It was only about three weeks ago that Roberto Martinez was trumpeting Everton’s away form as the “way forward” for his increasingly beleaguered team and describing it as “Champions League” level. His calculations were off a little — at the time, it would have put them just outside the top four in the Premier League “away table” — but the Toffees’ 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 Ranieri’s men trampled towards lifting the trophy. Far from being top-four calibre, Everton’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 couldn’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 you’d expect, to Wes Morgan, who you certainly wouldn’t, Leicester waltzed through Martinez’s porous outfit at will at times and only a combination of Joel Robles — a lone bastion of fight and defiance in a side bereft of spine — 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 side’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 Blues’ keeper into spilling a hard, low drive in the first half hour as the jubilation rumbled and rolled through Leicester’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 Everton’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, Lukaku’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 Everton’s attack, replaced by an apathy and resignation at the team’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 Blues’ back line and Mahrez, who, fortunately, didn’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 ‘keeper was there again to smother it.
A dozen or so minutes later, Lukaku tried to guide in John Stones’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, Vardy’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 striker’s taunting as he wheeled away in celebration after the first spot kick.
Vardy’s search for a hat-trick ended with two shots deflected wide and Pennington dispossessing him impressively just as he was about to “pull the trigger”. 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 club’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 Martinez’s ouster from the manager’s position.
That can’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, it’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 “dead man walking” awaiting his fate at the end of the season. Assuming the hook doesn’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.
The new Premier League Champions were crowned at the King Power Stadium, with Everton somewhat reluctant guests at the big party.
Pennington and Niasse started again with Oviedo coming in while Besic dropped to the bench where Hibbert failed to appear. Connolly and Dowell had to await more opportunities from the bench.
For the new Champions, Jamie Vardy returned after his 3-match ban to join in the celebrations, with Ranieri having used just 18 players in his victorious storming of the Premier League.
The razzmatazz included Andrea Bocelli belting out Nesum Dorma, and the Everton players trouping out first to form a guard of honour for the Leicester City team, the King Power awash in alternating sections of blue and white flags to welcome their Champions.
Everton kicked off amidst continuous Foxes chanting that made the game secondary. Lukaku tried to dribble through and ended up tacking Okazaki. Baines was upended on he sideline but recovered well enough. But some poor passing out of the back gave the ball away cheaply to the home side.
Out of nothing, 5 minutes in, Vardy danced through to convert an easy undefended cross and add to the embarrassment Everton were clearly feeling as party interloppers.
Everton tried to respond with Niasse beating his man but crossing well beyond Lukaku and Baines did no better, finding a defender with his cross. Likewise Lennon from the other side. Everton resorted to strolling about and Niasse poking one through but Lukaku lazily offside. That led to a free header for King, straight at Robles, off a superb cross by Mahrez.
Niasse was not impressive, passing straight to his marker as the Interloper struggled to string much together against a relaxed home side who were just playing for fun. Lennon did well to block Foulkes from a clear strike on the Everton goal.
A half-decent move down the right saw Oviedo play in a superb cross for Lukaku to convert at the near post... except that he was hopelessly lacking in conviction and completely missed the ball.
The party atmosphere continued unabated with Everton seeming finally resorting to a long ball that won a corner which Stones might have converted close in.
Another great cross, this time from Baines seemed laid on a plated for a determined centre-forward but Lukaku just watched it sail past him and into Schmeichel's arms. Leicester were given a soft free-kick that Mahrez curled wide.
Mahrez was next to dance through the static Everton defence and lay back a simple conversion for Andy King, Easy peasy.
After that, it was Barkley with a lazy, horrible pass straight to Vardy, and almost another given away. Stones was then poor trying to block an attacker and King almost curled one in from the corner.
Everton were summed up by a nice ball from Barkley that smacked off Niasse's heel instead of initiating a break. It was lamentable stuff all round as Everton looked a shapeless and dispirited sight in the pouring rain.
Everton strung a few passes together around the Foxes area until Lukaku decided to pass the ball straight to Mahrez and they were away, Pennington forced to foul for a yellow card. Mahrez fired the free-kick wide with a deflections and the corner was headed over by Morgan.
A particularly dismal and inept half from Everton, the like of which we have become only too familiar with under Roberto Martinez, who must his role at this party is that of chief clown, such was the paucity of his gameplan, fitness, training, preparation, etc, as manifested by his charges. The only stat that matters to Martinez was well in his favour, however: 64% Possession.
