Fifth straight home win eludes flat and uninspired Everton

By Lyndon Lloyd 06/12/2018 18comments  |  Jump to last

If there was some comfort after the last-minute shock of what transpired at Anfield on Sunday it was that Everton had a quick opportunity to banish the memory of Jordan Pickford’s error and the pain of another derby defeat by getting straight back to action at home in a very winnable game.

In the end, tonight’s meeting with Newcastle looked like it had come too soon for some jaded-looking players and the reassurance that Marco Silva’s men were good enough to collect six points against the Toon and then Watford on Monday melted away thanks to a massively underwhelming and lacklustre performance that afflicted almost the entire Blues team.

It was one of those evenings where a number of players seemed to have an “off” night. Passes were over-hit, balls routinely mis-controlled and wires frequently crossed as Everton huffed and puffed their way through 90 frustrating minutes. Whether affected by the collective malaise or not, a couple of squad members handed a chance to impress weren’t able to stake much of a claim for further inclusion in the starting XI, further highlighting the need for further magic from Marcel Brands in the upcoming transfer window if the Blues are to sustain a top-six challenge.

Overall there wasn’t much to take in terms of positives apart from the fact that the Blues recovered from conceding another counter-attack goal to at least earn a point. It should have been more than that because Richarlison’s equaliser, his seventh Premier League goal of the season, arrived seven minutes before half-time which gave Silva’s men more than a half to pick their way through a dogged Newcastle back line that made things incredibly difficult, particularly for an Everton side so lacking in imagination or the ability to find a blue shirt with countless deliveries from wide.

Gylfi Sigurdsson, lauded prior to the Liverpool game for his impressive goals return and for generally stepping up as the influential figure Silva needs him to be, endured another anonymous evening and was substituted with 20 minutes to go.

Lucas Digne, perhaps the most consistent performer in the whole team so far this season, had what was easily his worst game since joining the club over the summer. He deserves credit for never shirking responsibility or showing for the ball but time and time again his delivery from crosses and set-pieces — and Everton had a lot of them, including 14 corners — was dreadful.

Richarlison scored the goal that cancelled out Salomon Rondon’s 19th-minute equaliser but he, too, was below his usual level, constantly trying to do too much and running into defenders and giving up possession cheaply in advanced areas.

Cenk Tosun, selected to start a game for the first time in two months, was wholly ineffective apart from one instance in the first half where he was foiled at point-blank range. Ademola Lookman, meanwhile, showed glimpses of the player who has looked so exciting when coming off the bench but in his 78 minutes on the field he wasn’t able to produce the magic to dismantle Newcastle’s entrenched defence.

Once again, if there was a pick of the bunch for Everton, apart from Kurt Zouma who made a solid return to the starting XI after a three-game absence, it was André Gomes who controlled the game and was head and shoulders above everyone else around him for long periods of the contest.

Yet you felt that with a player of his individual talent and skill on the ball, he might have been pushed further forward in the closing stages where he could perhaps pick a killer pass instead of sitting deeper and spreading the ball from side to side and out to the wings where the delivery from the likes of Lookman, Seamus Coleman, Digne and later Bernard was too often found wanting.

With all that said, the first half was fairly typical of a team that has been quite slow to get going at times. Tosun had an early shot from the edge of the box that deflected behind and he headed a decent Digne cross well over with around a quarter of an hour gone before and Richarlison went closer than anyone to opening the scoring to that point but was denied by Fabian Schär’s block.

If there is a vulnerability in Everton under Silva, though, it’s being caught on the counter-attack having committed men forward. Referee Lee Mason refused to blow for a foul on Lookman in Newcastle’s half and the visitors quickly fed it to Jacob Murphy who accelerated down the left, crossed to Rondon in the centre who had made his run between Yerry Mina and Digne and was able to steer a first-time shot home with the Frenchman two yards behind.

It was the Barcodes’ first real attack which seemed to make it all the more typical of the Toffees and while they responded immediately with a chance for Richarlison that goalkeeper Dubravka comfortably gathered, Rondon almost walked through the back door a second time when Christian Atsu threaded him with a pass but the striker dragged his shot wide.

