At the Hawthorns on Saturday, Everton claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory against West Brom.
In truth, it was not a classic game or display, but the Toffees did what they had to do to claim maximum points from their trip to the Midlands.
West Brom are a horrible team to play against, every Tony Pulis team is, as the Welshman fashions teams that are functional rather than easy on the eye. The Baggies offered very little in the way of creativity.
Their goal from Gareth McAuley came from a set-piece, not surprising really, considering their style of play.
Despite Everton not turning up for 38 minutes of the game, the Baggies did not have the attacking capabilities to take advantage.
A very quick tactical change
Everton have started both their Premier League games without a traditional striker with Spanish winger Gerard Deulofeu playing as a false number nine. Everton boss Ronald Koeman watched 38 minutes of this game before changing his tactics to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The Dutchman brought on record signing Romelu Lukaku up front and it turned the game Everton’s way. Lukaku does not look fully fit, but he provided a decent focal point for the attack.
More importantly, it allowed Deulofeu and Kevin Mirallas to move into their natural positions. The change also brought the best out of the Toffees young right-back Mason Holgate, who produced a highly accomplished display.
The likes of Deulofeu, Mirallas and Ross Barkley are all exciting talents on their day, but they are inconsistent. Barkley and Mirallas have produced a goal and an assist apiece this season.
Maybe Koeman is the man to get the best out of the mercurial trio. One thing is for sure it was Koeman’s lack of stubbornness and tactical flexibility that won Everton this game. The Toffees would have lost this game under Roberto Martinez and that could be the difference at Everton this season.
Encouraging signs from new arrivals
I have to say I have been impressed by Koeman’s signings so far. Experienced Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg was only supposed to be backup to a new number one at the Merseyside club this season. A new number one has yet to arrive, though.
He has produced two very solid displays in goal for the Toffees, making crucial saves in both of his appearances so far for Koeman’s men.
The signing of Idrissa ‘Gana’ Gueye from Aston Villa was not regarded as a high-profile one. However, the defensive midfielder has produced two very encouraging displays in the centre of midfield for the Toffees and already looks like a shrewd addition to their squad.
New winger Yannick Bolasie made a cameo appearance off the bench at West Brom and looked lively, no doubt he will get his chance from the start at some point. Centre-back Ashley Williams came off the bench but had little time to make an impact.
Everton looks far more organised this season and now seem to have a boss who will change things when games are not going the Toffees way.
The Dutch boss is unlikely to be finished in the transfer market either, as speculation over a move for Manchester City Joe Hart continues.
The Toffees also look short of a striker with Oumar Niasse out of favour and Arouna Kone woefully short of the quality required for the Premier League. It could be an interesting couple of weeks in the transfer market on the blue half of Merseyside.
There is now optimism at Everton
Everything seems to be coming together at Everton this summer. The Toffees fans were nervous about the lack of signings, but the signings have slowly but surely arrived and there is a real sense of optimism amongst the fans, which was something greatly missing in the last few seasons.
The majority of Everton fans seem to now have faith in the manager and more importantly the players also seem to have faith in Koeman. A place in the top six of the Premier League is not unrealistic for the Toffees this season, which they are now odds of 7/2 to achieve.
If Everton are a sleeping giant, then Ronald Koeman is the boy with the stick prodding them awake. Finally, there are signs of life at Goodison Park and this season could be an exciting one for Toffees fans.
Where will Everton finish in the Premier League this season?
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