“As soon as I read that Lukaku hadn’t scored for six months my heart sank.”
When I heard the commentators on Sky saying pretty much the same I had similar feelings. You just knew he would score. But for the first half I thought we did OK, although our midfield couldn’t find Defoe, who battled in vain. Perhaps I have a rosy view, however, as TV doesn’t always show what went on all over the pitch. For a fuller picture we need to call on Pete Sixsmith, who was at the match and who witnessed that second half capitulation first hand:
Everton (h) September 2016
Four months ago, a dispirited Everton left Wearside with their proverbial tails between their legs after they had been routed 3-0 by a Sunderland side that displayed pace, energy, determination and discipline. The Toffees looked like one that had been chewed up and spit out – which is what they did to Roberto Martinez the following day.
Last night the same words could be used to describe the two teams, only the other way round. It was a dispirited Sunderland side whose tails were down as a pacey, energetic, determined and disciplined Everton sauntered off with the three points courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku hat trick.
Why the change around? Well, the Blues had sacked a manager whose time at Goodison had clearly run out and hired one who will do well on Merseyside and will surely move onto even bigger and better things. Ronald Koeman impressed at Southampton and he has made a great start at Everton. Recruitment has been excellent with Ashley Williams as dependable as ever at the back and the very impressive Idrissa Gueye controlling midfield. Yannick Bolasie, a player I often deride as a typical Crystal Palace show pony, was equally outstanding. Koeman has recruited early and has recruited wisely.
What about us? David Moyes came in relatively late and was playing catch up in the transfer market. He had to tempt players to a club that were serial underachievers and, to be honest, his recent exploits in Manchester and San Sebastien would do little to encourage good players to arrive on Wearside.
The Kone situation was a distraction we could have done without and the departure of Kaboul left a funny taste in the mouth as well as a gaping hole in the back four. The players who came in did little to assuage the thoughts that this would be another “difficult season” but we hoped that things would start well and that, come the darker mornings and darker nights, we would be in a similar position to Stoke City.
We are, only it is in the bottom three. To finish one place above the Potters is usually a sign that things are going well but they have started as poorly as we have and currently keep us off the bottom thanks to having a more porous defence than ours.
So, what went wrong last night? The previous three games had seen an unfortunate defeat at Moneybags City, a disappointing and preventable home defeat to the Smoggies and a creditable draw on the South Coast to a Saints side also finding their way under a new manager.
For forty five minutes we did well enough. They had more of the ball, but we were quick and energetic and held a good back line. Watmore and Gooch buzzed around, Januzaj took men on, Defoe missed a clear chance and Kirchhoff was as imperious as he had been last season.
In the dressing room at half time I imagine Moyes would be asking for more of the same; discipline at the back, energy in midfield and play to Defoe’s predatory instincts. Keep them quiet for twenty minutes and we will have a look at pushing forward for the winner.
Across the corridor I imagine the mood was totally different as Koeman made it clear that the full backs could go forward but couldn’t defend. Off came Ross Barkley (the next Jack Rodwell?) and one went that pesky Spaniard, Gerard Deulofeu. He became, like Alphonso Spagoni in the song, the Spaniard Who Blighted Our Life.
We had had two good opportunities in the first half, one from Defoe when he should have done better and one from the industrious Gooch which Stekelenburg did well to tip over the bar. We had an even better one in the early minutes of the second period when Kone headed into the arms of the Dutchman.
Then it all went pear shaped as Deulofeu and Bolasie destroyed Manquillo and Van Aanholt and Lukaku brought his goal drought to an end with two towering headers – both of which he was unmarked for. A third came as Djilobodji went missing and the Belgian ran through to beat Pickford with ease.
Cue a major walk out as the chances of us getting back into the game were on a par with Cliff Richard playing a date at The Police Federation Annual Ball. We had our first sight of Ndong, who looked busy and Denayer who came on to prevent any more damage to Djilobodji’s fragile confidence. Moyes got that call right.
There is a full week of training and coaching before we go to Spurs, another team who play at a high tempo. In that period, we need to look at basics, remind the defenders of what they are there to do and avoid the desperate interceptions that kept us in the game first half. We also need to ask players if they could manage to consistently play the ball to a team mate; some of the passing from Watmore, Gooch, Khazri (what on earth has happened to him?) and Januzaj was awful.
One more heavy defeat will set alarm bells clanging rather than ringing. A respectable performance is required on our final visit to White Hart Lane, one that will be pacey, energetic, determined and disciplined. And we have to hope that the joys of Champions League football on Wednesday will have exhausted another former Southampton manager and that he makes some crass team selections; Danny Rose in goal perhaps and Harry Kane at full back – although come to think of it, he couldn’t do much worse than ours did in the second half last night.
Finally, Everton showed what a classy club they are when they donated £200,000 to the Bradley Lowery Fund last night. Bradley was the little lad who led the team out and who won the hearts of the crowd. Here’s hoping that Sunderland match it and that Bradley gets the treatment he needs in the USA. Kind of puts football into perspective, doesn’t it.