Key absentees highlight difficulties for Benitez's shallow squad

Lyndon Lloyd 17/09/2028 39comments  |  Jump to last
Aston Villa 3 - 0 Everton

Deep down, most Evertonians knew that a result like this was coming and it would only take the first spate of injuries to usher it in. The numbers of players unavailable to Rafael Benitez might not have reached “crisis” level yet but there is no question that his side was always going to struggle without both of its first-choice forwards and captain Seamus Coleman, for whom there is inadequate cover.

The seeds of this defeat were sown, then, in a summer transfer window that left key positions in the squad short on depth — some of them, unforgivably so — and a number of top transfer targets unsigned by the club. One of those, of course, was Leon Bailey, a player Marcel Brands and his scouts had tracked closely for more than two years and would have been prepared to move for during the close season had they had any wiggle room with their budget. As we know, there was almost no room at all in that budget and Everton’s loss was Aston Villa’s gain.

The Toffees were already a goal down when the Jamaican delivered on his rich promise by prompting Lucas Digne into his second decisive error of the match and then smashed home his first goal in English football before departing the fray again having tweaked his thigh muscle in the process of delivering the Toffees the coup de grace with 15 minutes to go. That strike made it 3-0 and it ensured that Benitez would suffer his first loss as Everton manager.

And yet, the margins in this match were a lot finer than the final score suggests and there’s an argument to be made that the contest pivoted on a couple of incidents midway through the second half. At one end, Demarai Gray, once again the Blues’ best player going forward, just missed with an attempt to curl the ball around Emiliano Martinez and inside the far post. At the other, Matty Cash made no mistake a minute later when he powered in behind the flat-footed Digne to slam home his first ever goal for the Villans.

Benitez had barely put André Gomes on in place of the flagging Salomon Rondon than Villa doubled their lead through Bailey’s corner before the winger set the seal on a home win that, again, looked more flattering than perhaps it was. Nevertheless, the fact that Dean Smith could turn to £100m worth of talent on his bench and didn’t even need to use Emiliano Buendia was another indication of the deficit at which his opposite number was operating in terms of personnel.

Rondon made a decent early impression, going close to scoring inside five minutes but his lack of fitness quickly told and he couldn’t offer either the aerial dominance of Dominic Calvert-Lewin or the pace and movement of Richarlison, both of whom could be out until after the next international break with their respective injuries.

The right-back position also under-scored how weak Everton are in certain positions when Coleman was ruled out with the hamstring issue that kept him out of Ireland’s third match of the last round of World Cup qualifiers.

Ben Godfrey deployed as an emergency full-back and while he gave a decent account of himself in the first half, he was caught out of position badly for the third goal. More worrying, perhaps, was his uncharacteristic lethargy in trying to recover for a player who usually exhibits terrific pace and determination.

Despite their depleted number and the continued absence of James Rodriguez from the matchday squad, Everton more than matched their hosts in the first 45 minutes and they had the first real chance of the game when Rondon touched the ball around his marker from Godfrey's low cross but saw his toe-poke deflected past the post.

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The Venezuelan then headed narrowly over at one end before Jordan Pickford's deputy, Asmir Begovic, pulled off a brilliant save at the other when he stopped Tryone Mings's header off a corner with a firm glove.

Danny Ings volleyed an ambitious effort over the bar following another Villa set-piece while Michael Keane's header dropped just wide following an Everton corner and Gray's cross just eluded a lunge by Rondon trying to meet the ball with an out-stretched boot as the Toffees continued to threaten.

Later in the half, an effort by Gray himself was charged down, Cash dragged a shot wide of Begovic's goal from the edge of the box and Andros Townsend tried to repeat his heroics against Burnley last week but belted his shot straight at Emiliano Martinez.

The first 20 minutes of the second half continued to show promise for Benitez's men and there were strong appeals for a foul by Ezri Konsa on Gray that were ignored by referee Craig Pawson despite the defender visibly dragging the winger back with his arms.

Townsend then had a chance with a direct free-kick that he fired disappointingly into the wall before Gray did really well to draw his marker towards him before trying to bend a 65th minute shot around Martinez and inside the far post but his shot skidded agonisingly wide.

