Everton's soft centre exploited again

Lyndon Lloyd 01/11/2021 162comments  |  Jump to last
Wolves 2 - 1 Everton

Rafael Benitez to Everton was always going to be a hard sell to Blues fans but if there was one thing that he supposedly had going for him, it was that he was a fastidious, pragmatic and, many feared, defensively-minded coach. It’s for that reason that the 45-odd minutes of playing time, from the moment Watford equalised at Goodison Park the Saturday before last to the 32nd minute of this evening’s shocking first-half at Molineux when Wolves went 2-0 up, came as such a shock.

Six goals without reply (three of them from set-pieces), a seemingly non-existent midfield and a horribly suspect defence left Evertonians stunned and in genuine fear for how quickly and how damagingly this 2021-22 season could spin out of control. They will have taken a measure of encouragement from the second half when the fight returned along with a good deal more cohesiveness and purpose but the first period – as bad as anything we've witnessed in living memory – won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

That the Blues would struggle without Abdoulaye Doucouré was never in doubt but it surely behooved a coach of Benitez’s experience and repute to double down on caution, solidity in midfield, and a single-minded focus on being hard to beat. Since the floodgates opened against the Hornets leading to a chastening 5-2 defeat, Everton have exhibited none of those things and it was a damning indictment of manager and players alike that their response to that debacle at home was to come to Wolves and cave in almost as ugly a fashion.

Jordan Pickford had made two excellent saves, Hwang Hee-Chan had a goal ruled out for narrow offside and both Max Kilman and Raul Jimenez had claimed their first goals of the season before Everton finally threatened Jose Sa’s goal for the first time eight minutes before half-time.

This had had the makings of an all-too-familiar multi-goal humbling, the likes of which Everton supporters have had to put up with for years, with Allan and Jean-Philippe Gbamin especially all at sea in midfield. With precious little pressure on the ball in the middle and big gaps routinely opening up in front of Michael Keane and Mason Holgate at the back, the hosts revelled in the space and time afforded them and marched into an almost uncontested 2-0 half-time lead.

The Blues have not come back from 2-0 down at the break to win in the Premier League era and there wasn’t much hope it was going to happen this evening but they were several levels better in the second half and, having battled back to 2-1, they genuinely had Wolves worried at times in the remaining 25 minutes.

It speaks volumes for how poor Gbamin was on only his second League start in England that one regarded the half-time introduction of Fabian Delph with a measure of encouragement. To his credit, though, the much-maligned Yorkshireman played pretty well by keeping things simple, constantly showing for the ball and moving it around with confidence while also helping to make the Toffees’ midfield a lot more combative and harder to play through.

Unfortunately, while they had their chances in either half, the best of which fell to an unusually off-colour Demarai Gray, Everton were unable to salvage a point… not that they especially deserved anything from a game in which they were second best overall and managed to have just 38% of the ball.

Given how poorly they had performed in that shocking defeat to the Hornets, Tom Davies and Salomon Rondon dropped out of Benitez’s starting XI, one which lost Lucas Digne to a muscle complaint and necessitated Godfrey moving to left-back and Holgate coming back into the team at centre-half alongside Keane.

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Surprisingly, last week’s star performer, Anthony Gordon, was also dropped in favour of Iwobi but it was the selection of Gbamin alongside Allan in a midfield two rather than a three that would prove costly in an embarrassingly one-side first 35 minutes from Everton’s perspective.

Wolves were slicing through the Toffees’ mid-section at will at times and when they forced a 10th-minute corner, Ruben Neves forced a good parrying save from Jordon Pickford while Conor Coady couldn’t prod the rebound home before Holgate hacked it clear.

Another quick Wolves move through the middle in the 14th minute ended with Joao Moutinho feeding the ball to Francisco Trincao but his fierce drive was tipped over brilliantly by Pickford as Everton continued to flounder.

And a minute late, the hosts thought they had taken the lead. Once more Bruno Lage’s men eased through the void in Everton’s midfield, Jimenez drove forward and fed Hwang who fired a shot that cannoned off the far post and spun over the line. The South Korean was shown by the Video Assistant Referee’s replay to have been offside, however, and the scores remained level.

Everton’s attacking impetus had largely been non-existent up to the midway point in the first half but they threatened for the first time when Iwobi and Richarlison played a neat one-two and the Nigerian international fizzed a ball in to Demarai Gray who could only divert the awkward ball well over the bar.

Wolves were quickly on the attack at the other end where Seamus Coleman charged down Jimenez’s shot setting up the corner from which the Midlanders would, somewhat predictably, score. Kilman rose to meet the delivery from the home team’s left and he steered a downward header past Pickford to make it 1-0.

The Toffees’ woes were compounded soon afterwards when Godfrey attempted a routine back-pass to Pickford but he under-hit it and Jimenez ghosted in unseen by Holgate and dinked the ball over the keeper to double Wolves’s advantage.

Everton had a couple of chances to reduce the arrears before half-time, not least when Ruben Saiss shinned a loose ball into the path of Demarai Gray seven minutes before the break but the winger, who looked out-of-sorts all evening on his return to the Midlands, dragged his shot well wide of Jose Sa’s goal.

Then, as the first period was drawing to a close and Richarlison was fouled wide on the right, Andros Townsend swung in a dangerous free-kick but Holgate skied a chance into the stands.

Needing to do something to address the gaping holes in midfield, Benitez introduced Delph at the break and the Blues visibly improved. Townsend almost prompted an own goal from Coady in the 47th minute but the defender’s header missed the far post by a foot before the veteran winger put Gray in on goal but the former Leverkusen man delayed his shot perhaps a fraction too long and it was blocked behind for a corner,

Saiss and Sa then got into a muddle trying to play out from the back with the latter hitting Richarlison with an attempt to return a pass to his defender but the Brazilian just wasn’t able to swing the loose ball in before the keeper recovered and foiled him.

Richarlison had then a half chance with a header off a cross from the right but didn’t time his connection correctly while at the other end, Jimenez missed an increasingly rare opportunity for Wolves when Nelson Semedo clipped in a cross and the Mexican could only plant his header onto the outside of the post.

Everton’s efforts since half-time were rewarded, though, in the 66th minute. A spell of pressure ended with Godfrey’s low shot appearing to hit Keane before rebounding to Iwobi who rattled it down the centre of the goal and in off the keeper’s leg to make it 2-1.

Yet Wolves could have restored their two-goal advantage almost immediately when Trincao found himself in space and found Hwang who cut inside and returned the ball to the Portuguese winger who deftly skipped it over Godfrey’s attempted block but then screwed his shot off target with just Pickford to beat.

With the game increasingly stretched and Everton more and more desperate, the visitors tried to pile on the pressure in the closing stages after Iwobi had been replaced by Gordon for the final 12 minutes.

And the teenager came very close to making the difference, first when he glanced a corner kick towards the inside of the far post but Sa palmed his header away and when when he chipped an inviting cross to the back post where Gray eschewed the chance to volley goal-wards and found himself closed out before he could test Sa from close range.

After the bizarre sight of Jonjoe Kenny briefly getting ready to enter the fray with the Blues in desperate need of a goal, Rondon was thrown on for Gray instead for the five minutes of stoppage time but Everton’s race was run by then and Wolves held on to take the points.

Three successive games against the “W” teams, three defeats and the Blues are already mired in mid-table obscurity. With the importance of the players missing, this stretch of games was always going to be challenging regardless of the opposition but while the narrow defeat to West Ham was palatable given their quality and aspirations, the way in which Everton have been carved open by supposedly inferior teams in their last two fixtures is deeply worrying.

Benitez is, of course, still learning about the players he inherited from his predecessors but his selection and substitutions choices (the treatment of Gordon is baffling), his team’s susceptibility to conceding set-piece goals and his refusal to entertain a more compact three-man midfield mean that he continues to leave himself open to criticism.

Things certainly don’t get easier from here. A Tottenham team that looks, at the time of writing, likely to travel to Merseyside with a new-manager bounce from having the inspirational Antonio Conte installed as head coach come to Goodison next and then it’s a trip to the Etihad, one of the club’s unhappiest hunting grounds in recent seasons.

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Steven Astley
1 Posted 02/11/2021 at 06:01:08
We have come from 2-0 down at half-time in the Premier League as recently as last year when we beat Watford 2-3?
Lyndon Lloyd
2 Posted 02/11/2021 at 06:29:27
It was 2-2 at half-time in that one, Steve. Mina equalised in first-half stoppage time.
Ian Bennett
3 Posted 02/11/2021 at 06:47:18
Rafa said what we were all thinking.

The side is incapable of doing anything with core players missing. The blame is being put squarely on past recruitment and those remaining players not up to the job.

This isn't going to get better any time soon, yet sacking another manager doesn't seem to be an answer. It's an easy out for players that aren't doing their jobs, and for a hierarchy that haven't a clue – Barrett-Baxendale, Brands, and Moshiri.

Robert Tressell
4 Posted 02/11/2021 at 07:16:50
Agree Ian # 3. The manager is not perfect by any stretch but better results will only come from fielding better players.
Jim Bennings
5 Posted 02/11/2021 at 07:17:03
We are basically an abysmal team with too many spineless players in the group.

When you look at our defensive options it is probably the worst now since the days of Carl Tiler, Mitch Ward and Tony Thomas, it's just made up of players that actually can't defend.

Michael Keane for a 28-year-old plays the game like he's only just starting out, looks terrified of anything coming into the box.

Mason Holgate should have been sold 2 years ago to anyone mad enough to think he could do a job. The fella struts around the pitch thinking he's something special; Mason, you just ain't!

Godfrey, Jesus Christ, has any defender ever been so shocking in the air?
The lad just can't jump and his passing is woeful.

Seamus Coleman, I'm sorry but the time is coming very close now for you to hang up your boots mate.
Seamus, instead of getting involved in stupid argy-bargy when times running out, or having a go at the fans at Goodison, I suggest you start grabbing our own players by the scruff of the neck during games; I have no issue with that.

Allan, what is the point of him when Doucoure isn't playing? Offers nothing, too easily beaten too often and just isn't mobile.

Gbamin has missed too much football and we can't afford to wait year after year to have the same discussions about this guy. He needs to be found a new club in a slower less physical league ASAP.

What a totally garbage squad we have actually assembled in this last 5 years.

Dereliction of duties by that spoon Marcel Brands, what exactly is he meant to do or be doing at this football club?

Answers are needed but nobody at Everton ever comes out to front them up.

Colin Glassar
6 Posted 02/11/2021 at 07:28:22
Listen to every Everton manager's post-match interviews from Moyes right up to Benitez (after a loss) and it's almost like a copy and paste, standard issue, prerecorded statement ie we coulda, shoulda, woulda etc….

No wonder the players feel no need to show any commitment or fight when they know whoever the manager is they will (publicly) let them off the hook and wheel out the same banal excuses.

Gary Smith
7 Posted 02/11/2021 at 07:37:36
As Newcastle look to sign Emery, Spurs look to Conte and Villa look at Fonseca – we stick with zonal marking system from 2006, 11 players behind the ball, and ceding 65-70% possession to Wolves and Watford.

Blame the players all you want, they certainly deserve criticism too. Defending the dinosaur manager costing us 1-2 goals from set pieces every single game is naive at best. The whole club lacks ambition, right down to those dreaming of Moyes's mediocrity, and Rafa's ‘stability'.

Our own worst enemies.

David Bromwell
8 Posted 02/11/2021 at 07:46:40
It is clear that the manager is not responsible for the uncomfortable position the club is currently in; however, Lyndon is right to point out he is certainly not making it easy for himself by continuing with this two-man midfield. We are allowing opposing teams to dominate games and our fragile back four are constantly under pressure.

In addition, even allowing for his goal, I cannot see how Iwobi is selected to start games. Sunday's game promises to be something of a nightmare unless Rafa by some miracle can organise the back four and beef up the midfield.

Anyway, I shall have a face mask in my pocket, and maybe use it to cover my eyes every time Spurs get a corner. It's all very sad and embarrassing.

Jim Bennings
9 Posted 02/11/2021 at 07:47:43

Conte and Fonseca wouldn't do anything with our crop of players, mate, while Unai Emery was hounded out of Arsenal when he had better players at his disposal.

