A Depressing Gulf in Class

Guardiola’s side are pretty irresistible when they’re at their best but even in second or third gear they were too much for the Toffees who have a long way to go in terms of quality and sheer footballing ability before they can even hope to match them.

Lyndon Lloyd 17/02/2021 65comments  |  Jump to last

The fact that so little was expected from this game — no doubt most of us hoped for a surprise but hope was all it was — doesn’t make the result or the relative ease of Manchester City’s victory any easier to take. Reflecting on just how good Pep Guardiola’s team is…? Well, that does make it a little more palatable but it also serves to underline just how big the gulf has become between what has been built at the Etihad over the past decade and where Everton currently find themselves despite huge (though not comparable)investment under Farhad Moshiri.

This is, on paper, a decent Blues squad, blessed with some very good players, but it remains weighed down by the recruitment mistakes of recent years, is severely lacking in terms of creativity and attacking depth, and still doesn’t play with a consistently discernible style. It is also short on self-belief, fatigued from a glut of fixtures over the past few weeks, and there was an uneasy inevitability about the way this match unfolded, even though Richarlison’s goal at the end of a really nice move had left the contest level at 1-1 at half-time.

By the end, City had won at Goodison Park by two goals for the fourth season running. The last time an Everton side beat the team at the top of the table was that memorable 4-0 thumping of the Citizens in January 2017 but apart from a creditable 1-1 draw at Eastlands in the early days of Ronald Koeman’s second season, Guardiola’s teams have had their way with Everton.

The Blues might have inflicted upon the visitors only their third goal in 17 matches and the first they have conceded from open play since 3rd January but City still ran out comfortable victors to open up a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League, the reclaiming of their crown from Liverpool looking like a mere formality now. Their indifferent start to the season, when they were languishing in the bottom half and Everton were top with a 100% record seems like a long time ago now.

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Back then, Everton had James Rodriguez in his pomp, Allan prowling in front of the defence and Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring on a weekly basis. None of that trio were in the starting line-up this evening — Allan was, we hope, merely withheld for this weekend’s Merseyside derby, Calvert-Lewin missed a second successive game with a hamstring injury, and James was named among the substitutes after taking a minor knock in that horrendous defeat to Fulham last weekend.

In that respect, Carlo Ancelotti picked about as strong a side as he could to face City, although in view of his allusion on Sunday to his players’ tiredness, the decision to include Gylfi Sigurdsson rather Josh King, for instance, was a curious one. Even more curious was how and why the 30-year-old Icelander stayed on the pitch for the entire game, finishing the match as an ill-advised holding midfielder and racking up his 320th minute of consecutive action in the space of 11 days in the process.

The back four of Mason Holgate, Yerry Mina, Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey restored the strongest central defensive pairing and, as a whole, arguably the tightest defensive unit available to Ancelotti, even if it comes at the expense of some attacking dynamism. Lucas Digne played wide on the left, Alex Iwobi come in on the right and Richarlison was handed the Calvert-Lewin role… literally, as he spent much of the contest chasing the ball around and acting as target man for a succession of punts forward by Jordan Pickford, who also returned to the starting XI after four games out.

The pattern of the game was established early, with City bossing possession as only they can. Joao Cancelo a save from Pickford from distance that the keeper pushed away and a rare mistake by Tom Davies let Gabriel Jesus in but he fired over the bar.

Everton had struggled to get things going in forward areas but, nonetheless, had had some promising openings, not least when Digne swept a ball into the box that was met but Abdoulaye Doucouré but rather than go for a volleyed attempt on goal, he tried to tuck it inside for Richarlison but it hit a defender instead.

Ancelotti’s best-laid defensive plans were ruined after 17 minutes, however, when Mina was forced off with a calf problem and was replaced by Seamus Coleman, with Holgate moving inside to centre-half.

And in the 32nd minute, Everton fell behind. Another Manchester City corner was only headed as far as Riyad Mahrez, he twisted and turned before crossing for Rodri and when his header bounced off Keane and fell to Phil Foden, the young midfielder lashed a heavily deflected shot in past Pickford. The goal owed much to fortune but it had been coming.

To Everton's credit, they rallied rather than folded and equalised just six minutes later at the end of a fine move, the like of which that you wished they had produced more often. Sigurdsson found Iwobi down the right, he slipped a clever square pass into the box for Coleman and when Digne met the Irishman's floated chip with a left-foot volley, the ball bounced off the post and Richarlison was there virtually on the goal line to knock it in with his thigh.

Such moments of incisiveness were rare from the Toffees, though, and their defence was by far the busier in the second half. Holgate gifted the ball straight to Bernardo six minutes after the interval but Pickford parried the Portuguese's shot away and four minutes later, Kyle Walker played Jesus in but the Brazilian smashed his shot narrowly high and wide.

Sigurdsson had a half-chance at the other end when Iwobi picked him out on the edge of the box but his shot was blocked and looped into Edersen's arms and in the 63rd minute, City restored their lead. Bernardo laid a short pass off to Mahrez who had all the space he needed to line up a shot from 18 yards, bend it around Pickford and in off the post.

Ancelotti responded by withdrawing Davies and Iwobi, both of whom were hugely unfortunate to leave the field as both had done really well, in favour of King and James but a tiring Everton were unable to create anything of note.

Rodriguez had some nice touches and executed some lovely turns in the middle of the park but he had few options to carve out opportunities. Everton had shown in the first half the trouble they could cause when they had some adventure and threw bodies forward but they didn't do it nearly enough in the second half and it was City who wrapped things up 13 minutes from the end.

Sigurdsson lagged well behind Silva allowing him to run unchallenged across the edge of the area and drill a shot in off Pickford's gloves to make it 3-1. The more you see it, the more you question how, despite the power on the shot, the goalkeeper wasn’t able to get a strong hand on it it divert it past the post but frustrations over that part of the team are nothing new.

City almost added a cruel fourth in stoppage time when Sigurdsson simply gave the ball away in front of his own box but this time Mahrez was much less accurate, placing his effort wide of goal with just Pickford to beat.

