Kurt Zouma shines in first league start for Everton in otherwise disappointing draw
Everton stumbled to a 1-1 Premier League draw against Huddersfield on Saturday in a forgettable match low on quality and incident. Against a visiting team intent on frustrating and disrupting, a home side depleted by injuries and suspensions ran out of ideas and options.
Passing lacked purpose and movement scarcely rose above lethargic as the absence of the suspended Richarlison and a later injury to Theo Walcott weighed heavily on an attacking unit that became one-dimensional in their absence and produced only one shot on target.
Everton closing out the match in an unbalanced 4-4-2 while slinging aimless long balls toward the Huddersfield penalty area harked back to last season. Marco Silva and his players must learn from this match and respond accordingly as other teams will echo the Huddersfield approach and Everton need better solutions against obdurate visitors.
Fresh from full debuts in the Carabao Cup in midweek, defensive duo Kurt Zouma and Lucas Digne made their first league starts for the club and seamlessly slotted into the defence. Composed in possession and willing to carry the ball out from the back when possible, there were even times when the two showed up more attack-minded teammates higher up the pitch.
Set-piece concerns and zonal-marking issues refuse to go away after another goal from a corner proved costly, although problems in possession proved equally troubling. Everton had 58 percent of the ball but too much of it went nowhere or backwards. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had more touches than each of the three primary attacking players: Cenk Tosun, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Walcott. This served as a reminder of the lack of quality in central midfield that continues to haunt Everton when faced with opponents willing to defend in numbers. Silva will hope injured midfield pair Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gueye can provide an answer.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- A growing injury list and a lack of depth seemed to contribute to some curious substitutions as Everton pushed for a winner that never arrived.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 6 -- Quick off his line when needed and alert to deal with several efforts from distance but otherwise underemployed beyond picking the ball out of his net for the Huddersfield opener.
DF Seamus Coleman, 5 -- Captain for the day but unable to rectify his poor recent form as questionable decision-making and lapses in concentration punctuated another limp outing.
DF Mason Holgate, 5 -- A difficult afternoon saw Holgate frequently second best in the air and often unconvincing defensively, especially in terms of positioning and awareness.
DF Kurt Zouma, 8 -- Almost scored from an improbable distance in the first half, displaying the self-belief absent elsewhere on the day, but it was his imperious defending earning the most plaudits.
DF Lucas Digne, 7 -- Claimed an assist on his first league start but saw his influence hampered by the absence of a recognised midfielder in front of him. One of the few players to impress on the day, which made his substitution in the final 15 minutes even more curious.
MF Tom Davies, 5 -- Unable to build on an encouraging Carabao Cup display as Premier League struggles resumed. An afternoon of toil ended with a booking and little else of note as Davies battled gamely but could not ignite a stagnant midfield display.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 6 -- Economical in possession, the French midfielder retains the ball well but rarely does anything meaningful with it. Poor movement in front of him offered some mitigation but Schneiderlin should be stamping his authority on such matches.
MF Theo Walcott, 5 -- The in-form winger lasted just 56 minutes as a rib injury curtailed his afternoon, though in truth Walcott rarely looked like adding to his recent goal tally before that point.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 6 -- Even on a day when little worked for Sigurdsson in possession, it was difficult to understand the decision to substitute him with 15 minutes remaining, especially with Richarlison and Walcott absent.
MF Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 5 -- A threat in the air and his well-timed header quickly drew Everton level but the young striker continues to look lost whenever forced into a midfield role.
FW Cenk Tosun, 5 -- That a long-range snapshot from an almost impossible angle was his clearest sight of goal tells its own story. Work rate remains faultless, but the lack of service in his direction negates his finishing ability.
MF Ademola Lookman, 5 -- On the periphery, aside from one run and cross narrowly avoiding onrushing teammates.
DF Leighton Baines, N/R -- Silva turning to a 33-year-old left-back to change the game underlined the shortage of options.
FW Oumar Niasse, N/R -- Less erratic than in his midweek outing but still unable to impact the match.