From the second-half kick-off, Everton got behind the Foxes and it looked like Niasse had the easiest of chances to lob Schmichel but it the ball straight at the keeper's head! Lukaku then tied himself in knots at the far post, trying in vain to backheel the ball into the Leicester net. Cleverley was booked for a heavy challenge, and he then gave away a dangerous free-kick with another poor challenge, Foulkes firing well over from long distance.
After at least showing some intent, if not delivering, Everton then descended back into their meaningless possession game, Oviedo getting forward only to lose the ball. Cleverley did better, winning a corner, that Oviedo played deep, headed in by McCarthy and then headed on by Lukaku, but from very close range, palmed away by Schmichel. Another pathetic cameo, Niasse recovering the ball on the touchline and letting it hit his legs and go out of play.
Vardy, offside, made one of his trademark dives under the slightest of touches and he made it three from the spot. Gibson then made a rash lunge to stop Mahrez, and a clear second penalty in as many minutes, but Vardy skied it horribly over the bar.
Ulloa almost scored with a glancing header off a corner after Oviedo had fired in well enough from the edge of the area, pushed away by Schmeichel.
Osman replaced Barkley with 10 minutes left. Mirallas played in Lukaku but the Big Man was far too slow to get his foot on the ball and it was whipped away from him. At the other end, Ulloa came close a couple of times. Pennington made a few key interceptions.
Mirallas finally produced an end product with a couple of fortuitous bounces on the way from the half-way line to the back of Schemichel's net. A consolation.
Everton under Martinez had no answer to the football The Champions had used to good effect all season, and slunk off at the end as Leicester City were presented with the coveted Premier League Champions trophy.
Everton travel to Leicester this weekend to witness first-hand the coronation of the new Premier League champions at the King Power Stadium.
It's a fixture that looked like it would have a lot more riding on it an hour into Tottenham's tempestuous clash with Chelsea on Monday night, with Mauricio Pochettino's men ahead and still alive in the title race. The Foxes won the title with two games to spare, however, thanks to Eden Hazard's equaliser at Stamford Bridge and now the Toffees will merely be in the invited guests at one of the most unlikely parties imaginable.
The celebrations have been underway all week, of course, so it's really a question of how hard Claudio Ranieri's heroes want to mark their big day with a victory in front of their supporters. Leicester have showed admirable irrepressibility for much of the campaign which would have made this a much tougher prospect for Everton if the home side were still in need of a result. Instead, with little riding on the game beyond pride, it's unlikely to be an intense affair.
Roberto Martinez will again be without Ramiro Funes Mori, who serves the final game of a suspension following his red card in the Anfield derby, and both Phil Jagielka and Gerard Deulofeu who are sidelined with hamstring and knee injuries respectively.
Matthew Pennington is likely to start again in central defence alongside John Stones while his U21s team-mates Kieran Dowell, Callum Connolly and Tom Davies will be hopeful of also being involved.
Seamus Coleman and Gareth Barry will both be assessed with Martinez suggesting that both have a chance of being involved this weekend. Coleman has been missing since limping off against Southampton in mid-April while Barry was forced off at half time against Liverpool and played no part in the FA Cup semi-final or last Saturday's home win over Bournemouth.
Tony Hibbert could make a rare appearance on the team sheet at right back if Coleman doesn't make it, while Muhamed Besic will vie with Darron Gibson for a midfield slot after struggling as a makeshift right back in the last two games.
In goal, with Martinez intimating that Tim Howard would be selected for the last two home games, Joel Robles should return to the side for this match and the trip to Sunderland in midweek. Up front, Romelu Lukaku could also return after sitting out against the Cherries in favour of Oumar Niasse.
Leicester's luck when it comes to injury has been one of the underpinnings of their success this season and they aren't expected to have any concerns on that front coming into this match. Leonardo Ulloa took a knock at Old Trafford in the Foxes' 1-1 draw last Sunday but should be fit.
However, while Jamie Vardy will be back following his extended suspension, Danny Drinkwater serves a one-match ban for his double-yellow against Manchester United.
With a ninth-place finish still possible, depending on how Stoke and Chelsea fare between now and the end of the season, Everton know that a win keeps alive the hope that they can put a respectable gloss on a horrible league campaign by at least sneaking into the top half.
It won't and shouldn't diminish the inquest into what lies behind a second successive season of under-achievement but any extra merit payments that can be earned by placing higher would lessen to a small degree the blow of another failed campaign.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Predicted Line-up: Robles, Hibbert, Stones, Pennington, Baines, Gibson, McCarthy, Cleverley, Lennon, Barkley, Lukaku