Written by Neil Dawson
Callum Wilson and his team were back on good form today after a spluttering start to the season – two goals for the hitman and a much more energetic and focused display by his team-mates leaving his side in eighth spot and above Southampton before the big South Coast derby on Friday night.
Eddie made a host of changes after the poor showing last time out. Stacey, Rico and Solanke were in with Smith injured and Mepham and Fraser heading to the bench after poor showings. Interestingly there was a return for Lewis Cook with Lerma, shattered after his flight back from Florida rested. The formation was the subject of much debate but it was the traditional 4-4-2 Eddie likes to return to when crap hits the fan – King operating on the left side of midfield.
Everton started brighter than their hosts with a sea of corners as Bournemouth struggled to get a foothold but all were comfortably dealt with, the first chance was for the home team though as Billing arrived on the edge of the box to power just wide. Minutes later Stacey will have been indebted to Ramsdale who pounced bravely on a through ball to Calvert-Lewin following the debutants mistake. This spurred Everton into life and Richarlison almost broke the cross-bar with his fizzing effort from distance that Ramsdale lost sight of.
Bournemouth then took a grip of the game midway through the first half (something they would also mirror in the second half). Starting with Pickford tipping over Solanke’s rising drive. Lewis Cook was pulling all of the strings in an impressive return and King, in particular, was having a game to be proud of stretching Everton time and time again. The lead came when Rico’s unerring corner was flicked on for Solanke to King at the far post. How the Norwegian didn’t score is beyond everyone but the ball flicked back off him in the air and WILSON beat Ake to head home.
The home pressure kept up but final balls were poor and Everton were only given two sights on goal in a more concentrated defensive display. First Richarlison headed wide under great pressure from Rico and then when King left Rico exposed two on one the Brazilian winger was in again and crossed for CALVERT-LEWIN to head home. There was an accusation the centre forward held Cook down but VAR ruled it out and I remember thinking half of Kermorgants goals wouldn’t have stood if that one hadn’t!
HT Bournemouth 1 Everton 1
The second half was largely dominated by Everton in the opening exchanges with Cook and Billing leaving a lot of space behind them – better forwards may well have offered more threat and with Cook and Ake bang on top form too it never really felt like Everton would make the pressure tell.
We were almost the authors of our own misfortune when Cook’s back-pass left Ramsdale short and the keeper did wonderfully to get a hand on the ball as Calvert-Lewin rounded him. This was a crucial intervention as the game had gone Everton’s way and if the score-line had too it could have been difficult.
Eddie had seen enough and removed the very quiet H. Wilson to bring on wee-man. The little Scot had a talismanic effect on the team with some stirring runs (including an instant booking for an opponent) and clever passing and linking. With a free-kick won out wide and no Wilson on the pitch it was FRASER who stepped up to smash a drive that deceived Pickford and went straight in at the far post.
The ground was rocking and so were the home team who quickly added the vital third that allowed them to relax. Rico, delighting the three people in Britain who have him in their fantasy league team with a peach of a through ball over the top for WILSON who took one step before bending a curling lob over Pickford for a sumptuous finish.
The energy kept going and while Everton had more possession it never looked like they would score, especially after Lerma arrive for a shattered Cook who departed to a richly deserved standing ovation. There best chance fell to Calvert-Lewin again but it was saved smartly by Ramsdale and Iwobi wasted the rebound driving wide. Some fine blocks by Billing and Ake preserved the lead as was and it was a relatively relaxed end to the game (for once) as a result.
FT Bournemouth 3 Everton 1
Ramsdale 8 – Superb in all departments I thought today.
Stacey 6 – A mixture of very encouraging and very worrying. Nice start overall.
Ake 8 – His usual athletic dominance.
Cook 8 – Brave, threw himself on the line, read the game well.
Rico 7 – Usual dodgy passing but defensively sound and some great moments.
Wilson 5 – Not in the game at all – totally peripheral (Fraser 8 – transformational)
Cook 9 – An outstanding come-back. Ran the show until he tired (Lerma 7)
Billing 7 – Strong display of breaking up play and keeping it simple.
King 8 – Fantastic running and skill and great tracking (one exception aside).
Solanke 6 – Looked bright in places but anonymous in others, no goal threat.
Wilson 8 – Back to his snarling goal grabbing best.
MOM – Very, very tough call between five players today. I am choosing Lewis Cook, out of circumstance, such an impressive return. King, Callum, Ake and Cook – I wouldn’t fall out with anyone who put them forwards though.
That felt like the first ‘Bournemouth’ performance of the season and offers much hope that we can get on the right trajectory as players return. The key difference was having a midfield play-maker back in the team – one who could pass through the back-line and one that could take out two men with a dribble or shimmy. Lewis Cook was superb and it lifted the team. There was also much more energy and verve about the pressing and determination which pushed Everton back at times.
Fraser was also excellent and transformed the game and maybe realising he is not an automatic starter is a good thing after his contract messing around. It was a real brave decision today to play the two rookie full-backs but it was going to be the only way Eddie could return to the 4-4-2 he prefers to dig us out of poor form. While both players looked like reserves at times the shape was much better than the five at the back the players don’t understand and thus it was the correct move.
The big win is yet to come! Hopefully, Eddie can see that he has to get Cook, Lerma and Billing into the same side. With Fraser and King wide of them and Wilson up front, this is an excellent side – 4-3-3 in possession and 4-5-1 without and not being over-ran in midfield. When we did struggle at times today it was the lack of the third midfielder that was very apparent, especially when Billing or Cook got caught up the pitch. The formation we need is now in touching distance! Let’s give it a go at Saints.
The only worry (aside from this) today was Harry Wilson who hasn’t fitted in yet, his last two starts have been very poor. In American football, we would bring him on for the set pieces and take him off again! This won’t work here though and surely Fraser has to start v Saints. I also am still not convinced by Solanke who looked good in places but just doesn’t seem to get in goalscoring positions and wasted some good opportunities to play people in. Only games will improve him though.
So – a great feeling this evening, the team looking like they still know how to buzz, a centre forward on fire, a key player returning and hopefully the dawn of our greatest ever three-man midfield. Let’s take this up the road Friday and claim our first win there since 1987!
Neil a little bit picky but we didn’t beat Saints in 1987 it was a draw on the day we won the tie over 2 legs having won at home. A quick look at the records on the net and we don’t ever seem to have won there at all although perhaps going back pre 1950s might prove otherwise. It would be nice to break the duck next Friday. – Join the conversation, click here.