It was only about three weeks ago that Roberto Martinez was trumpeting Evertonâ€™s away form as the â€œway forwardâ€ for his increasingly beleaguered team and describing it as â€œChampions Leagueâ€ level. His calculations were off a little â€” at the time, it would have put them just outside the top four in the Premier League â€œaway tableâ€ â€” but the Toffeesâ€™ performances since then have made a mockery of his claims.
The disgraceful showing at Anfield was only punished by a 4-0 hammering by a profligate Liverpool and today Leicester limbered up for their epic title celebrations with a similarly comprehensive display as Everton not only formed the guard of honour for the new Champions, they pretty much lay down and became the blue carpet over which Claudio Ranieriâ€™s men trampled towards lifting the trophy. Far from being top-four calibre, Evertonâ€™s away record is now the ninth-best in the top flight and with that rather flimsy straw to clutch at gone, the manager has surely run out of road at Goodison Park.
Just a few weeks after admonishing Leighton Baines for his quite accurate observation that this Everton side lack chemistry, Martinez was forced to admit that his team had played like individuals who couldnâ€™t even get the basics right. He was referring to this 3-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium but it might just as well have been an epitaph for the entire 2015-16 season based on the way it has unravelled in recent weeks.
For the second away game in succession, the Blues were shockingly inept, gutless and directionless. From Riyad Mahrez, who youâ€™d expect, to Wes Morgan, who you certainly wouldnâ€™t, Leicester waltzed through Martinezâ€™s porous outfit at will at times and only a combination of Joel Robles â€” a lone bastion of fight and defiance in a side bereft of spine â€” some last-ditch tackles by Aaron Lennon and the game but exposed Matthew Pennington, and profligacy by the likes of Jamie Vardy kept the home sideâ€™s tally as low as three.
The Foxes took just five minutes to take the lead with an embarrassingly simple cross by Andy King from an ocean of space on the right that picked out Vardy unmarked in the centre to plunder his almost obligatory goal.
By the 33rd minute it was 2-0. Mahrez jinked his way between two defenders, drawing a tackle from Baines that pushed the ball into the path of King and he despatched it emphatically past Robles.
In between, King had despatched a header straight at Robles, Fuchs had steamed towards the box but was halted by Lennon, and Kante had forced the Bluesâ€™ keeper into spilling a hard, low drive in the first half hour as the jubilation rumbled and rolled through Leicesterâ€™s stadium.
At the other end, a decent move where Bryan Oviedo appeared on the overlap before crossing in search of Romelu Lukaku in the centre was Evertonâ€™s best moment of the first half but the Belgian appeared half-hearted in his attempts to get a foot to it and guide it past Kasper Schmeichel and Marcin Wasilweski cleared.
Indeed, Lukakuâ€™s demeanour and body language was telling of the entire sorry mess. Gone was the drive and determination that he once shared with Ross Barkley at the head of Evertonâ€™s attack, replaced by an apathy and resignation at the teamâ€™s declining fortunes and waning hope under Martinez.
Oumar Niasse, starting for the second time in a week, at least showed some more composure with the ball at his feet than on previous occasions but he still looked shockingly short of the ability required for this level. Oviedo was again struggling in the right back role that he should never have been asked to fill again after his nightmare at Anfield. In midfield, there was just no direction or impetus from Barkley, playing too deep, Tom Cleverley, Lennon or James McCarthy.
Leicester, meanwhile, revelled in the space they were afforded to probe the Bluesâ€™ back line and Mahrez, who, fortunately, didnâ€™t run the show for the hosts in the manner that earned him the PFA Player of the Year award otherwise it could have been much worse, surged towards the Everton box but was hauled down by Pennington, who was booked for his troubles.
The Algerian wasted the resulting direct free kick and put a header over the bar in first-half stoppage time but the destiny of the three points was in no doubt by the halfway stage.
Everton could have made it somewhat interesting almost immediately after the interval when Niasse found himself clean through behind the Leicester defence but, seemingly caught in two minds whether to keep going or try and lob the onrushing keeper he effected a tame shot that Schmeichel simply headed away. From the same attack, Lukaku tried to back-heel the loose ball home but the â€˜keeper was there again to smother it.
A dozen or so minutes later, Lukaku tried to guide in John Stonesâ€™s downward header off a corner but Schmeichel again foiled him from point-blank range while Fuchs popped up in a one-on-one situation with Robles at the other end but Robles made an excellent save with an out-stretched leg to prevent Leicester from taking a 3-0 lead.
It merely delayed the inevitable, however, as within three minutes Vardy had profited from a margin offside decision and was in on goal before he was tripped by the unfortunate Pennington and referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot. Vardy banged the penalty past Robles and he would get another opportunity from 12 yards a few minutes later when Darron Gibson, on for Cleverley, scythed through Jeffrey Schlupp with a late tackle and Marriner again awarded the penalty.
This time, however, Vardyâ€™s exuberance got the better of him and he smashed it high over the crossbar, drawing a defiant reaction from Robles in response to the England strikerâ€™s taunting as he wheeled away in celebration after the first spot kick.
Vardyâ€™s search for a hat-trick ended with two shots deflected wide and Pennington dispossessing him impressively just as he was about to â€œpull the triggerâ€. Everton, meanwhile, had just a decent low shot by Oviedo that Schmeichel turned aside two-handed to show for their limp efforts before Kevin Mirallas grabbed a lovely solo goal two minutes from time.
The Belgian, who had come on after 62 minutes in place of Niasse, was rewarded for a determined run after he shrugged off one opponent, shimmied past two more and then made the most of a fortunate bounce by slotting past Schmeichel to make it 3-1.
It was scant consolation for those Evertonians who had made the trip and not graciously sold their ticket to Leicester fans wanting to be part of the greatest day in their clubâ€™s history. Once again, Blues fans had travelled to witness their side be humiliated and many of them ended the contest by chanting loudly for Martinezâ€™s ouster from the managerâ€™s position.
That canâ€™t come soon enough now, unfortunately. He has spoken this week of being in a stronger position than when he started three years ago and while he may have been talking about knowing what was needed to push the team forward, itâ€™s clear that the incumbent of the Goodison hot seat hasn't looked so weak since the last days of Walter Smith
As has been argued before on these pages, Roberto should have gone after the Anfield debacle and he surely remains a â€œdead man walkingâ€ awaiting his fate at the end of the season. Assuming the hook doesnâ€™t come before then, he will face an atmosphere at the Norwich home game next weekend that is likely to be more hostile than the apathetic uneasiness with which much of the Bournemouth game was greeted.
It would surely do the man more favours to make an announcement before the final match to the effect that he will be leaving the post in June so that he is spared the banners and the chants baying for his sacking. You feel that were it handled in that manner, he and the likes of Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert and Tim Howard could leave in an atmosphere of farewell rather than anger and recrimination.
Above all, though, his time is unquestionably up. It is time now for Farhad Moshiri to usher in his new era with decisive action.
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