Not your average Emirates defeat

By Lyndon Lloyd 24/02/2020 68comments  |  Jump to last
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If you dared to dream a little over the winter break and viewed this run of four games against the so-called “big six” as being pregnant with possibility rather than a daunting sequence that could remove European qualification as a likely option for the season, then this result at Arsenal will have come as a bit of a gut punch.

It’s that much more painful when you consider Everton got off to the best possible start with a goal inside the first 60 seconds… but then perhaps it was almost inevitably going to be a case of scoring too soon, particularly given the defensive vulnerabilities that continue to plague this side. It takes a certain kind of team to score that early away from home and keep the boot on the opposition’s neck and Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t have the personnel yet.

Even so, despite the fact that they conceded three times, the Blues should count themselves as hugely unfortunate not to have taken something back to Merseyside by way of points. They certainly had the opportunities in the second half but a combination of bad luck, oh-so-close misses from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and the form of Bernd Leno ensured that it was Mikel Arteta and not Ancelotti taking the plaudits in the battle of the new bosses.

Calvert-Lewin held his hands up afterwards in a message on social media, accepting that he probably should have converted one of the chances that fell his way after half-time. The striker twice almost got a crucial touch to square passes from Richarlison across the face of goal but they were tricky opportunities, particularly the first under heavy pressure from David Luiz. His best chance to double his tally would be Everton’s last, a stoppage-time header that he rose well to meet off Bernard’s cross following a corner but could only nod inches past the far post.

They were the kind of moments that will perpetuate the conversation over whether he is prolific enough but take nothing away from the predatory instincts that saw him hand Everton the lead after Richarlison was fouled just 17 seconds into the contest. Luiz headed the ball awkwardly into the air in his own box and Calvert-Lewin threw a boot at it with a kind of bicycle kick motion and flicked it home with the outside of his boot.

It was the beginning of what was a strong and purposeful start from Ancelotti’s side that featured a number of changes from two weeks ago, one that almost saw Alex Iwobi find the net on his return to The Emirates with an ambitious effort from the angle that whistled past the angle of crossbar and post. But, almost inevitably, Arsenal soon found their feet and began testing Everton’s weakness down the right flank where there was little protection when the press in midfield wasn’t there and Djibril Sidibé’s positional lapses are a known issue.

Initially, the Gunners found more joy from their right where Hector Bellerin drove high into the stands, Shkodran Mustafi planted a set-piece header over the bar, Eddie Nketiah also shot too high and Nicolas Pepe curled a tame effort into Jordan Pickford’s arms. It was the change forced upon Arteta, however, where he had to withdraw Sead Kolasinac and replace him with Bukaro Saka after 18 minutes that felt a little ominous and which paved the way for the equaliser.

The exciting young full-back whipped a 27th-minute ball in from near the touchline that fell right between Yerry Mina and Mason Holgate where Nketiah simply guided a side-foot finish past Pickford.

Six minutes later, the game had been turned on its head and the travelling Evertonians who haven’t seen a Blues victory on Arsenal’s home turf for 24 years found themselves back in familiar territory. This time, Sidibé showed too much space inside for Luiz to pick a pass behind him that released Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into space behind the defence and he just had to pick his spot and bend the ball around Pickford to make it 2-1.

Everton are proving to be nothing if not resolute under Ancelotti, though, and after Richarlison had miscued with a header from a free-kick in the 44th minute, the Brazilian popped up in a poacher’s role to grab an equaliser for the visitors in first-half stoppage time. Sidibé, who had underlined the conundrum over his selection with a lung-busting run down the right flank, won a corner that was only cleared as far as Gylfi Sigurdsson outside the box, his bobbling shot was knocked on by Mina and Richarlison got a touch on it to prod it over the line.

With memories of what happened at Watford fresh in the mind where the Toffees had clawed their way back to parity on the stroke of half-time and set themselves up for the second half, Ancelotti no doubt wanted to use the interval to settle his men down and prepare them to go again. He would find himself dealing with another set-back less than a minute into the second period, however, with his charges switching off as Nicolas Pepe was afforded time and space to clip the ball across from the Arsenal right and find Aubameyang unmarked in the middle to head home.

This was no capitulation like days of old, though, and after Calvert-Lewin had just failed to make contact of the first of those passes from Richarlison following a trademark burst down the left on the counter-attack, André Gomes made his welcome comeback from a four-month lay-off and, bolstered by Bernard’s introduction in place of Iwobi, immediately transformed the midfield.

From that point on, apart from one late gaffe by Pickford that almost gifted Nketiah a game-killing second goal but the forward slammed his shot off the crossbar, if there was to be another goal it was going to come from Everton because they had all the chances.

Unfortunately, the Blues didn’t get the goal their efforts deserved. Calvert-Lewin fired a shot straight at Leno in the 64th minute and the disappointing Sigurdsson lashed a wild shot well off target shortly afterwards but the former must have thought he’d levelled things up with 18 minutes to go when the ball dropped at his feet just a few yards from the goal line.

The enterprising Bernard had connected with Richarlison with a cross from the right and Leno parried it straight to Calvert-Lewin but the keeper did well to leap forward and stop the striker’s shot with an outstretched hand from point-blank range. And the German came to Arsenal’s rescue again when Richarlison shot under his body from inside the six-yard box but the keeper made a save with his trailing foot.

As the game entered the closing stages and Arteta had thrown Mattéo Guendouzi on to shore up his midfield, Arsenal became more emboldened and started to press Everton back at every opportunity. Nevertheless, they fashioned that one chance in injury time but Calvert-Lewin couldn’t steer his header home.

As Ancelotti will know all too well, you don’t get to Europe if you can’t defend and his post-match comments were more forthright than they have been up to this point when it came to criticism of his side’s propensity to ship goals. He described the Blues’ defending as “terrible” and indicated that that was where the focus will be in training this week as he prepares for the visit of Manchester United next weekend.

