Everton vs. West Ham United: 6 Things We Learned
Everton returned to winning ways, grinding out an important 1-0 win over West Ham.
The home side dominated possession and passing categories, as many would expect, but took until the 81st minute to edge past their stubborn opponent.
After two successive Premier League defeats, the three points are vital for Roberto Martinez's side, who return to the top six.
Here's a look at some Everton-related talking points to emerge from this contest.
Dominant Showing Almost Wasted
Martinez will be wondering exactly how his side took so long to secure the points.
For the first time in a few weeks, dominant possession and passing numbers actually accompanied some impressive creative production.
In fact, Everton's 20 chances matched their best statistical return of the season.
That excessive creativity led to 22 shots fired in on Adrian's goal—a total exceeded in just two of Everton's Premier League games under Martinez.
All of this was achieved while restricting West Ham to just one attempt on target from six shots at goal.
Surely a recipe for a very convincing home win?
However, the major blemish in an otherwise polished performance was the hosts' woefully inaccurate shooting. Of the 22 shots, just three were on target, which almost cost the Toffees the game.
To put that desperately poor ratio into perspective, Everton have recorded fewer shots on target just twice all season—yet in matches with far few chances.
Three points is all that matters, but missing the target with 19 of 22 shots (86 percent) is something Martinez will not want to see again.
Baines Back in the Spotlight
Everton's creative success was largely due to the impressive performance of Leighton Baines.
So often key for David Moyes, Baines hasn't been as prominent in his new manager's system. In this game, however, he treated West Ham to a vintage display of creativity.
He spent most of the game marauding forward, constantly linking up with Steven Pienaar and forcing Matt Jarvis to spend long periods tracking back.
In total, Baines supplied eight of his side's 20 chances—the most created by any Everton player all season.
He provided crosses and cutbacks throughout the game, and finally, as Lukaku anticipated one final chance, he registered his first assist since April last year.
More Decisive Impact from the Bench
Lukaku's late winner was Everton's seventh Premier League goal from the bench this season.
In all competitions, 11 of the Toffees' 52 goals (21 percent) have come from a substitute, emphasising Martinez's knack of knowing when to change his team.
His team's possession-based style makes this useful trait even more crucial. By forcing opponents to spend long periods of the game chasing the ball, defences often tire and can be exploited late on.
In contrast, just four of Everton's 73 goals came from the bench during Moyes' final campaign.
Adding key, attacking players late on has already proved vital this season and will continue to do so for Martinez.
Either Mirallas or Deulofeu for Martinez
Gerard Deulofeu returned to the starting line-up for this game, seemingly at the expense of Kevin Mirallas.
All five of the Barcelona loanee's starts have been in one of the eight games Mirallas hasn't made the team.
In fact, both attackers have been on the pitch together for just 104 minutes all season, which indicates Martinez's preference to simply use one or the other.
Aside from one marvelous instance during this game, neither player is especially keen on tracking back. Deploying both in a line-up would put additional pressure on Everton's full-backs and restrict their ability to attack.
Both players are also similar, with the presence of one complementing the craft and guile of a Leon Osman or Steven Pienaar to provide a more balanced unit.
As much as fans would crave to see both explosive talents on a team-sheet, it seems a case of one or the other for Martinez.
Confident Return from Stones
Elsewhere, Gareth Barry produced yet another distinguished display, making his England omission all the more strange.
Special praise must also go to a commanding performance from John Stones.
The 19-year-old has struggled to fill in at right-back over the past two months. The Toffees' 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool was certainly far from his finest hour.
However, this performance was a timely reminder of his considerable qualities as a centre-back. He used intelligence and clever positioning to keep Andy Carroll quiet for long periods and improved his side's tempo with his confidence and ability on the ball.
To produce such assured displays at just 19 suggests Everton have one of the best defensive prospects in the country on their hands.
A Boost for Next Saturday
In league terms, this win moves the Toffees back into the top six, just two points behind Tottenham.
More importantly, the result can provide crucial momentum as Everton approach their biggest game of the season: next Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final.
The likes of Mirallas and Lukaku will presumably return to the starting line-up as the Toffees look for a second impressive showing at Arsenal this season.
Securing a route through to the semi-finals would further distinguish Martinez's first season in charge.
Statistics via WhoScored.com