Everton end 2016 with frustration still in tow

It’s somewhat fitting that a year characterised by frustration should end with another infuriating Everton performance and two more dropped points against one of the poorest sides in the Premier League.

Lyndon Lloyd 30/12/2016 31comments  |  Jump to last
Hull City 2-2 Everton

It’s somewhat fitting that a year characterised by frustration — from two stumbles in sight of a Wembley final and the long-delayed removal of Roberto Martinez to a mixed bag of a summer transfer window and the alarming drop-off in results after Ronald Koeman’s strong start, 2016 has vexed Blues fans almost from start to finish — should end with another infuriating Everton performance and two more dropped points against one of the poorest sides in the Premier League.

Optimism was high following the win at Leicester that Koeman’s side could finally start to re-establish some momentum with successive away victories at a time when the top six clubs are starting to pull away. Instead, Evertonians had to be content with a sixth draw on the season after seeing their team concede the first goal for the 11th time in 19 games.

On the back of what was probably an entertaining 2-2 draw for the neutrals watching on Sky Sports, Everton have now rescued 12 points from losing positions under Koeman; it’s the fact they keep having to do it that is so annoying. Furthermore, it felt so avoidable if the manager had just kept faith with a winning team and not broken up a back line that had kept its first clean sheet since October. He may have had one eye on Monday’s clash with Southampton but the feeling was he got his selection wrong tonight and paid the price.

The Dutchman has chopped and changed his line-ups to an uncomfortable degree this season but among a number of positives to come out of the Boxing Day win at the King Power Stadium were the feeling that Ronald Koeman could finally see a combination of personnel that could form the foundation of a settled side and the fresh impetus provided by two of Everton’s youngest players.

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Even if you accept the logic of reverting to a back four against Hull’s lone-striker formation, there didn’t seem to be any in dropping two of the three centre-backs from Monday and drafting back in Phil Jagielka and his ageing legs to sit alongside the 32-year-old Ashley Williams. To an extent, Everton were let down this evening by their old guard – Leighton Baines would redeem himself late on with an excellent assist – and the performance went a long way to cementing the notion that for a couple of them, their time has come and it’s time for a permanent insertion of younger blood into the side.

With Mason Holgate and Funes Mori dropped to the bench, veteran legs at centre-half and the 35-year-old Gareth Barry in central midfield, the Blues had to drop deep inviting Hull on from almost from the first whistle, not helped by sloppy distribution all over the park in the opening few minutes. The Tigers, desperate for what would have been only their fourth win all season, seized the initiative in the early going and, for the umpteenth time this season, Everton made an awful start and were a goal down within six minutes.

Williams had already blocked Jake Livermore’s shot and Robert Snodgrass had curled narrowly wide of Joel Robles’ far post — both instances resulted from poor passes from Barry and Enner Valencia respectively — by the time Baines was sucked into midfield and bypassed by Ahmed Elmohamady who had been left untracked by Kevin Mirallas.

The Egyptian’s cross was hacked behind by Jagielka and while the resulting corner was cleared by Mirallas, the return ball to the left flank found Snodgrass in oceans of space to pick out Michael Dawson. The defender had lost Barry completely at the back post and he rifled a shot past Robles.

Despite what represented another poor result in the context of Everton’s ambitions, Koeman appeared fairly upbeat after the game, citing in particular some of the football his team had played over the course of the 90 minutes. In that sense, while it was often ponderous and clumsy, the manager did have something of a point because, stung into action by the concession of another early goal, the Blues did set about the task ahead of them in the right way. For one thing, they actually carved out a good number of chances, something that hasn't been said of them for a while.

Within eight minutes, Mirallas had forced David Marshall into spilling a powerful low drive and Seamus Coleman had planted a header onto the inside of the post, the rebound from which just eluded Romelu Lukaku and was belted clear. Later in the first half, Barkley dragged a shot a wide of the goal with one effort and Barry lasered another inches past the opposite post with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot in both instances.

Lukaku and Valencia both had shots charged down as Hull dug in with dogged defending, the Ecuadorian sent a teasing ball right across the face of goal that was begging for someone in a Blue shirt to tap home and Mirallas drove just wide as the Blues pressed for an equaliser before half time.

They would get it time added on, albeit not before they had survived a hair moment at the other end when Deumerci Mbokani failed to get a decisive connection on another cross from the right flank and Robles was able to pluck his header out of the air.

Lukaku latched onto an excellent pass down the channel by Baines and while his shot was blocked behind, it provided the corner from which Everton equalised. Mbokani and Marshall went up for the same ball and colliding with the former, the keeper couldn’t prevent the ball going in off his out-stretched arm as he attempted to punch clear.

