Take the points, move on

By Lyndon Lloyd 25/06/2020 34comments  |  Jump to last

While it’s tempting to write these remaining games off as a box-ticking exercise or a lengthy pre-season schedule ahead of what will hopefully (but might not turn out to be) a more normal 2020-21 campaign, there are still points there to be won and European qualification spots to be claimed.

In that respect, while this was an utterly forgettable game, dragged down by a truly dreadful first half, Everton accomplished the most important thing — they eked out a victory that moves them back into the top half of the table at least until a couple of the sides they have displaced play their 31st fixture.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team also avoided adding to the tally of injured players and with the luxury of a full week off now until they face Leicester City at Goodison Park, the Italian might be able to welcome back a couple of absentees before his charges next kick a ball in anger.

That these Everton players have been off for three months and had only played their first full, competitive 90 minutes three games ago (whereas Norwich had an extra couple of days’ preparation) showed at times this evening at Carrow Road, not least during those pedestrian first 45. But they did enough in the end to stand firm at the back, preserve a second successive clean sheet and grab the game’s only goal 10 minutes into the second half.

Indeed, the corner that delivered the crucial strike via the head of Michael Keane came as a result of Everton’s first concerted spell of pressure, itself a product of a half-time substitution by Ancelotti and a tactical shift that gave Ales Iwobi greater license to drift into his more favoured central to help build attacks.

The Nigerian has been the subject of much criticism from certain quarters this season, as has Tom Davies but where the former came into his own the longer the match wore on and arguably emerged as the Blues’ man of the match., the latter was hooked at half-time following as aimless and disappointing a display he has ever produced.

With Ancelotti and Marcel Brands plotting their summer transfer business with the need to strengthen central midfield high on their agenda following the sale of Morgan Schneiderlin, Davies has a claim to stake in this side but he will, unfortunately, have left his manager doubtful that the young Scouser is capable of a starting role.

The rest of the starting XI didn’t play especially badly on an individual level; they were simply unproductive, ineffective and lacking any genuine attacking threat as a collective apart from an early foray down the left that ended with Bernard teasing in a cross that Dominic Calvert-Lewin couldn’t get underneath and headed behind.

The striker had a 20-yard effort comfortably gathered by Tim Krul and put in an inviting delivery of his own that eluded Richarlison but apart from that, Everton didn’t come close to worrying the scoreline.

Norwich actually had the more dangerous openings before the halfway stage. Onel Hernandez’s. mazy run ended with a shot that deflected off Mason Holgate and had Jordan Pickford scrambling to his left before it bounced off the outside of the post.

Ondrej Duda fired a direct free-kick into the defensive wall and Lukas Rupp forced Pickford into a two-fisted save in stoppage time.

With Gylfi Sigurdsson introduced in central midfield in place of Davies and Iwobi allowed to roam a little more, Everton looked much more fluid going forward in the early stage of the second period and within a couple of minutes of the restart, Richarlison had forced their first corner with a shot from the angle that was blocked behind.

It was from a corner from the other side, won by Seamus Coleman, that Lucas Digne picked out Keane with a flighted dead-ball delivery and the centre-half glanced the ball inside the far post with his head.

Initially, Everton didn’t rest on their laurels and first Calvert-Lewin tested Krul with a shot from the edge of the box that the Dutchman palmed over, and then the Canaries’ defence rebuffed another effort from Richarlison before Calvert-Lewin missed disappointingly with a header from an excellent Iwobi cross.

But as the half wore on, Norwich began to grow in belief and it felt for a while as though the inevitable equaliser would come. Alexander Tettey saw a speculative effort deflected wide, André Gomes almost turned the ball past Pickford trying to defend McLean’s cross and substitute Adam Idah also had a shot blocked behind.

A late free-kick when late substitute Moise Kean was felled on the edge of the box by Todd Cantwell gave Digne a chance to seal it from a direct free-kick but he curled over the crossbar with Leighton Baines, also on for the last few minutes, also in attendance and, probably, the better candidate to take it.

Ancelotti admitted afterwards that Everton hadn’t played well but he was clearly happy to have got the victory, the Toffees’ first in five matches. Seven points separate them from fifth and sixth place, quite a sizeable gap with only seven games to go but stranger things have happened and Ancelotti’s men still have to go to three of the teams that sit close above them before the end of the campaign.

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Reader Comments (34)

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Kevin Molloy
1 Posted 25/06/2020 at 09:56:51
It's not Tom that concerns me as much in midfield as Gomes. He is a wonderful player, but I have seen far too many games when he just does not want to take control of the game.

