Even if Luka Milivojevic had converted his penalty early in the second-half and given Crystal Palace the lead at Goodison Park, it always seemed as if Everton were destined to win Sunday afternoon’s game.
A strange thing to say, perhaps, because for much of the match they were distinctly unimpressive. Marco Silva’s selection of Richarlison as a centre-forward didn’t really work and the Brazilian too often drifted deep and away from his responsibilities as a pivot. Neither Bernard or Theo Walcott played particularly well, either, and both were guilty of poor decisions, wasting chances or, in the latter’s case, both.
But the overcoming of those issues on Sunday provided a measure of Everton’s health. They have options. Silva would probably say that he remains a centre-forward light – and he’d probably be correct – but there’s great diversity in that frontline now. All of the players mentioned above can play multiple positions and if, as today, they don’t perform in those roles, the side is now backed by a bench capable of testing an opponent in a different way. Cenk Tosun and Dominic Calvert-Lewin each scored goals against Palace and combined to crack open a defence which had looked relatively comfortable for 85 minutes.
And Ademola Lookman, who swivelled his hips, opened a crossing angle, and teased that decisive ball onto Calvert-Lewin’s head.
This is what a proper squad looks like. It’s interesting, because a year ago it wasn’t possible to find a more imbalanced group than the one Steve Walsh had put together – that great pile of playmakers, the lack of a goalscorer, Rooney. But now, everywhere you look at Goodison Park there seems to be an intriguing variation. Now that the forward line is properly diverse, other aspects have become more relevant: Andre Gomes is only on loan, but his range of skills abilities clearly differ from those embodied by James McCarthy, Idrissa Gueye, and Morgan Schneiderlin, while Tom Davies and his free-spirited take on midfield play can hopefully also become more prominent this year.
The result is that Instead of banging their head against a wall when games weren’t going their way, which they did time and again in each of the past three seasons, they’re able to pose a different sort of threat depending on the situation. It’s a fairly rudimentary utility for a squad to have, but it is at least in place now.
Silva will get the recognition for welding those parts together and, rightly, for overseeing three wins in a row. As time passes though, the more obvious it becomes that Marcel Brands might be the most important change the club have made in a long time. At last, Everton make some sort of sense.