Sigurdsson shines in return to starting XI as Everton dispatch Crystal Palace
Everton made an encouraging first step in atoning for the Arsenal debacle last week as a more positive setup eased the home side to a 3-1 win against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Both teams meandered through a goalless opening half before a five-minute blitz after the interval saw Gylfi Sigurdsson and Oumar Niasse hand Everton a two-goal lead. Tom Davies added a third as the hosts scored more than twice in a match for the first time in 10 games prior to the visitors grabbing a penalty consolation.
Ten of the starting XI in this match also started the last home win against Leicester. A settled centre-back pairing is still a priority, but the five-man midfield finally has a balanced look to it. This team and system should point the way forward for manager Sam Allardyce as a run of winnable games lie ahead.
While this has been a season to forget for most of the new signings, one of the more recent arrivals is bucking the trend. Operating a level above his teammates in the first half, Theo Walcott revelled in the freedom provided by an overlapping full-back outside of him and offers a dynamic change of pace lacking elsewhere in the team.
An unwanted distraction was the booing of midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin upon his introduction as a late substitute. While a stream of dismal performances from the player are the reason behind such outcry from supporters, booing because of a poor attitude is unlikely to have any impact for those exact reasons. As such there is no obvious benefit to booing your own players, irrespective of how poorly they perform.
The other aspect is that it makes Schneiderlin the focal point and distracts from the positives in this match. If Schneiderlin does not spend enough energy when playing for Everton, then supporters should focus their energy on backing the players that do want to contribute.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- The hope is that this win marks the end of Allardyce's constant tinkering with the starting XI as Everton try to establish consistency.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 7 -- Some awkward-looking but effective saves kept the away side out when needed. Unfortunate to concede after getting two hands to the Crystal Palace penalty.
DF Seamus Coleman, 6 -- A rusty outing as his lack of football showed at times on only his second appearance in 11 months. A muscle injury cut short his afternoon at half-time.
DF Michael Keane, 7 -- Third successive start as the centre-back benefits from a run of games after an inconsistent spell beforehand. Strong in defence, aside from a couple of loose passes early on.
DF Eliaquim Mangala, 5 -- Delivered a shaky performance on his home debut before injury struck during the first half. Twice fortunate to escape as a poor pass and weak challenge both went unpunished.
DF Cuco Martina, 7 -- A second assist in as many matches, both with his left foot, capped another good display. Faultless attitude in an unfamiliar role has led to improved performances of late.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 8 -- Excelled in a first half that was otherwise low on talking points and came close to breaking the deadlock, although a heavy knock dimmed his second-half impact. Afforded a welcome rest before the end as Schneiderlin took his place.
MF Wayne Rooney, 7 -- Far more effective once his decision-making improved after an erratic first half. Used the ball intelligently in the second half and works better with the energy of Davies and Gueye alongside him.
MF Theo Walcott, 8 -- Effective with and without the ball, making a game-high 8 dribbles and winning a team-high three tackles. A constant threat as his searing pace and dribbling ability troubled the visitors.
MF Tom Davies, 7 -- Quick to react in the penalty area as his first goal in 10 months added a pleasing footnote to a performance that grew more influential as the match wore on.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 8 -- Restored to the starting XI after his senseless omission against Arsenal, the midfielder ensured Allardyce should think twice before revisiting that tactic. Scored the opening goal and played a key role in the other two.
FW Oumar Niasse, 7 -- An archetypal Niasse display. Despite the basics often escaping him, the Everton striker ended up scoring and assisting in the same Premier League game for the first time.
DF Ashley Williams, 5 -- Jittery all-round performance capped by the hand ball leading to the Crystal Palace penalty.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 7 -- Defended with his usual tenacity and often pushed forward to support Walcott on the right flank.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, NR -- Entered to a chorus of boos and left without making much of an impression.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.