Everton Club Focus – Wolves win provides respite for Toffees beleaguered on field and off

Goals from Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines brought a much needed three points against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, a 2-1 victory that was amongst the most-hard fought triumphs of the season. It may also go down as one of Everton’s most precious wins of the entire campaign.

The result came at yet another point of division between the board and a section of supporters, with between 250 and 350 attending a pre-match march, and allegedly a a time of division amongst the board itself after emails claiming to be from a senior member of the club’s hierarchy were leaked to a fans’ website. Together with a run of six defeats in seven games to add to the gloom on the field, almost everything before the match with Wolves was cause for consternation. The only brief highlights were the performances of Baines, Jagielka and Jack Rodwell for England and Marouane Fellaini’s contract extension, and even that was quickly dampened by the furore of the leaked emails.

Three points then was vital to deflect from whatever the latest boardroom shenanigans entail and to remind supporters – and possibly the players too – that Everton are a force to be reckoned with on the pitch. That said it was still a patchy performance. There were moments of impressive play – Tim Cahill linked nicely with Fellaini to unleash Seamus Coleman down the right flank, and the Ireland international’s cross was met intelligently by the Australian and thwacked towards goal by Saha. Only Wayne Hennessy, the Wolves’ goalkeeper in impressive form, prevented a superb team goal. Incidents of that kind were however rare, and it is telling that Everton’s two goals came from a set-piece and a penalty.

Everton needed a playmaker even before Mikel Arteta was sold, after the Spaniard’s loss of form last season. That need became even greater when Arsenal swooped on transfer deadline day. Without such an orchestrator Everton’s play is often stilted and predictable – the amount of angled long balls from Jagielka that ultimately went nowhere is testament to that.

The likes of Coleman and Royston Drenthe can nevertheless use their speed and dynamism to upset opposition defences yet, without someone in midfield taking responsibility for feeding these effective wingers they go underused or ill-applied. Leon Osman, given a central midfield berth on Saturday, is the closest Everton have to a playmaker and performed well, but he is more of a calming presence in the centre with an eye for a pass than a dedicated creative hub.

The winter calendar has been kind to Everton, with only Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur away fixtures that the Toffees would not expect to take at least a point from. The confidence-boosting three points, regardless of the shortcomings of the team, against Wolves will go a long way towards generating positive results in coming weeks. The boardroom situation may only seem to get murkier but at least David Moyes and his players may have found the light at the end of the tunnel.

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