24 hours hasn’t diminished the annoyance at last night’s defeat to Norwich or the dismay at just how routine Everton’s elimination from the League Cup in all its sponsored guises over the years has become.
That last season’s exit at the semi-final stage offered no consolation was simply because of the manner in which we threw away a two-goal advantage thanks to the kind of mind-boggling management that eventually got Roberto Martinez the sack.
Last night, meanwhile, was just irritating because it felt unnecessary given our strong start to life under Ronald Koeman in general. Perhaps, given the Dutchman’s high standards, his ability to change the course of a couple of matches already this season, and the burning collective desire to finally land some silverware, we Blues were entitled to expect a bit more from a home tie against lower-division opposition.
That last term is obviously relative; recently relegated and sitting second in the Championship, Norwich were always going to be an entirely different kettle of fish to the Yeovil side we faced in the last round, even if Alex Neil did make 10 changes of his own for the trip to Goodison. To their credit, the Canaries were well-organised, savvy in how they assessed Everton’s diminished ability to hurt them, and they took the only two chances that came their way.
Steven Naismith’s opener obviously owed a lot to fortune — still, Koeman will hopefully be asking why his left back was the last man covering the Scot’s shot on the right side of the penalty area, though — and Norwich were lucky at the other end when Aaron Lennon’s goal-bound effort struck Steven Whittaker’s arm without any action from referee Andrew Madley. Nevertheless, you can’t help but feel that, not for the first time, the number of changes Everton made to a settled side was ultimately their undoing.
While you could question the wisdom of it, the rationale was more obvious: by giving starts to the likes of Lennon, Tom Cleverley, Ramiro Funes Mori, Mason Holgate and Enner Valencia, Koeman was not only sating a need by those players for game time, he was also using the tie as an opportunity to gauge their suitability for more regular action in the Premier League.
As David Moyes and Roberto Martinez found out before him but nonetheless never seemed to learn, the price of making that many changes is significant disruption to the rhythm of the side and that was clearly evident in last night’s defeat. Often, it isn’t necessarily down to the quality of the replacements either — switching out half the side for players who haven’t had recent action just upsets the balance of the team.
Nevertheless, while they may individually have been just as affected by the wider team performance as some of the regular starters, it’s unlikely that many of those players who were given an opportunity to shine helped their cause much. Despite the odd flashes of good play, neither Cleverley nor Lennon could sustain much influence on the game; Funes Mori toiled in a baffling left-back role to which he has looked unsuited every time he has played there; meanwhile, Mason Holgate’s inexperience was exposed on a couple of occasions but there is an argument to be made that this was the right kind of game for him, providing the rest of the XI wasn’t changed too much.
While it’s unlikely that Evertonians learned much more about Enner Valencia’s suitability — or lack thereof — to a lone striker role, the biggest disappointments on the evening , however, were Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley. If ever there was a situation where two of the squad’s most gifted players could have come to life and bossed the match, surely this was it.
Barkley was brilliant against Yeovil last month and the mastermind behind a couple of emphatic FA Cup wins against lower-division sides last season but on this occasion he was sloppy in possession and generally wanted far too much time on the ball to be the creative pulse in midfield. By the same token, Deulofeu has excelled against supposedly inferior sides in the cup in the past — Barnsley last season and Stevenage the season before that — but he was awful against Norwich and he will surely see it as a spurned opportunity to impress the new manager. Both players are 22 and, as such, are still quite raw but, as has been said many times already in recent weeks, they are running out of runway where that mitigating factor is concerned. They have to start delivering on a consistent basis.
Apart from the hugely deflating confirmation that the first avenue to a trophy has already been closed to Everton this season, last night also opened the door again to nagging doubt as the team prepares for Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth and the visit of Crystal Palace on Friday week beyond that. Both fixtures were enormously frustrating in their own right last season — indeed the Eagles’ visits to Goodison since their return to the top flight in 2013 have been recipes for Evertonian disappointment — and might have held some trepidation for that reason alone. But morale would have been that much higher had we despatched of Norwich as expected and rolled down to the south coast on the back of six successive wins in all competitions.
The setback of last night will have confirmed concerns over the depth of the squad and fear of what we’ll do if, God forbid, Romelu Lukaku is out for any significant length of time in the coming months. It will also have been highly instructive for the new manager and, coming in the wake of a partially failed transfer window, reminded supporters that despite the club’s best start to a league campaign for 38 years, a good deal of patience will still be required as Koeman rebuilds the squad.
