Everton and Crystal Palace – one side who splashed out big on attacking signings this summer and another who kept one of the most talked about forwards in the league – played out the season's first 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams struggled for creativity throughout, even when Wilfried Zaha came on for Palace in the second half. Very few chances were created, and neither team was clinical enough to put the ball in the back of the net when the opportunity presented itself – Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson missing glaring chances for the Toffees, with Jordan Ayew and Max Meyer also failing to score with clear shots at goal.
Morgan Schneiderlin was sent off with 15 minutes to go when he picked up a second yellow card, but his enforced absence did little to change the flow of the match.
Both teams may put this down to rustiness as they come back from the summer break, and will be reasonably happy that a pair of distinctly average performances still landed them a point apiece.
Key Talking Point
Well, it's really hard to not talk about Wilfried Zaha. The man who has been crying out for a move almost every transfer window, this summer's included, found himself starting from the bench.
How did Crystal Palace fare without him? Well, in the first half, they were toothless offensively. Christian Benteke had little to go off, while Andros Townsend and Meyer just can't match the Ivorian's quality.
A bright 10 minutes or so in the second half showed that there might be some sort of life without Zaha, with a handful of half-chances forced, but none were taken and the momentum petered out – even when their attacking focal point came onto the pitch. If he doesn't get his head back in the game, the Eagles are facing a long season.
Starting XI: Guaita (6); Ward (6); Kelly (6); Dann (7); Van Aanholt (6); Townsend (5); McArthur (6); Milivojevic (6); Meyer (6); Benteke (6); Ayew (7*)
Subs: Zaha (6); Wickham (5)
STAR MAN - With Zaha starting on the bench, Jordan Ayew was Palace's best player for most of the game, offering pace and direct running and creating himself a good goalscoring chance in the second half (although, obviously, he missed it).
Regardless, he was their likeliest source of anything good happening until he came off, and was most certainly their star man.
Ayew has been crystal palace best player this afternoon, he was good at the CAN despite Ghana's early exit. CP signed him permanently this summer and it seems he is happy. I think he will have a good season at Palace. pic.twitter.com/qKY49WyHuo— Lavogez (@captainkoke) August 10, 2019
Great performance for Ayew.— BLACKMAGIC 慄♂️ (@aaroncritchard1) August 10, 2019
Replaces Jordan Ayew who, by all accounts, has been Palace's best player. #cpfc— Sam Smith (@SmithSamuel43) August 10, 2019
Key Talking Point
Firstly, it was a shame to not see any of the new signings start.
Secondly...the new signings need to start.
Everton started with the same team that played most of last season, and had exactly the same problems as that campaign. They lacked cutting edge in the final third. Most of the chances came from Coleman and Digne. There was a distinct lack of creativity and bite from the offensive players.
If the Toffees are to improve on last season, they will need players like Kean and Iwobi to hit the ground running.
Starting XI: Pickford (7); Coleman (7); Keane (6); Mina (6); Digne (8*); Gomes (5); Schneiderlin (4); Richarlison (5); Sigurdsson (5); Bernard (6); Calvert-Lewin (6)
Subs: Davies (6); Gbamin (6); Kean (6)
STAR MAN - Lucas Digne was easily the best player on the pitch, carrying on the form he showed last season. He was Everton's biggest threat, causing huge problems in the first half and making a crucial clearance in the second half to prevent an easy tap in up the other end too.
Oof. Lucas Digne with an enormous clearance— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) August 10, 2019
Siggy has been horrific, DCL toothless, Mina very involved and Coleman/Digne playing well— The Uruguayan Toffee (@UruguayanToffee) August 10, 2019
Surely Digne is gunna cop some sort of return here? Sounds as though he’s pulling strings.— FPL Pat (@PatFpl) August 10, 2019
Both teams will probably accept a draw, but it is clear where they are both struggling: offensively. There was just no quality in the final third.
Palace take on Sheffield United next, providing the perfect opportunity for them to bring Zaha back into the starting XI.
Meanwhile, Everton return to Goodison Park next week to play Watford, and will want to show off their new signings in front of their fans against a Hornets side who were hammered at home by Brighton in their own season opener.