Idrissa Gueye, Morgan Schneiderlin class as Everton beat Sunderland
A first goal for Idrissa Gueye and the latest Romelu Lukaku strike helped Everton eventually ease to a 2-0 win against a dismal Sunderland on Saturday. The result inflicted further misery on former manager David Moyes, who has lost all four meetings without scoring against the club he managed for 11 years.
This was a case of job done and tougher tests ahead as the Blues recorded a fourth successive home win, extending their unbeaten run to nine matches. With 17 points from a possible 21 in 2017, Everton are doing their level best to close the gap on those above them.
A large portion of the funds spent by manager Ronald Koeman to this point has gone on reshaping the spine of his team. On the evidence of this match and more, it's been money well spent in central midfield.
Idrissa Gueye was back to his best, too: his tremendous determination to retrieve the ball in the build-up to the second goal epitomised his return to form. Alongside him, Morgan Schneiderlin continued his serene start to life on Merseyside with a midfield masterclass. This pair possesses all the traits expected of holding midfielders but with added quality in possession.
As an additional mark of how Koeman has rebuilt the squad that he inherited, this match saw Everton name their youngest starting XI in a home league game since May of 2009.
Everton still need to work on shaking the complacency that occasionally emerges when in winning positions. Similar to the 6-3 win over Bournemouth in their previous home game, those in royal blue dipped before a late flurry sealed three points. Jermain Defoe hitting the bar was a reminder of the need for concentration at all times.
Set pieces also require work as a series of corners and promising free kick positions continually came to nothing, with Ross Barkley particularly culpable.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- After sticking with the same starting XI as the 0-0 draw at Middlesbrough, Koeman used his substitutions quickly and effectively in the second half.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Joel Robles, 6 -- Aside from the frame of the goal saving him in keeping Defoe's effort out, it was arguably his quietest 90 minutes of the season, such was the lack of threat from the visitors.
DF Seamus Coleman, 8 -- Prominent throughout, with his customary forward runs down the right flank as he revelled in the space afforded him. His assist for the opening goal was his third in the last six matches.
DF Ashley Williams, 7 -- Three timely blocks shut down promising Sunderland attacks across the match. The veteran defender improved on recent performances with a strong showing.
DF Ramiro Funes Mori, 7 -- The gangly centre-back still seems liable to self-destruct when allowed to carry the ball out from defence but a more focused approach without the ball saw a game-high 11 clearances and a steadier defensive display.
DF Leighton Baines, 7 -- Endured a shaky start when on the receiving end of a few heavy challenges in the early stages, but it was normal service thereafter as usual composure marked his 300th league appearance for the club.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 9 -- Finished with surprising aplomb for his first Premier League goal and ended the match with game-high returns on tackles and interceptions. First player in Europe's top five leagues to win 100 tackles this season.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 9 -- Exudes excellence in every aspect of his play and already appears a bargain for an initial £20 million outlay. The French international made the difficult appear routine, rarely wasted possession and snuffed out numerous opposing attacks before they amounted to anything.
MF Tom Davies, 7 -- Continues to look comfortable at this level. The youngster was denied an exquisite goal by the outside of the post in the first half, while his slightly fortuitous long-range pass helped create the opening goal.
MF Ross Barkley, 7 -- Quiet for periods of the game but his mostly effective use of the ball led to a game-high five chances created for teammates. However, his set piece delivery continues to be a sore point.
MF Ademola Lookman, 5 -- A testing match for the young attacker but something he can learn from as he continues to adapt to jumping up two leagues after his move from Charlton. His struggles saw his afternoon cut short before the hour mark.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 -- An invaluable goalscorer and demonstrated his class with the decisive goal from nowhere. Despite having played 110 fewer matches, the Belgian joins Duncan Ferguson on 60 Premier League goals for the club.
MF Kevin Mirallas, 7 -- His assist for the second goal in a lively cameo pushed his case for a return to the starting XI.
MF Enner Valencia, 5 -- Worked hard but was wasteful in possession and missed a presentable chance late on.
MF James McCarthy, NR -- Bolstered the middle of the park in the closing minutes.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.