Just when things were looking up

We were poor today. We could have done with an easier fixture to kick off our campaign, such as Plymouth Argyle at home let's say, but we got the home draw against a team we're above in the league so it's difficult to whinge too much really.

Paul Traill 08/01/2017 32comments  |  Jump to last

The week had been a good one. Starting the year with an (admittedly not so comfortable) 3-0 victory over Southampton followed by a positive AGM meeting, an exciting young prospect signed up and another highly regarded player apparently on the way, you hoped we could continue the good feeling with a cup run. I even dared to dream about winning the FA Cup. I mean, we must be due one. It's only been 22 years since our last one after all.

Picking up Ste and parking up in plenty of time for the game, as we went to the ATM at the Shell garage I saw The Barlow Arms out of the corner of my eye. The pub sits adjacent to a now closed down pub we used to sometimes frequent, The Westminster. We thought we'd give it a go and were impressed with the layout and atmosphere in the place. Though we only stayed for the one before meeting the other guys in The Brick, we shall return.

Catching the team news in the pub, we were all happy enough with the starting XI. The back three worked well at Leicester City on Boxing Day and so it made sense to try it again. As the game got underway it became bizarrely apparent that Mason Holgate was deployed at right back with Seamus Coleman further ahead of him in midfield. It made little sense. The idea of the three central defenders, two wing backs bombing forward, a midfield three of Barry, Davies and Barkley, with Valencia playing just off Lukaku sounded good. It's a shame we didn't get an opportunity to see it, and come half time we had nothing to show from the team.

A bit more determination from Ross Barkley from Romelu Lukaku's centre might have produced an early goal, and with another opportunity, Romelu Lukaku also failed to react quickly enough and headed well over and wide when the ball came back to him quickly from a Schmeichael save. At the break it was 0-0 but with the Premier League champions (well backed by their noisy following) getting the better of it, Demarai Gray coming perhaps closest when thwarted by Joel Robles who came off his line to block. "We might as well just turn up at half time" said one of the fellas. "We only turn up for the second half under Koeman".

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This once again proved the case after the break. A half time change introduced Gerard Deulofeu for Mason Holgate and made us more attacking. Valencia, though busy, was a bit hit and miss in and around the penalty area. He seemed to up his game just before he was substituted and hit a speculative overhead volley high and wide. He was replaced by Kevin Mirrallas who should have started the game. He has scored in his last three starts against Leicester City so it would have made sense to give him another go in this one. Off the ball you had to chuckle at Leicester City's supporters chant of "YOU'RE SHIT! AHHHH" as Robles took a goal kick.

Mirallas had nothing to do with the goal however. This was all down to brilliant wing play by Gerard Deulofeu who beat Ben Chillwell before squaring for Romelu Lukaku who just couldn't miss with his 12th goal of the season.

Though just a few minutes between the goals, we appeared comfortable, yet Leicester City's goal came out of nothing. A ball down the channel which dissected the off-form Seamus Coleman, and was fired at goal by Ahmed Musa. We haven't had a lot of luck with rebounds off the post lately! Though you credit Musa for reacting quickest, Joel Robles was a little unlucky to see his punch clear rebound off Musa and bundle into the goal. The game level and it had become the real cup-tie we had all hoped for, albeit with the result about to get worse.

Kevin Mirallas, who was probably the only one who looked like scoring for the remainder of the game, fired at goal from distance but Schmeichael beat it away. Shortly afterwards we found ourselves behind when Musa again scored following a nice move by Leicester City, but with very passive defending by Everton.

With twenty minutes still remaining I was pretty confident we'd scramble a replay and keep our cup hopes alive but it wasn't to be. The effort to force the game was there, but our quality of play in the final third wasn't and we became more rugged and desperate as the game rolled on, with Kevin Mirallas again coming the closest with another distance drive, this one very well saved by Kasper Schmiechael.

