May 21, 2024

Everton analysis – James Garner chance emerges as 144-day wait finally ends

Analysis from Chris Beesley, as Everton slipped to a 2-1 loss against Manchester United on Sunday

05:00, 10 OCT 2022

Garner made his debut in the second half .(Photo by Emma Simpson/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Garner made his debut in the second half .(Photo by Emma Simpson/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Gana or Garner?

 

Everton of course brought in two holding midfielders on transfer deadline day but while the return of fans’ favourite Idrissa Gana Gueye after a protracted chase that had gone on for several weeks over the summer, predictably made the headlines, the late acquisition of his ‘near-namesake’ James Garner went somewhat under the radar. While not quite thrown in at the deep end, after coming off the bench in the Merseyside Derby for his debut as a Blue second time around, the Senegalese international has subsequently started the next three games.

 

Having previously played four seasons of Premier League football between 2015-19 – the last three of which were at Everton – it comes as no surprise that with his general play the 33-year-old has slotted back in comfortably to a role he knows well but things have perhaps been ‘too comfortable’ at times. In both of the last two matches, Gueye has now surrendered possession cheaply in the centre of the pitch but such is the speed and ruthlessness of football in the Premier League, the ball has quickly ended up in the back of the Everton net.

 

He have provided Lampard with the kind of ‘hit the ground running’ option that he needed but the truth is that after the centre of the park being a problem position for the Blues boss when he first came to the club, he is now well-stocked in that department and none of his men in the middle can be complacent when it comes to the prospect of retaining their shirt given that even after the departure of Allan, there are six players vying for at most three positions. One of those is James Garner who came off the bench in the second half to make his Everton debut against the club he’d been with since Under-8s level until his switch on September 1.

 

Lampard and director of football Kevin Thelwell agreed a deal that could eventually be worth £15million to prise the Birkenhead-born player back to his native Merseyside from Old Trafford and this long-term investment might be forcing his way into the reckoning a bit quicker than previously thought. His manager confirmed on Friday that the 21-year-old – who by his own admission was not match-fit when he first came to the club – was now “completely ready” and he certainly looked lively when coming off the bench, only being denied a debut goal against his previous team by a spectacular David De Gea save in stoppage time.

 

Picking up the pieces

 

It was symptomatic of Everton’s desperation that Jordan Pickford was venturing up the opposite end of the pitch to try and head in an equaliser from a corner as the clock ran down but having gone into this fixture playing behind a defence that had conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League so far this season, England’s number one must surely have been frustrated by the moments in which he found himself exposed by his team-mates. Considering that they’re a partnership that are still very much a work in progress after their respective arrivals at Goodison Park this summer, James Tarkowski and Conor Coady have each been colossal at the back so far. Both in their 30th year, as centre-backs they should very much be at the peak of their powers right now but a freak of nature in the most positive sense of the world in the chiselled shape of Cristiano Ronaldo – 38 in February – was swifter in both body and mind than Coady when it came to United’s second goal.

 

While there’s no disgrace in being second best to one of the greatest players of all-time, Tarkowski’s mistimed challenge on Marcus Rashford led to United’s home-grown hero putting the ball into Pickford’s net for a third time and it was only a VAR overturning of the decision for a handball in the build-up that spared the former Burnley man’s blushes. While the steadying influence of the pair should continue to ensure that the Blues remain a much tougher nut to crack than last season, this chastening lesson proved something of a wake-up call.

 

Everton’s number nine

 

After a wait of 144 days since ‘that’ night against Crystal Palace when his headed goal secured Everton’s top flight status and banished the threat of a first relegation in 71 years despite what proved to be the joint lowest equivalent points total in the club’s history, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Blues’ match-winner in the spectacular comeback win over the Eagles was back in competitive action at Goodison Park. There was no late heroics from the England international on this occasion but after his injury-riddled start to the campaign, just getting the 25-year-old back out on the pitch was encouraging enough.

 

After Calvert-Lewin’s absence forced Lampard to start the season without a recognised striker, the situation has been remedied somewhat in recent weeks following the arrival of Neal Maupay but while the Frenchman is spiky and mobile, he’s often been feeding off scraps and Everton were desperate for a greater aerial threat here. The Blues boss concedes he still needs to be careful with his number nine but the Yorkshireman cannot be wrapped in cotton wool forever and the hope must now be that his side can now start moving forwards towards getting him truly fit and firing again.

 

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