A Theo Walcott strike was the difference in a drab meeting at Goodison Park, as Everton beat Newcastle United 1-0.
Sam Allardyce’s former club lacked the adventure to hurt Everton but the hosts rarely looked like taking the initiative themselves.
In fact their first and only shot on target came in the 51st minute when Walcott pounced on an uncertain clearance in the Newcastle area, keeping his composure to rifle into the roof of the net.
Virtually safe on 41 points and with nothing to lose, the visitors came to life as the clock ticked down, Ayoze Perez going close while Seamus Coleman ensured the Toffees took all three points in this forgettable game when he cleared off the line.
The win moves Everton up to 8th place on 45 points, eight behind Burnley who occupy that crucial Europa League spot. It’s their highest league position since August.
Allardyce reverts to only type he knows
When Cenk Tosun’s headed winner at the bet365 Stadium gave Everton just their third away victory in over 12 months, the club’s Premier League safety was all but confirmed. Safe in 9th with 41 points, it was mission accomplished for Big Sam.
In typical Allardyce fashion – and Everton fashion to be fair, as far as this season is concerned – it was by no means pretty, but he got them over the line. With seven games left to play, would we see a change in approach from English football’s self-proclaimed relegation expert? Maybe an experimental formation? What about just a change in personnel?
Not quite. The same 13 players would appear in the starting XI for the next four league games. While consistency is no bad thing, fans might have hoped for something a bit different with safety now assured, especially in attacking areas where The Toffees have been anything but prolific.
11th in the league for goals scored, 18th for shots, bottom for shots against the woodwork: symptoms of a side with little to no creative output and a lack of emphasis on attacking. Rather than offer forgotten men Nikola Vlasic and Davy Klaassen an opportunity, or try and employ a more attractive passing-based approach, Allardyce opted for his tried and trusted. Same players, same formation, same direct percentage football.
Oh, The Toffees do place highly in the league table for one thing…2nd for long balls.
I’ve been the first to put the boot in to Morgan Schneiderlin this season, especially when he’s been too lazy to put his own foot in.
But he was one of the standout players before suffering a dead leg, just as Everton took the lead. Building on recent good performances the Frenchman looked more like the 2017 January signing than the ponderous 17/18 crab we’ve had to endure all season.
Who knows what’s happening this summer at board and managerial level; these may well be the sympathetic farewell performances of his last games at Goodison. But credit where it’s due, the Schneidy senses were starting to tingle once again.
Davies needs support, not boos
There’s no way to dress up Tom Davies’ substitute performance against Newcastle. It was poor. Very poor.
But if there’s one Evertonian who will know this more than anyone, it will be Tom Davies. Guilty of misplaced passes (he wasn’t the only one) and taking too many touches, it wasn’t his finest outing in a blue shirt. But when a 19 year-old with barely a full season of Premier League games under his belt is low on confidence and finding it tough, the last thing he needs is the vitriol usually reserved for Morgan Schneiderlin thrown his way.
He demonstrated during his breakthrough spell under Ronald Koeman that he’s a good passer, a tenacious tackler and a player capable of running box-to-box. With a bit of support we may see that player turn out at Goodison again.
Why don’t we play to Walcott’s strengths?
There weren’t many bright sparks in the gloom that was Everton vs Newcastle on an overcast Monday in April, but Walcott was definitely one of them.
For 51 minutes at least. In a dreary first half with no shots on target, Walcott’s energy and willingness to get on the ball and dribble past players was pleasing to see. “If we’re going to get anything” I said to the fella next to me as the second half resumed, “it’s going to come through Walcott.”
Cue smug celebration. But even though the former Arsenal man was Everton’s liveliest player, his teammates never really utilised his best quality: his pace. Granted, Newcastle’s lack of adventure made it difficult to find space, but there was no one capable of getting hold of the ball and picking out a Walcott run beyond the defence. Even with the game stretched late on, there was no attempt to take advantage of the high Newcastle line.
Maybe a central Gylfi Sigurdsson is the man to pick him out going forward.
Baines Appreciation Tweet
Thinking of making this a regular feature of my 5 Talking Points. Because Baines:
400 appearances for @Everton 🔵⚪
First defender ever to register 50 @premierleague assists ⚽
What a career Leighton Baines has had 👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/7FjUQDTdf3
— Carling (@carling) April 23, 2018