It has always been thought that a strong spine to a team is the foundation of a team that will do well. It's obvious really; a good keeper, a strong centre-back, a playmaker/enforcer in central midfielder, and a striker who will score goals.

However, I think that the defensive triangle of keeper and two centre-backs is just as important and the particular area that is causing us so much grief at the moment. Note that two of the three of the triangle (keeper and centre-back) is half of the spine. The way we currently play from the back requires these three players to be assured and confident in their play, which, of course, they are not. We are not alone with this issue. Just look at Manchester United and Liverpool, but they have the luxury of being able to buy their way out of the problem.

So let's look at where we are at the moment.

I think most fans would agree that Howard is an excellent shot-stopper but does not engender any confidence in his back line with his indecision of when to come to collect the ball and his distribution. This season he's conceded an unnecessary penalty, completely missed a cross, and should have been sent off against Chelsea when collecting the ball outside the penalty area. The only other option is Robles who has shown no sign of being the answer to the problem, so we have to stick with Howard for the foreseeable future.

The centre-back situation is somewhat different, because we do have options. We have four players vying for the two positions. Jagielka, Distin, Stones, and Alcaraz. So what are the best options? My perceptions are that Jags and Distin are ageing and becoming more prone to injuries but, until recently, a relatively resolute pairing. Stones is the future but is liable to overplay in difficult situations, and Alcaraz is possibly not good enough.

So I decided to look if my own ideas would be backed up with facts. I have analysed the goals conceded this calendar year (27 games) – not just looking at this difficult early stage of the season.

The results of the pairings are:

● Jagielka & Stones — Played 3; conceded 1; average 0.3
● Stones & Alcaraz — Played 5; conceded 6; average 1.2
● Distin & Stones — Played 8, conceded 11; average 1.375
● Jagielka & Distin — played 10, conceded 18, average 1.8
● Jagielka & Alcaraz — Played 1, conceded 4, average 4 (the derby debacle)
● Distin & Alcaraz — not played together

Individually, the figures are:

● Stones — played 16, conceded 18, average 1.125
● Distin — played 18, concede 29, average 1.611
● Jagielka — played 14, conceded 23, average 1.643
● Alcaraz — played 6, conceded 10, average 1.667

So there you have it. Should Stones be the first centre back's name on the team sheet? I am surprised at Alacaraz's stats so should he be given more games (assuming he is now fit)? Should Jags or Distin be gradually eased out of being first choices?

For the first time, Roberto is under pressure. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to our defensive questions...

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Reader Comments (29)

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Jay Harris
1 Posted 22/09/2014 at 22:22:09
IMO the Stones/Distin partnership last season looked as good as any.

We have to remember that Distin covers Bainesy a lot whereas Jags does not do as much to help his RB and also some of Stones games on the stats were playing at RB or with Alcaraz (the worst CB I have ever seen at GP).

I actually think its the absence of a proper MF and a propensity to lose the ball up front that is causing the issue e.g. Why the hell play ETO and Lukaku on the wing.They are not wingers and certainly do not track back to help cover defenders.

On top of that Lukaku couldn't hold a ball up to save his life.

He is OK bearing down on goal or with his shooting but his ability to hold the ball is appalling for a big lad. Even Vic and Nais are better than him.

Terry White
2 Posted 23/09/2014 at 05:52:06
More dramatic hyperbole - "the worst CB I have ever seen at GP". Obviously not been watching for very long.
Stephen Davies
3 Posted 23/09/2014 at 07:02:32
Sorry Jay, I have to agree with Terry.
When I read this my mind went back to Glenn Keeley
I'm sure others can come up with other names of defenders who were far worse than Alcaraz
Darryl Ritchie
4 Posted 23/09/2014 at 07:57:57
RM inherited a top class Premier League defence. Last season, it allowed him to change up the style of play. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but we were always solid at the back.

This year we’re hemorrhaging opposition goals. We’ve the same players; nobody, including RM, saw this coming. It’s going to be very interesting to see what he does to fix it.

Sam Morrison
5 Posted 23/09/2014 at 08:14:34
Short memories. Everyone was saying how classy Alcaraz looked in his first couple of games - the RM played him before he was fit for the derby and since then everyone has said he's shite. I think he's a player - but a slow one, who needs a speedy CB alongside him.
Anthony Lewis
6 Posted 23/09/2014 at 11:14:46
I can totally understand the reaction to the sudden conceding of goals. We have to remember that this same back line was the 3rd meanest defence in the Premier League last season. And for that reason I don't think RM saw this as something he needed to strengthen.

But the nature of the goals we've conceded are, to quote RM, "spooky". Teams don't seem to have to do an awful lot to score against us. Looking back at the CP game, the three goals were all errors. The second one, for God's sake, Howard missed and the ball bounced off Campbell's back and looped over Jagielka (who was virtually on the line) and in to the net. If that's not some sort of fluke, I don't know what is?