A minute later, it was 1-0 to Villa as Digne lost track of Cash and allowed him to run in behind where the former Nottingham Forest full-back collected a pass, cut inside and smashed a rising shot high into Begovic's goal.

Two minutes later, Digne's match went from bad to worse when Bailey, on as a substitute, swung a wicked corner into the six-yard box and the Frenchman could only glance a header past his own keeper to make it 2-0.

Three minutes after that, it was game over as Godfrey was caught out of position as the ball was knocked over the top for the speedy Bailey and he advanced on goal before unleashing a powerful half-volley that flew past Begovic before the Bosnian had had a chance to properly react.

Jacob Ramsey almost made it 4-0 but missed the target while Benitez made three changes, bringing on Anthony Gordon for Allan, Jonjoe Kenny for Godfrey and Tom Davies for Alex Iwobi as Keane had a late chance for a consolation goal but planted a free header wide off a free-kick.

Benitez will want to consign this result to history as quickly as possible and turn his attention to Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie against Queens Park Rangers and the home game in the Premier League against struggling Norwich City beyond before the daunting prospect of a trip to Old Trafford looms.

Many of the players who might have been handed minutes at Loftus Road were involved today, however, but the manager should at least be confident that he has enough among the group of players who are fit to play to navigate another Championship side and make it through to the next round while his first-choice stars recover.

It won’t be lost on him, though, that this defeat was a portent of future matches that will be equally as difficult while the squad is so thin. The packed winter schedule, in particular, does not look to be an attractive proposition from this vantage point but Benitez and his team have no option but to get on with it.

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Reader Comments (39)

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Phil Wood
1 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:26:26
Good report Lyndon.
Think it speaks volumes that under the circumstances the opposition Manager thought 3 0 flattered his Team and it was a game on a knife edge until their breakthrough.
The weak refereeing at a critical point was the turning point.
Thought we had acquitted ourselves very well until their first goal.
People are picking out individuals for harsh treatment for their performances. I think it was very difficult for the Team and Manager yesterday and they mostly did a great job.
Bill Rodgers
2 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:26:36
It's a complete mistake to blame this on absentees and lack of depth.We put out 11 full squad members -no youngsters - no makeweights. The truth is that Burnley played us off the park last week for 60 minutes until we had a 10 minute golden spell - this week AV had the luck.But the commonality is that in both games we were out-passed and out fought by more committed opposition.

That lack of commitment is the Everton disease. I don't think it has much to do with the manager, or whom he selects - it affects every manager and all the players. I can only suggest that there is something very wrong at Finch Farm.

Michael Lynch
3 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:40:19
Bill @2, I can't agree with anything in your post I'm afraid. I was at the Burnley game and, in my view, they really didn't play us off the park, nor did they out-fight us or show more commitment.

In my opinion, we are a side transformed under Rafa, in terms of our energy and commitment levels. We were a shade unlucky yesterday, but to say that our defeat was not in some part down to the absentees is bewildering. Not only were we without DCL, Richarlison, Pickford and Coleman, but also without Siggi and James. All six of those could make a claim to be starters not just in our team but in many PL teams.

Good report Lyndon, I think you saw the same game as most of us.

Barry Hesketh
4 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:46:49
Bill @2
I agree with you to a degree, outside of the oft-cited subjects, there is a paucity of quality in the Premier League, and the games that Everton has been involved in, show that to be the case. I also agree that in previous matches Everton got the breaks in order to earn points, yesterday they didn't.

I disagree that the Everton team hasn't been fully committed in most of their games this season, lacking in quality on occasions, yes, but they have mostly worked their socks off, which is testament to the lack of quality within the squad, as good sides don't need to work as hard for so long in games because they can retain the ball for large spells, which Everton patently can't do.

Fact is, this current bunch of Everton players isn't good enough to be anything but mid-table, without working hard they are likely to be considered lower than that, which is why I get annoyed when people bang on about Everton haven't played anyone of note, as every point is earned not awarded and almost every game is a lottery, hence the term small-margins being bandied about so often.

We can't alter the skill-sets of the current crop of players we can only ask them to work hard and give their all, which on the whole is what they have done so far this season, if they stop doing that as a basic requirement then that should terrify us all - boardroom included.

