Hopes of playing Champions League football next season dealt massive blow as lack of squad depth and tired legs well and truly caught up with Everton
Lacklustre Everton Score Massive Own Goal
As the self destruct button was firmly pressed in a calamitous first half against an impressive Southampton side, our hopes of playing Champions League football next season were dealt a near fatal blow.
I don’t wish to make this article negative, having typically gone into meltdown on Saturday, choking on my own rage at the lack of urgency in Everton’s performance. We saved our worst for when we needed it least, yes we beat Man Utd and Arsenal but ultimately both results were undone by uncharacteristic performances against Palace and Southampton.
It is worthy to acknowledge what has been a fantastic first season under Roberto Martinez. Accumulating a record number of points playing a style of football that takes us back to the sixties.
It may seem straw clutching today but its important to remember how far we have come for this season with a mouth-watering future ahead under Roberto Martinez.
We got off to a horrendous start inside a minute with an own goal from Antolin Alcaraz. Doing a tremendous impression of Keith Houchen, Alcaraz’s stunning diving header at the wrong end putting us one down on 53 seconds.
Yes these things happen, but what followed was an exercise in complete frustration as we struggled to inject any pace into our play.
Looking like Mike Basett’s England against Egypt for large periods, Southampton, a tricky side at the best of times, caused us lots of problems through the movement of Lambert, Lallana and Gallagher up top.
Our defence started badly and got worse from there onsimply hit the self destruct button as our champions league hopes suffered a hammer blow. Something about must-win games and Everton; we rarely turn up for them.
To be honest I wasn’t concerned about our defence at the start of play but while Stones has stepped in marvelously for Jagielka with the experience of Distin at his side, it was naive to think the under-cooked Alcaraz added to Stones inexperience would be enough to keep out a fluid Saints team.
We were lucky to stay at 1-0 as Southampton let us off the hook in the 21st minute, as Lambert once again assisting, coming inside from the left before cutting back into the path of the onrushing Davis. Only for the midfielder to slice his effort wide of Howard’s left hand post with the goal at his mercy.
Our first half all-round Everton-ness was summed up beautifully in the 31st minute when Nathaniel Clyne’s cross was cushioned in from the usually outstanding Coleman. Looking like he was attempting to head the ball back to Howard. However, instead of finding the American he planted it low into the bottom corner after Alcaraz and Stones had missed Clyne’s centre.
The toffees second own goal in less than one half of football.
Lightening had struck twice in a first half display a million miles away from the one 6 days earlier against United. Such a contrast in performance was shocking to see and with the possibility to move back into forth, it was annoying at best to see so many players have an off day.
Some hope emerged in the form of Deulofeu as having had zero impact against Clyne in the opening exchanges, he switched flanks and instantly got the better of Shaw to whip in a great ball right on the money. Only for Lukaku to get too much purchase on it and head over from 6 yards out.
Amazingly Deulofeu went back over to the left where he resumed his ineffectiveness against the combative Clyne. Baffling.
Deulofeu and Barkley were substituted as Everton looked to make an impact on the game. To be fair anyone of the players could have been subbed at half time such was the level of performance but Deulofeu’s selfish approach wasn’t helping a desperate team showing. Barkley was also extremely quiet in a game that cried out for someone to get hold of the ball and drag us back into it.
McGeady and Osman came on and things marginally improved. We were denied an absolute stonewall penalty when Osman was brought down by Lovren, Everton’s fortunes summed up by Osman receiving a yellow card instead of a penalty award.
Further chances to get back in the game were passed up and another penalty shout was turned down by Oliver as McCarthy was pinned down by Lovren. Another Lukaku chance went begging as he headed straight at Boruc when well-placed from McGeady’s centre. Southampton could then have made it three with Lambert’s low free kick striking the post.
In all honesty we didn’t deserve anything. So frustrating that we have followed memorable performances against Arsenal and Man Utd only to let ourselves down at home to Palace and again at Southampton. Classic Everton some might say, and while perspective ensures we can’t be too down about our season, the sense of a missed opportunity again cuts deep once more.
Did we really beat United with a stunning performance just 7 days ago? This was as poor as we have been under
say it is the hope that kills you, sarcastically, I can see the benefit of Moyes sides now, psychologically, having no expectations or hopes other than seventh placed or best-of-the-rest finishes meant defeats like this would be brushed off.
A huge positive was the presence of 3 youngsters who look to have a big future at Goodison. Luke Garbutt came on in the final minute to make his Premier League debut and with places on the bench for Ty Browning and 16-year-old Ryan Ledson, there is yet more cause for optimism in the quality of our youth coming through.
Roberto has us dreaming and I’ve been floating for most of the season. Leaving me exposed to irrational knee-jerk reactions when we get beat like Saturday, but patience is needed. We are only going to get stronger under Martinez. Expect fireworks next season Blues.
But for a few questionable results, we would have been in the hunt for the title in our transition season.
Its clear this Everton side is very close to being a formidable outfit but they looked as if they had run there race with the injuries to our two centre backs compounding a lethargic display.
Squad strengthening can help eradicate these issues and having witnessed 14 years of let downs under this current board it’s finally time for Bill to put down his book of Boys pen stories and get out his book with Everton’s account number on it.
Back this manager in the summer and I’ve never been more convinced the good times will roll, if the board don’t realise this now they never will. Everton’s promise under Martinez deserves an ambitious board in the summer.
We can still qualify for Champions League football but it is now highly unlikely. We have to ensure European football as the bare minimum now. Goodison and the fans need European nights.
The experiences they bring, theis the least a promising season under Martinez deserves with the added incentive of direct qualification for the Champions League for next seasons Europa League winners.
The huge frustration comes from Everton having done wonders to claw Arsenal back only to hand back the incentive so meekly at Southampton. Arsenal are red-hot favorites now but we must remain focus and finish the season strongly to leave this most promising of seasons with as much momentum as possible – just like in 1983-84.
Defeats under Martinez feel like they hurt twice as much as they ever did under Moyes. The Catalan has restored our belief, our confidence that we can re-write history.
We have a genuine foundation, however investment is needed now more than ever to springboard our great club to title contenders.
Roberto Martinez “We always look at the biggest points tally we can get. Today is a setback but we will learn from it and we will be ready for next Saturday.”
Lets hope the board are ready to write some cheques in the summer.