I remember watching some games last season and seeing some of the deflected shots that Jags or Distin got in the way of. Most of the time they would end up deflecting them just past the post or bar. And I thought, "Christ if those deflections go in we're going to concede a lot more goals". Maybe our luck at deflecting them just around the post has run out?

I honestly think that this isn't a run of poor form, more a run of incredible bad luck...

I do think we will come through it though

Adam Williams
7 Posted 23/09/2014 at 13:55:57
I agree exactly with Sam Morrison (#5).
Brian Waring
8 Posted 23/09/2014 at 15:21:37
I would sack Martinez now! I mean, what the fuck is he doing in training? Fancy coaching Howard on how to fuck-up twice against Palace, and coaching Osman on how to dawdle and lose the ball around your own penalty box. Also, all those other defensive fuck-ups this season. I say get him out before it's too late!!!
Peter Bell
9 Posted 23/09/2014 at 15:51:38
Brian, didnt Osman lose the ball outside the box against Sunderland last season that cost us the points.
I think the main point that posters are trying to make is that RM doesnt seem to be learning from HIS mistakes.
He is the manager for god sake.
He has a responsibility to tell "quick feet Ossie" that he is no longer quick, so don't demand and hold onto the ball outside your own box.
He is a professional footballer who failed to notice on both these occasion that he had an opponent right up his backside and had the ball taken off him outside the box resulting in goals conceded.
I can see it, you can see it, but can RM
James Stewart
10 Posted 23/09/2014 at 16:03:07
CouldnÂ’t agree more. I have been saying Stones should be first choice centre-back and that the stats prove it for ages now.
Sam Hoare
11 Posted 23/09/2014 at 16:02:34
Stones should be playing. Not only is he arguably our best CB at the moment but he is definitely the one who are defense will be built around in the near future.

Stones and Jagielka would probably be my first pick. God help us against the pace of RS and Man u. Could be a grim fortnight.

Tony J Williams
12 Posted 23/09/2014 at 16:18:33
He has a responsibility to tell "quick feet Ossie" that he is no longer quick, so don't demand and hold onto the ball outside your own box.


It's ok further up the pitch but not outside the box, especially after 60 mins

Bob Carlton
13 Posted 23/09/2014 at 17:54:12
Jay #1 The stats only cover Stones playing at Centre Back, not at Full Back.
Nick Entwistle
14 Posted 24/09/2014 at 08:12:47
This may not be popular, but I have no problem with Howard. Yup all those mistakes listed above were made, and add to that Costa 'megging him from twenty yards, but compared to the top teams... ehem, other top teams... there are few who are better.

City/ Hart - yes
Chelsea/ Courtois - probably
Arsenal/ Szczesny - equal
Spurs/ Loris - yes
Liverpool/ Joseph Mengele - equal
Utd/ De Gea - not yet

City fans scratch their chins over Hart from time to time, and its probably only Spurs can have no problems with their man between the sticks.

If we hold the standards up to Southall's and Martyn's level then we may as well put in a bid for Buffon.

Andrew Rimmer
15 Posted 24/09/2014 at 21:00:29
Utter bollocks. The tactics are the reason why we ship goals. LOOK AT WIGAN!!!!!
Jack Cross
17 Posted 25/09/2014 at 02:47:42
Brian Warring. That’s a bit over the top isn’t mate? I’m not a Roberto fan but he said he’d need three years so lets give him it. Were not a sacking club. Let’s give the man a chance and if it doesn’t work out for him with us then we will get shut.

We won’t get relegated, even if we have a lean season.

I’m as pissed off as yourself, this triangle pass back footy is doing my head in. Who knows just maybe the team will come to their senses on Saturday and work it up the Red shite. I’ve a feeling were going to do them.

Nick Entwistle
18 Posted 25/09/2014 at 12:49:24
Three years for what, Jack?
Andrew Ellams
19 Posted 25/09/2014 at 13:15:48
Alcaraz worse than Carl Tiler and Craig Short? Not even close!
Dave Lynch
20 Posted 25/09/2014 at 13:06:24
He never learnt from his mistakes at Wigan and that's why they went down.

A spanking off the dark side and one from Man Yoo and the Buzzards will be circling for sure, we cannot keep shipping goals at the rate we are because whatever way you look at it that's relegation form.

I said on another thread that I have a feeling he is targeting the EL and if that IS the case he can fuck off now as cup competitions are a lottery at the best of times.

I'm going fishing Saturday, far far away from anywhere.

Andrew Clare
21 Posted 25/09/2014 at 14:38:21
Andrew #15 You are correct. It's the tactics nothing else.
The defence is left exposed far too many times and is therefore overwhelmed and often out numbered by the attackers.
Last year there seemed to be a much more controlled approach and only on one or two occasions did the concentration lapse.
Tony J Williams
22 Posted 25/09/2014 at 15:13:17
Sorry Andrew, but I am calling bullshit on that statement.

