Saturday 20 January 2018

Moyes beaming as Mirallas' arrival gives Toffees spark to climb to next level

Everton 3 Southampton 1

Si Hughes

There have been occasions during David Moyes' decade in charge at Goodison Park when the Everton manager must have grimaced at what he was watching.

Like last season, for instance, probably in early January, before he could add zing to his team with the recruitment of Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar.

Both players have been crucial to Everton's emergence since the start of the year. In 2012, only the Manchester clubs have accrued more points in the Premier League.

September is just out. Everton have won nothing yet. But there has been a shift in the perception of this Moyes side that occupies a place in the top four. Victory over Southampton was so comfortable -- secured in 20 minutes before the break with a tidal wave of attacking force.

"I'd pay to come and see Everton," Moyes said.

"Some of the performances last season I struggled with. I told the players that I was bored of watching them. But I could never say that about them now. I think that's why we've got a great crowd here today. The people aren't daft."

It is understandable why Moyes is so cheerful. He currently has a goal threat from most areas. Importantly, there are reference points in Jelavic and Marouane Fellaini -- players that others can reliably look towards if situations are not as they should be.

Moyes believes he has discovered potentially another key performer with Kevin Mirallas. The Belgian supplied two of Everton's goals here; one with a touchline cross and another via a direct run and pass through the middle.

Signed for £5m from Olympiakos, he appears to offer what Landon Donovan did during his two loan spells at Goodison Park: pace, positional sense and a fair bit of experience having played in three countries before arriving in England.

Moyes (right) conceded that he has been surprised how quickly Mirallas has adjusted his the demands facing him. "With Jelavic and Mirallas, you see Everton with a bigger goalscoring threat than we've had before," he said. "In a lot of games over the year we've had to set up thinking 'can we stay with it? Can we nick a goal?' Now we come here and expect Everton to score."

The fans think likewise. Greater achievements bring expectations. Against Southampton, there was tension carried over from their surprise League Cup exit to Leeds United until Everton equalised. Gaston Ramirez opened the scoring with a free header from a corner and the visitors should have been further ahead when Jay Rodriguez spurned a one-on-one.

There were calls in the stands for Everton to go a bit longer. Conservative possession eventually yielded an opening, which was dispatched in front of the Gwladys Street end by Leon Osman.

From there, it was all Everton. Jelavic scored with the left foot and then powered in a header. There was never a sense the Croatian was going to miss either opportunity. He rarely needs more than two touches.

Afterwards, Saints boss Nigel Adkins insisted that he will not alter his philosophy of trying to attack away from home. In three games so far, they have conceded 12 goals.

A solution to their haemorrhaging back-line must be found soon.

"We believe we play football the right way but it's about winning," Adkins admitted. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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