West Brom Match Review (A)

Off the back of a decent point against a good Spurs side, West Brom were next up for the toffees. No team gets an easy game against the Space Jam grock’s that line up in a Pulis team, and the eleven Midland wardrobes we’d face on Saturday would provide a test in the areas we were most vulnerable under Martinez: they’d be tough, physical, difficult to break down, and- of course, a threat from set pieces at one end, and stingier than John Aldridge at the bar down the other. So, how did we line up?

 

01

 

An unchanged starting eleven from the game against Spurs a week earlier, with Lukaku on the bench after his injury, joined by new signings Ashley Williams, and Yannick Bolasie. We started again with three at the back (we’re on the right of this graphic), although that didn’t last for long this time round. Idrissa Gueye sat in front of the defence beside the evergreen Gareth Barry- only Claudio Yacob made more tackles than Gueye, but it should be said- we had 66% of the ball. Another promising performance from Gueye. But it was Barry who pulled the strings for the toffees: nobody on the pitch touched the ball more than Barry who has continued his form from last season, the boss, age-defying bastard.

Owing to the fact the twenty minute highlight package on EvertonTV was the only decent set of highlights I could find, a slightly slimmed down match review is to follow, you lucky lot.

We started poorly- sloppy in possession, we were unable to get the ball up the pitch and have it stick. Deulofeu wasn’t getting any change out of a group of defenders that could have Nikolai Valuev come in and not look out of place.

 

02

 

It didn’t take long for West Brom to take the lead, and if you’ve got your West Brom vs Everton bingo cards to hand, get your dabbers ready, because we’re about to check off most of the card…

 

03

 

It came from a long West Brom ball, clipped into the box (check). Our defensive line weren’t on the same page (check) with McCarthy, Holgate and Jagielka (moments before the ball in, Jagielka had clearly called his line up),  defending a couple of yards higher than Mori and Baines, who now play Salomón Rondón onside as he sets off to meet the ball…

 

04

 

Mori probably knows he’s in the wrong as the ball is coming down because he then goes full playground hero as he tries to win the header, completely underestimating Rondon’s strength as he ends up on the wrong side of the Venezuelan…

 

05

 

Even if Funes doesn’t contest the header, and gets himself between Rondon and the goal, it’s much better than this. If Rondon takes it on his chest and then rolls Mori or does a piece of skill that affords him the space to shoot- sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up and say ‘well played’- but this chance only happens because of Mori’s recklessness. Koeman’s staff should be asking why he isn’t where the blue line is here, goal side of the attacker, because once he doesn’t win the header, we’re left completely exposed by him, our last line of defence here, as Rondon manages to get a free shot off, under no pressure whatsoever…

 

06

 

Our only saving grace being it’s Rondon getting the shot off, and Stekelenburg saves, forcing the corner. West Brom scored from the resulting corner (check)- Stekelenburg ended up in a heap on the ground, seemingly perhaps a little too preoccupied with Saido Berahino backing into him as the ball came in, and Jagielka (circled) ended up in the wrong position, backpedalling as he tracked McAuley’s arched run from front to back, he never stood a chance to get himself off the ground to contest the header once he’s managed to get himself a bit muddled up…

 

07

 

The less said about this goal, the better. But we were up against it now- we hadn’t won having being a goal behind since September 2015- against? West Brom at the Hawthorns. The last point we took from a losing position? Against Crystal Palace at Goodison in December 2015. How would we respond?

Shortly afterwards, Gareth Barry pressed high up, and won the ball back, before playing it wide to Leighton Baines. Baines played a low cross, dummied by Barkley, only for Barry to momentarily fall short of footballing perfection as he hit a tame effort straight at the ‘keeper when well placed…

 

08

 

It was a rare moment of decent play from us as we were unable to pick our way through the West Brom’s well organised team of sequoias: in part, thanks to our own poor play, but also because West Brom were defending far deeper than Spurs had the week before. West Brom’s ambition throughout the game can neatly be illustrated by their ‘heat map’…

 

09

 

The Baggies defending so deep meant there wasn’t any space for Deulofeu to run into, and they were mopping up any balls that were getting close to their goal with a relative ease. Something had to change, and Koeman took decisive action, calling Romelu Lukaku from the bench after just 38 minutes, with James McCarthy making way, and a shift to four at the back.

