New signing Theo Walcott was handed a first start in an Everton shirt by Toffees boss Sam Allardyce and the former Arsenal star conjured up a timely assist for Oumar Niasse to rifle home a second-half equaliser in the 1-1 draw with West Brom.
The £20m man, signed from the north London club this week, played his first full 90 minutes in the Premier League this season as the Toffees ended a run of three straight league defeats.
Walcott was perhaps a little match rusty but an assist on his first outing at Goodison Park was a fine way to see in his career on Merseyside.
Here, we focus on his performance.
Goals – 0
Assists – 1
Shots – 1
Dribbles – 1
Passes – 26
Crosses – 4 (1 – accurate)
Key passes – 1
Pass Accuracy – 76.9%
Touches – 51
Dispossessed – 3
Given Everton hadn’t mustered a shot on target in their two previous Premier League matches going into this one and lost their last three league fixtures, Walcott was hardly coming into a team full of attacking confidence.
As it was, Allardyce employed the former Southampton prodigy on his favoured right wing in support of main striker Cenk Tosun – who was also making his Goodison Park debut – while Nikola Vlasic started from the left and Gylfi Sigurdsson had his usual central role.
From the early stages, Walcott showed intent with plenty of energy about his performance by closing down regularly and not being afraid to put in a tackle as he went up against former Arsenal team-mate Kieran Gibbs.
As a result, he didn’t have too many moments where he could really utilise his pace and run into space but he delivered four crosses – more than any other player on the pitch – and was unlucky not to find Turk Tosun in the opening period.
For Everton, the feeling of having Walcott’s pace in the team seemed to give everyone a lift – even if he wasn’t able to fully utilise it.
However, for the first hour, Walcott, as well as his team-mates, cut frustrated figures as Everton struggled to find any kind of cutting edge. But the introduction of Rooney for James McCarthy – who sustained a terrible double leg break – gave the hosts an added attacking dimension and the Blues threw more caution to the wind.
The 28-year-old winger certainly benefited from that and Oumar Niasse’s introduction in the 69th minute, with both the Senegalese and Rooney naturally improving Walcott’s link-up options. The three combined to great effect for the goal and from there Walcott seemed to grow with confidence.
Indeed, he troubled West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster late on with a dipping volley.
Walcott hadn’t started a Premier League match all season until Saturday and showed strong fitness levels to keep going right until the death.
18th minute: Walcott (4) was actually failed more than any other player on the pitch for Everton as West Brom tried to get tight to him early on.
27th minute: Nice turn of pace and managed to zip a ball across the penalty area from the right-hand side but there was no one there to get on the end of it.
46th minute – BOOKED: The Goodison crowd will always support wholehearted commitment but Walcott almost pushed that too far when just before half-time, he was yellow carded for a studs up challenge on Grzegorz Krychowiak. There was minimal contact in the end but it could well have been much worse.
55th minute: Beats Krychowiak for pace with a clever run heading into the box but end product is scarce.
70th minute – ASSIST: Peeled away from Gibbs and latched onto Rooney’s clever diagonal pass to the back post, before heading the ball back across goal for Niasse to smash in from close range. Telling contribution.
75th minute – SHOT: Dipping, sweetly-struck volley stung the palms of Foster and would have found the back of the net if the shot wasn’t straight at the goalkeeper.
While Walcott’s first Everton outing wasn’t a stunning one by any stretch of the imagination, it’s clear to see why he chose to move to the Blues and why he will also prove to be an excellent coup by the club.
The fresh start and new lease of life seems to be exactly what he needed, with Walcott offering pace and direct attacking play – two key attributes Everton have been missing all season.
It’s a clean slate and good opportunity for the winger to prove and fulfil his full potential, particularly with the backing of Allardyce – a man who rates him highly.
The key for Walcott will be staying fit – and if he can do that – he can quickly become a key player for this Everton side.
The ex-Gunner, himself, dismissed talk of an England recall before this match and while Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate was actually at Goodison Park, a return to the international fold shouldn’t be discussed anytime soon.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said that the Chile international could be involved if the deal had not been completed, but he was again omitted.
Unlike last week, however, when Arsenal lost 2-1 at Bournemouth without the forward, his team-mates made light work of his absence here against a poor Palace side.
Luka Milivojevic struck a consolation for visitors as Wenger’s side won their first match of 2018 to move within five points of the Premier League top four.
Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere both shone in a side which could soon boast more attacking options, should Henrikh Mkhitaryan join as part of the Sanchez deal, while Borussia Dortmund officials confirmed an enquiry had been made about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
That sort of firepower was not required to beat an out-of-sorts Palace, who could hold out for just six minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
Iwobi had the game’s first chance, but saw his shot tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and from the resulting corner Monreal arrived unmarked to head home Granit Xhaka’s delivery with ease.
The second goal was not long in coming as Monreal turned provider for Iwobi and the Nigeria international stretched out to steer a low cross past the helpless Hennessey.
Roy Hodgson watched on glumly as Arsenal added another from their next corner as the static Palace defence allowed Monreal to drift it at the back post and cross for the fit-again Koscielny to bundle in a third.
Arsenal were in complete control and it showed with the superb move which led to them moving four goals ahead at the midway point of the first half.
Wilshere picked up the ball in plenty of space and fed Ozil, whose deft flick was perfect for Lacazette to slot home his first goal since the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United on December 2.
Palace finally forced Petr Cech into his first save, but it was a routine one for the Arsenal goalkeeper as Bakary Sako’s shot was a weak one.
Monreal’s afternoon came to an end as he limped off with a hamstring injury, with Cech making a superb save to push a deflected Wilfried Zaha shot behind before the break.
Arsenal were a little wasteful at the start of the second half, but still created chances, Iwobi coming close to a second only for Hennessey to make a smart stop.
Cech produced a similar save at the other end as Christian Benteke found himself free on goal, but his wait for a 200th Premier League clean sheet continued as Milivojevic pulled a goal back with a well-taken volley.
Yohan Cabaye was taken off on a stretcher in the closing stages as Arsenal cruised to a much-needed win.
A fine finish in the 54th minute from Martial saw the visitors cut Manchester City‘s lead at the top of the Premier League table to nine points ahead of their clash against Newcastle at the Etihad stadium later in the day.
Here’s what we learned from United’s narrow win against Burnley.
MARTIAL FORM DOES NOT BODE WELL FOR RASHFORD
Anthony Martial is in scintillating form at the moment, scoring in three consecutive league games now and providing an assist over that time as well. However, it’s not just about the stats, the Frenchman has turned a corner of late and shown real maturity, becoming United’s chief threat in attack.
His goal on the day was well taken as well but he could’ve had more. While he was rotated with Marcus Rashford for much of the season, he appears to have now overtaken the Englishman in Jose Mourinho’s eyes.
It’s going to be a daunting task for Rashford to earn his place in the first eleven now given the impending arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal.
Jesse Lingard’s position could also be under threat with Sanchez capable of playing in behind the striker. Either way, Martial has done well to establish himself in the first team and perhaps even be rendered indispensable.
SERIOUS COMPETITION AT LEFT-BACK
After been left out in the cold for the first half of the season, Luke Shaw has been a regular for United over the last month with Ashley Young out injured. Mourinho even went as far as to claim that there aren’t many better left-back’s around than the young Englishman.
Despite that proclamation, Shaw was dropped to the bench for the Burnley game as soon as Young returned to fold with the Portuguese explaining his preference for ‘experience’ in such a fixture.
He wasn’t wrong. Young came in and did an exceptional job, hardly putting a foot wrong, especially towards the end when the visitors were under the cosh.
The 32-year-old hasn’t lost his effectiveness in attack either, going closest to scoring for United in the first half with a fine effort that went agonisingly wide.
Having said that, Shaw’s recent performances won’t be forgotten in a hurry and we can expect a real battle for that full-back spot, especially with the youngster gunning for a place in England’s World Cup squad this summer.
Mourinho: “I’m really happy with Luke. As I said yesterday I don’t need to go to the transfer market to get a left-back because I’m really happy with Luke and the adaptation of Ashley Young.” #MUFC
— Manchester United (@MUFCScoop) January 20, 2018
UNITED STILL LACKING KILLER INSTINCT
Mourinho has moaned about United lacking the ability to kill off games for 18 months now and it’s something they continue to struggle with.
They had numerous opportunities to wrap up the three points in the final 15 minutes but were sloppy with the final ball and made poor decisions.
On one occasion, Paul Pogba did ever so well to stride forward with the ball, beat a defender on the edge of the box but then with Martial on his own to his left, he chose to shoot and saw his effort blocked by the Burnley defender closing him down.
United were left clinging on to their slender one-goal advantage in the closing stages and had to endure some nervy moments. Perhaps the arrival of Sanchez will help in terms of them being more ruthless in front of goal?