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
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