himself in the process. He would be replaced by James Chester, who would slot alongside Jonny Evans at the heart of the West Brom defence, with Craig Dawson continuing at right back. For now.
Almost half an hour in and the first chance of note for either side, and it comes on a quick counter attack from Everton. Steven Naismith gains control of the ball and plays a short pass into Ross Barkley who sells Claudio Jacob a dummy so convincing, it left the Argentine searching for the meaning of life as the attack continued behind him
James McCarthy would sweep the ball wide right to Deulofeu who played a sumptuous pass into the run of Barkley
Deulofeu, matching bags of ability with excellent vision, playing a ball between three West Brom defenders perfectly into Barkley’s run. The ex-Barcelona man could peel an orange with his right foot.
He doesn’t really have any right to envision playing this ball along the deck, let alone have the confidence to try it, but to execute it? Star quality from the exciting youngster. Barkley just didn’t get his feet right and skewed the ball wide, having probably had time for a touch. Half an hour in, and it’s no coincidence that the best moments of the game so far involve Barkley and Deulofeu, with Everton having countered with speed and purpose.
Before half time came around, West Brom would take a lead undeserving of their play. Tim Howard would roll the ball to Mori and Everton weren’t in bad shape. Mori had options left and right in Galloway, Barry and Jagielka. Out of shot is Naismith a little further up the pitch who would also have been found by Mori
I don’t think Mori was expecting to be challenged for the ball in this area of the pitch. Darren Fletcher (closest to Mori) is pressuring the ball and I think it just caught Mori by surprise- nothing more sinister than that. Mori will learn from it, I’m sure. As Mori carried the ball out, Galloway doesn’t stay close to the touchline, and as he narrows, Mori’s options are running out as he begins to be crowded by the West Brom pair:
Perhaps Mori was expecting Galloway to move down the line, or drop deeper than him as he advances? Either way, they weren’t on the same wavelength and under a bad touch, Mori is tackled and the ball squirts to Gareth Barry.
The danger should end there but Barry badly miss hits a pass likely intended for Naismith and it falls straight to the feet of James Morrison. Everton are now in danger. Saido Berhahino (top of the screen, in front of Ty Browning) has sensed the danger immediately, and is already on the move before Morrison has gotten the ball under control and his head up. The rest is fairly simple with Everton badly exposed, Morrison threads a nicely weighted ball into space for Berahino who had managed to time his run between Jagielka and Browning
A clipped finish managed to give the Baggies a lead, and a goal the game badly needed.
The response was almost immediate from Everton, and again, Gerard Deulofeu was at the heart of the attacking threat. The ball was worked wide to Deulofeu who had one of only a couple of first half opportunities to attack Chris Brunt one on one down the West Brom left. Deulofeu skipped past Brunt with ease and fizzed a low ball across the Baggies goal without an Everton player coming close to getting touch…
With four other players in the box, it was unfortunate to see the chance go begging, it was unlucky… But it isn’t the first time this season that Deulofeu has skinned his man and driven a ball like this in at the near post only for it to go unrewarded. Hopefully, in time, the other players- and particularly Lukaku, will grow to read Deulofeu’s intentions in these situations, and be able to read the play unfolding.
Into the second half and some familiar defensive frailties crept back in. It should be said, with Everton missing three of the starting back four, that can’t not have some impact on play. Other teams will always make the occasional opportunities from set pieces (especially when managed Tony Pulis), just as you should yourself, but it was alarming to see just how much space Jonny Evans was able to get from a corner….
Evans would clip the ball back into the box and another corner would result. West brom go two in front from the corner, a Dawson header under the nose of Tim Howard
It was a good ball in from Brunt, but Howard was more interested in jostling with Berahino than coming for the ball. Dawson is allowed a free header having drifted off Barkley, slack marking and this game now looks beyond Everton. Inconsistencies threatening to derail what could be a promising season.
Seconds later and it was 2-1. Everton go straight down the other end and strike back. The ball would be worked wide to Deulofeu who clipped an irresistible ball into the box for Lukaku, and Rom did the rest…
Rising above Chester, Lukaku thundered a header into the back of the West Brom net. The comeback was on? No side Tony Pulis has managed in the top flight has lost a game having been two goals up. Not Stoke, not Palace, not West Brom…. The size of the challenge was clear.
Another Deulofeu cross came and went- Deulofeu threatening the kind of end product he flashed during his first spell with the club. If he can put it all together, he’ll be a match winner on his own. Everton almost put Lukaku through on goal but a heavy touch allowed a ragged West Brom defence to scramble clear for a corner. And from the corner?