On another night, Sigurdsson might have shaken himself out of his personal torpor with a goal but Federico Fernandes denied him with what was, admittedly, a brilliant lunging block and the Icelandic international had another effort from a similar position also deflected wide.

Having proven to be so ineffective from set-pieces this season, it was somewhat surprising that the Blues goal, when it arrived, came from that corner, the first Everton goal from a corner in 93 attempts. Mina’s presence was enough to ensure that no Newcastle player was able to head the dead-ball delivery away and it dropped at Richarlison’s feet at the back post where he managed to fire it high into the goal from close range and level the scores.

And Everton might have gone ahead before the interval when perhaps Digne’s best cross of the night flew into the six-yard box and was met by Tosun’s out-stretched boot but it hit the keeper and the chance was lost.

If the home fans were banking on Silva’s half-time pep talk rousing the Blues into a more typical level of performance, they would be disappointed because the second half was an exercise in mounting frustration and abysmal execution, both from set-pieces and shooting opportunities from distance.

Things picked up marginally when Theo Walcott replaced Sigurdsson and Bernard came on for Lookman, the former injecting some direct running into the proceedings but spurning one excellent opening by mis-controlling Pickford’s accurate ball over the top. The latter, when he wasn’t slipping over, tried to make things happen from a more central role than he has been used to so far but he, too, was too profligate in possession to hurt Newcastle.

In actual fact, it was Rafa Benitez’s team who had the better chances to win the game in the second half and had it not been for Pickford who made a smart, one-handed save to deny Atsu, and then tame finishing from the ex-Everton winger himself a few minutes later, they might well have done.

As it was, the spoils were shared and there’s no way to look at it from the Everton point of view other than as two points lost in the context of their recent home form and their top-six aspirations.

From the more optimistic, longer-term perspective, this was another learning opportunity for Silva in determining where he still needs to strengthen his side and which players he will feel might better serve him in terms of incoming transfer funds than being retained simply on the fringes of the first team.

It was also another game under the belt for the likes of Mina, Gomes and Bernard, the three of which are at varying stages of settling into their new surroundings. Because, ultimately, this is a season of transition and taking a real crack at breaking into the very top echelons of the Premier League was never going to be all that realistic this season.

Next season could be a different story depending on recruitment over the next two transfer windows but for now, capitalising on Manchester United’s inconsistencies and aiming for a run to Wembley in the FA Cup could be the summit of Everton’s ambitions. And while the new manager and his Director of Football are still implementing their vision, that’s fine.

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Reader Comments (18)

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Kieran Fitzgerald
1 Posted 06/12/2018 at 06:47:17
Two key phrases in your report, Lyndon, 'long-term perspective' and 'season of transition'. In particular, it's the second one that has become something of a mantra for me this season.

If you count Martinez' last season, and the two under Koeman and Alyrdyce, we have had three seasons of complete shit, in every aspect of running a football club. It had drained the heart, soul and very life out of football fans, myself included. What Silva and Brands have completed in five short months, one pre-season and fifteen league games, to counteract this, has been nothing short of miraculous.

As fans at the moment, we cannot allow ourselves to live or die week to week on individual games. Very hard thing to do as the life of a football fan is that cyclical at its heart. But the recovery is well on its way and we have to allow the club, and ourselves, a period of grace this season to appreciate and move with it.

Mark Andersson
2 Posted 06/12/2018 at 09:05:03
Kieran, if only more fans had your attitude...

Still it leaves it wide open for more polar opinions to keep me entertained.

Tony Everan
3 Posted 06/12/2018 at 09:12:58
A fair report, Lyndon.

Gomes was below his high standards too, and it does say something that he was still head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch.

Newcastle kicked, competed well with their lesser resources and harried us all night. They were first to every ball in to the penalty area from the 14 corners and about 30 crosses.

This says to me that:

1) The quality of the crosses is not good enough.

2) The movement and naked aggression to be first to the ball in the penalty area is lacking.

3) We need a top class striker as well as Gomes to sign.

Saying that, if Sigurdsson had tapped in his glorious chance or Tosun had taken the bread-and-butter opportunity, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Thomas Lennon
4 Posted 06/12/2018 at 09:59:07
I'll say it again – we are only 50% of the finished article and that means a squad that can compete for the top 4. 2-3 years we can be up there no question but it is a huge multi-facetted task not just about individuals.

