Fortune and Frustration in Equal Measure

With a bit more adventure, more cohesion in the final third and that elusive play-maker already embedded in the side, Everton might be sitting in a more favourable position heading into the first international break of the 2015-16 season.

Lyndon Lloyd 30/08/2015 67comments  |  Jump to last
Tottenham Hotspur 0 - 0 Everton

It's been three full months since Roberto Martinez sat with the Everton fan sites and, quite clearly, highlighted a creative "Number 10" as his top priority for the summer transfer window. It offered hope that the manager had pin-pointed the most glaring deficiency in his Everton side during the 2014-15 season namely, a player to fill the enormous void that so often existed between lone-striker Romelu Lukaku and the Blues' midfield; an inventive presence to replace the keenly felt loss to persistent injury of Steven Pienaar; a player capable of turning a game on his own.

Not only was that player not in place by the time the new Premier League season kicked off three weeks ago, there is still no sign of one fitting the description as we head into the final days of the transfer window. Martinez may have a mind-blowing trick to produce from his sleeve between now and 6pm on Tuesday evening one for which he has, perhaps, been biding his time for the opportune time to strike but there is no question that, like on the opening day against Watford and last weekend against Manchester City, such a signing was badly needed at White Hart Lane this afternoon.

That actually went for both sides. Tottenham's maestro, Christian Eriksen, was absent for a second game running with a knee injury and though they would carve out enough chances to have won fairly comfortably had they not come up against Tim Howard in impressive form, the home side could have done with the Dane to actually get the job done against a Toffees defence that seemed intent at times on pushing the self-destruct button.

Everton, meanwhile, laboured under a midfield system that continues to be hamstrung by Martinez's dogged persistence with the Gareth BarryJames McCarthy axis to fashion just five efforts on goal, only two of those on target. They might still have won it with a bit more of a sustained push in the closing stages and, indeed, almost did when Arouna Kone glanced a header agonisingly wide with 17 minutes left, but they looked well short of the quality that will be required to finish in and around those top five or six places that the Catalan is no doubt aiming for.

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That defensive midfield pairing was vital to the way Everton played in Martinez's first season in charge, of course, but with Barry two years older and looking leggier all the time, McCarthy beginning the new campaign in very one-dimensional even subdued fashion, and no-one knitting everything together in front of them, having two defensively-minded grafters sitting in the centre just feels like a formation that has out-lived its usefulness.

It's a system that is exacerbated by a lack of natural width and players being deployed out of position a source of annoyance that blighted so much of last season and yet which continues this term. This time it was Arouna Kone and Tom Cleverley playing on the respective flanks as Martinez hoped to replicate the formula that proved so stunningly successful at Southampton a fortnight ago. This time, however, while there were times when Tottenham left themselves surprisingly open, Everton did little exploit it and Romelu Lukaku's 60-odd minutes on the field were a picture of frustration.

As they often do before tailing off, Everton started well enough and looked composed and purposeful in the early going. They weren't really able to find much penetration in the final third but there was energy about their play that was encouraging. In light of that aforementioned over-emphasis on defensive midfield, Tom Cleverley appeared wasted out on the left flank but it was his opportunism that created the visitors' best chance of the half and the only occasion on which Hugo Lloris was really tested. He robbed Kyle Walker outside the Spurs area and drove inside before unleashing a powerful shot that the French goalkeeper pushed over his bar with both hands.

Once Mauricio Pochettino's side had settled, however, they started looking to exploit the weaknesses in Everton's back line, most notably Bryan Oviedo's rustiness and poor positional sense at left back and the propensity for Barry and Phil Jagielka to make worrying errors in dangerous areas. And the skipper's dubious decision to try and play the offside trap right on the halfway line midway through the first half almost let Harry Kane in to score the first goal.

The England striker was put clean through by Ryan Mason's pass albeit fractionally offside based on TV replays after the game but he was foiled by a smart save by Howard with an out-stretched leg. And Howard had to be at his best again on three other occasions in the ensuing 10 minutes, saving from Mason after he had been put in on goal by Nasser Chadli's pass, palming Bentaleb's long-range shot away to safety and tipping a Toby Alderweireld header over following a corner.

Though forced into a change in personnel and, potentially at least, a more dynamic attack, when Kevin Mirallas was introduced to the contest in place of the stricken Tom Cleverley, Martinez's side struggled to carve out chances in the second half in a match that became increasingly fractious and ill-tempered. It was, truth be told, impressively handed by referee Mike Jones there was plenty of debate about the legality of Eric Dier's heavy tackle on Cleverley and the scissor-like action that was supposed to be outlawed, but he correctly waved away appeals from Spurs for a penalty when Dele Alli appeared to dive over John Stones's out-stretched leg and clamped down on persistent Spurs fouls late in the game. (Stones, incidentally was, for reasons best known to them, booed for much of the game by the home crowd but serenaded with the new "Money Can't Buy Me Stones" chant by the large and vocal travelling contingent.)

In fact, the Blues were preoccupied in their defensive third in the first few minutes after the interval as they teetered on the brink of conceding the opening goal with a period of profligate passing and defensive hesitancy. Jagielka had to block smartly to charge down a shot by Chadli and Howard had to make two more saves, first with his foot to deny Mason after a defensive mistake had gifted the ball to him near the Everton goal and then from Alli near his post after a slip by Barry.

With Kane having been repelled by another Jagielka block, and Chadli blasting a good opportunity from the rebound over the bar, Everton had largely weathered Tottenham's erratic storm by the time the match moved into the last 20 minutes and it was then that you felt Martinez could have inspired the plundering of all three points. He withdrew the tiring Lukaku in favour of Steven Naismith who added some industry and solidity on the right while Kone moved up front and almost headed home Oviedo's superb centre.

Kone himself then made way for Gerard Deulofeu six minutes after Mirallas had fired a direct free kick over the bar and the Spaniard had just one chance to try and unlock the Spurs but Jan Vertongen was not fooled by a succession of step-overs and the chance was lost. The game eventually petered out to a goalless conclusion, Mirallas's header straight at Lloris the last action of the 90-plus minutes.