He will have been hugely encouraged by Gomes’s 30-minute cameo which was a shining light in an otherwise uninspiring central midfield where Sigurdsson again failed to impress, Fabian Delph was workmanlike but unspectacular and Morgan Schneiderlin was adequate and, perhaps, unfortunate to be the one t make way for Gomes.

The Portuguese was robust with and without the ball, clearing one potential psychological hurdle from his ankle fracture, and demonstrated just how key he will be to Ancelotti’s strategy of playing on the front foot with vertical passing through the lines with what was some wonderful passing at times.

In that sense, while the result was disappointing and it offered a reality check on those dreams of cracking the top five, there was plenty to be encouraged about in terms of next season, by which time Marcel Brands will hopefully have been able to strengthen the squad with more players of Gomes’s calibre. If he can do that then this side can be a forced to be reckoned with.

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Reader Comments (68)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 24/02/2020 at 17:40:52
Carlo indicated in his post-match interview that Gomes would definitely start next game. Even if he can only last 55-60 minutes, that will be a big help.
Martin Mason
2 Posted 24/02/2020 at 18:44:10
Leno should have saved Richarlison's shot for our second goal. Puts Benteke's goal against Pickford last week into context. It doesn't make Leno a bad keeper or to have had a bad match as Benteke's didn't with Pickford last game.
Des Farren
3 Posted 24/02/2020 at 20:09:29
True, Martin, just another horrendous mistake by England's No 1.

Mike, well done on beating Jim B to first on this thread. Must be some kind of record.

Jim Harrison
4 Posted 24/02/2020 at 20:14:09
Pickford is likely to stay. Given the money spent and available alternatives.
Christine Foster
5 Posted 24/02/2020 at 22:09:47
Pretty much spot on Lyndon, probably our best performance for years at the Arsenal, yet undone by familiar problems,

I take a few positives from that one: Gomes, Bernard, Baines, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison all did well but it was poor positional play (twice) that set up their goals. I suspect the midfield and defence will see some changes for our next game.

Anton Walsh
6 Posted 24/02/2020 at 22:20:09
Once they made the forced change down the left, we should have brought on Coleman.
Jon Withey
7 Posted 24/02/2020 at 22:26:46
We've been shipping goals for years now with Schneiderlin as a supposed defensive midfielder. I'm surprised he still has supporters and I'd be happy to see Gomes shift him to the bench.
John Raftery
8 Posted 24/02/2020 at 22:29:27
All strikers miss chances. The most important thing is that they keep getting into scoring positions. The goals will follow. The partnership between Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison has been one of the most prolific in the Premier League over the past three months. The pair of them gave the Arsenal defence plenty to think about, hence the loud home celebrations at the end.

Fundamental problems lie elsewhere in our team. They have been well chronicled. It will be a surprise if they are not addressed, at least in part, in the summer.

Adam Carey
9 Posted 24/02/2020 at 22:30:30
Shoot me now but I think Delph and Gomes could be our best midfield pairing. They will pick up yellow cards but Andre is clearly the most creative and Fabian the harrying ball winner – though I appreciate he is no Gana.

Martin Mason
10 Posted 24/02/2020 at 22:39:30
Des @3, Leno isn't England's Number 1.
Martin Mason
11 Posted 24/02/2020 at 22:49:50
Finding our best midfield combination, as it was with our great side in the '80s, will be a subject of trial and error.

Gomes and Delph could be the combination that does it, perhaps with Mason Holgate as a defensive midfielder. We don't want pretty, we need functional.

We could be very close to finding a great side from the players we have in the squad and coming through the system. We must as supporters stop being irrationally negative, this is a project and the club is doing all of the right things.

Jerome Shields
12 Posted 24/02/2020 at 23:14:05
Martin #11,

I agree regarding Holgate; Everton need someone who is prepared to challenge in defensive midfield.

Rob Marsh
13 Posted 24/02/2020 at 23:34:37
You can have tall athletic centre-backs and fast attacking full-backs, but if they lack good defensive instincts, such as where they should be when it comes time to defend, as was shown last night, then you're stuffed.

Ancelotti can try to teach them but, if it's not in them, it's not in them... and especially when fatigue takes over.

In our defence, Leighton was the only one of them had his positioning correct. Sadly, he's now lacking the pace needed at this level.

I fully expect Ancelotti to buy a couple of defensive-minded defenders this summer rather than the hybrid types who raid up the pitch.

At least I hope he does.

Any of the following would be nice: Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos or Paolo Maldini (out of retirement).

Tony Hill
14 Posted 24/02/2020 at 23:43:04
I took no positives from yesterday, apart from seeing Gomes back. It was, as some rightly noted beforehand, a very significant game, and we blew it. Again.

I like Ancelotti and Brands but I think we look as far away as ever from being serious contenders.

Derek Thomas
15 Posted 24/02/2020 at 00:02:36
Tony Hill, it may be too early to say yet but, if we're having the same conversation 12 months hence, then yes. But, whenever it is, we always seem to be having these conversations and questions.

I seem to write this every 3 months for the last god knows how many seasons now... With Everton, there's Always more questions than answers.

Dick Fearon
16 Posted 24/02/2020 at 00:22:38
Carlo, we have a problem and it is so easy to spot and solve, I am surprised you have not already fixed it. Our previous managers were so fixated on their own styles, they could not or would not see it.

Over the years, we have often wondered how opponents with basic moves can score while we find it very difficult. Look again at the move between Luiz and Aubameyang that led to an Arsenal goal.

You will note that our backline was momentarily in a flat back 4 position, leaving a clear undefended space behind. That was compounded by the fact that our nearest defenders must be among the slowest in the league.

It is using a flat back four when, ages ago, it was rumbled by the rest of the football world. The last time Everton successfully employed a flat back four was when we had exceptionally fast Mountfield and Ratcliffe in the back line.

