Everton recorded their first home Premier League win of the season with a 3-1 victory over Wigan. The Toffees certainly deserved the points, creating far more chances than their visitors, yet the overall performance dipped slightly from last week's strong showing against Aston Villa.
Stodgy in places, Everton's attacking ambition lacked the fluidity and cohesion to truly capture the crowd, but the result was well appreciated.
David Moyes named an unchanged side and, despite bossing early exchanges, Wigan scored first through Franco Di Santo. Phil Jagielka soon headed in a riposte for the Toffees but, as the match progressed, it began looking as though both teams would share the spoils.
That was until a pair of substitutes came up trumps late on for Moyes. Apostolos Vellios expertly glanced in a header, before Royston Drenthe raced clear to slot home and finally finish off Wigan.
The win puts Everton a lofty seventh in the table, a position unaccustomed to the Toffees at this early stage of the season. However, with a daunting set of fixtures approaching, including visits to Manchester City and Chelsea as well as home ties with Manchester United and Liverpool, fans will no doubt savour this early season points tally.
Here are five talking points to come out of Saturday’s win.
At Goodison Park, it seems to be the case at the moment that if the opposition shoot, they generally score.
Against QPR, Aston Villa and now Wigan, whilst Everton’s overall game play has varied, the Toffees have registered significantly more efforts on goal than their opponents in each of these matches. They arguably should have won all three games, or at least collected more than the four points acquired so far at home.
Some alarming statistics back this up. Against this trio of opponents, Everton have now mustered five goals, and conceded four. Yet in those games, Everton have registered 40 shots to just 16 from the visitors.
On target that equates to a 17-5 ratio, meaning four goals have come from five efforts on target by the away team, an 80 percent success rate!
Now this will simply not continue. As clinical as Franco Di Santo, Stiliyan Petrov, Gabby Agbonlahor and Tommy Smith may claim to be, surely it is evident that Everton have been even more unfortunate at home than has perhaps been reported?
They have been suppressing their opponents for large spells of the game, only to be stung by a rare effort on goal.
Everton dictated most of the game against Aston Villa, and should have won the game. Against Wigan and QPR they were less dominant, but still fashioned out far more opportunities.
Had they been more lethal in front of goal they would have surely collected all three points.
For many Evertonians, Tony Hibbert would be third choice right-back at the club—behind Phil Neville and Seamus Coleman.
Some may even prefer Johnny Heitinga to be deployed there over Hibbert. As robust and dependable as he generally is in the tackle, it is perceived that (especially at home) he offers little going forward. For many, he hinders Everton’s attacking prowess.
Yesterday, as well as being defensively sound (where he made a couple of crucial interventions, including a heroic diving block to stop a certain goal), Hibbert was also inspired going forward. He was a constant outlet on the flank, and was certainly no liability.
His crossing has always been an underrated facet of his game and on Saturday, he delivered six times from advanced positions, finding his man on four occasions. His crossing accuracy was therefore higher than anybody else on the pitch, and only Leighton Baines sent in more for Everton.
Hibbert also created three chances, an amount nobody surpassed and, of course, supplied the accurate delivery for Apostolos Vellios to head in the decisive score.
Whilst this may still only be a rare instance of such an attacking contribution from Hibbert, nobody can argue he was not one of the best players on the park yesterday.
The fact he has not scored for Everton in any of the 12 seasons he has registered appearances often causes many to wrongly write him off as an attacking entity.
True, the games of Neville and Coleman at right-back would probably further enhance Everton going forward, but not against Wigan yesterday. Hibbert deserves a significant amount of adulation for his all round performance.
His selection in the last two games ahead of Phil Neville has surprised many, yet with his overall display yesterday, it may be a while before Everton’s skipper is once again restored to the starting lineup.
After so much summer turmoil around a striker exodus, and having Tim Cahill (very adeptly) leading a starting line-up bereft of a natural finisher, step forward Apostolos Vellios.
The 19-year-old Greek Under-21 international was signed in January, and seems to have been a leaving present from former chief scout Mick Docherty. Docherty has risen to prominence in recent years for his astute assessment of Seamus Coleman, who he advised David Moyes to purchase for just £50,000.