Given the lack of transfer activity over the summer and the daunting schedule that the Blues were handed over their first 10 matches, many Evertonians would have gladly accepted four points from trips to the St Mary's and White Hart Lane before the season started and, even though one point from six at home is a poor return, they might also have settled for one defeat from the four August games.

Nevertheless, there is also a nagging feeling that, with a bit more adventure, more cohesion in the final third and, yes, that elusive play-maker already embedded in the side, Everton could be sitting in a more favourable position heading into the first international break of the 2015-16 season.

Today, against a poor Spurs side, there was simply too much reliance on the ball being punted past the midfield towards Lukaku where, it should be noted, the Belgian won an abnormally high number of headers which, if he is going to continue to do so, is something his teammates need to cotton onto and start gambling with runs beyond him and the general lack of a "water carrier" to bring the ball through midfield. Barkley tried gamely in that respect but all too often battled to find enough room in which to operate and Coleman was an occasional threat down the right but it was all too often too narrow or too direct, with little imagination in trying to carve a way through the home defence. Ultimately, it felt simultaneously like a fortunate point gained but also an opportunity missed.

Therein lies Martinez's continuing challenge in games where the lie-in-wait-and-counter-attack strategy doesn't work. Again, that highly-anticipated "Number 10", if he ever arrives, could be a crucial part of the jigsaw; without him, you feel it's going to be another long and frustrating season.

Man of the Match: Tim Howard

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Reader Comments (67)

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Christopher Timmins
1 Posted 30/08/2015 at 07:10:25
Lyndon, Howard was man of the match, no doubt about that. Kone also made a contribution. I also though Brian played better in the second half but Rom was out of sorts.

We were lucky to get a point but on the positive side our best quarter was the final one. I hope Tom’s injury is not as bad as first feared but he is not our best option out wide.

The big negative from yesterday was Barry, he was really bad.

There are now two and a bit days to go before the window closes. We desperately need a centre half, absolutely criminal that the issue is not totally sorted at this stage. The guy from River Plate better get a permit!
Has the search for a creative number 10 come to an end in the historic battle by King Billy to keep Stones.

Matt Traynor
2 Posted 30/08/2015 at 07:40:56
Good review of the game.
As frustrating as it was, the totally un-biased commentary (who did Clive Allen play for?) had you sensing a Spurs goal was coming, fortunately Howard played the polar opposite of how he's shown up on this ground previously. He was immense.

Barry, as you both say (Christopher #1), is looking every bit his age. The only consolation is we can rest assured that he'll miss games this season through suspension. Let's home they're games we really don't need him in, or RM starts resting him in recognition of his advancing age.

Tottenham were dirty little shits though. Almost an image of their manager's playing days.

And the fear now being expressed is that whilst we're "not a selling club" these days, we're increasingly looking like we're not a buying club either.

Still the media refuse to relent on the Stones story, so maybe we will have some money coming in... Especially as they've just lost out on a player. (How many have they signed since Jose said they'd done their business after the first Stones bid was knocked back?)

Jeff Hughes
3 Posted 30/08/2015 at 08:31:23
Spot on Lyndon! I am coming round to believe that the McCarthy/Barry axis is a growing problem. Barry does bring a calm approach to organising protection in front of the back four and much of his work goes unnoticed, whilst McCarthy covers so much ground and breaks up attacks well.

But both but are limited on the ball and, without a proper playmaker, we do look one dimensional when moving the ball forward from the back. Barkley has improved this year but to be honest he was shockingly poor last year. Sadly, he is not (yet?) the playmaker we need.

Iain Love
4 Posted 30/08/2015 at 08:39:56
I was always told the best form of defence is attack , now while we have one of the best young strikers around we have little else to worry other teams. This means take care of Lukaku and the rest can concentrate on going forward, putting us under pressure. Playing Kone and Cleverley instead of Miralles & Delafou doesn't do anything for our forward play.
Trevor Peers
7 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:03:05
Excellent post, Lyndon, pinpointing our frustrations, Roberto only changes tactics when we’re losing as he did at Bradford. Otherwise he remains overly cautious in his approach.

It’s an approach that won’t produce enough victories especially at home, with the window about to close will he sign a creative player and change tack? I doubt it but live in hope.

Denis Richardson
8 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:07:14
Missed the game but the result is what matters most to me. It may have been fortunate but taking a point at WHL and keeping a clean sheet is an improvement for me. We conceded around 50 odd goals in the league last year and that was too much.

A month ago I think most people would have happily accepted five points from the first 4 games - I know I would have. The disappointment of the watford game was cancelled out by the southampton result. City loss was expected and a point at WHL was a nice bonus.

Chelsea up next but at least we have some points on the board going into the international break. Big shame about Cleverly's injury, looks like he'll be out for a few months at least so other than Deulofeu, we have the same midfield as last year but at least Mirallas is still with us (then again there are still 2 days till TDD!). Looks like Barry will carry on in the middle for now...

Jon Withey
9 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:07:57
For the most part we matched Spurs, apart from their shameless physical approach - that's not the worst we've done at White Hart Lane in recent times and we are unbeaten.

We missed Cleverly once he'd gone. I thought we should've give Deulofeu more time on the pitch once they had their yellows.

Special mention for Oviedo who was excellent and Howard of course.

Kone is looking an important member of the squad now, Barkley much improved and giving glimpses of a great player again.

Mirallas was pretty bad to be honest.

George McKane
10 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:17:46
It is the more experienced players who are the major worry for me. Jagielka and Barry the central supposed defensive spine are pretty weak and soft.

Jagielka is a great do-or-die shot-blocker but that style is almost dead in the British game and his spacial awareness, marking a man and space and judgement has always been poor. He was shambles at Barnsley and was pretty poor yesterday.

Barry’s complete lack of any pace and his need to take too long controlling the ball and the situation is leading to serious problems. He is continually getting caught in possession, hence the number of bookings for his reactions.

I am not on either of their backs but big decisions win games and Martinez needs to act big as well as speak big.

After the first 15-20 minutes yesterday I thought we just let it go and lost any rhythm and edge.

Not the end of the world, time still available for change. But we have to be more decisive on and off the pitch.