If there are positives to take from this game they are that Everton at least gave a better account themselves than they did against Fulham (which also makes that performance in what was a far more important game that much more angering), Davies had another good game in defensive midfield, Richarlison’s energy and feistiness is back if not his confidence to beat his man, and Doucouré, despite being a bit sloppy with the ball at times, underscored just how important he is to this team as the dynamo in midfield.

Playing better, with more spirit and desire than they did against Fulham was the easy part but they couldn’t move the ball well enough and their passing ability pales in contrast to City’s. Most teams’ do but Everton’s reliance on Pickford’s erratic kicking, and deep or cross-field balls from defence or the flanks as opposed to moving it through midfield and getting sufficient bodies in the final third has been a limiting factor for much of the season. Much of this can be coached, of course; it's not all about buying top quality at sky-high prices but Everton sides aren't coached to play intricate, passing football.

Guardiola’s side are pretty irresistible when they’re at their best but even in second or third gear they were too much for the Toffees who have a long way to go in terms of quality and sheer footballing ability before they can even hope to match them. Everton only managed two shots on target in the 90 minutes and failed to force a single corner.

That’s the depressing part but also the part that requires patience and faith that it will eventually come. How long is anyone’s guess but Everton don't need to surpass City to achieve any of their goals in the League this season — the FA Cup is now a different matter, of course, and how daunting that Quarter Final tie next month now looks! — they simply need to better than one or two of the next five teams and at the moment that possibility is slipping away.

A win at Anfield would go a long way to changing the outlook once more but that’s a whole other game of rock bottom expectations and a lot of hope…

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Christine Foster
1 Posted 18/02/2021 at 06:20:11
To be fair, Lyndon, the gulf in class owes much to the gulf in spend, a staggering £1.5 billion has been spent, wisely in the main, and complemented by a world class manager. Compare that to us, or in fact just about every Premier League team, we have had crap managers buying crap players and, as a result, we are exactly where we deserve to be.

We have a joker in the pack though: Ancelotti is a winner but there is no way we are ever going to compete on spend to compete on the field; in Ancelotti, we have a manager of experience but limited backing. We can't buy an instant team, but City's spend will end, Pep will go, City will stutter.

Everton need to raise their level of competence in line with spend. Personally I think we are 3/4 players off a very good side, but I think we will qualify for Europe, we will beat Liverpool. Patience is great but inspiration along the way can only help!

Lyndon Lloyd
2 Posted 18/02/2021 at 06:38:01
Absolutely, Christine. I didn't mean to imply that because of all the money we've spent we should be near City given how much more they have spent and over a longer period of time.

But, by the same token, teams have ruffled their feathers this season and in a "11 v 11, anything can happen on the day" situation, I don't think we did ourselves justice.

And, as I alluded to above, I think this team can be coached to play far better passing football than it does. I mentioned it after we lost at Southampton – you would hardly trade any of their players for ours but they passed it around us all afternoon. So did Fulham last weekend. We don't do it with nearly enough consistency.

Bill Rodgers
3 Posted 18/02/2021 at 07:09:14
"Manchester City are the best team and it is almost impossible to compete against them."

Well, thanks Carlo, that escaped our notice. Now we know what we're paying you for.

What I saw from City was superb workrate, total commitment and high quality. Unlike most teams who are demolished by City, Everton have some quality – but we totally lack commitment and our workrate is utterly feeble. What we also seem to lack is a management structure and culture that insists on workrate and builds commitment.

I am sick of players jogging around the pitch. I am sick of players only too keen to be substituted. I am sick of managers who talk Horlicks.

Bill Rodgers
4 Posted 18/02/2021 at 07:15:15
This week, we've watched Lookman playing the top role in hauling Fulham out of trouble – showing more commitment, pace and threat than we ever saw in years.

Early this season, we saw Klaassen bossing the midfield for Ajax, nearly scoring twice against Liverpool – and that was before they fell.

Then on Tuesday, we saw Kean playing a full part for PSG against Barcelona as a fully functioning part of one of the best attacks in the Champions League.

But none of these stars would/could play when we had them on the books. Maybe we should ask all the rejects what is wrong at Finch Farm?

Marc Hints
5 Posted 18/02/2021 at 07:25:46
Agree with above, I think the foundation is set now, we have a great manager to move forward with. I think the main problem the last 2 years or so is getting rid of so much deadwood and wages; this task is near complete now.

Hopefully over the net two summers with Ancelotti, we can now get three or four payers in to compete regularly in the top 4. It's a rebuilding job that we cannot afford to go to waste.

Steve Shave
6 Posted 18/02/2021 at 07:33:23
A good report, well written. I don't have much to add really.

Typically, I missed the first half which, by the sounds of it, we made a good fist of it; I watched the second and felt depressed by the quality of our opposition. We looked like school kids in comparison – not a dig at my team but rather a respectful nod to Man City.

Agree with above comments that we are building, there is progress, we do have a good manager, and have spent better of late to build this squad. 3-4 quality signings in the right mould and, next season, we should move forward again. A top quality right-back, and hard-working and creative right-midfielder and good back-up to Calvert-Lewin needed.

Adam McCulloch
7 Posted 18/02/2021 at 07:59:32
Pace. Movement. Guile. That's what they have in abundance and what we are sorely lacking. The aimless punts from Pickford, Keane and Holgate say it all.

The irony is that we do have players who – on paper at least – have the ability to unlock a defence but, even with our best 11, the lack of bodies moving and showing for the ball means we tend to play sideways, backwards, hoof.

The away game at Fulham shows that we can get around sides and create chances. But then we have players out injured or knackered. Buying more players isn't the panacea, but legs and guile on the wings will at least mean we can threaten sides like City and hopefully give us something to unlock the so-called poorer sides.

Great, honest report though, Lyndon. Here's to the weekend, you never know...

Gareth Williams
8 Posted 18/02/2021 at 08:15:41
Man City are a top team and will walk the Premier League this season. It's a pity they didn't play like this last season. I don't fancy our chances on Saturday... going into the derby on the back of two poor results is not good.
Jim Bennings
9 Posted 18/02/2021 at 08:19:04
Pretty much as we expected, we had a little bit more of a go than we did on Sunday, which we all knew would happen – otherwise, it would have been a massacre.

We can talk about having more money and signing better players but we've spent lots of money already on international players yet still we can't get beyond jogging or trotting about the pitch.