While using a flat back four, we enjoyed a very successful period. As with most innovative systems, once its weaknesses became known, it was binned. In the FA Cup Final against Liverpool, they made a few tactical changes that ripped us apart and that was the end of the flat back four... but not, it seems, by Everton.

Rob Marsh
17 Posted 25/02/2020 at 01:06:32
Dick Fearon #16,

Ratcliffe and Mountfield were like a pair of Porsche 911s in defense and they could defend. At this time, I'd be happy with a Golf GTI.

Jim Bennings
18 Posted 25/02/2020 at 07:36:33
For me, it's just the same Emirates/Highbury defeat as always.

Everton see the door open against an average Arsenal side that had just been in a hostile environment in Greece on Thursday night but failed to seize the moment, as usual.

To put into context: Brighton won at Arsenal a few weeks ago; Bournemouth won at Chelsea, so did West Ham.

We still can't get over that mental hurdle and, in my opinion, we need a damn witch doctor to get into the minds of all that reside at Everton Football Club and see why there's such a major problem playing these clubs away from Goodison Park.

Jim Bennings
19 Posted 25/02/2020 at 08:03:40
Fundamentally something is wrong and has been wrong at Everton for so long:

● No win home or away against Liverpool since 2010.

● No win at Anfield this century.

● No win at Arsenal since 1996.

● No win at Chelsea since 1994.

● No win home or away to Spurs since 2012.

● No win at Spurs since 2008.

● No win at Man City since 2010.

● One single solitary win at Old Trafford since 1992.

That's too many bogey records for a club like Everton to harbour and it's gone beyond a sick joke now. Let's be brutally honest, it's embarrassing and we will never be taken seriously, Carlo Ancelotti or no Carlo Ancelotti, until we get these hoodoos banished into the distant past.

It's not about players, as I said, even clubs like Brighton, Bournemouth, West Ham, Crystal Palace can frequently go to these venues and win at ease.

It's a pure mental thing holding Everton back now, and only Roberto Martinez touched the tip of the iceberg in trying to crack this curse. (He won at Old Trafford and was robbed of a win at Chelsea.)

Ancelotti has already had three trips to these venues and lost all; he really needs to halt that if he's going to succeed any better than say Koeman did.

We need to seriously end this at Chelsea; we know we won't, but for the sanity and natural progression of being classed a serious club, we need to do it.

John P McFarlane
20 Posted 25/02/2020 at 08:06:16
Jim, Everton's record at the home of Arsenal is historically abysmal, from the top of my head I think we have emerged victorious there on 16 out of 99 league encounters. The last victory arrived in 1996, prior to that a couple of wins in the 80s when we had a very capable team.

Only 5 wins in the last 50 years or so there and we have lost our last seven competitive matches at the Emirates. In fact, emerging victorious at the home of Arsenal usually signals that Everton are doing very well.

Arsenal may not be the same powerhouse that they have been but they are still difficult to play against on their own patch. If Arsenal are 'average' Everton must be way below average, given we were in the bottom three prior to Christmas.

I think we'd also find that in the last 50 years against most of the 'Big Six' our record at their grounds is just as poor, unfortunately it's not isolated to the Premier League era. When or if we do start winning at these grounds, we will be very happy because it usually means we are challenging for honours.

I read somewhere that the 'Big Six' in the last three seasons have only lost at home to teams outside of that elite group on a handful of occasions, Somewhere around 5% of their home games have resulted in defeats against clubs which were not members of the 'Big Six'.


Jim Bennings
21 Posted 25/02/2020 at 08:19:34
John

Regardless of all those stats about the big six not losing at home regularly to sides “outside the big six”.

That doesn’t hide the fact that the likes of Burnley, Palace, Bournemouth, West Ham, Newcastle, Cardiff, Southampton, have all won more recently away to the big six since Everton have.

As a I say, fundamentally there are major mental problems at this club and until we can get over them, we will never be able to move this team onto the next level.

Arsenal were below us in the league prior to Sunday, shouldn’t we have been able to drive that opportunity?

Jim Bennings
22 Posted 25/02/2020 at 08:22:02
When the door of opportunity opens it’s never Everton that step through it, be it one-off matches or the league being in transition, it’s always a Leicester or a Wolves when it should be Everton.

What do we expect next season?

Yet another season of transition and another season as soon as January comes everyone writing it off again?

To be honest, I think we are all sick of being patient at this club now.

John P McFarlane
23 Posted 25/02/2020 at 08:39:08
Jim #21,

I have just related the fact that, for over half a century, we have achieved very little at Arsenal. Yes, we went into the game hoping that we would win, but we have to put things into perspective and the fact is, unless Everton go to Arsenal as a very good side, we don't very often win there. We should have come away with a point at least on Sunday but we didn't – that's football.

How does a club have a mental problem, regardless of who owns and runs it? Only the people out on the pitch have any bearing on any result. If the players make too many mistakes or don't perform well enough, then Everton don't win.

We all want Everton to be the best that they can be, but we are in danger of dwelling on what we aren't rather than what we actually are. The team in its various guises has been below average for over five years, there are signs that we are slowly improving but, like it or not, we need better players in some key positions if we are to see sustained improvement. It's not an accident that Everton's average finishing league position throughout its history is circa 11th.

All that we can hope for is that, in the next few years, we all see an Everton team that is capable of challenging for honours. If we want to watch a team that wins most weeks against all opponents at all venues, then perhaps we shouldn't be following Everton.

Eddie Dunn
24 Posted 25/02/2020 at 08:48:56
We conceded some sloppy goals and Sidibe and Iwobi were responsible for the second one. The first was a super, whipped-in cross that perhaps the keeper or centre-half could have got to. Even if one of them had gone to the incoming striker, the goal may have been thwarted.

The important thing about the game was that the midfield of Delph, Sigurdsson and Scheiderlin is simply too slow. Of course we all already know this and now, hopefully Carlo does too.

Gomes brought much more dynaism ad vision to our play, releasing Richarlison several times, his passing accurate and imaginative.

