Although Everton have not been playing blistering attacking football of late, there is no doubt that the appointment of Sam Allardyce as Toffees manager has seen the club’s fortunes improve.
The former England coach has focussed on making the Goodison Park outfit a more difficult side to beat, with added defensive stubbornness than under former boss Ronald Koeman.
Initial positive results have tailed off somewhat of late, with hopes among the Everton faithful that the January signing of Cenk Tosun will go some way to adding potency in the final third.
One thing that was evident in the meek 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United on New Years Day was a lack of aggression and heart in the Toffees ranks.
The Red Devils, inspired by Paul Pogba, were free to use the ball as they pleased, with Everton sitting off their opponents and failing to press the ball.
However, the introduction of James McCarthy in the second half added some steel to a Toffees midfield already missing Idrissa Gueye, with the Irishman putting a foot-in and showing his team-mates the required effort to win back possession.
The Republic of Ireland international is undoubtedly an able performer at this level but has been blighted by injuries since moving to Everton from Wigan Athletic.
Now fit and available, McCarthy’s display against United and willingness to press the ball against Liverpool in the FA Cup clash on Friday night indicate that he has an important role to play for the club during the remainder of the campaign.
While Morgan Schneiderlin has shown none of the blood and thunder that made him one of the Premier League’s most-coveted midfielders during his Southampton days, the Irishman’s effort and aggression in the last two games clearly resonated with the Everton supporters.
As such, when Allardyce has all his central midfield options available to him again, it should be Schneiderlin that makes way in the starting XI, with a combative partnership of McCarthy and Gueye possessing the energy to push the Toffees up the table.