It was a gift that the visitors largely deserved and they came close to augmenting three minutes into the second half when Lukaku again found himself in front of goal with a shot from the angle but while this time the blocking challenge looked to have looped the ball under the crossbar, Marshall got crucial fingertips to it to guide it into the crossbar and keep the score at 1-1.

A minute later, Barkley raced onto a Lukaku flick-on and fired early before his effort could also be charged down but he placed his side-foot shot too close to the keeper and Marshall saved again.

Everton had lost some of their momentum by this stage and Hull were beginning to regroup. Barkley’s cheap foul on Snodgrass in a dangerous area handed the Scot the chance to line up a free kick in a dangerous area, one which he smacked off the woodwork from 25-plus yard out.

Another corner half-cleared by the Blues’ defence ended up back at the feet of the unmarked Dawson in the 61st minute but this time Robles beat his effort away minutes before Baines was adjudged to have bundled Harry Maguire over as the defender was allowed, not for the first time, to sashay unmolested through the middle of the pitch.

This time, Snodgrass elected to sweep his free kick to the right side of Robles’ goal and though the Spaniard got a hand to it, he couldn’t prevent it from putting Hull into a 2-1 lead with 63 minutes on the clock.

Tom Davies, a strong candidate to start the game, was already being prepared as a replacement for the lead-footed Barry and he was duly introduced, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin coming on for Valencia who had run around a lot but been generally ineffective as an attacking entity. The energy and drive that Davies provides quickly became evident and it contributed to Everton’s dominance over the final 15 minutes as they searched for another equaliser but it was a to ask of an 18-year-old defensive midfielder to provide the guile as well.

Thankfully Baines would up with a telling delivery six minutes from time to put the second Everton goal on a plate for Barkley. The 23-year-old had seen one hard strike parried away a few minutes earlier while referee Moss ignored strong appeals for a handball against Livermore and the Blues had completely wasted a dangerous free-kick opportunity after Mirallas had been taken out by Maguire just outside the penalty area.

But it all came together a minute later when the veteran left back arced a beautiful ball to the edge of the six-yard box where Barkley, unmarked, just had to steer a downward header past Marshall to level things up at 2-2.

Cue the frantic push for a winner, one which was compromised somewhat by another questionable decision by Koeman. The manager had prepared Aaron Lennon to come on prior to Barkley’s goal but with parity restored, he went for the more defensive option of throwing on Funes Mori in place of Mirallas. The intent was to go 3-5-2 and push the fullbacks on and it sacrificed an attacker but any debate was almost rendered moot when Calvert-Lewin popped up between the two Hull centre-halves in the final minute to meet Coleman’s cross but he bulleted a header the wrong side of the post with hero status beckoning.

Full marks to the youngster for being there in the first place and it would have ended the game on a thrilling note for the travelling Blues rather than the four minutes of frustration they would endure in stoppage time as move after move broke down with poor control or poor deliveries in the final third.

It left supporters with a yearning for the opening of the transfer window on Monday because an injection of genuine quality can’t come soon enough. Nor, indeed, can a settled starting XI which you have to hope is something Koeman's aspires to.

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Reader Comments (31)

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Richard Lyons
1 Posted 31/12/2016 at 07:15:41
"We showed a really good attitude and reaction twice." Koeman or Martinez speaking?
Ralph Basnett
3 Posted 31/12/2016 at 08:29:16
I have stopped commenting on our performances post match and give them the benefit of the doubt overnight to try my best to give a balanced opinion but it always boils down to the same thing – we are shit, we have been shit for far too long to remember and we need a major overhaul!!!!!

Happy New Year everyone and hopefully the whole of Everton will wake up and give us what we deserve.

Ian Hollingworth
4 Posted 31/12/2016 at 08:56:32
Let's put things into perspective here, Hull are basically the same team from the Championship and sit bottom place in the Premier League.

We are too slow and lack real quality. The first goal was a combination of mistakes by Jags and Barry, I guess many on here could have predicted that when they were selected. Why make so many changes to a winning team? It's not like we have quality players busting to get back in the team.

I think we need a reality check: we are not very good, our players are not very good (generally speaking), we are not playing as a team, we do not appear to try very hard, we are not fit enough.

The goalkeeping situation is a disgrace and should have been sorted in the summer. Neither of our goalkeepers are good enough for a Premier League team with aspirations of climbing the league. It's laughable that many on here thought that Joe Hart was not needed.

Relying on Lukaku as the lone striker is suicide as he may get injured or guess what just be in a poor run of form. Continually giving contract extensions to ageing players including ones who never actually play is a mystery. That mentality is what keeps us where we are because we accept mediocrity. We appear content to just survive in the Premier League.

