A Shay Given own goal was enough to earn Everton a 1-0 win over Stoke City at Goodison Park, and maintain new boss Ronald Koeman’s unbeaten league record. The result sent Everton to second in the fledgling league table for a few hours at least, while the Potters are still looking for their first win. Leighton Baines’ 51st minute penalty struck the post, but rebounded off Given’s head to hand the home side a fortuitous winner.
Home games against Spurs and Stoke as well as a trip to West Brom was a tricky start for Everton, so seven points from nine is more than commendable. We suggested three things we learned from today’s hard-fought contest.
Everton Need To Keep Seeing Games Out
Under Roberto Martinez, Everton squandered an obscene number of points from winning positions and this was exactly the type of game that would have carried a late sting in the tail. It is early days under Ronald Koeman, but the fact Everton kept Stoke at bay for the closing 40 minutes is most encouraging.
This inner ‘softness’ was a major reason why they squandered 18 points from winning positions and won only 23 points at Goodison last season, which was simply not good enough considering the talent at their disposal.
Kevin Mirallas spoke during the week about how Koeman is working his new charges on the training ground, emphasising the importance of work rate and collective effort. Koeman’s Southampton conceded 14 fewer goals than Everton last season – 41 – which is a solid effort considering his teams like to take the ball and have the initiative. If the Goodison Park outfit can stop giving away leads this season, it is easy to see how their overall points total will sky rocket.
Stoke Under Mark Hughes Remain Enigmatic
Stoke’s unpredictability is becoming quite predictable. Much has been said of their evolution under Hughes, and though they do possess a modicum of individual talent, it is difficult to pin down exactly what type of team they are.
They handle the ball much better than under Tony Pulis, without being one of the best possession sides in the division. They don’t have quite the same physicality and threat from set pieces as they used to, and play a more open style.
Hughes tried to tighten things up for a difficult game today, by playing a midfield three of Joe Allen, Gianelli Imbula and Glenn Whelan. However, with Mame Biram Diouf asked to play out wide, Stoke lacked attacking potency. Though Marko Arnautovic did hit the bar, the visitors managed only one shot on target.
Stoke look as if they will remain serial coupon busters, winning a few landmark games against the top teams, but without piecing together a concerted run of good form. If they want to move on from being a safe mid-table team, they need to show greater consistency.
Mason Holgate Continues To Look At Home
People will say that Holgate is the ‘new John Stones’, he did join Everton from Barnsley after all, but such comparisons are always unfair on young players. Holgate should be allowed to develop at his own pace, but the 19-year-old defender already looks at home in the Premier League.
In the absence of Seamus Coleman, Holgate was asked to play at right back rather than at his natural position of centre back and fared well. Tall and elegant, Holgate is comfortable with ball at his feet and kept the ephemeral Arnautovic quiet for most of today’s game.
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