Everton surrendered a two-goal lead on the south coast as late goals saw them share the spoils with Bournemouth.
A point may have seemed like a good outcome for the visitors when Richarlison was dismissed for a ‘headbutt’ on Adam Smith in the first half. But with Smith following the Brazilian down the tunnel for a pull on Theo Walcott, and with the latter putting The Toffees ahead minutes later, Everton looked the more likely to clinch all three points.
That seemed assured when Michael Keane headed home a Gylfi Sigurdsson cross, but Bournemouth replied through a Joshua King penalty before Nathan Ake equalised from close range with 11 minutes left.
Glass half full?
The optimists among us might point to last year’s trip to Bournemouth and say “at least we’re picking up a point where we weren’t getting any last year”. Everton indeed took nothing from Dean Court in the corresponding fixture last season, yet the tale of conceding late goals on the south coast is becoming a familiar one.
Ryan Fraser struck in the 88th minute to condemn Sam Allardyce to his first defeat as Everton manager in 2017, while most Evertonians are still coming to terms with the catastrophic 3-3 of 2015 under Roberto Martinez.
It’s easy to feel down-beat about a draw after steam-rolling into a 2-0 lead, there’s no doubt that the points were ours and were thrown away. It’s harder to look beyond the full-time whistle and look at the way Everton’s pace, energy and togetherness got them into a comfortable lead in the first place (against the odds too).
Silva’s task is to find better harmony between a side that’s demonstrably capable of scoring good goals and playing slick football, and its defensive frailties in winning positions.
New arrivals already having desired effect
It’s fair to say it was a mixed afternoon for Michael Keane. Scoring your first league goal for your club is a huge moment in any player’s career. Being part of a defence that then goes on to concede two goals before suffering a serious head injury, well that’s (ironically) something to forget.
The ex-Burnley man has struggled for the popular vote at Goodison, with many seeing him as a weak link in Everton’s side over the past 12 months. But after a difficult first season, the centre-half has been in much improved form under Marco Silva, capable of imposing himself in both penalty areas.
No doubt Keane was biting his nails on deadline day, as reports linking Everton with Barcelona’s Yerry Mina and Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma ultimately coming to fruition. But rather than simply make-way for the new recruits (Zouma at least, with Mina only just starting training), Keane has seen Everton’s business as a challenge; one which he’s so far met head on (quite literally…only for Idrissa Gueye to get in his way).
The new arrivals are already having the desired effect on current personnel. Keane has upped his game, Holgate came into the side and has not looked out of place, while the likes of Sigurdsson, Walcott, Morgan Schneiderlin and Leighton Baines are all playing like this might be their last game, with new arrivals breathing down their necks.
Man in the middle
Everton. Controversy. Referees. Three words that help tell the story of the first three Premier League games of Marco Silva’s Everton reign. An extremely contentious red card saw Phil Jagielka take an early bath on the opening day, before ref Craig Pawson allowed the resulting free kick to be taken 5 yards further forward to where the foul was committed (of course Ruben Neves equalised from the free kick).
Mark Hughes moaned (so unlike him…) that Jordan Pickford should have been punished for his clearance a week later against his Saints side, when the keeper’s follow through caught Danny Ings on the back. Hughes of course was happy to ignore his team’s policy of kicking any Everton player in sight, especially Richarlison, without any of their five cautioned players (looking at you Mario Lemina) receiving their marching orders for subsequent fouls.
And once more at Dean Court, referee Lee Probert had a big part to play, rightly sending off Richarlison for squaring up to Adam Smith (yes, contact was minimal and there was hardly any force used, but we all know it was a stupid thing to do). Smith followed him down the tunnel in the second half, receiving red for a last-man foul, despite the MOTD gang incredulous that it wasn’t yellow (conveniently forgetting Walcott’s goal they showed minutes before, in which from a very similar position and with two recovering defenders Walcott made the most of his goal-scoring opportunity to miraculously score).
Bournemouth received a soft penalty (but still probably a penalty) for Baines’ shove on Joshua King, but Probert deemed a pull on Cenk Tosun in the area to be perfectly legal, while absolutely nothing was made of the most blatant penalty of them all, a trip on Seamus Coleman in the first half. Let’s hope we’re not talking about the referee when Everton resume Premier League duty against Huddersfield in a week’s time.
As if we didn’t already know, Bournemouth are the comeback kings of the Premier League of recent times. In 2018 alone they’ve earned 20 points from losing positions, while going back to the start of the 2017/18 season that number rises to 24 points.
It shows Eddie Howe’s team have a mental resilience that is not easy to create at a football club. Alex Ferguson’s Man United may have benefitted from ‘Fergie Time’ yet it was the strong will from within the dressing room that ensured they never knew when they were beaten. Similarly, under David Moyes Everton became a team that knew how to score late goals, especially with the 12th man of the Gwladys Street behind them.
With Arsene Wenger stepping down at the end of last season, Howe became the longest serving manager in the Premier League and will reach the six-year milestone in October. Like Ferguson and Moyes, he has had the time to instil a never-say-die attitude into his players, who are patient enough to wait for their opportunities and have enough belief that such opportunities will come their way.
It’s a reminder to Evertonians that while we seem to be making an early habit of taking leads and not being able to hold on to them, Silva needs time to make his mark on a team that still has the relics of four previous Everton managers, stretching as far back as the signings of Jagielka and Baines in 2007. We’ve already seen a noticeable improvement from these players in a matter of months. Let’s see what they’re capable of in a couple of years.
Practice paying off
It was pleasing to see some quick thinking between Sigurdsson and Baines before Keane headed Everton into a two-goal lead. Only last week against Southampton we saw a glimpse into Silva’s training ground routines, with an excellently worked free-kick that set Walcott up for his first goal of the season.
Silva recognises the obvious threat of both Baines and Sigurdsson from dead ball situations, and it’s pleasing to see not only that we’re willing to mix it up when it comes to who delivers and what kind of delivery, but also that we’re making the most of these chances in the penalty area, with Keane, Tosun and Richarlison demonstrating their threat, with Mina and Zouma to come in.