West Brom lost by a three goal margin for the second successive time in a game that showed initial promise, with the Baggies discipline letting them down once more.
Albion started the game brightly and put serious pressure on Everton with some impressive counter-attacks. The pressure told just ten minutes in with a sublime strike from Grady Diangana, securing his first Premier League goal as a West Bromwich Albion player.Embed from Getty Images
Jake Livermore then threatened to double the Baggies’ lead after some intelligent play from Callum Robinson, with the former England international’s shot rebounding off the post.
Everton then took the lead in what turned out to be a crazy final 15 minutes of the game. The first goal, a neat back-heel from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, was aided by poor defending from Darnell Furlong. The second strike was a sumptuous effort by James Rodriguez and there was little Sam Johnstone could have done to stop it.
The half then culminated with a Kieran Gibbs red card for a ridiculous assault on Rodriguez and was followed by Slaven Bilic’s own dismissal after confronting Mike Dean over the incident at half-time.Embed from Getty Images
The players came out fighting and equalised straight away with a trademark Matheus Pereira free kick from 30 yards out. It was eerily similar to Chris Brunt’s free-kick at Goodison Park all those years go.
Despite the fight from the Bilic’s men, Everton’s extra man showed, with the Toffees sinking Albion with three quality goals. All three goals showed two primary weaknesses in West Brom’s defence: the centre back positioning in the back five and the inability to defend from set pieces.
It is clear the wing-back role suits Furlong and his desire to get forward but defensively, there are certainly question marks. He misplaced a fair few passes and was beaten almost every time in the air, leading to the equalizing goal, as well as the fifth.
Ajayi looked out of his depth at times today and often found himself being over-reliant on his pace rather than defensive positioning. The back five does not appear to be working defensively and it shows in Ajayi’s performance and positioning.
Bartley also looked out of his depth for the second game in a row and simply does not look ready for the Premier League week in week out. This may seem harsh but with eight goals conceded in two games, there are clearly issues at the back.Embed from Getty Images
O’Shea was also unusually poor today and it appears he is better suited to being a right-back at this point in his development. He switched the play nicely at times and was the most affected by Kieran Gibbs’ dismissal with Bilic moving him to cover at left back.
As was so often the case in the Championship, Diangana and Pereira were the shining lights. Diangana in particular threatened going forward, often leaving Seamus Coleman for dead. Pereira is undoubtedly more effective in central areas but still impressed on the right today.
There are certainly positives to take and if we are being honest, the negatives come as no surprise: we all know we need a striker and more legs in midfield; we all know our defence lacks experience; and, from last season, we all know set pieces are an issue.
With Conor Gallagher and Branislav Ivanovic set to make their Albion debuts soon, things look better than they did one week ago. Should the board close deals on Karlan Grant and Filip Krovinovic, it is clear we have the potential to threaten sides across the Premier League.
Chelsea comes next, an even tougher fixture than the last two. Following that though, we have Southampton, Burnley, Brighton, Fulham and West Ham, where it will be absolutely essential that points are won if we have any chance of survival.
Match Ratings: Johnstone (5), Furlong (3), Ajayi (4), Bartley (4), O’Shea (4), Gibbs (2), Livermore (6), Sawyers (5), Pereira (7), Robinson (5), Diangana (8). Subs: Phillips (6), Edwards (6), Field (6).
WBA: Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, O’Shea, Gibbs; Pereira (Phillips 71′) Livermore, Sawyers (Field 75′), Diangana (Edwards 71′); Robinson.
Everton: Pickford; Digne, Keane, Mina, Coleman; Gomes, Allan, Doucoure (Sigurdsson 65′); Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin (Iwobi 71′), Rodriguez (Kean 78′).