A good ball in, but a big, ale house punch clear from the ‘keeper… Six or seven yards from his line which almost set up a break for his side. Punching should be a last resort, but compare this goalkeeping with the second West Brom goal.
2-1 up, West Brom were determined not to let their lead slip…
Ten West Brom players in shot, a line of four and five making it difficult for the toffees, cramping space for creativity. We’ve been here before, we’ve seen this unfold already. All through last season Everton were frustrated with these tactics. We hadn’t played particularly well to this point: we were about to cost some poor soul £46,000 on his accumulator.
With less than twenty minutes to go, the comeback wouldn’t have been on- if not for the ever impressive Brendan Galloway.
Everton fail to clear their lines properly, and the ball is headed back by Chris Brunt. Mori is the deepest Everton player having dropped to offer a pass prior to the clearance- as the centre halves are told to do. When Jagielka headers this ball, he only manages to find a West Brom shirt and now his momentum from the header has him out of position with Mori playing Morrison (circled next to Jagielka) onside.
The ball is played through to Morrison with a good weight, meaning Mori is left in a two on one. He decides to charge toward Morrison in the hope of forcing a bad touch or a bad pass. Neither happen. Circled to the right of the picture is Brendan Galloway- a long way from the action at this point, but he’s seen the play unfold and is charging back in the hope he can challenge Berahino should the inevitable pass come his way.
The pass did go to Berahino and just as he was waiting for the bounce to drop to him, Galloway manages to get back and prod the ball away. It was a great chance for 3-1, but Galloway- who is impressed since his introduction to the side, displayed exceptional athleticism as he managed to read the situation and get back. Another brilliant moment for a young player who has everything pointing in the right direction for him to go on and be a brilliant player: one of a host of young players at the club with genuine potential. Without doubt, the most promising crop of young players at the club in my lifetime.
From the chance, Galloway bounced straight up, turned and sprinted up field to join an Everton attack- as hard working as he is promising. Everton wouldn’t have to wait long for an equaliser. With Arouna Kone having been brought on and working alongside Lukaku up top, the second Everton goal shows the benefits of a second striker, and just how much Kone and Lukaku enjoy playing alongside one another. Lukaku in particular looks like different player sometimes when he has an extra body alongside him, occupying the defence.
McCarthy has played a ball into Lukaku’s feet, and Evans has followed Lukaku out of position. Dawson (who started the game at right back) is at right centre half and Chester has been shunted to right back after he was bullied by Lukaku for Everton’s first. The confusion in the West Brom back line is clear to see, and Everton were about to capitalise. As Lukaku turns inside, he avoids the challenge of Yacob and can get his head up to see the movement of Kone (circled at the top of the screen).
Lukaku threads a ball between the two centre halves for Kone’s run and Evans is unable to get back to stop the pass having been pulled out of position by the movement and link up play of Lukaku. Kone has a free shot at goal and would restore parity, lashing the ball into the bottom corner. Now Everton do smell blood.
A winner would be snatched, and Deulofeu’s brilliance was again clear to see. An assist of absolute top quality as he clipped a ball in between defence and ‘keeper which Lukaku was able to bundle home
Not for the first time, a ball too good to refuse, and for the second time- Lukaku would oblige. Deulofeu has shown a real maturity to his play in the limited sample size we have to judge him on so far. His end product has been very good, and he gave West Brom problems all night long. Hopefully we’ll see him get more game time as the season progresses because his performance on Monday night could hardly have been any more impressive.
There was still time left for sub Ricky Lambert to whip a shot wide from close in for West Brom, and for Howard to jump underneath a ball he was trying to punch. Inside his own six yard box. With nobody near him. But, a last mention to Mori… With the game on the line, having been 2-0 down away from home, he doesn’t want to settle for 3-2. If he sees an opportunity, he wants to go for the jugular and finish the game off…
Seventeen seconds from ninety five minutes being up and he’s joined a counter attack. He’s going to be a bit of a character, isn’t he? He deserves praise for putting his mistake aside and playing very well on Monday. He continued to carry the ball out of defence when the opportunity was there, and didn’t shy away. Considering Everton weren’t playing particularly well, it won’t have been the easiest of games for him to come in, so he does deserve a lot of credit for his nights work. Some final words have to go to Gerard Deulofeu. He was excellent throughout. Nine crosses (most of which were excellent), four key passes and two assists. He is going to make chances and create space for others with the attention he draws from opposition players. What a bit of business he was.
So, that’s that. I’m not bothered about the performance, we got the win. Not a chance would we have won this game last year. We played very well at Swansea and only got a point, winning ugly triumphs every time. Up to fifth for the toffees…. Just the derby up next…