Martin Atkinson was up to his old tricks...giving Leicester City everything, not punishing their blatant dive and handball and not really totting up their time-wasting well enough, surely the four minutes additional time should have been longer, but this is all moaning rather than genuine excuses. We could have played for the rest of the evening and probably not scored again. We were poor today. We could have done with an easier fixture to kick off our campaign, such as Plymouth Argyle at home let's say, but we got the home draw against a team we're above in the league so it's difficult to whinge too much really.

Ronald Koeman's complaint about his players defending is valid, though his public complaining to the board to get things done is not in my opinion. These things should be kept private, not public. Also, what message does this send out to the players we already have? Many of them have under-performed throughout the season and are capable of better. If you know the manager can't wait to get rid of you it can't inspire much confidence. He should be trying to make the best of what he's got until he can bring new players in, not publicly complaining about a board who, to the best of my knowledge will shortly have parted with the best part of £33 million, comfortable more than anybody else this January, to sign players for him. Signing the players you want takes time. You've got to make the most of what you have in the interim. Ronald isn't really doing that.

Still one Evertonian was happy enough with the result. With three successive home game this month, my German wife has been patiently waiting upon this result, and subsequent FA Cup draw to see who we are going to play on the weekend of 28th January so that we can plan a trip back to Germany to see the in-laws. Naturally I'm less enthused about the trip. I arrived home after the game to see an eager Katja with laptop open on Ryanair's website.

"So, Germany on the 28th then?" she asked.


Player ratings:

Robles: His indecision at distribution was maddening. Otherwise he didn't do badly. Unlucky with one goal and helpless with the other. 6

Baines: My man of the match. He was excellent in the tackle and did OK going forward. 8

Funes Mori: I always feel he's got a mistake in him and can be rash. Very hit and miss for me. In this game he was miss rather than hit. 5

Williams: Similarly hit and miss. Also, miss rather than hit for me in this one. 5

Holgate: Didn't really do anything wrong, more substituted as a victim of Koeman's puzzling tactics to begin the game with. 5

Coleman: His worst game in some time. He had a real stinker. 4

Barry: He'll never be short of effort but it's difficult to deny his difficulty in getting around the pitch any more. He had to play today really as we had nobody else fit. Against Southampton he came on late and helped us see out the game well. When injuries clear, Gana returns from the African Nations Cup and new signings arrive he'll surely become more of a bit-part player. As he's contracted with us for another season yet, we should really try to tie him down to coaching. He must have a lot to offer. 5

Davies: He did very well. I love his enthusiasm and his willingness to take the game to the opposition. He's full of fight and can expect many more games throughout the rest of the campaign. 7

Barkley: I thought Ross was doing pretty well and with us 1-2 down with 15 minutes left I turned to Ste and recommended "should we just take Barry off and bring on Kone and just go for it?". I was very surprised therefore to see Barkley taken off as he and Davies were working things well between them. It was time to throw caution to the wind and trust Davies and Barkley to take on the responsibility of tracking back when they had to. It was cup football and we had nothing to lose. I'd rather have gone down giving it everything and who knows, we might still be in the hat had we have tried. 6

Valencia: Didn't do too badly but I thought that Mirallas introduction was a good thing. 6

Lukaku: Busy at times and could do more yes but I share his frustrations. He doesn't get enough service. Get the ball to him more and he'll score more goals. If he feels he's going to get the ball more, he'll probably move more and get us more goals. There's things he can work on for sure, but he needs the support in attack, and he's not getting a lot of that. 6


Deulofeu (for Holgate): He did brilliantly for our goal but, despite plenty of effort, that was all he did. Great to see what he can do, we need to see that with consistency. His showing highlighted everything that is right and wrong about Deulofeu's performances. 6

Mirallas (for Valencia): He should have started the game. If players tend to do well against a certain opposition you should play them every time. Look how Lukaku plays against West Ham. Think Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Ian Rush against us. Their tails are somehow up against certain teams and Mirallas' was when he came on and was the most likely to score. Should have began the game for sure. 7

