Sam Allardyce wants Everton to build on the impressive momentum at home following Saturday’s convincing victory over Crystal Palace at Goodison.
The Toffees’ ultimately comfortable 3-1 success against Roy Hodgson’s Eagles made it 17 points collected from the 24 up for grabs on home turf since the 4-0 win over West Ham United in November, when Allardyce watched from the stands on the eve of his official unveiling as boss.
Spread across an entire campaign, that form would yield 40 points from home fixtures, two points more than the Blues accumulated on their own patch when finishing fourth in 2004/05.
As he dissected Everton’s latest maximum Goodison Park points haul, Allardyce sought to select a standout performer from his triumphant side... and swiftly realised he had set himself a tricky task.
“There were good performances all round,” Allardyce told evertontv.
“Who do I pick out? Theo [Walcott] for me, Wayne Rooney, Tom Davies is playing well. Gylfi [Sigurdsson] scored a goal and was more like himself.
“There was good defensive work by the players. Everybody played near their maximum, which is what you need at this level.”
Allardyce was talking in the immediate aftermath of seeing his side score three times in a rousing 29-minute second-half spell to shatter the resistance of a doughty Palace team, beaten only twice in 15 Premier League matches prior to their trip to Merseyside.
But as he stood in a corner of the bustling, narrow Goodison tunnel assembling his thoughts, the manager’s instincts were spot on.
Walcott was in scintillating nick. The England international’s thrust, bravery and zip have immediately added a whole new dimension to Everton’s attack.
“We had to take the game to Palace,” explained Allardyce.
The eight dribbles Walcott attempted – only four players tried more in Premier League action this weekend – served to underline the boss' gameplan.
Walcott’s willingness to drive at his opponents is rubbing off on his teammates, too. Everton attempted 28 dribbles against Palace, the third highest number by any top-flight team in the weekend's nine matches, behind only Manchester United (30) and Manchester City (29).
What’s more, Walcott’s new colleagues have swiftly recognised the value of feeding the former Arsenal player's insatiable appetite for possession. The 28-year-old had 63 touches of the ball on Saturday – of his Premier League counterparts this weekend, only three could boast a higher return in that department.
It was Sigurdsson who lashed in Everton’s opening goal from 25 yards, however, the 17th time the Icelander has scored from outside the box since his Premier League debut in 2012 – more than any other player in that period of time.
Sigurdsson had already had a pop from distance early in the contest, while Idrissa Gana Gueye singed Palace number one Wayne Hennessey’s fingertips with a sizzling long-range drive before the break.
Everton, in fact, took aim from outside the 18-yard box on six different occasions – and had 11 shots in all.
Significantly, the Blues’ radar was tuned in. Their shooting accuracy of 71.4 per cent was second best among the 18 Premier League teams who played across Saturday and Sunday. Leicester City claimed the honours in this respect, albeit the Foxes' 100 per cent ratio was rather skewed by the fact that – blocked shots aside – they hit the target with their lone attempt in a 5-1 defeat at Manchester City.
Tom Davies spoke last week of a fierce determination to add goals and creativity to his game. Allardyce, meanwhile urged the 19-year-old – one of 13 players aged 21 or under of the 35 who have featured under the manager in his 15 games at the helm – to build on his promising recent form by contributing more goals and assists to the cause.
Right on cue, Davies netted his first strike of the campaign. As Everton's average position chart [second graphic below] demonstrates, the Academy graduate [number 26] was given licence to bound forward in support of striker Oumar Niasse. And he took on three dribbles of his own for good measure.
Davies’ heat map [graphic immediately below] tells of an energetic performance, of a fast-maturing footballer eager to influence matches with his brand of industrious running, combativity and keen eye for a pass.
It should be noted, too, that Niasse is thriving under the tutelage of Allardyce. The 27-year-old has started three matches on the bounce and on Saturday scored and assisted in a Premier League fixture for the first time.
To appreciate the confidence coursing through Niasse right now, consider he had three attempts at goal, the same number as clinical marksman Sigurdsson.
“We are right on song in terms of home performances and results,” said Allardyce. “We scored three goals in the second half after probing and playing really well and dominating possession in the first half – but without finding the net.
“But we did that on three occasions [after the break] and made the game safe.”
Indeed, that is 15 goals scored in eight home matches. Everton are brimming with intent at Goodison. The Blues fed 67 passes into the final third – one every 80 seconds, and more than Arsenal and Liverpool managed in their respective matches – as they pinned Palace back on their heels. They swung in 13 crosses from open play to keep their visitors right where they wanted them.
Only Luka Milivojevic’s consolation penalty denied Everton a fourth clean sheet in eight home games. The Serb’s accomplished spot kick nevertheless represented only the sixth time Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been beaten in those eight matches – with only four of those strikes coming from open play.
Allardyce has not shied away from acknowledging the need for Everton’s away form to mirror their efforts on home soil. It is an issue that has dogged the team for an enduring period of time.
In the course of two-and-a-half months, however, the Toffees have moved from a position two points above the relegation spots going into that midweek game against West Ham, to a berth two points adrift of seventh-placed Burnley.
“We have shown what we can do,” concluded Allardyce. “And, hopefully, we can improve for the rest of the season."
Dribbles attempted (by Premier League clubs this weekend):
Manchester United 30
Manchester City 29
West Ham United 26
Tottenham Hotspur 24
Shooting accuracy (by Premier League clubs this weekend):
Leicester City 100%
Swansea City 66.7%
Manchester United 66.7%
West Ham United 66.7%
Individual dribbles attempted (by Premier League players this weekend):
Gerard Deulofeu 10
Alexis Sanchez 10
Michail Antonio 9
Marko Arnautovic 9
Sergio Aguero 8
Touches (by Premier League forwards this weekend):
Alexis Sanchez 81
Roberto Firmino 67
Anthony Martial 66
Most Premier League goals from outside the box since January 2012: