Everton 0 - 2 Aston Villa

If two wins from three to start Sean Dyche’s reign as Everton manager had offered hope that not only would the Blues survive this season, they might do so fairly comfortably, then this result against Aston Villa will have swept away such fanciful notions.

This bid to stay in the Premier League is going to be a struggle, perhaps a desperate one destined to go down to the wire, with every match and every available point laden with significance. And it’s not because there isn’t heart, desire, spirit and a measure of effectiveness about this Everton team. It’s because it can’t score goals

As a collective, the owner, Board of Directors, Director of Football and recruitment were derelict in their duty to fulfil one basic requirement dating back to the end of last season: buy a suitable striker. Unfortunately, though he doesn’t lack for effort, that isn’t Neal Maupay and wasn’t ever going to be.

Which is why the utter failure to bring in someone more of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s ilk, compounded by the damaging delay in sacking Frank Lampard when he should have been dismissed on the evening of 3rd January following that debacle against Brighton, is so infuriating. And it’s a twin failing that could yet cost this great club its place in the top flight this season.

Against Aston Villa, a club that acted decisively and early once it became clear that their young, inexperienced and largely unproven manager was out of his depth, the referee, Anthony Taylor, was horrendous; as bad, if not worse than any official with which Everton have been blighted this season. But, ultimately, despite the official’s incompetence and inconsistency, the Blues couldn’t blame him for their defeat, the first at Goodison Park since Dyche took charge.

Indeed, Taylor’s decisions had provided the fuel for an increasingly charged atmosphere on the back of which Everton built some decent pressure in the final quarter of an hour of the first half, but a combination of Emiliano Martinez’s reflexes and a lack of conviction in front of goal meant that the hosts failed to capitalise.

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For the second week running, the lack of an effective goalscorer cost the Blues goals and it’s a shortcoming that is going to blight Dyche and his team from now to the end of the season if he isn’t able to come up with another solution. Whether that is restoring Demarai Gray, still the team’s top scorer, to the line-up and bringing Alex Iwobi, it’s most creative outlet off the wing, or putting greater faith in the youth of Ellis Simms, no one can know until the manager tries it. But without goals, this team is going down.

With Calvert-Lewin still ruled out, Dyche named an unchanged line-up from the side that beat Leeds last weekend and they set about their task with tempo and intensity despite a curious early yellow card shown by Taylor to Amadou Onana, seemingly following consultation with VAR Chris Kavanagh.

Everton’s tactic of getting the ball down the left flank to provide service to the centre almost paid dividends in the eighth minute when Iwobi arrived to meet Dwight McNeil’s cross but his shot from close range lacked conviction and Emiliano Martinez was able to make a fairly comfortable save.

Two minutes later, Watkins underlined the threat he posed as he latched onto a ball over the top that left the lead-footed Conor Coady for dead but Jordan Pickford came off his line quickly to make an important block.

Former Everton man, Lucas Digne, swept a direct free-kick over the crossbar in the 13th minute but as the volume and anger from the home crowd grew with every horrendous decision from Taylor and his assistants, the hosts started to build some pressure on Villa’s back line.

Maupay should have hit the target from a corner won by Iwobi but glanced his header wide in the 29th minute and then Martinez had to pull off a magnificent save to deny Onana when the Belgian met Vitalii Mykolenko’s cross and the Argentinian tipped his header over.

On the stroke of half-time, Everton opened Villa up superbly when Iwobi clipped a well-weighted ball behind the defence for McNeil but he elected not to hit it early with his weaker right foot and instead laid up Maupay who could only curl a shot tamely into the keeper’s arms.

10 minutes into the second half, the Toffees thought they had broken the deadlock when Iwobi’s miscued shot ricocheted back off the prone Ezri Konsa and when the ball was played back into the six-yard box, Maupay lunged at the loose ball but didn’t make sufficient contact to force it home and Tyrone Mings hacked it off the line.

Four minutes later, it was James Tarkowki’s turn to hook it clear from under his own crossbar after Digne had got in behind Iwobi and Seamus Coleman, crossed for the unmarked Watkins to head goal-wards but Pickford did brilliantly to claw it onto the post.

