Everton's search for the winning formula goes on

The Blues' window of opportunity in an unpredictable Premier League season narrowed further with two more points frittered away from a winning position.

Lyndon Lloyd 13/12/2015 42comments  |  Jump to last
Norwich City 1-1 Everton

There are some who will say that the top four was never on for Everton this season and when the Blues' chances were weighed against their poor 2014-15 campaign, the expenditure by the likes of Manchester United over the summer and the apparent lock that the new "big four" rounded out by Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea were presumed to again have on the Champions League places, it would have been hard to argue against that notion at the start of the campaign.

With the glorious unpredictability of this year's edition of the Premier League so far, however, opportunity has opened up for a club from outside of that quartet to break into the top four. While United are bogged down by injury problems and a lack of direction under Louis van Gaal's uninspiring management and neither Arsenal nor City can seem to be able to string enough wins together to get their necks out in front at the top of the table, all three clubs look set to contest the prized Champions League spots but Chelsea's spectacular collapse may leave one place up for grabs.

Sadly, on the evidence so far, Everton look unlikely to claim it and for all the attacking promise of Roberto Martinez's relatively youthful side, this game and the two that preceded it in the League illustrate precisely why. The Toffees have been the better team in each of the contests against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Norwich City and, having taken the lead in on each occasion, you'd have have expected them to go on and win them. Unfortunately, instead of nine points and a place where they would be breathing down the necks of the top four, Everton are hovering in mid-table below the likes of Crystal Palace, Watford and Leicester contemplating their failure to press home those precious advantages.

Given the bitter feeling of having snatched "defeat" from the jaws of victory at Dean Court and against Palace, this trip to struggling Norwich was seen as a must in terms of picking up three points ahead of three more vital League games before the end of the year. And by the time the half-time whistle blew at Carrow Road, Martinez's men certainly seemed to have recognised the urgency and looked intent on putting the Canaries to the sword.

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Theirs was, as their manager would remark after the game, as good an away performance as you're likely to see; the problem was, the fine display lasted just 45 minutes and Everton had only one goal to show for it by the midway point. If the encounter wouldn't quite fit the ball as the quintessential game of two halves in the final reckoning, the drop-off in the Blues' intensity and effectiveness after the interval was stark enough and they were probably fortunate that Cameron Jerome smashed an absolute sitter over Tim Howard's crossbar with 20 minutes to go. A draw offers just a point more than a defeat but you can just imagine the reaction had we lost...

Norwich simply looked there to be taken apart at times in the first period and both Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku looked hell-bent on doing just that from early on in proceedings. The Spaniard spurned a couple of promising solo break-aways as the home defence parted for him like the Red Sea but, true to his hit-and-miss reputation, he served up another brilliant assist for the Belgian with a quarter of an hour gone. A corner kick was initially cleared but John Stones kept it alive by chasing the ball down the byline, passing it back for Deulofeu to whip a beauty to the back post for Lukaku to deftly nod home from close range. It was the Belgian's seventh consecutive game with a goal and it took his tally in the League to 12 in just 16 games.

It also sparked a flurry of Everton advances that looked certain to add to the lead but Arouna Kone was twice foiled by Rudd racing off his line to charge down excellent opportunities while Lukaku somehow fluffed a shot wide at the back stick but his blushes were partially spared by the offside flag, even though the deflection that had put it into his path had come off a Norwich player.

Despite Everton having assumed near complete control of the game, the second goal wouldn't come. Stones was releaxed and impressive at the back, Tom Cleverley operating with the same mix of intensity without the ball and intelligence coming forward as he had shown for much of the game against Palace, and the trio of Lukaku, Kone and Deulofeu looking dangerous on almost every attack.

A combination of a lack of ruthlessness, a measure of bad luck played their part Lukaku passed up the chance to bury one cross from the right with his head opting for the spectacular air-kicked instead before Leighton Baines hammered the loose ball off the post and a dash of complacency all seemed to restrict the Blues to a single goal. If there was a decisive moment in the first half it came in injury time when Lukaku dragged a shot inches wide at the end of another Everton counter-attack.

In hindsight, it's a short leap to blame Everton for not being clinical enough in those first 45 minutes and they were profligate, but it was clear that had they maintained the drive and creativity they had shown in the first half for the majority of the second, they would surely have found the net again and claimed those three important points. The dynamic of game changed almost straight away after half time, though, when Norwich equalised in entirely predictable circumstances.