John Barnes
12 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:23:18
It worries me that Roberto cannot see that Barry and McCarthy do NOT actually shield the back four. It’d be okay if the 0-0 was played out with goalkeeper and back four protected, but they aren’t. It clearly doesn’t work so why persist with it?? I believe we have the players but they are not properly used.

So we bring in "No 10". Who is going to be left out for him? What would the formation be? Would Barry and McCarthy still be automatic picks?

Roberto has his faves who are first change if not first picks which offers no flexibility.

Naismith yesterday was brought onto the right wing then moved to CF after Kone was withdrawn. Not a very well thought out substitution. And apart from running around like a headless chicken and trying to referee the game what did he bring?

Lyndon sums it up well as an opportunity lost even though in my view we didn’t play well in any sense of the word, Howard excepted.

Ian Bennett
13 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:27:42
A Yaramolenko sized hole on the left hand side for me. We did enough to cover Mason and Walker, just, but had little else on that side. Adding Lennon will do nothing to solve this, so I hope Roberto has a more inspiring alternative.

Howard MOTM by a mile. Kone did well to hold up play, but everyone else in the attacking sense was poor against a solid Spurs back 5.

I think a point away at Spurs isn't to be sniffed at, and we have all seen worst away performances in the capital, so circling in on Martinez is a bit premature in my view. Fingers crossed we can shift some deadwood and bring a couple in by Tuesday deadline.

Adam Baig
14 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:37:57
Martinez was a bit Moyes-like yesterday, for me - he was more concerned about not losing. I don’t blame him, really, as it is an improvement on our result there last season. Playing people out of position is another trait similar to his predecessor.

As others have said, 5 points from the first 4 games is better than many would’ve expected, and the 2 away games we have played both resulted in defeats last term, which can be viewed as improvement.

The squad is obviously in need of strengthening, I’m not sure how well we will do in that regard, and Barry is a concern as it seems he has something in his contract that means he has to play - even when his legs have clearly gone

Mike Allison
15 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:40:41
Isn’t Barkley the No 10?

We need a clever player coming from the left, any new 10 would mean Barkley having to move position, and he seems to be finally living up to his potential this season.

I agree about Barry though, it’s time for Besic or Cleverley to play in that position.

Jay Wood
16 Posted 30/08/2015 at 09:56:10
As someone who was underwhelmed by both the team’s and the manager’s performance last season, I see signs of improvement from both this season.

To speak first of the negatives as raised by Lyndon, we still don’t look a well drilled defensive unit, either the back 4 or the defensive midfield pairing.

That said, resources at left back are stretched due to injuries. Galloway did well there and Oviedo is evidently not yet fully fit. He shows flashes of pre-leg break form, but in the main he has yet to show the dynamism we know he has, or is that ’had?’ Hopefully, with games, he can return to the levels he is capable of.

On the other flank, Coleman looks back to his best and although Jags had a dreadful game yesterday and Stones has had to endure very public inspection, individually they’ve played ’okay.’

It is as a unit the defence continues to be unconvincing. There is a disconnect and a good defensive shape is rarely kept. This needs serious work on the training ground.

Then we have the Barry-McCarthy axis. Again, like Jags, Barry had a dreadful game yesterday, but I don’t agree he can’t cut it at this level any more. In the 3 other games he played this season he has played very well. Yes, he needs to be better managed and not played in every game at his age, but he has played several levels better than McCarthy this season.

Because for me, McCarthy’s season has not yet started. He has been our poorest performer by some distance. If he doesn’t fulfill his primary role - stamping out the threats before they develop, or making covering, saving blocks and tackles - he doesn’t, or isn’t, bring much else to the table.

As things stand, at times in games the opposition has an obscene amount of time and space to operate in down the middle of the park, putting strain on the defence

And therein lies a dilemma for RM. If his preferred central midfield pairing are being ineffective in their delegated roles to the detriment of the team, what is the point of persisting with it? Can, will he change it?

Now to speak of the positives compared to last year. Whilst there are still some moments of overplayed tikka-takka at the back, it has been vastly reduced and play further forward has quickened up. Indeed, at times there has been too much hoofing up the park.

The quicker joined up stuff is due to Ross looking a real player again. Yes, he still has some brain fart moments, but things are starting to happen again when Ross is on the ball. He also looks physically stronger this year, harder to knock off the ball, sticking the boot in himself and how many of you noticed the number of times he won decisive headers in midfield against Barnsley?

Lukaku too has shown better form already than almost the entire last season. Not quite on it yesterday, but he and the team have been greatly helped by the renaissance of Kone, who had a wonderful game yesterday. His control, hold up play, the way he drew players in and gave them the slip, then sliding in cute little passes or sharp one-twos, was excellent.

Finally, Cleverley has been bright since arriving and I hope his injury is not as severe as first thought.

I have no doubts, given the superb 3 assists Gerry made in the Barnsley game, and the unexpected and goals Mirallas offers, we will see them both starting games and Everton playing with more width and verve, once Gerry in particular is fully up to speed. It will be a matter of horses for courses, depending on the venue and opposition.

Given it’s still only early season and the challenging fixture list, I’m in the main happy and upbeat about our start. Fitness levels are clearly better, woefully out of form players from last season are playing closer to their true ability, play is nowhere near as ponderous as last season and we have retained all key elements in the squad.

I would be happier if we were more competent and organized defensively, and as for transfers, I’ll wait for the window to close before casting judgement.

Dave Pritchard
17 Posted 30/08/2015 at 10:49:57
Jon (9) I would not agree that Oviedo was ’excellent’. He did OK and will hopefully continue to get better with more games. The balance of our team still worries me. There is no natural width with Cleverley/Kone/Naismith filling in there. I hoped that would change a bit when Mirallas came on but he hardly seemed to be involved.

Our giving away of possession was evident yesterday as was the lack of options when midfielders were going forward. We’ve shown what we can do against Southampton so hopefully there will be more performances like that to come. Is Osman injured at the moment?

James Stewart
18 Posted 30/08/2015 at 11:00:09
Spurs were overly cynical with persistent tactical fouling that should have been stamped out early on. Ruined the game for me and how they ended with 11 men I don't know!

Tactically we were too predictable Spurs didn't allow us to counter and we looked poor. We have to find a way of getting Lukaku involved more. Too many aimless long balls at his head yesterday and no one supporting him.

