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Mixed display from matchwinner Ross Barkley as Idrissa Gueye excellent

It was one of the more low-key wins this season, but the 1-0 victory at home to Watford caps a home campaign that has restored belief to a packed and re-energised Goodison Park.

With all 19 home games selling out in Ronald Koeman's first season, a glut of goals has provided plenty of enjoyment to a crowd suffering through two previous seasons on their own ground.

A resilient display against a physical visiting team helped the Toffees to an eighth home clean sheet in their final Goodison outing of the season. Just 16 goals conceded in 19 home games reinforce the defensive improvements witnessed this term.

The result leaves Koeman able to reflect on the swift transformation under his guidance. Inheriting a squad recovering from the worst home campaign in their history, Koeman has guided his new team to 43 home points, their best home tally since 1989-90 (45).


All eyes were on Ross Barkley after Koeman issued a sign-or-be-sold ultimatum over his contract, but while the match-winner's future remains uncertain, the area to build this team around becomes clearer with each match. The real strength of this team sits in the midfield positions behind Barkley.

Once again, the central midfield pair of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin dragged the home side on toward victory, particularly in the second half, while the exuberance of Tom Davies stood out during the first half.


For all their effort, physicality and surprising hostility, Watford carried minimal attacking threat, but Koeman's decision to switch to a three-man defence invited the visitors forward and caused unnecessary anxiety. Whether it is a genuine tactic Koeman will retain or an indictment on squad depth, this caution in the latter stages of games is a concern.

Manager rating out of 10

6 -- Decisive half-time substitution shifted the game in Everton's favour, although the aforementioned defensive change gave the visitors encouragement.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Joel Robles, 6 -- The former Wigan goalkeeper may not be the long-term answer, but an important late save and a seventh clean sheet in 10 home appearances this season confirmed him as the more reliable goalkeeping option at present.

DF Mason Holgate, 6 -- The stand-in right-back struggled with the pace of Jose Holebas in the early stages before a shaky start gradually improved. His half-time withdrawal pinpointed the need for a greater attacking contribution from his side of the pitch.

DF Phil Jagielka, 7 -- Constant retreat when faced with pace is a concern, though the club captain matched a forceful Watford attack otherwise. A recent knack for contributing at the opposite end of the pitch continued with the assist for Barkley's goal.

DF Ashley Williams, 7 -- Dominant in the air and was involved in a constant battle with Stefano Okaka. By time the final whistle sounded, the wily centre-back had won this particular tussle convincingly.

DF Leighton Baines, 7 -- Such a reliable performer on the left flank, even when support from teammates is frustratingly absent, Baines remains a class act and valuable part of this team.

MF Idrissa Gueye, 8 -- Always involved, his all-round game continues to grow, with his usual defensive excellence matched by a willingness to link play and push forward whenever possible.

MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 7 -- Eased his way back up to speed after injury. Influence grew in the second half as his passing range and supreme tackling ability came to the fore.

MF Ross Barkley, 6 -- Well-taken goal is the sort of the thing Barkley should attempt more often, especially in a team frequently reluctant to test their luck from distance. A mixed display, one never quite rising to the levels reached in most of his home performances this season.

MF Tom Davies, 7 -- Drove the team forward in the first half, playing with a freedom absent in many of his more experienced teammates to that point. Took his move to right-back in his stride, even if one or two unsightly moments demonstrated why defending is not his forte.

MF Kevin Mirallas, 7 -- The Belgium winger marked his new three-year contract with a lively, purposeful display. Similar to the Swansea game, all it lacked was a defining moment in front of goal.

FW Romelu Lukaku, 5 -- Whatever the reasoning, there is something about the end of the season that disagrees with Everton's top scorer. His failure to score in six of his last eight games echoes his 10-game goal drought at the end of last season.


MF Enner Valencia, 7 -- Not always convincing in possession, but his introduction provided impetus and more of a threat on the right flank.

DF Gareth Barry, N/R -- This was the latest cameo in his new role as the centre point of a three-man defence.

FW Arouna Kone, N/R -- On for a token appearance in his final home game before leaving in the summer.

Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.


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