Ultimately, the question that should Blues fans should return to in times of doubt, however, is a simple one: are we better off than we were a year ago? The unequivocal answer to that is yes and we have to faith that things will only continue to improve under Koeman’s stewardship despite — or maybe in part because of — this mis-step in the EFL Cup.
Reader Comments (43)
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1 Posted 21/09/2016 at 21:58:01
The EFL Cup is not important; continuing our good league form is.
2 Posted 21/09/2016 at 22:04:41
I was a bit surprised at his 6 changes for the game, but I figured they all knew this was their big chance to challenge for a regular place...
Well, they didn't really play bad, but way before Naisy's stumbled/slipped-in first-half goal, I was tearing out my non-existent hair every time EFC-players received a seemingly normal football, but then had to 'fondle' it before they could bring themselves into passing it to anyone... And that was mostly because anyone to pass it to was as rooted in his place as any modest statue...
3 Posted 21/09/2016 at 22:15:02
Everton, that. Needless to say, if we had actually beaten Norwich, we probably would have got drawn against Man City away.
4 Posted 21/09/2016 at 22:17:28
Funes Mori, despite has detractors, has been playing very well for Argentina at LB and seemed like a reasonable replacement for Baines. Some on here lamented the absence of Garbutt but if you haven't noticed he's already been dropped to the bench by lowly Wigan, which doesn't bode well.
The real problem last night was Geri and Ross. They're not the players we hoped they'd be by now two or three years ago. In the absence of Rom, they're key but they're just not good enough.
5 Posted 21/09/2016 at 22:44:26
Given this, it could be argued that if he kept playing those core players in every competition, league cup included, it would compromise our league ambitions, at least through the potential for injuries. On this basis, I can't get too worked up about last night's result, and I think what Koeman did was sensible management of a limited squad.
The League Cup is frequently won by minor teams, but only top teams finish regularly in the top 6 of the Premier League. Even without winning silverware, life gets far more interesting when you start showing that 'top 6' kind of consistency.
6 Posted 21/09/2016 at 22:57:14
Whereas some teams such as Arsenal and Liverpool can introduce reserves with no discernible alteration to the team's pattern of play, we clearly cannot. Valencia cannot play Lukaku's role but he may yet prove a decent player. We don't yet appear to have a club DNA in terms of how we play.
Added to which, Barkley is not cutting the mustard. I must admit my patience is running out with him.
7 Posted 21/09/2016 at 23:16:31
I have no problem with the multiple changes Koeman made. That argument doesn't stack up as we made six changes, Norwich made 10, and nine of our starting XI are full internationals, with the other two junior internationals.
Evidently, too many players did not play close enough to acceptable levels. So I have to disagree with Stan @ 5 who doesn't believe Koeman would have learnt anything from last night's game. I would be very disappointed if that was the case.
Surely he would have learnt (or had it re-affirmed), for example, a fringe player's ability to be immediately up to speed when called on, their hunger and desire to impress and force their way into the starting XI, their physical and mental fitness to perform in a sudden death game.
Nor do I get the laissez faire attitude by some across a number of threads that an early exit from this competition 'doesn't matter.' Of course it matters, if we want to improve our profile and be seen as winners!
It represents a trophy, a European place and all the associated glory that goes with it... yer know... a shiny, silver thing that we haven't lifted for nigh on 22 years.
Of course in cash terms, league position is paramount for the bean counters, but to be so flippant about a cup exit and believe we can cherry pick when and which trophy we can next have our name engraved upon... well, it bemuses me.
8 Posted 22/09/2016 at 00:30:51
Will we win a trophy in the '10s? I'll say No. Can't visualise it.
9 Posted 22/09/2016 at 00:39:18
Surely your first year of such a project would contain targets such as 'win all home games against lower ranked opposition', or possibly 'win one of the cup competitions'.
Those seeing this early exit as possibly aiding an attempt at the league title are surely putting the cart before the horse.
10 Posted 22/09/2016 at 00:43:37
11 Posted 22/09/2016 at 00:56:52
12 Posted 22/09/2016 at 01:00:59
Are even Baines or Jags worried that a major chance to win silverware with us has gone for another year? I'm not sure. Ossie seemed non-plussed that he didn't win a trophy with us, Hibbo will be mute on the matter and even Cahill was more interested in his own brand, really, than us winning when it mattered. Ron will be off to Arsenal or wherever in 2 or 3 years too. But ... okaaaay!