I'm not entirely sure how I'd fully assess Ancelotti's tenure at the club so far. I think he's done a pretty steady job but, on the other hand, the amount of games where we fail to turn up – players looking disinterested, no clear pattern of play or cohesion in formation – makes me question that, if it was Marco Silva or Martinez in charge, then we'd be crucifying them.

I'm watching us and I'm thinking at the moment we should be making ourselves hard to beat, hard to score against, because going forward, especially at home, we look like a blunt sword. In the league, we've scored two goals at Goodison since the Arsenal game before Christmas.

We should be making Goodison a hard place for teams to play at, fans or no fans – it's still our own surroundings. Christ, people used to say that the players were struggling in front of full houses at home due to fan pressure, so they've got the perfect opportunity now to go out and express themselves.

I would love to believe we can get a good result on Saturday but I do fear that now we are beginning to see results start to reflect just how poor the performances have been for a while.

Tony Everan
10 Posted 18/02/2021 at 08:27:52
At the moment, the club is not competitive against Man City, neither is any team in the Premier League. They will win the league in cruise control this season.

Below them, it is all up for grabs. I don't see the same level of discrepancy in class. If we can get our best midfield out and fit, and Calvert-Lewin on the pitch, there is no reason or excuses that this squad can't compete toe to toe with the rest of them. We were better last night, and we will benefit for Allan and Calvert-Lewin coming back.

A midfield comprising Allan, Davies and Doucouré is really the beating heart of this Everton team. If that is disrupted, the whole team is. We need a quality young mobile dynamic back-up to these 3 to stay strong. I am becoming less sure that Jean-Philippe Gbamin is going to make it.

Attacking wide, Calvert-Lewin is the real deal, we need him. I still like Richarlison for the left-sided attacking role. The big problem is the right side. Iwobi can have very good games but I don't see enough pace, desire or sharpness both physically and mentally in him. Can we trade him with Palace for Zaha? Or better business – some other younger quality alternative.

James Rodriguez needs a thread of his own. A brilliantly gifted player, how does he fit into the team and make us stronger? The Premier League is a bastard of a league, nasty, physical and unforgiving. James is targeted and largely negated in recent matches, midfielders are learning how to play him and refs give him no protection at all. I think it has weakened his resolve.

Mike Doyle
11 Posted 18/02/2021 at 08:29:29
Having watched Man City demolish Liverpool & Spurs in recent weeks, it was no real surprise to see them do exactly the same to us. Let's be fair – at present they are a joy to watch. Great players, superb passing, great movement, clinical finishing etc – highly impressive stuff.

Glad to see we at least tried to compete in the first half – but, as the second wore on, we were reduced to long punts down field which simply re-invited the pressure.

When we did have the ball, our passing and ball-retention looked so poor in comparison. Then again, I've watched their other opponents display similar failings in recent weeks – so perhaps it isn't just us.

I really hope Calvert-Lewin is available for the weekend as, without him, I fear we'll spend 90 minutes defending.

Jim Bennings
12 Posted 18/02/2021 at 08:42:15
James should be number 10.

Wasted player out on the right where he's not involved anything like enough, he's got such a sweet left foot and you want him like where he scored that goal at Old Trafford, that's where you see the best of him.

What we need is a mobile fast right winger, I imagine even if we had say Aaron Lennon from his first six months with us we'd be a better side.

Iwobi, I want to like him but I just can't see anything in his game to tell me he's going to make it.
Picks the ball up and then continually flatters to deceive.

We need to fix up our right side as a matter of priority this summer, new right back and right midfielder.

Peter Mills
13 Posted 18/02/2021 at 08:49:10
I was fortunate enough to attend the Chelsea game, and there is no doubt that the 2,000 fans present made a contribution to the team’s win that night. I have experienced much quieter atmospheres in crowds of 40,000.

It was also noticeable that the mood was extremely positive, probably because everyone was so pleased just to be there. Criticism is easy, some people think it makes them sound knowledgable, that they can see things that others cannot, but it’s very draining.

Dean Johnson
14 Posted 18/02/2021 at 08:52:29
Am I allowed to slag off lucas digne yet?

Woeful, match after match, can't pass, can't beat a man, and most importantly, can't defend for his life.

Moves always break down with him yet he's there week after week. Ancelotti has seen that Godfrey is better in that position and now we have to accept him as a shit winger?

A couple of assists and he's everyone's fave fullback but imo, him and Coleman have got to go more than anyone.

Every game, the ball gets to the full back and they can't do diddly. They both get beaten one on one time and again

Still think we have some of the best in the league?

We are still, so far behind it's untrue

Alan J Thompson
15 Posted 18/02/2021 at 09:22:15
Jim(#9); You ask would we be so tolerant of these performances under Silva or Martinez but the difference may be that Mr Ancelotti has none of us thinking we could face a relegation scrap, but that's not to say that we haven't watched some appalling performances this season.

I can't help but wonder if Lyndon still has copies of those emails of certain parties having, or losing, an interest in purchasing Everton before the present regime.

Adam McCulloch
16 Posted 18/02/2021 at 09:24:16
Dean (14) he wasn’t at his best yesterday and his delivery was off against Newcastle as well. However, he’s clearly one of our biggest threats going forward. He has recovered rapidly from a serious injury and then been expected to play every minute in one of the busiest run of games in our recent history. Oh, and now he’s playing out of position.

We aren’t City - they can afford to bring on DeBruyne and ease him back in when the game is won. Digne is one of the players we have who would walk into another top side. I agree he can improve but only because we’ve seen the impeccably high standards he has hit before. To suggest he needs replacing is ludicrous.

Jim Bennings
17 Posted 18/02/2021 at 09:25:00

You are probably right, I don't question that, but I just don't really see much evolution in our play or what really we are looking to aspire to be 14 months on from Carlo.

In two weeks time we could actually be about 10th or 11th, no relegation battle but still not where I thought we'd be.

Dave Williams
18 Posted 18/02/2021 at 09:36:09

I see Digne having one more season with us and then being sold to generate transfer funds and allow either Nkounkou or Small to progress.

Lyndon hits the nail in his report when he says that we are not coached for intricate passing and the question has to be: Why not? It is a simple skill which can be coached – along with movement off the ball, at which we are also very poor. James suffers due to our failure to move around as he gets possession, looks for the next pass, and there is no-one available which means he gets crowded out by the opposition.

