Ronald Koeman inflicted the biggest defeat of former teammate Pep Guardiola’s managerial career as Everton trounced Man City 4-0 at Goodison. A perfect afternoon began with Romelu Lukaku’s 12th league goal this season and ended with a debut strike for 19-year-old sub Ademola Lookman. In between, there was Everton’s first complete performance under Koeman.

Tom Davies runs to the Gwladys Street after scoring his first and Everton's third against Man City.

This was an excellent response from Everton after tumbling out of the FA Cup in flimsy fashion against Leicester. For City, who thrashed West Ham 5-0 last week in their best display under Guardiola, this was a bizarre unravelling. Everton were both a resilient and potent as City struggled to contain or create. There was an underpinning organisation which separated this display from all others under Koeman.

Everton’s defence did not rely on last-ditch sprawls and ref’s discretion like against Arsenal. Two sturdy lines remained resolute throughout. The Blues’ attack was not its usual jarring clash of atonal individualism. The players were purposeful, co-operative, and they made smart choices. That Everton had just 29% of possession, and just four shots on target to City’s five only illustrates the perfect execution in both aspects of play. Weaknesses were identified in City, and brutally exposed.

Without suspended Fernandinho, City lacked… a defensive midfield. Everton scored two goals through 18-year-old Tom Davies surging forward unchallenged and picking out unmarked teammates. After a similar effort had been ruled out for offside, the Toffees forged ahead 35 minutes in when John Stones was caught 15 yards out of position when Gael Clichy cleared it straight to Davies. Attempting to recover, Nicolas Otamendi reached the penalty spot while Lukaku was still outside the box to allow the Belgian all the time to stroke the ball home. Disastrous defending.

There has long been a hint about Lukaku and Ross Barkley that they are counter-attackiers awkwardly forced into a framework of slow build-up. Sunday offered a hefty nod in that direction. With City desperate for a win and a goal down, they had to come out. In response, Barkley had one of his most creative halves for Everton. A minute after half-time, he set up the victory by freeing Mirallas to find the corner.

Two opposing substitutions then helped create the conditions for a goal destined to live long in the Evertonian consciousness. Guardiola replaced defensive midfielder Pablo Zabaleta with striker Kelechi Iheanacho; Koeman did it the other way around with Morgan Schneiderlin making his first appearance in place of Mirallas. City were more exposed, Everton were reinforced; Davis suddenly picked up the ball.

Everton academy products Ross Barkley and Tom Davies celebrate the latter's first goal for the club against Man City.Charging forward, Davies drew Clichy and Yaya Toure wide before jinking inside and leaving them for dead. After regaining his feet following Stones’ shove, he collected Barkley’s pass, chipped Claudio Bravo then hoped the hilariously selfish Lukaku wouldn’t make contact. And so it was. A sublime goal crafted by two Everton fans from the academy in front of the Gwladys Street.

Trolling Stones

Remarkably, that wasn’t the cherry on Everton’s cake. That arrived seconds before full-time in almost laughably fortuitous circumstances. Seamus Coleman never puts in a good cross did so only when Stones lost his nerve and booted it against him. Introduced just moments earlier, Lookman showed excellent movement to anticipate the chance, and fine instincts to finish. A second teenage goal scorer for Everton in what was now Guardiola’s worst ever defeat.

Pre-game chat surrounded Stones returning to Goodison for the first time but in truth, he wasn’t even the best former Barnsley ball-playing centre-back on the pitch. Retaining his place in a 3-4-2-1, Holgate demonstrated a lot of what Stones lacks – an eagerness to compete physically, organisation, common sense. He smothered Raheem Sterling into frustration all game while Lukaku, Barkley, Mirallas and Davies gave Stones a torrid afternoon.

19-year-old Ademola Lookman celebrates with Morgan Schneiderlin after scoring on his Everton debut against Man City.

Koeman deserves credit for sticking with the formation after Leicester, for the way he motivated the side, and for how he altered proceedings. The introductions of Schneiderlin for Mirallas, and James McCarthy for Gareth Barry, who was fantastic against his old club, added strength just as levels were dwindling. He then got Barkley the standing ovation his should-have-been-three-assists display deserved when presenting Lookman with the dream scenario.

The Dutchman’s repeated use of the word “perfect” after the game was spot on. His tactics optimised his players’ talents and covered their weaknesses. Lukaku, Barkley and Mirallas – so often figures of frustration and targets of abuse – absolutely mopped the floor with City. They should have ended with three goals and four assists but Lukaku spurned a late chance from Barkley’s flicked through-ball.

It all augurs well for Everton who are likely to further bolster their ranks before February. Koeman’s issue with youth appears to be eroding before our eyes with Davies, Holgate and now Lookman simply too useful to overlook. And the rest of the regular squad is bearing all the signs of the penny dropping tactically, as if they now understand the level of effort required to execute Koeman’s plans.

Four points clear in seventh, the Blues are now free to get on with chipping away at the top six and refining a playing style that will increase their chances next season which, as far as Koeman’s first year goes, suggests Everton are now right on track.
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By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter@cdsmith789 

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