Stones allowed Jerome to muscle by him on the Canaries' left touchline and sent in a cross that was put behind for a corner by Baines on the other side. As the resulting set-piece was delivered to the back corner of the six-yard box, a Norwich player easily out-jumped Stones who remained rooted to the floor and though Tim Howard got a hand on the ball and Barkley stopped it on the line, Wes Hoolahan was on hand to force it over the line.

From there and credit to Norwich for the way in which they responded to their first-half disarray the contest shifted to being a much more open affair and Deulofeu started to lose his way as the half wore on. Barkley had been mostly tidy on the ball but seemed to lack any guile or intent to drive forward the ball and it was no surprise that when Martinez was moved to make changes, it was the two young attacking midfielders who were replaced.

The benefciaries of the decisions were Kevin Mirallas and Darron Gibson but neither player was able to make much of an impact on proceedings and as Kone and was moved to a less effective role wide on the right Everton lapsed into their familiar pattern of slowed tempo and a propensity to want to walk the ball through the opposition defence. They were never able to recapture the dynamism or dominance they had enjoyed in the first half but they still carved out a couple of decent chances.

The first saw Baines roll a ball across the face of Rudd's goal that was just beggingto be tapped home but there were no Blue jerseys for yards; the second arrived at Gareth Barry's feet on the edge of the six-yard box but Rudd was on hand once more, expertly closing down the angle to block his goalbound shot.

With three more games to go until the halfway stage of the season, of course, a top-four finish isn't of the question but on current evidence it's highly unlikely. To achieve it, Martinez's side would have to do it the hard way, by winning games above the teams above them in the table, something they have failed to do even once so far. That is going to entail not only better luck with injuries and the continuation of Lukaku's flow of goals but, more than anything, it will require a significant shift in mentality from manager and players alike.

It's also going to remain an unattainable dream if the team is unable to score enough goals to offset its weaknesses at the back from crosses and dead-ball situations. It's the price of having a young, inexperienced pairing at the heart of your defence backed by an ageing goalkeeper who no longer appears to inspire confidence in those around him. It's a rearguard that is coming up short every time it is being seriously examined and it either needs to be addressed or over-compensated for at the other end, a big ask for some talented but equally youthful attackers.

Martinez talks of the need to be ruthless and turn all of these draws into victories but talk is cheap and time is short. There are no guarantees that the current instability in the upper reaches of the Premier League will continue throughout the season so the window of opportunity could soon close. If only the danger of losing some of our crown jewels next summer weren't so clear and present, it all might not be quite so agonising.

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Reader Comments (42)

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Darren Hind
1 Posted 13/12/2015 at 10:42:51
A good accurate account again, Lyndon, but I'm beginning to feel like I've read it before. When are we going to learn?

Our one-touch football on the break is as good as anything being served up in the Premier League at the moment, However, we are completely reliant on 2/3 players being at the top of their game. The tactics are set in stone.

By playing two defensive midfield players every game, Martinez ensures that the primary function of 7 of our team is to stop the opposition. To be fair, it works most of the time; we look a solid unit and rarely give much away in open play.

The problems start when we give free kicks or corners away, we are a complete shambles. We can blame the players if we want, but to ignore the manager's record is to not recognise the problem, no matter who plays for him they concede from dead ball situations, A defence needs to be drilled, they need practice, they need to know their jobs . . There are no short cuts. Our entire team is riddled with doubt and uncertainty every time we face a set piece.

This is not (as some will try to twist it) a call to solely concentrate solely on set pieces in training, it's a call to plug the biggest and most obvious hole in the Premier League. Every time somebody mentions 'corner' and 'Martinez' in the same sentence, I get chest pains

Bobby Thomas
2 Posted 13/12/2015 at 10:55:42
What happens when Lukaku dries up?
Christopher Timmins
3 Posted 13/12/2015 at 11:00:24
Lyndon, your report highlights the failings of the team. We are a soft touch when defending set pieces. We could do with a centre half like Derek Mountfield, Dave Watson or Martin Keown of old. However, it cannot be overlooked that, given the team's lack of physical presence at set pieces, the goalkeeper has a duty to come for all crosses in and around the six-yard box. Unfortunately, our goalkeeper does not seem to think this is the case, nor indeed does the manager.