We know now why Ancelotti took off.

Last season the football was defensive and ultra pragmatic, even if it meant holding back Doucouré, it meant clean sheets, because Carlo knew exactly what shite he had at his disposal.

As soon as he knew we wouldn't have any cash to spend this summer it was a case of "Ciao, fuckers". And I for one honestly can't even blame him.

No manager would take this job now, no money to spend without probably selling one of Richarlison or Calvert-Lewin or Doucouré, the fact that we were a big club when King Henry VIII was a lad means nothing in the modern era.

Derek Thomas
10 Posted 02/11/2021 at 07:54:49
Less than half of those points gained - D,W,L and we're still right in the mix.

In the blame pie chart, Benitez's slice is relatively small compared to thoose of Moshiri, Brands, Walsh, Koeman, The Players, then Kenwright.

I wonder when Moshiri, or Bill for that matter, will front up to Goodison? I doubt there'll be many happy clappers.

They took the cushions away in 82-83(?) for shite like this. The poor ground staff would be waist deep in the 'kin things this morning.

'I dreamed I saw the cushions riding shotgun in the sky'... it's not a proper debacle without the cushions flying.

Trevor Peers
11 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:00:54
Until we get a fully fit squad and try to add some quality players, we will continue to struggle. Blaming the manager at this stage is totally bonkers, Benitez made a good start and will get us winning again when we have a better squad to pick from, so he must be given a bit of leeway until this happens.

We are in a bad state with a very thin squad and not much money to spend. Moshiri has to take the blame, bless him, because he certainly piled a shit load of money into the club. Making some horrendous decisions along the way though. With his record of hiring shite managers, buying crap over-priced players and dud directors of football, it means he has completely fucked up our opportunity for any chance of trophy success.

Changing the manager again is no longer an option at this stage, who would take the job anyway?

Gary Smith
12 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:03:21
“We’re too shit and no manager is going to change it or want to come”…….congrats Jim, that’s the kind of ambition that makes me proud to be a fellow blue. As I said: own worst enemies.
Gary Smith
13 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:11:15
Trevor – the initial wins a honeymoon purple patch every manager gets, and an excuse. We are now 10th and closer to relegation than Top 4.

Rafa signed 5 players in the summer (half a squad), average age of 32. Only 2 of which have added anything to the first team, and we're seeing their own purple patch rapidly disintegrate too. Instead of the next Lukaku or Deulofeu on loan, he goes for Rondon and the jokers.

If every team I named get those managers, every one of them will finish above us next season. Whilst fans and the owner stop rolling dice and aim for stability, the only thing we'll get is what we are seeing.

Jim Bennings
14 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:12:24
Just speaking the truth, Gary.

It emanates from watching players that basically are shit and have all been shit for a number of years.

Other clubs, look at that lot across the park, no matter who they sign or what kid they play, all technically accomplished but more importantly they all work their socks off.

My head can't have much more of seeing the likes of Keane, Holgate, Godfrey, Coleman, Digne, Allan etc pretend to be Premier League footballers.

I'm sick of being told "When we have a fully fit squad to choose from"

This is Everton, when are our players EVER fully fit?

Yerry Mina, our best defender but the fella is a joke, he gets injured walking the dog.

Let's wait another year for Gbamin to get fit, this time next year, eh, boys, then we'll wait another year, what are we a charity case?

Let's dish out another new contract for Seamus Coleman, like the 5-year one we gave just after he broke his leg, fully knowing that he may not be the same player up and down the pitch.

As I say, Gary, I need the players, the board, the club as a whole to show me something to change my views, but nothing that ever comes from within the club gives fans optimism.

Graham Mockford
15 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:13:28
Benitez has to take responsibility for the starting 11 which cost us the game.

Gbamin play that could best be described as Nyarkoesque.

After 8 minutes there was a shot of Ben Godfrey drenched in sweat. There is no way that is right for a young pro on a cold night in Wolverhampton. He should be taken out of the squad and allowed to properly recover. It will only damage him to keep playing him in his current condition.

Keane and Holgate had shockers. Lack of nous and leadership letting their forward players drop a few yards into space and control the game. Even before the first goal, you could see both Allan and Coleman making that point. I spent the half yelling at the telly, ‘Get fucking tight'

Iwobi was Iwobi, not really much more to say.

If you have five players having shockers you are always going to get beat.

Second half was a bit better. Delph made a difference, the centre-halves got tighter and Gordon has surely done enough to get picked ahead of Iwobi.

But until the spine of the side returns, Mina, Doucouré and Calvert-Lewin there could be a few more difficult days ahead.

Andrew Hight
16 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:16:19
Graham Mockford’s post is a brilliant summary.
Jim Bennings
17 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:22:37

You are right, but Everton's biggest problem is we never ever anticipate injuries.

Why did we allow Moise Kean to leave on loan?

Doesn't want to be here, then make him stay.

Who sanctioned the release of Niels Nkounkou knowing that, if Lucas Digne got injured, we'd have no replacement?

Dereliction of duties.

Tony Abrahams
18 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:28:01
I never watched the game but that's a very concerning point made by Graham, about Godfrey, and an even more concerning one about the space afforded to centre-forwards who play against Everton.

If us fans can see it, then I imagine the scouts who prepare reports before we play them, must be walking around with big heads thinking how well they've just done their job!!

Geoff Williams
19 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:53:36
Benitez looked like a rabbit caught in headlights stood on the touchline, totally clueless on what to do. The definition of a good team is that it greater than the individual parts but somehow this man has managed to do the opposite.

There is absolutely no confidence in the side, players don't trust teammates. Everything revolves around midfield so choosing a player who hasn't played for 2 years in a two-man midfield was criminal and the poor fellow is being crucified.

How can Benitez possibly defend the selection of Iwobi over Gordon? Godfrey is a shadow of his former self.

Faith in Benitez to turn things around is totally misplaced, he is a yesterday's man. The only positive thing about the appointment of Benitez is we didn't get Nuno.

Christopher Timmins
20 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:56:06
God we are an absolutely shocking team. The first-half performance was an outrage. We should have been 5 or 6 down at half-time.

Our two Directors of Football, a position advocated by our owner, have been a disaster. We will do well to finish much higher than 12th and 60 points for the season is a dream at this point in time.

James Head
21 Posted 02/11/2021 at 08:56:48
That first half last night was dreadful and why Benitez waited till half-time to change things is beyond me, though the second half was better after the useless Gbamin was withdrawn it still wasn't great and Wolves had changed their approach to sitting deeper to hold what they had and hitting us on the counter.

If Benitez (I can't bring myself to call him Rafa) is as arrogant as is reputed and sticks with the dreadful zonal marking for Sunday's game, then it is a cert' that Spurs will score from a dead ball into our box.

Personally I think Brands should be sacked for the lack of cover we have at full backs alone never mind the rest of the dross we have. With a midfield that is constantly over-ran and defenders who can't defend I can't see where the next point is coming from, there is no character or fight in the squad and they just accept defeat. Bottom 5 finish at best this season.

Scott Robinson
22 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:22:05
Jim @17, I agree. Incredible. The only reason must be financial. Why else would you leave yourself that exposed?
Bill Fairfield
23 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:23:29
Until we bring better players in, it doesn't matter who the manager is, this squad is just not good enough. Benitez is flogging a dead horse.
Colin Glassar
24 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:26:21
Soft centre, soft defence, soft attack, soft in the head, spineless, brainless... I could go on and on. It's a team with no leaders, no grafters, no passion and seriously lacking basic skills.

My verdict on the players:

Pickford - 7. Saved us from a more humiliating result.
Coleman - 3. Sad to see the end of a great player unwind before our very eyes. Great job, Brands, finding a suitable replacement.
Keane - 2. I thought Keane might grow into the role of team leader but, my god, the man is awful.
Holgate - 2. Once upon a time he showed promise. No longer.
Godfrey - 2. This lad has a future at Everton. Not as a full-back but centre-half or defensive midfielder. He's obviously not 100% at the moment. Another Brands master class of incompetence for failing to have a legitimate replacement at left-back.
Townsend - 2. He was invisible for large parts of the game.
Gbamin - 1. Probably not his fault that Benitez threw him in at the deep end before pronouncing him brain dead after 45 minutes.
Allan - 4. Too small and too slow for this league but he never stopped trying, unlike most of his teammates.
Gray - 2. Never got into the game and has been found out by opposing defenders. He should switch wings, or play centrally, next game.
Iwobi - 0. I only give Iwobi a 0 marking for the goal (which he shinned btw). Otherwise it would've been a -5.
Richarlison - 3. Leave now, lad, before your reputation is ruined playing alongside this garbage.

Delph - 6. He showed that an Everton player can actually pass the ball.
Gordon - 6. An impressive 7 minutes cameo. Well done kid.

We are shite and we know it.

Jerome Shields
25 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:27:42
Nkounkou being loaned was a red flag for me at the time, shortly after Rafa arrived.
Kevin Molloy
26 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:29:35
None of this is a surprise, is it?

We've got the makings of a Top 8 side, with everyone fit. But every one of that first 11 is made of glass, and the back-up for them is shocking. So, when you've got Mina, Digne, Doucouré and out, it leaves a huge hole.

Add in that three of the current team (Godfrey, Richarlison and Gbamin) are clearly not match fit, and last night starts to make sense...

The main inspiration for goals last season was James and Sigurdsson – oh, and we haven't got them either – plus the manager wasn't given any money to spend.

We're all in on Rafa now. We've got nowhere else to go, he's got to get it right. I'm very confident he will, but he has to be supported. If we turn on him, we are finished.

Stu Darlington
27 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:30:13
Trevor @11

Great post. Totally agree. More's to the point, l have never seen anyone calling for the manager's head suggesting anyone who could do better with this squad.

We are in for a long hard time before we get players good enough to consistently compete with the best.

Trevor Peers
28 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:56:02
Makes me laugh on here the comments about Rafa, he's doomed, despite being here for only a few months and spending just £2.5 million so far – what do you really expect for that kind of outlay? Give the guy some real money then by all means judge him.

Some of the posters on here have no clue who could do a job for Everton. Not Moyes, oh no! The ginger shit bag who plays boring sub standard football is currently rip roaring the Hammers towards the summit, wrongly judged by fools on here for years and slated for being a complete incompetent.

Jerome Shields
29 Posted 02/11/2021 at 09:59:58
Basically we are now in the situation similar to Ancelotti on the run-in to the end of last season. A squad that is not putting in work and effort. A poorly prepared team. Questions regarding focus and application. This applies to coaching staff also. No chance of a rebound.

Injuried players who will be slow to recover. Who are allowed to do this by medical services. And the manager going public for the need of necessary improvement, more work and effort.

The only difference is that Ancelotti set up a formation based on poor technical and tactical players and even ones he could not depend on. Benitez has not gone down that road yet.

The truth is this is what you get from a poorly managed club. In all likelihood, they are working to blatantly get rid of the manager.

As Ancelotti said, Everton are a club without ambition.

Brian Harrison
30 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:00:18
I have to say that last thing I would have expected from an Everton side managed by Benitez was a team that is so disjointed and not having a clear plan on what to do, with and without the ball.

The team selection was really puzzling; only a week ago, Benitez said he didn't start with Richarlison as you have to manage players carefully when returning from injury, yet he starts Gbamin who has only very recently joined in practice sessions with the first team after being out for months and months.

Not only that but starts him in a 2-man central midfield; if he has to play him, surely it has to be in a 3 in midfield.

He started with Iwobi and, although he scored, I don't think he contributed anything and, if you are starting Gbamin, surely he wasnt the right player to help out in midfield?

Benitez has been rightly criticized for his variation on zonal defending, and his reply to the press was it's not the zonal marking that's wrong, it's getting the players to understand it. Just to compound this, he said when he first went to Liverpool, they struggled with it but, after 2 years, they had one of the best defensive records in the league.

Oh well... we can stop worrying because in 2 years time all our players will have got used to his zonal marking. We have now conceded 1 more goal from dead ball situations than we did for the whole of last season, with exactly thesame group of players.

