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Gomes return gives Everton boost despite defeat

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Everton lost the first game of a gauntlet four-game swing, losing 3-2 at Arsenal despite leading inside two minutes of the match. But while Everton left the Emirates without any points, it gained a massive boost with the return of Andre Gomes.

The Portuguese central midfielder, signed from Barcelona, made his return to the field on Sunday off the bench in the 59th minute for his first game since suffering a gruesome injury on November 3 against Tottenham. Gomes appeared to break his leg after a sliding tackle from behind from Heung-Min Son, but in less than four months, Gomes is now back in action.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

“I need to thank everybody. The team, they were great, my supporters, Evertonions, and also in general football supporters, everyone has been wonderful with me,” Gomes said after the Arsenal match. “(It) gives (me) confidence when you feel like you have the support of the people. I just pushed myself to the my limit, I wanted to be back as soon as possible, and I’m glad I have the help of everybody around me.”

This is huge for Everton and head coach Carlo Ancelotti. Without Gomes, and the oft-injured Fabian Delph (though Delph started against Arsenal), Everton really lacked pace and power in the center of midfield. Morgan Schneiderlin is a decent passer but doesn’t have the pace required for the Premier League, and then Ancelotti was dropping Gylfi Sigurdsson further back in midfield to play alongside Schneiderlin or Delph.

With Gomes back in contention for a starting spot, Ancelotti can play Sigurdsson closer to the opposing goal and partner him with either Delph or the still-young Tom Davies, who can do even more running to win the ball back and get it to Gomes.

“He did really well without problem,” Ancelotti said post game. “(He was) very strong in the tackle. The player is really important for us and he will play next game.”

Looking forward, it’s also huge for Everton to get Gomes back because they’re in the middle of one of the season’s toughest stretches. After facing Arsenal today, Everton hosts Manchester United, visits Chelsea, and then hosts Liverpool on Monday, March 16 in the Merseyside Derby.

Holgate, Pickford save Everton in draw with West Ham

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Issa Diop traded goals in Everton’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The draw has David Moyes‘ West Ham a point outside the drop zone, while 11th place Everton moves seven clear with 29 points.


Three things we learned

1. Toffees bailed out by Holgate, Pickford: Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford‘s last few weeks have been as good as he’s played since his Sunderland days, and he made a pair of incredible saves for the Toffees. But his young center back Mason Holgate was the star, with an assist on Calvert-Lewin’s goal and a key block to go with seven clearances and much more (See MOTM, below).

2. Calvert-Lewin sums up Toffees’ uneven play: The tempestuous young striker got another goal, but Everton’s point came mostly through Pickford and Holgate. Calvert-Lewin got his headed goal but also as many fouls (3) as chances created. His quick post-match comments really fit the bill.

“I thought today we under-performed. It was disappointing not to play to our strengths. We got ourselves back into the game but should have gone on from there and won it. I am happy to get on the scoresheet and get the point but I thought we could have performed better.”

3. Snodgrass is class: The 32-year-old Scot continues to turn back the clock for West Ham, providing power and craft in producing three goals and three assists this season. All of those score sheet moments have come in the Irons last 13 matches.

Man of the Match: Holgate’s assist was great, but how about seven-for-seven in ground duels, two blocked shots, a goal line clearance, and four interceptions. Fantastic stuff.


Tom Davies was stripped at midfield, leading to in-form Robert Snodgrass curling a shot to Jordan Pickford.

Snodgrass set up Pablo Zabaleta for a classy chest trap and volley, but Mason Holgate blocked the shot wide of the near post.

Lucas Digne gave the ball away to Mark Noble, who sent Sebastien Haller through the goal. Pickford made a fine leg save as Haller aimed to go low and near post.

Theo Walcott blew a chance to make it 1-0 when Digne spotted the ex-Arsenal star, who flubbed a ball right to Darren Randolph.

The Irons got their deserved lead through an Issa Diop header of Snodgrass’ free kick in the 40th, but Calvert-Lewin got one of his own from a Digne corner kick moments later.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Pickford made an incredible save in stoppage time to keep it 1-1, reaching low to paw away a point-blank Irons chance.

The English keeper than slapped a deflected shot wide in the second half.

Stalemate between Everton, Arsenal

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Everton and Arsenal played out a dour 0-0 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday, as both teams had their new managers watching on from the stands.

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Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta are now in charge of Everton and Arsenal respectively and will have been far from impressed with what they saw as interim managers Duncan Ferguson and Freddie Ljungberg tried their best, but both teams failed to create clear cut chances.