In fairness to the previous games mentioned in your report, we came from behind against Palace and they are a top 6 club after 16 games of the season.

Steve Guy
4 Posted 13/12/2015 at 11:31:53
To be clear. The only chance this team has of European football is through a cup competition and even there our defensive shortcomings are likely to preclude that eventuality.

Martinez is blind to the fact that all good teams are built on solid defence. It doesn’t have to stop you going forward but you have to get the basics right defensively. Every time the opposition get the ball in from crosses and corners you can see the panic it creates. Tim Howard is adding nothing; he doesn’t organise, he doesn’t punch or catch very often. Star jumps and the occasional shot stopped doesn’t inspire confidence. We need a top defensive coach and a new goalie.

All-in-all, I think we’ll finish top ten at best. I can’t see that defence keeping Citeh at bay over two legs in the League Cup semis and I think even Dagenham will fancy their chances from set-pieces against that defence!

It’s a crying shame, as this is the best crop of outfield players we have had in many a year and better management would make all the difference in turning them into trophy winners.

Chris Rudd
5 Posted 13/12/2015 at 11:54:47
It’s plain to see, as everyone says, that we need to be way more commanding at the back from set-pieces, to stop this constant letting in of soft goals and dropping of points, week-in & week-out, from games we’re in charge of.

But yesterday, we should have been out of sight by half-time. Our front players have got to stop playing as though there’ll be another chance along in a minute, so it doesn’t matter if they miss. Even Lukaku, who has been excellent in recent weeks, missed a sitter or two yesterday. We’re making chances by the hatful but only taking a small percentage of them.

Letting one goal in away from home shouldn’t automatically mean you don’t win the game. So frustrating!

Mark Andersson
6 Posted 13/12/2015 at 13:07:02
Great report Lyndon, already some excellent posts, but unless Martinez or one of his backroom staff read TW (which of course they don’t), same shit, different match for the foreseeable future.

Some believe that we are a whisker away from it all clicking into gear,and then we’re going to be just like Howard’s army of the 80s. Not a chance.

Martinez talks shite and does not address the issues that most on TW see, week-in & week out. He has a job for as long as he wants it under this Board of Directors. We have seen The RS sack their manager, Swansea do the same.

I will be amazed if we have a good Christmas run in. As the co-commentator said, if Everton draw this game, they're going to feel terrible after their first-half performance. He of course being a ex-RedShite player was gloating, as he had very little to say during the first half. Oh the irony; they just love it when we shoot ourselves in the foot, week-in & week-out.

I have no answer but neither does Bobby boy.

Steavey Buckley
7 Posted 13/12/2015 at 13:23:01
Kone can’t even see where the goal is at the moment. He either blazes the ball over the bar or wide of the goal. Or wants to shoot at the goalkeeper. If he has his eyesight corrected, Everton would be sitting in a different position in the league.
Geoff Williams
9 Posted 13/12/2015 at 14:06:36
It’s strange how we all see the same game and view it in a different light. Solutions to the problems are different but the one thing we all agree on is too many points have been lost, too many goals conceded particularly from set pieces.

My views will be at odds with the majority of TW followers but that’s why football is such a special game.

I would play a 4-3-1-2 system:

Coleman, Stones, Jagielka (once fit), Barnes;
McCarthy, Barry, Cleverley;
Lukaku, Deulofeu.

Howard simply isn’t good enough these days. The back four picks itself.

I would encourage the fullbacks to provide width with Deulofeu switching wings during the game and one of the fullbacks providing the width on the other side of the pitch. This would allow the fullbacks to be more dynamic in attack.

One of the problems we’ve had this season is being overrun in midfield in the second half of games as the likes of Deulofeu, Barkley and Kone, none of whom find defending a natural part of their game, tire and lose concentration, giving the initiative to the opposition.

Barry would be a holding player patrolling in front of the back four, providing cover for the fullbacks and Stones when he makes a break. Cleverley and McCarthy would be the legs, the energy, breaking up attacks and supporting Barkley whose job would be to provide the ammunition for Lukaku and Deulofeu. I wouldn’t expect Deulofeu to track back but be ready for the counter attack.

