Everton vs. Hull City: 6 Things We Learned
Everton maintained their strong start to the season, returning to winning ways with a 2-1 triumph against Hull.
The Toffees took the lead on eight minutes, as Kevin Mirallas lashed in a fierce drive from outside the box.
Yannick Sagbo pulled the visitors back on level terms after 30 minutes in what was an even first period, before Steven Pienaar glanced in a second-half winner from a Mirallas cross.
The Toffees were far better after the break, and—without ever producing top form—were always the more likely winners.
Here's a look at six Everton-related talking points to emerge from this contest.
Mirallas Back on Form
For a player with such explosive, match-winning talent, the amount of time Kevin Mirallas spends on the fringes of play can be infuriating.
He's produced typical flashes of brilliance this season without ever influencing a game. Given his excellent preseason form, this has been disappointing.
Against Hull, however, he was back to his best. He scored an impressive goal—his first of the season—showed poise to tee up Pienaar's winner and managed to create six of his side's 13 chances.
To put that creative contribution into context, an Everton player created more than six chances on just three occasions last season.
While he was as prominent as he's been so far, he still touched the ball less than every teammate, bar Romelu Lukaku.
As this showing highlights, the more that Roberto Martinez can find ways to involve Mirallas, the better for Everton.
Osman on the Edge?
Some especially late-transfer business and one or two key injuries have left Martinez unable to field his strongest side at Everton, but Pienaar's return now gives him that opportunity.
The South African's 56th-minute introduction put the Toffees at full strength in a lineup that didn't include Leon Osman.
For the first time in several seasons, the England international doesn't seem assured of selection and will have to work hard to remain in the team.
Gareth Barry and James McCarthy appear the most comfortable midfield pair to enforce Martinez's style, and an attacking triumvirate of Mirallas, Pienaar and Ross Barkley will be especially hard to dislodge.
Osman started 36 of 38 Premier League games last year, which won't be the case this season.
The passing statistics from this game emphasise just how much Everton's style is changing from the previous regime.
In total, the Toffees made 630 passes—a season high and 93 more than in any game last year.
Gareth Barry made 97 passes and was successful with 87, which is nine more than any Everton player made during any match last season.
Barry was again one of his side's better players and showed promising chemistry with McCarthy, who also impressed.
Passing numbers are not a measure of success, as last year's Champions League regularly demonstrated, and they shouldn't really be lauded. They are, however, a means of gaining better control, and these numbers reflect Everton's gradual progress under Martinez.
The fact that just 194 passes were made in the final third is quite a low proportion and suggests there's still work to be done on Everton's transitions. The play was bright in the final third, but it often seemed a struggle to get there.
Goodison Park Influence
Playing a newly promoted side at home can often generate a tense atmosphere in any Premier League ground. The crowd expects three points and quickly becomes frustrated if that doesn't seem a formality.
Away sides often anticipate this and begin with extra intensity, as was the case with Hull. Steve Bruce's side capitalised on Everton's mediocre start and deserved to be on level terms by the interval, looking particularly dangerous at set-pieces.
However, a turning point came just before Everton's winner. Liam Rosenior went down under a challenge and stayed down, which had been the case for several of his teammates before him.
Whether Rosenior was injured or not, this incensed fans and provoked a chorus of chanting, suddenly providing a far more hostile atmosphere for the visitors.
Instead of the crowd's frustration being aimed at Everton, Hull became the target, and moments later Pienaar stroked home the winner.
While there were still moments of exasperation at Goodison Park, it seemed far more comfortable from then on for the Toffees.
Kone's Slow Start Continues
Against Stevenage, Arouna Kone endured one of the more comical full debuts in recent memory, spurning numerous chances from inside the area.
Having surprisingly splashed out £6 million for his services, Martinez will be desperate for his No. 9 to prove his worth and find the back of the net. He was brought on with 22 minutes to go and had two glorious chances to finish the game, but squandered both.
The first was a particularly poor miss, as he hit the post with ample time to pick his spot. He made the second with a direct run, but once in the box, he should have finished.
Evertonians won't want to think about it too much just yet, but when Lukaku's loan expires, the Toffees will still look worryingly short up front.
It's still early, but Kone hasn't suggested he can provide a regular supply of goals.
A Match-Winning Substitution
The final word is reserved for Martinez, whose proactive substitution turned the game for his side.
Without scouring every single match for factual evidence, David Moyes was never renowned for making early substitutions. He would often wait until the 70th minute, with fans howling for a change at least 10 minutes before.
The fact that Martinez seems to be the polar opposite has been refreshing to fans and has already influenced a couple of results.
His double substitution away at West Ham coaxed a rampant second-half showing from his side, while Pienaar's goal-scoring first touch followed his early introduction on 56 minutes.
Martinez recognised his side needed a spark and was rewarded for his positive change.
Statistics via WhoScored?