With the point Everton now have 19 for the season but remain just above the relegation zone, while Arsenal move on to 23 points.


3 things we learned

1. Players distracted as new managers watch on: With Arteta and Ancelotti in the stands, both sets of players looked nervous. It was as though they were involved in a very, very public job interview and a lot of the players were trying to do things they weren’t comfortable with. That resulted in a very poor game, lacking in quality and specializing in nerves. Both new managers will have plenty to mull over in the coming days as they aim to push their teams up the table.

2. Arsenal’s kids are okay: Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Joe Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli all started and all played their part in a gritty away display for the Gunners. The kids played well in the second half against Man City last week and perhaps new manager Arteta will be best served to give them an extended run in the team in the coming weeks and months. Aubameyang was taken off in the second half and the likes of Lacazette, Ozil and Pepe have failed to get going in recent months, so it may be down to the kids to drag Arsenal out of this situation.

3. Big Dunc signs off unbeaten: Interim boss Duncan Ferguson can hold his head high as he prepares for a position on Ancelotti’s staff. The Everton legend beat Chelsea and drew against Man United and Arsenal in his three PL games in charge, plus the Toffees draw 2-2 against Leicester in the League Cup quarterfinals, only to lose on penalty kicks. Ferguson will be back and he is a man of the people and gave his sweatband, tie and everything else away as he walked off the pitch at the end of the game. After Ancelotti, he has shown he can be the next man up for the Toffees as he galvanized a struggling squad of players to dig deep and restore some pride. The way he subbed off the sub Cenk Tosun will rub many the wrong way, and he did it with Moise Kean last week too, but Ferguson isn’t messing around and he has high standards which the Toffees lived up to.

Man of the Match: Calum Chambers – Dug deep defensively, looked solid at the heart of Arsenal’s defense and dealt with the threat of Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and Tosun well.


Both teams were tentative on the ball early with their new managers watching on, and the first big moment was Alex Iwobi coming off injured with what looked like a slight hamstring pull. His replacement, Cenk Tosun, flashed an effort over the bar with his first touch of the game as Everton started to build a head of steam.

Richarlison had a shot blocked and Gylfi Sigurdsson curled a free kick just wide as Arsenal struggled to get out of their own half. Tom Davies crossed for Tosun but it was too powerful for the Turkish striker to get a decent effort on target, then Gabriel Martinelli raced clear at the other end but smashed wide as Arsenal had their first chance of the game right on half time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the start of the second half Richarlison flashed an effort just wide of the far post as Everton continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock.

Jordan Pickford then made a really good save as Calum Chamber’s flick on found Aubameyang at the back post but Everton’s goalkeeper clawed the ball out. Emile Smith Rowe then should have got a shot away but Aubameyang slipped as he tried to finish as the Gunners finally got going.

Everton finished the game strongly as Dominic Calvert-Lewin had a shot which was blocked by Lucas Torreira in the box, as VAR checked for a handball but nothing was given.

Cenk Tosun was subbed off late on after coming on as a sub, as Moise Kean came on and Tosun was far from happy with the decision from Ferguson.

The final minutes were scrappy and summed up the full 90 as both teams huffed and puffed without really throwing caution to the wind.

League Cup: Man Utd, Man City, Leicester win

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Manchester City, Manchester United, and Leicester City joined Aston Villa in the League Cup semifinals with very different wins in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Man City will face crosstown rivals United, while Villa draws Leicester City for two legs in January.


Manchester United 3-0 Colchester United

Marcus Rashford made amends for a sloppy first half by dominating the second 45 for the hosts, as Manchester United won at Old Trafford.

Rashford had a goal and an assist, while Anthony Martial scored to join a visitors’ own goal on the scoreboard.

Oxford United 1-3 Manchester City

The kids were alright, though Raheem Sterling was the star of a Man City’s 3-1 win over its League One hosts.

There was a scare for City when Matty Taylor scored an equalizer just after halftime. Sterling scored off Angelino and Gabriel Jesus assists in the 50th and 70th minute to produce a berth in the semis.

Joao Cancelo scored the opener in the 22nd minute off a Phil Foden feed.

Everton 2-2 (2-4 pens) Leicester City

Duncan Ferguson‘s men scored an emotional comeback win thanks to a thunderous Leighton Baines equalizer late at Goodison Park.

James Maddison and Jonny Evans scored twice in three first half minutes.

