With all of us having a generally quiet New Year’s Eve, forcing a few ales down us wasn’t much of a chore at 11am on New Year’s Day. On the contrary, it preceded the actual chore of the 12:30pm kick off for Everton vs Leicester City. You hoped Everton would seize the opportunity to arrest a worrying run of results and begin 2019 with a win, but alas it wasn’t to be, and Leicester City ultimately ran out deserving winners.
I think Gaz was saying in the pub that we would benefit from competition for position for Seamus Coleman, and were therefore all a little surprised to see that Jonjo Kenny had instead got the nod at right-back for this game. Having been rested for most of the defeat at Brighton, Gylfi Sigurdsson was back in the starting line up, as too was Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Martin Atkinson (groan) officiated.
I’d checked ahead with the weather and it looked like we had a bit of sun and cloud so I grabbed my sunglasses on the way out of the house just on the off-chance that I’d need them. It was just as well that I did, as in our seat low in the Lower Gwladys Street stand, that sun is right in your face so seeing what was happening in the game, especially in the first half, was rather difficult.
It’s just as well then that there’s precious little to report on. Dominic Calvert-Lewin flashed a header wide; Kurt Zouma speculatively let fly from distance; and, Jonjo Kenny hit a great effort at goal but was a tad unfortunate to see it crash away off the upright. However, there was not a lot else from us, while Leicester City didn’t retaliate with much as Everton held firm at the back from some corner kicks. It’s good that we’ve learnt how to at least attack the first ball from corners as we began the season catastrophically in that department.
With the atmosphere decidedly flat, what struck me was how much you could hear the players talking to each other. Jordan Pickford is particularly vocal out there.
So the first half came and went and the second half wrestled all our current frustrations into one. Michael Keane punished for a mistake and Jamie Vardy scored with the Foxes' only meaningful opportunity up until that point. Fair play to Vardy though, he put it away well to put Leicester City ahead just shy of the hour mark.
Marco Silva didn’t wait around to get Bernard on the pitch but he, like all around him, couldn’t conjure a leveller in what was a lethargic, flat, jaded and ultimately disappointing effort from Everton. Bernard did put one dream of a ball across the 6-yard box but, despite having two strikers on the pitch, nobody seemed to anticipate and Harry Maguire was able to hook clear.
Everton, if playing poorly, were at least trying to force the issue and in doing so Leicester City did have further openings but with the game still at 0-1, substitute Cenk Tosun did have an opportunity late on but his header was saved by Kasper Schmeichel. However, as time frittered away we lost our discipline and gave away some unnecessary free kicks and surrendered possession too easily, all of which played right in to Leicester City’s hands.
We could have played all night and not scored, and Martin Atkinson let play go on as long as he could, but we made no in-roads and trudged off disappointed.
While the performance was by no means good enough, I felt the lads looked fatigued. A lot has been made of ourselves being the team playing the most games in the shortest time, and the players certainly looked tired today. Also, with so many games so quickly, it lessens the preparation time between games and offers limited time to work on correcting mistakes and trying new ideas. If it is the same time between games for everyone then fair enough, but it isn’t. Take the team that plays their games in the longest period of time, which would only be Liverpool of course. Which of these gives you better preparation time between games?
Now Liverpool are light-years ahead of us obviously but I know I’d prefer to have the two days rest either side of the two opening festive games. Also, why the back to back home or away games during this period? Personally I’d do away with the festive football, or at least make it less gruelling. I know Boxing Day games are important to people so that’s fair enough but could we live without the New Year’s Day game or even the Saturday one in between? Or, if it must remain so gruelling can it not be the same for everyone?
I’m relieved the festive games are now over and I hope we can rest as many players as we have to against Lincoln City (without compromising our competition advance, of course). We then, mercifully, have time between games again. Time to analyse, time to practice, time to fix mistakes, time to nail down a winning team.
We were in 6th position and playing well up to and including 96 minutes of the Merseyside derby and have been dire in many games since. Marco isn’t blameless. He has to find a way of getting them playing, but I hope that finally getting some time at Finch Farm with the players can help get us back on track this campaign.
Get behind Marco and the players. Do we really want to sack another manager and piss away yet more money again?
Pickford: I haven’t seen the goal again since so couldn’t say if he was at fault or not but he looked relatively helpless. Not much else to judge him on. He really didn’t have much to do. 6
Digne: Not at his best. Might have been an opportunity to give Leighton Baines a game. 5
Zouma: He was fabulous at the back and was one of few who took responsibility on the ball. My man of the match. 7
Keane: He will be remembered for the mistake but otherwise did quite well. While he undoubtedly should have done better with the error, I don’t think it was the kindest of headers into him from Theo. 6
Kenny: Had a good first half and was a bit unlucky not to score, but he struggled in the second. His mis-hit cross into touch was particularly embarrassing. 5
Gueye: He did well in there and accompanied his tackling and intercepting with taking responsibility on the ball. 7Gomes: Hardly got going. Looks shot. Give him the Lincoln City game off and let’s have him raring to go against The Cherries. 4
Sigurdsson: Also a bit fatigued, I would wager, but his effort was there. He came quite close to equalising with a snap half-volley in the second half but struggled to find his passing and set-piece range once Gomes was removed and he had to drop deeper into midfield. 5
Richarlison: Very poor, I thought, and he is frustrating me as he blows so hot and cold. A mate of mine who is a Watford fan warned me that he’s talented but that he may start well and then fade. Well, unless this is also a bit of fatigue, this seems to be the case here. I’d be getting him as rested as possible for the Bournemouth match now as he is one of our best players and we need him firing. 3
Walcott: He’s the one who gets the flack from the crowd and he does do some things that frustrate, but I would say he’s disciplined and at least, unlike some of his teammates, always shows for the ball. Given his injury record, I’m amazed he’s began all four games this festive period. 5
Calvert-Lewin: Poor but it was always going to be tough for him on his own up there against Maguire and Evans. I’d persevere with him up there. It seems highly unlikely we’ll be getting another striker in before the January deadline so we might as well give him that run of games as he is the most likely of our strikers to come good. 3
Bernard (for Gomes): got involved and will be disappointed that nobody got on the end of his excellent ball into the box. 7Tosun (for Walcott): tried but couldn’t really get the better of the defenders. 6