Every game has followed the same pattern, our opponents having the lion's share of possession, and us trying to make the most of hitting teams on the break. Playing 2 in central midfield is asking them to cover an awful lot of ground if our other wide midfielders stay hugging the touchline.

The only other team that play a similar 4-4-2 is Burnley. But they don't try and play out from the back, they hit it long to their 2 big men up front and try and win the 2nd ball and build from there.

Now to be fair to Benitez, he has had virtually no money to spend and has been hit with injuries to some of his key players, and most managers outside Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool would struggle. But it was quite evident watching last night that the players were arguing amongst themselves as to what positions they should be in when out of possession – something that;t's troubled us all season.

After a reasonably easy fixture start to the season, we now meet some of the better teams; to hope to get anything from these, we need to be better organised... otherwise, the Watford scoreline will become the norm.

We desperately need a result against Spurs with the Man City away game to follow the international break. I will be very interested to see if Mina is fit to play against Spurs; if not, I hope he isn't allowed to play for Colombia in the international break. Seems like our players would rather play for their countries than play for Everton.

Peter Mills
31 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:02:58
Graham #15 – well said about Godfrey.

I was reflecting after the match that if racehorse trainer kept running a horse in the same condition that Ben is currently in, he would be hauled before a disciplinary committee. They are going to wreck the lad.

Steve Brown
32 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:04:11
Trevor @ 28, we get it. You like and actively support Rafa, but I would suggest you avoid denigrating your fellow blues as clueless just because they don't agree with you. Otherwise, you will come across as a bit of a knob.
Dave Williams
33 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:09:00
Graham makes a very good point about Godfrey. He doesn't look at all well and should be rested for his own good.

Last season, we struggled when playing just Allan and Doucouré in central midfield. We need that third central midfielder to be competitive, especially with Doucouré injured.

The defence has been poor on and off for years now. You can see the panic in Keane's face and Holgate is not the player he was 18 months ago- what has gone wrong?

Gray was very poor last night – bad control of the ball, lacked a bit of pace, and was basically dragged down by the dross around him. Townsend was nowhere to be seen in the first half, possibly because he was playing wide and our midfield never had possession of the ball to pass to him.

The lack of leaders is a worry and has been for years. Coleman is not a great skipper and is too long in the tooth to improve. Ben was captain elect last season but can't take it on until he fully recovers from Covid. Allan was the only one getting involved in trying to sort out problems last night and Mina is very vocal when fit. Delph could possibly do it but he probably pulled a muscle with his exertions last night and will be out for a couple of months!

Gordon has to play – he showed more effort and fight than anyone when he came on. Is Kyle John worth a debut at right-back? Welch or Branthwaite (I guess he is injured?) could play left side centre-back in a back three if Digne isn't fit for Sunday.

The problem is blooding a young player when the defence is playing so badly. I think I would stick with Delph and Allan with a debut for Onyango and flanked by Gordon and Gray with Richarlison up front. The defence? I leave that to Rafa as he is paid to fret about this – I'm not!

Clive Rogers
34 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:11:50
We learnt a few home truths last night.

Gbamin is a write off, far too slow.

Gray and Townsend have had their purple patch. They are average Premier League players at best. Gray had a bit of a nightmare while Townsend seemed to spend half the night on the turf.

Delph lifted the team second half, but how many games can he put together? We will be better with Calvert-Lewin and Mina back but, until then, this squad is in trouble.

Mick O'Malley
35 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:12:08

Benitez is doing himself no favours by playing zonal marking, for fuck's sake, he coaches them all week and they turn out a defensive display like last night!

Leaving Anthony Gordon out after he was one of the better players last week, playing fucking Rondon for 6 games in a row who made minimal contributions in those games.

If he doesn't jib the zonal shite and we suffer anymore embarrassments like the Watford match, you know the Goodison faithful will turn on him.

Michael Lynch
36 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:13:36
We have to give Rafa a decent amount of time to build a team here - if he's mad enough to stay. But how the club has fallen into this position is beyond me. What does a Director of Football actually do?

I thought the idea was that, even if the manager changes, the style and quality of the squad doesn't because that is the responsibility of the DoF? Not our DoF it seems.

We've dumped players who aren't suitable but haven't replaced them. Of course we've had a bad run of injuries, but most clubs have that. And most clubs have some kind of cover in the squad.

Allan without Doucoure is like Laurel without Hardy. Keane and Holgate is a striker's fucking dream pairing in central defence and, as has been mentioned many times, Godfrey is clearly suffering from long Covid and needs a proper recovery programme before we destroy his career.

Sadly, that leaves us with a defence consisting of Seamus – one of our greatest ever players, but a man who is clearly struggling to hold the team together at an age where he should be winding down – and nobody else.

Anyone got Hibbo's number? Though I'm sure he'd rather be out fishing than playing with this team.

Summer transfer business: replace Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Davies, Iwobi, Tosun, Gbamin; back up for Digne, Allan and Calvert-Lewin, and hope to fuck that Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison don't leave.

Alan J Thompson
37 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:25:04
It is now most certainly time to question this manager.

This game could have been all over as a competition before half time. Everton's now almost perfunctory slow 10- or 20-minute start was met by a team buzzing with pace that ripped us open.

Questions have to be asked how Davies could have been replaced by a player who hasn't started in about 2 years and who was replaced by another player who may not have started for a similar time and while he was a slight second-half improvement it is difficult to remember him getting out of our half. So much for like for like replacing our injured box-to-box energy machine, at least Davies was far better at it.

Also, we seem to play Iwobi, Townsend and Gray all out wide and seldom dropping back to help out the (defensive?) midfield two and leave out another and possibly better wide player in Gordon. Add to this the stinkers that Holgate and Godfrey had and we got away lightly partly thanks to Pickford.

And I don't go along with this weak and injured squad excuse, and I suppose next it will be give him six windows to put "his" team together as at the moment it looks like a one trick pony. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't again refuse to take any responsibility.

Tony Everan
38 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:30:14
Is it possible for Everton FC to become a registered charity? For services in rehabilitating struggling opposition strikers. We at least may get some tax breaks that will help with FFP. Perhaps the Esk could look into it.

Many of us said recently that Godfrey should be given some time out to properly recover. As Graham said above, he didn't look right. Profusely sweating and possibly struggling to concentrate early in the match. Maybe they were thinking of resting him before Digne got injured?

Benitez is not absolved from blame. A midfielder two with Gbamin in there didn't function. Gbamin too ring rusty after starting only one game in two, or is it three, years?

Second half we looked better, but also you have to remember dynamic of the game had already changed then. The onus was on us to produce something and we still couldn't do enough.

The only shining light is Anthony Gordon, another good display. Actively trying to make things happen and put the opposition on the back foot. He's got the talent and football brain to back it up. This season he seems to have grown in confidence and is a bit stronger physically too.

If we'd signed Anthony Gordon for £30M and Iwobi had come in on a free, who would be starting matches based on current form this season?

This season is now another one of treading water. Benitez will sign his own players; two or three in January, and then three or four in June.

Benitez is firmly Moshiri's man and he is going to back him to he hilt, he is going nowhere.

My take is that this season is going to be a struggle, initially more lows than highs. Then more highs than lows when Calvert-Lewin, Doucouré and Mina return.

A tenuous thread of optimism?

If the aforementioned three can get and stay fit, a great FA Cup run is entirely possible. It's a big 'if' but, with a first-choice eleven and some necessary signings in January, we can be far, far better than what we are seeing.

Lasting improvement will only come through some successful signings over the next few transfer windows.

Tony Abrahams
39 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:41:19
I think the Director of Football has learned the ropes very well. He just keeps his mouth shut and collects his wages, stays in with the right people, even receiving praise for being an “Evertonian”, which is possibly the oldest adage remaining, of the most shocking era, in the whole 143 year existence of Everton Football Club.

The last 6 years have shown us that you need stability, and that too many cooks definitely spoil the broth. But unfortunately even those that can't stand the heat, don't want to leave the kitchen, because of the financial rewards they receive each week.

Danny O’Neill
40 Posted 02/11/2021 at 10:47:54
You know my thoughts on the Director of Football role. Do it and go full on or don't do it at all.

But then you need a head coach, not an "alpha" manager. Everton are trying to implement a DoF but simultaneously have employed 2 control freak managers in Ancelotti and Benitez who simply won't work to a DoF. They wanted / want control.

To Paul the Esk's fine articles, it's the governance and structure that needs sorting out.

Jack Convery
41 Posted 02/11/2021 at 11:37:24
Brands must surely be on thin ice right now. His decision to let Nkounkou go, when we only had Digne, is a joke. He also knew Godfrey had Covid, so saying we had cover for left-back was not on. Is he deliberately undermining managers Kenwright does not like?

Silva, also a Moshiri choice (just like Benitez), when Kenwright wanted Moyes back on both occasions, was left short of centre-backs. We waited on Lampard letting Zouma come back for weeks, before Lampard decided he wouldn't let him leave – quelle surprise.

Then he rushes to Man Utd for a loan player, only for Solsjkaer to say No at the 11th hour. So twice he was shafted by teams we want to compete against – it's not rocket science to think they might be having you on, is it? Why strengthen a competitor? The Premier League is not the Dutch Eredivisie!!

He has not sorted a right-back to replace Coleman, which is ridiculous. Jonjoe Kenny ain't going to make it – we should have sold him to Schalke who wanted him.

He brought in King when Carlo obviously didn't want him. Did Carlo want someone else? Who knows.... I notice King did sod all against the mighty Southampton at the weekend, as did the rest of the mighty Watford team!!

His transfers:–

Mina – solid when fit but can't string together a number of games before he's injured.

Digne – been great but not on it this season.

Delph – waste of money... yet the great hope for Spurs on Sunday!

Godfrey – great last season. Not his fault that he's got long Covid.

Doucouré – doing really well this season.

Nkounkou – out on loan

Branthwaite – 2 managers don't think he's ready.

Not counting Allan, James, Gray, Rondon, Townsend, Lonergan and Begovic as they were Carlo and Rafa picks.

So, apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health... what has Brands ever done for us?

Err... Iwobi? – Oh Fuck Off!!!!

Paul Niklas
42 Posted 02/11/2021 at 11:42:52
The answer in the short term is Brands has to go. I cannot for the life of me see what he has done. Understand that Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Gbamin, Iwobi and Rondon would not get into any other premier league team as it stands they all have to go by the end of the summer.

Loan players or an agressive January is the only options for the rest of the season as this squad is as bad as we have ever had and has had more money spent on it than we have ever spent.

Add to that the fact that every job for the boys in backroom staff and Finch Farm coaches need to be sacked immediately, starting with Duncan and Unsworth. The players, the club, and the history are all killing us.

Jerome Shields
43 Posted 02/11/2021 at 12:11:35
Brands has become part of a unproductive regime that has been at Everton for years. Tony #39 – you have it 100%.
Danny O’Neill
44 Posted 02/11/2021 at 12:11:44
Nothing like having your own scapegoat, Jack!

Too much interference at Everton. From the board to the so-called (in all but name) Director of Football, to countless managers.

Travelling back on the train late last night from Wolverhampton, it was Benitez getting it from a lot of the Evertonians.

Brands hasn't been empowered or allowed to do his job in my opinion. He's had owners, chairman and managers interfere in the transfer non-strategy we've deployed. Too many cooks, as someone said above.

Jerome Shields
45 Posted 02/11/2021 at 12:27:43
Danny #44,

Brands was not his own man from day one, but has done well with his Directorship. They can't even wheel him out as the public persona of Everton (he is not the only one in that situation) and I doubt he will come out to fans at Finch Farm's gates now. Maybe that is why he has taken to walking about with a big dog.

Christopher Timmins
46 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:05:58
Danny, surely Brands should have walked when it was obvious that he was not going to be allowed to do the job he was employed to do?

With the appointments of Carlo and Rafa, what is his purpose as Carlo and Rafa determine(d) the transfer policy.

Brands appeared to be in a position of power when Siva was manager and made a mess of the transfer window before the start of Siva's second season. It's hard to have any sympathy for the guy.

