Sixer’s stand-in’s Soapbox: Everton do enough to guarantee the points

John McCormick writes:

Pete has asked me if I can do a match report for him as he’s taking in Bradford v Toulouse and won’t get in until late.

I can, but you mustn’t expect his level of wit, nor his keen observation and erudition. This was only my third live game of the season and I have enough trouble recognising September’s signings, never mind any from January, and have yet to work out what system we use and where different players slot in, assuming we have one.

A couple of weeks ago Pete had jokingly asked if I still wanted my Everton ticket and I’d replied that I did and that we’d win 2-0, a prediction which I repeated in the “guess the score” last week. And, having seen some weird results at Goodison in the last few years I really did believe we could do it.

It took about four minutes for me to realise I was wrong, and there’d be no mug for me anytime soon.

It wasn’t so much that we were inept, it was just that it quickly became obvious we weren’t good enough, not to win 2-0, and probably not even to draw.  By the time those four minutes were up we had conceded three corners, and not all while under heavy pressure. Everton weren’t particularly good by their standards – this turned out to be the kind of match that you wouldn’t want someone to choose as their first – but they were more than adequate and handled what little we could throw at them without losing their poise or appearing uncomfortable.  They  had a game plan, which was basically to go down the wings and put the ball in, and they had people who could carry it out.  Did we have a game plan? I couldn’t discern one, unless it was “hope Jermain Defoe can score without support”. That difference was enough to ensure victory for Everton.

A victory which was won, I would say, in midfield. We weren’t too bad across the back. John O’Shea might not be the fastest but he has guts, and experience, and he can organise a back line, especially when it contains Kone – solid against Lukaku – and Oviedo, who inspires more confidence than Patrick ever did. It also contains Billy Jones, however. I’ve seen him have solid games but he didn’t quite have one yesterday. Nothing too disastrous, but things he tried didn’t come off and and almost any Everton player who took him on caused problems.

Similar things could be said of Januzaj, who for a while seemed to be getting the measure of Leighton Baines (someone I appreciate more every time I see him), and Borini. Neither did enough to magic up chances for Defoe, neither looked capable of turning Everton’s players inside out. There were some periods when the game passed them by and others when Everton pinned them back in our half and they couldn’t break out.

Which brings me back to midfield. Individually Ndong – improving but still not perfect – and Gibson covered a lot of ground, and made a lot of interceptions. But they have yet to gel and they have yet to prove themselves when it comes to providing the killer pass forward. That was lacking and it was one of the big differences between ourselves and Everton, who had  Schneiderlin to show us how it’s done. He, with great support from his teammates, kept possession, moved the ball forward and forced us onto the back foot. When they couldn’t get the ball out wide he came at us through the middle. He seemed to grow in size as the game progressed while our players diminished.

Has his time come? I’m beginning to think so

Gibson and Ndong weren’t helped by Larsson. I used to be a huge fan of Seb. Note the phrase “used to be”. I think his time has come if yesterday’s game was anything to go by. Misplaced passes, daft decisions. He set Everton’s forwards away more than he did ours.

Yet we did hold Everton off, sometimes desperately, for most of the first half and we looked like we could make it to half time until a lovely crossfield ball (from that Schneiderlin?) took Jones out of the picture and allowed Coleman to play the ball across the box where Gueye’s late run and near perfect shot left Pickford helpless. It could have got worse as the ball came back off the post a couple of minutes later but 1-0 it was as the half-time whistle went.

There was an improvement in the second half. We began to fight more for the ball and we pushed up more. It almost paid off, too. Januzaj and Borini combined and got the ball to Defoe who made space and smacked in a shot which came down off the bar, landed inches in front of the post and then bounced too awkwardly for an incoming Seb Larsson to redeem himself with a goal.

At that point we had impetus and I began to hope, but our manager broke the tempo with a couple of substitutions that stopped us taking a corner. Bad timing. We ended up pinging the ball about a bit, then allowing a clearance that played in Lukaku, who ran from the halfway line to the six yard box, shrugging off the attention of Oviedo (I think, it’s not easy when you’ve never seen half the team before) as he went, and put it beyond Pickford.