He's like the polar opposite of Roy Keane, nervous, peripheral and often invisible. Tom makes dreadful mistakes, but you can see he is trying manfully to affect the game.

Nathan Jones
2 Posted 25/06/2020 at 10:02:01
While this was turgid to watch, I'm a 'glass half-full' type of guy. It's often said that, if you want to build a good team, you build from the back and while Ancelotti has not had to ability to buy in that area he has clearly worked on making the team solid through organization. The players in the last two games sean to play within themselves but I think that is through tactical instructions.

Let's not forget we got turned over by Norwich earlier in the season by going fo them. I'm confident that, with a transfer window and a more energetic midfield being able to link the defense with the attack, we will be a bunch more dangerous and exciting proposition.

Derek Thomas
3 Posted 25/06/2020 at 10:36:06
Take the points, move on, is exactly right - but. Move on with what? We have no midfield. Not a 5, 4 or a 3. we have 1, Gomes; and he is, 9 times out of 10, peripheral at best.

A lot of work for Ancelotti and Brands.

Robert Tressell
4 Posted 25/06/2020 at 10:50:12
Move on by giving game time to Gordon, Iwobi, Kean and, yes, Davies – because they need it. Like Holgate and Calvert-Lewin, there's a good chance they will improve. Iwobi is already showing good signs.

Tom Davies may benefit from playing alongside Sigurdsson instead of Gomes. Gomes was just as awful as Tom first half.

Paul Richardson
5 Posted 25/06/2020 at 11:25:35
Agree with Nathan (2). This was an orgainsed, disciplined performance. We were never in real trouble defensively and pretty much controlled the game, something we have not done for ages away from Goodison. Agree the midfield is not dynamic enough, but one goal is worth three points if you don't concede. Not the Everton way, but a great starting point.
Jerome Shields
6 Posted 25/06/2020 at 11:29:36
The performance against the RS was good in that Everton implemented a defensive plan and most players did what was required. The midfield going forward, and attack, where not of the same standard.

Defense was good against Norwich, but midfield failed in the first half to capitalise on a assured defensive performance. In the second half, Ancelotti managed to turn this around. Pickford's distribution was much better against Norwich.

Attack was better finishing because Calvert-Lewin actually did manage to lay off the ball against Norwich, though he still failed to attack the near post. Richarlison was isolated with barely nothing from midfield in the first half. He had to work extremely hard to get the ball.

Kean needs a lot of work on basics; looking up to see who is available, positioning and anticipated runs.

So Ancelotti has got the defence working and on the second half performance the midfield going.

The attack is next on the agenda. All the basic stuff; attacking near post, getting in front of marker, anticipatory runs, positioning, awareness of other attackers positioning /runs, passing ( low, attempted and completion rates) and of course finishing -finishing- finishing.

Two good results, 3 points. Before the restart, I would have been happy with that.

Darren Hind
7 Posted 25/06/2020 at 11:37:56
That's spot-on, Kevin.

Tom Davies was poor last night, but whether he does it here or elsewhere He has more chance of winning stuff in his career than any of the expensive signings we have made.

At this stage of his career, Davies has fundamental flaws to his game. He hangs on to it for too long and gets caught in possession. He often tries passes he doesn't have the ability to make and even when he plays well, he can't seem to do it in both halves of a game...but he has the one essential quality that you need to win prizes - Bravery.

I'm not talking about Mick Lyons get-your-head-in-there type of bravery, or the misguided bravery we saw in young Jimmy Vaughan. I'm talking about the bravery that makes a man keep demanding the ball no matter how badly it's going. The Bravery to ask for and receive it in difficult situations knowing the hate will rain down from the stands if he fucks it up. The balls to always be prepared to help a team mate out. To take responsibility.

You can't win anything without brave players. They don't have to be blindingly talented, just look at Liverpool. Henderson, Milner and a few others are not exactly gifted, but they are all prepared to help each other out. Take responsibility. That's why they will finish a country mile ahead of our highly paid losers.

Tom Davies will get stronger. He will learn not to try the Hollywood pass he doesn't have the ability to execute. He'll learn not to dwell on the ball too long.

I hope he is armed with the certain knowledge that those who don't understand, don't matter. I hope he doesn't let them destroy him or drive him out.

We need the likes of him. That's why a succession of managers have given him more game time than any other 22-year-old that I can think of off the top of my head.

Tony Everan
8 Posted 25/06/2020 at 12:34:41
Good, fair write up, Lyndon, thanks.