Once we’ve mastered the art of holding on to a lead, then a more flexible approach could be utilised.

Cover for Lukaku must be a priority in the January window and a genuine creative midfielder. I hate the use of a No 10, with goal scoring ability, would be a useful addition.

I would also encourage the use of some of the Under-21s in the later stages of matches as substitutes rather than Osman, Gibson or Naismith.

Steve Harris
10 Posted 13/12/2015 at 14:20:29
Darren, with all due respect, you must be watching a different side to the one that I’ve been watching!

In my opinion, one of my biggest gripes with us is that – despite insisting on playing with two defensive midfielders every week – we are still piss poor at closing the opposition down.

Consistently, when we lose the ball when we’re on the attack, it only takes a couple of passes and they’re in a threatening position. We might now be attacking and passing the ball reminiscent of Barcelona – the difference is, we can’t get it back like they do!

Callum McNab
11 Posted 13/12/2015 at 14:27:37
Christopher (#3), spot-on. Talking with friends and family who went yesterday, everyone said the same. No-one gets hold of a man. Kone, Stones and Funes Mori all just stood there yesterday; not one challenged. You hold your breath every time the opposing team gets a free kick or corner.

Why doesn’t Rom come up for corners and stick Kone up front? I think a defensive coach is essential now but sadly we know how blinkered and stubborn Martinez is... so nothing will change.

Tony Hill
12 Posted 13/12/2015 at 14:51:39
I think we might as well go for broke, Geoff. I’d drop Barry (he’s been very good for much of the season but you can see him slowing up again) and play Barkley there and I’d play Mirallas just behind Lukaku.

I don’t care about the history which Mirallas may have accrued with Martinez, he’s one of our best players and should link very well with Lukaku. I keep reminding myself that he had a 1-in-2 record with Olympiakos and he can also pick a pass. We’re wasting him and Martinez needs to manage any personal issues, that’s what he’s paid to do.

I’d stick for now with Cleverley on the left instead of Kone, who should be used as a sub – that’s where he should be, given his age and fitness. I accept that we probably won’t get a Number 10 or left-sided player in January (especially a Number 10) but, if we could get a Yarmolenko, I think it could transform us.

The imbalance in the team is embarrassing. The other, admittedly speculative, option on that side would be to get Baines much fitter (how come he’s so obviously out of condition?) and push him forward ahead of Galloway.

I agree with you about Robles – Howard is not as bad as some make out but he is part of the problem and Robles should be given a chance.

I would tell Barkley to up his game or he will be dropped. I’m a great fan of this immensely gifted player but it’s like watching a Lamborghini that never gets out of third gear.

Besic is our other wildcard, in my opinion, but he seems to have been locked up somewhere at Finch Farm. It would be nice to see him again because I think he could be a big part of our future.

As for the captaincy, I would give it either to Coleman or McCarthy when he’s fit and I would not give it back to Jagielka whom I admire but who is classic Everton "nice".

Finally, I think it’s time to start talking about the manager again. I understand that we will be told that such talk is hysterical and that we should all stay calm and watch the side fulfil itself but I think he’s had his chance and he’s blown it.

This is an absolutely critical moment in the history of our club and we need to act decisively and ruthlessly. Problem is, who’s in charge?

Les Martin
13 Posted 13/12/2015 at 15:04:18
Can any of you recently remember when we played such exciting stuff and created so many chances? To say we won't make the top ten is ridiculous and we are playing better than anyone and the so called "big four" at present.

Martinez knows what he has got, a young side that is going places,and he will work it out. The chances will keep coming, our look will change and someone is going to get tonked!!

The defence is still so young yet learning all the time, so the mistakes will happen at the beginning, it is to be expected, but time will sort.

Chill out, grab a Chang and relax! It is going to be one hell of an exciting season for us, and we are only one third in as yet

Geoff Williams
14 Posted 13/12/2015 at 16:19:07
I didn’t rate Cleverley when he was at Man Utd but one needs to watch a player on a regular basis before making judgements on their ability as a footballer. I have to admit he is a much better player than I thought.

He is much more mobile than I expected. I think next season he could form a formidable midfield with McCarthy and Besic.

Barry will still have a part to play over the next couple of seasons as part of the coaching staff as his playing experience and ability to read the game is second to none at the club.

