December began with many Blues supporters fearing a pitiful points return in the Premier League and yet, looking forward to the Carabao Cup quarter final tie as being the potential highlight. Well what do we know eh? The month saw five league games yield one draw and four straight wins for 13 points from 15 and a somewhat underwhelming exit from the cup.
An unfortunate start at Turf Moor saw the Blues fall behind inside two minutes and not really get going until the half hour mark before tying the game up right on half time with another cool finish from the man-in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Burnley was also the last time we saw James Rodriguez and coincidentally, with the loss of the playmaking Colombian to injury, much of the supply line to DCL dried up too for the games ahead in December.
Next up in a busy month was the visit to Goodison Park of Chelsea and the surprising call by Carlo Ancelotti to play four centre halves in a back four. A side with no recognised fullback stunned many fans but, far more importantly the Blues defence completely baffled Frank Lampard and his Chelsea side who had no clue as to how to get behind or through this makeshift rearguard. And the Londoners were undone as their goalie, Mendy, took it upon himself to poleaxe DCL and Gylfi Sigurdsson coolly slotted home the resulting penalty kick. With the new defence holding firm, Everton took three points that few had foreseen and Blue spirits were suitably lifted.
A midweek trip to high-flying Leicester saw the same back four with Robin Olsen the last line of defence, and he enjoyed quite a relaxed evening as the Blues blanked the Foxes. A Richarlison shot squirmed through and made Caspar Schmeichel look daft to open the scoring and even after Allan left the game with a hamstring injury, it was Everton looking to secure the game and they did when Mason Holgate bagged his maiden goal for the club after Schmeichel had partly redeemed himself with saves from Michael Keane and DCL. Another three points making it seven from nine and things were looking up.
Just three days later and it was London opposition again as Mikel Arteta and Arsenal came to the Grand Old Lady. Former Bolton defender Holding got a telling deflection on a header from DCL to open the scoring with the OG. Pepe drew the Gunners level from the penalty spot after Tom Davies caught Maitland-Niles with a rash challenge but right on half time, a corner from the left was perfectly flighted to the near post by Gylfi Sigurdsson where it was met by the not inconsiderable forehead of Yerry Mina to restore the lead at the break. Arsenal huffed and puffed in the second half but, like Chelsea and Leicester, were unable to break down Carlo’s new back line, and Everton went to 10 from 12 for the month to date.
The Don restored skipper Seamus Coleman to the line-up for the Carabao Cup tie with Manchester United, and disappointingly the visitors had too much for Everton on the night. It has to be said though that the Blues cause wasn’t helped by the loss of Richarlison with a concussion thanks to the snidey push on him by Fernandes, and Cavani clearly raising his hands to Yerry Mina, neither incident being punished by the officials. Late markers from Cavani and Martial brought the cup dream to an abrupt end, so it was back to the Premier League on Boxing Day for the Blues to regain their new found momentum.
Driving rain and a cold wind at Bramall Lane were hardly the ideal conditions to face a side desperate for its first win of the season but, having quelled the early Sheffield United efforts, Everton steadily took control of the game without completely dominating. The longer the game went on though, it was only the Blues who were going to take the points and so it transpired with ten minutes to go as an attack broke down, the Blues recovered and re-cycled the ball, a cross from Seamus was neatly laid off by Bernard and played on by Abdoulaye Doucoure for Gylfi Sigurdsson to take one touch before placing his shot beyond Ramsdale and inside the far post to take another three points from a fourth successive league victory.
Thirteen points from a possible fifteen, and all achieved without influential players Lucas Digne and James Rodriguez and in part without Allan and Richarlison, and the chance to go top of the table with an 11-goal margin of victory over Manchester City was lost thanks to Covid.All joking aside, the cancellation of the game against City was probably a blessing in disguise as having played six games in just 21 days was undoubtedly a draining schedule on the Everton squad hit hard by injuries.
December saw a total of twenty-one players used with seven featuring in all six games with DCL, Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey three players who played every minute. Well technically, DCL didn’t having been an added-on time change in the Carabao Cup tie. Michael Keane missed his first minutes of the season when he was substituted at Bramall Lane.
To the individual Man of the Match poll winners and Ben Godfrey took the plaudits from the less than inspiring visit to Turf Moor, and he followed it up with another excellent display against Chelsea to take his second MotM on the trot. Leicester away saw an absolute avalanche of votes for the runaway winner Abdoulaye Doucoure before Ben Godfrey again got in on the act with his third MotM against Arsenal. The Carabao Cup exit saw Gylfi Sigurdsson claim top spot in the voting with a solid performance from Tom Davies at Sheffield United seeing him scoop more than double the votes of his nearest rival.
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Having dispensed with the ubiquitous plug for GOT, the forum and polls, let’s get to the golden envelope business and on with the top three vote recipients and the PotM result, and in time honoured fashion, here’s the result in ascending order of the votes cast… with a very clear and we’ve no doubt at all, popular winner.
In third place, on the back of a very welcome return to form, was Daddy-to-be… Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Growing into his career with Everton and shining in the added responsibility of shouldering more of the workload in the enforced absence of Allan and Rodriguez, second place goes to… Abdoulaye Doucoure.
And it gives us great pleasure to announce that on the back of some superb performances in an unaccustomed position, some lung-busting runs and fearless tackling, and securing just under 23% of the total monthly votes, the congratulations go to the GOT Player of the Month for December… Ben Godfrey.