Less than two minutes later, however, Buendia’s first contribution after coming off the bench was to prod the ball to John McGinn in the area where Gueye felled him and left referee Taylor with no option but to point to the spot. Watkins made no mistake, rifling his penalty into the roof of Pickford’s net.

Dyche eventually responded by withdrawing one of his most creative players in the form of Iwobi in favour of Gray and then replaced Maupay with Ellis Simms as the young substitute had a decent effort at equalising when he connected with Abdoulaye Doucouré’s cross but couldn’t keep his volley down.

Villa, meanwhile, looked to try and capitalise on Everton’s need to push forward and Douglas Luiz drove over from distance before Buendia killed the contest with Villa’s second.

The midfielder twisted, turned and then easily evaded Coady in the box before rifling a shot inside the near post that gave Pickford no chance.

Tarkowski had a late chance off a corner but headed a couple of feet over and Martinez smothered a free-kick from Gray down by his post but it wasn’t to be for Everton.

The Blues didn’t deserve to lose this match. On another day, if they had scored the first goal, they might well have gone on to win, just as they did against Arsenal and against Leeds. The strategy of feeding the increasingly effective McNeil down the left looked as though it might deliver a goal but without a striker with truly predatory instincts in the middle or someone else in the ranks with the confidence to capitalise on good chances, the chances went begging.

As such, Everton will continue to live or die by fine margins this season and they will need greater fortune than they had today in order to grind out important points. With the likes of West Ham and Leeds winning, results that dumped the Toffees back into the bottom three, games like next weekend’s at the City Ground against Nottingham Forest take on huge significance.

The team’s away record is atrocious but there’s no better time to start improving it under a manager who at least has a plan. There’s enough about this side to get amongst teams and create chances; they just have to believe they can start taking them.

Reader Comments (21)

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Tony Everan
1 Posted 26/02/2023 at 21:54:17
I counted 32 attacking players we were ‘linked' with over the last two windows on the two respective rumour mills. A few looked like they would make a real difference. We didn't get the player we need. I think this was down to being hamstrung financially, and not prioritising correctly with the funds available. This and the general incompetence in running the club that has somehow been allowed to become normal.

Where do we go from here? Drop Maupay, play Simms, same system. He's young, on an upward curve still, almost 6ft-3in, scores goals. His obvious top level inexperience means it's no silver bullet, but can it be less effective than what we've been producing?

Here's a left-field suggestion: Neil Critchley worked very well with Ellis at Blackpool, got him learning and playing better. Get Critchley, who has just been sacked, in to work with Ellis for a few months on all aspects of his game. Try to take him up a level.

I'm clutching at straws, but jeez we need to find a way to score some goals.

Don Alexander
2 Posted 27/02/2023 at 00:50:59
I don't want to denigrate anyone posting on ToffeeWeb but I have a very strong feeling that as we all comment, day-in & day-out, on this player or that player, this system or that system, this manager or that manager, we are all unwittingly coming within the chronic circle of insanity espoused many decades ago by a certain genius named Einstein.

He more or less said, "to repeat the same unsuccessful opinion time after time and expect different results is the definition of insanity". And it is.

Criticising players, managers, systems is utterly pointless whilst we still have the same useless morons in Monaco and the boardroom stealing a living from us.

That's where the entire focus of complaint needs to be, for ages to come.

Whilst the useless team tries to flounder on…

Eric Myles
3 Posted 27/02/2023 at 06:24:25
If you believe Einstein said that Don, I'll bet you believe Marie Antoinette said 'let them eat cake' (not in quotation marks as she never said it).

But I do agree with what you're saying.

Alan McGuffog
4 Posted 27/02/2023 at 07:24:37

I bet you don't believe Bob Holness played sax on Baker Street either! 😉

Mal van Schaick
5 Posted 27/02/2023 at 09:07:07
I thought that we threw everything at them in the first half and were unlucky not to go in at half time with a two goal lead, and obviously that’s were the wheels came off. Our inability to finish in the first half and a resurgent Villa in the second half did for us.

All we can do is move on and see if we can do the double over Arsenal on Wednesday. I don’t think that we are a forlorn hope in getting something from the game, although our record against them away from home isn't great. A point would be good, three points would help our cause.