There is no need for despondency. It took City a good few years to build to what they are now. They started by acquiring better players, sold them to buy even better players, and established a pattern of play.

They don't have a keeper who can't play with his feet.
They don't have defenders who are uncomfortable with the ball.
They don't have midfielders who can't pass.
They don't have midfielders who can't run, or who lack energy or commitment.
They don't have strikers who are only good in the air.
They don't have players who are slow or clumsy.

Quite simply, they will only buy good, athletic all-round footballers. The likes of Sigurdsson, Gomes, Mina and yes, James, would never be bought by them because they are too slow.

Leicester have shown what can be done with a limited budget and imagine how much we would be improved by Maddison, who they picked up for what now looks like a pittance!

It doesn't seem that we have a Maddison or Grealish type coming through, so we have to find one elsewhere. Tom Davies looks to be maturing now and might just save us having to buy a defensive midfielder, which leaves us with right-back, right-wing and attacking midfielder to finance.

Assuming we sell Kean (I'd love to keep him to play up front with Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison), that finances the attacking midfielder. We should raise enough selling Bernard and a couple of others to finance a right-back. It can't all be done at once but if we can get a midfielder who can dictate a game then we will take a giant step forward.

John Kavanagh
19 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:14:21
This week was always going to define our season. Beat Fulham and we'd be challenging Liverpool and for once really giving Klopp something to worry about with games in hand.

We now look more likely to go into freefall mode and, as usual, Liverpool will be relishing the opportunity to put us in our place and exact revenge for the murderous attack on the saintly Virgil van Dijk.

So we will now be looking at getting a cup miracle against Man City to keep the season alive. I don't want us to qualify for Europe now – look what it nearly did to us last time. We simply don't have the squad – or attitude – to cope.

Our player recruitment is at best patchy and we've gone for mostly ineffective expensive foreign imports and big club rejects rather than trawl the lower leagues more for younger hungrier players like Godfrey. We could have got Maddison for less than half of what we spent on Sigurdsson.

Gomes is mostly poor and James is the new Bolasie – looks great when you're 3-0 up but drifts in and out of matches. If anything, last night showed that, despite our improvement, the gap is widening between us and the very top sides. City didn't need to break sweat last night.

I'm worried that Carlo still hasn't twigged that you can only risk one of Gomes, Sigurdsson and James in the side.

Ah well, back to the familiar hide-behind-the-sofa-and-hope mode on Saturday.

Clive Rogers
20 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:16:12
The weak links last night were Holgate and Sigurdsson. Holgate is not a full back and was beaten several times. He was a little better at centre-half but his passing and crossing were poor. Sigurdsson covers a lot of ground but never makes a tackle. He just can't tackle.
Dave Abrahams
21 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:18:32
I thought we played better last night... well, better than I expected for much of the game, but the one thing that nearly always fails this squad is toughness, physically and mentally.

Once that second goal went in, a superb goal, you could see as they were lining up to kick off from that goal, the limp bodies, none of them urging or clapping “Come on, let's back into this” ... nothing, just a silent acceptance that the match was over.

I think it will stay like that until we find a captain, one who will not accept defeat and will not let the players accept one either, not easy to find I know.

Ken Williams
22 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:21:43
The problem is we would have to of been lucky to beat Man City, but we should not have to be lucky against Fulham, Newcastle etc and that is where we are failing. I won't be surprised if we beat Liverpool, we seem to turn it on against top-tier sides and Liverpool at the moment are below par.

Don't know if it is the mindset of the team but the coaching staff should be getting the players fired up irrespective of who we play. Until we overcome this inconsistency, we will struggle to break into the top four.

Mark Louch
23 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:33:32
It was undoubtedly an improvement after Fulham, it couldn't have been worse. Was it good enough? No: we lost 3-1.

The context is City are cantering to the league and are a class apart, beating the Reds comprehensively a week ago 4-1 and Spurs 3-0. Our performance was no better or worse than either of those two.

The game plan was clearly defend well and break incisively and it worked partially but cannot be achieved because we are not collectively strong enough.

The key midfielder and forward to facilitate this game plan didn't play and Iwobi, Sigurdsson and, I fear, Holgate are not at the level we need. Decent players but not top drawer.

We have said this is going to take a season or two to be able to deliver what Ancelotti wants and last night was further evidence. This squad with a bit more clearing out and 2 or 3 high quality additions, plus Ancelotti's acumen can genuinely challenge that top four just not now.

The next 6-7 games will decide where we end this season. Every game, including this Saturday, winnable and giving us that prospect of 5th, 6th or 7th. Not where we want to be, but an improvement and hopefully on the way to genuinely challenging the likes of Man City on a regular basis.

Rick Tarleton
24 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:34:43
To be honest, Everton played about as well as I expected; they contained Man City for much of the game, but the gap in creativity was in the end too much.

One small point: I felt Digne did little to help Godfrey when the latter had to deal with the twin threats of Mahrez's skill and trickery and Walker's pace. Whatever Digne's attacking virtues are, and he was instrumental in our goal, he doesn't relish the defending and seems at times reluctant to do this bread-and-butter work.

Without Calvert-Lewin alongside Richarlison we lacked an outlet for our long hoofs (passes) up field. One felt that the selection of King might have been more productive than selecting Sigurdsson, who the game largely bypassed.

The derby game at the weekend. I'm hoping that well-seasoned goulash and Bull's Blood and long delays at airports might have affected our neighbours, but I'm not too optimistic.

Brian Murray
25 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:43:21
Ken @22,

One thing is sure: them shower are a lot more streetwise than us, as we've seen with James our dangerman getting targeted from the first whistle by Van Dijk.

On a brighter note, that leech parasite or agent (delete where appropriate) of Moise Kean says we will get over £60M for him or let him sulk his way to 25 goals. I'm happy either way... win-win.

Eddie Dunn
26 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:48:30
Dave @21,

Yes, once City got their second, our lads all thought it was game over. They were waiting for the inevitable goal, the mindset was clear, psychologically they were beaten before a ball was kicked.

To change this mindset, we need better players and hungry players. We don't need guys simply looking for their next move.