Karen Mason
47 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:11:49
I haven't read all of the posts, but Geoff @19, spot on. There are several clubs in the Premier League who have a squad of bang average players, yet they play as as a squad. They also seem to have managers who choose tactics to suit their personnel.

Player for player, we are no worse than any of those mid-table clubs. But employing tactics that involve 11 players in your own half, aimlessly chasing the ball is soul-destroying for players and fans alike.

Everyone is blaming individual players but, if the whole team don't look like they know what they are doing, that has to be down to the coaching. Whatever 'hard work' Benitez is constantly telling us is going on at Finch Farm, clearly isn't working.

Benitez has done nothing of note in 10 years. I agree with you, Geoff. Yesterday's man. Moshiri's mistake to give him the job.

Ken Kneale
48 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:30:57
Danny is correct to reference the 'Paul the Esk' article – without that structural change and a fresh mentality running through the club, the comments above are simply re-written frustrations from previous similar games and likely to be a portent for future games sadly too.

We really are a wretched badly-operated club, as Tony says, in the worst period of our 143 years history... yet our calamitous owner and boardroom play dumb on the issues.

Tony Abrahams
49 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:33:57
I never watched the game, Karen, but if Coleman and Allan were both screaming at our central defenders to push up, then some players sound to me like they might be breaking rank?

I spoke briefly to one Liverpudlian who doesn't mind Everton. I told him I never even watched the game because I was late getting back home, and also because I'm really frustrated with the big gaps between the lines, and he said to me,that even he, was shouting at the television, and shaking his head, at how deep Everton were playing last night.

Simon Dalzell
50 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:41:41
Well said, Ken (@48).

I'm wondering what to say, but it would just be a repeat of what has already been said, over and over. The first half especially was like watching a Pub team.

Ken Kneale
51 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:43:08
Tony – it also highlights the lack of true on-field leadership we have lacked for years, both at captain level and in the mentality of the players.
Christy Ring
52 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:46:25
Graham says Godfrey was sweating after 8 minutes, which is unbelievable. I'm guessing Ben, like a lot of footballers, didn't get the vaccine, listening to advice from uneducated bluffers; if he did, it would be out of his system now.

We can blame Rafa for some decisions, a two-man midfield with Gbamin way behind on match fitness, and Iwobi making up the numbers, was never going to work. I still don't understand why he's ahead of Gordon.

But a lot of the blame is down to Brands, the squad is totally unbalanced. Coleman is 33 and still expected to play every game, with no replacement brought in. They got rid of the only reserve left-back we have, allowed Kean out on loan again, bought for over £30M, as was Iwobi, and bringing in Rondon to replace him.

We probably have the weakest squad without our injured players.

Danny O’Neill
53 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:46:43
Allan was a very frustrated figure last night, especially in the first half. It must be frustrating when you want to play forward but you have a defence that is acting as a prison-like ball and chain around your ankle. Especially when you're on your own.
Paul Jones
54 Posted 02/11/2021 at 13:50:14
Benitez, it would appear to me, has been brought in to do a similar job as at Newcastle Utd in the past. Premier League on a budget, together with an investment and infrastructure project, and proven ability to bounce straight back if you drop into the Championship.

So I don't think he will be going anywhere as he is fulfilling his remit.

Ken Kneale
55 Posted 02/11/2021 at 14:22:57
The final line on Paul the Esk's thread was that doing nothing is no longer an option.

Sadly that is exactly what our owner and management committee intends to do – diddly squat.

In the meantime, we vent our frustration on the team (deserved in the main but often counterproductive – entirely understandable though after 30 years of this tripe and I stand guilty myself); the manager (despite all misgivings and a few mistakes, I find myself having a degree of support if he can root out the clearly underperforming cronies from Finch Farm and Goodison Park) all the while, the said owner and management committee escape relatively lightly.

We need points desperately from the next few games to prevent a slip into relegation zone territory that this bunch could never fight their way out from within – is it a lot to ask that fire ire home and away is directed upwards to Moshiri, Kenwright, Brands, and Barrett-Baxendale?

Tony Abrahams
56 Posted 02/11/2021 at 14:24:30
Some players are not doing their job properly, Danny, and it's killing us. For me to not want to start messing round in my own house, to get the telly on (long story) and watch Everton because of how frustrated I am by the lack of real teamwork, and players also not willing to help each other out (this really should be the biggest given in football imo) is something that pains me, but that's how painful I currently find it watching Everton play.

Play deep - fine, play high - fine, but if you don't play compact and help each other out, then you're no longer a team, and this is how I currently view Everton, and this is killing me.

Jay Harris
57 Posted 02/11/2021 at 14:27:11
The main problem I see at the club is no-one is pulling together. Even the players are arguing with each other, so there is obviously a difference of opinions going on at every level. There is no real plan or leadership from the top.

It is so easy to just blame the manager and keep changing them but, at some stage, we have to realize the issue is further up the chain and consequently down the chain because Moshiri and Kenwright have demanded certain players and will put pressure on the manager to play them and Kenwright will undermine any manager who isn't his choice.

Injuries to key players have exacerbated this and that doesn't help but it is important for Moshiri to get a grip on proceedings.

Danny O’Neill
58 Posted 02/11/2021 at 14:51:43
Play higher up the pitch (preferred) or sit and defend deep; whatever you do, Tony, do it as a unit. Attack as a unit, defend as a unit. I could use a military analogy: you never leave people exposed and always have each other's back, no matter what.

Look at the clearly defined top 3. That's what they do.

First half last night, Allan was as on his own – as I was in the upper tier of the Billy Wright Stand surrounded by Wolves fans. Richarlison even more isolated as our defence was 70 yards away from his starting position and had that rabbit in the headlights look about them.

Painful evening. Fortunately I can hold my own and ended up having some decent banter with the Wolves fans who were initially hostile towards me.

Brent Stephens
59 Posted 02/11/2021 at 14:55:11
Danny #53.

“Allan was a very frustrated figure last night, especially in the first half. It must be frustrating when you want to play forward but you have a defence that is acting as a prison-like ball and chain around your ankle. Especially when you're on your own.”

Yes, Danny, Allan was trying to cover for the “frailty that is named Gbamin”, as well as stay in position to do his own job. Tom Davies might not be first choice for a midfield position but at least he tries to put himself around.

Robert Tressell
60 Posted 02/11/2021 at 14:56:52
The main problem, since Silva's penultimate season, is that we don't have very good players. We have finished 12th and 10th in the last 2 seasons and upgraded our squad this summer to the tune of £1.7m.

Injuries have hurt us.

Wolves had a better 1st XI and bench last night and won.

Zonal marking etc doesn't help, but generally the team that wins is the one with better players.

Michael Connelly
61 Posted 02/11/2021 at 15:08:00
We have conceded 8 goals in the last 3 games, and Godfrey has been at fault, to one extent or another, for each one. He is playing like a headless chicken at the minute. Here is a summary of the goals.

West Ham (0-1) - Beaten by Ogbonna from a corner
Watford (1-1) - Beaten by his marker from a corner, which leads to King knocking it in.
Watford (2-2) - Moves forward towards the ball from a corner, and lets it over his head to give them a free header.
Watford (3-2) - AWOL when King was unmarked to score. Keane was AWOL here also.
Watford (4-2) - Shit touch leads to the ball breaking to King to score.
Watford (5-2) - Caught stranded down our left, and watches on as Watford score a 5th.
Wolves (0-1) - jumps behind the goal scorer instead of in front of him.
Wolves (0-2) - Hands it on a plate to Jimenez

Compare zonal marking to man-to-man all you want; if someone is shit at defending, systems go out the window.

If Mina had been playing the last 3 games, we may have conceded 2 or 3, not fucking EIGHT.

Tony Abrahams
62 Posted 02/11/2021 at 15:13:56
You have definitely got a new lease of life for watching Everton, Danny, and it's something I hope returns to me, at sometime in the future mate. I love travelling to watch my team, but it's something that has sadly left me, starting from the day Koeman came in and started playing football without any real identity, imo.

Ancelotti got results playing a horrible-on-the-eye brand of football, but his team could only play compact whilst defending deep, and the results stopped coming once he tried to expand.

Silva, had us playing better for a while but, once he lost the energy of Gueye, and the pace of Zouma, it didn't take long for it to unravel.

Now it's Benitez, who has a similar problem: now he's lost the engine of Doucouré, so he needs to use his experience and tighten us up all over the park, before an all-too-familiar rot sets in.

Stephen Brown
63 Posted 02/11/2021 at 15:16:46
Until Mina, Calvert-Lewin and Doucouré are back, I cannot see where a point is coming from.

I'm now more interested in Norwich, Newcastle, Burnley, Watford results than Man Utd, Spurs and Arsenal.

I just hope that there are 3 worse teams (2 as Norwich is a given?!).

Have we got the stomach for a relegation battle? Because I fear we're in one!!

Danny O’Neill
64 Posted 02/11/2021 at 15:46:14
Next drink is on me, Brent, by the way!
Mike Doyle
65 Posted 02/11/2021 at 15:51:52
In other news, I see the thankless task of making the weekly “We must do better / lessons have been learned” statement on the Everton website has been given to Android Townsend.

I wonder if Seamus has been demoted?

Brent Stephens
66 Posted 02/11/2021 at 15:53:18
Good man, Danny. A man of intelligence!
Jerome Shields
68 Posted 02/11/2021 at 16:21:33
Agree totally, Tony and Danny. Defend as a unit and attack as a unit. There are obvious differences of opinion and motivation in defence and have been in the last three games. Everton are not working as a unit. The coaching and training must be very disjointed.
Robert Tressell
70 Posted 02/11/2021 at 17:04:37
I don't think we will be relegated. In the same way I didn't think we were in with a real shout of Champions League last season. There's still a long season ahead. Results will improve as players recover from injury (or long Covid, in the case of Godfrey).

We're also likely to sign a right-back and maybe one or two others in January. Injuries and the present run might mean we finish 10th or 11th instead of 7th or 8th.

Stu Darlington
71 Posted 02/11/2021 at 17:21:12
Ken @55,

Well said; I agree totally. The rumblings are already starting for Benitez to be sacked. Although he wouldn't have been my choice, I too have some sympathy for his present predicament. Brands also is in the firing line but, as Director of Football, he has been so undermined, he couldn't even direct traffic.

The real problem, as we all know, is with the club's senior managers. The only one who can change that is Moshiri, the majority shareholder. Will he? I doubt it... until his investment is threatened or his relationship with the fans becomes toxic.

We need wholesale change at Board level, not all at once as that would affect stability, but certainly at Chairman and CEO level – replacing them with people who are both football and business savvy.

But, whatever happens, Moshiri is the only man who has the power to change things... although I'm not sure where Usmanov fits into the whole incestuous set-up.

The FFP incompetence is killing us and, as Robert Tressell rightly says, we don't have very good players. So, until we get some money to improve the squad, we are just going to stumble along as we are now, howling for the manager's blood every 6 months. Talk about the Magic Roundabout!

Ian Bennett
72 Posted 02/11/2021 at 17:29:25
A lot put on about zonal marking. Does anyone expect a different result if we went man-to-man?
Bill Hawker
74 Posted 02/11/2021 at 17:31:40
Good synopsis, Lyndon. You mentioned our next two matches but I'd suggest we look at our next eight.

If we continue playing like this, we could be in the relegation zone by Christmas.

Rob Dolby
75 Posted 02/11/2021 at 17:43:49
It's not quite as simple as "just defend higher" or "attack and defend as a unit".

Other factors such as players available, formation, quality of the opposition and their formation plays a big role.

If we had defended higher in the first half and condensed space between the defence and 4-man midfield, we still would have been played around and left glaring holes behind for the forwards to run into.

Wolves had far more mobility and speed of thought. We won very few second balls all night. Wolves didn't have to do much to look the better team. Our improvement in the second half was probably more Wolves trying to manage the game than us being better because Delph was on.

The manager is being found out in playing 2 up top, surrendering midfield every week. Any team with Iwobi in is down to 10 men before a ball is kicked – and last night was one of his better games! Gbamin was another failed gamble.

Away from home, a 5-man midfield with Richarlison on the left and Gray as a false 9 would be the way I go.

