Kone hits hat-trick as Blues find their attacking rhythm
Sunderland’s 3-5-2 formation helps Everton to just 2nd home win of the season
Visitors back on level terms in 2nd half, but Blues hit 4 in dominant second half display
Arouna Kone took centre stage in his side’s 6-2 thrashing of Sunderland, scoring a hat-trick to send Everton 9th in the Premier League.
The Ivorian played in Gerard Deulofeu to open the scoring after 19 minutes and doubled Everton’s lead soon after with a powerful left foot finish.
Despite being pegged back by goals from Jermaine Defoe and Steven Fletcher, Everton resumed control in the second half and punished a miserable Sunderland side.
A Sebastian Coates own-goal was followed by goals from Romelu Lukaku and Kone in a 7 minute spell where the hosts tore the visitors apart.
And Kone capped off a superb all-round performance with 15 minutes to go, grabbing the match ball with a well placed header.
Is it time to tear up what we thought we knew about Arouna Kone?
Evertonians thought they’d made their mind up about Kone the moment he arrived at Goodison Park. Troubled by injury and struggling in front of goal, the verdict was simple: not good enough.
But a return of 5 goals and 3 assists so far this season, as well as a number of impressive performances (prominently as a wide midfielder) has shifted opinion of the former Wigan man.
The striker was involved in Everton’s best football and got the ball rolling with a defence splitting pass for Deulofeu’s opening goal. The pass itself was not of particularly outstanding quality but it didn’t need to be as the gaping hole in the Sunderland back four made it easy. What was just as pleasing to see was the striker follow up the pass with the determination to get in to the box for a potential return pass.
This desire to support the team off the ball doesn’t go unnoticed by the Blues support and -as well as his goals- may well be one of the reasons Evertonians are thinking twice about Kone. When he pushed the ball into Lukaku’s feet just outside the box, he didn’t stand still, and receiving it back first time, composed himself before firing high into the top corner.
Purists of the game might argue that a pass across goal would have been the right option for Kone’s second goal, with team mates lurking across goal. But the first time shot demonstrated what all good strikers do in the area, and the Ivorian was high on confidence by this point.
His third was perhaps his easiest chance thanks to the outside of Lukaku’s left foot. He’ll certainly come up against more competent defences in the Premier League, but his performance was one of many this season which is beginning to change the perceptions of one or two inside Goodison.
Blues still have work to do in defence
With Phil Jagielka out for the next 6-8 weeks, Eveton’s back line has once more been ripped up and put back together again.
Lacking consistency in the back four, Everton have found clean sheets difficult to come by, with a mix of youth, inexperience and individual errors contributing to poor goals being conceded.
And with Sunderland flying out of the traps, Everton’s disjointed back four nearly found themselves two goals behind as the visitors struck the post twice.
John Stones was too calm in his attempt to mop up in first half injury time and his lack of awareness allowed Defoe in to pull one back.
Sunderland’s second goal was another example of a defence with lack of playing time as a unit (not helped by Bryan Oviedo’s withdrawal through injury). It may be over-critical to implicate Tim Howard in the disaster, but perhaps a strong, dominant call from the American would have been enough to prevent the equaliser.
Instead Romiro Funes Mori missed his cue and Fletcher had only to get his header on target.
Allardyce gets it wrong with 3 at the back
But if Everton were disjointed in defence, Sunderland were completely out of sorts. Sam Allardyce’s decision to play 3-5-2 worked immeasurably in Everton’s favour.
It’s as if the Black Cats boss reviewed Everton’s home games over the past year -watching teams get 11 men behind the ball, set up with a compact and narrow formation- and subsequently ignore a strategy that has frustrated Roberto Martinez’s men on so many occasions.
Instead, Sunderland’s wing-backs positioned themselves high up the pitch leaving acres of space for the lightning quick Deulofeu to exploit.
It was the kind of set-up the Spaniard must relish: one man less to track back with, and the entire length of the half to run in to.
Duelofeu’s contribution deserves recognition too. Often the source of frustration from sections of the Blues fan base, his opening goal and two assists were a reminder of his quality and growing importance to this team.
It’s clear that the winger is at his best when he looks up and crosses first time. The Beckham-like quality of his crosses means that he doesn’t need to beat his man, yet the fact that his opponent knows he can, makes his threat tantalisingly unpredictable and a nightmare to defend against.