Sigurdsson, is a player that I have defended many times on here but it has been clear all season that he is simply too slow for this league. Indeed Schniederlin or Delph are better suited to the holding role. Gylfi lacks pace, is lacking agility and his confidence must be low because he rarely even takes the free-kicks these days. His wayward passing blew a couple of good moves down the right.

To go there and score two goals is very good. We dominated the second half. I can't recall Pickford making any saves. Alas, Calvert-Lewin missed that late chance which would have made us all feel so much better. We really can't afford to play those three in midfield again, it's asking for trouble and exposing our brittle defence.

One other worry is Pickford's positioning. When the shot came in that hit the bar, I was recalling the Liverpool goal in the Cup. Pickford too far off his line had no chance despite his customary Hollywood dive.

I can't lay blame for the goals at his door, but I don't see him pull off those saves that no-one expects the keeper to make – they are the ones that gain unlikely points and deflate the opposition.

Rick Tarleton
25 Posted 25/02/2020 at 08:59:24
John McFarlane, as ever, makes a rational, objective judgement. We are not, and have not been since the eighties, the kind of team that top six sides expect to lose to, especially not on their own territory.

This current team, since the end of the Silva area, is showing some promise, but there are huge issues. Amazingly, with the improvement in Calvert-Lewin and with Richarlison fulfilling his potential, we have a strike force to be feared.

However, midfield is an unbalanced mess. Delph and Schneiderlin are limited and also players towards the end of their careers; Sigurdsson simply does not have the engine for an attacking midfielder, which leaves Gomes and Davies, backed up by Bernard and Iwobi. It's no-one's idea of the midfield of a top-six team.

Similarly in defence, Holgate has been a revelation, his pace and reading of the game have improved immeasurably, but Mina and Keane are ponderously slow and are not great readers of the game which slower defenders, like Bobby Moore had in their locker to disguise the lack of pace. Digne is better as an attacker than a defender and Sidibe manages to show ability, but has a propensity for mistakes.

Enough has been said about Pickford, his instinctive brilliance, coupled with a tendency to panic. I feel panic every time I watch Pickford, Mina, Sidibe etc playing around at the back. With such players, Ferguson got it right: an old-fashioned long ball is the option nine times out of ten.

Ancelotti and his team will know these problems; the question is whether they can improve the current squad, or whether the resources are available to improve the squad in the summer.

To be optimistic, I feel better about Everton now than at any time in the current century, they have a manager who knows what he is doing and they have a strike force. There's something to build on over the next couple of years.

Jim Bennings
26 Posted 25/02/2020 at 09:36:32
We won’t move forward as a club until we sign better players, but still, we should be mentally stronger in games like Sunday, small clubs have done it at those venues so why not us!?

We need to move on about six of that team that started on Sunday, including SIgurdsson, Delph, Schneiderlin, Iwobi (can’t see where he’s ever fitting in with this formation anyway).

The right back area is a worry, Sidibe is a winger, Coleman is no longer a upper echelon player and Kenny is not good enough to move us further up that league and challenge top sides.

Mina is still hit and miss and for me too often he plays like he’s auditioning for Bambi on Ice.

Holgate better passing forward than he is at defending.

Pickford seems to find stupid mistakes funny and just shrugs his shoulders, never will have the mentality to be at the top end of the Premier League, forget the England situation, it’s Everton that I’m arsed about.

Left back, Digne not good enough defensively, when he’s on his game he’s good going forward but is that really enough?

Out wide we still lack the ability to get behind teams because we don’t really possess naturally quick wingers/wide men.

Once Walcott goes we are left with Bernard (again his better work is coming inside) and Richarlison who is more a forward than wide player anyway.

Moise Kean, I think is a huge problem, it’s hard to see how three months fannying about in preseason sun will enhance his first team chances next season, he still looks erratic every time I see him and like he thinks the goal is 50ft wide.

We probably need three world class signings plus a couple of heart on sleeve players in defensive areas for me to believe much will change next season.

We harbour too many flakey mentalities at present and too many players who make it look like they are doing a decent job but don’t actually impact the games that matter.

Mark Dunford
27 Posted 25/02/2020 at 10:04:28
This certainly wasn't the usual meek surrender at Arsenal. It was actually a more positive performance and the team has grown in many ways since Silva went – line-up makes sense, there is a discipline there, they look consistently dangerous, etc.

The front two were consistently threatening and really very unlucky not to score more. Calvert-Lewin's header at the end was really close. Gomes had an excellent 30 minutes and Bernard's energy also improved the team when he came one.

Baines didn't look out of place despite the long absence and, as ever, he captained the team well – something that is missing when either he or Coleman are absent.

Holgate has an emerging authority and can hopefully grow into this role. It is notable that he always acknowledges the travelling support at the end of the game – something that attracted comment from those around me on Sunday.

The problems were primarily on the right-hand side where Sidibe had a poor game, Iwobi was ineffective and the midfield of Sigurdsson, Schneiderlein, and Delph failed to provide cover for the right side of defence. The former had little impact on the game.

After the enforced substitution, Arsenal seemed to strengthen and take advantage of our weakness. Hopefully Kenny will come back to the first team next season but we need younger, more authoritative midfield players and a sustained threat on the wings. Perhaps Iwobi will come through – he is still young, after all.

No doubt though, this team is heading in the right direction, so we have reasons to be optimistic. Encouraging to see so many comments here making similar points.

Dave Williams
28 Posted 25/02/2020 at 10:51:18
Some good posts on here and I especially agree with Rick. I posted immediately after full time saying we were poor and maybe that was a tad harsh. We scored two and missed at least three more half-decent chances but our defending was dreadful and midfield was non-existent until Andre and Bernard came on.

The squad has potential but the defence and midfield need a lot of work. Kenny will sort out the right-back problem- don't judge him on last season as he has improved a lot in Germany.