Tony Abrahams
6 Posted 27/02/2023 at 10:12:34
There is only two things you can do in this life. Feel sorry for yourself and blame everyone, or roll up your sleeves, work hard, fight, and try to find a way to survive.

The dereliction of “care” has been going on for years, unless you are talking about people who always made sure they “took care” of themselves and their nepotistic friends, but those frauds will be gone soon, so all our efforts, have got to concentrate on the team.

Of course it will be sickening watching on Wednesday, if Bill Kenwright and his merry men, plus little miss dynamite, are going to be seen in the Arsenal director’s box, with deadpan serious faces, trying to win the sympathy award… But blaming them now, won’t help anyone whilst we have still got a chance of staying in the premier league.

Slagging the board won’t save us, (keep up the protests before the game) but getting behind the team might, just save us, and this has got to be the only thing that really matters right now.

James Marshall
7 Posted 27/02/2023 at 10:29:13
I'm sick to death of supporting plucky little Everton who only do any good when people are shouting loud for them.

Nobody comes to my work and cheers me on to perform better.

If you're relying on your home crowd to get you through games, then you're truly screwed.

Rob Baker
8 Posted 27/02/2023 at 11:52:53
April's run of games will be pivotal towards survival. We have a horrible set of March fixtures vs big 6 teams.
Bill Fairfield
9 Posted 27/02/2023 at 11:59:27
It’s so frustrating not having a goal scorer. If Ollie Watkins had been in our team,I think we’d have well won this game. A solution needs to found asap,or I fear the worst.
Pete Neilson
10 Posted 27/02/2023 at 12:14:04
Rob (8) Bournemouth, Southampton, Villa, Wolves, Leicester, West Ham, Brighton have all shown how poor our squad is. Dont worry about playing the top six teams, there are simply NO easy games for us.
Mark Dunford
11 Posted 27/02/2023 at 12:38:22
This is a really sobering, accurate assessment of where Everton are. A team that is incapable of scoring more than one goal a game will lose just about every time.

We all know where the blame lies for this. It is somehow both pathetic and fitting that the Board feel they can only attend away games. The mighty have fallen a considerable distance and now the people are the only ones left at the People's Club

Lampard should have gone after the Wolves defeat and certainly after the farcical trouncing by Brighton. Seemed a nice bloke who tried hard to make it work, yet it was transparently clear he'd failed by early January.

I'm more pessimistic than at any point since I first watched Everton - and I'm 59 so that is a very long time.

Jim Bennings
12 Posted 27/02/2023 at 12:46:21
Even if Lampard had gone after Wolves or Brighton game, I still don't think we had any intentions of signing attacking players, that's why Dyche was brought here with no time left.

It was a carefully planned bullshit circle by the Evertons board as usual.

Don't tell me they didn't have deals set in place as soon as January 1st arrived knowing full well that we needed goals last August, but chose to convince ourselves that Calvert-Lewin would somehow become a regular that he hasn't been now for nearly two years.

We are run like a corner shop.

Nick Page
13 Posted 27/02/2023 at 13:12:04
Jim we’ve (well not us personally but Bullshit Bill and Co) been convincing ourselves Calvert Lewin has been our goalscorer since 2017. 20 fucking 17…..such is the complete and utter failure of these people running Everton Football Club. In all that time we haven’t brought in one actual PL level striker ready to compete for places and yet somehow spent over half a billion.

It’s so bad it almost seems deliberate because nobody could actually run a club that badly without trying. Especially one that is apparently the worlds biggest blue! I fucking hate Kenwright with every bone in my body for what he’s done to EFC over a 20+ year period. I just can’t see us staying up without the goals and that is on his head. EFC both before and after the money has been the worst run football club in the history of the game due to one man.

Barry Hesketh
14 Posted 27/02/2023 at 13:35:07
I hadn't realised that we only have six matches left to play at Goodison and eight away from home. That's very sobering because our home form is rather dodgy but the away form is atrocious.

Given that three visitors to Goodison are Man City, Spurs and Newcastle - in our situation, very difficult to play against, that leaves Brentford and Fulham - both pretty awkward to play against and Bournemouth in the final match.

