Everton must rediscover their nasty streak at Goodison Park

Everton are far too nice at this juncture and if this team is to progress as we all hope it does, Martinez and his players must show some backbone.

Matt Jones 22/12/2015 8comments  |  Jump to last

It was around this time a couple of years ago I walked away from Goodison Park shocked in the wake of an Everton loss: a 1-0 defeat to Sunderland on Boxing Day 2013.

The Black Cats, to their credit, nicked an early goal, capitalised on a Tim Howard red card and defended for their lives against Roberto Martinezs rampant 10 men. It was the only time in the calendar year the Toffees lost in the Premier League on home soil and although the team performed admirably, it was an alien feeling walking out of the stadium with no points accrued.

Since that game, losses at Goodison have never been quite so surprising. Under David Moyes and during the early days of Martinezs reign, Everton didnt really do losing at home. Teams would usually have to play wonderfully to smuggle a point out of Goodison; theyd need an accompanying share of luck to supplement the display to take all three.

So its concerning that Leicester City, who deserve effusive praise for their campaign, walked away from the Old Lady with victory on Saturday without so much as a scratch to show for their efforts.

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They defended with care, were energetic in midfield and assured in capitalising on three rudimentaryand increasingly routinedefensive errors at the back from Everton. They were competent in all aspects of their play, but it was not the kind of showing which has previously been needed to take three points from Goodison.

The famous old ground has long been branded as a typical tough place to go by those in football spheres. A tight pitch, suffocating atmosphere and, in the main, very awkward and very hardened opposition. Yet as the weeks tick by, it seems as though taking anything from Goodison isnt quite so difficult anymore.

Everton looked soft on Saturday as the Foxes snaffled a 3-2 win. In terms of general play, the hosts probably had the edge and had the result swung either way, there would have been little in terms of vehement complaints from either camp.

Yet, while I felt emboldened by the performance against Crystal Palace at Goodison even though the result wasnt perfect, this game against Leicester was a little different.

The Foxes seemed aware that if they carried out the basics well, a positive result would follow. In weeks gone by they have committed players forward in numbers on the break, with Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy let off the leash. But against Everton they were compact and committed, seemingly safe in the knowledge the Toffees would eventually hand them opportunities.

And so it transpired. Ramiro Funes Mori was rash for the first, Howard was erratic for second and Everton failed to clear their lines all too familiarly for the third. On all three instances, the visitors were razor sharp in their reactions and clinical in taking chances.

The pattern of play may have cast an illusion Everton were in control of this one and the statistics, showing the hosts boasted 67 per cent of possession, will add clout to that assessment. But Leicester seemed happy to just do enough, luring this team and the fans into what was a misplaced sense of security.

Martinezs men were suckers for it and worryingly, its becoming a trend. Everton have won just three games on home soil from their nine so far this season; last campaign it was a meagre seven from 19. For a side that has ambitions of pushing for the Europa League, never mind the Champions League, thats plain underachievement.

Some killer instinct would definitely help matters. Players who, like some of the visitors did on Saturday, are happy to rile their opponents, give away cheap free-kicks when needed, put in tackles and get in the referees face. Theyre traits which may not fall in line with the football utopia which Martinez is trying to create at Everton, but theyre necessary.

All successful sides have at least one unashamedly nasty bastard within their ranks; a player who your own fans adore but the rest of the football stratosphere despises. This Toffees team, for all their flamboyance and thrilling forward play, are lacking even one of those characters.

Its a dearth of tenacity which has been completely scarce in Evertons defensive play. Which player in the starting XI from the weekends game will making a crunching tackle? Which member of the squad would put his body on the line for the cause? Which players set the tempo by pressing opponents high up the pitch? Its tough to find candidates.

There seems a total disinterest in all aspects of defending currently, as if its merely an afterthought for these players and manager. Goals are extremely easy to come by at Goodison, with a whopping 15 being conceded on home soil this season; only West Bromwich have been more accommodating to their visitors in the division this term.

They arent aesthetic traits, but for fans that have been brought up on players like Dixie Dean, Brian Labone, Peter Reid, Dave Watson, Duncan Ferguson and Tim Cahill, snideness and grittiness can turn Goodison into a cauldron. Its a quality which has turned this famous old venue into an almost unplayable arena for opposition teams at times.

Of course, all these qualities are important on the road too, but solid home form is the fundamental bedrock of a strong season. Its something which must be rediscovered.

At the moment, the stadium is in a malaise and streetwise visiting teams like Leicester are well aware of that fact. Everton are far too nice at this juncture and if this team is to progress as we all hope it does, Martinez and his players must show some backbone when they next stride out to Z-cars.

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Reader Comments (8)

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Tony Abrahams
1 Posted 22/12/2015 at 22:23:46
I was just about to write on another thread that although I am praying for a miracle, Kendall's squad had Reid, Grey, and Southall, already in it, when Howard was facing a hard time.