13 Posted 22/09/2016 at 02:34:15
Had Everton beaten Norwich, I think the entire draw would have been different. Hope that makes you feel slightly better!
14 Posted 22/09/2016 at 03:33:48
Speaking of Palace, I see Scott Dann pulled up with a hamstring injury in their League Cup game. I wouldn't wish ill on any player, but here's hoping he won't return in time for their visit to Goodison next Friday. He is a key player at both ends of the pitch for them.
15 Posted 22/09/2016 at 07:16:30
For individual players, there will be positives. Geri, who cannot by all accounts manage ninety minutes, got a start and will now be that little bit fitter. You also get the impression he is a player who needs games for confidence and a start on Tuesday will also help with that. With Holgate, he had been quickly dropped once Coleman was fit. He got a full game on Tuesday, in his preferred position, and this will have helped his confidence.
16 Posted 22/09/2016 at 07:38:50
Some of the performances were so poor it may well signal the end of some players' time at Everton and we could see them being shipped out come January.
17 Posted 22/09/2016 at 07:41:04
We won't go far having to rely on players who have to be in the mood! Or have to 'find a penny and pick it up' in order to have the luck to have a good shoving, only to tantalise us to deceit!
These kind of performances from bit-part players who are on full-part pay simply isn't good enough for EFC and the quicker they are shown the out door, the better. Koeman's plan, as he stated, is ideally two players for every position and I doubt if he will entertain 'flash in the pan' back-ups.
18 Posted 22/09/2016 at 07:51:27
19 Posted 22/09/2016 at 08:08:59
There are no positives.
We all knew that we sorely lacked a striker able to score goals in Lukaku's absence and Tuesday night looked to confirm that we failed to properly address that situation.
All of our other top 4 rivals made multiple changes but got through. While the first team bears Koeman's stamp, the squad is still mostly Martinez's.
Having said that, perhaps the main culprits were first teamers Barkley and Deulofeu. Much of our creative output this season will depend on them and they must do better. A lot better.
20 Posted 22/09/2016 at 08:21:57
For example, in the second round, we might have been match 15 to be drawn against Yeovil. In the third round, therefore, against Norwich, we would have been number 15. That tie might have been drawn match number 8, and therefore in the fourth round, Everton or Norwich would be number 8.
Hope that makes sense for you.
21 Posted 22/09/2016 at 08:42:51
West Ham v Chelsea - 1
Manchester United v Manchester City - 2
Arsenal v Reading - 3
Liverpool v Tottenham - 4
Bristol City v Hull - 5
Leeds v Norwich - 6
Newcastle v Preston - 7
Southampton v Sunderland - 8.
22 Posted 22/09/2016 at 08:48:11
Koeman: "Bill, we need a striker, an attacking midfield player, a right back and another goalkeeper as a minimum and I would like x, y and z, and if we cannot get them, I need a, b and c."
Bill: "I'll do my best, Ron, but you know what those agents are like, and now with Farhad's money, they all want big wages, but I am sure we can get most of these players in."
Koeman: "Bill, we don't seem to have got any of my first-choice targets, or indeed any of my second-choice targets, but you have loaned Valencia from West Ham. He wasn't on my list and I think he's rubbish."
Bill: "We did our best, Ron, but you know what the agents are like, and the big wages, but hey-ho, we got Valencia on the drip and he is very cheap."
Koeman: "But we have no cover or depth if any of the first team are injured, banned or away on ACN duty."
Bill: "Ron, we are giving you £6.5 million a year so therefore you must be able to polish some of these turds into decent backup players."
Everton v Norwich pre-match, Koeman talking to wife: "That dick Kenwright bought no-one during the transfer window, the tight wad. I'm going to pick 6 of his so-called back-up players tonight and when we get stuffed, the penny might drop, he's paying me £6.5 mill a year to tell him what I need then he does nothing. Maybe losing tonight will get his attention."
Koeman: "Well, Bill, your chickens have come home to roost tonight."
Bill: "Don't worry Ron, in January we will definitely get you x, y and z,"
Whispering aside to Moshiri: "As long as the agents don't want big wages."
Maybe this didn't happen but, if Koeman is as intelligent and as belligerent as he has appeared to date, I wouldn't put it past him doing this to force the issue.
23 Posted 22/09/2016 at 09:02:33
24 Posted 22/09/2016 at 09:42:31
So far this season, I have enjoyed his 'say it as it is' comments, including his remarks regarding Barkley. On Tuesday, he dodged the issues, including his poor team set-up and tactics.
