Everton started the new year with arguably their most disappointing performance and result of the season, falling 1-0 to David Moyes’ West Ham United at Goodison Park.
Carlo Ancelotti brought Richarlison back into his starting eleven for the match but resisted the temptation of doing the same with James Rodríguez, who was back in contention for his first ninety minutes in five following a calf injury. The only other change to the team which had battled to three points at Brammall Lane last Saturday was Seamus Coleman for Michael Keane, who’s absence saw Mason Holgate slip inwards to join Yerry Mina at centre back.
It’s very difficult to think of anything constructive to say about the opening forty five minutes. Both sides looked extremely tired and flat, with possession changing hands far too frequently for either manager’s liking. Whilst West Ham did have the better attacking moments, particularly through a handful of tricky counter attacks instigated by winger Jarred Bowen, they lacked the substance needed to really threaten The Blues’ back four. A tame Bernard effort aside, the first half was a non-event and embodied the spirit of a New Years’ Day hangover perfectly.
Half Time: Everton 0-0 West Ham United
Evertonians would have hoped a strongly worded half-time team talk from Ancelotti would have galvanised their side somewhat in the second period. They were to be left desperately disappointed, with the hosts offering a display that was as toothless and tepid as their efforts in the first.
Despite tweaks to their personnel, with André Gomes and Rodríguez both entering the fray, Everton never really got going, lacking the intensity and accuracy in the final third that was needed to really sting a compact West Ham defence.
Conversely, The Hammers appeared much livelier after the interval, with chances coming and going for the likes of Aaron Cresswell, Pablo Fornels and the returning Michail Antonio, who gave the visitors a real boost with his relentless running in the closing stages of the match.
With Everton passive and West Ham pressing, it felt as if a big moment may be coming Moyes’ men’s way as time ticked by. It was to come four minutes from time, with a shot from Cresswell deflected home by an unmarked Tomas Soucek to give his side a wonderful start to life in 2021.
Everton had no grounds to complain about West Ham’s goal, nor the final result as Kevin Friend put his whistle to his lips. They were well off the pace and didn’t show the energy or intent needed to merit taking anything from the match.
Despite real improvements across the course of the last year and an exceptional run of recent form, tonight’s game was the perfect illustration of the scale of Ancelotti’s job and how the notion of Everton as contenders for European football and beyond is an inaccurate representation of his current squad’s technical and psychological qualities.
Having missed the chance to move up to second place this evening, Everton will turn their attention to their FA Cup 3rd Round match next weekend against Rotherham United, before Premier League duties are resumed against Wolverhampton Wanderers on January 12th.
Full Time: Everton 0-1 West Ham United