Everton have made a promising start under new management but Saturday’s win over Stoke City provided a barometer of the progress made in the two months since Ronald Koeman was appointed.
Winning by a single goal, coming under pressure from the opposition and playing in front of an expectant crowd, the Blues would probably have folded last season, but this is a different Everton. Koeman’s teams are built on solid foundations and he is not afraid to make an unpopular substitution (Funes Mori for Barkley) if it leads to three had earned points. On Saturday Jakielka and Williams led the team superbly, ensuring Stoke were unable to get a single shot on target in the entire ninety minutes.
This win however wasn’t just built on hard work. Koeman demands that his team play with a high tempo, moving the ball quickly and in Barkley, Mirallas and Bolasie Everton are not short of flair. The goal, fortuitously came via the head of Shay Given after Baines hit the post with his spot kick, but Everton created numerous opportunities and will be confident that goals will flow in the coming matches.
A special mention must go to nineteen year old Mason Holgate. For the third game running the former Barnsley teenager impressed. His maturity is incredible and he handled another stern examination exceptionally. Peter Crouch targeted Holgate in the opening half, but the right back dealt with the former England striker, winning a number of key headers against his taller opponent.