Everton came from behind to earn a point at home to West Brom in a game which was over-shadowed by a devastating injury to James McCarthy.
West Brom benefited from a sluggish start by the hosts and it was no surprise when Jay Rodriguez put the visitors in front inside 8 minutes, finishing smartly from Grzegorz Krychowiak’s through ball.
The Toffees did improve in the second half but relied on the marginalised figure of Oumar Niasse to rescue a point. His introduction frustrated Goodison Park, with a barrage of boos accompanying his arrival but he quickly turned them into cheers netting just 57 seconds later after debutant Theo Walcott’s pull-back header.
McCarthy’s afternoon had already been cut short when he was stretchered off nine minutes previously. His attempts to stop Salomon Rondon shooting goal-ward ended in the striker kicking through his leg which caused a serious looking leg-break.
The point keeps Everton in ninth place in the Premier League.
When the problem turns out to be the solution
Niasse’s role at Everton has certainly improved this season, after a stuttering start during his arrival in 2016, followed by banishment to the reserves and expulsion to Hull in 2016/17.
Reluctantly introduced into the first team by Ronald Koeman, the Senegalese striker has had to get used to life as a super sub this season. Seven of his 15 appearances have been from the bench, with four of his six Premier League goals coming as a substitute.
We’re all aware of Niasse’s limitations; more graceful footballers than him have certainly graced the Goodison Park turf. But there is much to say of his hard work, perseverance and his handy knack of being in right place at the right time (we all remember our Aussie friend Tim Cahill).
Tosun has been signed as the man to fix Everton’s striking problem, but until the Turk can get up to speed with life in England, Niasse looks like being the problem that remains Everton’s best solution.
Sam Allardyce was clear in his post-match comments at Wembley that his best approach would be to revert to the boring football with which he has become synonymous (I had no idea he’d recently moved away from his typical pragmatism).
And yet his line up against the Baggies said anything but that. New-boys Tosun and Walcott started, with Sigurdsson and Vlasic supporting. It had the feel of a side who were going to go for it. Not that anyone was complaining of course, but Everton’s start was disastrous; going behind early and unable to string two passes together for the majority of the first half.
Playing deep and being hard to play against were the hallmarks of the Allardyce-effect at the start of his reign, with a consistent back four showing fans that the team was capable of keeping clean sheets. But tinkering to lineups and changes of personnel (admittedly over a hectic Christmas schedule) have disrupted this approach and Everton once again look a team without an identity.
For whatever reason mixed messages from the management have hampered Everton’s progress.
It’s sad to see any player stretchered off a football pitch (Steven Gerrard aside), but it was particularly devastating to see James McCarthy grimacing upon exit.
He may not be a match-winner, and we know he doesn’t contribute many goals or assists (28 goals in 368 games in his career to date) but the Irishman competes for every ball and is the sort of player you want in a struggling team who need a kick up the arse every now and then.
Wishing him a speedy recovery.
Schneiderlin seems to be Sam’s guy
It seems the real Morgan Schneiderlin has still not turned up. He went missing around the end of May and has still not been seen at Goodison Park since. What a difference a year makes, eh?
Last year’s home game against West Brom was a walk in the park, and Schneiderlin was head and shoulders above anyone else on the field, netting his one and only goal for Everton so far.
Fast forward nearly 12 months and his lacklustre and phantom-like performances have seen him fall out of favour: at least with the Gwladys Street. Allardyce on the other hand is insistent on involving him as much as possible. The Frenchman has completed 90 minutes in 8 of Allardyce’s 12 games in the Everton hotseat, and has played at least some part in every one.
With Idrissa Gueye the one who has been missing out recently at his expense, the decision to go with Schneiderlin ahead of the Senegalese star is one that only infuriates Evertonians.
How much can we expect from Walcott?
It was pleasing to see Walcott make an impact on his debut, even if his teammates failed to play to the forward’s strengths through the game. His header from a deep Wayne Rooney ball provided the assist for Niasse’s equaliser, and one assist in one is a decent return.
Not a bad debut. While Walcott’s scoring and assist record is pretty good for a man who’s played as a winger for most of his career (113 goals in 422 Arsenal appearances), perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much from a player who only made his first start in the Premier League this season for his new club against the Baggies.
Again, a decent debut in an unremarkable game. At least one record was broken though:
So, Theo Walcott will become the 36th different player to play for #EFC in all competitons this season.
That equals the club record set in 2009/10!
— Steve Johnson (@stevejohnson95) January 20, 2018