Kone (for Barkley): Poor outgoing sub and a poor incoming one. Clueless at times in fact. As one of the lads at the game said, could Niasse really have done worse? While I'm at it, and just for the sake of a little rant, I also saw Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith make noticeable contributions in their cup games over the weekend, both against Premier League opposition. You can argue that neither are the long term answer, and you'd be right. However the former can beat a man and the latter can score goals. Neither would be bad options off the bench at the moment but McGeady has been neglected entirely when he wasn't all that bad, whilst Naismith was sold by Martinez when he is miles better and more capable than Kone or Niasse. 4

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Reader Comments (32)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 08/01/2017 at 17:14:59
Great report, Paul. Enjoy the trip to Germany.

By the way, McGeady was more than noticeable... he was brilliant. Skated through the middle of Arsenal's defense with a Maradona turn and delivered a surgical through ball for Preston's goal. Then minutes later had a brilliant interception and another perfect through ball for what coulda/shoulda been a second goal and perhaps a memorable upset.

Not advocating his return but he certainly has added to his transfer value with his Preston performances, especially this one.

Brian Williams
2 Posted 08/01/2017 at 20:17:16
Agree about Naismith but McGeady was gash here.
Joe McMahon
3 Posted 08/01/2017 at 20:23:26
I had to read this 3 times! – McGeady was more than noticeable... he was brilliant. Skated through the middle of Arsenal's defense with a Maradona turn and delivered a surgical through ball for Preston's goal.

He, like Naismith (yes, he tries) are both at their level – not in the Premier League.

Jim Bennings
4 Posted 08/01/2017 at 20:43:24
We got the same predictable shit that we should be used to now at Everton.

22 years of failure on and off the pitch with one or two spells of "punching above our weight" under Moyes and Martinez (first season) raising false expectations in his first season.

This is basically a third season of mediocrity and so-called 'star players' (best squads in 30 years, my arse) who continue to underperform.

The manger has been far from blameless but you do need to now start questioning the hunger of the players and if we have any players there anymore who are actually hurt when we lose.

Too many times we've failed and the worst mistakes you can make are when you never learn from previous mistakes.

Kunal Desai
5 Posted 08/01/2017 at 20:47:39
I'd rather Koeman complaining about the board and tell it how it is, unlike Moyes who say we go with what we have and Martinez painting pretty pictures every time.

Something drastically is wrong with this club when it comes to making signings, they can never be done quickly, always for some reason protracted. We have money now so pay the bleeding £3 or 4 million extra for Schneiderlin and stop being penny pinchers.

The one thing I hope for when Moshiri takes full control of the club is that he appoints a proper board. Kenwright should become an ambassador of the club, just like Aston Villa did with Doug Ellis, and Elstone should be given his P45.

Andy McNabb
7 Posted 08/01/2017 at 21:21:35
Thanks for your report, Paul. Enjoy Germany - every cloud and all that ...

Agree with your comments about Deulofeu. To continue the Germanic theme, Hitler is reported to have said that the only thing reliable about the Italians was their unreliability.

I am increasingly uneasy about our manager's inability to get the best out of what he has got. I feel that energy could be put into other areas, rather than criticising others and demanding that money is spent.

Mike Gaynes
8 Posted 08/01/2017 at 22:06:23
Joe (#3), not arguing that... nor, as I said, am I suggesting his return to Goodison. But check out the highlights... give the man his due, he had a hell of a game.
Colin Glassar
9 Posted 08/01/2017 at 22:15:42
While McGeady was skating through the Arsenal defence like Maradona (lmao) was he chomping on a frankfurter by any chance? He always seems to have mumps when I see him.
Danny Broderick
10 Posted 08/01/2017 at 23:05:59
Whatever the question, McGeady is not the answer!
Ian McDowell
11 Posted 08/01/2017 at 23:13:01
I never thought that things where looking up. As someone posted yesterday, every Everton game the result is a lottery.