As with playing personnel that excel, sadly for Moyes seeing such vision in a player quickly prompted Chelsea to hire Docherty's services.
Thankfully for Everton, this was not before Vellios had signed, another one of his recommendations. The striker joined for a similarly meagre total as Coleman, this time just £60,000, and it already looks as though Docherty has provided Everton with another steal.
Vellios rose highest and planted home the winning goal yesterday. From a distance, his stance and poise at the point of contact may have caused many to think Tim Cahill had re-emerged from the substitutes’ bench.
The fact Everton ended the match with two bulky strikers on the pitch, with Vellios scoring and Denis Straqualursi providing an assist for Royston Drenthe, will certainly hearten many fans.
It was only his first goal for the club, and he has yet to make a start, but the early signs are promising. He is tall, possesses a decent spring and is capable of holding the ball up, something Everton have been severely lacking in recent times.
He may well now get a start midweek in the Carling Cup and, knowing the infatuation Everton supporters continually show for their front men, his progress will be closely monitored.
Thanks to the social media on Twitter, there was a fair bit of commotion prior to kick off yesterday. For the many Evertonians following Louis Saha, they witnessed the Frenchman’s explosive reaction to his omission from the squad. The following is taken word for word from his Twitter account.
"What can i say. Absolutely destroy me.
#gutted. Good luck to the lads"
"I am not good enough.
"It s coz im confident in my ability that im
Presumably David Moyes thought he had better options at his disposal and, with each substitute used providing a goal or an assist, his decision seems vindicated. Whatever the case, Saha was clearly riled.
Moyes claimed to be happy with his player's desire to feature, but surely most fans would prefer to see unity from their squad.
He was also rumored to have left the premises in a huff and, though he was keen to latterly support the team with some encouraging messages, his antics generated a fair amount of flak from disapproving Evertonians on Twitter.
Plastering around opinions like this will not endear a player to his supporters, and it was probably a move Saha is now regretting.
Once he is fit, he will be crucial when he can play, but he has not had any minutes since a couple of brief cameos in August. He cannot always use Premier League matches as his only means of fitness when others are playing midweek in the reserves to prove themselves.
As we shall see in the next point, selecting Saha would have not only been controversial, but it would have sent the wrong message to the omitted player.
For a team apparently possessing one of the thinnest rosters in the Premier League, Everton are doing a decent job fooling their fans to think otherwise.
Not only was the starting lineup a strong Premier League XI, full of players that all merit end of season ventures into Europe, but the bench was also brimming with talent. So much so that there was even no room for Louis Saha.
Saha feels he warranted a place in the squad yesterday, but was he right? On paper, this may be argued, but on closer inspection David Moyes was right to keep him out and name the substitutes he did.
Johnny Heitinga returned from injury, and he and Phil Neville provided cover for all defensive positions as well as defensive midfield.
Royston Drenthe must have pushed Diniyar Bilyaletdinov close for selection. The Dutch international covered midfield, as did the exciting Ross Barkley, another chomping at the bit for minutes. Both scored midweek for the reserves and will expect to play this week in the Carling Cup.
After his successful late performance against Aston Villa, where he twice nearly stole the points for Everton, Apostolos Vellios was always likely to feature as a back up striker. Denis Stracqualursi was then rightly chosen as the final forward.
The Argentine has generated many headlines with his move to Everton, and not using him when seeking a win against Aston Villa was a tad perplexing. However, to then omit him from the entire squad the next week would have sent all kinds of negative psychological messages to fans and indeed the player about Moyes' views on his ability.
Thankfully it was not a confidence crusher. He was named, featured, and provided an assist for Royston Drenthe.
Ahead of Saha, Magaye Gueye may even have been a closer call, as he starred in the reserve team fixture of last week. After also being one of the stand out performers during preseason, before injury sadly ruled him out of all previous game this season, he should arguably feel even more aggrieved not to feature.
A tough overall decision, but Moyes got it right. After so many negative headlines in recent weeks, who would have thought Everton would be deliberating so meticulously over their final bench positions this season?
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