Wanted: Everton’s Defence, Last Seen In 2013-14 Season
Defensive Fragility Compounded By Howard Horror Show
Everton 2 Crystal Palace 3 : Ugly Defeat Paints A Stark Reality
What has happened?
Well, the tone has changed from Roberto’s revolution this, School of Science that. And Yes, I’ve been guilty of it more than most. I’ve been saying we’re onto something special this season and while that may well still be the case, right now the plaudits are going on hold.
If things don’t improve defensively the only thing that’s going to be special this season will be our goals against column. A sickening home defeat to Crystal Palace, who yet again won 3-2 at Goodison, has officially made it a poor start to the season for Roberto Martinez’s men.
I’ll admit I have let emotion in on this article so forgive me if it sounds like I change my mind every five minutes about the direction of our team this season but, such is the inconsistent nature of our results and performances, I’m finding it hard to keep level-headed about just what is in store for us this season.
I’m truly angry writing this – never the best I’ll admit – but for me the team selection was really poor from Roberto. It smacked of arrogance. While he was forced into changes with Coleman not recovering from the head injury he picked up on Thursday, this looked to me like he thought he could play any team and
omission of Mirallas and Naismith was ridiculous frankly. We needed to keep the momentum going from Thursday and so many changes was not helpful. Not that I’m blind to the fact that all three of Palace’s goals came from mistakes.
To start with Leon Osman in the midfield was asking for trouble. Leon has the support of a lot of fans and I’ll never agree but I understand why but it is surely time to be looking at Ryan Ledson and others from our youth development squad as options ahead of Osman. It feels like he is going to have a Phil Neville moment soon, and nobody wants that.
We had no cover defensively for Stones, a square peg in a round hole at right back. I would not have started Atsu in front ofexasperated the problem with the youngster receiving zero protection against Bolasie and players who tore us a new one six months ago. Where was the lesson learned Roberto? This was poor.
Naismith should have started on the right to offer Stones a level of protection. John Stones is not a right back and this is why we needed to address this problem in the summer. We’ve had to sacrifice our best centre back to go and play right back because of a lack of options. This summer we did well but it was never a great window and now we are seeing why.
We look incapable of defending against anyone. Palace hadn’t won a game going into this match but they knew defensively we were there for the taking. It’s league 1 standard at best and we will not be able to out-score teams that often. To achieve what we want this season, this has to be addressed NOW!
It was so annoying because for 10-15 minutes we looked like we could name our score, moving the ball around well, we came close with Eto’o and Atsu before taking a deserved lead on 10 minutes.
Moving my disgust aside for one minute, we did score a lovely goal through Lukaku after he latched onto Osman’s deft pass and howing his confidence with a low finish under Speroni.
A great start that turned out to be a false dawn. Personally it’s the last time I laugh at United and Liverpool when they get battered because we managed to usurp both of them with what happened next.
Our irritating habit of not looking to press on after going in front is something that needs to be addressed. Right now we need all the goals we can get hold off with our defence incapable of shutting teams out.
I realise the team has to defend better as a unit but we can’t legislate for the kind of mistake that led to Palace’s equalizer. James McArthur somehow stealing in between a hesitant Stones and hopelessly indecisive Howard to win a penalty after the American had brought him down.
Jedinak, going for the best penalty of the season award with a thunderbolt of a spot kick to drew the Londoners level to stun Everton with Palace barely registering in a dominant first half hour for the blues.
The huge cracks soon began to appear with Bolasie feeding Ledley who saw his 25 yard shot deflected onto the bar/post with Howard stranded. No conviction in our defending whatsoever, the defenders, for me, now expect to concede.
I get that this sounds knee jerk and irrational but this chronic defending has not relented since pre-season. Something has seriously gone wrong.
The second half started with Palace in the ascendency and Everton, in particular the defence, we’re looking like people who’d blocked each-other on twitter. The confidence, despite a clean sheet at the Hawthorne’s, has now completely drained from our back four. We look nervous every time someone attacks us and that crucial defensive solidity has become a distant memory.
Palace took the lead with another gift wrapped goal. Tim Howard, one step forward and five steps back currently in his goalkeeping, flapped horrendously at Kelly’s cross leaving Campbell to get a feathered headed touch seeing the ball over the line almost apologetically with Jagielka unable to clear.
Groundhog day was once again playing at Goodison Park.
To plagiarize a Bill Murray quote from the film……“When we beat Arsenal 3-0, that was a pretty good day, why couldn’t we have that one over and over and over.”
No defense for that joke, just like there wasn’t for Palace’s 3rd goal.
Everton had come close to equalising prior to meltdown with Lukaku and Barry missing chances before the killer came in the 69th minute. Leon Osman seemingly ignoring 35,000 chants of “Man On!” before losing possession to Puncheon who fed Bolasie with an inch perfect pass for our tormentor in chief to make it 3-1.
I’m sorry Tim (you looked at fault for this goal too), you and your defence were looking like goldfish at feeding time as the Palace players wheeled off in celebration scarcely believing what was going on.
Evertonians can take defeat but when it’s as lame as this, that’s when the anger comes in. For me, I can forgive players out of form, but there is an alarming collective lack of desire to keep teams out this season.
I truly don’t know how this season will pan out but something drastic has to change. Namely the mentality. Thou shall not pass would be a good place to start.
The blues, now with nothing to lose pressed forward – something we should have done more of when a goal up – came close with Naismith failing to connect to fellow sub’ Mirallas’ cross.
Scott Dann then made a crucial block to deny Lukaku before Baines raised hopes of a dramatic finale with his second penalty of the week. Converting with ease after Dann had felled James McCarthy in the box.
Everton hunted for the equalizer. A well taken short corner resulted in the ball being played out to Jagielka who shot wide. What a goal would have done for his confidence. Lukaku’s sliced effort across the Gwladys Street box was as dangerous as Everton got as Palace were in no mood to give up their lead through 6 minutes of injury time.
Game over, and like everyone else my passion for the club results in a horrible feeling when you lose a game. Especially one we were expected to win and were winning before that same-old-same-old feeling returned to leave us on 5 points from as many games.
FT: Everton 2 Crystal Palace 3
Where do we go from here? Our senior players have now got to step up and take responsibility for what is going on defensively. I think we have to forget about attacking so recklessly. While our defence is founded on quick sand we have no base from which to build.
The first thing has to be that John Stones remains at centre back. He is our best defender, something Jags and Distin need to have a serious think about. If Coleman isn’t fit then bring in Browning who was supposedly ready for the first team last season. An inexperienced right back is better than no right back at all.
We have the quality to score at anytime but the focus has got to be on becoming more solid and be more reserved in our attacking. Before fans say that is akin to Moyes’ tactics, it’s not.
It’s common sense. We simply can’t go on conceding 3 goals every game and if we can’t, our ambitions will be restricted to staying in the league rather than troubling the topthe top clearly but you get the point.
We have Swansea away next in an important league cup tie but with Liverpool and Man Utd up next, all away from home, with a trip to Krasnodor sandwiched in between, this represents a nervy time for Evertonians. The anxiety over our league hopes is growing and it’s clear we need eye-catching results at Anfield and Old Trafford to get back on track.
We can do it but we have got to get our stubbornness back. Until it arrives we are going to continue to feel frustrated with what is going on this season.
This result hurt and we don’t want more of it.
“It was very uncharacteristic of us to concede three goals with three errors, but even then the character was incredible and we almost managed to get something out of the game.” Roberto Martinez
Uncharacteristic? Lets hope we’ve got our defensive appetite back and quickly, before next Sunday’s game at Anfield becomes a free-for-all.