Harold Matthews
19 Posted 30/08/2015 at 11:10:31
I'd like to say it's a good report Lyndon but it isn't. It never is when Kone is on the pitch. How you love it when you are able to highlight his mistakes, something I've noticed for quite some time now. How you struggle when he has a fine game and hardly puts a foot wrong, as per yesterday.

So how can you get at him without making it obvious? Well firstly, you hardly give him a mention. Readers who never watched the match would think he was seldom involved. Secondly, you go on and on about the need for someone to knit things together. Something our friend Kone does very well. It's just a pity he doesn't have another Kone to interplay with.

A couple of times yesterday I noticed him try to interplay with Lukaku but it fell down because the big fella remained rooted to the spot. He remained with his defender and made no effort to dash into space and receive a pass. A problem your miraculous number 10 would also face.

Don't get me wrong. Whilst appreciating that Arouna Kone is a proper footballer, I would prefer a younger version with more stamina and stronger, quicker legs. Leandro perhaps. Who knows.

I wasn't too keen on Ross Barkley being referred to as a possible "water carrier" but understood what you meant. His lack of room also highlighted a major flaw in our defensive tactics. Spurs closed down very quickly in the middle of the pitch whereas we allowed them to stroll through unhindered. Occasions when Ross and McCarthy disappeared.

Finally, I am asking Martinez. What's with all this backing off? Coleman and Stones especially. Backing off into your own penalty area is completely brainless. As Ruud Gullit pointed out on Match of the Day, and he should know. "When defenders back off, it makes it easy".

Paul Thompson
20 Posted 30/08/2015 at 11:37:27
There is only one reason that we are not discussing a 2/3-0 defeat – the much-maligned Tim Howard.

Yes, we can find positives: Oviedo is improving and can cross a good ball; Kone has shown he can link-up play effectively; Ross is showing signs of more consistent, more intelligent play.

But overall it’s more of the same from last season – a lot ponderous, sloppy play, lack of creativity and holes in front of and between the defensive set-up. And will this be addressed in the next 48 hours? Don’t hold your breath.

Dave Williams
21 Posted 30/08/2015 at 12:05:36
Harold is right - Kone was superb yesterday with some classic target-man stuff - he is starting to show why RM bought him. Jay is also spot on re the problems in that Jags and Gareth are giving the ball back to the opposition way too often with our players then caught out of position by an unexpected counter attack and James is very subdued and not marauding around as he does when he is on his game.

Criticism of Oviedo is a bit harsh I feel - Jags and Barry are supposed to cover for him and neither is doing it too well so far. He will only get better with games as Kone is starting to show.

Tim showed yet again what a frustrating goalie he is - drops his fair share of changers but then keeps us in a game like yesterday - bizarre and must drive Roberto bonkers at times.

I am happy with 5 points and just the one defeat - a number of players need game-time to get fully fit and Roberto has to address the DM situation as we can all see it is not working. Play Ross or Mo as one of the two DMs - it gives Ross more space which his game needs - and leaves room then for the number 10 who is due on Merseyside in the next 2 days!!!

David Hallwood
22 Posted 30/08/2015 at 12:07:02
Great report Lyndon an spot on for highlighting what I think is the major problem that the Barry/McCarthy DM time is over. Firstly it doesn’t offer defensive cover, apparently TH has had more shots to deal with than any other GK in the prem, but mainly it offers nothing going forward; they don’t have the passing range of a Gibson, and there is little or no forward movement from them.

It would be interesting to see the heat zones (of whatever they’re called) to see how many of our players got into the Spurs box because I watch the game twice (saddoooo, saddoooo) and I can’t recall a single instance where a MF ran behind Spurs.

Obviously RM isn’t going to change it anytime soon and certainly not with Chelsea next up, but something needs to be changes to make our football more fluent. As we keep saying, this is the best squad of players assembled at GP for years, we should-we must do better than this

Steve Cotton
23 Posted 30/08/2015 at 12:10:21
Apparently Lukaku watches every Premier League game to help improve himself. Well, I was wondering if any other teams have a centre-forward who just stands there like a lumbering ox waiting for the ball.

He never looks for the through-ball or offers himself for the quick dart behind the centre back. He invariably mis-controls it anyway so perhaps we should be recruiting a different type of striker to offer something else in our attack...

James Byrne
24 Posted 30/08/2015 at 12:18:23
I agree with Harold @19. This wasn't a great assessment as the write up doesn't mention some key points for me.

Lukaku: I'm amazed know one has picked up on his positioning yesterday and his lack of ability to stop a ball at his feet or even try to pass it on and create a move. In comparison I thought Kone was superb and every ball that came to him from defence he managed to get it to his feet and get past a Spurs player, or make a successful pass. I know Lukaku can score goals but he's woeful when he has the ball at his feet. Also why for the life of me did Lukaku have to be 5 yards inside of Kone's zone - he suffocated the lad all through the game.

Lyndon you rightly mention a lack of width and pace; this manager has slowly killed off that part of the game by restricting our left and right backs running down the line - although we did see some decent play by Coleman. In relation to that you could have Messi as our "missing" No.10 and he wouldn't make the slightest impact with this style of Martinez football. Not once during that game did I see an Everton player race towards the Spurs by-line until Deulofeu came on.

Howard may have got the MotM award but lets not kid ourselves here, he is a total liability and we will get punished by a more cynical side soon enough if this clown continues to distribute the ball the way he does. The whole defence was a shambles and we were more than lucky to get a point.

Trevor Peers
25 Posted 30/08/2015 at 12:29:22
Harold, Kone is playing well, but why use a striker as a right sided midfielder? He’s useless as a striker, and inadequate athletically as midfielder because he hasn’t got the engine to last 90 mins.

Roberto insists upon playing him though, even when there are better options, Deulofeu must be the first choice when fit. He has the ability to beat his man and get crosses into the box, something Kone doesn’t do very often.

Paul Smith
26 Posted 30/08/2015 at 12:32:32
In essence the fact that Arouna was leading the line and Rom was ditched encapsulates the above posts for me.
Jay Wood
27 Posted 30/08/2015 at 13:14:41
James #24

"Why for the life of me did Lukaku have to be 5 yards inside of Kone’s zone? He suffocated the lad all through the game."