Leicester looked prepared to cruise into the semifinals, but Tom Davies scored in the 70th before Baines hit his wonder strike.

Goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Kasper Schmeichel saved the first two penalties, and Schmeichel made it 2-for-2 to put the visitors in charge.

Everton: What was different, and what’s the way forward?

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Everton got off the mat in style on Saturday, three days after a mistake-filled 5-2 loss to its Merseyside rivals.

While that loss wasn’t necessarily as bad as it looked on the score board, it was wretched at the back and enough to warrant a change at manager.

[ RECAP: Everton shock poor Chelsea ]

Duncan Ferguson took the reins at Goodison Park, and things were much improved in a 3-1 defeat of Chelsea.

What was different? Plenty, though most came in the form of personnel performances rather than changes (Also, Chelsea was terrible, but that negates little for an Everton side which had been insipid against inferior competition to Saturday’s visitors).

1) The Formation: Duncan Ferguson opted for a straight-forward 4-2-3-1 that often came closer to your traditional 4-4-2. The Toffees hemorrhaged possession but pounded away at the Chelsea attackers and counted on their swift, talented attackers to do their damage with limited chances. Call it the Newcastle United model. With Chelsea a bit off, it played out perfectly for Ferguson.

“Who knows? A new face, a new voice, a new message, who knows? These things just happen in football and the players give a reaction when they lose a manager.

“I think that’s right. What we really need at this club is the work ethic, the team really needs to work their absolute socks off. The fans really got behind us and believe me that gets you an extra goal.”

2) The Force: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, given the stage and his track record, had the game of his life. That’s not exaggeration. The 22-year-old had six shots, two goals, and won 10 aerial battles. That’s exactly what’s required given the formation and tactics outlined in Point No. 1. After scoring three goals in four matches a month ago, “DCL” had been very poor and flubbed his chances against Liverpool. This was a beauty, and Calvert-Lewin was clearly playing for his coach.

“It was a massive game for us and I have a very close relationship with Duncan. He has stuck by me for the three years I have known him. The most important thing was to go out and give 100%.”

I mean, that’s always the most important thing, but we can’t blame a 22-year-old for trading on the cliche market.

3) Other changes: Ferguson took a risk in deploying Morgan Schneiderlin over Tom Davies. The former had been one of the Toffees worst statistical players this year, while Davies is a hometown kid who had admittedly been very poor for the better part of a month. Schneiderlin wasn’t great in passing, but was steadier than the kid and won six tackles. When Davies came into the match, he wasn’t great but was more advanced and his lone positive contribution was a big one:

Yerry Mina missed the match through injury, which may’ve played a role in Ferguson’s decision to go to four at the back, but the difference in defense was down to both Mason Holgate and Michael Keane playing dramatically better. Keane especially, having not been credited with a single tackle in the loss to Everton.

We should save some space for Jordan Pickford, whose passing stats suffered from a directive to “get the ball out of there ASAP” but registered three saves in an improved performance. Pickford hasn’t been steady for his club — incredible against West Ham, terrible versus Liverpool and Brighton, and if he can eliminate the bad days and be just a bit above average he can be a big difference. Steadier work from the backs will help that.

And really that’s what will fix the Toffees. The attack hasn’t been amazing but it hasn’t been relegation worthy. And frankly the backs have not been awful, allowing the third-fewest attempts per match in the league, but have been prone to absolutely horrendous mistakes that left Pickford on an island. The less the keeper is in damage control, the higher Everton can rise.

4) So Big Dunc? Given the immediate road ahead, Ferguson’s approach and passion could give the club the leeway to wait a few weeks to make sure it hires a steady, experienced hand considering their long-term goals. Ferguson might be a name for the future, but as we outlined earlier this week… European spots remain there for the taking! Their next few matches provide chances to directly affect teams above them, with Manchester United at Old Trafford and Arsenal visiting Goodison. There’s also an opportunity to beat Leicester City and get to a League Cup semifinal.

Those are two routes to Europe right in front of the Toffees. Ferguson’s Brucian (or Benitezian) tactics and system can give them a chance to get two or three points from the league matches, and certainly can be enough to out-duel the Foxes at home. And you might say, so maybe he’s the man! Don’t look past what the club means to him. But in the long run, the talent and ambition of Everton needs a sustained system that isn’t just about “grinding it out.” Maybe Ferguson can supply that but is that a risk to take now, with Arsenal, Manchester United, and Spurs all wobbling in ways you wouldn’t expect in a given season? A commitment to working hard is just the first step to success.