Barry Rathbone
5 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:50:29
Bill @2

Our first team isn't that special so replacing 4 with "lesser" isn't going to end well.

The reason domestic cup competitions have become a farce is managers whip out half the team trying to be clever and end up losing at Harlepool etc.

Don't change a winning team is a much repeated truism for good reason unfortunately we had no choice.

Clive Rogers
6 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:53:40
It was very much a patched up team and that may well be the theme for the rest of the season. Coleman is continually struggling for fitness. He just can’t put a run of games together. Richarlison looks jaded every game so far. Godfrey looked uncomfortable all game at RB, particularly after Bailey came on. Allan had his worst game this season so far. Rondon looked like he was playing in slow motion and when he was replaced at centre forward by a player who has scored two goals in 60 games for us, the writing was on the wall. We all know the guy cannot shoot.
Danny Baily
7 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:03:10
Some poor marking and an own goal from Digne turned what was a tight contest into what looked like a rout based on the scoreline alone.

This performance reinforced what we already knew: square pegs in round holes and substandard understudies cost you moments in matches, which invariably leads to dropped points.

Andy Crooks
8 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:09:37
Think back to when Moshiri arrived. Imagine someone had handed you yesterday's team sheet and said this will be our team on 18th September 2021.
Barry Hesketh
9 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:15:07
Andy @8
Even the most optimistic Kopite wouldn't have predicted how poor this Everton squad would be after so much expenditure on fees and wages. It's not merely the money spent it's also the failure of younger players to develop to a high enough standard to challenge for a place in the team, such as Holgate, Kenny, and Davies, and in the cases of the emerging talent, there isn't any player who looks as if they can progress to being a first-team regular in the near future.
David Pearl
10 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:15:43
Not a great deal to add as Lyndon nails it. We were missing 3 first choice players and unfortunately in positions that we have no like-for-like cover in terms of quality.

Rondon and Godfrey did quite well up to a point. I was disappointed that Rondons feet didn't seem to leave the floor when he jumped.

Also disappointed Digne got outmuscled for the first and his starting position for the corner meant he couldn't attack the ball. Have we done away with having a man on the near post?

All in all l thought we did quite well. Mainly though Allan and Doucoure got overrun in midfield and neither looked comfortable. Our manager should have seen that. And lwobi is so much better through the middle.

Now the test comes to not go on any kind of losing run like we did last season. Positive signs that heads didn't drop and l thought the players worked hard. Next.

John Raftery
11 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:32:33
Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are often criticised on this site. Without them our attack loses much of its potency but they are also two of our best defenders, Calvert-Lewin with defensive headers in his own area and Richarlison with his work rate and tackling all over the pitch. We have nobody in the squad capable of coming anywhere near matching them.

In their absence we are left with Gray and Townsend to offer an attacking threat. Stop those two and very likely you will stop Everton. Even so, had Gray been able to hit the target a minute before Villa took the lead, the outcome might have been very different. Until that point we had held our own.

David Pearl
12 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:33:26
Andy 8
You mean we spent £500 mil over those years and up front we have Rondon, Gray, lwobi and Townsend? What are you getting at?
Danny O’Neill
13 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:53:37
I said similar on Michael's thread John.

A lot don't realise the importance of Richarlison in particular. Teams are bothered by him and focus their attention on him; target him. It's why he gets fouled a lot. Even if that means he is taken out the game, it frees up others.

If he was an English starlet, he'd get the same level of protection from Referees that Grealish gets. But he's considered a South American diver always looking for the free kick apparently. Like when he almost had his leg snapped against Burnley. No foul. If that's Grealish, it's probably a red card to the other player.

We were missing half a team yesterday, depending on everyone's views on who should start.

And yes, if that shot from Gray is 2 inches to the left, we're 1 - 0 up in what, until then, had been a pretty even encounter. Villa upper hand? Possibly, but that's home team v away team.

Flattering scoreline for Villa, harsh on Everton in my opinion.

Having a Villa supporting wife, I do hate these fixtures. Either way, it creates an atmosphere!! Roll on Tuesday night and Shepherd's Bush.