Iwobi and Gbamin can get their coaching badges and join the queue for the Old Boys Club at Finch Farm.

Eddie Dunn
77 Posted 02/11/2021 at 18:54:47
After the 16 minutes of madness versus Watford, and the first 35 minutes last night, it is no surprise that many of our peers are predicting doom, and a relegation struggle.

Personally, I would rather we look at what we can do with almost a full squad. We won at Brighton, which now looks a very impressive result; we drew at Leeds, and we came back to beat Southampton and got a draw at Old Trafford.

We lost narrowly to West Ham and were doing okay at Aston Villa until a late implosion. Not the results of a relegation team.

The manager has few options and we see square pegs in round holes. It works in the short term but not long term. Rafa has made some strange decisions, but so have all our recent managers.

Many were calling for Gbamin to get start and even more were calling for Rondon to be dropped. Benitez did both. He has obviously continued with zonal, with predictable results, and he has continued with the Iwobi experiment.

Delph found himself fit enough to stand out in a poor midfield. Strange days indeed.

Two things were clear from last night's awful first half. Wolves targetted our flanks where Coleman showed frustration mostly with his own shortcomings. Godfrey is also suffering, from physical problems, but he obviously will get over his.

I would have liked to see three in midfield and was surprised that the much maligned Davies was overlooked. But Benitez has his own ideas and sees these lads daily.

I think the problems are with the limitations of the players at his disposal. Ancelotti came to the conclusion that playing on the break was all we could do. Every time we tried to do otherwise, we lost. Even the epic cup game with Spurs exposed our brittle middle.

I expect that this squad will again finish mid-table. The spine of the team restored will enable us to gain the points for safety but, unless we have some good additions, we are more likely to be in trouble next season, as Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison would be crazy to stay with this project.

Of course we have no choice, but the leadership of our club have shown incompetence and stupidity in equal measure. If the fans get on Rafa's back, we will suffer more, as we won't get anyone better before the summer.

It's a downer but not a crisis yet.

Joe McMahon
78 Posted 02/11/2021 at 20:01:56
Jim @9,

I can't argue with a word of that, apart from "No manager would take this job now." They are not Premier League managers but Unsworth and Dunc would, been hanging around years waiting.

I think Moshiri will stick with Rafa as we have to stick with someone, and he is more likeable than someone like Koeman. In a nutshell, the paddle disappeared down the Mersey over 30 years ago, and we know what creek we are in.

For a Premier League club, the lack of professionalism for decades shown by the board – the whole setup, including the woeful academy, is disgraceful. The People's Club.

Rob Dolby
79 Posted 02/11/2021 at 20:13:50
Derek 77. Enjoy the game. Next stop Goodison to watch the blues.
David Currie
80 Posted 02/11/2021 at 20:33:40
Derek 77,

Hope you and your son enjoy watching the Greatest Club in the World!

Dan Murphy
81 Posted 02/11/2021 at 22:33:40
Calm down. If Godfrey doesn't hit that panic ball, we get an away draw.

First half wasn't great but interesting how so many people can blame Keane for Allan and Gbamin repeatedly getting caught wrong side of their midfield.

Jerome Shields
82 Posted 02/11/2021 at 23:31:20
Rob #75,

You have a point. The reason they stayed deep was because they where afraid of a ball over the top and having to defend on the turn. Ancelotti came to the same conclusion regarding midfield and Benitez will not be far behind Ancelotti and you.

Derek Thomas
83 Posted 03/11/2021 at 00:32:19
Ian Bennet @ 72,

The zonal marking thing has become a bit of a catch-all stick to beat Benitez with. When all it means is:- Don't get dragged out of position, aka, "Stay (more or less) in your zone".

But if your defenders are lacking confidence, off-form, frightened, lazy, stupid, or just plain not capable, or any combination thereof, they tend to mentally 'shrink their zone'. Thus, an attacker is then on the edge of their zone and could be therefore the other guy's responsibility; if the other guy has shrunk his area of responsibility too... well, you're fucked.

There was one goal over the weekend, where they showed the scorer a yard outside the penalty box; 5 seconds later, he was on the 6-yard line and the ball was in the back of the net. He attacked the ball.

Attacking or defending – somebody has to attack the fucking ball!! Somebody has to have the guts to put his head in where it may hurt. Somebody needs to do it. Who would be our designated 'Ball Attacker'??

Personally, I would put Keane somewhere near the back post – it's easier to go forward than back – and say "Imagine it's up the other end and you really want a goal – well, there's the ball, it's yours, go for it... Anybody in your way? Go through them, clatter them. Pickford, Coleman, The ref – anybody!"

Attack that ball.

Jerome Shields
84 Posted 03/11/2021 at 07:47:53
That is the problem. It is not entirely system-based, it is also player-based. Everton have defenders who are weak in the areas you describe and will defend as individuals rather than as a unit.

Unfortunately the unit's performance is determined by the lowest common denominator, eg, one player stays deep, the others can get caught in no-man's land. Some can even use the system to avoid doing their job or what they are weak at.

Attacking the ball and positioning to do so is the key, as you say. Benitez would have coached them so, but either they are not buying into it or not applying the right level of focus and application in training, or Benitez is being worked against, or a combination.

Arguing on the pitch would suggest any of the above.

Danny O’Neill
85 Posted 03/11/2021 at 07:57:33
Jerome, it was something I was calling for over 12 months now, but got told it wasn't a priority. Our central defence is a soft underbelly and lacks an experienced leader. No matter what the direction, players will default to instinct.

I like the comment about Godfrey's backpass. That one moment cost us a point. I know the modern game is all focussed on retaining possession, so he's trying to "go home" to the keeper. But if he goes old school for one second and just puts it out for a throw in, we re-group and defend.

Fine margins. Ben is still young, still recovering and still learning. But we needed, and still need, experience around him. Right now, we need Mina back in that defence. It's as good as we have.

Jerome Shields
86 Posted 03/11/2021 at 08:07:08
Danny #87

Godfrey did make a mistake and defaulted as you said, but Holgate was not anticipating, available or aware.

Later in the game, Holgate nearly got caught again. Holgate was in dreamland and didn't like Allan saying so.

Danny O’Neill
87 Posted 03/11/2021 at 08:18:41
Absolutely, Jerome. This is the problem of having too many young players in our defence. They will make bad decisions and mistakes. Unfortunately it's the one area of the pitch where those decisions and mistakes are exposed and exploited.

You need experience and leadership in there. Unfortunately, our oldest and therefore by default, our most experienced central defender is Michael Keane.

I was a decent centre-back who could also play sweeper or defensive midfielder in front of a back 3 or back 4. If I was Allan, I'd have massive concerns playing in front of that lot. He probably wants to get forward, but knows if he does, he leaves a pocket of space behind him.

It's not necessarily his legs as many like to point to. He gets no support from those behind him because they stand there like Subbuteo dummies scared to venture forward.

Still hurting. Sorry.

Eddie Dunn
88 Posted 03/11/2021 at 08:42:22
Regarding the arguing, it surely suggests that some of the players were following prematch instructions while others reverted to type.

Keane is a wholehearted lad and not bad in his distribution. He also pops up with regular goals and that cross for Richarlison against Watford. He is though, limited and has a tendency to stay deep, playing everyone on-side.

Godfrey is out of position, so can be excused (as well as his possible long covid).

Holgate does what it says on the tin. Periods of poor concentration and no understanding between him and Keane.

The defence is a problem, with age catching up with Seamus and Digne off his game, the midfield and wingers are all under pressure to protect the men behind them. Iwobi fails to do this. You only need one or two cock-ups and the game is lost.

Lots for them to be working on at Finch Farm but Sod's Law that we should face Spurs on Sunday, with a new gaffer. Hoping they pick-up injuries in the Europa League.

Tactics at home will have to be spot-on. The crowd will expect us to attack but, if we get caught out, the atmosphere could go toxic.

That little shit, Son, and Harry Kane will be a nightmare to our backline. Not looking forward to it. Hoping for Calvert-Lewin back!

Christopher Timmins
89 Posted 03/11/2021 at 09:48:28
With the talent available at present, the only way we can play in order to give ourselves the best chance of getting a result is counter-attacking. There is no other game in town at the moment given the lack of pace in the spine of the team. Keane and Allan simply do not allow us to play in any other manner.

If you want to change the style, then you have to purchase another central defender and more mobility in midfield – dare I say, a Zouma and a Gana?

Perhaps you could solve the mobility problem by playing Godfrey in the middle of the back four alongside Mina and, with the return of Doucouré, we could get away with Allan as Gray and Townsend provide pace out wide and Richarlison can drop in to help out.

However, Godfrey has not been playing well so the option of playing him in the middle is not on just now. I do hope he gets a run in the middle as that is his position in the medium term.

Counter-attacking is all good and well on the road but it's not easy to endure at Goodison when you are playing some of the mid-ranking teams... but, if we can get back to beating the likes of Burnley and Southampton, we can put up with it.

A joyless remainder of the season to look forward to, unfortunately.

Brent Stephens
90 Posted 03/11/2021 at 09:50:27
Danny #89,

"If I was Allan, I'd have massive concerns playing in front of that lot. He probably wants to get forward, but knows if he does, he leaves a pocket of space behind him."

I thought it was noticeable earlier in the season how much Doucouré and Allan, in turns, would press much further forward (with or without the ball) than last season. One could have confidence in the other's ability to provide cover. As you say, at Wolves, there was just a pocket of space – not filled effectively by Gbamin.

I'm never one for simple, single-cause explanations for defeats; there are various explanations for defeat at Wolves – and one of them is the decision to start with Gbamin. I feel sorry for the guy.

Bill Fairfield
91 Posted 03/11/2021 at 09:55:09
When you've got a squad with no brains or ability, as a manager, you're on a hiding to nothing. Benitez will get a hammering and his head will be called for but it'll be the same for the next mug who takes the job.
Brent Stephens
92 Posted 03/11/2021 at 09:55:18
And as per my previous post and the point about no simple, single-cause explanations, I agree with Jerome that while Godfrey was culpable in that back-pass, Holgate wasn't alert to the danger.

As a defender, especially, you have to be thinking about what could go wrong - in this case, what could go wrong with that back-pass. And just to make clear, that doesn't excuse Godfrey.

Danny O’Neill
93 Posted 03/11/2021 at 10:08:50
I'd agree with that Brent. He (Gbamin) is so unfortunate but obviously rated. I watched Tom Davies warming up on the touchline in front of me for most of the match on Monday.

Clearly this manager doesn't rate him if he'll put Gbamin in ahead of him. And this is a manager who has managed Gerrard, Allan and god knows who else at Real Madrid, Chelsea and Inter.

I think Benitez is rooting out the cause here. It could get worse before it gets better, but he doesn't suffer fools. Or those who have been on an easy ticket.

Apologies, but I was right in front of our subs warming up on Monday night. 2 - 0 down and they were smiling and joking with each other as I sat there taking abuse from the Wolves fans I was surrounded by. I wasn't fucking smiling.

Brian Harrison
94 Posted 03/11/2021 at 10:13:38
Only Everton's medical team and Godfrey know how much him catching Covid has affected him; only they will know. It is very obvious that he certainly isn't the same player as he was last season. Although I don't think having Covid can excuse his dreadful back-pass against Wolves, that was just very poor decision-making.

I think Michael Connelly makes a good point in post 61 where he says that we have conceded 8 goals in our last 3 games and Godfrey has been directly or indirectly involved in all 8 conceded. Maybe we will have to wait till next season before Godfrey gets back to himself but, for me, his decision-making since he joined the club has been his biggest downfall, and at present I don't see any improvements in that part of his game.

Jerome Shields
95 Posted 03/11/2021 at 14:28:03
Gbamin got a run out. He is not match fit, but Benitez felt he had to persist with him to try to increase the depth of the squad. Unfortunately, it was not the team to slot into, where flaws were self-evident.

Danny, you are right that Micheal Keane is defacto leader of the defence and he plays to suit his own game and weaknesses. In the first game after the International break, he was hailed by many as Man of the Match.