Gomes was equally as bad as Davies in the first half – lethargic, poor passing, getting caught in possession. It wasn't good enough from the senior man.

To turn the argument around, it could be said that it is Gomes's responsibility to shoulder the burden and coax Tom Davies into the game. I know Tom had a stinker but Gomes's play and leadership in the engine room was substandard.

Maybe it's just Gomes's physique and body language but he always looks like he is 10% short of maximum fitness. I think this player could push himself harder and would really improve for it.

Anyway, there will be definitely one and really hoping two central midfielders coming in soon. The club will tread water without a big improvement in the centre of the park.

Two signings in will give Tom and especially Gomes massive and healthy competition for a starting berth. It maybe is just what Gomes needs, and what will drive our club forward into the top 6 next season.

Kevin Molloy
9 Posted 25/06/2020 at 12:39:22
Darren, yes.

Glenn Hoddle used to talk about the bravery to hit a 50-yard pass in a tight game. It's true. You can see he does have the bravery we need, and at his age he is still capable of significant improvement.

As you say, look at the strides Jordan Henderson has made, from headless chicken to world-class lynchpin, in under two years when no longer a young player.

Gomes though, should be bossing games like yesterday, and the fact he did another vanishing act is of concern (much as I have been willing him to succeed). Key thing though, we are in good hands. Carlo is righting this team, slowly but surely.

John Raftery
10 Posted 25/06/2020 at 13:08:53
Alex Iwobi has the potential to prove a lot of people wrong. He is not an out-and-out winger but has the skills and sufficient pace to exploit space in wide areas, especially in counter-attacking moves. In the last two games he has also worked more effectively off the ball to close gaps between midfield and defence.

For the money paid for him the club and Ancelotti desperately need him to be a regular and effective starter. He needs to add more goals to his game, be more consistent in his use of the ball and continue to work hard on improving his defensive play. There are however promising signs of progress. The player himself must also appreciate if he doesn't deliver under Ancelotti he never will.

Derek Thomas
11 Posted 25/06/2020 at 15:21:06
Darren @ 7; Eloquently defended, time will tell.
Paul Tran
12 Posted 25/06/2020 at 18:58:18
Darren #7 might be defending Tom Davies, but he's also hit on the characteristic that every player we buy must have. Tom will kick on when we buy someone solid to play next to him.
Christy Ring
13 Posted 25/06/2020 at 20:11:18
You can criticise Tom Davies, didnt have a great first half, misplaced a few passes, but he never hid, up and down the pitch, and if you check the stats, I guarantee he covered a lot more ground than Gomes.
Trevor Peers
14 Posted 25/06/2020 at 21:07:26
Common sense says Davies and DCL are useful squad players for Everton, at the moment. But neither of them has much competition for a starting place, for obvious reasons.

The big test for both of these youngsters will come when hopefully we have added to the squad, which is way too small and short on quality. Holgate however looks the best prospect by a mile, he is the real deal.

David Thomas
15 Posted 25/06/2020 at 23:04:52
So what if he didn’t hide during the game. That doesn’t mean he should be getting a game for Everton’s first team.
Paul Birmingham
16 Posted 25/06/2020 at 23:40:34
We won, and move on.

Tom is learning and if he stuck and executed basics and kept the momentum of the move going and intercepted and closed space like Lee Carsley, did for Everton, he could do a lot worse.

For me every game he seems unsure and hessitates and we loose the ball and in many occasions,we concede free kicks in dangerous positions.

But in Toms defence he doesn’t shadow box with the shadows of the players who’ve gone past them, he tries to make amends.

All injured players considered, and that impact, our midfield is too pedestrian and we have very rare advantage points in games, as we repetition pass crab and back for 60% of our possession in any game.

How can you win a game, but you play to limits of your players?

Andrew Keatley
17 Posted 26/06/2020 at 00:38:53
From what I remember, Tom Davies didn't seem to want the ball much in the first 20 or so minutes against Norwich – I even commented about it on the live forum. And some of his half-hearted attempts at tackling were far from brave.

Darren H – All this learning that you think he will eventually do; when? And why hasn't he done it already? I watch other young players who have latterly broken into Premier League first-team midfields – Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka, Steven Alzate*, Mason Mount, Reece James, Hamza Choudhury, Scott McTominay, both Longstaff brothers, Todd Cantwell, Oliver Skipp, Declan Rice*, Morgan Gibbs-White – and in my opinion they are all now ahead of Davies in terms of development/ability/potential. At best he is treading water, at worst he is already going backwards. What actual signs of improvement are there for us to hold on to?

