Everton’s poor record at Old Trafford continued on Sunday afternoon, losing 2-1 to Manchester United.
Despite a positive start to the match, Everton found themselves a goal down after a controversial penalty was awarded for Idrissa Gueye’s challenge on Anthony Martial. Paul Pogba got the hosts up and running, turning in the rebound after Jordan Pickford’s save from the spot.
Martial made it two just minutes into the second half before Gylfi Sigurdsson despatched a penalty to give the visitors hope with 13 minutes of normal time remaining. Despite the mounting pressure, United hung on to end Everton’s three game winning streak.
Cause for optimism, despite the lack of cutting edge
Evertonian’s have had little cause for optimism on their trips down the East Lancs in the course of the Premier League era, but with United languishing a few places below The Toffees in mid-table after a turbulent start to the season, fans travelled with more than just hope.
It was pleasing to see the players similarly confident of bringing three points back to Goodison Park as Everton started well. Containing United, Marco Silva’s side looked to take the initiative and while they didn’t exactly carve out anything clear cut, the intent and ambition was obvious.
Unfortunately, the lack of cutting edge was Everton’s downfall; Everton had the same number of shots as United, but could only manage 6 on target to the host’s 10. Richarlison, Theo Walcott and Bernard all had chances of their own but failed to really test David de Gea.
10 league games into Silva’s reign as head coach, The Toffees have the look of a potentially dangerous weapon; if their ideas and invention can be sharpened and refined, then Everton may well have the means to slay even the meanest rear guards in the Premier League. At the moment, the blade just lacks that killer instinct.
Let’s not get bogged down with Moss
We all know John Moss got it wrong. Evertonians know it, and United fans will admit it too (if you press them hard enough). But let’s have a show of hands…how many of us thought it was a pen in real time?
Be honest. It looked a pen on first viewing, and it wasn’t till I saw it a few replays later from a certain angle that it became clear that Gueye took the ball first. We know Moss only had one angle and one chance to make his judgement.
Some people see it as another example to add to the pile of evidence in favour of VAR coming into the Premier League, and I can understand why. If VAR had the chance to review the incident, the penalty would almost certainly not have been awarded. But as we saw in the World Cup, it’s a flawed technology which only occasionally reaches the correct conclusion (and even then, there’s rarely consensus).
Despite the injustice at Old Trafford, I’m not in favour of VAR. I’ll need more than one of my 5 Talking Points to say why, so I’ll simply say that until VAR arrives (if it ever does) we just need to accept that mistakes will be made and not make such a big deal of it.
Is Everton’s right flank the weak link?
Once upon a time Everton’s side was so well balanced you could pitch a caravan on it without needing your spirit level. Coleman on one side, Baines on the other. What more could you want?
But now you’d have to say Everton’s strength is heavily weighted on it’s left flank, where the impressive Lucas Digne has patrolled with Richarlison (up until the last few games). Especially earlier in the season, heat maps showed Everton’s favoured route to goal was via the left channel, where Richarlison could assert his influence in one-on-one situations, with Digne offering support on the overlap.
Do we get the same influence on the right? Coleman has been one of the finest servants of the club over the last decade and deserves much respect, but a dip in form over the past few games has seen too many promising attacks lose momentum. Coupled with Walcott’s recent struggles, Everton’s route to goal has continued to come mainly down the left or through the middle.
With young deputies waiting in the wings, perhaps Ademola Lookman and Jonjo Kenny will get more opportunities to stake their claim.
Gomes picking up where a certain little Spaniard left off
Calm in possession. Never wasteful with his passing. Eager to play forward. Dashingly handsome Spanish demeanour. Nope, that’s not Mikel Arteta at the heart of Everton’s midfield. It’s Andre Gomes.
And not since Arteta left a gaping hole in middle of the park when he took off to The Emirates in 2010, have The Toffees had a player of such quality, able to play the role of midfield metronome with such assuredness.
He put in another excellent display at Old Trafford in just his second game in English football, and I hope it’s not premature to say that he’s quickly becoming a vital component in Marco Silva’s side.
Despite seeing a general upturn in results and performances since the Brazilian starred as the central prong of Everton’s attacking trio, I still feel his future at Goodison lies on the wing.
His size and physicality means he has taken to the role of central striker well enough, using his body to protect the ball and draw fouls to help the team move up the pitch. That said, I don’t think he’s the long-term solution to Everton’s striker question.
Richarlison looks happiest and most effective when he can pick up the ball deeper, hugging the touchline from where he can bear down on full-backs. We want to see Richarlison isolate defenders, dribble at them at pace and force them to commit to a challenge. That’s what he does best and he can’t do this with his back to goal as the furthest forward player.
Cenk Tosun and Dominic Calvert Lewin may not be the answers to Everton’s striker issue, but I don’t think Richarlison is either; at least not long-term. Hopefully Silva can find an equation to solve the problem, without having to lose out on Richarlison’s devastating qualities as a wide man.