I think too many see us go on a respectable little run then decide 'this is it', Oxford 1984 (or was it '85?). Nope, we are still a world away from that. A lot more time and money is needed; we clearly aren't on that level yet.

John G Davies
5 Posted 06/12/2018 at 10:00:58
Kieran #1

Well said mate, perfectly put.

Andy Meighan
6 Posted 06/12/2018 at 10:04:49
I've been saying all season, it'll take Silva 3 seasons to rectify the mess Koeman made. I'm obviously no lover of Allardyce but he inherited a complete mess and gets a lot of undeserved stick on here. The signs are Silva will turn it round but he must be given time.

Be fair, our football in most of the games has been no different than the last 3 seasons but there are times when we do look a good side. Our biggest problem is goals. I'm sure they'll be looking to rectify this but how hard is it going to be getting a striker or two in January?

I also think a right-back is a must in the summer. Coleman has been a brilliant servant and a great player for us but looks a shadow of his former self. They've already bought well and I'm trusting Silva and Brands to deliver again but, like I said, January is not a good month.

Dan Kemp
7 Posted 06/12/2018 at 11:37:23
My observations:

– Lookman seems to be more effective off the bench. Perhaps he is told to go and see what he can create, which is different to starting a game with set instructions. He didn't seem to try and take anyone on like he normally would.

– I rate Sigurdsson, but it's interesting to directly compare him with André Gomes. Gomes is so good on the ball, he makes Sigurdsson looks stiff and awkward in comparison! I agree, we should have pushed Gomes to No 10 in this game.

– Newcastle. Ugh. KITAP1 - that's how it's done. It would have been a good game if they'd given it a proper go and tried to actually win. Not entertaining to watch. We really are going to have to learn how to play against teams who come to Goodison with that approach.

Mark Burton
8 Posted 06/12/2018 at 11:38:51
Unfortunately, I was not able to watch the game but, reading the stats, it looks like we need a striker urgently. 14 corners and over 70% possession and only 1 goal.
Franny Porter
9 Posted 06/12/2018 at 12:22:16
A good balanced report, Lyndon, I wish I could be as objective as yourself. I'm one of the impatient ones!

Found that result very frustrating but it did tell us a few things.

1. Tosun. I like him, he doesn't shirk, but is nearly always starved of service. That one chance he had, however, he should have buried; no excuse for missing from three yards. How we miss a player like Lukaku who could create his own chances.

2. Sigurdsson. Looks knackered. Think a rest would do him good, who replaces him though?

3. Lookman. Based on last night's showing, he is still an impact sub for me.

4. Wingers. As Marco alluded to yesterday, it does look like we need another dynamic winger. One with pace and power as opposed to a Bernard type. (Malcolm?)

5. Bernard. I've never seen a player get his feet mixed up when it comes to the crunch as this lad. Don't get me wrong, I really like him but I've seen him swing at mid-air about five times now.

6. Watford. This game is massive now as far as I'm concerned.

Jack Ledwidge
10 Posted 06/12/2018 at 12:49:48
A laborious evening with plenty of the ball without really testing Newcastle. Our percentage of threat was very low. The build-up play on both flanks was far to slow.

I'm a big admirer of Coleman but far too often he cuts back inside and plays the safe pass. Maybe a half yard of pace is gone.

What we need is a ruthless centre-forward in the size and stature of an Aguero or Suarez. Not easy to come by I know but the style we play does not suit Tosun or Calvert-Lewin.

We are now a ball playing side and, despite the points tally, the season is shaping up well.

Henrik Lyngsie
11 Posted 06/12/2018 at 13:14:25
We should spend two weeks only practicing set-pieces. I have felt all season that we were poor. Not the greatest deliveries but even worse all the big guys just standing still. Where is the aggression and the attacking of the ball? First goal after 93 corners!!

Last season's champions in Denmark won because they had the best throw-ins!!

It looks like we are not even practicing corners.

John McFarlane Snr
12 Posted 06/12/2018 at 13:20:59
Hi Kieran [1], I agree entirely with your observations, but unfortunately some supporters lack tolerance and, following an excellent performance on Sunday, expectations were high.