John Codling
15 Posted 13/12/2015 at 17:13:30
I for one am getting fed up with RM's post-match comments, the prick is obviously not watching the same game as me. I have now stopped listening to them, it’s so embarrassing. And if he uses the word ’phenomenal’ one more time, I am looking for a gun.
Craig Fletcher
16 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:02:57
Results today certainly favoured us. Seems incredible that after three successive, frustrating draws, we're still only three points off 5th place! The game v Spurs just after New Year's will be an important one in the race for Europe.
Dean Adams
17 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:03:05
Just chuck Robles between the sticks and watch us win games and improve our fragile defensive confidence. It really is a simple game.
Raymond Fox
18 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:06:03
What a weird season this is! Some of these results rather put some of ours into perspective.
Tony Hill
19 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:07:57
Raymond: no they don’t, they just show what we’ve thrown away.
Colin Glassar
20 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:09:51
Crazy season this. Like I said yesterday, the football gods still haven’t turned their backs on us. The title looks like it will be between Man City and Arsenal but the rest of the places are up for grabs after the media darlings (Liverpool and Spurs) dropped points today and the Man Utd lost yesterday.

For god's sake, Everton – buck up your ideas and we can still salvage something from this season.

Eric Myles
21 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:16:01
"We're left ruing a number of missed chances and the form of goalkeeper Declan Rudd."

I don’t remember their goalie actually having much to do, but do remember at least 5 shots from us that didn’t even bother him, not counting Baines's effort against the post.

Graham Mockford
22 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:22:29

Two saves from Kone in the first half and a good one from Barry near the end.

Craig Fletcher
23 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:25:31
With so many points being dropped by the top 5-6 in the league, and so many points being won by the bottom 5, I reckon a lower points tally will still be ok for European places this season. My thinking is 65-70 points will be alright for 4th place; 60-65 for 5th.

(Likewise a higher points tally may still see some sides being relegated compared to previous seasons – I can see 18th spot maybe having as much as 35 points, due to how competitive the league is this season.)

If Everton average two points a game from here on in, that will give us 67 points, and I think that’ll be good enough for 4th place and a Champions League play-off place. It will almost certainly be enough for 5th place and the Europa league.

As Colin said, Everton just need to buck up their ideas, turn those draws into wins more often than not, and it certainly is on.

Kunal Desai
24 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:36:06
It wouldn't surprise me if lost to Leicester and drew with Newcastle and Stoke and still retain 10th place, such is the league.
Colin Glassar
26 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:50:13
Kunai, it wouldn't surprise me if we draw all our remaining games and win the league on 40 odd points. This season is a bit mental.
Patrick Murphy
27 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:51:06
Assuming that Leicester beat Chelsea on Monday they would top the league with 35 points.

1. Leicester (35) Chelsea (39)
2. Arsenal (33) Man City (36)
3. Man City (32) Man Utd (31)
4. Man Utd (29) West Ham (28)

Last season, Arsenal sat in 5th place just 2 points behind 4th placed West Ham and ended up in the CL places.

The relegated teams had 13, 14 and 15 points after 16 matches whilst this season’s likely pace-setters Leicester had only ten points. Aston Villa are in an even worse position than Leicester were but the teams from Bournemouth downwards are still in the mix for the dreaded drop. Last season, 3rd from bottom Hull City went down with 35 points; Aston Villa escaped with 38.

Everton and Liverpool both had 21 points at the same stage of the season, with the neighbours taking a EL place with 62 points.

This season may be one of those unpredictable ones in terms of match results but the pattern isn’t that much different to last season. The minimum points tally for CL was 70 points last season and to earn a EL spot it was 60. I imagine it will be something similar this time around so for Everton to gain a place in the Europa League, they will need to accrue somewhere in the region of 37 points from the remaining 22 games, for CL somewhere in the region of 47 points. Everything is possible but I wouldn’t hold my breath unless of course we start to keep a string of clean sheets and manage to win more than the odd game in isolation.

Jamie Barlow
28 Posted 13/12/2015 at 18:53:02
There seem to be quite a few teams searching for this winning formula. With today's results, that's Man Utd, Liverpool, Spurs and Us all failing to capitalise.