Mina has a lot to prove in the remaining games whilst I sense Carlo has made up his mind about Keane who will be sold. Digne will be fine if he gets back to last seasons level and if he doesn't then he will be sold at a decent profit. We could do worse than buy back Robinson from Wigan!

We have to buy an aggressive and athletic centre-midfield player to go alongside Andre and both flanks are up for grabs with our players inconsistent to put it nicely. Surely Gordon must be given the opportunity to stake a claim before the cheque book comes out?
Up front we are going well. Dom will continue to improve and will be capped for England to stuff the words down his critics throat. Moise is potential, not the finished article but I think he will come on quickly once he gets a decent team around him – we cannot expect a young lad from a foreign country who couldn't speak English and had little experience to play well in such a mess of a team. Get a solid defence and a creative midfield and watch him go!
A lot of work to do but it will be a season notable for the emergence of two internationals in Dom and Mason, whose values must have rocketed.

Mike Oates
29 Posted 25/02/2020 at 11:12:57
I was gutted we didn't get a point or even more, but I thought we showed character we didn't possess with Silva. Even more pleasing was seeing Gomes come back and actually dominate midfield totally. It highlighted as many have said the poorness of the rest of our midfield bunch. Hopefully Ancelotti will quickly work out what our best midfield combination is, be it a 3 or a 4 or even a 5.

What worries me more is that Sidibe and Mina combination is a disaster zone. Individually their positional play is poor, but put them together and there is a gap wider than the Mersey Tunnel to drive through.

Even worse, they don't seem to actually talk together and there is a serious lack of pace on the turn. If Mina plays then Coleman has to play (but he can't put a decent cross in, whereas Sidibe does) or try Holgate as the right hand side centre half to work with Sidibe.

Last point: where does Iwobi feature in this team, he's not a winger who can also cover back, as you could see on Sunday. His best position could be as a No 10, but with a 4-4-2 we don't have a No 10! Hopefully he's not going to be another £20M-odd misfit.

Brian Harrison
30 Posted 25/02/2020 at 11:21:03
I see a lot of the papers are suggesting that we are making a CB our priority this summer. But for me we haven't had a decent midfield since Reid and Bracewell, Stevens and Sheedy, for decades our midfield has lagged well behind the top 6 clubs. Even after Moshiri's massive investment, our midfield is pedestrian at best. So I would hope, now that we have a class act in charge, he will look to build a more physical and mobile midfield.

Our neighbours are a classical example of having 3 combative and mobile midfield, who also weigh in with goals. They aren't the most creative midfield but they win the ball back and feed their front 3, who are probably the best front 3 in the Premier League.

We have 2 goal-scoring forwards in Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin, so buy another goalscoring forward to play with them, and buy the likes of Doucoure and another to play either side of Gomes, then this not winning away at top 6 grounds will change very quickly.

Santa Krsh
31 Posted 25/02/2020 at 11:23:30
Guys let's get to the present. Enough of we need X world class players, ship the duds out etc. Etc. That may or may not happen.

Come on guys. It's good to have lofty ambitions but please remember where we were in Nov. We just could not do anything. There were problems all over the pitch.

Now we atleast have 3 youngsters who could fetch us over 50 million each, we have Gomes back & we can look forward to Don & Dunc sorting few more of those in the next couple of months and hope for some Marcel Magic to play out.

Don Carlo's only objective till the end of this season should be to bring in a bit of composure to DCL n Richie to make them more deadly, cut out the silly school boyish errors while defending, and try to improve Pickford's command over the 6 years box.

I will start with midfield first.

I would strongly recommend going with a diamond in the midfield with Holgate at the base, Gomes on the right, Delph on the left , Bernard/Iwobi as the furthest, just behind our Fab 2. I seriously believe this midfield ( with an upgrade on Delph) would be pretty dangerous coz they can spray balls all over the pitch, play through balls while also having the ability to bring the full backs into play as they are our best crossers.

In defence, I hope our gaffer gets rid of this high line shambles and reverts to play 2 old school center halves Keane and Mina, with Digne & Sidibe to provide the width. This is because we now have a very forward thinking midfield & we need not worry that defence will be pretty deep.

In this formation, we will not actually need a right sided attacker that Marcel Brands spoke about. We have Walcott, Iwobi, Bernie and Gordon coming through to provide width when needed.

If Don & Dunc measure that this is the way forward, it will be over to our DoF to bring in necessary upgrades ( preferably 3 or more) & hope kids like Gibson, Gordon, Beni save us a lot of money and be able to make us challenge at the top.

PS : I don't see many comments on how we have imported our attacking set plays since it was not long ago, I remember we were the only team that did not score from set pieces for a season or something like that!!

Rob Dolby
32 Posted 25/02/2020 at 11:43:43
A defeat is a defeat. You don't get any medals for being gallant losers. We went there under Roberto and smashed a much better Arsenal team only for Gerry to grab a late equaliser.

This is the worst Arsenal team for 25 years but they have a striker who scores from chances that Calvert-Lewin can't.

Performances have picked up but the same issues remain. We have a terrible midfield lacking pace, quality, fight and desire to win games.

We all know we are carrying players, hopefully Ancelotti has been giving game time to certain players to see if they cut it.

There is only Gomes and Gbamin who I would keep from the existing midfield. The rest can stroll around Miami seeing out their contracts.

Steve Carse
33 Posted 25/02/2020 at 11:53:30
John (23), how do you work out that average league finish over our history as 11th? Is it our average finish in the top Division only or does it include lower-division finishes, with the position included in the 'average' calculation being the sum of clubs in the top division plus our Division 2 final placing?

If it's the latter then I'd guess with an average finish of 11 there won't be many above us (though if it includes final placing when there were only a handful of clubs in the league then it might exaggerate our comparative standing).

Dave Williams
34 Posted 25/02/2020 at 11:57:54
Rob, a bit harsh on Calvert-Lewin. Aubameyang has been around a lot longer and I doubt he could have scored the one which Dom got in the first minute.
Rob Marsh
35 Posted 25/02/2020 at 12:00:44
To defend, you're defenders have to have good positional sense; you can't put a tackle in if you're not close enough?