If Calvert-Lewin plays against Liverpool, then we might have the belief but, if he doesn't make the cut, then this lot will be just as doubtful as the rest of us.

Colin Glassar
27 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:53:04
Two or three seasons ago, after a lifetime of supporting Everton, I decided to take a step back and not allow Everton to continue to ruin my weekends, evenings, family life, etc.

I still have high hopes every May. I still continue to follow them through thick (and mainly) thin. I will support them till I die but, I refuse to allow them to dominate my thoughts and state of mind.

I firmly believe Carlo Ancelotti (if given the resources) can make Everton challenge once more for honours but it will be a slow process and we have to recognise this as a fact. If a man of his stature can't do it, who can?

It was soul-destroying to recently see a fellow Evertonian mention the likes of Dyche, Potter and Bielsa as potential replacements. Really? Why not Steve Bruce or other serial winners like Sam Allardyce or another media favourite, Harry Redknapp?

The mentality of our team is poor but the mentality of some of our own is even worse – the Live Forum (and I'm just as guilty) is a prime example. Win one and we are challengers again. Lose one and we are the biggest pile of shite known to man.

For your own good, calm down. Accept what we are. We are a mid-table team with a mid-table squad, in a mid-table stadium, with a mid-table chairman. Our only saving grace is our world class manager. Get behind him... because, after him, the deluge.

Christopher Timmins
28 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:55:40
What happened last night was to be expected as they, City, are a lot better than us, indeed they are a lot better than most of the other teams in the division as evidenced by the current gap between them and the rest.

For all the money that has been spent over the past number of years we don't have a team that plays in an attractive manner. Even when we win games it's rare that we totally dominate. When was the last time a team came to Goodison and was passed off the pitch and pinned back in their own half for the entirety of the game? Forget what others have spent, given the huge sums we have spent over over the past 5 years we deserve better!

We brought in 4 new players in the summer, unfortunately 2 of the 4 have had injury issues which has limited their impact, the other 2 have made a contribution.

We need a result on Saturday to put our season back on track, a loss and a top 6 finish seems unlikely.

Joe McMahon
29 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:58:01
Not all Man City's players cost the earth. Weren't Pickford, Keane and Sigurdsson combined worth £100 million? If that's true, that is truly staggering mis-management. Wayne Rooney also came back at £160k per week, again staggering.

Spending that kind of money should heavily improve a team.

Bernard Dooley
30 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:58:20
Tony #10,

"James Rodriguez needs a thread of his own. A brilliantly gifted player, how does he fit into the team and make us stronger? The Premier League is a bastard of a league, nasty, physical and unforgiving. James is targeted and largely negated in recent matches, midfielders are learning how to play him and refs give him no protection at all. I think it has weakened his resolve."

Absolutely 100% agree. Five short, sharp, to-the-point sentences, all spot on.

A few years back Lyndon made a plea for shorter, to-the-point posts, which fell on deaf ears. Too many run to 1,000 words or more. I doubt they get read beyond the first paragraph, rather defeating the object.

Jon Harding
31 Posted 18/02/2021 at 10:59:00
Finch Farm this morning. Carlo arrives at his desk, puts his tea down and picks up the phone:

- Marcel? Congratulations on the new contract
- Thanks, Boss
- Now, priority number one - get me a top-class goalkeeper for the start of next season.
- Yes, Carlo, you have already told me that, several times, in fact.
- Then get it done or you and your new contract will be swimming with the fishes.

Carlo puts down the phone and blows on his cuppa...

Stephen Brown
32 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:11:12
For the rest of the season, I just hope we stick with our best 11 and formation and don't try to shoehorn players in.

A big gulf last night, as everyone has said, but I'm not sure they can't be got at in the cup match!

4-2-3-1 for the rest of the season please.

Godfrey Keane Mina Digne
Allan (Davies) Doucouré
Iwobi James Richarlison

If a player is injured replace with a like for like.

Brian Murray
33 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:11:33
Jon. More like, "Hey Marcel did you see the way I masterminded a clean sheet for 30 minutes. Oh and Denise and Bill reliably inform me the work in the community is second to none." Our motto: make do and mend.
Rennie Smith
34 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:14:01
I'm not "depressed" by last night as this report's headline suggests, in fact, I thought the majority of last night's performance was admirable. It did of course highlight the huge gulf in class between the sides, but City at the moment are not just on a different level to the rest of the league, they are at least 2 or 3 levels above.

We're talking about a team that has won 17 games on the bounce, one of the best in Europe, for all those people (thankfully not on this thread) calling out the team and Carlo as being not good enough, get a grip.

To the people complaining about a supposed lack of effort and commitment, I completely disagree. When you play a team like that, it's mentally exhausting, the fluidity and movement of their players is mesmerising. It may look like the opposition can't lay a glove on them, but they play like a machine that's constantly changing shape and adapting to different environments. Eventually, that concentration drops for a split second and they pounce, just like the 2nd and 3rd goals last night. Up until then, I thought we defended superbly.

Don't be down about it, with Calvert-Lewin back on Saturday, we can beat that shower.

Simon Jones
35 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:15:43
I'm not that disheartened by the result last night, there were at least three occasions when the ball didn't run for us, Gylfi's twirl in the box, Doucoure had a chance where he was unlucky that the ball didn't drop to his feet quicker and in the second half we had a break but the ball rebounded off Richarlison (I think) when it might have dropped in front of him. On another night all three could have been gilt-edged chances.

The Mahrez goal was special and had there been a crowd, some of us may well have applauded it as it was a superb moment of skill.

What does dishearten is the staggering inconsistency of the side. To lose to Newcastle andFulham, both struggling sides, and let them look like comfortable wins for the opposition is really where the undoing of this season's efforts will lie. Sad thing is, we all know this – and Carlo does too.

Michael Lynch
36 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:21:31
No surprises last night. Man City are a magnificent team, probably the best side this country has ever seen. They've upped it again this season and don't seem to be weak in any area. We have James who would not look totally out of place in their team, but the rest of our squad wouldn't even make the bench.

But there's no excuse for us not beating the likes of Fulham and the Barcodes with the players we have.

Geoff Williams
37 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:29:14
This result was entirely predictable once the team selection was announced.