I'm with most of the above. We have a really exciting squad at the moment and its all going to go tits up because we can't defend set pieces, and "apparently" we don't practice scoring from them or defending them. If we don't, and I find it hard to believe we don't, I couldn't care less whether Roberto got the sack tomorrow. I think it's pretty ignorant to ignore how many goals can be scored from set pieces and how better organised you can be from practice. To ignore this stinks.

Anyway, I tend to agree with Les Martin. I think this team is exciting and if our manager and defence can sort their heads out, we can go pretty far. I'll focus more on the great first half at Norwich and not the shite second. I hope Roberto does the opposite.

Sid Logan
29 Posted 13/12/2015 at 19:00:04
I want to make a point about Ross Barkley which I think also illustrates one of the problems Martinez has.

When Ross started to play regularly for the first team Martinez explained that he was a raw and exciting talent who would make mistakes and therefore we should all be patient. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that line.

Lately, however, Berkley looks increasingly like a player who doesn’t want to take chances. He looks as though his primary focus during the game is on not giving away possession.

When a teammate passes the ball to Barkley it’s almost certain he’ll get it straight back. If his teammate then passes it back straight back to Barkley the the odds are he’ll get it back again. You get the impression that this pinging of the ball to each other could go on all day if left to Barkley.

It’s rarely Barkley who breaks out of this ineffective passing mode and yet he is the one player with the capability of turning and going off at speed in another direction and making the break which takes the opposition by surprise. It’s not happened in recent games.

To me, it seems that Barkley has totally absorbed Martinez’s 'possession at all cost' philosophy. Possession is king and if you have possession you, and not the opposition, are controlling the game.

Unfortunately as most of us know and continuously complain about this is only a part of the equation. With Martinez I always get the impression that his possession mantra overrides all the other important facets of the game. These include the two key elements such as defending as though your life depended on it and and at the the other end of the pitch trying win the game at all cost by taking every chance to shoot rather trying to create the perfect scoring opportunity.

Anyway back to Barkley. He is obviously a lad who at this stage of his career is massively under the influence of Martinez and I’m not sure that Martinez possession focus is getting the best out of the huge talent that Barkley has. The bottom line is Barkley under Martinez’s influence is turning in to someone who is increasing fearful of taking chances.

The fact is Barkley has played better for England in in his last couple of games where he done just what he should be doing for us. We seem to be playing him deeper but this too is a waste of his talent. He’s not the type of player, at least at the moment, who can spread the play with long range passes. He need to be attacking the penalty are and, dare I say it, shooting on site!

Oliver Molloy
30 Posted 13/12/2015 at 19:23:43

A top four finish this season is totally out of the question. Seriously, if we cannot beat teams like Crystal Palace, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford, Swansea, Stoke then we are not going to be any better against the teams above us in my opinion.

The squad is young with decent experience in there also and we have the basis of something special, I believe, but we are simply too inconsistent over 90 minutes and at the end of the day that is down to coaching and the manager is it not?

The points we have dropped from our last 3 games alone would see us now in 4th position. It’s not all down to luck. This season was our big chance; next season will be even more frustrating with key players moving on.

Tony Abrahams
31 Posted 13/12/2015 at 20:08:02
Crazy game football isn’t it? Last season, we only had two less points than we have now, but the football was absolutely horrible to watch. Roll on 12 months, we can’t beat anyone above us (hopefully till next Saturday), but some of our attacking football is becoming a joy to watch.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we are getting better, much better actually, and it's probably the biggest reason, why so many posters, are so disappointed at the minute.

Cleverley, looks like he has improved the team offensively, but if Martinez, is saying he won’t stand in either Naismith's or Mirallas’s way, then I’m sure we will be bringing in a couple of players in January. Like everybody is saying, let’s hope one of them is a true leader.

Mike Powell
32 Posted 13/12/2015 at 21:11:11
Lee Martin, the game is about winning. I don't give a shit about us playing well; we need to start winning. There is no chance of us getting in the top six unless we sort the defending out.
Paul Andrews
33 Posted 13/12/2015 at 22:08:32

Rome wasn't built in a day,but we are getting better much better.

Well said mate

Andy Meighan
34 Posted 14/12/2015 at 21:39:07
So, Les, we're playing better than anyone, and the so-called top 4... er... really? What about Leicester City and Arsenal then? And Palace and Watford – teams, as I look at the moment, that are above us in the league.