Terry Farrell
14 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:57:31
It comes to all pros at some point and I think Seamus has reached it where he needs to retire from international duty to concentrate on his fitness and performances for Everton. He's a fit lad but the body can't do both now to the level he and we need.
Brian Harrison
15 Posted 19/09/2021 at 12:04:49

You are spot on about how important Richarlison is to this team, his work rate is as good as any striker in the league, and he is a constant threat to the opposition. I think when he and Gray and DCL are fit we may see a different Everton. The tackle by the Burnley player was a red card all day long irrispective on who would have been on the end of that challenge. The intent was clearly to hurt Richarlison and it looks like he may be out for a few weeks.
I sometimes think he goes down a little easy and that's why some refs don't give him the protection he deserves.

I think the reason why Pawson didn't award Gray a free kick for him being pulled back was because if he had then because the defender was the last man he would have had to send him off thats also the reason the VAR ref didnt intervene but if that had been against one of the top 6 Villa would have played the rest of the game with 10 men.

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 19/09/2021 at 12:25:53
Was it against Southampton Brian where there is a photo of him surrounded by 4 opposition players?

No when a team has 4 players (almost half their outfield lineup) surrounding 1, that means there is space elsewhere and they are bothered by him.

Dave Williams
17 Posted 19/09/2021 at 12:52:41
I am puzzled about Gordon. He was so highly rated by many on here who watch the younger teams play and yet he seems lightweight and incapable of getting clear of his man. Is it that he needs a proper run of games or can he not perform at this level?
Danny O’Neill
18 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:02:33
For me, Dave, and from what I've seen, I'm not convinced. Clearly he has something because a number of Everton managers have decided he's good enough to be near and around the first team.

But is that because that's what they have available at their disposal and is better than whatever else they have available or because they have genuinely rated him?

I never like to judge young players too early as there are many factors that can determine their development and eventual progression or level they achieve. Very few are a Rooney, a Foden, Gerrard or a Grealish. Right now, Gordon isn't ready for Premier League standard, even in a paper-thin Everton squad. It doesn't mean he won't be, but just not now.

Michael Lynch
19 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:16:22
I agree about Gordon, he should be showing something more at this stage. But then I said that about Calvert-Lewin just before he became a top Number 9.

The most disappointing thing about our squad is how few youngsters have come through. Having a third of our squad out injured (or sitting at home waiting for a trial date) should mean a host of U23s or even U18s getting a place on the bench at the very least, but where are they? Where is the exciting young talent banging on the door to get their opportunity?

Kevin Molloy
20 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:18:12
At the hour mark yesterday, I was so impressed at how well Benitez had got that injury-ravaged team playing. We had no-one up front, but were still playing some terrific stuff. It's like night and day from last season. From being unwatchable, to 'very entertaining', and that with half the team out.

But goals are the key. The first goal, really. At first, I was blaming Digne, but Cash is the full back, and he can't mark two people, even if he was outmuscled. And the second goal is just rank bad luck.

The third is poor positioning, but let's be fair, Godfrey is much better at left-back than right-back for some reason, and has also mainly played at centre-back and midfield. He just didn't instinctively know where he needed to be.

I was really worried about our centre-backs yesterday, but actually I think they played quite well. In fact, other than the goals, we handled Villa very well on their own patch.

And lastly, if the referee had a brain, we'd have been playing against 10 men after Gray was hauled back, at nil-nil, cos that was a goal-scoring chance.

Brent Stephens
21 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:27:57
Dave #17,

"I am puzzled about Gordon. He was so highly rated by many on here who watch the younger teams play and yet he seems lightweight and incapable of getting clear of his man."

I'm one who enthused about Gordon when playing for the U23s. I think it's a signal to those who say "Throw in this or that U23s player," and saying "It can't be any worse". It can – it can possibly destroy a player's confidence if it's a dire failure.

I've been enthusing about Dobbin but his marker against Sheffield United on Friday had him in his pocket – okay, you can have an off-game, but...

"Is it that he needs a proper run of games or can he not perform at this level?"

Yes, maybe it is a proper run of games. Or would that just show the fans what the coaches (Carlo and Rafa) already knew / know?