* I marked out these two because I think Alzate is going to be a very very good player, and Rice because he is currently the most over-rated footballer in the Premier League.

Jim Bennings
18 Posted 26/06/2020 at 07:51:16
A win is a win but with this current squad we won't be anything more than a top 10 team.

The midfield is absolutely atrocious at times, I'm but just talking about the inability of Tom Davies either but the entire lack of movement across the pitch.

Two players that have really not kicked on since about October or November of 2018 are Bernard and Gomes.

I thought back then that Bernard would be our modern day Juninho, a similar small in stature player at Boro in the 90's but ultimately a class act.

Bernard just doesn't seem to get involved in games enough does he?

Gomes, look I know he had a quite horrible injury in November but I'm talking about his inconsistencies before then, another guy who should have been bossing many games but looks like he runs in treacle more often than not, just hasn't kicked on from those promising early days under Silva.

Davies I'm sorry I know fans want him to succeed and he's a decent fella but he hasn't got any of the attributes that make for a top level midfielder, is he quick, strong, aggressive, can he pass, can he shoot, can he really win physical aerial duels?

How many of those boxes does he really tick?

As for the rest?

Iwobi looks ok coming inside but still can't see what he's meant that be, he's not a winger and he's not disciplined enough to play in the middle, maybe he's what they would have once called an inside right forward, I don't know.

Richarlison still let's too many games pass him by without knowing he's in the game, probably our only real game changer when he's in the mood that is.

Mal van Schaick
19 Posted 26/06/2020 at 08:18:32
For me it’s a midfield rebuild. Can’t blame Davies for effort, but he’s a 60 minute player and the legs go. Sorry to say he’s a Championship player. Gomes has a decent touch and can pick a pass now and again, but again his energy levels and pace are in doubt. Walcott loses possession too many times, Bernard is lightweight, Siggi is on a downward curve and Schnederlin is static. Defence is ok but needs another centre half in the mix. Up front again we need more quality choice.
Eddie Dunn
20 Posted 26/06/2020 at 08:25:49
There is a simple eason that Gomes seems to lack pace, Davies lacks nous, and Bernard fails to influence games none of them are top quality. Gomes is a classy looking player(and a lovely guy), at a lower level, I have come across similarly gifted players, they look good on the ball and have great technique but perhaps not enough pace, or strength or fight in them.

None of these three would get a game for Liverpool, Man City, Leicester, Spurs or Chelsea. They are decent players with significant shortcomings. You get what you can afford.

Danny Halsall
21 Posted 26/06/2020 at 09:16:06
I think you would see a completely different Gomes out there if he had a mobile, ball-winning partner. How anyone can compare him and Davies is beyond me. I am a massive advocate of giving youth, especially those who come from our own academy, the chance to play their way into the team. But Tom Davies has had his chances - I watched the game against Norwich and was thinking about what it is he actually brings to the side. He doesn't score goals, he is not a ball winner, he is a bang average passer of the ball and he isn't strong or quick. He seems to lack the tactical nous required and in general just looks lost out on the pitch.

I am not against keeping him for the time being, because he probably earns peanuts and is another body - but he is clearly not the answer in the middle of the park going forward.

There has been talk of a load of centre backs and a load of right wingers in this upcoming window, but for me, central midfield is where we have major problems - for the remainder of the season it needs to be Gomes and Sigurddson.

Tony Everan
22 Posted 26/06/2020 at 09:27:20
Danny, it gives me no pleasure but I agree with those harsh truths.

To me Gomes needs to be sharper, fitter and more focused. I see him as a thoroughbred racehorse that needs some special training regime to get it race fit. Also he definitely needs a complimentary, more combative midfielder to flourish. He will have one next season so we will see.

Tom is young still but next season his opportunities will be diminished. I think there is still development and improvement to come from him over the next year or two.

If he went on loan playing week in week out to a decent club like Derby for a year it could be the making of him. Especially if he is a driving force for them in getting promoted. I don’t want to see him rot on the bench or miss the squad altogether and this solution could be the best option for him and the club.

Sam Hoare
23 Posted 26/06/2020 at 09:29:42
My issue with Tom Davies is that I just don't see the basic attributes. With DCL, when he was not playing so well you could see that he was fast and strong and prepared to run hard, you could see even at a young age he was winning a lot of headers and getting into some decent positions. With Holgate, you could see that he was very comfortable on the ball for a defender, that he had good recovery pace and won a decent amount of tackles.

