It was a tale of two halves for Everton at Craven Cottage.
After a brilliant attacking display in the first half in which the Toffees tallied three times with a brace from Golden Boot leader Dominic Calvert-Lewin and a maiden Everton goal for Abdoulaye Doucouré, they limped across the finish line with all three points after what can only be described as an abysmal second-half performance.
The movement in the first period was fluid and the link-up play was phenomenal, especially between Lucas Digne, Abdoulaye Doucouré, and Richarlison, but all of that seemed to magically disappear after halftime.
Everton struggled to get a sniff of any possession at all in the second half, let alone the attacking forays they embarked upon in the first half. Fulham were first to every loose ball and increased their defensive pressure significantly, not allowing James or Richarlison any time on the ball before they both tired greatly and were hooked off by Carlo Ancelotti.
It’s an important three points for Everton nonetheless, but Carlo Ancelotti has plenty of work to do to ensure that Everton can play the way they did in the first half for a full 90 minutes next week.
Here are my player ratings for Fulham 2-3 Everton.
Yerry Mina was, in my opinion, the worst Everton player on the pitch (bar Sigurdsson). The first goal was hugely down to him and the fact that he stood still in the box instead of sliding over to cut off the pass from Tom Cairney led directly to the goal. He didn’t look any more assured in the second half and lost possession a multitude of times. When Mason Holgate is fully fit and can fully adjust to being back in the midst of a frantic Premier League season, I think he should immediately replace Mina in the starting XI.
The only times I even noticed Michael Keane was on the pitch was during his couple of adventurous runs forward. The fact that I can’t really remember anything about his performance directly after Full Time tells me that he couldn’t have made any egregious errors. The fact that nothing sticks out could definitely be a good thing, but he still played a part in a backline that really struggled throughout the whole game.
Despite being beaten for pace by Ademola Lookman during the immediate build-up to Loftus-Cheek’s goal, Lucas Digne’s attacking exploits in the first half are too much to overlook. He was simply sensational in the first period, notching two assists on top of some gorgeous build-up play on the left flank with Doucoure and Richarlison. He could have had about 5 assists if Everton’s forwards were more clinical (looking at you Richarlison), but he wasn’t really released down the wing in the second half at all. I don’t really think it was his fault, however, because Everton never kept the ball long enough for him to get forward. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for the second half because his first-half display was simply sensational.
At half-time, I probably would have given Alex Iwobi a 9, but his performance dropped off significantly after the intermission. He was playing in an entirely new position at RWB today and took to it supremely well. He was directly involved in Everton’s second goal and consistently beat multiple Fulham players on the dribble while driving into the middle from the right flank. In the second half, however, he looked a bit aimless and had quite a few sloppy clearances and giveaways. He still made his way forward well, but unfortunately had very little support. Overall, it was a much better performance by Iwobi than anything we’ve seen from him in quite a while, and I have no problem with him retaining his spot at right wing-back if Carlo Ancelotti chooses to continue with the back five.
It was an up and down performance from Allan today. There were periods where he dominated the midfield area and periods where he was chasing shadows. His influence waned to non-existence in the second half and Everton were clearly being overrun in midfield during the last half hour or so of the game. During his short Everton career, Allan has shown his ability, but I feel he has not reached the consistency throughout matches that he would have liked. This isn’t the first time where he has been in and out of games, but if he can maintain his level of performance for a full 90 minutes, he will be considered one of the best holding midfielders in the league.
Abdoulaye Doucouré – 7.5
It was a similar situation for Abdoulay Doucoure today, who had a lot to do today considering it was just a midfield two today. I thought he played quite well and made a number of important interceptions and clearances in the second half. He was one of the only Everton players who played relatively well in the second half. On top of that, he ended up scoring the winning goal with an unmarked header in the box which he dispatched into Areola’s goal with no mistake. It was good to see him finally get on the score sheet, and I expect more goals from him in the future. Giving him the freedom to move more vertically could be a real weapon for the Toffees, and I hope Carlo Ancelotti finds a way to best utilize his abilities.
Like everyone else, James was very good in the first half and dropped off in the second. He had the “hockey assist” on the second and third goals with lovely passes out to Lucas Digne whose delivery did the rest. The third goal specifically was a lovely bit of play from the Colombian, who delicately placed a pass with the outside of his boot on a plate for the left-back to cross to Doucoure. In the second half, however, he was almost a total non-factor and struggled to keep the ball and string together any meaningful passes. He looked tired by the end of the match, which is understandable considering the number of matches he has been playing for both club and country.
Richarlison (Off 76′) – 6.5
It was quite obvious what Everton were missing during the last three game weeks when Richarlison picked the ball up off a turnover, drove into the box, and played it across the box for DCL to score after just 41 seconds. His energy and drive picked up right where they left off before his suspension, but I do feel his end product left quite a bit to be desired today. He should have scored twice, firstly when he telegraphed his shot from inside the box and forced Areola into what should have been a much more difficult save, and secondly when he completely missed the ball after Lucas Digne cut it back almost perfectly for him to smash home. Nonetheless, it was fantastic to have him back, and his influence in the Everton attack is incredibly apparent.
If you had told me one year ago that Dominic Calvert-Lewin would be leading the Golden Boot race with 10 goals after 9 games in the 2020/21 season, I would have laughed in your face, but the now England international’s transformation under Ancelotti continues to be absolutely remarkable. His first goal today was a bit fortunate, but he yet again was in the right place at the right time. The same fact rang true for the second goal, which he effortlessly slammed home from Digne’s cross. He also had a goal correctly disallowed for offside, but the finish on that one was yet another example of how far he has come. Whatever he touches goes in, it seems, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player’s end product come so far in so little time before. He continues to be the talisman for this team, and that shows no signs of stopping. He also showed some fantastic strength and hold up play despite being very isolated up top for almost the entire second half. It’s hard to believe how much he has improved every aspect of his game in the past year or so.
Gylfi Sigurdsson is useless. He was woeful despite playing only 14 minutes. I’d rather literally anyone else on the bench come on. Play Robin Olsen outfield instead for all I care. He has no mobility, no positivity, no creativity, and no drive. The only positive thing about him the anyone on Twitter has mustered up is that he provides good delivery from set-pieces, but the one corner he took after coming on today was horrendous. I was absolutely fuming when I saw it. I can comfortably say that I never want to see Sigurdsson wear an Everton shirt again.