The feel-good factor around Everton was maintained in midweek with a comprehensive Capital One Cup victory over Leyton Orient, and particularly by the sterling home debut of Kevin Mirallas.
Mirallas lined up ostensibly just off centre-forward Victor Anichebe but it soon became clear that he, and a number of his teammates, had a roaming brief. The Belgian was all over the pitch. So too was Magaye Gueye, who had been on the left wing, and Steven Naismith, who started on the right. Leon Osman dictated the play from the centre of midfield but spent just as much time off the shoulder of Anichebe, and Leighton Baines got in on the act, as usual, playing virtually as a winger or a wide forward rather than a left-back.
It was a sight to behold in the first 45 minutes. The standard of the opposition may not have been the highest – although Orient did display some nice touches and did not deserve to be four goals down at the break – but there was simply nothing they could do. The visitors’ impotence was perhaps summed up best by the opening goal. It came after a prolonged spell of Orient possession, where they retained the ball comfortably in the face of Everton harassment. But the move eventually broke down and three passes later, all along the floor, Mirallas was clean through on goal.
Yet despite his excellent game, Mirallas, having scored twice and created two more goals, is not guaranteed a place in the XI to play West Bromwich Albion on Saturday – very few of the players who started against Orient are. Baines is one, and Osman is another, and both were withdrawn at half-time to save their legs. Phil Neville would likely have played but must now be a doubt after leaving the action with 15 minutes to go despite Everton having used all of their substitutes. But after those couple there are more certainties to drop out than to remain in place.
Everton will welcome back Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar, Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic, suggesting that David Moyes does have a squad with depth at his disposal. Orient are not the best measuring stick but aside from any individual performances the most telling aspect of the match was the style with which Everton played. It was wholly in-keeping with what cut apart Aston Villa – all one-touch passing and dynamic runs off the ball – but practiced within the parameters Moyes has always set.
The formation remains constant. Even with the regular interchanges there is always a reference point of a lone striker and the midfield becomes a tight five when necessary. The full-backs still attack and overlap. But even down to the little things – like the ball being pulled back to the penalty spot from wide rather than hoisted into the area – there is an uniformity about Everton’s play, a clear and well-thought plan that, so far, has produced some sparkling football.
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