Everton picked up their first 3 points of the season against Watford at Goodison Park thanks to a solitary goal from Bernard.
The Toffees started their first home game of the season as if the previous term had never ended, taking the game to Watford while playing the attractive and energetic football that was their trademark by May. Everton’s control and pressure bore fruit in the 10th minute when a swift counter attack gave Bernard the space to cut in and fire past Ben Foster at his near post.
Marco Silva’s men failed to heed the warning signs of a late first half resurgence by the Hornets, who struck the bar and saw a penalty claim denied by VAR. The visitors came searching for an equaliser in the second half but for all their efforts they struggled to trouble Jordan Pickford, though the England stopper was forced to make a brilliant intervention after Troy Deeney looked odds on to score.
Moise Kean was introduced late on for his Goodison bow and should have secured the points, wasting two excellent opportunities, but The Toffees saw out a deserved victory.
Back 4 offers firm base for Silva to experiment further up
There were times in the second half when it seemed like Everton were doing their level best to see Watford equalise. The control they enjoyed for most of the first half had gone and with it their ability to pass to a blue shirt.
What was pleasing however was the response once possession was (albeit sloppily) conceded. Players were quick to get back behind the ball, close down their opponent and put their body on the line to defend their precious lead.
Yerry Mina and Michael Keane won almost everything that came their way, dealing especially well with the aerial bombardment. Despite a nail-biting five minutes when The Toffees were forced to re-shuffle their backline through injury to Lucas Digne, the back 5 looked comfortable enough.
The surety of a solid defensive base is absolutely vital, not least while Everton misfire at the other end. With the glut of attacking options now available to Marco Silva, it might take a few games to find that free-flowing formula.
Gbamin starting to look at home
Barely 10 minutes into his Everton bow at Selhurst Park last weekend, the swift hand of Evertonian judgment had already befallen Jean-Philippe Gbamin. His 45 minute-old career in the Premier League was enough for some.
Indeed a further 90 minutes should not leave us making definitive conclusions about Gbamin, but his first start for Everton at least shows us that while he won’t be making many headlines just yet, he’s more than capable of holding his own.
A few nervy touches in the opening exchanges gave way to a combative performance. The Ivorian clearly has the physicality and the engine to play in the Premier League, never shying away from a challenge and always asking for the ball (even if he lacked the deftness of touch and range of passing of Andre Gomes).
Everton are adapting to life without their most important player of the last 3 seasons in Idrissa Gueye. Gbamin doesn’t appear to be a like-for-like replacement, but the Ivorian grew into his first full Premier League start and by no means looked out of his depth.
Bernard off the mark
For much of last season, the left side of the pitch was so often the source of Everton’s most inventive and fruitful football. The partnership formed between Bernard and Digne was telepathic at times; Digne’s tireless energy and crossing ability complementing Bernard’s skill and ability to pick a pass.
So it was no surprise that much of Everton’s best football in the first half came down this side, with Digne sending Bernard on his way before the Brazilian cut in to fire home the winner.
It was pleasing to see Bernard notch his first goal of the season so early. A return of just 2 goals in 36 appearances (last term’s total) is concerning for a player who features so prominently in Everton’s attacking play. With the arrival of Moise Kean and Alex Iwobi, his place in Everton’s attack is not the foregone conclusion it was by the end of last season.
DCL has *almost* all the attributes of a classic Number 9
Evertonians adore their number nines. That is as long as they’re hitting the back of the Gwladys Street net often enough. Otherwise we’ll just moan at them until someone else comes along. Like Moise Kean.
Rightfully so, the most exciting signing of the summer was given a rapturous reception as he crossed the white line on the 72nd minute, replacing Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The latter enjoyed a good performance on his Goodison bow as the newly crowned number 9. The 22 year-old will no doubt be well aware of the extra pressure he’s added to his shoulders by picking the most illustrious number in Everton’s history, but it’s refreshing to see someone so young not frightened by the challenge.
Some fans will have already made their minds up about our striking options. Kean is a teenage sensation, one of the most exciting prospects in European football and inexplicably transferred from his boyhood club and record 35-time Serie A winners Juventus for a reasonable transfer fee. Surely there’s no place for DCL?
We all know that Calvert-Lewin’s game lacks goals, which for a centre forward is never a good look. Strikers need goals. Yet everything else about his game is of Premier League quality; everything you’d want in a number nine. He can hold the ball up, he can be the target man, he can win headers against centre halves 10 years his senior and twice as wide, he can outrun the paciest defenders, he’ll work his knackers off and has the close ball control that many in this league would be envious of.
He showed again how valuable he can be to the team against Watford. But fans will inevitably want more.
Kean shows his quality
Which is hopefully where Kean will help. It’s wrong to look at goal-scoring as a problem to be solved by one man (or boy) alone. Of course we all hope Kean will hit the ground running, bag a hattrick at Anfield (we’ll still lose 4-3 of course) and finish as the league’s top scorer. But we need everyone to take on the burden.
Kean himself gave Evertonians a glimpse of what’s to come in his 20 minute cameo. His first goal in English football eluded him for a second afternoon, yet his incredible natural ability was laid bare. He showed acute awareness of space and tremendous skill to fashion himself an opportunity on the edge of the box, his shot dragged narrowly the wrong side of the pitch.
Minutes before he cut inside for a sight of goal, only to fire well wide of the target, but there were moments of quality on the ball (not to mention multiple shows of strength to hold off various challenges) to suggest that given a bit more composure, Kean is bound to be a hit.