Everton could only manage a point against Watford as the FA Cup semi-finalists played out a bore draw.
After a dull 45 minutes, the game came to life in stoppage time with both goals at Vicarage Road scored in the only minute of time added on.
James McCarthy forced Miguel Britos into a mistake in his own penalty area, allowing the Irishman to fire home. But within the same minute of injury-time Jose Holebas headed in from a corner to level.
Chances in the second half were equally scarce, with Romelu Lukaku coming closest for the Toffees when he struck the crossbar while Joel saved from a long-range Ben Watson effort at the death.
Message is loud and clear from Blues’ banners
Perhaps the most exciting development at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon was that which unfolded -or rather unfurled- in the away end.
Two banners held aloft by the travelling Evertoninas gave those whose footballing interests do not immediately gravitate to L4 a microcosmic glimpse of current sentiments on the terraces.
One reading “Baines Is One of Us” referred to last week’s comments from Roberto Martinez, who revealed that his full-back had apologised for his own comments made after the Man United defeat. The second, speaking by and large for itself, read “Martinez Out” – little explanation needed.
The banners in their simplicity summed up the feelings of a growing section of support who are fed up with two continuous seasons of under-achievement under Martinez. While such voices may have come from a dissenting few a month or two ago, the messages seem to be coming loud and clear now from a majority who have had enough.
McCarthy must do more to warrant starting place
McCarthy deserved a lot of credit for his part in Everton’s goal. Not that anyone else but the over-obliging Britos took part in the goal; the defender losing the ability to stand up to present McCarthy with a one-on-one with Heurelho Gomes.
But the pressure he put the ungainly defender under was down to his own tireless running, a trait he is well known for at Everton. But the problem is, that’s pretty much all he’s known for.
We know he can run and that his enthusiasm to regain possession is a useful tool in offering his defenders protection (the Irishman made a particularly important last-ditch tackle in the second half when his defenders seemed lost at sea). But he needs to offer more.
More goals, more assists, more chances created, more forward passes. So far this season he’s created just 11 chances for his team mates and completed 928 passes (66% of which have been played forward). Compare this to his ageing midfield partner Gareth Barry: 27 chances created, 1463 passes, 86% of which played forward. Despite the admirable qualities that earned him his first goal of the seaosn, it’s not unreasonable to expect more.
Mirallas showed more quality in 10 mins than Deulofeu could in 80
Kevin Mirallas has been used to the view from the bench this season and there seems to be a difference of opinion on the winger among Evertonians.
Arrogant, selfish, idiotic on the one hand. Maverick, inspirational, immensely talented on the other. However you’d describe him, his relationship with the Martinez at Everton has become frayed after two seasons of disagreement.
Martinez has preferred his countryman Deulofeu to operate on the wings up to now, and his blistering form from October to December certainly warranted his inclusion.
But after a torrid time at Vicarage Road, where promising positions were undermined by woeful deliveries, is it time for Mirallas to get a fair crack of the whip?
I’ll be the first to acknowledge the Belgian has let his manager and fans down on many an occasion over the last two seasons (the missed penalty against West Brom, Jan 2015; the sending off against Swansea in Spetember and the first half dismissal against West Ham in March), but Mirallas showed more quality in his final ball in 10 minutes than Deulofeu managed in 80.
With the side in somewhat of a rut, what have we got to lose?
Delusional Martinez losing the plot
Martinez’s post match comments have always been an arena for absurd analysis and mind-boggling hyperbole. And his comments after the wretched 90 minutes of football at Watford did not disappoint in this regard.
“We had to work really hard for it. It was a good game, two teams with a lot of energy playing on the front foot. Watford were at their very best”
I don’t think I’m the only one to have concluded that neither team were “at their very best”. In fact, I thought Watford were in a poor period of form, having won just once in their last seven games. Even Everton’s form is better than that (W3L3D1, all comps).
And they were poor on Saturday too: no real threat going forward, no real pressure when Everton had possession, sloppy passing in key areas while their full backs were exposed by Deulofeu and Aaron Lennon’s pace in wide areas.
To say we played a Watford side “at their very best” is a comment on the delusional scale that sits pretty with his foresight of Cleverley as “one of the most sensational players you’re going to see in Premier League history” and his assessment of Barry as “one of the best English players ever”.
Barry is not the future, but it’s good to have him back
Speaking of the best English player ever, it was great to see Barry back in Everton’s starting XI.
After a dip in form last season, his performances have reached those high levels set by his debut season with the Toffees. Not only has he shown his usual dependency on the ball, with a pass accuracy of 82%, Barry was the subject of an article looking at distance covered in the Premier League. At the time of writing back on 9th February, only Bournemouth’s Andrew Surman had covered more ground (303.85km) than Barry’s 297.64km.
However at the ripening age of 35 Barry won’t be a long-term fixture of Everton’s midfield. While his reappearance after suspension has brought much needed stability in central midfield, he is not the long-term solution.