Setting up strike partners in close proximity is a long established, legitimate and effective strategy. Indeed, since Kone’s introduction Lukaku has looked a better player exactly because they play in such close proximity. Having two strikers playing off each other like this unsettles defenders who don’t know whether to stick or twist, get drawn out of position or go with the runner.

Your comment about restricting the full backs forward movement may have been legitimate last season, but less so on the evidence I have seen in this still fledgling season.

Your final comment on Howard implies a fixed prejudice you hold about him. Like many, he was poor last season. Like many, he has performed considerably better this season.

Trevor (#25),

Kone is NOT playing as a right sided midfielder. He is playing more central and advanced than that, NOT a classical #10, nor an out and out striker, but a floating role twixt midfield and attack.

This is making him difficult to pick up and mark and why he is being an effective link between midfield and Lukaku.

IMO Ross and Kone are kinda playing the #10 role between them. I’ve seen plenty of evidence already that between them, Ross’ surging runs, Kone’s hold up and lay off play and Rom’s sheer power and one touch finishing, all in close proximity of each other, has already been very fruitful this season and will continue to be so.

Trevor Peers
28 Posted 30/08/2015 at 13:36:55
Jay# 25, whatever position Kone is playing it's surely just a temporary solution and not the position he was bought for, which was to score goals. Once Del is fit it will be impossible to accommodate both players on the right hand side, at the same time.

David Hallwood
29 Posted 30/08/2015 at 13:50:36
Trevor (#28), the way RM sets up his team, Deulofeu has ’impact sub’ written all over him.
Jay Wood
30 Posted 30/08/2015 at 13:57:37
Why temporary Trevor #28?

Isn't RM showing imagination in setting up the team differently? Are professional footballers unable to adapt to new demands placed upon them? I see no evidence of Kone struggling to fulfill the role currently being asked of him.

Many have long called for two strikers on the pitch simultaneously. Most teams however, don't set up like that. Frequently, IF teams play with 2 strikers, one tends to be deeper lying as Kone currently is.

The current formation is one option RM has to play with - no out and out wide men, rather the full backs playing that role, Barry and McCarthy the holding role and Ross, Kone and Lukaku doing their stuff further upfield.

By game's end yesterday that shape had changed with 1st Kone alone up front and Naismith more like the right midfield position you attributed to Kone, then Naismith up front alone and Mirallas and Gerry in wider positions.

There are many possible combinations which can see both Kone and Lukaku in the side as well as Mirallas, Gerry and Ross.

Why, you could even drop one of 2 holding midfielders...

Now that would be radical.

Eddie Dunn
31 Posted 30/08/2015 at 13:58:39
Good points Jay. It is no coincidence that Ross has played better with Kone in that role.

Kone had been a revelation, and his unselfishness and willingness to play one-twos has improved our play. Lukaku was confused and frustrated by Spurs crowding him out. Tottenham were aware of our threat on the break, and were never gung-ho in their attacks.

Walker had an easy time against Oviedo, who was often overlooked by our own midfield. If Deulofeu could've been put out on the left with 30 mins to go, we may have seen some crosses.

Nothing ventured... nothing gained.

Trevor Peers
32 Posted 30/08/2015 at 14:03:05
David, you're right of course, It’s all about how Roberto sets the side up, it worked once at Southampton, but failed miserably at WHL yesterday.
Paul Tran
33 Posted 30/08/2015 at 14:32:58
Funny game yesterday. Two teams that looked they didn’t want to lose, kept it tight and cancelled each other out.

I felt we didn’t get out of 2nd gear yesterday. Got the impression we played our recent history against Spur, rather than the mediocrity against us on the pitch. Hats off to Howard; I’ve given him plenty of deserved stick, but he played well. Nothing lucky about that, as the real Howard always said, good defending isn’t good luck.

Kone keeps showing us the importance of real link-up play, Mirallas came on and showed why he isn’t starting, Cleverley’s absence showed us how much he’s been contributing. McCarthy needs to show up this season. And Martinez again showed his cautiousness. I would have understood Deulofeu being rested yesterday, but 7 mins? He’s got to learn to trust that back four, or bring in someone to coach them.

The old story, when teams back off us, we struggle. We needed some movement, inspiration and an eye for a pass and didn’t get any, so we hung on for a point.

Happiest people will have been our directors, sitting there watching two ordinary teams. One cost a fortune and is unbalanced, one cost comparatively little and was at least as good. Hope they spread their joy to us by 6pm Tuesday!

Darren Hind
34 Posted 30/08/2015 at 14:44:10
I'm beginning to wonder if the Number 10 (one which is in our price range) actually exists. It's not just us looking for such a player, every club is... and, if they are any good, we can't afford them.

I think this is why we get frustrated with Lukaku, so much depends on him. If he plays well, we play well. If he can make the ball stick we can get forward in numbers, but when he's repeatedly losing possession, as he was yesterday, his team mates are often reluctant to bust a gut to get up and support him, and most of our attacks are strangled at birth.

It's too much to ask of a young man still learning his trade to lead the line on his own, week-in & week-out. He will have some good games (Southampton) and he will have some shockers.

This was a hard-earned point against a very physical Spurs team, desperate to kick-start their own season. Some positives but, unless Martinez can pull a rabbit out of the hat in the next couple of days, I feel our season will be as inconsistent as big Rom's form.

Dave Lawley
36 Posted 30/08/2015 at 15:53:58
Sin miedo!! Fuckin bollocks!! I’m tired of watching probably, player for player, the best team we’ve had since the eighties playing boring uninspiring drivel week after week (unless we go behind that is, then we try at least).

I’ll not pay to see that until the underlying philosophy of the team changes. It’s soul destroying, and Martinez "I couldn’t be happier with today’s performance" is seeing a different game to me?

Richard Reeves
38 Posted 30/08/2015 at 16:02:05
I’ve been saying for a while (like plenty of others) that two defensive midfielders is one too many when we have a flat back four, it’s too cautious and makes the team sit back and invite pressure and also contributes to that left-to-right pattern. Barry, although good in a positional sense, is at times too slow. We could have two in front of the defense if we had a back three but those two should be McCarthy and Besic.

