Things We Learned: Everton v West Ham United

Everton returned to winning ways with a thoroughly-deserved 2-0 victory over West Ham United on Saturday. 

Bernard and Gylfi Sigurdsson got the goals as the Blues turned in a much-improved performance to end a run of four successive league defeats.

But what else did we learn from the battle with the Hammers?

Bernard Makes Good On His Vow

Bernard sat in an office at Everton’s USM Finch Farm training headquarters this week and detailed an acute personal ambition to improve his key numbers.

The Brazilian was excellent at times in his debut Everton campaign last term. His exquisite touch and feinting and dribbling – bolted to an intuitive understanding with Lucas Digne – made for wonderful viewing.

Bernard is easy on the eye; a joy to watch – ‘Joyful Legs’ he was christened in his homeland.

He scored some fabulous goals back in Brazil, too, locating the net with all manner of glittering strikes for first club Atletico Mineiro.

Last season, he played 36 matches for Everton and contributed directly to six goals, scoring two.

In short, then, Bernard wanted to up that ratio. He scored against Watford in Everton’s opening home game to get off on a decent note this time round.

The South American talked, too, in that interview on Tuesday of Everton’s players needing to have belief in their own quality to engineer an improvement in results.

Bernard certainly trusts his ability and, because of that, illuminated Goodison Park with a thrilling goal to give Everton’s dominance against West Ham the reward it deserved.

Albeit most of Goodison probably wondered if Bernard’s chance had gone when he checked away from goal on receiving Theo Walcott’s pass in the box.

The player knew best, dropping his shoulder and twisting one way then another to bamboozle Arthur Masuaku.

West Ham left-back Masuaku could see the number on Bernard’s shirt by the time the Brazilian was staring into the whites of Roberto’s eyes.

Spanish goalkeeper Roberto was hoodwinked into going to ground early. Bernard, though, still had little to work with, only a narrow opening at the keeper’s near post.

Not a problem. Bernard squeezed the ball through the gap and into the back of the net.

He’s matched last season’s goal tally before the clocks go back. 

 

Midfielder’s Milestone

This was a 50th Premier League start for Tom Davies just four months after his 21st birthday – but a first since 9 February.

Davies was deployed next to Andre Gomes, the Portuguese back after a rib complaint restricted him to six minutes of football in the past seven weeks.

The younger man in Davies had Everton’s first clear opportunity of the day, barrelling in at the back post but denied by Roberto in West Ham’s goal after Bernard’s left-wing corner on eight minutes reached the far post.

Davies’ surge typified his attitude from the outset. He got in his opponents faces and with the ball looked to progress upfield.

The England Under-21 captain sprung his side on the attack on 14 minutes with a pass threaded through a narrow corridor for Bernard, the Brazilian instantly feeding Gomes who released Digne down Everton’s left.

Davies’ harrying forced Mark Noble to slice into touch inside Everton’s half just past the quarter hour.

The moment didn’t feel especially significant – but West Ham didn’t see the ball again until Roberto was retrieving it from his net.

Everton took the throw deep on the left and advanced in a hurry, Theo Walcott eventually unpicking the lock for Bernard to bustle through the door.

Davies’ prompting had Everton on the front foot again midway through the opening 45 minutes. His pass drilled into Alex Iwobi enabled the Nigerian to conjure something more subtle for Richarlison, who skimmed a shot against the post.

When West Ham tried to escape their own half not long after, Davies was round Felipe Anderson in a flash to recover possession and keep Everton’s foot squashed on their visitors’ throats.

At the midway point, Davies had attempted more passes [31] than any other Everton player – 21 of those struck in West Ham territory.

Only ubiquitous full-back Digne had taken more touches than Davies’ 38.

Davies has been anchoring midfield for his country of late and his defensive antennae was working when he tracked Andriy Yarmolenko’s run to switch off the lights on a dangerous West Ham attack.

Indeed, with Everton’s lead slim and the clock ticking down, Davies’ defensive nous was very useful.

He fairly took off to block one shot in the penalty area. A metaphor for the impact this match might have on his season, perhaps?

 

Flying full-backs

Lucas Digne captained Everton in a Premier League game for the first time and led by example.

The mobile Frenchman did not stand still all afternoon and his industry was matched on the opposite side of defence by Djibril Sidibe.

Former Lille player Sidibe was making his Goodison Park bow after featuring twice away from home in the Carabao Cup this season.

He drew a loud ovation for the turn of pace which enabled him to shut off Felipe Anderson’s attempt to counter early in the match and continued to impress from that moment.

Sidibe’s powerful and direct brand of attacking strikes a contrast to the smaller and more subtle Digne.

In terms of effectiveness, however, there was little to choose between the France international pair.

Sidibe gave Evertonians a glimpse of his creative wares with the raking ball which teed up Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score at Sheffield Wednesday this month.

Here he repeatedly drove forward, moving intelligently – especially when changing direction to open up the flank for Richarlison in the opening half.

Sidibe owns a deal of finesses, too, and he employed it to square for Alex Iwobi late in the game.

Iwobi’s low stab was saved but Sidibe undeterred. He won the ball on halfway – which Everton did on countless occasions – to free Walcott with another fine pass.

Defensively he was strong, using his mighty frame to frustrate opponents and release pressure on his own team.

Digne, meanwhile was efficiency personified on the left. He had more touches than any Everton player [76], with Sidibe second on 62.

The pair played together at Lille and have shared a dressing room with France.

Sidibe and Digne were friends reunited to telling effect on a good afternoon for Everton.

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