Sixer and his stand-in during happier times

And that was that. Different results elsewhere could have made the day worse, I suppose, but this just wasn’t good enough for a Premiership club and we won’t survive if we don’t improve. Above all, we need to do something about midfield. Pickford had a good game, he made some good saves; O’Shea still has class, Defoe is class. Kone appears to be back and Ndong is improving, Oviedo and Gibson will be fine given game time.  But that’s not enough, we lack bite, tenacity, creativity, all those things that come from a well-tuned midfield.

It’s tempting to blame our woes on injury and I’m sure we’d be at least 10 points better off if we hadn’t lost Catts, the Hoff, Roadrunner and Victor Anichebe, but as things stand we are going down. We cannot compete, especially in midfield, and the Premier League is one unforgiving competition.


4 thoughts on “Sixer’s stand-in’s Soapbox: Everton do enough to guarantee the points”

  1. David Moyes might do well to make his players watch a video of Leicester’s game against Liverpool last night.
    Here was an example of effort and desire overcoming allegedly talent.

    Admittedly Liverpool conspired to bring about an unexpected result with the most spineless display I’ve witnessed in many a year, but Leicester’s sheer desire to win, cannot be argued away.

    No one will convince me that Leicester are anything but an average team in terms of football ability, but they comprehensively demonstrated how much of a part determination plays in sport.

    We need to do likewise.

  2. I think any sensible analysis would agree we are going down as things stand.But there is still something left to play for and we have a very unerving habit of making last ditch end of season come backs.We will maybe get a few players back before the so who knows,just hope we are not out of sight by then.

    So it’s never say never.But it is hard to swallow season after season,

  3. My dad took me to my first game in 1977 and the lads beat West Ham 6-0, in what was that now famous (amongst a certain generation) late surge which almost rescued us from relegation…yes, it’s been happening for that long. I’ve been going to games home, and away when possible, ever since.
    At university in London I spent those 3 years mainly watching away games and the ones I could whilst at home.
    I’ve stood in the boys’ end at Roker, my dad never far away keeping a beady on me, my brother and friends; the fulwell end and now the West Stand. When others dropped away I still went with my dad, watched him cry (for the only time, as far as I know) when benno scored against Gillingham to force extra-time, to no avail, obviously; to Port Vale to watch Gates send us all, behind the goal and half the main stand, into raptures; we went to Wembley, to no avail…several times; watched promotions and relegations in abundance; my dad died in January 2000.
    Obviously I’ve continued going with family and mates to watch more relegations and promotions; some wonderful players, some terrible players; with a sense of fellowship, of belonging to something greater, a community. Something I had been given by my dad at the age of 7.
    So…what is my point? I think that I have finally been broken by SAFC. I walked from the Southampton game strangely, bizarrely, calm. I may even have been smiling at the ludicrous nature of the performance. And yesterday I watched the rugby, didn’t listen to the radio or watch tv. I simply didn’t care, because I knew what was going to happen. This owner, this manager, this team has finally drained my emotional reservoir. I have nothing left to give. I will go to the remaining matches this season out of some kind of wildly misplaced loyalty to a club which defends indefensible players, whilst casting off other staff.
    Will I renew my season ticket/card/piece of plastic? I think not, especially if by some ridiculous set of events we remain in the Premier League, failing to entertain anybody. Enough is most definitely enough.
    By the way, I don’t include Defoe in the above, it has been a privilege to watch him play for my club.

    • I empathise Ifos. For me the most disappointing aspect of this season is still the fact that we looked like we were on the up at the end of last season, with a manager and a team that could take us up into the top half of the table.

      That more than anything convinced me that renewing my season card would be worth it. By the time the preseason friendlies were over I could see what was going to happen. Injuries haven’t helped but because of the optimism I had at the back end of last season this year’s performances are more disappointing than ever.

      I will probably renew if we go down. Although I wouldn’t predict us doing that well in the Championship at least the games will be more competitive. If we stay up I will probably think seriously about not renewing and going to Spennymoor or Darlington instead.

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