The curious case of Everton


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Burnley’s win over Everton in the Premier League

This Everton team must have the locals tearing their hair out at home.

Carlo Ancelotti has sparked hope and allowed Everton to dream a little about what this current team might be capable of. However, for every victory over Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea this season, there have been home defeats to Fulham, Newcastle, and now Burnley.

An inability to pick up points against teams struggling towards the bottom of the Premier League may well prove the difference between an acceptable season and a glorious one. For those that have watched the Toffees regularly, they would have seen this limp display in the 2-1 defeat to Burnley coming.

The result was a disappointing one but defeats against sides battling for their lives can happen. What would have riled Ancelotti most was the performance – they were second best all over the pitch against Sean Dyche’s outfit, whose ability to win second balls in midfield set the platform for an impressive victory.

That was epitomised by the opening goal where Tom Davies – the man of the match from the win at Anfield – was caught napping on the ball by Josh Brownhill. It was a moment that summed Everton up: ponderous, and passing without much of a purpose.

Since winning their opening two home games, Everton have won just three of the last 12 at Goodison Park and the Toffees remain sixth, five points off the top four. This was a missed opportunity.
Lewis Jones

Has Aguero’s scoring return come too late?

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win over Fulham in the Premier League

It is just incredible to think that prior to Saturday evening’s trip to west London, Man City striker Sergio Aguero had not found the back of the net in the Premier League since January 2020.

This is the highest overseas goalscorer in Premier League history we are talking about here do not forget, but a combination of injury and Covid have restricted the Argentine’s appearances for City.

But handed a rare start in attack by Pep Guardiola, who made seven changes with one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League last-16, second-leg tie at home to Borussia Monchengladbach, Aguero finally put an end to that barren run.

It may have only been a penalty, however, the 32-year-old’s successful spot-kick on the hour-mark that put his team 3-0 up ended an incredible barren run stretching 417 days, 13 appearances, 641 minutes, and 24 shots without scoring in the league for City.

But whether Aguero’s scoring return will be enough to persuade Guardiola to offer the striker, who captained City at Craven Cottage, an extension to his deal that runs out this summer is another matter entirely.
Richard Morgan

Phillips return offers glimpse of defensive stability

Leeds vs Chelsea highlights


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leeds’ draw with Chelsea in the Premier League

Leeds have kept only two clean sheets against top-half opponents this season, so coming into Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, goals looked likely to be on the agenda. For Chelsea, at least.

The Blues have conceded only twice since Thomas Tuchel took over the club but if you didn’t know better, you would have thought they were the side playing in white at Elland Road.

Leeds were compact without the ball, got back into their shape well, and their defensive trio of Diego Llorente plus the returning Pascal Struijk and Kalvin Phillips restricted Chelsea in attack.

Chelsea clearly targeted left-back Ezgjan Alioski, aiming most of their attacks down the Leeds left, and they regularly had the beating of him. But the final finish eluded the visitors, thanks in large part to the performance of the rest of the home backline.

The Blues had plenty of mobile options in midfield – N’Golo Kante ran the show, and the always energetic Mason Mount made life more difficult for Phillips in particular in his free role. But the midfielder, recently back from a month out with injury, stood tall.

Leeds were generally solid against West Ham last week, but were made to rue individual lapses in concentration which cost them a 2-0 defeat at the London Stadium. Here, having cut out those niggly errors, they finally added a third clean sheet to that top-half tally.

Bielsa’s defence has been leakier than an old watering can this season but these are encouraging signs that things might be improving. If they can keep pushing in the right direction while keeping their free-flowing attacking football, their form, winning one win in their last six games, will surely turn around.
Ron Walker

West Brom’s lack of cutting-edge cost them again

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace’s win over West Brom in the Premier League

It was another blunt performance from West Brom on Saturday. Since Sam Allardyce arrived, they have scored just 10 Premier League goals and none in their last three outings, including against relegation rivals Newcastle and Crystal Palace.

Allardyce has done a good job at tightening West Brom up at the back, but time is running out to fix the issues up front. It was a similar story in that their play was wonderful – right up until it came time to find the back of the net.

The Baggies had 12 shots, but only one was on target with Vicente Guaita barely challenged. Matt Phillips, Connor Gallagher and Matheus Pereira were all guilty of firing wide – 50 per cent of West Brom’s effort were off target.

On the whole, Mbaye Diagne has made a good start to life in the Premier League but he was largely ineffective as the big target man up front. The Palace defence had done their homework and crowded him out with any given chance.

With nine games to play, it’s looking like a monumental task to remain in the Premier League and Allardyce is on the precipice of his first-ever Premier League relegation. The West Brom manager is well aware that a lack of firepower up front could cost his side.

He told Sky Sports: “You need a natural goalscorer and when you have one, he finds a way to be in the right area and he doesn’t need more than one or two opportunities to score a goal. Lots of teams down there [at the bottom of the Premier League] in our position find that it is their ultimate problem where you struggle to get the finishing touches because you haven’t really got an out-and-out goalscorer. That makes life very difficult for you.

“Everything about what we’re doing now is defending superbly well, although we could have avoided the penalty. Our football up until the final third is excellent, our balls into the box maybe could be better but they’re coming, and the chances are there where we need more responsibly with not just scoring, but hitting the target… When you keep missing the target, it’s the most disappointing thing for me.

“There are 27 points available and 20 needed [to stay up]. We can only afford to drop seven points if we really want to be safe. Mathematically, we’re not down yet and we’ll keep on fighting and stuff like that, but it’s a massive mountain to climb.”
Charlotte Marsh

Late drama doesn’t mask missed opportunity for Newcastle



FREE HIGHLIGHTS: Highlights from Newcastle’s draw against Aston Villa in the Premier League

Steve Bruce’s Newcastle are three games unbeaten, they stay outside of the relegation zone this weekend with Fulham losing to Manchester City, and they rescued a point deep into stoppage-time against Aston Villa.

Yet that doesn’t mean it was a good result at St James Park. It feels like a missed opportunity for Bruce’s men – and one they could ill-afford.

At 0-0, Joelinton opted to try and find a teammate rather than shoot while Jacob Murphy crashed a shot against the bar when presented with a glorious chance. Two big openings that Newcastle failed to take. If they had, there is every chance they would have taken all three points.

And they would have been most welcome, given the run of games they have coming up. After next week’s huge relegation clash at Brighton, six of their next seven games are against teams fighting for a European spot. It’s tough to see where three points will come from in that run.

It’s why a home game against an out-of-sorts Villa was the perfect chance for a morale-boosting victory. They may well look back fondly on Jamaal Lascelles’ eqauliser, but if their battle for safety goes down to their final two games against Sheffield United and Fulham, this is an evening they’ll look back on with some regret.
Matt Storey

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