At the moment the core of our team from defensive midfield upwards should be McCarthy, Besic, Barkley, Cleverley, Mirallas, Deulofeu and Lukaku. Everbody else who occupies those positions are the ones we should be looking at replacing. I would keep Naismith because he’s good on his day and a handy sub but with replacements in those areas then the manager should be looking at moving the others on.

If we stuck to the philosophy of playing our best team, week-in & week out, and taking into consideration injuries, I think we wouldn’t need that many players to challenge for a first team slot. A prolific Number 9, a creative Number 10 and a left and right winger (not Lennon although Henen could be one of them depending on how well he’s progressing). We don’t need any more defensive midfielders with Ledson in the background so that position is fine, we just need a bit of money.

Nicholas Ryan
39 Posted 30/08/2015 at 16:44:02
With an international break coming, maybe it’s a good time to take stock.

It seems to me that none of the players who were here last season, is playing markedly worse. Most are playing better. Kone is beginning to show why RM had so much faith in him, but he still needs a little more time.

Tim Howard is (generally) much better than last term. Ross is showing much more confidence. If Stones stays, and I think he will, the strength of character he has shown over the last few weeks, will make him unbeatable.

Lukaku looks much more effective with (a rejuvenated) Kone by his side. Seamus is somewhere near his marauding best. Left back is a problem, but that’s mostly bad luck.

Cleverley looks better than we thought; Deulofeu looks as good as we always knew he could be. Barry & McCarthy could do better, but still OK. I would like to see more of Mirallas. Hoping for one rabbit out of the hat on Tuesday!

All in all: we’re in the top 10; we have a positive goal difference; we’ve already played City, Spurs and Southampton. It could be an awful lot worse lads, it could be an awful, awful lot worse!

ps: I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement, and I agree with some posters: there’s the nagging feeling that, if we were just 10% better, we could take the league by storm.

Paul Tran
40 Posted 30/08/2015 at 17:08:52
The thing is, Nicholas, we've got too many players who are just pretty good and throughout the pitch, we tend to overload in some areas leaving us weak in others.

Everything depends on good movement in the other team's half and someone having an eye for a good pass.

As I keep saying, despite all the money teams have spent, it looks a mediocre league, apart from City. No one else scares me so far.

The way the transfer market is looking, we'll be gambling with someone unheralded. I'm not bothered about marquee signings, as long as they fit in, can pick a pass and score some goals. Plus a decent keeper.

Paul Kossoff
41 Posted 30/08/2015 at 17:15:52
Nicholas 39, Deluded is the word if you think without at least three ready to go class players in the squad we will achieve anything with this team.

Howard has been at fault with three goals at least, Lukaku flatters to decieve and it was only luck again, as against Barnsley, that we got a draw from Spurs.

I fear only Lennon will be here on Tuesday and that's our lot until January, and let's hope we are in a decent position by then.

David Hallwood
42 Posted 30/08/2015 at 17:24:35
I'm watching Swansea v Man Utd and, although Swansea set up the same as us, Shelvey plays like a proper CM, supporting the forwards... unlike McCarthy & Barry.
Lyndon Lloyd
43 Posted 30/08/2015 at 17:40:38
Harold (19): I'd like to say it's a good report Lyndon but it isn't. It never is when Kone is on the pitch. How you love it when you are able to highlight his mistakes, something I've noticed for quite some time now. How you struggle when he has a fine game and hardly puts a foot wrong, as per yesterday.

I'm surprised by your comments, Harold, but I'd start by saying there simply isn't enough time to focus on every player in a match report and, seeing as our attacking contribution to this game was depressingly small, I stayed with the main issues as I see them in other areas of the side.

Kone did play well yesterday as he has for most of the season so far. He controlled the ball well, used it well and actually seemed to have a good understanding with Seamus down the right.

But he didn't get a sight of goal until he went up top and that's one of my issues – he was being played out of position and wasn't allowed to come central enough. The other is that as tidily as he has played, he is not a top-class player; he is adequate and will no doubt contribute his share of moments but if we have aspirations of challenging for the top four, we need to add real quality.

Sam Hoare
44 Posted 30/08/2015 at 17:44:38
I'm more and more inclined to think that both us and Spurs might not crack the top 7 this year. How good do the likes of a Palace and Swansea look?!
Joe Foster
45 Posted 30/08/2015 at 17:47:22
I agree Sam. Palace and Swansea look a level above us. I think we can only hope to aspire to a top 7 finish.
Sam Hoare
46 Posted 30/08/2015 at 17:59:40
It’s still early days, Joe, but we are definitely going to have be at our best this season to be top 7. The TV money has levelled the field and other teams have bought better and more than us.
David Hallwood
47 Posted 30/08/2015 at 18:33:01
I wish Gary Neville would have a word with Martinez; a breath of fresh air, and sums up what’s wrong with our style.
Mike Childs
48 Posted 30/08/2015 at 18:41:24
And other teams have managers who don't shackle the team's attack.
Colin Glassar
49 Posted 30/08/2015 at 18:41:57
European managers, David. It’s the possession game and it’s something we are going to have to get used to.

As for Palace and Swansea, well there’s always one or two teams that come storming out of the blocks (Leicester?) only to fade later on. Marathon, not a sprint and all that.

David Hallwood
50 Posted 30/08/2015 at 19:04:04
Colin, Neville did say an interesting thing in that score the goals THEN play possession football, and even though he was talking about Man Utd, he was critical about how slow they pass and that the midfielders don’t attack the space behind the defence. Sound familiar?
Matthew Workman
51 Posted 30/08/2015 at 23:20:25
I am lost with RM's tactical mind. Does he not see that Barry, McCarthy & Cleverley are pretty much the same player!

Why not play one holding midfielder, Barkley, Mirallas & Deulofeu behind Lukaku & Kone?

Kone does not suit the wing & I just think we pass it sideways too much in midfield.

Geoffrey Caveney
52 Posted 31/08/2015 at 00:15:11
We didn’t play a great game, but it’s nice to sneak out of White Hart Lane with a point anyway!

If we can just survive the brutal stretch of opponents in September and October, even with 14 points or so, the schedule will open up for us to go on a run in November and December and get up to 34-36 points by the end of the year.