As fans it only takes one win for us to start thinking we have turned the corner and we are not that bad. If we want to progress we have to accept that our so called stars are not good enough and guess what they need replacing by not only better quality players but also by winners as that is a trait we do not possess.

We need a major overhaul starting now in the January window. Don't hold your breath, though, as with Kenwright still in charge, there is still something fishy about the new ownership to me.

Phil Flannery
5 Posted 31/12/2016 at 08:57:10
Ralph, I probably agree but what's getting worse is the pace we play at – far too many touches, and it's so pedestrian. We are miles of the pace of the top teams. Desperate for forward passing midfielders! Too many one-trick ponies to choose from.
Nick Armitage
6 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:09:37
The fellas on Sky summed us up perfectly last night. Barkley simply not doing enough and the defence dropping far too deep.

Sort or eliminate these and we'll be okay.

Stan Schofield
7 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:26:43
Koeman's apparent lack of a system, effective organisation and tactics puzzles me. I'd like that to be sorted out before shipping out any of our good players.

I accept it will take time to get us to consistent top-6 with European qualification, but equally I would expect to see improvements on the pitch NOW. We have the players to beat the likes of Hull, but our lack of effective organisation seems to be preventing it. Koeman keeps talking about pressing, but pressing is only one ingredient. To be effective, it has to be on the back of an effective system.

Kieran Fitzgerald
8 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:28:05
Younger legs are starting to get a lot more game time. Clavert-Lewin and Davies won't just suddenly disappear come mid-January. I think that these two, plus Holgate, have shown enough over half a season to justify more game time in the next half a season.

I am making myself be patient. You can't just drop Barry, Baines and Jagielka completely and replace them with eighteen year old kids. Koeman seems to be blooding kids in a way that won't destroy them. Are they able for more than he is giving them? I don't know, I don't see them in training day to day. For now, I will give the benefit.

If the transfer window can produce Schneiderlin then fair enough. Use him, Gueye and Davies more and keep fazing Barry out gradually. His experience on the pitch and around the squad, as well as Jagielka's, can still be a help.

John McGimpsey
9 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:35:36
And still the comments contain digs at Ross, who had a good game compared to others.
Andrew Clare
10 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:36:24
Unfortunately the pundits were spot on with their pre-match assessment. We are a mid table team and a club that just doesn't have the spending power of the six clubs above us. Unless we make some very astute signings in this window and the next I really can't see the situation changing.

In that time, we require at least six new first team players. I'm sure Koeman knows this. Barry, Baines and Jags have had their time now and need to be replaced. I would also move Williams on as well. The goalkeeper situation also needs to be addressed as at this level a top class goalkeeper is essential.

Our midfielders are too lightweight and lack creativity. Meanwhile Lukaku needs a strike partner. There is a lot to be done. I just hope Moshiri has deep pockets. It's a tall order we the teams above us have a transfer budget at least ten times bigger than ours!

Paul Traill
11 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:38:09
We were terrible last night, atrocious. However I believe if we didn't concede the second goal when we did we'd have gone on to win. That was never a free-kick. A quite awful award from Moss and that gave Hull a set-piece – literally their only route to goal.
Tony McNulty
12 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:46:41
With our current set of players, in 7th place, we are the best of the rest.

And the gap between ourselves and the top five is wide indeed (I am less sure about Man Utd).

A good transfer window could change things, but without decent reinforcements we will continue to spin our wheels.

Brian Harrison
13 Posted 31/12/2016 at 09:52:28
Yet another change in personnel and, just to add a little more confusion, change the system from a back 3 to a back 4. We lack creativity, our back 4 cant push up to try and squeeze the game because they are to old and slow and are scared of a ball played over the top were they will have to turn and chase.

People can go on and on about Barkley but he has had countless opportunities and always fails to deliver. When did you come away from a game and think Barkley was Man of the Match? Yes he scored last night but for most of the game was anonymous, along with Lukaku.

Barry has been a good player but age is starting to catch up with him sadly, and last night Gueye had his worst game in a blue shirt but he is allowed an off night. Whether its Valencia, Mirallas, Lennon, Deulofeu or Bolasie this team lacks goals, add to that the fact Barkley rarely scores and there in lies the problem.

Too old and slow at the back, not creative enough up front and generally lack goals from forwards. Either Walsh and Koeman have to unearth some gems or Moshiri, you'd better get your mate Usmanov to join you as you will need hundreds of millions to put this club right.