Kevin Molloy
22 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:39:09
Actually, I've now just watched that first goal back. Keane, Digne and Begovic were all terrible! Rafa will not be best pleased coughing up a goal like that.
Bill Gall
23 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:44:27
Yes, most supporters were aware of what kind of team we could put out with a number of injuries but it is not often you lose 4 players that play in critical positions. How do people think Liverpool would manage without. Allison, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mane, and whoever they use as a striker?

Everton were playing well yesterday, and were close to scoring, and I think it was the 2nd goal that deflated them.

Yes, we have a weak squad, with a strong first 12, but we are not strong enough to cover multiple injuries like yesterday, along with a couple of players playing below their expected standards.

Jerome Shields
24 Posted 19/09/2021 at 14:56:41
Bill #2

The only player that I could attribute to the malaise you suggest is Digne, but I do think in both games work and effort was evident from the team. Michael #3 and Barry #4 give truer reflections of the team.

Robert Tressell
28 Posted 19/09/2021 at 19:06:56
Gordon looked as good as anyone after the restart of the 2019-20 season. I was hopeful we'd got a Mason Mount type versatile midfielder / forward.

The Preston loan wasn't a good experience because, I think, the manager got sacked and replaced by someone much more direct – and Gordon's ability on the ball wasn't valued. I'm not sure the Championship is the best loan destination for kids who can really play.

Steavey Buckley
29 Posted 19/09/2021 at 19:45:38
The reason why Everton are struggling is because the Everton squad is not large enough with good enough players for the Premier League. Rondon is a perfect example, not being near good enough to replace Calvert-Lewin or Richarlison.

The other squad players who came on last night, Kenny, Gordon and Davies, made no impact at all. Particularly Gordon, who appears always to look around when he comes on as a late sub, waiting for other players to make an impact, instead of him wanting to get hold of the ball and do something positive with it.

Part of the problem with not having a large enough, good enough squad, there is a lack of younger players not playing alongside with and against more experienced players in a reserve team playing against other reserve teams.

The old Central League used to provide far more players for the first team than the Everton Under-23s do. The best they can hope for is to be loaned out to a League One team, which does not really serve the needs of the Everton first team, which is desperate for some younger players to go knocking on Benitez's office asking for a first-team game after convincing themselves of their skill.

I could not imagine a 17-year-old Rooney hanging around the Under-23 team waiting for a call for a first team opportunity. He would have been telling the manager "Give me a game or I am off somewhere else." He did go off, but for different reasons. Not because of questions over his skill, but Everton received a large amount of money to let him play somewhere else.

Charles Brewer
30 Posted 19/09/2021 at 21:13:52
You cannot take the entire attack, the captain and the organiser of the defence (goalkeeper) out of a team and expect a coherent performance.

I would regard Rondon as a mid-second half replacement for a tiring Richarlison or DCL or perhaps someone to get stuck into a violent defence (i.e. Burnley as reffed by Atkinson), not as a fully fit solo up front performer.

Richarlison is an absolutely essential part of this team with his defensive performances often as critical to a good result as anything he does in front of goal.

I believe Benitez has already shown his credentials as a tactician with the introduction of Gomes last week. I sat and watched a toothless Everton attack transformed by replacing a failing back line defender with a fairly slow midfielder who's never been the same since he was attacked from behind by Son.

I'm sure Benitez will be working his socks off to get the team back into a coherent unit, albeit without most of his best players, and I regard yesterday as a horrible result resulting from the disgusting refereeing vs Burnley, which caused half the team to miss several matches. The next time Atkinson turns up at Goodison, Dunc should put him in intensive care before the kickoff.

Clive Rogers
31 Posted 19/09/2021 at 22:01:30
Charles, #30, I am sure you are right that injuries affected the result, but there are some bad signs and more may be on the way I fear. Coleman just cannot stay fit. Richarlison has played too many games, looks jaded and is not playing well. He got 7 PL goals last season and 1 so far. Allan, who had been playing well had a poor game yesterday. Rondon was unbelievably slow, not sure why he should be unfit. Teams are going to get wise to some of Townsend and Greys threats. It’s going to be a long season with such a weak squad.
Dave Abrahams
32 Posted 19/09/2021 at 22:24:27
Bill (2), Yes I think there was something wrong at Finch Farm, very wrong, with the emphasis on was, that happened over the last few years before Benitez became manager. He started in July less than three months ago, do you think he can change what’s been going on there for years in three months, give him time to try and sort things out. I’d suggest that what is wrong and has been for a long time applies further up the chain and how the club has been run needs changing, maybe the process has started.
James Flynn
33 Posted 20/09/2021 at 00:08:54
We had chances. We didn't score.
Neil Cremin
34 Posted 20/09/2021 at 14:39:39
Just one comment on Gordon.