That would put us on pace for 68-72 points for the season, and we can at least make a run at 4th place. Obviously we have to play better than yesterday to do that, but the chance is there for us.

Mark Wilson
53 Posted 31/08/2015 at 01:24:26
It's going to be a long old season this one. We will I think be better than last season but not by much. A lot depends on the next 48 hours. We look likely to have spent:

Zero-ish on Cleverley, a sound move;

£4.3M on Geri, shrewd... if he ever gets to play in the Premier League for more than 20 mins and then if he's brilliant we are forced to sell him back to Barca... ace;

£500k on Leandro;

£3M on some Spanish striker who's 19 and untested...

£6m on Mori, who, if he gets a permit, will be a decent if wee bit unstable defender!

And that could be it as the price for keeping Stones and Coleman. Yep, around £14M and hardly a dent in the dire need to strengthen the squad with real game-changing quality.

But I could be wrong and we may make a No 10 £15M purchase... what few digits I have are crossed.

Oh yes, the Spurs game? It was there to be won, if we'd have had the ambition, but we didn't. We just don't create enough and the service to Rom has to improve with decent wing play... soon.

Terry White
54 Posted 31/08/2015 at 01:49:00
Would people feel differently about the WHL result if we had beaten Watford and got draws against Soton and Spurs? Still 5 points from 4 games but a different perspective. A point at both Soton and Spurs before the season looked a decent return.
Terry White
55 Posted 31/08/2015 at 01:51:38
Watching only on TV, but who was booing Stones? Hopefully Spurs fans and not ours?
Mike Corcoran
56 Posted 31/08/2015 at 02:03:54
Knowing the MO, wouldn’t be surprised with one, two or all three of Walters, Nolan and Lennon come Tuesday...
Mark Andersson
57 Posted 31/08/2015 at 03:22:13
Have to agree with Steve Cotton, big Rom was useless yesterday. He is like snot hanging from someones nose, you don't want to focus on his no existing movement and crap ball control and bad premadonna attitude but you do.

Sick of reading the same comments about Barry and McCarthy, the commentator made me laugh when he said Spurs most creative player is Garath Barry. Summed it up really.

Zachary Tanner
58 Posted 31/08/2015 at 05:13:40
Richard @38 - from what I’ve heard and read about Martinez’s tactics and philosophy, he values tactical flexibility and players who can perform multiple roles. In the current tactical landscape, I think it makes more sense to think of teams having a formation while defending and one for going forward (or in possession in or case).

I would argue that we don’t actually play with a flat back four for most stretches of the game. We nominally line up in a 4-2-3-1, but in defense, it looks more like a 4-5-1 with two banks sitting deep and Lukaku providing a target to outlet. When we have possession it looks more like a 2-4-3-1 or a 3-4-3 with the fullbacks pushing up to provide width like wingers, and Barry falling back to add an extra option at the back to create additional passing "triangles". Sometimes when we’ve had possession for a while and the opposition is sitting back in two backs of 4, it even looks like a 3-2-5 with fullbacks and wingers filling the gaps between thier backline, stretching out horizontally while we pass the ball around the back looking for a lane for a through ball.

Martinez’s possession-based football works well when teams press us – the system seeks to capitalize on an opponent’s mistakes, usually by over-committing players up field.

In my book, the problem we have isn’t that Barry and McCarthy have defense-first assignments – it enables Coleman and Baines the license to bomb forward – but that we lack the creative #10 to pick out the incisive ball behind, especially when teams sit back and collapse space in the final third. I think that was the main difference between last season and Martinez’s first season – teams figured out that they could just sit back, take away space and challenge us to break them down.

Chris James
59 Posted 30/08/2015 at 08:52:30
For me, Martinez is needlessly over complicating the game and strategy to fit ideals that have as yet delivered nothing (aside from Wigan’s cup win + simultaneous relegation) and are ultimately to the detriment of the team and the club.

We have a team that’s good on the break with good fast/skilfull wingers, talented attacking full-backs and a forward that needs balls played ahead or crossed in.

This is proved when we actually play this way (as in our ’recovery’ at the end of last season or when we’re a goal or two down) and we look genuinely dangerous, score goals and often win.

Yet despite all the evidence, Martinez persists in playing the slow possession game that suits literally none of our team (especially our star striker who is poor with balls to feet or behind him) or indeed our league in general. (Name any of the champions that have played this way - it’s certainly not the way Man City, Chelsea or Man Utd play!)

Then, to compound this error, he insists on playing two defensive midfielders (which delivers literally nothing besides ham-stringing us by wasting a player) and also keeping the wingers on the bench, forcing forwards and midfielders into wide positions. Don’t even get me started on the logic of taking off strikers to replace them with wingers...

I raise this every week and in every available opportunity, but I genuinely don’t understand the thought process when the approach is so obviously not working to either improve the defence or create more incisive attacks.

Rick Tarleton
60 Posted 31/08/2015 at 09:16:50
Great and considered match report, Lyndon. McCarthy’s an excellent destroyer, a terrier of a player, but his passing is basically short and obvious. Barry has odd good games, but age is catching up. I’m always impressed with Besic who has a range of passes. I know he’s a card magnet, but he has potential beyond the range of the other two and needs to be managed.
Tony Abrahams
61 Posted 31/08/2015 at 09:57:29
Let Kone lead the line for an hour, then bring on Lukaku for the last 30 minutes, along with Deulofeu.Try it for a few weeks and see what happens.

Kone has a good touch, so we can play off him, and Rom can come on when the game begins to get stretched.

Nothing worse than playing football with a centre forward who can’t get hold of the ball, especially when we haven’t got that much creativity in midfield.

David Cooper
63 Posted 31/08/2015 at 13:46:58
No report yet from Ken Buckley? Just wondering if he is okay?

Also any news of Cleverley’s injury? Having watched the tackle numerous times, I can’t see how Dier was not yellow carded at least. Looked like he was out to prove a point about being let go. Especially when you add in his tackle on Ross. I think Rom was trying to point out the error of his ways in the scuffle before the free kick.

After 6pm tomorrow, nothing to worry about for almost 2 weeks as the boring international break kicks in. I can only imagine Goodison will be like the proverbial bear pit when Chelski arrive!

