Everton’s last home game of the season ended in victory as Ross Barkley scored the only goal of the game against Watford.
A dull first-half was enough for Ronald Koeman to introduce Enner Valencia at the break and the Ecuadorian sparked life into a game in which both teams had little left to play for.
Barkley picked the ball up inside Watford’s half on 55 minutes and with defenders back tracking the midfielder wrong-footed ‘keeper Huerelho Gomes with a sumptuous 25-yard strike.
Both Romelu Lukaku and Enner Valencia had shots saved by Gomes, and Morgan Schneiderlin went close from a corner but Barkley’s goal proved decisive.
12 months on, Blues are finally home
Home advantage is a widely accepted phenomenon in football, yet it seemed to count for very little in Roberto Martinez’s final campaign at Everton. His haul of just 20 points at home in 2015/16 is the worst in Everton’s history (since 3 points for a win was introduced. It’s also worth noting Everton actually ended with 23 point after David Unsworth and Joe Royle oversaw the 3-0 win over
Norwich on the last day).
For so long heralded as a fortress, Martinez had left the Goodison Park back door wide open, with no fewer than 13 sides taking points away with them. But Ronald Koeman has boarded up that back door and restored Goodison park as a place to be feared.
From their 19 home games this season The Toffees have taken 39 points, winning 13 and losing just twice. Compared to last season’s wretched form of six wins and eight losses, its clear Everton have come a long way in just 12 months.
Not only does Koeman’s Everton know how to win games at home, they’ve scored for fun. Their 42 on home turf is the 4th highest in the Premier League, and they’ve conceded just 16, also the 4th best in the league.
Everton’s home record from the past two seasons
To their credit, Martinez’s Everton certainly knew where the goal was; they were the 3rd highest scorers at home last season, yet still managed seven less than Koeman. Consider that the Spaniard also conceded almost double that of the Dutchman (30 to 16) and you get a better understanding of which areas have had to improve in order to transform Everton’s home form.
Fundamentally, Koeman has made Everton tough to beat, conceding less and keeping more clean sheets than his predecessor (8 clean sheets to Martinez’s 2). It’s a simple idea that’s brought smiles back to Fortress Goodison.
Davies should look forward in his development
Once again Tom Davies belied his 18 years with a composed and equally robust performance, holding off players twice his size and putting experienced internationals on the back foot.
At this stage in his development, Davies looks like he could be moulded into whichever kind of player he (or the manager) wants: holding midfielder, combative engine, midfield enforcer or possibly something more in the number 10 mould. He seems to have the attributes for it all.
With Gana and Schneiderlin tying up the defensive midfield positions, Davies should be looking to make a name for himself as an attacking presence. He demonstrated the potential with a surging run against Watford, picking up a loose ball on the edge of his own box and worrying defenders with a breakaway attack.
And it’s not the first such example this season. Davies has already shown he has an eye for a pass; one that can split through the cracks of a defence and cause serious damage. He’s notched two goals himself, teed up his teammates on three occasions and provided that wonderfully weighted through ball for Kevin Mirallas, who in turn squared for Lukaku’s Man City opener back in January.
With some more attention on the attacking side of his game, coupled with his combative style, Davies could develop into a top, all-round midfielder.
And as the half-time switch proved, he’s not a bad right back either.
Barkley should stay, but he’s not irreplaceable
Will he, won’t he? What did Koeman mean in his post game comments? Was that a farewell sub? Has he even been offered a new deal? Why isn’t the boyhood Blue signing it? Which team in the top 6 would he get in anyway?
There have been so many questions on the subject over the last 5 months, is anyone else a bit fed up? Certain media outlets worsen the contract ‘stand offs’ off both Barkley and Lukaku, but there’s a feeling both parties could have resolved this issue long ago.
I’d be disappointed to lose Barkley. He’s a fantastic talent, the top
assisting Englishman in the Premier League no less (8 assists, 7th overall), and a boyhood Evertonian. But there’s a part of his game (namely spatial awareness, dwelling on the ball) that simply hasn’t developed in his now fourth full season of top-flight football.
I don’t want to see Barkley leave, I think he can develop into a better
player with Everton (Koeman may well think differently). But he’s not irreplaceable and I’d be confident Koeman and Steve Walsh could recruit someone of similar -if not better- ability.
Valencia comes to Komean’s rescue – again
Valencia wouldn’t be most people’s first choice as someone to look to help change the game. Yet that’s exactly what Komean has done on a number of occasions now.
The first SOS call came against Southampton in January. Valencia was introduced at 0-0 on 61 minutes and scored the first on 73′ in a 3-0 win. When Sunderland visited a month later, the Ecuadorian came on at 1-0 on 70 minutes, with Lukaku going on to score in the 80th and Everton winning 2-0.
At Spurs, Everton looked dead and buried; they hadn’t turned up and an in-form, title-chasing Spurs were 2-0 to the good. On came Valencia on 81′, and barely a minute later Lukaku had halved the deficit. Valencia would score Everton’s second on 93′ although in between their two goals Dele Alli had already sealed the points for Spurs.
At home to Hull in March, Valencia once again came off the bench at 1-0 on 77 minutes, scored in the 78th and assisted Lukaku in the 91st. Everton won 4-0. Against Burnley, he came on at half-time and had an instant positive impact, Everton’s attacking impetus sharpened by his movement and work rate. Jagielka scored in the 49th minute and The Toffees extended their home winning streak with a 3-1 victory.
And on Friday night against Watford, Valencia’s half-time
introduction gave Everton more potency in attack with Barkley netting the only goal on 55 minutes.
On no less than six occasions Koeman has used the on-loan striker to affect the game, jolting much needed life into stuttering performances. I’m not saying signing Valencia on a permanent basis is a must for next season (in fact there are much better footballers out there Everton should be looking at), but he’s shown enough to warrant one, demonstrating a knack of being able to turn a game in Everton’s favour.
Not a quality to be sniffed at.
Joel is better than you think, but not what we need
Joel is not as bad a goalkeeper as some Evertonians will have you beleive. He arrived at Goodison with a reputation as a bit of a flapper, aerially weak and capable of the odd lapse.
His game has developed, with the Watford performance and his display at Crystal Palace in particular highlighting his improvement in handling and aerial duels. That said, he’s not a number one.
As the Burnely game showed, he’s still prone to a moment of madness and his Anfield display did him no favours in the eyes of Evertonians. Yet he is a good goalkeeper, and would be a good back up for a much needed number one.
His nine clean sheets in 18 league games is a decent return and he boasts 38 high claims, the 6th best tally in the league.