Sitting deep heading out, but Godfrey and Doucouré (maybe even contributing to his injury) where trying to clear lines from deep and West Ham dominated an unsupported Everton midfield.

Watford did the same, exploiting the gaps left by a deep Everton defensive line. Wolves had two games of videos of this and exploited it to the full also.

Keane will be put under more pressure in the coming games; that's what happens in the Premier League when flaws are exposed.

Kenny Smith
96 Posted 03/11/2021 at 14:34:14
What's clear to me is that Benitez has realised the squad is not fit for purpose and set them up like he did with Newcastle Utd. Sit tight and hit on the break only.

You won't see any sustained pressure from us to wear a team down at the minute because what he has outside of the first 11 is pretty shit. The only problem with sitting tight is we can't defend solidly – especially without Mina.

If we don't start winning soon, we're gonna be in for a fight to stay up come January.

Sean Roe
97 Posted 03/11/2021 at 15:09:02
Danny @89,

''I was a decent centre-back who could also play sweeper or defensive midfielder in front of a back 3 or back 4.''

Lace your boots up, you're starting against Spurs!

Jerome Shields
98 Posted 03/11/2021 at 15:14:06

Keane is trying to play a sweeper role in a defence not coached for such a role. He is not good at it anyway since it is to cover his weaknesses.

Andy McNabb
99 Posted 03/11/2021 at 20:35:50
Glad you're here to tell the tale, Danny. I lived in Dudley between the ages of 12-18 and the worst abuse and scariest situations I experienced, of a football nature all involved Wolves fans.

Agree re the subs joking etc. I am always caught in between anger and acknowledgement that all this simply does not mean anything like as much to them as it does us.

Brent Stephens
100 Posted 03/11/2021 at 20:52:48
Danny, you're best to keep out of the home fans section for our away games! So might have some good news for you re the Brentford game. Will text you.
Dale Self
101 Posted 03/11/2021 at 21:27:52
It wasn't until Doucouré could push forward more aggressively that he and Allan worked out a coverage between them. Their combined ability to break up the advance while others get positioned is functional and well understood by both as to what to do and what the other's strengths are.

Gbamin and Davies cannot push forward with their lack of confidence and the lack of positional awareness keeps Allan and the partner locked in a static tandem with virtually nothing offered going forward.

I'm not sure Gbamin or Davies will ever establish an understanding with Allan, more likely that Gomes or Delph would succeed with Allan. I agree with those who are shouting for three in the midfield until Doucouré returns.

Kieran Kinsella
102 Posted 03/11/2021 at 21:30:16

Yeah I've sat in the home end away to Spurs a few times. Wouldn't recommend but at Brentford you can have a Beatles sing-song at least.

ps: I've also sat in the kop supporting Auxerre (I think) when the RS lost and surprisingly that wasn't as bad.

Brent Stephens
103 Posted 03/11/2021 at 21:34:24
Kieran, but did you cheer when Auxerre scored?
Kieran Kinsella
104 Posted 03/11/2021 at 22:07:06

I did thought by that time I'd been outed. Luckily I was mostly surrounded by elder statesman, lol.

Frank Thomas
105 Posted 03/11/2021 at 22:47:36
DO NOT PANIC it says in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and it is true in this case.

6 months ago, I thought Doucouré was okay and Gray and Townsend not worth taking for free. Now, I think all three are excellent in attack; all three were put in that attack mode by Rafa. Ancelotti did not play Doucouré to his strengths.

I think Rafa should be furious with Iwobi: he moved out of position – he was supposed to play behind Richarlison, allowing Townsend and Gray to overlap on the wings but instead he played on the left and Iwobi cannot tackle, causing Allan to move left to help him.

The same thing was happening on the right: Gbamin cannot tackle or pass, causing Townsend to move out of position.

In the pre-match fans write up on ToffeeWeb, I asked people to look at 'Gbamin's welcome to Everton' video on YouTube he was totally crap on every aspect of football. These two players together caused our midfield to be non-existent. It was not Allan's or Townsend's fault.

Now the defence: unfit as he is, Godfrey is better in the centre-half position and Holgate was once being hailed as the next Baines but, in the centre, he is awful – we saw it last season. He was responsible for the second goal – he was growing roots!

Anyone who saw that collision between Pickford and Zouma, leading to a tap-in Spurs goal that infamous night, will have hoped never to see another mess like that again... but history repeats itself.

So who is to blame, Rafa? He has never seen Gbamin play (I don't think any of us will ever see him play again); he has never seen Holgate playing left-back. He dropped Rondon but should have played Tosun, allowing Richarlison to be in his favourite position.

However, he has never seen Tosun play in a game either; would playing two new players back from injury be asking for trouble?

One important question Rafa should be asking himself is: If Iwobi is so good, so brilliant, so impacting and beneficial to our team that he plays more than 59% of every game for us and so many games, why is he the only Everton player that I have never seen linked with any other club?

Every other player, even some of the U23 players, have clubs interested in them. Can anybody name me one club that has expressed an interest in buying him or even having him on loan?

(Yes, I know he scored... but his play has cost us far more in goals against.)
Actually maybe a loan in the championship would be really good for him.

So what next for Rafa and us? I think he is building a list of players to move out asap. He is changing things and the fight back against 11 Wolves players was encouraging for me. I think we can beat Spurs but they will expect to beat us. The answer for winning is to cheer the team on, praise and clap every good move, encouraging better play after errors, rather than groaning.

This time next year, I would expect Rafa to have really good, fit, selectable cover for every position in the squad.

One last point: anybody who actually knows Davies needs to go and get him to ask Rafa what he thinks he needs to do to reach his full potential.

John Boon
106 Posted 04/11/2021 at 00:36:23
We really do seem to pick them. Once again they are very tired lines, but how on earth have we managed to have wasted so much money on very ordinary players?

Until the last 5 years, we have been incapable of signing players who actually improve. I am not going to bother mentioning specific names other than one. ToffeeWebbers have sent in many accurate lists of our abject, expensive buys.

The one I will mention is Gbamin. He has been out of the picture through endless months. Eventually, he came back and managed to provide little hope for a future stellar career at Everton. It was explained that he just wasn't fit enough.

Nonsense!!! Last Monday he was exactly the same as he was when he first came to Everton: fearful, timid, and – to be more accurate – completely out of his depth.

But we signed him. I am sure he is a fine human being, possibly subject to drinking too much at the wrong time, but otherwise delighted to waste Everton's money and time.

He tried to make everybody feel joy and elation by telling us how happy he is to be on permanent holiday through the goodwill of Everton FC. Suckers that we are! And he is only òne example of far too many.

Danny O’Neill
107 Posted 04/11/2021 at 06:29:03
Sean @97, the legs may shout at me these days for all of those injuries I ignored, but my boots are still polished and ready! Copa Mondial or Puma King? That was always a deliberation for me!

Brent. Got the message. Thank you mate, really appreciated.

Andy McNabb
108 Posted 04/11/2021 at 06:41:13
Puma King, Danny. No contest. Much softer leather.

Year 8 may not be the same standard as Premier League but I'm currently using ASICS for sport lessons. Don't recommend them. The Puma Kings spoilt me.

Danny Broderick
109 Posted 04/11/2021 at 07:30:47
Ben Godfrey's flaws were exposed the other night. We have all loved seeing his bursts of pace, or when he flies into slide tackles and takes man and ball out. Last season, he was on fire. For all of that though, he never looks great in possession, particularly on the left, and he is not the best header of the ball. He needs resting and to come back fully charged.

We've got to tighten up on set-pieces. Confidence grows from defences that look well drilled and in control. Our confidence is shot. We look like conceding from every set-piece at the moment.

It wouldn't be hard to find a better selection for Spurs than the team that started the first half against Wolves. For me, hopefully Mina and Digne can come in for Holgate and Godfrey. And if Delph is fit – a big if! – he has to come in for Gbamin, and Gordon in for Iwobi.

It's going to be a tough 7/8 weeks, but Rafa hasn't got a magic wand. Our squad is poor. We just need to get through this until we get the spine of our team (Mina, Doucouré and Calvert-Lewin) back.

Tony Abrahams
110 Posted 04/11/2021 at 08:08:07
How can anyone seriously say that Puma Kings were better boots than the Copa's!

I read a great thing the other week about Benitez, and it came after his Chelsea team had lost an FA Cup semifinal, if the story that was told is actually true. Berating his team for playing with a lack of intensity, it was said that John Terry turned round to his manager and said, “It's because we are training with a lack of intensity.”

A meeting was arranged for the squad the next day. They discussed everything, including the players saying they wanted less instruction and more intensity, and suddenly Chelsea started winning.

Fair play to Terry, because most people in football just mutter behind the manager's back, and fair play to his manager, for taking everything the squad captain said on board.

It showed maturity, but this is natural when you have a winning mentality. This is currently the biggest part of the problem at Everton, because it's not saying anything new when you say that we lack real leadership; we have done for years.

Danny O’Neill
111 Posted 04/11/2021 at 08:23:37
I'll throw Beckenbauer's in the mix Andy / Tony. But I think that's because I always saw myself as moulded in the Beckenbauer style. In my own mirror admittedly!! The all-time classic sweeper.

Ken Kneale
112 Posted 04/11/2021 at 08:28:55

I posted a similar comment around leadership earlier in the week - I so agree with you. I think it is singularly one of the standout points of recent times on the field irrespective of (the lack of) footballing ability.

Such a mentality is also evident at Finch Farm – who is calling out with the John Terry style comments? The art of leadership, as anyone involved in such a discipline knows that 'managing up' is a vital part and so important when things need to be altered for the greater good. I fear our current captain and so-called 'leaders on the pitch' feel a club-penned article in the media suffices for true leadership.

Danny O’Neill
113 Posted 04/11/2021 at 08:33:04
Interesting Tony. Both because the wife worked in Cobham, close to Chelsea's training ground and also the Villa connections, but I know a couple of things on Terry. Not a particularly nice person to be honest.

But I can see him being a manager in time if he steps up to the plate as he is a natural leader. Or is he going to be another one of these Premier League era players that doesn't like being in the hot seat and would rather drift into the background or sit on the Sky panel criticising?

Colin Harvey was a fantastic coach and an artist of a footballer by all accounts. He didn't want to manage, as he was more comfortable on the training ground coaching players. Ironically, he'd have worked well under a Director of Football.

But when Everton came calling, he couldn't resist. That scene on Howard's Way with him stood outside the Gwladys Street still has the emotional fool in me welling up every time.

Ken Kneale
114 Posted 04/11/2021 at 08:44:19
I have heard the same, Danny, but it is not a prerequisite.

By all accounts, Harry Catterick was not altogether a nice bloke either to some but he put us back on the football map and cared very deeply about the club. I would settle for that now.

It's a hackneyed phrase but Moores and Catterick must be going mad in Blue Heaven, looking down on the current owner, management committee and players.

Mal van Schaick
115 Posted 04/11/2021 at 12:54:00
Benitez has inherited other managers problem players who don’t belong in the Premier League.

Next summer will be the defining transfer window for him.

Please get rid of those not up to this league and get better quality in.

Tony Everan
116 Posted 04/11/2021 at 13:33:47
I think these stats give a big hint as to where we need strengthening as a big priority.

Yerry Mina, key to Everton’s performance

Yerry Mina has become irreplaceable in our defence. When he is out, and it is often, we suffer.

Statistics can be interpreted in many ways and there are often other mitigating factors. But the problem here is pretty clear.

Without Mina in the backline, we have – over the last two seasons – almost a 1-in-5 chance (22%) of winning a Premier League match. When he's in, it's almost 3-in-5 chance of a win at 57%. Can these stats really be true?

There's rumours that Yerry wants to go to Italy in the summer. If so, we need to be proactive in getting top quality reinforcements in at central defence. It will be a massive responsibility for Brands and Benitez to get the right men in.

Tony Everan
117 Posted 04/11/2021 at 16:37:24
Down on the Farm:

Digne back training with the lads today; no Gomes, or the lesser spotted Mina.

Calvert-Lewin posted a video of him doing running exercises, so looks like he is stepping it up.

Ellis Simms and Jarrad Branthwaite are back from injury.