Iwobi and Sigurdsson in the same team is a definite No-No... in fact neither should be in the team. I just don't see what Ancelotti sees in them. Defensively they are liabilities. They can't tackle, they continually fail to spot danger and track runners. Against a team like City whose success is built around movement their inclusion was a disaster waiting to happen.

Davies and Doucouré were busting their guts to compensate for the lack of awareness of Sigurdsson and Iwobi. Ancellotti continually compounds poor team selection with his dubious use of substitutes

It took 18 months for Martinez to be found out. In the case of Koeman and Silva, it was only a matter of months before they were universally considered not up to the job. Ancelotti still has a great deal of support amongst our fans because of his past success as a player and manager and the media love him but I wonder how much longer this will continue? Will they realise the emperor is no longer wearing clothes?

I can't see Ancelotti turning things around because he doesn't learn from the team's poor performances, he repeats his actions expecting a different outcome.

If he picks a similar team against Liverpool, then another hiding is on the horizon.

Jonathan Tasker
38 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:29:39
What I find absolutely staggering is that Ancelotti has now been in the job for 14 months and he still hasn't worked out that Pickford is easily the worst goalkeeper in the league – with the possible exception of Ramsdale. By my reckoning, we start each game around –1.6 goals. He truly is that bad.

What is going on?

Mick O'Malley
39 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:48:56

I agree with you about Pickford, how many cockups and mistakes will this clown make before Carlo jibs him completely?

And please, Carlo, no more “false 9s”, replacing our injured centre-forward with Sigurdsson has been a failure so far. If Silva or Fat Sam done this and then repeated it, then the fans would have rightly been in uproar.

I know it's a strange season but Carlo is overseeing one of our worst home records for donkey's years.

Colin Glassar
40 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:51:55
I'm intrigued to know from the Ancellotti knockers who in your opinion should have lined up in midfield last night?

We all know midfield is our Achilles heel with its lack of movement, energy, passing skills, creativity, physical strength etc.

So... looking at yesterday's squad, who would you have chosen?

Robert Tressell
41 Posted 18/02/2021 at 11:56:40

Sigurdsson and Iwobi are in the side because, for all their flaws, they contribute goals and assists.

Iwobi was our main outlet yesterday and we were noticeably poorer after he went off. Sigurdsson nearly got on the end of some scraps but was unsurprisingly weak when moved from his specialist position.

And the truth is the alternatives are the likes of Bernard and Gomes who are usually less productive. I imagine Carlo would also rather be able to call upon better players but we haven't bought them yet.

Mark Murphy
42 Posted 18/02/2021 at 12:01:56

I just went hunting for stats to shoot you down with that claim. But, my God, you're right! On various sites, he is either 2nd or 3rd bottom ranked in the Premier League.

Starting from the back for 2021-22, my Everton team:

GK - New
RB New
LB Digne (If he finds his form again)
CB Keane
CB Godfrey
RM New
CM Doucouré
CM Allan
LM Richarlison (Unlikely – he'll leave); New
No 10 New (James will leave as well)
No 9 Calvert-Lewin

GK - Virginia

I'm sure I may have missed someone but my point is, it's radical changes we need, not just tinkering. I'd prefer a season of mid-table team blending and growing rather than patching up what we have.

And we need an identity – I've no idea what kind of team we've become? Defensive? Were not very good at that, are we? Counter-attacking? We're the slowest ever if we are. Attacking? ... erm. Tika Taka? Sideways and backwards? Yes, but even then our backs look terrified on the ball when pressed.

I've no idea what our style is or is going to be.

Mark Murphy
43 Posted 18/02/2021 at 12:09:31

I agreed with Carlo last night with Davies and Doucouré in midfield and I could understand Sigurdsson in front of them after seeing James take himself off vs Fulham.

Let's not forget that centre-midfield was pretty much sorted in the summer with the signings of Doucouré and Allan adding to the probability that Gomes would return to his best, Davies backing up and possibly (at the time it looked feasible) Gbamin's return.

Losing Allan has cost us consistency – Doucouré has improved, as has Davies, but there's no back-up for Allan. If Gana Gueye really was available in January, I'm shocked we didn't bring him in on loan at least.

But regarding your point – Carlo can only pick the best he's got. With Allan and Calvert-Lewin available last night, we may have given them more to think about. But they weren't.

Andrew Dempsey
44 Posted 18/02/2021 at 12:15:09
Is Ancelotti a great manager though? He was one, but is he now?

It's a bit like Mourinho, he's still a highly competent coach, despite what some people say, and so is Professor Ancelotti, but they're not at the top table anymore and they're not going to win you the Premier League. They've not got the energy to rebuild a Club and make them winners.

Sixth or seventh place is realistic now for Ancelotti in the Premier League. We've needed to bring someone of his experience and class in, just to tread water in the League but no more.

We also brought in the most low-rent barely-a-billionaire owner, Moshiri, so we could maintain our 6th/7th placed status, with no real determined ambition to do the dramatic overhaul and restructuring needed to climb any higher than that.

It's difficult I know, but I think the worst thing at the moment that's dawning on many of us is that there is no style of play under this manager, and there isn't going to be one. That's a fantasy – "When he brings his players in..." yawn etc.

We're playing reactive football, and this kind of shite won't last for long, especially when supporters are back in the ground.

Ancelotti won't be the manager two years from now, he'll be sacked around Xmas 2022. I mean, if we're just going to finish 7th or 8th anyway, can we not do it with a team that plays like Leeds United? At least there'd be something to get excited about every week...

Colin Glassar
45 Posted 18/02/2021 at 12:19:06
Exactly my point, Mark. He's not blessed with a deep, talented squad so he works with what he has.

Doucouré and Davies must be shattered as they are the only two who do the running in midfield. Iwobi was invisible as usual, Sigurdsson doesn't know whether to push on or drop back, James has no-one to pass forward to.

And who on our bench are game changers? Gomes? King? Bernard? Delph? I think a dose of realism is in need here. A world class goalie would be great but a new, more dynamic midfielder has to be this summer's major target. And a Premier League standard striker.