The so-called exciting stuff you talk about only gets played for 45 minutes; the game lasts 90... Oh and we’ve already tonked two sides, the woeful Aston Villa and Sunderland. I never got carried away after them, because I knew what was coming after.

The manager disregards set-pieces as some sort of irritant. An irritant, by the way, that’s costing us big time, and while he’s manager this will carry on.

I’ll stick my neck out right now and say Everton will not finish in the top half of the table as we have an undroppable goalkeeper who won’t move off his line and lack of a dominant centre-half and midfielders who consider it an annoyance to track back and help out the defence.

Martinez has stated that he won’t be buying in the next window so it looks like we’re stuck with what we’ve got so set-pieces will continue to yield goals. I’m actually wetting myself every time we concede a corner – that’s how worrying it is.

And look who’s in town on Saturday... high-flying Leicester City. As someone earlier said, it looks like we’ll have to score 3 or 4 to beat them. The way we missed chance after chance against Norwich, I won’t be holding my breath.

Adam Luszniak
35 Posted 15/12/2015 at 09:12:44
I think we will finish top half, because regardless of what you think about our manager, our squad is better than half of those in the premier league. Many good points made above both for and against the manager.

On Ross Barkley and his form, whilst I agree that he does look like he’s playing in 2nd gear sometimes and is afraid of losing possession, this season he has 6 goals and 5 assists. Last season he got 2 of each. If that isn’t Martinez improving a player, I don’t know what is.

On defensive frailties it’s harder to defend Martinez, and he has to certainly take some criticism, at the same time I think that John Stones needs to as well. He is not the finished article, and whilst he is awesome with the ball at his feet I think the we need to recognise he’s not the league’s best at defending corners or crosses into the box. I agree with those criticising Martinez if it is indeed the case that we are not actually working on this on the training ground.

On the Norwich game in particular, the person who deserves most of the blame in my opinion is Lukaku. He is one of our best players at the moment and whilst he’s come on leaps and bounds from last season, a £30m striker should not be missing sitters like he did against Norwich. We should have been 3 up by half time. That one can’t be blamed on Martinez.

On the keeper, this clearly is Martinez’s biggest failing. We have in Robles, at least a capable understudy and potentially a better keeper. Certainly when he came in last season he kept clean sheets when Howard couldn’t, and in the League Cup this season he has looked good. Howard is at the end of his career, Martinez needs to recognise this and go and get a keeper who can help us get top 4 if he doesn’t believe that keeper is already on the books in the shape of Joel Robles.

David Graves
36 Posted 15/12/2015 at 09:53:05
Adam why does Lukaku deserve most of the blame for the failure to conserve the lead at Norwich?

He may have missed a couple of chances but he’s currently second in the goals-scored table and has already beaten club records that stretch back to Latchford and Heath.

If the manager can’t set us up to defend set pieces, then I don’t see how that can possibly be the striker’s fault.

Paul Saleh
37 Posted 15/12/2015 at 12:46:10
Any chance of employing a decent defensive coach to sort out set pieces? I’m not sure who is coaching our defenders but whoever it is is shit at preparing them for set-pieces.
Tony Marsh
38 Posted 15/12/2015 at 19:35:41
The main problem we have starts and ends with the 'keeper. At any level of football, anything put in to the six-yard box is or should be the 'keeper's ball.

The goalkeeper should come and take out everything in his path. Instead we get Howard flapping about on his line like a Penguin trying to fly.

Everything that follows is a direct result. Robes needs to play.

Adam Luszniak
39 Posted 15/12/2015 at 21:18:57
David, I criticised Martinez several times in my post. I also criticised some other people. Lukaku missed two absolute sitters, how is he not to blame for the loss as much as the other criticised in my post?
Paul Kernot
40 Posted 16/12/2015 at 08:15:04
Callum # 11. I totally agree with you. I coach a local team here in NZ. When I took on the job, I immediately knew I needed to fix the fact that my short arse defence kept shipping goals at corners and set pieces.

As a new coach, not knowing what else to do and therefore in desperation really, I immediately brought my 6’2" striker back at corners and left the 5’6" number 10 up on the half-way line. I also flooded the box with mid fielders as well as defenders.