And if they don't have that positional sense now, they'll never have it. No matter how good we are further up the field, the floor is always about to collapse underneath us.

Carl Manning
36 Posted 25/02/2020 at 12:21:24
We lost, we didn't deserve to in my opinion, and it went down to fine margins in terms of our wayward finishing. I do think Richarlison tucks away some of Dom's misses but we have to keep believing. This is still the 4 previous managers' side.

We have a centre-forward pairing that could go on to greatness. They could also be the key to keeping each other at the club!

We always give Man Utd a good run at Goodison. Let's hope Fernandes isn't allowed to run the game.

John P McFarlane
37 Posted 25/02/2020 at 12:29:59
Steve #33, I should have given 9th as Everton's average final position for top-flight games alone. I think 11th is our most frequent finishing position in the top division.

Using our finishing position since we returned to the top flight in 1954, Everton remain consistent in that the average finish is 9th. Everton have ended the season in the top 10 on 38 occasions, with top 4 finishes occurring on 14 occasions since the club returned to the top flight, 66 seasons including the current one.

As an aside, Everton currently lie joint 5th with Manchester United on 57 points from their last 38 league games, five points behind 4th-placed Chelsea (62). Man City (90) and Leicester City (70) occupy 2nd and 3rd places, respectively. Unfortunately, the other lot have nearly twice as many points (110) as us from their fixtures.

Obviously Everton had a decent run of form in the last 11 matches of last season and we have to hope we can do the same or better this season.

Derek Taylor
38 Posted 25/02/2020 at 12:31:33
As someone remarked, Everton has become the retirement home for some very tired (lazy) players and I remain to be convinced that 'our exciting new manager' doesn't fit into the same category.

As each season moves into its final stage, we are always discounting it as just preparation for next time. 'Si modi' (If only) should be inserted in our motto as looking for 'the best' has become a pointless (irony) exercise. The last 4 years have proved we do no better 'with money' than without it and, as an example of wanton profligacy, only Aston Villa count as our rivals. How ridiculous the game (not just Everton) has become is demonstrated by the likes of 'Paul the Esk' taking up columns on how we can justify or get round Financial Fair Play regulations just so the club can waste more money unhindered!

Well into my 9th decade, Everton these days just annoys me. There is rarely any joy – just the hopes of 'next bloody season' to keep us interested. As if.

Jamie Crowley
39 Posted 25/02/2020 at 13:04:54
Jim Bennings @ 26 -

"...Coleman is no longer a upper echelon player..."

Wilfred Zaha would like to have a word with you.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

40 Posted 25/02/2020 at 13:23:48
Steve @ 33.

Sorry to break it to you, but John is not far wrong.

Since the formation of the football league in 1888, Everton has played 120 completed seasons, only three of them outside the top flight.

Our average finishing position up to and including last season is 9.68.

Liverpool has five less season than ourselves and has completed 115 seasons.

Year on year, our average finishing position was always better than Liverpool's until their cluster of title wins in the 1970s and 1980s finally tipped the balance in their favour.

That is to say, for 84 seasons our average finishing position up to and including the 1982-83 season was better than the 'bours. In that season our average was 9.98 against their 10.01.

They marginally went ahead of us on this metric in the 1983-84 for the first time. Our average was 9.94, theirs 9.90.

In the 36 completed seasons since then, we have never regained the superior average finishing position over them. We have 'flatlined' and remained, at best, between 9.42 (1989-90) and worst 10.03 (2003-04) since then.

'Their' average finishing position has relentlessly risen from that 'tipping season' in 1984-85 - 9.90 - to 8.11 last season.

In only 5 out of the last 36 seasons (and this season will make it 37 seasons) have we finished ahead of them.

I won't depress you further by detailing how in that same period our superior win record over them has been totally torpedoed and they are now streets ahead of us in head-to-head games on every criteria, home-away-league-cups.

It's carnival week in Brazil, one big joyous party. And I've just depressed the hell out of myself for researching and writing the above!

Ray Roche
41 Posted 25/02/2020 at 13:30:53
Brian @30,

“Haven't had a decent midfield since Reid” etc.

I thought Pienaar, Cahill, Arteta etc were pretty damn good. They'd walk all over the present frauds.

Jamie Crowley
42 Posted 25/02/2020 at 13:34:29
Brian @ 30 and Ray @ 41 -

Barry, McCarthy and Barkley did a job, too. The midfield of the best points total we've had in my time, and the most exciting and enjoyable team to watch in my time, too.

Imagine what this team could do with a player like Garreth Barry holding?!

David Nicholls
43 Posted 25/02/2020 at 14:55:36
Jamie, I agree re Barry. What a player he was. He should have had about 50 more caps but, until Capello, was under-appreciated.
Joe McMahon
44 Posted 25/02/2020 at 15:22:19
Brian @30, in the 90s, we also had Limpar, Kanchelskis and Gary Speed. Steven Pienaar, as stated earlier, was superb.
John Boon
45 Posted 25/02/2020 at 15:43:58
Jay (40).. Don't want to be too picky regarding statistics but you have one excusable error. We spent 4 seasons in the Second Division. 3 in the fifties. I know because I saw every home game from 1951 to 1954. We also spent one season there in the thirties, only to rebound and win the First Division the year after. My Dad used to recount the glory days of the thirties with Dixie Dean etc etc.

Some of my best times watching the Blues was when Liverpool spent eight years in limbo in the Fifties while we were in the top flight.

Jim Bennings
46 Posted 25/02/2020 at 15:48:31
We have had some decent midfields over the years, it's just coincided with other areas of the pitch that we had at the time weakness. Even the midfield of Parkinson, Horne, Ebbrell, Limpar, Kanchelskis, try bullying that midfield.

Some of Moyes's teams mixed big characters like Carsley, Gravesen, Cahill with skill and work ethic of Pienaar or Arteta or the gangly unpredictability of Marouane Fellaini.