Martin Mason
46 Posted 18/02/2021 at 12:33:06
Jon@31, I believe that Marcel is Carlo's boss?
Geoff Williams
47 Posted 18/02/2021 at 12:57:54

How many goals (not including penalties) and assists have Sigurdsson and Iwobi achieved this season? Then compare this to how many goals and assists they are responsible for for the opposition.

Neither player is good enough, their inclusion puts added pressure on teammates.

Tim Taylor
48 Posted 18/02/2021 at 13:32:52
Colin [27], spot on.
Brian Murray
49 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:08:47
Is it too much to ask to a. Be as fit any team in the premier. B. Play your best team and formation. C. Have a decent bench and show some in game management. If all that is in Chinese let me know.
Mark Palmer
50 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:10:59
Everton aren’t in the same league, financially, as some other clubs. But that’s not our problem. Whatever Everton have tried since 1995, we’ve won nothing. Actually, we’ve not even come close apart from the final against Chelsea. Can we say we’ve consistently had something to cheer about or be proud of.
Love him or not, under David Moyes, Everton had a decade of so of building something. I wish Everton, instead of investing in big money or marquee signings and mercenary managers just built a solid future with (primarily) home grown talent - players who love playing for us.
We shouldn’t chase a dream ruled by financial clout because we won’t get anywhere. I’d rather we were a true club of the people run by decent human beings and with passionate players so win or lose we could hold our heads up and be proud.
Brian Murray
51 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:12:14
Colin post 27, genuine question how do you distance yourself but still care what happens every week because my mental health can’t take this as well as everything else we going through.
Colin Glassar
52 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:14:32
Thanks Tim. After working with the likes of Seedorf, Nesta, Maldini, Simone, Ronaldo, Ramos, Benzema, Casillas, Neuer, Mueller, Ribery, Silva, Lampard etc it must be a bit of a culture shock having to make a silk purse out of the likes of Delph, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Davies, Bernard, and, the one and only, Iwobi.

I’m not making excuses for him. The aforementioned players played for super rich clubs unlike Everton who are more akin to Steptoe & Son, but his genius was for blending individuals into a team.

Give him the means and he will create the magic. Over to you, Brands and Steptoe, errmm, Moshiri.

Ralph Basnett
53 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:16:48
Sorry Lyndon but with a new keeper, two new defenders and midfielders and a world class striker and we will be right up their with them, don't be so disheartened.
Colin Glassar
54 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:21:54
Brian, I’m not trying to be facetious but I go (nowadays) into most games expecting to lose. This way a win is a great bonus and a loss is easier to take.

After a loss I used to be in a mood for days. Angry and upset. Now I just switch off and go and do something else after a game and try and forget about it. I suppose I’ve become emotionally unattached to a degree.

It’s not always easy but it’s helped me. I don’t particularly even enjoy watching Everton any more. Ever since the early part of the swashbuckling Martinez reign Everton have rarely excited me.

I firmly believe Carlo is the right man for the job but he needs help, and loads of it.

Graham Hammond
55 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:23:14
I know that Colin dislikes Iwobi a great deal but I think he is a good player with the potential to be a very good player. I would agree with Robert (#41) that we were all the weaker for taking Alex off. Iwobi likes to play quick-release rolled balls into feet which I love but because the movement of the players around him is usually very poor he struggles at times, in that regard he is probably not an Everton player as our off the ball movement is usually shite. I thought Iwobi did quite well last night and should have stayed on, same with Tom. If the two of them were removed to keep them fresh for the Derby then fair enough but their removal last night weakened us in my opinion and killed the contest. Sigurdsson was dead on his feet before that second City goal. Arsene Wenger liked Iwobi and no doubt appreciated his pace and vision and he was a much better manager and judge of a player and talent than most.
Craig Walker
56 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:31:10
We have some decent players but it's the same old failings. We are one of the slowest teams in the division throughout the team. Sigurdsson looks a good player when teams give him time. Against better opposition, he is too slow to shift the ball out of his feet and this invariably means we play backwards.

I agree with Lyndon about passing but it needs to be purposeful passing. We save our best possession for our defensive third. I'm sick of us playing triangles around the box or knocking it along the defensive back line only to launch it. All that does is waste time. Understandable if you're two goals to the good but we do it when we're a goal down. It just invites pressure and wastes time. I think you could recreate the movement of the ball and the players on a computer and I'd be able to identify Everton matches by the pattern of play without actually seeing the players involved. Knocking it around in our box. Playing across the backline and pushing the ball down the wing to an attacking player who plays it straight back to where it just came. All Everton traits.

I'm fed up of us playing cagey football and then attacking when we go behind. How many times do we see it? We offer nothing going forwards, lose a goal and then decide to put men forward.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record. We need a top-class goalkeeper which is something we haven't had since Nigel Martyn. We need pace and goals from midfield and we need more forward options. Just having midfield players who aren't afraid to shoot would be a start. Gomes, Iwobi, Sig, Delph, Bernard, Mina, Holgate aren't good or consistent enough for where we want to be. We can't have players who average 1 good game in 5 and pick and choose when they fancy it.

It's not last night that I'm angry about. It's the capitulations to Newcastle, Leeds, West Ham and Fulham at Goodison and the woeful performances at Southampton and Newcastle. I'll accept that Man City are head-and-shoulders above us.

I'll judge these players by how they perform on Saturday West Brom, Brighton and Burnley can go there and give them a game. It's about time our players stopped tweeting rhetoric about "working hard" etc., rolled their sleeves up and actually gave us long-suffering fans some bragging rights for a change.

Colin Glassar
57 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:55:06
Here’s a thought Carlo might like to consider. Everton, like most teams, try and play out from the back ie GK to CB to MF. As we have no one in MF who can look up and pass the ball why doesn’t Carlo do what he did with Pirlo at Milan and put James in that deeper position?

It’s obvious that James doesn’t like the physical side of English football but he has that clinical eye and passing ability to get things going. Playing a deeper role he wouldn’t get kicked around so much and he’d have a bigger influence on games.

We’d still need better MF players around him and more of a threat upfront but it’s a thought. We could have another Andrea Pirlo in our ranks without knowing it.

