Everton manager Ronald Koeman praised the character of his team after their match-up with Arsenal at Goodison Park, the Gunners having succumb to their first defeat since August at the hands of the Toffees. It came just at the right time for Everton as they halted their five-match winless run with their priceless 2-1 victory. They did it the hard way, having fallen behind to a deflected Alexis Sanchez free-kick, but Seamus Coleman glanced home a Leighton Baines cross right on half-time to equalise, before Ross Barkley’s corner was met by the head of Ashley Williams four minutes from time to complete the turnaround.
Many of the plaudits will go to goalscorers Seamus Coleman and Ashley Williams, who registered his first goal for the club since his summer arrival from Swansea, as well as Leighton Baines, who registered his 48th Premier League assist when he crossed for Coleman’s equaliser. There was however, an unsung hero in the Everton ranks who pulled all the strings in midfield and was one of the quieter masterminds behind the hosts’ impressive comeback, and that was another of their summer signings, former Aston Villa midfielder Idrissa Gueye.
Gueye completed the full 90 minutes in midfield and played just in front of the back four as a protective screen. Despite not becoming involved in any aerial battles, he covered a great deal of ground and won four of an attempted seven tackles, giving away just two fouls throughout the game.
Two of his successful tackles were made in the right-back position early in the second-half, as Gueye played out his defensive role to perfection by covering for Seamus Coleman who had burst forward, thwarting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez down the Arsenal left.
Gueye was a thorn in the side of Sanchez throughout the contest, foiling the Chilean again in the left-back position after Baines was caught out, before picking the pocket of the Chilean in the Arsenal half later on.
Gueye was also the pass master in what became an intense midfield battle. He completed 78% of an attempted 51 total passes, more than any other Everton player, and his total of attempted tackles was also superior to that of any of his teammates. He also did his bit defensively, with four interceptions in the game, including one on the edge of his own penalty area in injury time, when the Toffees were desperately hanging onto their lead, as well as putting in five defensive blocks, three of those coming in the final twenty minutes either on the half-way line to break up play, or inside his own half.
With only one key chance created down the Everton right in the closing minutes, and a failed cross earlier in the game his only real contributions in attack, it wasn’t so much a stellar attacking performance from the Senegalese, but his presence in midfield in front of the back four in breaking up play and linking the defence and midfield was vital for the Everton cause as they sought to stifle Arsenal whilst attempting to win the game themselves. He played out his role to perfection, allowing the Toffees to take their chance from a set-piece, and he then did his bit for the cause to help preserve the victory.
All in all, a match-winning performance, and it is sometimes the performances of the key unsung heroes that win matches, though winning BBC Sport’s man of the match award was a deserved recompense for his efforts, as well as the three points he helped his team win.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Stuart MacFarlane.