The main key I think was to get my captain to be very vocal about who was responsible for picking up who, ie, our taller, better headers picking up their tall, good headers. The result was often chaotic defence as we pretty much had 10 players in or around the box but we shipped just one goal from corners all of last season.

We are only a 3rd Division team in a small, provincial town and I’m not suggesting the ability of our opposition remotely have the ability of a Premier League striker, but it sure as hell fixed the problem.

Jim Hardin
41 Posted 17/12/2015 at 00:41:22
Tony, absolute rubbish. The goalkeeper cannot come out for every cross and take everyone in the way out. He doesn’t have time and the ball doesn’t go to the same spot every time.

It takes a corner less than 1-1.5 seconds to get to the near side of the six-yard box if driven, slightly longer if floated. The keeper has to first recognize the angle and pace of the ball and anticipate where it is going to land. He next has to fight through the opposing players put in front of him. This is as he is then running out to fight through his own defenders and trying to get his arms clear of his own defenders’ heads and shoulders to punch the ball while being jostled and knocked around and even to the ground.

Even if he does punch it, he is now 6 yards off his line. That assumes he can even get there before the ball at that point. This will succeed in allowing goals to be scored and the keeper to get hurt.

There are coaches who time the ball flight in order to help offensive players figure out the distance they can back up to get a good run and leap on the ball (offensive players know whether the ball will be driven and where it is supposed to go) but the same timeframe applies to the defense too.

Case in point: on the Norwich goal, Howard had one large Canary in front of him and 5 more players at the spot of the ball 6 yards out. You really want him to come out and miss everything? What would you say then? Instead, he stayed on his line like any GK, Robles included, should have done, based upon the initial read. Howard actually deflected the ball from the line right to Barkley who got the assist for the Norwich goal (but at least was trying to help).

No goalkeeper does what you want. Not Cech. Not Lloris. Not Courtois.
Keep looking for one because I suspect he will be right next to the leprechaun since both are make-believe.

Phil Sammon
42 Posted 17/12/2015 at 02:18:53

I agree with most of your post. The keeper cannot and should not come for EVERY ball in his six-yard box.

However, what you fail to acknowledge is that Howard is easily the worst keeper in the league when it comes to dominating his area. The most frustrating thing is that the man himself has refused to address this issue throughout his entire career. He is unable to take criticism even when thoroughly deserved.

Martinez bangs on about having the ’right characters’ at the club. Howard’s baffling arrogance in his own ability and contempt for the fans should have been enough to see him out the door. Add to that the fact he has an understudy who has outperformed him at every opportunity... it really is a mystery as to how this man is still between the sticks.

Peter Barry
43 Posted 17/12/2015 at 03:14:22
Football is a simple game really; you win games by scoring more goals against the opposition than they do against you. But if you start all those games with a KNOWN liability in your own goal then that task becomes much harder.

THAT is Everton’s problem and no amount of beating around the bush and deflecting will take it away.

Jim Hardin
44 Posted 17/12/2015 at 23:57:57

First, I was only responding to the idiotic posts by some on here about what a keeper should do or not. Yes, one indicated he should come for every cross. Another indicated he should essentially bash his way through every player in front of him. Second, Howard comes for crosses close into his goal just like the Leicester game. He does not go out to the 6 and never has. That is not arrogance it is his style of play.

Arrogance is thinking you know better than him what he should do after the thousands of hours he has spent on positioning, groundwork, footwork, and yes punching and catching. Arrogance is thinking that he is wrong and you are right when you don’t play the position for the club. No manager has criticized him for his style of play. Odd that over here his performances on the USA team are the same but we have defenders who can deal with it.

As for Robles, please stop stating opinion as fact. He is clearly not better. Check the stats over his career, or this season thus far. Second, as one poster noted about RM seeing Naismith train that, "if he isn’t playing he isn’t showing enough in practice," applies to Robles. His performance in the League Cup have been average or woeful. Remember his gaffes caused the extra time game or did you forget.

Howard, based upon the stats from 6 different websites I have reviewed is not near the bottom but instead is in the top half (as high as 3rd) of the goalkeepers in the league. Again, if you don’t like the way he plays just say so but put your continued criticism down to your own arrogance about the position rather than his.

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