I'm not convinced by any area of the team and feel its going to take years and £250 million minimum to build a squad capable of challenging for the top 4.

Dick Fearon
12 Posted 09/01/2017 at 01:54:17
What in Hell's Name do they do at Finch Farm!?
Mike Gaynes
13 Posted 09/01/2017 at 02:29:19
Ohfershitsake, Colin, I didn't say he was "like Maradona"... the Maradona turn is the name of an actual move. You combine a 360 spin with a double dragback, one with each foot. Depending on what generation you are, it's also called the Marseille turn and the Zidane turn.

Look it up on Wikipedia and you'll see McGeady and Ribery mentioned as the game's most prominent practitioners today. Of course Ribery has a few other things going for him, which McGeady doesn't.

Danny (#10), the question is "Who is going to bring us an extra 4-5 million in transfer fees who wasn't worth bottle caps a few months ago?"

Jim Hardin
14 Posted 09/01/2017 at 03:54:34

I saw the PNE game on TV also and thought McGeady was brilliant a couple of times and mostly anonymous the rest. That was an excellent game with PNE very disciplined and pretty creative all at the same time.

I was very much impressed with the midfielder, Pearson, the young lad up front who seemed to be twins, since he was everywhere, the GK, and that giant striker they brought in at the end, who could actually move pretty well and had a few tricks.

Still don't want McGeady back though, but I can see what others have seen in him. That game is why I love the FA Cup, and then there is Everton's game....

That run by McGeady, setting up the goal though, WOW!

Alan J Thompson
15 Posted 09/01/2017 at 06:13:49
Dick (#12); They're building sleeping accommodation and changing the sign for the new sponsors. Do try and keep up.
Paul Traill
16 Posted 09/01/2017 at 06:55:48
Kunal (#5), just because we now have money, it doesn't mean we should pay more than the player is worth. £3-4m isn't exactly an inconsiderable amount of money, and the club probably has to consider FFP regulations etc.

Transfers take time. January is difficult. Now that our season is over, I'd personally rather use the rest of the season to plan who we want to sell and get everything sorted for the summer.

Dick Fearon
17 Posted 09/01/2017 at 07:35:09
Alan (#12) Trying my best to keep updated but the old mind boggles at the idea of sleeping quarters. Who came up with that suggestion, surely not Gibbo's agent!
Mike Green
18 Posted 09/01/2017 at 08:23:47
Paul (#16) and Kunal (#5) – I think you're both right to be honest.

£4m is a lot of money – it could probably pay two first team players wages for a season, could get you half an "Idrissa Gueye" so not to be sniffed at.

Also, we have put ourselves in an awful negotiating position (ironically the people who will probably benefit most are the players on the books who have put us in it as it'll be more difficult to replace them) and if we are seen to be throwing money at the situation every other club will want their premiums too, especially in January.

So, as much as I'm desperate to see lots of new faces NOW I think your view, Paul, is the sensible one, probably the only realistic one and perhaps the one which in the long term will bear the most fruit.

On the other side of the coin, I'm with Kunal – in today's world if there's a player you really want, who you've worked with before so you know what you're getting, is available in January to buy and wants to come to you, don't spoil the ship for a ha'penny of tar, cough up the 20% "tax" and get it done before you miss the boat.

I think its a case of mixing it up a bit – plan meticulously for the long term but, when opportunity knocks, you've got to strike while the irons hot – even if it does carry a bit of a sting with it.

Rick Tarleton
19 Posted 09/01/2017 at 09:01:51
Today's "Guardian" spells out the schism between Koeman and the board and possibly between Koeman and Walsh.

Koeman basically wants to throw money at the problem. Dennis Stevens on another thread wonders if Koeman is preparing the ground for his departure and I think he's got a valid point.

