Everton claimed a big three points on the road yesterday with a hard fought but well-deserved 1-0 win at West Ham United.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored the only goal of the game and it was enough for the Toffees to secure their third win on the road this season.
However, while Calvert-Lewin’s goal made the difference and he led the line superbly, it was the Everton defence that ultimately enabled the team to win the match.
Thoughout the game the Blues backline held firm, although it has to be said that West Ham didn’t really offer that much of a consistant threat.
But even so the Hammers had their moments and with players such as Jarrad Bowen and Lucas Paqueta there was a constant possible danger.
Scottish international Nathan Patterson returned to the side at right-back following Ashley Young’s red card at Liverpool last weekend.
Patterson had an up and down game and while he had some good moments, he also struggled at times and dived in on a few occasions giving away free-kicks.
As I’ve said before, Patterson needs time I think to develop and improve. Unlike Jarrad Branthwaite for example, the 21-year-old Scot hasn’t had a spell on loan to help him grow in confidence and consistancy.
We also need to see more from him in attack as he has the ability to provide genuine width and creativty getting down the flank.
In addition, while I want to see Patterson getting the nod, Sean Dyche has his veteran captain Seamus Coleman (who is nearing a return) to fall back on.
On the other side Vitalii Mykolenko continued his excellent form on Sunday as he comfortably shackled West Ham’s attacking threats, as he had with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah last Saturday.
Along with others I had questioned whether Mykolenko was up to the job in the past but he has been proving us wrong recently. Now he has to continue with that level of defensive work.
The only downside with him is that he doesn’t offer much going forward putting more pressure on whoever pays in front of him to contribute enough offensively.
Moving into the centre of defence and both Branthwaite and James Tarkowski performed with great resolution and concentration.
Tarkowski was his usual ultra-reliable self making challenges, winning the ball and doing all the basics well.
Branthwaite continued his outstanding form and produced another consumate and basically error-free performance.
The former PSV Eindhoven player has in just a few weeks become undroppable and is in my view as good a centre-back as there is in the Premier League.
He has everything; pace, great ability in the air, total ease in possession and is a superb tackler who also seems to really relish the dirty work of defending.
One example of his ability and anticipation was the way he stepped up and intercepted the ball and then played it forward, which ultimately led to Calvert-Lewin’s goal.
And on top of all that perhaps most of all, he displays so much maturity and level-headed calmness that you might think he had been playing at this level for years.
Finally, in front of this backline is Amadou Onana. The summer 2022 signing has had a rocky time at Goodison Park but recently has begun to find his feet operating as a number six and screening that back four. Perhaps at last he has found his best position.
So, it looks as though Everton have found a strong and stable defence in front of the ever-reliable Jordan Pickford.
If they can maintain this level of form then it should prove a sound foundation for a more sustained improvement in results.