Everton’s forgotten man Oumar Niasse netted twice from the bench to secure all three points against Bournemouth at Goodison Park.
The Senegal striker had to watch on as Josh King put the visitors ahead on 49 minutes. But Ronald Koeman’s decision to call on Niasse and midfielder Tom Davies changed the game; the pair instrumental in both Everton goals.
The first on 77′ was an emphatic finish from inside the area, after Davies’ finely threaded through ball, and when the 19-year old’s shot cannoned into the air five minutes later, Niasse headed in from close range to send the Gwladys Street into raptures.
Added to his strike against Sunderland in midweek, Niasse’s brace makes him Everton’s top goalscorer in all competitions this season, having played barely an hour of first team football. A statistic that serves to highlight Everton’s struggles in front of goal this season.
Niasse the model pro
Nobody thought this could happen. Even the dreamers wouldn’t dare conceive of a cameo appearance that yielded two late goals to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat; his first goals in the Premier League for Everton.
Yet despite being written off from the start of his Everton career, told he would have to leave Everton by his new manager barely six months after arriving on Merseyside and failing to complete a transfer away from the club after half a season on loan at relegated Hull City, there was one man who believed that he could play for Everton – and be a success at that.
Niasse has never given up the dream of playing for Everton, even when fans and his manager had told him in no uncertain terms that he had no future at the club. That should have been enough to turn him against the club, even the fans. And yet Niasse has stuck at it. Trained hard, played for the U23s (and scored 10 goals in 8 Premier League 2 appearances), moved to Hull of all places in order to prove himself and turned down the opportunity to sign for Crystal Palace on the final day of the transfer window (if reports are to be believed).
It seems all he’s wanted to do since arriving in England is play for Everton and that show of desire and commitment to the club has been enough for many Evertonians to take the outcast to their hearts. What a great example of a model professional he’s been.
Rewarding good form will reward Koeman handsomely
The principle of playing in-form players is a very simple one, yet time and time again managers stick to their favourites or persist with players who simply aren’t playing well enough.
Even the person least interested in football can see Everton have struggled in the final third, and a depressing lack of firepower had seen Everton go nearly 7 and a half hours of football without scoring.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was given a chance in his favoured centre forward role against Sunderland on Wednesday and his two goals earned him another crack at it against Bournemouth. And yet Davies, a stand-out performer from the 3-0 midweek win, was relegated to the bench. In came Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye, Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson – all of whom have struggled for form so far this season.
In the last two games, two separate strikers have scored five goals between them, as opposed to two goals from one striker over five league games. Niasse and Calvert-Lewin have had a point to prove and their hunger is something we’ve not seen from other senior players. But it’s not just the striking options where this is true. Davies has shown more attacking intent in 35 minutes against Bournemouth than any of the ‘number 10s’ who have played ahead of him this season.
Jon-Joe Kenny also appeared from the bench to have a positive impact and play his part in the second goal. Form will ebb and flow throughout the squad over the course of the season – a good manager should recognise those in form and line up on a Saturday afternoon accordingly.
Davies in race for No 10?
Niasse’s first finish owed much to the sheer power behind it, leaving Asmir Begovic with no chance. His movement and control in the area was excellent, but none of it could have happened without Tom Davies.
Surrounded by Bournemouth players on the edge of the area, Davies kept his cool. His head was up straight away, he’d seen the run of Niasse across the area but the crowd of red and black shirts sought to block the way.
But he saw the gap and with quick thinking and even quicker feet, Davies’s threaded through ball made it past the Bournemouth bodies to its intended target.
It was just one moment in his 35 minute cameo, but it changed the game in Everton’s favour. How much did Everton splurge in bringing in a number 10 to un-lock defences? How many chances has Everton’s returning prodigal son had in a deeper role so far this season? How many central midfielders do Everton have on the books who prefer an easy sideways pass to the braver forward option?
Is it time to give Davies a fair crack in an advanced midfield position? Or even to play him as one of two or three midfielders, but with the licence to charge forward and help control Everton’s attacking play? Others have had their chance, Davies has done no worse than any of them so far.
Koeman doesn’t know his best team
After a busy transfer window of in-comings and outgoings, it’s become clear that no ones knows what Everton’s best first XI is. It’s fine when supporters don’t know, but when the manager isn’t sure either, there’s a problem.
Three at the back? Five across midfield? Wing backs? Flat back four? Two holding midfielders? Lone striker? Wingers…what are they? Koeman seems to have tried them all, with varying personnel and with consistently inconsistent results.
It’s been a transformative summer for Everton so there does need to be a degree of patience required as the influx of players settle (especially those coming to England from different leagues with a slower style of play). But it’s a measure of the manager as to how quickly he can find solutions to these selection headaches. That’s what Koeman is paid to do and finding a balance between getting results and persisting with a formation/players you believe in will ultimately be successful is difficult.
Still best of the rest
If our four games against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Man United told us anything, it’s that there’s still a rather cavernous gap between Everton and those ‘top 6’ teams. Everton may have spent lavishly in comparison to previous windows, but so have those teams who finished above us (Spurs aside) and only time will tell whether the summer investment has been spent wisely.
Simply put, those teams have better players than Everton in pretty much every position. As is likely to happen in competitive sport when more talented players come up against inferior ability, the former is going to win. As such, it’s reasonable to look at our squad and compare it with the rest of the league. We’re still some way off finishing in the top 4 yet our squad is undoubtedly better than those who finished below us last season.
So where does that leave us? 7th. The position I’m confident we’ll end up finishing in again this season.