Sam Allardyce remains unbeaten as Everton manager after an uneventful 0-0 draw at West Brom on Boxing Day, but this drab affair felt like a missed opportunity as the visitors showed far too much respect to a home side winless in 17 league games before kickoff.
West Brom created and missed the few chances on offer as Everton spent too much time in their own half and recorded their second goalless draw in as many matches. Without Wayne Rooney and Idrissa Gueye, the Everton midfield looked short on inspiration.
Allardyce can reflect on the ongoing eight-match unbeaten run and a fourth clean sheet in six league games under his guidance, but a lack of imagination in terms of tactics and individual performances resulted in two points dropped.
After two operations and over a year on the sidelines, the return of Yannick Bolasie provided some festive cheer on an otherwise disappointing afternoon. Bolasie inevitably looked rusty, lasting for just over an hour on his return, but his unpredictability and creativity will be useful assets once he gets fully up to speed after his lengthy layoff.
Against a West Brom side scoring just 14 league goals this season, the second-fewest in the division, the use of a five-man defence felt overly cautious and sent out the wrong message.
With Everton confident and facing a home side lacking that same trait, this was a chance to take advantage of a team mired in the bottom three.
Instead, the lack of attacking options left the away side with no threat and Dominic Calvert-Lewin completely isolated. Everton did not have their first shot on target until the second half, their first in more than three halves of football after failing to register a shot on target against Chelsea last time out. Even with several players out injured, there is enough quality available to Allardyce to expect better than this.
Manager rating out of 10
5 — Allardyce’s overall approach contributed to the lack of quality in possession that he bemoaned after the match.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 6 — Untested aside from the occasional punch or catch as West Brom bombarded the penalty area from out wide, the Everton goalkeeper continues to rack up the clean sheets.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 7 — Defensive ability continues to shine through as the 20-year-old plays with a maturity beyond his years. Good awareness and positioning has created a happy knack for timely interventions inside the penalty area.
DF Mason Holgate, 6 — Competent for the most part but wasteful in possession and one poor piece of defending saw him easily turned and presented a chance that Salomon Rondon thankfully wasted.
DF Ashley Williams, 7 — This was another solid display at the heart of the defence as the 33-year-old continues to rediscover his form, benefiting more than most from the Allardyce setup.
DF Michael Keane, 6 — Strong in the air in the face of a direct approach from the home side, but the centre-back almost undid his good work as two separate positional errors handed glaring opportunities to Rondon and Craig Dawson inside the Everton six-yard box.
DF Cuco Martina, 6 — Dependable enough in defence but seemed on a different wavelength to his teammates when in possession, playing a number of passes perhaps best described as curious.
MF Tom Davies, 5 — Forced into a more restrained role due to Gueye’s absence and the shackles weighed heavily on a young midfielder struggling for form. Pickford having more touches of the ball is an unfortunate footnote on his performance.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 7 — One dazzling piece of footwork left two West Brom players chasing shadows and underlined the improving confidence of a player gradually warming to the task after a lacklustre campaign.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 6 — A handful of quality set piece deliveries went unrewarded as teammates failed to make the most of them, but that was the extent of his attacking output on a quiet afternoon.
MF Yannick Bolasie, 6 — To his credit, Bolasie went looking for the ball on his return to the team, especially in the first half, in an attempt to spark Everton to life in an attacking sense. Unfortunately, there was little of note to show for it.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 6 — An isolated and forlorn figure in attack, the young striker looks in need of a break after a succession of tireless but demanding shifts in the lone striker role.
MF Aaron Lennon, 5 — Created the Niasse chance late on but failed to make any real impact in this 30-minute outing.
FW Oumar Niasse, 5 — Mostly on the periphery but almost snatched three points late on when forcing Ben Foster into a double save.
MF Beni Baningime, N/R — Brought on for Davies in the final few minutes.
Luke is ESPN FC’s Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.