The dynamic of the game hinged on the substitution- Lukaku immediately provided a physical presence that West Brom didn’t have to contend with to that point. It would prove a gutsy, correct decision from Koeman, acknowledging that things weren’t working, and being brave enough to change things. We drew level almost on the stroke of half time. It was an excellent Everton goal, Mirallas at the heart of it, his dynamic movement allowing him the chance to get a shot off following some nice one touch play from Barry and Barkley on the edge of the West Brom box…

 

10

 

With Mirallas firing in a low left footed equaliser to draw us level.

Into the second half, and West Brom almost opened the scoring- a fortuitous Baggie bounce meant the ball squirted to Darren Fletcher at the back post in space, but his low effort was saved well by Stekelenburg in net. Craig Gardner went relatively close with a set piece from distance, but it was pretty much all Everton in the second half from this point on. Funes Mori hung brilliantly in the air, nodding a Mirallas free-kick on goal, drawing a decent save from Ben Foster in net. The danger wasn’t over for West Brom, however as Deulofeu’s corner was hooked back across goal from Mason Holgate, who was having an exceptional game raiding up the right flank and looking comfortable defending at right-back, and was then nodded in by the brilliant Gareth Barry. Scenes in the away end.

 

11

 

West Brom were forced to try to actually play a bit, and substitute debutant Yannick Bolasie thrived in the resulting space as we played on the break…

 

12

 

Backing himself here, knocking the ball into space past Jonny Evans, easing through the gears and delivering a peach of a cross that Ross Barkley really ought to have scored from…

 

13

 

There was time for Bolasie to run at West Brom again and set up a great chance for Lukaku (there was a tantalising glimpse into what could be a very promising partnership between the two), who you’d hope would take the chance when he’s back into the swing of things…

 

14

 

Phil Jagielka did superbly well to hold up a West Brom counter late on, outnumbered, he managed to delay their attack for long enough for help to get back, sliding in to make a block, it was heroic stuff from the Everton captain, and was every bit as valuable to the win as either Everton goal. That was it, the toffees held on for an important psychological win, and a palpable sense of optimism sweeping through the players, as well as the fans.

It’s still early days, and we did win away to West Brom last season, but an encouraging afternoon’s work joins a promising game against Spurs in the reasons to be cheerful column. Whisper it quietly, but somewhere between the assurance of Barry, the industry of Gueye, the rejuvenated Mirallas, the returning Lukaku, the emergence of Holgate, and a manager that isn’t too stubborn to change things when they aren’t working out… The toffees may well be on their way back.

For more nonsense, you can find me here: https://twitter.com/EvertonMusings

One Comment

  • greggoEfc  22/08/2016 at 00:43

    Decent review that,
    maybe more could have been said about how well Holgate played but you maybe under orders from the Goodison media Blackout haha.
    He grew into the game and im not so sure we need to make another centre half a priority now. Best game ive seen Kev play in a long long time maybe ever effort wise.
    Lukaku was a little lazy for me he stood out cos everyone else worked so hard but that could be down to fitness and injury. Keeper looks excellent, i’d like to see us sign a couple more strikers and attacking players to really put the pressure on a few.
    More than anything else I like Ron’s intensity he was snarling and having a go at the linesman and ref, shouting at the players , a far cry from Bobby everyones mate who barely showed no emotion if we lost or won half the time. Early days but i can see a man who demands as much from his players as Moyes did but with more tactical awareness.
    With another week to go in the transfer market and a couple more additions to the squad that i agree was labelled our best ever This is gonna be an interesting season . COYB!!

    Reply

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