Given the excitement and drama that unfolded throughout the Premier League on Friday and Saturday, Everton’s 1-0 home win against Stoke City would normally not have garnered too many headlines.
This was not the case this weekend, with boyhood Toffee Wayne Rooney scoring the winning goal on his return to Goodison Park and sealing three welcome points for the Blues. While Everton bristled with intent from the off, Stoke City looked lacklustre for much of the game and only really threatened Jordan Pickford’s goal in a final flurry late on.
So what did we learn from the clash on Merseyside? Here are three of The Boot Room’s key takeaways:
Saido Berahino still does not look like scoring
During his breakout season in 2014/15, Saido Berahino plundered an impressive 20 goals in 45 appearances for West Bromwich Albion and was quickly linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur. After a deal failed to materialise, Berahino quickly fell out of favour with the hierarchy at The Hawthorns while concerns were also raised about his attitude and physical fitness.
His stats since 2015 have been underwhelming to say the least, with the former England U-21 striker scoring just seven goals in 48 appearances during the last two years. Incredibly, he has just one goal in his last 41 appearances in the Premier League, while he has failed to score in 14 matches since arriving at the Britannia Stadium in January.
He rarely looked like scoring on Saturday, nor adding to the meagre 13 shots he has mustered on goal in a Stoke shirt. Lacking energy and movement, he looked a shadow of his former sense and it is no coincidence that the Potters only improved when Berahino was replaced by Peter Crouch on 72 minutes.
Wayne Rooney will thrive in Everton’s 3-5-2 system
During the pre-season, there was considerable emphasis placed on how Ronald Koeman would accommodate the returning Rooney at Everton. After all, he struggled when asked to lead the line for Manchester United during the last two seasons, while he also lacked the sharpness and movement to play in the traditional number 10 role.
Koeman seems to have found the ideal solution by playing a 3-5-2 system, with the energetic Davy Klaassen roving behind a front two of Sandro Ramirez and Rooney. This affords Rooney the freedom to float and operate between the lines behind Sandro, while also alternating with Klaassen as the Dutchman looks to run beyond opposition defences.
The liberation of Rooney was evident during the first goal, as the forward dropped deep to lay the ball wide to Dominic Calvert-Lewin before racing into the penalty area to head home the youngster’s excellent cross.
Rooney will hope for more of the same as the season progresses, and this system certainly offers him the best possible chance to succeed.
Mark Hughes looks bereft of ideas at The Britannia
After deploying three at the back regularly during pre-season, Stoke reverted to their trademark 4-2-3-1 at Goodison Park. Despite this and only boasting two debutants, in the form of Kurt Zouma and Darren Fletcher, Stoke lacked any sort of cohesion throughout the side while Mark Hughes looked bereft ideas on the sidelines.
With little imagination or scope for tactical innovation, Hughes could only swap his forward players with 18 minutes to go, and while both Peter Crouch and the Cameroon international Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting threatened the Potters never really looked like breaching Jordan Pickford’s goal.
The defeat at Goodison also extended Stoke’s winless run in the league to 10 games, in which they have scored just six goals and shipped 15 to their rivals.
With a decided lack of inspiration both on and off the field, Stoke could find themselves embroiled in a battle for survival as the season unfolds. As for Hughes, he must look to do some more business before the end of the transfer window as he looks to revitalise a failing forward line.