Carlo Ancelotti faces a race against time to resolve Everton’s concerning lack of creativity after seeing his side struggle to beat Sheffield United on Boxing Day.
The Toffees laboured to a 1-0 win over Chris Wilder’s relegation-threatened Blades with a performance that will soon be forgotten, as the Goodison Park natives continue their push for European football.
A miserable, rainswept night in South Yorkshire saw Everton edge victory thanks to a decisive strike from Gylfi Sigurdsson ten minutes from time, which prevented Everton from following top-four rivals Manchester United, Leicester City and Chelsea in dropping points on Boxing Day.
Everton’s victory proved their potential to claim a European berth come the end of the season, having found the crucial touch when the performance did not merit much, rather than sweeping past Sheffield United to put Carabao Cup heartache into the pages of history.
Ancelotti’s side could only carve three shots on target at Bramall Lane, with the Italian seeing his men miss the mark three times and Aaron Ramsdale not called on to stop Bernard’s 79th-minute effort, per WhoScored.
Match-winner Sigurdsson accounted for more of Everton’s shots than any other single player with two strikes to his name, the same as Sheffield United centre-back John Egan as eight of Wilder’s starting line-up plus, substitute Oli McBurnie, tested Jordan Pickford.
Sigurdsson further led the visitors for chances created with two key passes added to his record, joined only by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Anthony Gordon, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Michael Keane in registering one each.
Calvert-Lewin endured a quiet night in South Yorkshire with service into Everton’s 11-goal top-scorer slim pickings, but the 23-year-old sparked into life when Keane’s darting pass found the England international.
Ramsdale was ultimately not needed to thwart Calvert-Lewin, who saw his only shot of the game squeak wide of the post, after delightfully bringing Keane’s ball down on his chest and volleying towards the Blades’ goal.
Ancelotti now faces a race against time to find a solution for Everton’s toothless offensive efforts with the Toffees back in action on Monday night with a meeting with Manchester City as James Rodriguez will again be sidelined with a calf injury.
The Citizens will arrive at Goodison Park hoping to move level on points with the Blues, and they boast the Premier League’s most shots per game when on the road with 15.6 efforts and the best defensive record with just 7.9 attempts allowed, per WhoScored.
Rodriguez’s absence will be felt as he continues to rank first among the Everton squad for key passes per 90 minutes in the Premier League with 2.77, while also recording the most big chances created (0.75). Lucas Digne, who is missing after ankle surgery, also ranks first for accurate crosses (2.18), per SofaScore.