Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park may have left the home fans undecided as to how they felt about the result – the loss meant they couldn’t move above Wolves in the table but also ensured City went top of the league, thus demoting bitter rivals Liverpool to second.
The bigger consequences of the game, though, were surely the last thing on their mind as they watched their Toffees side be turned over by the champions, who barely had to break a sweat on their way to a much-needed three points despite their opponents being much improved from their weekend defeat.
Everton set up, as many have done before them, to frustrate Pep Guardiola’s side and it worked for the best part of the game, but in doing so they sacrificed pretty much all attacking threat.
There was one bright spark for the Merseyside outfit, though, in Idrissa Gueye, who battled away in the middle of the park despite having handed in a transfer request at the end of January amid interest from European giants PSG.
The Senegal international is nearing a century of appearances for Everton having made the switch from Aston Villa in 2016, but there were fears that he may not reach that number as the Ligue 1 champions came calling.
His performance on Wednesday should be enough to convince Marco Silva that he must not be dropped, regardless of where his loyalties may lie.
Playing alongside summer signing Andre Gomes at the base of midfield, the 29-year-old made his first start since the mid-January clash with Southampton and was one of few Everton players who can honestly say that they put in a solid performance.
Completing a match-high 5 tackles and 2 interceptions, the former Lille man got stuck in as usual, getting close to the City players and limiting their ability to play football – he was a key part of Everton’s holding off of City until the second half.
Such is the pressure Pep Guardiola’s side put on their opponents, their defence and goalkeeper are rarely troubled and this was the case again against Everton, who took just four between them, none of which were on target. One of these was hit by Gueye and, it may not have given Ederson anything to worry about, but it is an indicator of an intent absent from a lot of the Toffees players – Bernard and Lucas Digne were the only two other players to let fly.
Gueye’s distribution was solid, too, as he completed 87% of his attempted passes, a rate bested only by Bernard in the Everton ranks, while he also looked to get on the ball where and whenever possible, taking the joint-second most touches in his side (58).
The concern for Silva should be that one of his best performers was someone who doesn’t even want to be there having tried to secure a move away last month – is this simply a case of others in blue needing to step up?
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