Everton, bereft of leadership, concentration and a coherent gameplan yet again, were comfortably beaten for the sixth time in nine Premier League games as the malaise that has flatlined their season deepened. The spotlight will inevitably fall on a manager who appears powerless to react to the slump or galvanise his team but players who are going through the motions at Goodison shoulder responsibility too. They have become the epitome of a nothing team.
In just 74 words, he has encapsulated the feelings of so, so many Evertonians, growing increasingly fed up with our once proud football club continuing to disappoint with alarmingly regularity. And those final nine words read like a gravestone epitaph.
Being an Evertonian in recent years has been far from easy. The club has stumbled through four managers in the past five seasons and is again, disturbingly and worryingly at a crossroads. What direction are we going in and do we stick with Marco Silva or make another managerial change?
Saturday’s loss to Wolves appeared – to me from my seat in the Main Stand – to be the game that might just have broken the resolve of many Blues. With twenty minutes still to play, huge numbers of fans headed for the exit disillusioned by what they were watching, a team playing with no apparent plan, no pace and defending uncomfortably again from set pieces.
The post-match radio phone-ins were almost unanimously critical of the manager and the way he sends the team out to play, without pace and almost suicidally defending with poorly executed zonal marking.
Contrast that aspect alone with the way Wolves employed it. Whenever we got the chance to throw a corner or free kick into their penalty area, their back five and in particular the three centre backs knew exactly where they should be and what they were doing individually and collectively.
Their second goal served to highlight the difference between well-coached and employed zonal marking and the mess that has been set piece defending this season by Everton. Moutinho chipped a simple free kick into the space for a forward to run onto and Raul Jimenez duly obliged, escaping the attention of Coleman and Richarlison while the rest of the Blues defence were, not for the first time this season, blind to the threat, static and unable to prevent the goal.
I seem to recall from my long, distant schooldays, defenders being instructed, “be first to the ball.”
Wolves went into the game with a clear plan and evidently with all their players fully on board and confident in their ability to execute said plan. Wolves were efficient without being spectacular, played with belief and at pace and always looked threatening on the break.
Everton for all their possession, 64%, didn’t appear to have a plan. Gomes worked hard and scored a stunning goal to bring the Blues level, but was rather fortunate not to see a second yellow moments later with an unseen, by referee Mason, foul on Jota.
But too many other players went missing in action. What has happened to Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson? Richarlison was largely a spectator and we simply cannot carry passengers any longer.
A huge question that needs to be asked and answered is this – who on the Everton medical and coaching staff approved the selection of Leighton Baines? We all know Lucas Digne was unavailable due to his one game suspension, but picking a patently obviously less than 100% match fit Baines was, quite frankly, a ridiculous decision.
The player will almost always ‘pass’ themselves fit to play, they want to play, so I’m not blaming Baines.
But following the way he left the game at Huddersfield on Tuesday, grimacing in pain, surely the medical staff need to be asked some searching questions. Baines lasted 36 minutes during which time he conceded the penalty for the opening goal and looked increasingly uncomfortable until finally indicating the need to come off.
How on earth could one of the manager, his coaching staff and the club medical staff not have foreseen this likelihood?
How often do we hear the phrase, ‘Play your strongest side’? You don’t need the benefit of hindsight on this occasion to know that Jonjoe Kenny should have started yesterday with Baines, at best, on the bench.
Looking ahead, our next five home games see us take on Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.
What’s the betting we hear someone use the often quoted, ‘the players will raise their game for these ‘big’ games’?
My question is why do they have to raise their game?
Shouldn’t they be playing at their highest effort level every game?
Shouldn’t they take every opposition as seriously as the likes of City and Liverpool?
Will City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and United ‘raise’ their game to play Everton – No. And the reason why… because they play at the ‘raised’ level every game.
Did Wolves raise their game on Saturday – No, they didn’t. They had a firm and well drilled game plan and executed it almost flawlessly.
Let’s assume for a moment that any of those next five home game opponents do have an off day, they all have managers capable of getting or making their players ‘raise’ their game – be honest do we? Andy Hunter suggests in those 74 words that we don’t, and there are thousands of Evertonians who will all too readily agree.
Guardiola, Klopp, Sarri, Emery, and even Solskjaer to a lesser degree than the others, have all shown they have what it takes to instil a belief into and extract a greater effort from their players. I venture the opinion that sadly, Marco Silva does not have this skill set… yet.
And if he hasn’t got that skill set yet, how long is it going to take for him to acquire and exercise it and more importantly, can Everton afford to wait that long?
Sadly Marco Silva seems to be demonstrating he is a man incapable of changing set ideas. All his teams in England – Hull Watford and Everton – all have or do play zonal marking and all leaked goals from set pieces. Lots of goals. Regular goals. This is a man who does not (or worse will not/cannot) learn from his mistakes…
It’s like being at the fairground and the same rides come round again!
There is a nicely argued article on www.GrandOldTeam.com – saying if you don’t give a manager/coach time then you are forever in transition from one set of ideas to another. Very fair comment, and in the interest of balance so that everyone can make up their own mind, here’s the link to it…
But the harsh, stark reality of Saturday was Wolves brushed us aside, not by playing dazzling unanswerable football, just a thought-out, well executed game plan.
I and so many other Blues cannot see ours. I and so many other Blues cannot (yet) see his philosophy. But, if this – what we’re watching – is the level he thinks is good – then there’s the door son. All the best, and take your training and medical staff with you.
And as a final thought for everyone reading… just how many wins and points do you honestly expect this Everton to earn from City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and United?
Originally published on my personal blog – andycostigan.wordpress.com