I don't think he is as good as many here claim or that he thinks he is. He is fast in open spaces but is extremely selfish, always going for his own goal rather than passing to a teammate in a better position.

Stephen Vincent
35 Posted 20/09/2021 at 15:24:19
An 8 man bench, seriously was there not one single junior who would have benefited from the experience? Why did Simms remain on the bench, we desperately needed to put pressure on Mings, who always has a mistake in him, Rondon wasn't close. Some one on another thread said Rondon was deceptive, 'he's slower than he looks' which kind of sums it up.

Gordon looked out of place when he came on, but if these youngsters don't get a chance we will never know. We played 3 different options up top in one game a recipe for disaster if ever there was one.

Dave Pearl - give a call about Saturday mate.

Tony Everan
36 Posted 20/09/2021 at 16:49:08
VAR looked at the incident when Demarai Gray was held back when he had turned him and had a clear run on goal.

The VAR ref decided it wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake by the referee.

I can’t understand the logic or reasoning behind that decision, very disappointing interpretation.

He was clearly and obviously being held back. I think in reality was the capacity home crowd impairing the referee’s decision making and the VAR ref just taking the easiest way out.

Mal van Schaick
37 Posted 20/09/2021 at 17:23:57
Absolutely correct it shows the strength in depth of the squad. I would of Kept Rondon on longer if possible, but Digne had a shocker and we were exposed down both flanks. The substitutes made matters worse not better.

Perhaps we can bring in one or two in January, but next summers transfer will be pivotal for both ins and outs.

Paul Birmingham
38 Posted 20/09/2021 at 18:57:46
Tony @36, I agree.
If it was the RS, United, City olaying then no doubt Konya would have been punished by the referee.

How the hell Pawson done nothing is beyond contempt and the VAR referee, can’t have been watching the game.

QPR and a tough away game.

Hopefully the squad will show character and bounce back from the Villa defeat.

Barry Hesketh
39 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:07:48
If the Gray incident had happened for a big six team the referee would have given the free-kick and possibly sent the Villa guy off and VAR wouldn't have overturned it - thems the rules!
Denis Richardson
40 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:19:13
Tough couple of weeks ahead as the walking wounded recover but was going to happen at some point with the thin squad. Decent first XI but cupboards pretty bare after.

On the plus side we have 10 points on the board and I always thought 10-12 points from the first 6 games would be a solid if not spectacular start. We'll have to manage with plasters for the next two weeks and Man U away will be tough.

It's a long season so both DCL and Richarlison need to be given proper time to recover and not rushed back. If that means losing to Norwich and Man U, then so be it. Would hope however we can get something against Norwich. These two players are absolutely vital and we need a full season from them.

We must get Rodriquez off the books so we can finally sign a RB. It's beyond a joke we still don't have a replacement for Coleman, its been obvious we need one for about 3 years!

Michael Boardman
41 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:30:46
Brighton have won 4 out of 5 - and we were the better side in that away win. So what, we lost a game unluckily, and the score line flattered; suppose that's always the danger of raised expectations. Let's get rid of the deadwood (however this may happen, I suspect not just through transfers), and have players who commit to the cause going forward. We really weren't that bad, but haven't been that good either, so we're mid, to higher, table - how are Leicester fairing?
Michael Boardman
42 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:41:25
I also agree the non-complete subs bench, alongside the naming of more than one keeper on the bench (which amounts to the same thing), is amounting to childish dummy-spitting, as in "look at my threadbare squad"; it's not like an ageing goalkeeper who had a few games during Preston's League 1 campaign 15 years ago is going to be better than Thierry Small's replacement (as the next big thing) in an outfield position, if needed, due to 3 concussion subs?

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