My grandson has accompanied me to matches since he was 6 years old, (he's now 14) and I have attempted to instil the fact that anything can happen in a game of football, and that the players don't play badly on purpose.

I appreciate that fans get frustrated, and I include myself in that category, but it's the uncertainty that makes football the attraction it is. Witness the David and Goliath games, the Wigan vs Manchester City FA Cup Final and many others, including one or two embarrassing FA Cup moments for Everton, such as Everton 0 Tranmere Rovers 3, and Everton 2 Bradford City 3 — disappointing but not life-threatening..

For me on match days, for the best part of two hours, the world is 120 yards long and 75 yards wide, but there are more important things taking place in the world. It's taken me most of my 80 years on the planet to realise this, and I believe it's enabled me to enjoy the matchday experience, win, lose, or draw.

Adam Carey
13 Posted 06/12/2018 at 13:21:47
Whilst I agree with the comments about finishing and breaking down defensive minded teams, in my view Newcastle copied what we did to Liverpool last season and to a degree Chelsea a few weeks ago.

My Chelsea supporting mate said almost verbatim, "we are poor today" and "how are you still in the game". We have no right to assume that we would hammer 3 or 4 past Newcastle.

Be frustrated yes, but please don't let us turn into one of those teams that states that goal attempts and possession stats determine that we've been robbed in a game. Newcastle came for a draw. We couldn't break down their defence. That's football.

Matthew Williams
14 Posted 06/12/2018 at 13:28:40
Two points just thrown away. No doubt there will be a similar lacklustre performance next Monday night ending in another draw.

Change the system... go 3-4-3.

Mike Gaynes
15 Posted 06/12/2018 at 15:16:50
I'd take issue with the headline — I didn't see us as flat and uninspired, just playing poorly. Especially those who have been our best and brightest this season. I saw a bunch of guys who left it all on the pitch at Anfield and were simply unable to maintain performance levels three days later. But the effort and intensity were definitely in evidence yesterday.

As I mentioned on the Forum, Digne has now played more consecutive games for us than ever in his senior career, and I think he needs a day off. I'll expect to see Baines on Monday.

As for Lookman, I still think he brings more to the table than Walcott, but I would expect to see Theo back in his accustomed starting spot against Watford. Hope he can get his first touch straightened out.

David Pearl
16 Posted 06/12/2018 at 19:28:11
Mike, I'd like to see Baines given a go, his crossing is superior to Digne but his defending isn't. I thought he started the season well but Digne came in and has improved a lot.

I don't agree about Walcott, he's getting stick for his recent finishing but he's not alone. A few of them need a goal to kick on.

I was eager to see Lookman start, and actually I missed the game so can't comment too much. Maybe he needs a run in the team though I'd expect our usual 11 on Monday.

Bernard could play centre but at whose expense? There's not enough movement in this team, we seem bit static. Still a work in progress but Marco now has to make those tweaks so we continue picking up points over Xmas. So far, he hasn't been able to.

Bill Gienapp
17 Posted 06/12/2018 at 22:15:08
I've noticed people in other threads beginning to fixate on how our current point tally compares to this stage last season. For me, the bottom line is:

Under Allardyce – 20th in shots on target, 20th in chances created

Under Silva – 6th in shots on target, 5th in chances created.

(I haven't confirmed those numbers, but that's what they said during the derby.)

Mal van Schaick
19 Posted 13/12/2018 at 10:34:54
A fair summary of where we are. There has been improvement and until the Watford game I thought that there was an inkling of ‘ team spirit ‘. However, I sensed a frustration in the players, perhaps playing with a freedom where our passes and flicks didn't work out. The defensive lines of midfield and back four, where there when we had to defend, but the full-backs seemed over-awed by over- lapping players, hence the Watford goals.

I agree with Andy @6 that there is lack of goals from a striker, but I don't blame Tosun or Richarlison. I think that Richarlison would be more effective playing behind the striker, running from deep into spaces. Silva needs to work on the tactical side more to get the best out of what we have at the moment.

It's a ‘work in progress', and I expect some comings and goings in January that may consolidate a top 6 finish.

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