Other than maybe Besic, McCarthy, at a push, who do we have who can be a nasty bastard? Barry, maybe, but when the game is fast, his second touch is sometimes a tackle, only because the game is too fast.

We need an out and out winner, in our team pronto. Someone to scream at Howard to come and catch the fucking ball. Someone to scream for someone to get near post on our corners, and someone to put in a tackle that gets the crowd on its feet.

The reason our home record has gone so poor, has got to be in the way we start a lot of games at Goodison. Or is it that we never seem to get many players steaming into our opponents box anymore? Maybe it's the tempo? Maybe we are easy to play against because we only attack down one side?

Either way, nothing will change until the players take it upon themselves to do something about it. We have got the ability, but have we got the players with enough desire to change?

Eddie Dunn
2 Posted 22/12/2015 at 23:18:29
Steve Sidwell is at Stoke, 33 and looking for a club. Get him in, he is a pain in the arse, and would shake 'em up all over the park.
Darren Hind
3 Posted 23/12/2015 at 04:02:07
Do these players even exist any more, Matt?

The game has become almost non-contact. Ask anyone outside Goodison who the "nastiest" player in the Premier League is and the chances are, they will say Gareth Barry.

Sure, you still have to stand up and be counted, but imagine the outcry if one of today's players handed out the sort of retribution Reid did on Marwood? Reidy would get a three-month ban for that these days... They'd have thrown the key away on Johnny Morrissey.

The game's changed beyond recognition, cameras are everywhere these days, people like Costa, Suarez know they will get retrospective bans and eventually fall into line.

Nastiness has been replaced by gamesmanship... cynical we'll-do-what-it-takes gamesmanship. It's about your Goalkeeper wasting a good 5-6 minutes of the game (Schmeichel). It's about lying down to take the sting out of the game when you're under the cosh (Marhrez). It's about taking plenty of care and time of the basics, like throw-ins & free-kicks.

Man United have been doing it for years. They may have played fast attacking football, but they took it in turns to strangle any sort of counter attack at birth – little niggley fouls as opposed to the leg-breaker – the crowd and the referees would make it difficult to even get out of your own half. Chelsea would do the same.

I don't think we need a Reid or a Morrissey; they couldn't get away with what they did in their time. What we need is 2-3 players who are prepared to do all those things you hate seeing the opposition do.

BTW; That does not include Deulofeu diving like a twat and screaming like a girl every time he knocks it too far ahead of himself.

Steve Carse
4 Posted 23/12/2015 at 05:15:31
Darren (3), not sure about the Gareth Barry reference but I can agree with the general thrust.

One thing though, stopping counter-attacks at birth with seemingly innocuous trips on the opposition was a ploy well before Man Utd were doing it. In fact, though never commented on at the time, it was one of the key factors in the success of the RS in the 70s and 80s onwards.

Everyone does it now... apart from us.

Harold Matthews
7 Posted 25/12/2015 at 11:42:49
Ranieri knew we were a soft touch who ducked out of the way of aggressive challenges and shots on goal. Not one to stick with favourites, he dropped his main sriker and started with Kamikaze nutjob Shinji Okazaki who gave a real good kicking to everyone in blue, won a penalty and scored a goal. Should have had 10 yellows but Mr Moss kept things flowing.

Okazaki, one of the best Japanese internationals of all tme, was bought, age 29, for £7mil. If they get a couple of years out of him I'll guess they'll be happy. The Lennon deal was probably a similar scenario. An experienced pro who can do a job. I hope we add one or two others in the January window.

Nick Armitage
8 Posted 25/12/2015 at 20:13:44
We are wet, plain and simple. No knuckle, no aggression, no edge, too much Mr Nice Guy. The only one in the side capable of a cynical challenge or professional foul is Barry. Phil Neville was an appalling footballer but sometimes you need that game changing challenge, snide trip or to take a yellow for a hand ball to break up an attack. All the other teams don't hesitate in nailing someone. Think Steven Gerrard. That gobshite would boot his nan in the air to win, we have nobody who will do that and that's one of the reasons the team won't win anything. Too nice - just like our wet manager.
Sam Hoare
9 Posted 25/12/2015 at 21:50:15
Yup. We lack aggression, street smarts and leadership. The desire to go that extra mile in order to win.

I'd really like to see Besic in the team. I think his bite is needed. We need a goalkeeper to inspire the defence rather than undermine them. And we need a well organised defence. Then perhaps we might make goodison a fortress once more.

Trevor Peers
11 Posted 25/12/2015 at 13:16:15
To obtain a nasty streak it has to run through the whole club. Chairman, manager and at least three or four of the players. Nasty is probably the wrong word to use, I'd say bad losers would be more accurate.

At the moment are as soft as shite and no one at tha club cares too much if lose, maybe Barry but he's hardly dynamic, so we'll keep on being shafted, including tommorow I imagine at Newcastle a ground were we rarely win.

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