I like Tom and I really hope he pushes on but I'm not quite sure what his basic skillset is. He's not quick or strong, he doesn't seem to anticipate well or break up play frequently. I think he passes forward alot and has decent vision so maybe this is his strong suit but if so then is that too similar to Gomes? Perhaps it is enough if he improves incrementally across the board to become a more accomplished all-rounder. I have a feeling that the best thing for him at this stage could be a loan to a good championship team and getting 30+ starts for a decent team to really nail down his game like Mason Mount did.

Kevin Molloy
24 Posted 26/06/2020 at 10:01:00
I do think Evertonians are a little unfair on him. He's just gone toe to toe with the current 'best team in the world' at a neutral venue and was the difference between losing and drawing (he almost won it for us but for an errant stud).

Then, three days later, he flags in the heat when doing all the running again for André. His qualities are energy, tackling and, as alluded to above, bravery.

Neil Cremin
25 Posted 26/06/2020 at 11:41:16
Jerome @ 6
I know I am a perennial critic of Pickford but I cannot agree that his distribution improved at Norwich.
I counted at least 3-4 kicks that went out of play and at least 2 more that were just about prevented from going out but not controlled. That for me is par for the course and certainly does not give us control of midfield.
Rick Tarleton
26 Posted 26/06/2020 at 11:55:13
Gomes has talent, but lacks an engine, he can hit fifty yard passes, but they are crossfield rather than defence splitting. When Barcelona get rid of players there's a reason. You can look at Deulofeu, Gomes, Mina, Digne and Bernard and in each case you can see why Barcelona were attracted by their talent, but you can also see the problem.
I'm one of those who likes Davies, he's willing, looks for the ball has an engine and could be trained to be a fine defensive midfielder. He is not an attacking midfielder, someone before mentioned Carsley and that's a good comparison, as would Dennis Stevens be from the early sixties team.
Jim Bennings
27 Posted 26/06/2020 at 12:16:27

To be fair to Lee Carsley he was a bloody decent technical player certainly never got the plaudits that Tommy Gravesen alongside him got.

I remember Cars hitting some delicious freekicks in his time here and he was a hard man's tackler and reader of the game.

I'd put Carsley more in the Gareth Barry category than Tom Davies.

Michael O'Malley
28 Posted 26/06/2020 at 12:22:29
Lee Carsley was a very underrated player, a tenacious tackler with decent passing ability and could hit a mean shot, a lot of fans were very underwhelmed when we signed him but his never say die attitude won them over and he scored against the RS!
Tony Heron
29 Posted 26/06/2020 at 13:07:23
I can't help but shake my head at some of the comments on here. " Davies did more running than Gomes". Gomes is still getting over what could have been a career ending injury! "Pickfords kicking was better against Norwich ". I think he thought he was playing Rugby, the number of times he kicked into touch. Davies went "to to toe with the best team in the world" at a "Neutral" (!) venue. Goodison is a neutral ground?
Kevin Molloy
30 Posted 26/06/2020 at 13:57:47
It may as well be if there's no bugger watching, Tony.
Ryan Holroyd
31 Posted 26/06/2020 at 15:28:46
Tom Davies is absolutely garbage. Slow, can't tackle, gives the ball away all the time, can't pass, can't head. Useless.

Mike Connolly
32 Posted 26/06/2020 at 16:27:57
Tom Davies: as some our fans would say, leave him alone – he's only young, related to an ex-Everton player, and a local lad. If the crowd stop giving him stick at the match, he will come good. Well, guess what... there has been no crowd at the game and he is still shit.

How can anyone compare Miller to Davies? Milner was an excellent player at Davies's age and he'd still run circles around Davies now. Some say send him on loan. I think he would struggle with the physical side of the Championship.

Germany got a mention. The pace may suit Tom. However, they are very high on technical ability that rules Tom out.

Sukhdev Sohal
33 Posted 27/06/2020 at 12:54:41
Tom is just a stupid footballer, unfortunately. He tried to beat 5 players at once against Norwich and just doesn't take care of that ball.

I'll give you a perfect example: Against Brighton at home in the 90th minute, he casually gives the ball away and Murray was inches away from scoring. If that went in, that would've been the end of his Everton career for me.

I say loan him out to the Championship o Germany and bring in Allan or Sangare, and play one of them along with one of Gomes or Sigurdsson.

Tony Cawson
34 Posted 04/07/2020 at 00:43:29
A full pre-season with Ancelotti, and Michael Keane could come good, and iron out any insecurities.


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