Old school Everton mentality key for coming games

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12: Allan of Everton (C) battles for possession with Mateo Kovacic (R) and Ngolo Kante of Chelsea (L) during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on December 12, 2020 in Liverpool, England. A limited number of spectators (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12: Allan of Everton (C) battles for possession with Mateo Kovacic (R) and Ngolo Kante of Chelsea (L) during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on December 12, 2020 in Liverpool, England. A limited number of spectators (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images) /
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After a superb performance at Goodison Park and a terrific win over Chelsea, Everton must maintain this battling mentality for their upcoming matches.

Going into Saturday night’s game Everton had been struggling badly to find consistency and enough defensive resilience to win games when their star forwards weren’t firing on all cylinders.

In their previous three games the Toffees almost threw away a two-goal lead and all the points at Fulham, then couldn’t cope with a vibrant and determined Leeds United at Goodison Park before having to come from behind to secure a point at lowly Burnley.

It didn’t bode too well for the visit of a confident and free-scoring Chelsea on Saturday. But of course the Blues responded with what was in my view their best performance of the season and bagged a deserved and important three points.

I say this was the team’s best performance because of the context. Everton were missing three hugely important first-choice players; both full-backs Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne as well as forward James Rodriguez.

Also confidence probably wasn’t high after disappointing recent performances in the defeat to Leeds and the drab draw at Turf Moor.

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The team had been leaking goals far too often and with alarming ease at times and then lined up with yet another new-look defensive backline.

So to win and just as importantly keep a clean sheet as well, was a real achievement. The Toffees played with tremendous energy and commitment and withstood some heavy Chelsea pressure, especially after they had taken the lead through Gylfi Sigurdsson’s first-half penalty.

It was a real old-school type of performance, playing with their backs to the wall, defending in numbers and with real tenacity and determination.

The Blues didn’t offer that much of an attacking threat, but they still had a few good chances on the break and might have added to their lead with a bit more luck.

Historically the best of Everton teams have combined silky football with grit, energy and the ability to win games playing ugly at times. The great eighties side were able to do exactly that.

The fact that a contingent of Evertonians were at last back at the grand old lady, added further to that traditional feel. Yes there were only 2,000 of them but as Carlo Ancelotti indicated it sounded like a lot more and the players did seem to respond.

There were some terrific individual efforts. Micheal Keane was immense, tackling, blocking and clearing the ball while both emergency full-backs Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey were excellent working hard to support their centre-backs and providing an outlet on the flanks.

Even Jordan Pickford was pretty solid – apart from one moment of madness where he flapped at a high ball –  and made some superb saves to keep the Londoners out.

And in midfield the two workhorses Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure put in energetic and relentlessly determined performances.

While it will be hard to sustain that effort all the time (and certainly it would be good to see a bit more creativity from the side), the ability to battle and secure points even when your not playing well is an important quality, especially in this period of such congested fixtures.

This quality is particularly useful when your playing games back-to-back and so won’t necessarily have your best players available and can’t always produce your best form.

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Now the challenge for the Blues is to try and maintain that level of commitment and energy in the upcoming games against Leicester City on Wednesday and then Arsenal on Saturday.