Alan J Thompson
118 Posted 04/11/2021 at 16:43:32
I sometimes shudder when I read excuses made for a manager that he has to work with previous manager's mistakes.

Perhaps we should be questioning applicants' coaching abilities more closely before hiring but one of my pet dislikes is recently appointed managers bringing in players from their previous clubs.

Yes, it has worked for us in some cases, Richarlison being a good example, but it does appear that several of our last half-dozen managers have managed to get a team relegated or in the lower positions of the league.

Kevin Molloy
119 Posted 04/11/2021 at 17:24:29

He's inherited a terrible squad. What little inspiration there was last season came from James and Sigurdsson, and he hasn't got them either.

The few good players are all out injured: Digne, Mina, Doucouré, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin... and Godfrey is shot. He's entitled to the benefit of the doubt with that list of horrors.

Jay Harris
120 Posted 04/11/2021 at 17:33:16
Totally agree, Kevin. Let's also give Bemitez credit for Gray and Townsend, without whom we would really be in the shit.

I didn't want him but, with hindsight, we could have done a lot worse. Megabucks Newcastle have been turned down by Emery and are supossedly on the brink of appointing Eddie Howe!!

Gary Smith
121 Posted 04/11/2021 at 17:46:24
Love the “he's inherited a terrible squad” and “he's done wonders with Gray and Townsend” as a defence of FSW.

He signed five players, with an average age 32! Three of them are utter shite, and did nothing but stop young lads getting a go. Yet more wasted wages, that could have been spent on the up-and-comers on loan, like Martinez did with Lukaku and Deulofeu, instead of the deadwood journeymen he prefers.

With respect to the two boys some are labelling as Younger Messi and Ronaldo - I'm glad we've got both… but, come on... get a grip. Good squad players – yes. Starters – if they keep form. Worldies that excuse the zonal marking and blocking kids with promise – nope.

Jerome Shields
122 Posted 04/11/2021 at 18:30:44
The problem is that other Premier League sides have had a look at Benitez's Everton and identified the strengths and weaknesses. Townsend and Gray are being given more attention and the tendency to defend deep is being exploited. On top of that, the inadequacies of training motivation at Finch Farm are apparent. This is particularly so on set-pieces, attacking and defending.

Ancelotti had a similar problem after a good start, but was braver at trying to adapt players to different roles, to increase squad depth, and managing to grind out some results. Benitez will have to do similar and the selection of Gbamin was an attempt at this.

Mina likes to have the play in front of him. He may have faired better than Keane, but Everton would have still struggled had he been available.

What we see is a similar pattern to last season. Like in maths, the sum of the parts ends up with the same answer.

The difference with Benitez is he will call out the players and situation as it is and will not wait until the last quarter of the season, like Ancelotti.

Benitez needs our support to implement and force through necessary change and take on the midtable culture that prevails at Everton.

The silence is deafening from Everton as Benitez is left alone to face the fans.

Kevin Molloy
123 Posted 04/11/2021 at 18:47:22
Jerome yes. He's taken on one hell of a job. I just hope those gobshites don't think they can down tools the way they have in the past.
Kevin Molloy
124 Posted 04/11/2021 at 18:53:14
That's the problem, Gary, with being given no money, you can't always sign players in their early 20s with bags of potential. So you adapt to the situation you find yourself in.

And what's all this 'blocking kids with potential', he's been here a couple of months – not 10 years. In that time, he's shown more faith in Gordon than Carlo ever did.

Mike Gaynes
125 Posted 04/11/2021 at 19:06:59
From the stick-in-your-throat department... watching Europa League... blazing pace from an Olympiakos winger, searing the Frankfurt defense to set up a goal.

Says I: "Wow, there's a guy we should look at."

Says the announcer, "Great run by Onyekuru."


Danny O’Neill
126 Posted 04/11/2021 at 19:08:20
Blocking kids with potential? Who are these mythical creatures?

Normally when a kid or player is that good, they can't be ignored. And they won't be. There have now been several different opinions on Everton's apparent kids with potential. Now I could get disputing one or two manager's opinions on whether they're good enough. But when the judgement has come from many, including 2 who have Premier League and Champions League titles under their belt, I would suggest we need to look at how our academy is recruiting and coaching our youngsters.

Some might not like it, but maybe it's time to question Finch Farm. Surely that many managers, all from very different backgrounds and with differing football philosophies can't all be wrong.

Or shall we bury our head in the Finch Farm sand? It's not the scouts or coaches, it's the managers for not playing them?

Still recovering from Monday before Sunday.

Mike Doyle
127 Posted 04/11/2021 at 19:10:58
Danny, Andy & Tony. You seem to have overlooked the best ever boot - Adidas Beckenbauer (with the green luminous stripes).
I think Copa Mondial may have been based on these.
Clive Rogers
128 Posted 04/11/2021 at 19:16:46
Yerry Mina missed 14 Premier League games last season and has already missed 4 this season, which will be 5 on Sunday presumably. So his absence is something we will have to live with, especially after internationals.
Mike Gaynes
129 Posted 04/11/2021 at 19:37:05
Mike D #127,

Amen on the Beckenbauers. I went through about six pairs of Becks before they started phasing them out, although I only had one set with the green stripes (the rest were white). Greatest boots I ever wore.

Just saw Chucky scoring for Napoli. Another player who should have been ours.

Dale Self
130 Posted 04/11/2021 at 19:42:05
Hey Mike, do you know the details of Onyekuru's failure to get a permit?
Brian Harrison
131 Posted 04/11/2021 at 19:43:35
Clive @128,

I saw a stat the other day and it said that, with Mina in the side, our win rate was I think 57% and, without him, our win rate was 24%. Who would have thought one defender could make such a difference to a team's win rate?

The Echo are reporting he probably won't play on Sunday against Spurs, and his contract ends in June 2023.

Danny @126,

I really hope that we do start to question why we don't produce enough good players from our academy. Many of these kids have been at the club for a long time. I think, when Ancelotti was here, he must have questioned the average age playing in our U23 team. We now seem to have promoted many younger players to play in that group.

When you look at the top sides, they are playing 17-year-olds in the U23s whereas, a season or two back, we had 21- and 22-year-olds in that team.

Surely if you haven't broken into the first-team squad by the time you are 21 or 22, then you aren't going to make it.

Jay Wood

132 Posted 04/11/2021 at 20:05:06
Gary @ 121.

Try some new material rather than keep banging on about the average age of Rafa's signings as if you've discovered the Rosetta Stone to decipher the cause of our problems this season.

Rafa has signed 5 players, four on a free, the other for a paltry £1.7 million.

Their ages are:
Lonergan - 37
Begavic - 34
Rondon - 31
Townsend - 30
Gray - 25

Together, 157 years which averages out at 31.4 years.

That number is inflated by the ages of the second and third choice keepers. Begovic has played two games in the League Cup, plus one PL game covering for the injured Pickford. He ain't dislodging Jordan any time soon.

Only a series of great misfortune befalling to the other two keepers will see Lonergan ever play for Everton.

Take their 67 years out of your calculation and that leaves 86 years between Rondon, Townsend and Gray. An average age of 28.6. Not so bad, is it?

Rondon has been played out of necessity, due to the injuries to our two 24-year-old leading scorers of last season.

Take him out of your equation and that leaves the two regulars Townsend and Gray and their accumulative age of 55, at an average of 27.5-years-old.

Given they are leading all other players in goals scored and assists, they both look like good business to me.

Plenty to question without fabricating the spurious correlation you keep offering. They are not blocking the pathway to the first team of anyone at the academy.

Dave Abrahams
133 Posted 04/11/2021 at 20:20:01
All these different makes of boots getting a mention, the boots wouldn’t make anyone a better footballer, it’s what the feet do inside the boots that matter, when I first played for the school junior team I played in a pair of second hand boots, no studs but bars going across the soles and heels, no slipper football boots those days but heavy leather boots, it didn’t stop the good players looking good or make the poor players look good but they did help to protect your feet and helped when you got stuck into the opposition with a good strong tackle,just my take on football boots on a boring Thursday night with a boring story, oh and I scored quite a few goals in those boots!!
Mike Gaynes
134 Posted 04/11/2021 at 20:32:08
Nope, Dale. I'm sure some of the UK guys are up on that stuff.
John Hughes
135 Posted 04/11/2021 at 20:38:25
Jay (120). I think the appointment of Eddie Howe makes a lot of sense at Newcastle. IMO they have taken the view that relegation is very much a reality and Howe is a manager that knows his way around the Championship and will have a pragmatic plan to get out of it post haste.
Paul Smith
136 Posted 04/11/2021 at 20:54:56
Newcastle Utd the richest club in the world and they appoint Eddie Howe. The Geordies are back in their box tonight - they must be sick.
Michael Kenrick
137 Posted 04/11/2021 at 21:26:20
Dale @130, Mike @134,

UK guy here, yankee boys. Re Onyekuru, it was rather simplistically a question of international appearances.

Since the lad was Nigerian through and through (and with no EU connections), there was a requirement before he could get a work permit to play in the UK: he had to be appearing in 75% of the senior Nigerian international games over the previous 2 years.

A very, very tall order. Even if he'd been any good. Even if he hadn't been injured. And it's not as if Everton don't have previous in such miscalculations.

But they made a very healthy profit on the lad, so who am I to judge?

Barry Rathbone
138 Posted 04/11/2021 at 21:28:59
Paul Smith 136

The first manager of genuine big spenders are sacrificial lambs they cop it for the inevitable turmoil of any revolution. The next couple of appointments will dictate play.

At least Howe will be assured a big pay off.

Rob Halligan
139 Posted 04/11/2021 at 21:46:17
Anyone watching the Spurs v Vitesse UEFA Conference league game? Has been a cracking match. Spurs lead 3-2, which was the half time score, but were 3-0 up. Vitesse have battered Spurs in the second half, but cannot find an equaliser. Also three players sent off, one for Spurs and two for Vitesse, including their goalkeeper.
Dale Self
140 Posted 04/11/2021 at 21:46:47
Thanks, Michael. I noticed he had an article describing his ordeal but it was paywalled.
Andy Crooks
141 Posted 04/11/2021 at 21:49:21
Dave @ 133,

If only one of our players could borrow "Billy's Boots". The ones that belonged to "Dead Shot Keane". We would be in the Champion's League and the RS would be stuck with an over the hill Wally Brand.( Ball of fire my arse)

Michael Kenrick
142 Posted 04/11/2021 at 22:02:11

There's more here that I compiled over the time he was with us but not with us, including some of that Athletic article:

Henry Onyekuru's ToffeeWeb Player Profile

Martin Nicholls
143 Posted 04/11/2021 at 22:28:22
All this talk of work permits - Antonio Conte got one in two days!!
Mike Gaynes
144 Posted 04/11/2021 at 22:33:54
Thanks, Michael. Thought it was something like that.

- Yankee boy

Robert Tressell
145 Posted 04/11/2021 at 22:35:49
Jay @132 thank you for that. It's been annoying me too.

More annoying still, there is a very good chance that, come the end of the season, we'll lose at least 2 of the three missing players who really make us tick.

Mina, Richarlison and DCL are going to be very hard to keep and harder still to replace.

Jerome Shields
146 Posted 04/11/2021 at 22:37:16
Kevin #123,

They will try, but Benitez has taken them on early. Most managers have taken them on in the New Year and stood in disbelief on the touchline in the last quarter at the blatant display of apathy they are seeing on the pitch, Silva being the exception.

I think we are heading into crunch time and Benitez is under no illusions after his experiences of the International break and the aftermath. The effect of Benitez's recent recruits may kick in. Though they could raise their game against Top 6 opposition as they have done before.

Therefore, the January transfer window will show the commitment to Benitez. Not to bring in players in January would allow more opposition to build up. Forget about Brands – it will Benitez who will pick the targets.

Mike Gaynes
148 Posted 04/11/2021 at 22:44:34
Brian #131, I saw that stat too, and I'm not the least bit surprised. Mina's contribution to the success of this club surpasses his actual abilities -- his presence is worth as much as his tackling. And as we've seen in the past few games, we are gut-wrenchingly vulnerable to corner kick goals -- and the losses they produce -- when Mina is absent.