Alistair Grist
14 Posted 31/12/2016 at 10:00:05
More or less spot on, Ian Hollingworth. Patience and perspective...
John Raftery
15 Posted 31/12/2016 at 11:03:18
'Hundreds of millions to put this club right' is wishful thinking. Money may be invested in a new stadium but, as far as the team is concerned we will almost certainly have to manage within our normal income, mainly comprising the TV money, plus whatever marginal loans Mr Moshiri is prepared to underwrite.

On the pitch, we continue to demonstrate our inability to control games in any aspect, whether it be defence, midfield or attack. It was obvious last night the defence was sitting too deep to compensate for ageing legs, the midfield was therefore too stretched and the attack usually found themselves heavily outnumbered because our build up play was too slow.

Nevertheless, our points total of 27 at the halfway point in the season reflects some progress compared with last season. Our form in December of eight points from six games is an improvement on October and November when we took only five points from six games.

A positive is that the players are showing more spirit than in the last couple of seasons under Martinez but that will never compensate for our failure to control games.

Paul Kennedy
16 Posted 31/12/2016 at 11:14:25
Pay them half as they only ever deliver 45 minutes. Crap again.
Kunal Desai
17 Posted 31/12/2016 at 12:00:42
We'll finish 7th come the end of the season. We're probably the least garbage out of 14 other teams that are also crap in the separate league.

This 3-year 'project' might have to be revisited though, it should be how to bridge the gap to 6th place. I cannot see in the next few years how Everton will finish above any of those sides, let alone have Champions League aspirations.

Mike Powell
18 Posted 31/12/2016 at 12:05:14
Last night proved again that we need at least 5 players in January. Barry is too slow; Valencia is a poor player; Jags is past his best.

I can't believe that Barkley was again the scapegoat, him and Mirallas were the only two players to come out of it with any credit. Watch the game again and see how many great through balls he did; compare that with how many of the other players couldn't find a blue shirt.

Well, roll on the transfer window – let's get fresh legs in there.

Mark Andrews
19 Posted 31/12/2016 at 12:37:44
Yet another dreadful performance. Slow, languid and lacking in pace and creativity. Old legs showing their age and sluggishness. Paying £12M for a 33-year-old central defender looks like an extreme act of panic and sheer folly.

As for the young bucks, well I'm yet to see anything of the promise people see in Davies. His touch is as poor as his positional sense, his passes that don't go backward or sideways either go astray or put the recipient in trouble. If people like him because of his energy, I'd say that simply isn't enough at this level. Calvert-Lewin shows a little promise but it's early days for the young lad.

As for Koeman, what is his plan, what is his style? He leaves me cold and uninspired, it appears his players feel the same. He's looking like a man who's ambition massively outstrips his ability as a coach.

The football we play is dour and horrific to watch. I suppose we can look to see what Walsh and the club have planned for the winter window but I don't feel good about the progress of this current "project". It was Hull we were playing. Hull. A Championship team earmarked to go straight back down.

Hoping for a Happy New Year.

Sean Patton
20 Posted 31/12/2016 at 14:06:32
Seeing as Koeman has just given Barry a new contract, I wouldn't be so sure that he thinks his days are numbered.
Mike Powell
21 Posted 31/12/2016 at 14:51:38
I agree with Mark about Davies. What do people see in him? I don't think he passed to a blue shirt once .There was one instance when he gave the ball away in our own penalty area.
Mike Gaynes
22 Posted 31/12/2016 at 15:42:13
Paul (#11), the true blame for the second Hull goal goes to our best player. Gana gave the ball away with a limp pass in a critical location, then spent a vital moment flapping his arms instead of immediately reacting. His worst moment of the season.

And yes, the foul was dodgy, but probably more than half of Premier League referees would have called it. Baines did have his hand on the shoulder, and the falldown was persuasive.

Ian #4, the goalkeeping situation is far from a "disgrace"... neither Stekelenburg nor Robles is brilliant, but we weren't going to pry away Butland or Schmeichel or one of the other top young keepers last summer.

And you're welcome to your opinion that Hart at £110k/week would have been the answer, but I'd say the skeptics have been vindicated. Torino are 15th out of 20 defensively in Serie A, and Hart's current body of work can be viewed on YouTube in the December 19 game against Napoli.

Ralph Basnett
23 Posted 31/12/2016 at 16:20:19
How anyone can see anything in this team that will keep them at 7th is beyond me.

Yet another early goal conceded, so all teams we play are going to press at the start and we still don't learn, press Everton and they will just pass it across the back four and make a mistake, so the opposition press us until we play it across the back four until we make a mistake (cheers for that Martinez). Lukaku is most dangerous if you allow him to run at you down the middle, so they push him out wide – and he goes.

