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A solid defence and star striker can fire Everton to the very top

During Everton’s 1-1 draw against Manchester City, the Toffees showed a resilience not seen at Goodison Park for many years.

Sure, they got lucky after Maarten Stekelenburg made a series of stunning saves and kept out two penalties, but for a long time it looked as though Guardiola’s side weren’t going to be able to find a way through.

And when Romelu Lukaku broke through the City ranks to score a superb counter-attacking goal, they almost stole a famous win.

Despite substitute Nolito managing a late equaliser, Ronald Koeman was understandably very happy to be the first manager to take a point from the Etihad this season.

At the very least it demonstrated that his Everton side would be able to rub shoulders with the big boys rather than collapse as they had done under Martinez. Delve a little deeper however, and you’ll see the blueprint for how Everton can challenge at the top.

Romelu Lukaku

Against City they were facing the league’s joint best attack and arguably the best manager in the world when it comes to finding a way past a defence.

For 72 minutes they kept them out; a feat only bettered by the league’s best defence, Tottnham Hotspur. Everton in fact have the second-best defence after Spurs having only considered six goals, suggesting Koeman has brought the defensive nous he demonstrated at Southampton to Merseyside.

The Dutchman managed 12 clean sheets at St Mary’s last season and 16 the season before. In contrast, Everton only manager ten and 11 respectively.

Furthermore, Everton aren’t too bad going forward either. Their 12 goals this season is a reasonable return considering they have played the league’s best defence in Spurs and also had to grind a point against City.

The attack has been boosted by the return of Romelu Lukaku who has managed six goals in six starts.

The Belgian has emerged as one of the most prolific striker in recent times having scored 49 Premier League goals since joining Everton in 2013/14. The only current Premier League players to score more since then are Sergio Aguero (72), Harry Kane (51), putting Lukaku among the top strikers in the league.

The ex-Chelsea man also sets himself apart from other strikers in the league with his ability to create chances by himself, as he showed with his goal at the weekend.

Ronald Koeman

Having a solid defence or a top strikerĀ on their own can help a side to a decent season, but having both, as Everton seem to do, is a recipe for bigger success.

Koeman guided his Southampton side to 7th and 6th in the two seasons he spent there, and did so without a top striker. Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane both managed double figures in each season, but neither did so on a consistent enough basis to really challenge the big clubs.

In Lukaku, they have a man who can do that – particularly if he’s supplemented by the likes of Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Yannick Bolasie.

The Belgian won Everton a lot of points last season, and he will win a lot more this time if his goals tend to be the winner – rather than the equaliser – in a tight game.

If it all falls into place for Koeman and they keep their form up, the Toffees may well be able to look past Europa League qualification and target that fourth place again.

Article title: A solid defence and star striker can fire Everton to the very top

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