After 3 years of Martinez's bullshit, it has been refreshing to hear from the manager what most of us actually see. This was not the case on Tuesday.
25 Posted 22/09/2016 at 10:05:21
He played "ok" on Saturday but he should be bossing games against lower league teams.
He's so frustrating to watch its unreal.
I don't think anyone really wanted us to sign Sissoko but in hindsight, I reckon he would be in the team ahead of Ross.
I for one don't think that would be a bad thing.
26 Posted 22/09/2016 at 10:19:41
If we are the first match drawn, then hopefully in the fourth round we would be number 1.
27 Posted 22/09/2016 at 10:24:55
We scored 13 goals in 11 games in which Lukaku played and scored none himself.
That tells me we have others to score goals whether Lukaku is absent or not.
28 Posted 22/09/2016 at 10:38:57
29 Posted 22/09/2016 at 10:55:17
30 Posted 22/09/2016 at 11:29:52
I know some fans were disappointed not to see Tom Davies feature on Tuesday. He would have given us more energy in midfield but both he and Kieran Dowell had played the night before against Arsenal in the Under 23s. I suspect Davies was already ahead of Cleverley in the midfield pecking order and Tuesday's game served to confirm that.
31 Posted 22/09/2016 at 13:08:34
Ive said it before and I'll say it again - a Sunderland/WBA/Crystal Palace type club is where he will end up within 2yrs. And don't get me started on Lennon or Gerry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
32 Posted 22/09/2016 at 13:09:44
33 Posted 22/09/2016 at 14:04:14
The defeat by Norwich clearly underlined that view namely that we are just not good enough in many areas to compete with the so called elite in the EPL, let alone Europe, even here in North America many of the MLS teams are proving they could equal, even surpass, the quality of the Premiership in many cases as the game over here gets bigger and bigger.
We Everton fans deserve only the best and the fact that we might have to wait even longer for an upturn in fortunes is not designed to inspire hope and glory in the near future.
35 Posted 22/09/2016 at 16:14:48
I haven't seen anything to suggest the US MLS teams could compete at EPL level.
36 Posted 22/09/2016 at 16:39:47
In a one-off game, certain MLS clubs can compete with midtable or lower EPL teams. However, the squads are not deep enough to go a whole season in the EPL. Generally, the fall-off after about the first 13 players in an MLS squad is more precipitous than in England (except maybe Sunderland this season).
37 Posted 22/09/2016 at 17:54:50
38 Posted 22/09/2016 at 18:06:20
I remember when all the hype started with him a few years ago before he was in the first team and viewed a stiffs or U18 or U21 on the RS tv channel (Only watched it because we were on and it was free). Anyway, the point I was making was that the game just passed young Ross by, the stand out player for us was a certain Jose Baxter and Ross showed little.
Says it all really, but I will be amazed if Ross gets offered a bumper, extended contract unless he improves very quickly. Hate to criticise but it just ain't happening, lad.
39 Posted 22/09/2016 at 19:59:13
The manager's team selection enforced my point. I would rather Dave Unsworth take the U23s and play in the cup as year after year we make no effort to win it. Even Norwich made 8 changes from their full strength team.
The only thing Koeman has learned from the defeat is that we rely heavily on Jags, Barry and Lukaku.
40 Posted 22/09/2016 at 20:20:04
I have him down to be reunited with Moyes at Sunderland. As for Deulofeu & Mirallas, they are definitely not top 6 players. They (andRoss) have had their limits exposed.
They have been accorded far to much patience by some fans. But RK is going to loose patience very soon. He has to bide his time but, according to his 2 year plan, they will be history!
41 Posted 22/09/2016 at 21:19:25
42 Posted 22/09/2016 at 23:42:48
I have to say, I think Koeman underestimated Norwich and overestimated our squad strength, a hard lesson to learn, but one that will galvanize his outs and ins list in January.
43 Posted 23/09/2016 at 10:54:29
If it was up to me, I would pick my strongest team and try to win a cup it's fundamentally why I go to the match though its pretty obvious, and has been for years, that the club value mid-table more than the League Cup. I won't be going to these testimonials next year.
44 Posted 23/09/2016 at 19:04:56
I hope Koeman can embed a proper DNA from top to bottom at Finch Farm. This will take at least the length of his current contract, I suggest. It'll need other players yet to sign for us and it'll need Mr Moshiri to immediately act on those responsible for what he reportedly deemed an underwhelming window.
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