1st half errors enough to condemn Blues to first Swans defeat in Premier League
Everton improved in 2nd half but crucial goal and home form missing – Toffees have won just three of their last 14 at Goodison
Stones back pass leads to penalty – is it time to take him out of the firing line?
Everton slumped to their first defeat of 2016 after a poor and error ridden 1st half helped Swansea to victory.
Roberto Martinez’s side were slow out of the traps and fell behind inside the 17th minute to a Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty. Gareth Barry equalised with a neat flick from a corner which looked to have been helped in by Jack Cork.
But more hesitation in the defensive ranks allowed Andre Ayew to fire in what would be the winning goal, his strike taking a decisive deflection off Stones.
Everton took control in the 2nd half but passed up a glut of chances to draw level. Gerard Deulofeu provided the opportunities from the right but chance after chance went begging, including a last-kick-of-the-game sitter from substitute Seamus Coleman.
The defeat leaves the Toffees in 12th place on 29 points, and looking precariously over their shoulder as the scramble to avoid relegation hots up.
Home form continues to elude Blues as defensive woes persist
Everton had a fine record against Swansea City, up until Sunday. Every side seem to have their bogey team, and in the Premier League Everton have been to Swansea what the likes of Leeds United and Coventry City have been to the Toffees in decades past.
Sunday was the first time Everton have lost to the Welsh side in the league, and while the evaporation of such a record is disappointing, what should concern fans more are the records starting to mount up as a result of the 2-1 reverse.
Everton have conceded 34 goals so far this season -the joint 6th worst- with 22 of those coming at Goodison Park (the most conceded at home in this Premier League campaign). And in the 12 home games of this 2015/16 season, only three have ended in victory for the Toffees. While their away form has undoubtedly been more impressive, the same amount of wins on the road gives Everton a measly return of six wins in 23 league games.
Martinez’s sides haven’t exactly been renowned for their defensive solidity (that’s putting it mildly) – would any of us be surprised if they ended up conceding the most goals of any team by the end of the season?
Stones error is latest highlight in a patch of poor form – a spell out of the side could be the perfect remedy
On the balance of 90 minutes, Everton’s defending was far from the atrocities we’ve seen during the visits of Stoke and Leicester. Yes, Stones put Howard under enormous and unnecessary pressure which ultimately led to the penalty. And while Swansea barely had to break sweat to lead twice, we can all agree we’ve seen worse from our back five.
But it only takes a moment to concede and Everton are showing a shocking trend of unforced errors leading directly to goals under Martinez. Teams have quickly worked out (indeed worked it out last season) that pressing Everton high up ultimately leads to goalscoring opportunities through calamitous errors.
Part of Martinez’s job as manager is to find solutions, and with Stones under so much pressure from fans and pundits up and down the country, would it be the worst idea to drop Stones for a couple of games?
Players young and old go through periods of poor form, and despite his unnerving approach to multiple Cruyff turns in his own six-yard box, even Stones cannot keep up such a high level of performance all season. Ramiro Funes Mori on the other hand is at the other end of the form spectrum, with another solid and composed performance against Swansea. Could a Mori-Jagielka partnership be any worse than what we’re seeing at the moment?
Such a change is unlikely to banish Everton’s defensive frailties altogether (I believe this defensive vulnerability is an inherent and unshakeable part of Martinez’s current possession-obsessed style, exacerbated by a keeper in the pensionable age of his career).
However it may help the 21-year-old Stones rediscover the kind of form that initially helped him cement his first-team place.