Unfortunately, I don't think we'll hold onto him past next summer. We'll sell him on for a handsome profit to somebody like Atletico or Inter or Marseilles. And the folks here who talk only about his muscle strains will gleefully celebrate and say we're better off.

Dale Self
149 Posted 04/11/2021 at 22:45:26
Thanks for the link, Michael, that helps put things in perspective. Looked like a decent gamble all considered.

I did not realize the tug of war between Anderlecht and the club over his injury. Vanhaezebrouck obviously comes off as a first-class piece. €13 -15M was not bad business given the circumstances.

John Boon
150 Posted 05/11/2021 at 02:53:32
I have been watching Everton for seven decades and will always support them, whatever happens. Having said that, I have to say that supporting them at the present time is extremely frustrating.

I actually watch every game but I really don't enjoy games as much as I have in tthe past. I think part of the problem is that there does not even seem much to look forward to and every game is a struggle.

There is probably no solution to the problem other than a good season. For me that is too much of an expectation, as I now take one season at a time and count myself lucky to still be able to watch football. It is because of that realization that I have come up with a some sort of an answer to my problem.

As said, I will always be a dyed-in-the-wool Blue. However, I also am a football fanatic.I always enjoyed playing but that is no longer possible... has not been for a long time. I enjoy watching football at all levels.

I watch many games each week. One time it was Everton, Everton, Everton... but, of late, I find myself enjoying other games more than I do Everton, mainly because I am not as stressed.

No team replaces them but I do have my favourites. My two favourite teams to despise are Liverpool by a mile, and then Man Utd. For some reason, I prefer Arsenal over Spurs and have a soft spot for Man City, probably because they have had tough times in the past.

It annoys me that Chelsea are no longer poor and useless, but I don't hate them as much as I do Spurs. There are a whole pile – like Palace, Watford, Fulham etc etc etc – who I still think should be in League Two. They have no impact on my football life. Their future is worse than Everton's.

Watching other games has given me minor relief while Everton continue to play so badly. I need football. I have been a football junkie and an addict since 1951 and I can't let it go. I would prefer to go back to only Everton, but I do need some form of stress relief and watching them over the last number of years is not the solution.

I have spoken to my wife, children and even grandchildren but they just think that I have the incurable disease of "Evertonitis" which could best be described a descent into madness. Is there any cure? I need help... and Everton are not providing it.

Kieran Kinsella
151 Posted 05/11/2021 at 03:08:35
John Boon

Not sure if you offer me hope or despair.

I remember I was 8 years old, putting on an Everton shirt for the first time on a rainy winter day for after-school practice for the school team. It was a quasi-religious experience pulling on the 86-87 season shirt and I swear I never played as well until years later wearing a Kanchelskis shirt at High School.

There's a magic to it. Sadly It seems it's not always shared by those paid to wear the shirt. But somehow Everton is bigger than than the latest flavor of the month big-time Charlies. The shirt channels Dixie, Tommy, Brian, Kevin, the other Kevin et al.

So fuck the likes of Iwobi, Madar, Thomsen, Kenwright etc – there's a magic there that transcends current performance — either that or I'm a whacko bird. Either way I'm cool with it.

Danny O’Neill
152 Posted 05/11/2021 at 07:33:16
Forget Billy's Boots. It's Dave (Abrahams) Boots!! I'm going with Beckenbauer's. What a player.

John Boon. I have to think before commenting on Everton. I can't judge them like I can watching other teams. The emotion gets in the way too much.

I don't have a preferred alternative in the English league. My "escape" from Everton is Schalke, But guess what. They play in blue and white. Their nickname is the Konigsblauen (Royal Blues). They are named after the working class district in the north of the city they come from and are located. They haven't won much in a long time and live in the shadow of their more recently successful local derby rivals, Dortmund. Who sing that song and have Klopp connections. They have strong connections with their city and community. Sound familiar?

Relegated last season and now in the 2nd tier of German football. Maybe it's just me. But I didn't choose.

Alan J Thompson
153 Posted 05/11/2021 at 10:05:17
Talking of boots and Sunday's game, does anyone remember John White, a brilliant "inside right" for Spurs and Scotland, who was unfortunately taken by lightning on the golf course. He used to cut the bottoms off his socks from the ankle as he said he wanted the feel of the ball on his feet.
Jerome Shields
154 Posted 05/11/2021 at 10:42:23
Last season, there were many on Mina's case, for good reason. His main improvement has been focus and concentration. Ancelotti impressed it on him as being necessary and Benitez has taken it as a given. He also has become more aware of where the defensive line should be and had become a leader in defence.

But he is still prone to injury and maybe even a bit lazy regarding physical training. He is particularly prone to hamstring injuries and I would have preferred he had been rehabilitating at Finch Farm rather than alone overseas.

Dave Abrahams
155 Posted 05/11/2021 at 10:51:17
Mike (148),

Mina is better than Keane, but that doesn't mean a lot. He makes as many mistakes as Keane with his slapdash clearances leading to goals or chances for the opposition. Add to this his childlike disputes with the other team's strikers; he, like Keane, gives me the shivers when defending and their lack of scoring goals when they go up for corners and free-kicks makes me wonder why they bother.

I think Keane has scored seven league goals since he came. Mina scored two in a minute at Watford but I would be surprised if he has scored as many as Keane, although he has played a lot less than Michael, plus the injuries make him unreliable to play consistently. I won't be sorry to see him go.

Mike Hughes
156 Posted 05/11/2021 at 11:12:31
In the next hour, R5L will be remembering Arsenal’s famous 0-2 victory at Anfield, a win which saw them grab the title from the RS.

The injury time winner by Michael Thomas (and Thomas just happens to be my middle name!) will always be remembered fondly by me.

Anfield was full of faces like slapped “arses” that night.

I was doing cartwheels while on holiday in the ROI. Beer has rarely tasted better than it did on that night.

David Midgley
157 Posted 05/11/2021 at 13:28:18
Brian #94.

I'm sure that I read a while ago that Godfrey was suffering from a slightly enlarged heart as an after-effect of Covid. He should not be playing. EFC are possibly putting his future health at risk.

I feel sure that his decision-making would have improved if he hadn't been right-back, left-back, tea-maker and turnstile-operator.

Play him in his right position.

David Midgley
158 Posted 05/11/2021 at 13:43:32
Alan #153.

After England's thrashing by Hungary in 1953, (yes, there were ToffeeWebbers alive then), 'Continental' boots became the fashion. My mum got me pair from Jack Sharpe's.

The old brown ones with the strap over the toes and the protection almost up to your knee went under the stairs.

The first time I wore them, I got kicked on the ankle and it must have taken three days for the pain to go! It's little wonder that players suffer metatarsal problems with these modern (what looks to me like) knitted boots.

I've got scarves that offer more protection!

Mike Gaynes
159 Posted 05/11/2021 at 15:54:17
Dave #155, I feel strongly otherwise. Yes, Mina makes his mistakes, but he also makes more great shot blocks and crucial tackles than the rest of the backline combined. His errors will continue to diminish as he gains experience -- remember, he's still had only 100 top-level league appearances in his career, just 72 for Everton, so he's still learning.

I too am disappointed by the lack of goals on corners, and I get your point about the occasional childishness, but personally I love his confrontations with opponents -- he and Coleman bring the only real fire to an otherwise gentlemanly team, and I consider that a positive, not a negative. We're simply a better, more competitive and more successful side with him in it.

Jerome Shields
160 Posted 05/11/2021 at 15:57:40

I agree.

Mike Gaynes
161 Posted 05/11/2021 at 16:05:31
Brian #94 and David #157, I feel certain that Everton will have worked with the very best specialists to ensure that Godfrey is safe to play. The last thing anyone wants is an Eriksen-like scene at Goodison. If there was danger of that, they wouldn't let him play.

Brian, you're right that his decision-making has not improved, but he has played only 41 games for us, and they've been spread out across all four backline positions under two different managers, so let's be a little patient with him.

As to that backpass, yes, it was poor, but Holgate could have covered it easily and bailed him out. Instead, he just trotted back and let the much-slower Raul come from 10 yards behind him to steal the goal.

David, when you say "play him in his best position", I wonder whether that position is, in fact, centre-back? Godfrey is only 6 feet tall and he rarely wins competitive duels in the air -- in fact, he's been comprehensively beaten on headers in the past three games, all of which directly contributed to losses. Either he requires some intense study at The Jagielka University For Winning Headers Against Taller Guys, or he needs to be permanently recast as a full-back.

Brian Harrison
162 Posted 05/11/2021 at 16:30:16
Mike @161,

I am sure that you are right and that Everton would have had the best medical advice in regarding Godfrey's recovery from Covid. Although I am sure he is clinically fit to play, for some reason, that pace and energy from last season are missing.

I understand you saying that maybe his defensive positioning might be better if he wasnt moved around the backline so much but, even playing in his preferred position of centre-back, his positional play leaves a lot to be desired.

I have said for a few months that, for me, his best position is full-back, as he loses too many heading duels to be relied on to play at centre-back, but even at full-back, he has been found wanting this season.

His confidence seems to have taken a hit and he just wants to get rid of the ball as soon as he gets it, and usually that means a square pass to Michael Keane, another player whose confidence is very brittle.

But I don't think any of our defenders are helped when the manager insists on playing just 2 in the centre of midfield, so, if one goes forward, that leaves the other to cover too much ground. This is made even worse when Iwobi occupies one of the wide berths as he will do anything not to have to put in a tackle.

We know that Conte's preferred set-up is 3-5-2; if Benitez sticks with 2 in central midfield, I think we will get over-run. I don't think we can play 3 at the back, and certainly not with Mina missing, but we must play 3 in midfield – which, of those fit to play, would be Allan, Delph and Davies.

Danny O’Neill
163 Posted 05/11/2021 at 17:07:56
It's a fine balance. You want players who are willing to get in the opponents' faces and the ears of the referee & officials. Like it or not, it is necessary. But they can't and shouldn't lose their heads or they become a liability.

Controlled aggression. Those who follow boxing will understand that. You can wind a player up and get into their ooda-loop cycle, but go too far and steam in "windmilling", you get knocked out or taken out of the game by being reckless and thoughtless. Keep your head and be a proper wind-up merchant.

Roy Keane was generally a master of it. And it influenced games as much as his play did.

As I was always taught. Win your personal battle and earn the right to play football.

We have too many nice guys. Look across the park. Henderson spends just as much time chasing the referee around the pitch as he does his opponent. And that Robertson (full-back) is a horrible shit. But you'd have him in your team all day long.

Toothbrush and dishwater at the ready. I'm heading to the sink to clean myself.

John Boon
164 Posted 05/11/2021 at 17:09:52
Allan, Delph and Davies must strike footbaling 'terror' into the hearts of any opponents. Just how could we ever lose with such a dynamic midfield trio.
Mike Gaynes
165 Posted 05/11/2021 at 17:16:22
Brian #162,

I've noticed Godfrey's apparent timidity too, but I would guess it's related to his illness more than the coaching. Take it from me, when you don't feel healthy, your confidence takes a hit.

I played a season through illness a few years ago, and my normal aggression was nowhere in evidence. I was tiptoeing around the pitch like a Persian cat, avoiding contact and saving energy at every opportunity. So, again, I'd suggest patience with the lad.

I still agree with you that, unless he learns to jump into opponents on aerial challenges (the Jagielka technique), he'll eventually be a better fullback than centre-back, although he'll need to work on his crossing.

As to Spurs, I hate to be a pessimist, but we're a shorthanded side up against a vastly more talented team that will be sky-high for the game. Outside of Diego Simeone, there isn't a better touchline motivator in world football than Conte. I think we're in for a rough day no matter what alignment Rafa chooses.

Danny O’Neill
166 Posted 05/11/2021 at 17:23:59
I'd agree on a lot of that, Mike, regarding Godfrey.

As well as the illness, I would also add his age. Still young for a defender, so he's going to have inevitable dips in form as he learns his trade.

Joe Clarke
167 Posted 07/11/2021 at 12:11:42
What does Duncan Ferguson do?

Can we see his job description?

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