Tactics and nothing else, what tactic states jump up like a fucking clown and don't catch an easy ball?

Which tactic states, try and hold of a man whilst the fuckwit of a goalie (who is usually rooted to his line) slides out to take out everyone for the ball, which pretty much gifts the forward player the opportunity to do their best dying swan act for a penalty?

Which tactic states, the ball is 12 yards out, the man is right behind you and pushing you, don't clear it, just try and shepherd it out, even though it's probably not going to work this time?

Tactics play a big part but they are not the sole reason for that defeat, individual errors were.

Raymond Fox
23 Posted 25/09/2014 at 15:54:23
Talk about premature, get rid of Martinez!!

I have asked the same question a few times before, if he is no good etc, etc. how did we come 5th, with 3rd best defensive record in the Prem. with a record number of points for Everton. Never had a reply yet, anyone want to tell me the answer to that.

Way too premature to be panicking after 5 League, 1 Euro and a Cup game.

Leicester 2-2 Everton is turning out to be a decent draw

Everton 2-2 Arsenal never bad to draw with Arsenal

Everton 3-6 Chelsea Poor to concede 6, but at least we scored 3 against probable champions!

WBA 0-2 Everton decent result against side that have since beaten Spurs away.

Everton 4-1 Wolfsburg score maybe flattered but never the less a good win.

Everton 2-3 Palace two bad individual errors cost us this game.

How are those results so terrible that they're causing some to panic?

Raymond Fox
24 Posted 25/09/2014 at 16:29:17
Sorry I've left the Swansea game off the list.

We did not play our 1st team (neither did they) but it was never a true 3-0 game for me, never the less a disappointing result for us.

Michael Kenrick
25 Posted 25/09/2014 at 16:47:55
Raymond, you seem to be on a mission to persuade people that everything is fine when their guts are telling them otherwise.

No-one is answering your question about Martinez and his brilliant achievements last season because... well, isn't it obvious? That was last season!!! All of those fine stats count for nothing this season. The slate is wiped clean and we start over.

Yes, it's a marathon and not a sprint, etc... but the simple facts are these: defensive howlers are killing us, winnable games are being lost or drawn; points are being thrown away; goals conceded is the worst in all of football...

No amount of repeated rationalization in terms of you trying to make these shockingly poor results somehow acceptable is going to change anyone's perceptions, I assure you.

Les Fitzpatrick
26 Posted 25/09/2014 at 16:33:07
I have little confidence in Martinez, never had any from day one. Feel he would make a good UKIP politician ha ha.

He has brought his Wigan mindset with him... get the feeling that if it starts going pear shaped about half time,he is thinking about what positives we can take from his and the players latest cock up,and what tasty sound bites he can come up with,instead of making tactical changes/subs.

To early to be sacking him yet,but hopefully he will realise that the knowledgable fans of Everton have rumbled him,and itÂ’s time to get his ass in gear, and PDQ... before we are marooned at the bottom of league.

Lots of love... a worried blue.

Raymond Fox
27 Posted 25/09/2014 at 20:20:26
Michael, where have I said, everything's hunky dory!

You've not answered my question either, if he had the ability to get us into 5th etc last season why has he mysteriously lost it this year, he has a year extra experience. So according to you, he gets no credit for what he did last year.

All I'm doing is arguing against the response of 'sack him' and he doesn't have a clue, nonsense!

The League results, while not as good as we hoped for, are nowhere near sacking results for the reasons I stated in my first post.

James Martin
28 Posted 25/09/2014 at 21:25:09
No surprise at all that Stones is in the top three pairings and is the best individually. Class player who should be automatic first choice with one of the others partnering him depending upon the opposition. Distin would be useful away at Liverpool but at home trying to break a team down Alcaraz's distribution would be better. If it's an aerial duel then Jags would be the man.

Every club in the league must be wishing they had Stones on their books.

Michael Kenrick
29 Posted 26/09/2014 at 05:57:01
Raymond, it seems your 'question' is trying to make a case that, if Martinez was such a good manager last season, then he can't be bad this season.

I'm not sure that's how it works.

A manager is only as good as his current results. Our current results are not very good, yet you seem to feel there is a valid excuse to explain away each bad one, in a desperate effort to somehow prove that Martinez is not showing worrying signs of failing in his stated mission to get Everton into the Champions League.

Now that is a long way away, but we're not even in the right half of the table and, if current trends are extrapolated through the season, bad things could well happen to us. I think that's the long version for why people are suggesting that his job should not be as secure as it was...

But I would agree with you: that bit is wrong, I believe – not because Martinez is really doing a good job – it's because there is no chance that he will be sacked by the current Board.

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