Martinez had a good blend of pacy wingers and Barry, McCarthy and Barkley, that was hardly poor.

This current midfield, Bernard aside (who probably needs a bit more consistency to be rated higher) is shocking.

Gomes when he's bang on form is immense but prior to his injury let's not completely be ignorant that many games also passed him by.

We need some athleticism and some guile.

Tony Everan
47 Posted 25/02/2020 at 16:13:41
Too true Jim,

Carlo will want to instill that Italian defensive meanness too, as a priority. It was like a dagger to the heart for him seeing those goals conceded. He will want to tighten the defence up whatever it takes, by one or two changes in personnel in midfield and defence.

I would like to see some shrewd business in the summer, Sigurdsson, Delph sold or traded for Doucoure or another more dynamic midfielder. Sam Hoare will have a decent shortlist.

Iwobi is yet to convince me but I feel he needs more time and breathing space to be given a proper chance to establish himself.

Keane traded for a meaner, class defender. Money needs to be spent but Brands may be able to offset a fair bit of it – and probably needs to with all the FFP suits snapping at our accounts.

Brian Harrison
48 Posted 25/02/2020 at 16:37:41
Guys I have looked at some of the choices put forward as a decent midfield, I think you have perfectly highlighted my point. Out of all the players listed only Kanchelskis was a top player, the rest of the names were bang average that's why we have never won the league since the Reid, Bracewell, Stevens and Sheedy midfield. Jim Bennings – Barry Horne, tell me that was a joke.
John Pierce
49 Posted 25/02/2020 at 16:42:23
The header is spot on, it wasn't your regular defeat at a historical big six team. We carried a threat and missed several good chances. Leno was decent for them to be fair. However poorly we played we still deserved a point, actually three based on the chances we created.

The midfield rotation that appears to be gnawing at posters is part audition, part tactical and part who the else have we got to play midfield? Every combination we have is limited.

However, Carlo has had a very positive effect on the team. Whilst he's not exactly made us harder to beat, he has made harder to defend against. We are scoring and creating strong opportunities to score on a consistent basis.

It's hard to argue any other team has two attackers in better form? Carlo's persistence with Sidibé will clearly drive people nuts, especially my man JaC, but his attacking qualities and assist record enhance the pair up front, little attention has been paid to the right midfield who gives such an attacking outlet zero cover.

All out offense has to be the goal for the remainder of the season, with the emphasis on the attack I think will cut the draws out and get us European football. Which flavour I don't know. But I wasn't in the least bit concerned with this latest defeat at Arsenal. Carlo is the man.

John Pierce
50 Posted 25/02/2020 at 16:58:06
The midfield debate is not about the best players but balance. The ‘95, ‘08 and ‘85 iterations all had balance. Where some of the players in the ‘95 side ordinary? Perhaps, but they allowed the star players their head, covered the gaps and retained/turned over the ball enough to allow the playmakers to flourish.

The ‘08 not only had cadence as a unit, it also allowed a vertical rhythm, at its best was two play makers from wide, pre-injury when Arteta played from the right. It’s such a shame they didn’t have a top top striker to supply.

But ultimately let’s not mess around the ‘85 vintage are peerless. They could all pass, they had power and were hard as nails. The finesse was there from the left and goals from the Steven were a regular thing, not to be underestimated how good he was. I think over time my appreciation for him has grown massively, oddly never a big fan of tricky Trev at the time. Maybe as a less demonstrative personality he went under the radar?

But I return to the original point, rarely do you have four superstars in the midfield, there’s always room for John Ebbrell!

Christy Ring
51 Posted 25/02/2020 at 17:12:46
I don't know how Beni is playing with the U23s, but surely he deserves a chance, we have a toothless midfield. Apart from Gomes, and great that he's back, but Delph and Schneiderlin, are slow and pedestrian, and definitely not offensive, and Sigurdsson or Iwobi, certainly won't put there foot in to make a tackle, when we're on the back foot. Midfield has to be a huge area for Carlo to sort out, this summer, because the signings of Delph and Iwobi, by Brands, we're extremely poor to say the least.
John P McFarlane
52 Posted 25/02/2020 at 17:13:52
John #50, Spot on regarding balance, and I think Carlo mentioned that in his post-match comments on Sunday. All departments, Defence, Midfield and Forwards have to work as units within the team structure, that is something that Everton have lacked for quite some time.

I think Ancelotti and Duncan realised fairly quickly that Everton's midfield and defence were unlikely to keep many clean sheets and if they did, the goals at the other end would dry up. So both men decided that improving our attacking play, was the best way to eek out some points to steady the ship.

We probably won't see a 'sound' defensive unit until the start of next season and only then, if we recruit or promote proper defenders.

The Midfield requires a player who can captain the side and lead by example – I don't think there is any player who could do that within the current squad and finding such a player won't be easy or cheap.

Given Ancelotti's facial expressions after conceding on Sunday, I'm sure he won't hang about in finding players who can do the job he wants them to do, whether we can afford them or are able to sign them is another matter.


Kieran Kinsella
53 Posted 25/02/2020 at 17:14:12
John Pierce 56,

Spot on with the balance. Think of the 87 side and at times it was Power, Harper, Langley, Snodin, some or all playing out of position but disciplined in their roles with tactics to build on our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. In contrast, I remember West Ham being relegated with an all-star team of Lampard, Cole, Di Canio, Futre etc who were individually better than the aforementioned but collectively didn't function as a unit.

Brian Harrison
54 Posted 25/02/2020 at 17:16:01
John 50,

I agree that you do need balance in a midfield and they have to compliment each other. I also don't forget that Harper and Richardson played important roles in the title-winning team. But you have to have quality not in just 1 or 2 midfield positions to win leagues, and as I said in my original post we haven't had a midfield good enough to compete at the top level since that 1985 midfield.