Jay Harris
64 Posted 31/08/2015 at 14:55:43
I was wondering about Ken too David.

On the subject of the game in one respect it is too early to jump on the Martinez bandwagon but on the other his tactics are frightening.

We are wide open in MF with no closing down of the opposition apart from the occasional "late" tackles from McCarthy or Barry.

Also we fanny about so much with the ball that the opposition have time to organize and reorganize their defense such that we don't even trouble their GK.

2 shots on target against one of the poorest Spurs sides we have faced recently is not good enough.

When we had to get back in the game at Bradford we changed the tactics completely.

Can we please have more Sin miedo and less Todos Miedo please.

We have a good group of players let them play FFS.

Stephen Brown
65 Posted 31/08/2015 at 15:03:15
I echo the posters who are missing Ken Buckley’s report. Hope Ken is okay! His reports are spot on!
Darren Hind
66 Posted 31/08/2015 at 15:15:03
Tony A,

Totally agree. To be honest, I thought Kone was shot, but he has been an unexpected bonus so far this season and has a far better first touch than Lukaku.

I don’t want to be too critical of Lukaku; he will get us lots of goals, but he can be very careless at times. He does not have natural close control so he should show a little more determination to fend off challenges and take better care of the ball.

I suspect he does not fully understand his importance to the team’s performance yet. Yes, he’s there to score goals... but we need more; he has got to start making that ball stick

Trevor Lynes
67 Posted 31/08/2015 at 16:24:35
Bournemouth look like getting Austin which will take their spending over £30 million.

Virtually every club in the league have spent upwards of £25 million.

Money cannot buy everything... but it can buy something!

Barry Jones
68 Posted 31/08/2015 at 18:22:10
A good result and an adequate performance, but Spurs were underwhelming. My main critical observation is that we carried too many players yesterday. In this league, you have to have everyone functioning.

Oviedo lost possession a few times and the turnovers almost cost us. He is not sharp enough at the moment. Barry seems unable to track players moving at pace into the box and Ryan Mason breezed past him once like he wasn't there and almost scored. As for Lukaku, I am lost for words. He makes Balotelli look like a grafter. We need ALL of our outfile players functioning at 100%.

Howard played really well. Even though he has an achilles heel for crosses into the box, he is still a superb shot stopper. He is still a long way better than Robles. A goalkeeper has to have great concentration. Robles switches off too often and is unreliable. He also seems to be quite timid. I would still like to see a few players coming in before the deadline.

Jim Hardin
69 Posted 31/08/2015 at 23:13:23
James #24,
Regarding your comment on Howard,

"He is a total liability and we will get punished by a more cynical side soon enough if this clown continues to distribute the ball the way he does."

You must have been referring to his GK kit when you called him a clown because, when I checked the facts, guess what I found? Going into the game, he was the 3d rated keeper in the EPL per Barclay’s site. Per, his distribution percentage is at a 70% success rate. The same as Joe Hart and Cech.

BTW, his length of distribution was about 10 meters more than either of them per attempt.

How is that poor?

James Byrne
70 Posted 01/09/2015 at 23:29:30
Jim #69

Against Spurs Howard got lucky on some of his saves so he takes the Kudos, no problems with that.

His short game distribution in that game was near suicidal; when we're under pressure it would be helpful to his defence (and the Everton fans) to just grab the ball and boot the fucking thing up the pitch - it isn't pretty but it is effective.

As regards to your stats - how do they explain the two goals Howard conceded against Man City because he should have had both goals covered?

Just to reiterate that (IMO) Howard is shite, always has been and always will be regardless of the stats.

David Booth
71 Posted 02/09/2015 at 10:25:44
Matthew #51, my thoughts to a latter, so allow me to repeat them here:
I am lost with RM’s tactical mind. Does he not see that Barry, McCarthy & Cleverley are pretty much the same player!

Why not play one holding midfielder, Barkley, Mirallas & Deulofeu behind Lukaku & Kone?

Kone does not suit the wing & I just think we pass it sideways too much in midfield.

I am extremely worried that, with Lennon’s arrival, only injuries or desperation will prevent Martinez from turning us into nothing more than a team of slavish grafters.

We were crying out for width at Tottenham – but, instead of playing Mirallas (whose spectacular half-volley sparked our revival at Barnsley) and Deulofeu (who gave one of the most inspiring performances I have ever seen in an Everton shirt), he plays Kone out of position on the right and Cleverley out of position on the left. Then brings Naismith on!

And as for his obstinate persistence with the now wholly ineffective Barry - McCarthy axis... words not only fail me, but every other Evertonian. Is there ANYONE out there who thinks it works any more?

I think we are close to having what can be regarded as a ’People’s Choice’ first XI:

Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines
McCarthy, Barkley, Cleverley (preferably Pienaar when fit?)
Mirallas, Lukaku, Deulofeu

However, in front of our keeper and back four I am sure Martinez gets a fattie on fantasing about the day when he can play Lennon, Naismith, Barry, McCarthy, Cleverley and Kone and grab a hard-earned point at West Brom.

After a wonderful debut season, he has gone worryingly backwards and it is now safety first and being more concerned about the opposition (déjà vu, á la David Moyes), than focusing on making them concerned about us.

One final thing that occurs to me too, when we play a more marauding style, with Mirallas, Lukaku and Deulofeu all going direct to goal as soon as they they get the ball, Barkley becomes twice the player.

All hard work and no play however, alongside the likes of Barry, Naismith and now that failed headless chicken, Lennon, makes him a very dull boy!

Crossroads looming large on the horizon, Roberto. Make sure you choose the right direction...

Phil Sammon
72 Posted 02/09/2015 at 10:45:11
Jim 69

4 games in and Howard is sitting pretty then.

Care to delve back into last season’s stats and tell us how he performed? Pretty fucking badly.

That said, I think it’s a bit of a pointless exercise to look at a keeper’s stats when they rarely tell the full story.

Howard is okay in certain areas. He pulls off some great saves as you’d expect at this level. However, his ability to collect crosses and command his area are non-existent. Robles looked much better in that department... the rest is history.

Andy Codling
73 Posted 03/09/2015 at 16:36:21
Did Gibson sign a new contract?

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