Derby draw gives real positives for Everton to build on for season

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Vitalii Mykolenko of Everton and Mohamed Salah of Liverpool in action during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC at Goodison Park on September 3, 2022 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Vitalii Mykolenko of Everton and Mohamed Salah of Liverpool in action during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC at Goodison Park on September 3, 2022 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

Everton drew 0-0 with Liverpool in yesterday’s 241st Merseyside Derby and while the team is still searching for it’s first win, there were plenty of real positives to take forward.

The match yesterday lunchtime was a breathless game seeing chances for both Everton and Liverpool to win it and with the two goalkeepers exhibiting their world class abilities.

While the Toffees’ need to claim that first win (and thought they might have before VAR’s intervention) there were a lot of good things to see from the performance.

Most of all the Blues’ kept their shape well and continued to compete high up the pitch rather than dropping deeper and deeper as they so often have done in the past.

That meant that the home team could also create chances late on rather than being squeezed back, conceding possession and momentum, as usually happened in past derbies and so many other games.

This is partly a consequence of Frank Lampard sticking to the 4-3-3 formation he first went to this season at Leeds on Tuesday. The manager showed confidence in his players and they repaid him with superbly disciplined performances.

Conor Coady and James Tarkowski were strong and decisive at centre-back while both full-backs generally contained their dangerous opponents, Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz respectively. They also still got forward at times, especially in the case of Nathan Patterson.

The young Scot has grown immensely over the last few weeks as he faced a baptism of fire starting in the Premier League having never played a minute in the league since he joined from Rangers last January.

Everyone knew that he was a talented attacking talent but Patterson has also provided plenty of evidence that he can defend too. It is still early in his career, but he looks like a complete modern full-back.

In midfield there was certainly evidence yesterday that at last the Toffees’ have the resources to compete with the best teams in the engine room.

Amadou Onana is a tremendous young talent who worked tirelessly from box-to-box, winning tackles and getting forward with power and energy.

He had an early chance in the Liverpool box too, showing his potential to create and supply goals. This will be very important for the Blues’ over the course of the season to have goal-scoring support from midfield.

One other player who excelled in midfield hasn’t recently joined, but it does feel like he is a new signing, and that is Alex Iwobi.

The ex-Arsenal youth team product has had a very difficult time since he moved north to Goodison Park in 2019.

Many Evertonians, including me, have in the past called for Iwobi to go after one lacklustre performance after another under a succession of past managers. He looked like a very expensive failed signing, one of so many in the recent past.

Since Lampard took over, Iwobi has been transformed. He has shown a degree of determination, consistency and quality that I never imagined we would see from him.

Dropping into central midfield has been a very successful move for him and the team. After a succession of excellent performances, in the derby he was again full of running closing down Liverpool players and looking to play the ball positively.

Sometimes his passing is still wayward but if he can keep playing with this intensity and consistency, he provides another unexpected option in the engine room.

And then, Idrissa Gueye came on for his second Everton debut. He immediately showed his class and experience and will provide great support for the younger midfielders.

There is also new signing James Garner, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure in reserve the last two of whom were certain starters a year ago.

So we come to the attack. This is the one area where I still have significant concerns.

New signing Neal Maupay started at last and while he was a little rusty having basically not played this season, he still worked very hard, held the ball up successfully and provided a goal threat.

He could and probably should have scored, and might have if Coady hadn’t intervened to slot home his shot, which was ultimately ruled out.

A fully fit Maupay will provide real energy, pressing and the instincts and finishing ability of a striker, something desperately needed with Dominic Calvert-Lewin still out.

Hopefully, Calvert-Lewin will return perhaps next weekend, although I wouldn’t bet on it. However, his injury problems are obvious and likely to continue and given that I think it’s almost certain he will be out again for a while, at least once more this season.

I still feel the Toffees’ needed another forward in before the window shut. The lack of cutting edge up front could still undermine Everton’s efforts this season. We will see.

So, overall a lot of good positive things to build on as this long and hard campaign continues. The next thing needed is that first three points, as soon as possible.