Paul Tran
55 Posted 25/02/2020 at 17:53:30
John's right. Big problem at the moment is that each section of the team is like a set of jigsaw pieces that don't fit together. Better coaching and management are improving the team and results, but we have to find that balance to make proper progress.
Peter Warren
56 Posted 25/02/2020 at 18:20:31
Okay performance going forward, terrible defensively. Unfortunately, we're mentally weak and need better players.
Nicholas Ryan
57 Posted 25/02/2020 at 18:50:16
Adam [9] ... "shoot me now" ... consider yourself shot!
John McFarlane Snr
58 Posted 25/02/2020 at 19:39:42
Hi John [23] & [37] regarding our inability to win against the so-called Big Six, you are absolutely correct in stating that the only people who can change that situation are the men on the pitch. The main reason is, in my opinion, the fact that we are not good enough, there will be no doubt occasions like Sunday's game, when we may have with a little bit of luck come away with a draw. Whether we like it or not we are at the moment, simply not good enough'
.
Regarding the fact that Everton's average finishing position is 9th, I fail to see what bearing that has on the current situation, it suggests to me that we can expect to be a middle of the table team, an average team in an average position.

Your comments appear to have prompted Jay [40] to say that our best finishing position overall is 9.68 and our worst 10.3 with fluctuating figures for periods in between. Regular readers will be aware that I have no love of stats in any form, but to introduce the decimal point in deciding League placings is stretching things a bit too far. I think that your postings are excellent and, as your Uncle, I trust that nobody will mistake them to be mine.

Christy Ring
59 Posted 25/02/2020 at 21:02:52
Brian @48,

The midfield of ‘85 Sheedy, Reid, Bracewell and Steven were irreplaceable.

Robert Tressell
60 Posted 25/02/2020 at 22:00:02
I have the misfortune of supporting Everton late 80s when we'd been knocked off the top perch already and were hurtling into the shitness of the 90s, which got seriously bad as the decade wore on. So I missed out on the glory and have been waiting patiently ever since. Perhaps this is why I find transfers almost more interesting than the actual football.

Anyway, as I've said on other posts, we're not that far away from something very good. It only takes one or two very classy signings to lift a team. They don't need to cost the earth either.

Rob Marsh
61 Posted 25/02/2020 at 22:17:35
Robert #60,

I was there through the good times and bloody marvelous it was too, but back then it was so much easier to build a winning team more quickly.

The mess we are might mean it takes another 3-4 years before we see any silverware, meanwhile that lot across the park win everything for the next 5 years.

It can't be underestimated the damage done by the Moshiri - Walsh - Koeman threesome.

John P McFarlane
62 Posted 25/02/2020 at 22:22:38
John #58,

Thanks for your very generous response. I would think that fellow ToffeeWeb's could easily identify that your unique style and eloquence not to mention knowledge of all things Everton is of a far higher standard than of my own scribbled posts. I hope you are keeping well and who knows we may share a drop or two, at a future TW meet up.

Dick Fearon
63 Posted 25/02/2020 at 23:45:55
J P @ 62,

The old bugger is just basking in your reflected glory. hee hee, Meanwhile regarding the comments about Calvert-Lewin who could have / should have etc, ad infinitum I can only repeat an earlier post that what the lad lacks is a goal scorers instinct.

No doubt his physical attributes and motivation will see him hold down a strikers position but until the kind of instinct that puts him in the right place at the right time kicks in I'm afraid he will always be an almost centre forward.

To prove my point take a look at the best strikers in the game and ask yourself what came first. Were they natural born goal scorers or did it take many years of practice.

Jimmy Daly
64 Posted 26/02/2020 at 06:16:43
I don't understand the love affair with Sidibe. His positional play is abysmal, he has no pace and is not a goal threat. The only somewhat redeeming feature is that he can put in a cross once in a while.

We have Coleman who positionally is better, has a goal in him and, in my opinion, is quicker than Sidibe. We have Jonjoe Kenny lighting up the Bundesliga, why would he not get at least a mention?

For the remainder of this season, we could play Mina and Keane in the middle Coleman and Digne at fullbacks, Holgate and Delph, Gomes and Bernard, with Calvert-Lewin & Richarlison up-front.

Matthew Williams
65 Posted 26/02/2020 at 12:09:23
From the Sharks of Nairobi to the Gooners in the Smoke, we simply don't play our normal game on the road. We play with fear... and that has been our major problem for far too long.

Finals ain't played at Goodison, folks!

Tom Bowers
68 Posted 26/02/2020 at 18:15:10
I had posted on Saturday that this game may be a shootout given the frailty of both defences this season and the fact that it was basically a middle-of-the-table match up. It really should have been given the chances that went begging, even after the 5 that were scored.

Both these teams have new managers and both have a lot of sorting out still to do. I hope Everton don't afford the kind of room to Martial next Sunday as they did to Aubameyang.

Whilst Calvert-Lewin is grabbing a goal or two, he is not a top-notch finisher and is average at best, no different than Tosun and Niasse, and I cannot see him being a long-term starter to compliment Richarlison.

Here's hoping Gomes can bring some creativity back to the midfield and that Gbamin can be a real winner when he comes in for next season. Other than that, I don't see much changing in the rest of the season with probably only another 3 or 4 wins.

Rob Marsh
69 Posted 26/02/2020 at 18:40:46
Tom #68,

Gomes looks like a class act but, so far, he's had too many games that he's been anonymous in, he's yet to fulfil expectations. I'm not expecting too much from him and especially with his ankle, he'll be off the pace.

Carlo Ancelotti has had time now to see the problems are in more than just a few positions, this could take a good few transfer windows to sort out. I think we all have to moderate our expectations of what's possible (and especially this season).

John G Davies
70 Posted 26/02/2020 at 19:05:29
Tom 68,

Calvert-Lewin is 12 goals different to Tosun and Niasse. He's a one-in-two centre-forward this season.

Very unfair comments from yourself regarding a rapidly improving player, mate.

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