Everton’s win over Stoke City on Saturday wasn’t pretty and that’s not solely down to the snowy weather at the Bet365 Stadium.
The Blues laboured against ten men and should have put the game to bed much earlier than they did.
Cenk Tosun’s brace - his fourth goal in three games - was much-needed for Sam Allardyce’s side after they saw their lead slip away moments after taking it.
Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting’s goal could, and probably should, have been the catalyst for a Potters comeback but after Charlie Adam’s first-half red card, the damage was done to Paul Lambert’s side.
Chupo-Moting’s goal was oh so typical of Everton this season. It was weak, baseless in it’s beginning and made Jordan Pickford look bad.
Yet, the three points were eked out thanks to Tosun’s second - a diving header rarely seen from an Everton striker in recent years.
Blueprints to build from
The win, whilst papering over some cracks from recent weeks, showed that Everton have the foundations but ultimately, they need a stronger structure on and off the pitch going forward.
It was the first away win of the new year and the Blues’ first since December, which is relegation form, but again it was laboured and could have easily swung the other way.
Tosun’s brace bailed the Blues out on a poor afternoon but it’s a good indication of what the Turkish forward can do going forward.
Everton fans have seen January striker signings go through purple patches - read, Nikica Jelavic - but Tosun has found the back of the net consistently in recent years, including strikes in the Champions League.
His true test will be seen next season when Premier League teams have enough video of the forward to game-plan for him. But for now, he looks like he will keep putting the ball in the back of the net.
The win may also slightly ease the pressure pushing on Allardyce from those fans pushing him towards the exit.
Allardyce still isn’t a popular figure with the fanbase and he will more than likely be replaced come the end of this term but for now, following this win, he has completed the job he was brought to Merseyside to do.
His successor, whoever they may be, has the blueprints to build from but will need to rebuild an ultimately frail away record through putting their own mark on the team and reigniting the fanbase.
Get it wide
The reintroduction of a two wide men system has worked wonders for Allardyce in recent weeks.
Theo Walcott knows how to find the back of the net and make a nuisance of himself whilst Yannick Bolasie knows how to assist goalscorer whilst making a nuisance of himself.
In the past two weeks, Bolasie has assisted Walcott and Tosun with crosses where he cuts across his marker and drills a ball across the box.
It’s worked wonders for Allardyce and ultimately guided the Blues to Premier League safety.
Barring injury, it’s possible the Everton boss sticks with what works in the next few weeks despite games against tougher opposition such as Manchester City and Liverpool.
A new Jagielka needs to be found
Ashley Williams' dismissal against Burnley is looking like a blessing in disguise for the Blues.
It has allowed captain Phil Jagielka to step back in and shepherd a leaky backline to form. The returns of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman have also helped but Jagielka's cool persona has seemingly brought the best out of the much-maligned Michael Keane.
Keane’s early season form made the defender look a snip at thirty million but numerous injuries have seen him in and out of the team and his form has fallen off a cliff.
Against Brighton and Hove Albion the week previous, and again against Stoke, Keane was much better and looked as if he was being walked through the game by the Everton captain.
The need to find a ready-made replacement for Jagielka is necessary as his days on Merseyside almost seem to be coming to an end in the near future.
Mason Holgate could be the replacement but he has seen his role, which was looking quite bright before the recent weeks, severely diminished to late substitute appearances in a bid to see games out.
Whilst talented, Ramiro Funes Mori doesn’t have the calmness of Jagielka.
Keane is the most likely candidate to step into the ‘Jagielka role’ but will need experience and a good run under his belt before he can be considered as the successor to Everton’s number six.