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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Michael Ball

Ellis Simms 'next step' is clear after Everton show new side against Chelsea

Everton’s late equaliser at Chelsea was a brilliant moment for Ellis Simms, I’m absolutely made up for him to get his first Premier League goal.

Given his age, he’ll have been really frustrated trying to break into the first team and after being sent out on loan a few times he’s come back to the club and probably hasn’t had the number of minutes that he’d have been hoping for.

Just to get the goal and getting that box ticked will be great for his confidence but the manner of the way he did it will ensure he’ll be flying high at Finch Farm this week. He’s had to work hard, he’s had to be patient and do all the ugly stuff that fans don’t see.

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You want to show your frustration in the right way and Ellis has done that against Chelsea. There were two quick touches and he’s turned away one of the best centre-halves in the world, brushed him aside and put the ball into the back of the net which is the hardest thing to do in football. He’s got to be really pleased with himself because a lot of young players feel they have the ability to play against the best but as time goes on and you’re not getting an opportunity, you start to question yourself.

No matter what age you are, you always need regular football to be on form and find your rhythm and trying to do that will clearly be the next step for Ellis. It’s down to him now to show to Sean Dyche and the coaching staff that he’s ready for it.

It’s not the first time he’s come off the bench and made a contribution either as he’s showing that he’s an impact sub who is causing teams problems. Also, it’s another feather in the cap for the academy guys, bringing one of their own get on the pitch and putting the ball in the back of the net in the Premier League.

It’s all about direction, he got the ball and his first thought wasn’t to go backwards, it was to try and ask questions of the opposition. Defenders love strikers who play in front of you, it’s easy for them to defend them but if you want to try and spin in behind me as quick as you can, you’re asking a question – I’ve either got to outmuscle you, outthink you or I might even clip you and you get a penalty.

Ellis had two great touches to get the ball out from his feet, moved the centre-half away and then opened his body up so he could hit any part of that goal. It was a good striker’s finish because he could have gone near post, through the goalie’s legs or where he went at the far post.

My old team-mate Danny Cadamarteri was a prime example of a striker who was something of an unknown quantity, wreaking havoc among defences for a time. Football scouting is a lot more thorough now and other teams will have the stats from Ellis’ Under-21s games and when he was at Sunderland with the video footage of him but I doubt they’ll have spent too much time worrying about him - and if they do start to focus on him then they’ll take their eyes of somebody else and someone like Demarai Gray will have more space to put the ball in the back of the net.

There have been other instances too. Kevin Campbell came in and started very slowly in his first couple of games but ended up with a fantastic record in the run-in to keep us up in 1999 while when Nikica Jelavic came down from Rangers, it was almost like everything he hit, the ball was in the back of the net. When young players come through though, the real acid test is the second of third year when people know what you’re all about and whether you’ve got the class to make it as a Premier League footballer.

Dyche’s substitutions have been a bit of a talking point because he trusts his starting 11 to deliver what he wants and he doesn’t like too much change because it might impact your momentum. You’ve got to respect that but on the flip side, the way we play is very physically demanding at times you’ve got to freshen things up.

This time things played into Dyche’s hands as Chelsea made too many changes themselves bringing on players just for the sake of it to get them minutes, thinking that the game was done and that hit their rhythm. Dyche tweaked our formation, brought Simms on and he caused them problems, as shown by the equaliser.

Still some bad habits to cut out

I thought both the goals we conceded at Chelsea were soft. Playing against top opposition is going to make you tired and leggy as Sean Dyche is pushing this team to work at a high level consistently and as a player you’re going to try and get that breather you need here and there.

If you look at the first goal, Idrissa Gueye again switches off, looking like he’s thinking his player is not going to be a danger. As the passage of play moves on, Michael Keane gets a foot to it but it’s a dangly foot and if he was on his toes and been a bit sharper then he probably got a better clearance and that scenario is out of the window.

I thought Keane played tremendously though and things like that are going to happen in football. He got his foot to it but there was no defensive midfielder anywhere around a very dangerous player.

If I were Gueye, I wouldn’t want to let Joao Felix free anywhere on the pitch but he’s a world-class player who is going to cause teams plenty of issues and if you’re off-guard for a moment, they have the ability to find the back of the net. What we were good at for the majority of the game was not giving them that time and space to dictate, we were in their faces.

For the second goal, Alex Iwobi has been moved back out wide by Dyche and his work rate is second to none but sometimes his pride in his final pass seems to go a little bit and he looks like he’s hitting the ball rather than caressing it. If he had a forward-thinking brain and got us about 10-15 yards up the field with a run then the move that ended up with the penalty wouldn’t have happened.

He tried to find a pass going backwards and sideways which Chelsea read and Ben Godfrey was out of position. The change in transition has let us down a lot with this group of players and when we’ve had the ball, we’ve been our own worst enemy.

We need to cut things like that out and play the percentage football that we’ve been doing for the majority of the game. Chelsea are going to dominate against most teams but when you do get the ball, you’ve got to be a bit cuter with it, trying to pick the wrong pass backwards or sideways when you’re not set was the wrong decision by Iwobi and the reaction from everyone else after that was just panic stations.

There was a coming together and while it probably is a penalty, it’s a soft one, and what makes it more frustrating is when you see the Seamus Coleman incident at Nottingham Forest that was very similar but not given in our previous away game. Despite that, our players still had the belief that they could get something out of the game.

Tough evening but a happy ending

Sean Dyche was brought to the football club to find a solution for us to get more points on the board and while we were disappointed not to get the win at Nottingham Forest because we just couldn’t game manage correctly but being able to go away from home and put points on the board is one of the most important things for Everton in our current situation. We’ve been a soft touch for far too long and there haven’t been many times that we’ve shown a good reaction to going behind.

Chelsea are a top-quality side with world-class players but I thought we showed them too much respect in the first half. I think they thought we were going to be an easy touch and ‘we’re better than these so we’ll get our moments in the game’ but while they might have been a bit unfortunate not to be leading at the break, we kept it tight.

Again, the goals we conceded were very soft but good teams are going to find ways to score against you and we’ve got to make it as difficult as possible. We could sense that Chelsea weren’t really at it and were going through the motions so we started believing in ourselves a lot more which was great to see.

After going behind twice at Stamford Bridge, coming back on both occasions and then snatching a late equaliser did feel like a win. It’s always been the way in football, if you get something with a last-minute goal then you’re always the much more cheerful of the two sides.

The second half performance was what I’d like to see more often from us. I understand how we played in the first half, we kept it tight to try and stay in it and the game plan worked and when we’ve gone behind early, often it’s looked like the game has gone for us and it ends up feeling like the longest match in history for the travelling fans.

Even here though, Everton’s fans who had gone down to London because watching it on television, the noise coming out from the away end was fantastic but they only had about eight minutes of joy during that second half. They’d travelled a huge distance again for only a short burst of enjoyment but the late equaliser at least ensured they were happy going home.


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