Away from home we have Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Brighton, therefore the visits to Forest, Leicester, Palace and Wolves are all vital games we somehow have to pick up maximum points from at least two or maybe three of those fixtures.

It's not over until the fat lady sings, however, that really was a very damaging loss against Villa, given other teams around us won too. If the rest of the season follows the same points per game as we currently have (0.875), it will only earn us another 12 points giving us 33 as a final total, not nearly enough to keep us up.

James Newcombe
15 Posted 27/02/2023 at 13:50:48
We have to try something else. Maupay might have worked out alone up top if he was a couple of yards quicker, but he isn't... And he's certainly not a target man which would have been even better. Should have kept Rondon if we weren't signing anybody.

Still, if we're going down; let's go down swinging.

Bill Gall
16 Posted 27/02/2023 at 14:40:40
I am with all supporters in blaming the Board and Owner in not making earlier moves in bringing in a new manager earlier, even though I supported the hiring of Lampard.
But what was more irresponsible,as has been stated, was the knowledge, knowing the lack of scoring power, there seemed no movement until the end of the transfer window to bring in another striker when it became obvious that relying on DCL's fitness was like relying on your existence depended on winning the Lotto.
There is another problem in the team and that is the 6 players ahead of the back 4, none of them are reliable goal scorers with only Gray scoring spectacular odd goals.
Even if DCL becomes fit he will be closely marked so we will still need a poacher type scorer to pick up the pieces, and this is where whoever has been in charge of recruiting has failed. I understand that different managers have different styles of play but surly goal scoring should be a priority of more than 1 man.
I don't blame the players picked ( though I most probable have after another poor display ) they don't deliberately play poor, the blame is at the top where " Failure To Act " brings " Failure to Succeed "

Danny O’Neill
17 Posted 27/02/2023 at 15:05:50
I've had a very turbulent weekend that took up the best part of two days following the blues.

But it's gone. It's happened and I can't change it. I've said all I can say on the last match.

The next two matches are what are first and forefront for me now and in 48 hours I'll be in the Emirates.

I'm probably still a bit emotional, but if that board has the sheer audacity to show up after not being at Goodision.

I'll leave it there. I will keep my language clean and my support for the club I adore respectable.

Fran Mitchell
18 Posted 27/02/2023 at 19:13:52
We are in big trouble because we don't have a single player who can score, it's just so shocking.

Doucoure does a lot of good work, but time and time again, when he gets near the box, it looks like someone has tied the laces of his boots together.

McNeill does excellent work getting crosses in, but he is so one footed that it's quite easy to stop him from shooting when in a decent position.

Iwobi has decent skill on the ball and is our most creative player, but has a powder-puff shot.

Maupay can be a nuisance, but can't stike a ball with conviction, is slow, and lacks 'striker's instinct'.

Grey has skill, and can finish in one-on-one situations, but is generally too weak and too slow on the ball to be truly effective.

Onana has great engine and good skill, but rarely threatens to hit the target.

If we are to stay up, I believe we must simply gamble on Ellis Simms. He is the only one, outside of a fit DCL (which seems as likely as Dixie Dean returning), who might be able to get 4-5 goals. Just keep playing him and hope he can adapt and develop. He may or may not be good enough in the long term, but in the short term he is our only chance. He may not even play well, but he might just get on the end of one of McNeill crosses.

Danny O’Neill
19 Posted 27/02/2023 at 19:42:01
Let's see what happens on Wednesday Fran. That's all I'm focussed on right now. Then I'll switch to Sunday.

You do make fair points, but I can't really think beyond that right now.

Anything can happen and I'm not going to the Emirates with thousands of other Evertonians on a Wednesday evening without wanting to and believing we can get something from the match. We can.

I can't keep going there and getting nothing. At some point, my luck has to change.

Laurie Hartley
20 Posted 27/02/2023 at 20:44:58
Fran # 18,

Your suggestion that Sean Dyche should persist with Simms is sound. Both managers have persisted with Maupay and he has scored 1 goal.

The future is looking bleak; time for our manager to shuffle the pack.

Paul Kossoff
21 Posted 27/02/2023 at 23:37:11
Alan 4, The man behind the saxophone was Raphael Ravenscroft

Bob Holness played the guitar solo after he asked Gerry could he have a p..😀

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