David Unsworth gets an 8/10 on debut as caretaker Everton manager
If the result suggested more of the same as Everton lost 2-1 at Chelsea and slipped out of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, then the performance signalled a hopeful first step under caretaker manager David Unsworth.
Unsworth went with a mix of experience, promising youngsters and those on the fringes under Ronald Koeman, and the result was a spirited display full of positives as the Toffees ran the Premier League champions close.
Any defeat hurts and another chance at silverware has gone, but this performance, the second half especially, offered light at the end of the tunnel and something to build on for the trip to Leicester on Sunday.
Despite having barely two days to work with the players, Unsworth managed to generate a performance offering more positives than the previous 17 games this season combined. Everton operated with width throughout and visibly pressed higher up the pitch while demonstrating clear signs of life in the second half.
Unsworth stuck to his word in terms of raising the tempo and team selection reaffirmed his faith in youth -- a third of the matchday squad were aged 21 or below. Two 19-year-olds played the full match in central midfield, including a debut for Beni Baningime, while 20-year-old Jonjoe Kenny received another 90 minutes at right-back.
Perhaps it was a hangover from recent months as Everton seemed nervy and pensive for much of the first half. The main regret from this match is that the bold and encouraging football evident in the second half did not arrive sooner. If Everton had discovered those traits earlier on, it might have been them preparing for the quarterfinal draw on Thursday.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- For the first time this season, Everton seemed to have a clear plan, balance and some necessary belief as Unsworth impressively coaxed a reaction from a squad dismantled by Arsenal just four days earlier.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 6 -- Helpless for the two Chelsea goals and a spectator either side of that. That lack of activity and the fact Everton are still out of the competition is likely to be a source of frustration.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 7 -- After a patchy opening half, the young right-back noticeably improved in the second half and provided an overlapping attacking threat on the right flank.
DF Phil Jagielka, 7 -- The oldest member of the defensive contingent has been among the better performers when called upon lately, and this match was no different. A superb block and surprising recovery pace denied Michy Batshuayi a certain goal in the second half.
DF Ashley Williams, 5 -- Such a frustrating player to watch as occasional errors continue to undermine performances. The latest example of this was a lack of awareness and poor positioning for the first Chelsea goal.
DF Leighton Baines, 5 -- The experienced left-back found it difficult to contain the dual threat of Willian and the exuberant and unorthodox Davide Zappacosta in the first half. Performance lifted after the interval as the visitors spent more time on the front foot.
MF Aaron Lennon, 7 -- Brought in from the cold for a first start since January and the hardworking winger grew into the game and linked up well with Kenny on occasion in the second half.
MF James McCarthy, 6 -- This was a typical McCarthy outing of industry and disruption before tiring around the hour mark on his first appearance of the season and first start since February.
MF Beni Baningime, 8 -- The 19-year-old midfielder received a surprise debut but did not disappoint. One bone-crunching slide tackle was the hallmark of a neat and combative debut that stood as one of the main positives on the night.
MF Tom Davies, 7 -- Poor tackling early on and a lack of concentration for the second Chelsea goal showed why Davies is a better player when his team are pushing forward. His best moments came when Everton began to control the game in the second half.
MF Kevin Mirallas, 6 -- Another player much improved in the second half as Everton applied pressure higher up the pitch and began to trouble the home defence. Sharp movement off the left created space and forced a save from Willy Caballero in the second half.
FW Wayne Rooney, 5 -- Unfortunately, this was another reminder that his days as an effective lone striker are over as the 32-year-old cut an isolated and disappointing figure until briefly operating behind Calvert-Lewin later on.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 6 -- The young forward represented a much-needed attacking focal point and grabbed a late consolation.
MF Ademola Lookman, NR -- A lively presence on the right and twice went close to scoring, including an effort from distance against the crossbar.
FW Oumar Niasse, NR -- Willingness to chase lost causes assisted Calvert-Lewin's goal.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.