Christopher Timmins
58 Posted 18/02/2021 at 14:59:12
After reading all the posts Wednesday 10 February seems like a lifetime away!
Brian Harrison
59 Posted 18/02/2021 at 15:04:41
Last night highlighted the gulf that not only exists between us and City which is massive, but between City and the rest of the league. One area that we need to improve is our attacking ability, this season Richarlison for months has been well off the pace and Iwobi didn't command a place in the Arsenal first team because he was always too inconsistent. DCL has improved a hell of a lot and has become very productive inside the box, but needs to be better outside the box, also he needs to also be better at creating chances, but he is young and will improve. Then we come to James a really gifted player, who has a great range of passes, but he would need 2 players of the speed and finishing qualities of Mane and Salah to be really effective. At Real Madrid he could stroll around because they dominated possession in most games, but as they were being able to do that less and less so James became a luxury they couldn't afford. Sadly I think Carlo is coming to that decision about James, great when we are able to compete but against teams were we have to work very hard James becomes a passenger.

Obviously Coleman is getting near the end of his career and has been excellent for us, but we need a younger full back, doesnt look like Carlo sees Kenny in that role, hence why he has been loaned to Celtic. Although I see Celtic are already saying they couldn't afford to keep him permanently because of his wages. I think this highlights another major problem for us, as we pay our players the sort of money that is only usually paid to top 6 players, therefore makes it very difficult to move on any of our fringe players on permanently. Thats why most are on loans were we pay a large percentage of their salary. Therein lies the problem stuck with players we need to move on to allow us to spend more in the upcoming transfer window, but I think Tosun and Kenny will be back in the summer twiddling their thumbs while never ever likely to play unless a spate of injuries occur.

The only player who will be sold is Kean, which is really disappointing as he is young is now scoring goals for fun just what we need up front. But because of his awful treatment by Ferguson in the game were he was brought on as a sub and then subbed after 19 minutes, there is no prospect of him coming back here.

Nicholas Ryan
60 Posted 18/02/2021 at 15:51:31
I'm not bothered about last night. We came up against a fabulous team at the top of their game and we gave a competent and industrious [at least for the first hour] display. There is no disgrace in losing to Man City on their current form.

There is however, total disgrace in losing to Fulham at home, in circumstances where we made them look like the Barcelona of old.

If we are to get anywhere, we have to beat Fulham, Newcastle and West Ham; we don't have to beat Man City, or even [dare I say it] Liverpool.

Geoff Williams
61 Posted 18/02/2021 at 16:41:31
Losing to City was not unexpected as they are the form team. Their game is based around pace, movement and players knowing their role within the team, the complete antithesis of Everton's game. Everything about Everton is slow and ponderous and there is no discernible style of play. The season started off really well with the new players, Allan, Doucourè and James, getting most of the plaudits. The midfield of Allan, Doucourè and Gomes was balanced and they complemented each other. The attacking prowess of Coleman and Digne was also identified and a reason for DCL's goalscoring form. We lost both fullbacks, Gomes and James through injury and Richarlison through suspension and DCL's goals dried up. Playing Holgate and Godfrey tightened up the defence but there was no creativity going forward. Losing Allan has had a huge impact on the team. Now it seems, according to many, now that they've regained fitness Coleman,Digne and James are not worth a place in the team. I have always believed that a good midfield is the secret to a successful team. The midfield protects the centre of the defence and is the driving force behind the attack. A midfield with Sigurdsson and Iwobi will never achieve this.

Everton is not a team of bad players, early season form showed us this, but of players performing badly. Ancellotti needs to prove that he is still a good coach

Jay Harris
62 Posted 18/02/2021 at 16:44:06
I go right back to the opening post by Christine who rightly hits the nail on the head given the cost of this City squad.

City have painstakingly built up this current squad over 12 years and god knows how many managers and we expect Carlo to wave a magic wand and immediately turn a proven bunch of misfits into a title chasing team.

Time to get real folks it will be a few years yet before we get anywhere near the promised land and it becomes more difficult every year because other teams are ahead of us in the rebuilding process and have the money to buy the top players thereby preventing the ex "Mersey millionaires" from getting them.

The only real attraction for top players is playing under Ancelotti.

We all love to think of ourselves as a top club but under Kenwright we became plucky LITTLE Everton a midtable club with midtable ambitions.

It will take quite a few transfer windows and money before we even get to compete let alone challenge the likes of City.

Whether we like that or not that is the reality of the situation.

Barry Rathbone
63 Posted 18/02/2021 at 17:28:25
The issue is NOT the defeat rather the mood music of an outfit seemingly OK with the idea it was a forgone conclusion. It's a cowardly theme decades old in the brewing but the worry is no demonstrable evidence exists showing this regime is any nearer sorting it than others.

The method of play is predictably by the numbers. Sneezy passes to Grumpy who slips it sideways to Bashful who shits himself and knocks it all the way back to Dopey. The leaden footed mush that results is a direct consequence.

Players should not think the last thing you want is footballers thinking but you can see our mob ticking off boxes in their head as they receive the ball.

I've said it before but I don't see this Everton playing at anywhere near 100% which is an opportunity missed. Outside of City the league is much of a muchness, we could be doing so much more.

Bogdan Kotarlic
65 Posted 18/02/2021 at 22:59:22
City were too good for us and there was no proper match, it was them all the way. I had hoped that we could get a point (or maybe win the game) but the simple truth is that we are not playing well at the moment and City are currently the best team in England by far. I just can`t overcome the losses against Newcastle and Fulham at Goodison. If we had won those two games (and we should have won them both) we would have six points more today. This way we are fastly approaching mid-table and I really don`t like that. I still hope that we can finish in the top six and play, if nothing more, Europa league. Next we play Liverpool, they are in a sort of crisis too so that should be an interesting match. I think that we have a chance to beat them, they are not so good like in the previous three seasons.
Alan J Thompson
66 Posted 19/02/2021 at 03:10:34
I suppose when discussing Iwobi we should consider that he, mostly, is stuck out on the right touchline. Now, I could be wrong but my memory and limited sight of him playing for Arsenal was of a more central position. It seems that no matter who plays, we usually have a player stuck out wide, as also Digne, who is not who I would consider a natural winger capable of taking on and beating a full back one on one. The last one we had that I can recall is Deulofeu,, unless Walcott and Bolasie are considered wingers. I've not included Gordon as he has played so few full first team games.

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