Everton will be aiming to secure consecutive victories when they travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.
It was a game with many positives for the Toffees besides the result and much-needed three points. Richarlison showed great resilience and finishing ability, finally grabbing a deserved goal after having two chalked off for offside, while Ben Godfrey deputised well at left-back and Demarai Gray maintained his rich vein of form.
However, Andre Gomes’ introduction as a second half substitute may have been the most pleasing aspect of that enthralling encounter for Benitez and co.
The midfield has been an area of much dispute throughout 2021/22, with Everton fielding a wide variety of combinations with mixed results. While Allan has been a mainstay, starting all 15 of the Toffees’ top-flight fixtures to date, the Brazil international has had multiple partners alongside him in the engine room.
Abdoulaye Doucoure’s injury issues saw Tom Davies, Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin all feature in the middle of the park, but the balance was never right, which played a big role in Everton’s disastrous run of form.
However, Gomes’ own comeback from a calf issue on Monday night illustrated that Benitez may have finally found a winning formula in the midfield.
After entering the field of play in the 66th minute, the former Barcelona ace brought an element of guile, craftsmanship and control which has been absent from Everton’s play for far too long.
As per FotMob, Gomes had 19 touches of the ball, completed seven passes – six of which were in the opposition half – won two duels, made one tackle and pulled off one key pass, receiving an overall match rating of 6.9 out of 10.
These figures highlight the effective performance of the 28-year-old at Goodison Park, and he was rewarded for his promising showing with an assist, teeing up Gray for his dramatic injury-time winner.
Gomes’ impressive display will come as little surprise to Everton supporters. He has shown glimpses of his top-class talent since arriving on an initial loan deal back in 2018, earning praise from several impressed onlookers, including former Toffees goalkeeper Nigel Martyn.
“He’s a very composed footballer, looks very good on the ball, intelligent and knows which space to run into,” said Martyn of the Portuguese midfielder. “His passing’s very good, his tackling’s very good – he’s a great all-round footballer.
Getting such quality performances consistently out of the £112,000-per-week maestro will be the big task for Benitez, though, and the Spaniard must attempt to do so by unleashing him against Palace this weekend.