This was not just last night, this is week in week out, this team needs a massive clear out but more importantly we still need to look at who is dishing out contracts after Baines and Barry are rewarded for playing shit with new contracts – it beggars belief!!!!

We need at least 5 players in January – and that is at the start, not panic buys at the end – just to sustain our 7th place. Without this, we are going one way, and that is down – the table that is – and not to the Championship.

Lev Vellene
25 Posted 01/01/2017 at 01:06:46
We need enthusiasm, and there's been none of that in the squad, or the stands, really (from early on). So I'll still advocate for Davies, Holgate et al to get a shot every other game!

The old lazy bastards are... lazy? Let them come in to protect our good position if/when the hungrier players have gotten us to that point, and then falter to the high pressure (as Koeman assumes...)!

The old squad certainly feel no pressure to perform from the get go!
David Price
26 Posted 01/01/2017 at 09:42:54
One question, why change a winning team???

I love jags but he is clearly struggling. Why drop anyone who played at Leicester? As far as our youngsters go, there is some criticism of Koeman not giving youngsters a chance – he has and I for one would love to see it continue.

And on that point, why don't we give Holgate more time? I for one think he's top quality and is clearly a player who can cope and excel at the top level.

Happy New Year to all Toffees.

Rick Tarleton
27 Posted 01/01/2017 at 11:14:04
Another excellent report and analysis, Lyndon. The point you are making is that Koeman's team's selection seems to be whimsical; he does not seem to know what his preferred starting eleven should be. His rotation equally seems to show no coherent plan.

I do hope that, in the FA Cup he puts out a strong team and does not use it as an opportunity to rest his main players. There are two reasons why he must do this:

Firstly because the FA Cup is our only hope of anything this season and needs to be given a high priority and secondly and much more selfishly, myself two sons, and two grandsons are making the 300-mile round trip to cheer on Everton against our nearest team (Leicester) and for the younger grandson, it'll be his first trip to Goodison.

Colin Glassar
28 Posted 01/01/2017 at 11:39:35
The journos on Sunday Supplement were talking about Koeman being "a man in a hurry" ergo, he wants to be successful at Everton asap so he can move on.

Speaking about his ruthless streak (I've mentioned this before many times) he will walk over anyone (players, chairman) who gets in his way or will walk, according to them, hence the Barkley rumours.

He wants to win at any cost and that could mean ripping apart this squad in the very short term.

Ian McDowell
29 Posted 01/01/2017 at 11:52:02
Colin, that sounds a good thing.

This squad has had its day unfortunately and now needs major surgery. We should back Koeman and let him get on with doing things his way.

Colin Glassar
30 Posted 01/01/2017 at 12:15:59
Geri leaving on loan... running out of patience with Ross, publicly... maybe selling Jags... sending Niasse to Coventry etc.

I think this window might show us if these rumours really are true, Ian.

John G Davies
31 Posted 01/01/2017 at 12:39:05
In a 3-5-2 formation, we would need a left sided centre back. Williams in the middle of new signing and Holgate. Wing backs Baines and Coleman,both better going forward than defending. Three centre-halves gives them cover. 3 in central midfield would be Schneiderlin, Gana and a No 10 new signing. A forward to play alongside Lukaku would be already here: young Dominic or Valencia.

So three signings for me would be a start to getting a big improvement.

Steve Harris
33 Posted 01/01/2017 at 19:44:04
Why is everyone slagging off Davies when he hasn't had a chance!! He had a great game on his debut under Unsworth and he's done well every time he's had a few cameo roles coming on for the last 20 mins or so, giving us much needed energy and zest which changed the game against Leicester.

Admittedly he wasn't so effective against Hull but he should of come on at half time, not when the pressure was on to deliver just as we went 2-1 down. He's got the makings of being a top player, don't destroy him before he's fucking started!

Paul Hay
34 Posted 02/01/2017 at 10:45:19
If we can get 3 points from Saints and then make some worthwhile additions this window, at halfway through the season, I reckon that things should be more positive.

I do share the opinion of Ralph (#30) to be honest and will be amazed if we get higher than 8th place this year.

I just want to see more structure and an identifiable system as at times I cannot fathom what we're about. I drove back to London after the Hull game in a daze – to scrape a draw there? I was pleased for Ross with his goal and a great delayed pass from Leighton Baines but at times we were simply pitiful – and it's very rare that I put criticism of our team in writing.

I don't pretend to have the answers and it's needless adding to the frustrations felt here but, whatever is happening on the field, we simply have to get behind the boys like we did at the Arsenal game far more consistently.

Happy New Year to all of you and your families. Stay healthy and above all...

Keep the faith.

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