If Koeman can claim he wasn't supported in his ambition, then he can quickly claim the problems at Everton were endemic and not his fault. He has never seemed happy to be the manager of our club. He was seduced by a big salary and perhaps promises of a much larger transfer kitty than he actually has.

He has never seemed willing to work with the players he has and to tailor the game plan to those players he has, rather than the players he wishes he had.

Tony Hill
20 Posted 09/01/2017 at 09:46:17
Depressing, Rick, but I fear there is a crisis looming – again.
Chris Williams
21 Posted 09/01/2017 at 10:35:24
Rick and Tony,

I suspect Koeman was frustrated by the faffing about in the last window but kept his counsel at least publicly. You couldn't hold Walsh responsible for that stuff, but the usual suspects did their usual amateurish job and we ended up with what we ended up with.

He is now seeing history repeating itself so he is getting his views out there now. Not one Evertonian who understands anything will be surprised at what is currently (not) happening. It is hard wired into our low expectations now.

I don't think his problem is with Walsh, it is a case of the new brooms being frustrated by the old crappy way of going about things.

What is very surprising is that a man who gives every impression of being astute and professional is tolerating the likes of Kenwright and Elstone and seemingly being influenced by them.

If there is to be some sort of crisis, it will be triggered by what goes on this month and I, for one, hope it leads to cleaning out the stables once and for all.

Eddie Dunn
22 Posted 09/01/2017 at 10:53:59
Paul, I enjoyed your piece, but I am actually in favour of a bit more transparency regarding the board/Walsh and Koeman's transfer targets.

I don't want the coaching team wasting their time working with a player that will not be here next season. Get the deals done asap, get the new faces in, and get the message through to the whole lot of them. If we delay till summer, after they have all had their hols the onus will be on getting them all match fit, never mind bedding-in new players.

Pre-Moshiri, we arguably needed to haggle over a couple of million. Now, every bugger knows we have a bit more money (just like when you sell a big player) we will have to expect it.

For all of the big talk, new stadium carrot dangling, we still only spent what we got in for Stones. So although Kenwright, Woods and Co are significantly better off courtesy of Moshiri, we have only seen a young lad from Charlton walk through the door.

Perhaps Koeman should give Jim White a ring.

Geoff Williams
23 Posted 09/01/2017 at 12:02:59
I would have more support for Koeman if there was tangible proof that individual players were improving under his guidance, that he was committed beyond 9 til 5 and that he actually wants to be at Everton.
John Barnes
24 Posted 09/01/2017 at 12:22:03

What tangible proof could there be of Koeman's commitment???

We look a reasonable bet in January to finish 7th as opposed to 11th under Martinez with many of the same players. Isn't that some sort of improvement? Tangible even?

Not saying everything in the garden is rosy, unlike Martinez!

Geoff Williams
25 Posted 09/01/2017 at 12:37:42
We are a poor team and flattered by our position. Had we not had a good start to the season, we would be struggling.

It is common knowledge that he sees his role purely as a coach, he does his prescribed hours and nothing more.

David Moyes, for all his faults, lived and breathed Everton. He regularly attended matches either scouting or watching future opposition teams.

Where is the passion. As a leader you either lead by example or you inspire others, Koeman does neither. He was the wrong appointment.

Eddie Dunn
26 Posted 09/01/2017 at 13:03:15
Geoff, that is like saying "If we hadn't lost 4 games our position would be higher". We won those games, they exist, Koeman got those points.

As for hours at the office or on the training ground, have you heard of quality versus quantity?

I'm not saying all is perfect, but it is far from a disaster.

Alan J Thompson
27 Posted 09/01/2017 at 14:33:20

I read on here that it was Martinez's idea and that it meant the players could take a nap between morning and afternoon training sessions or come direct to Finch Farm from JLA after marauding through Europe without having to drive to Altrincham or wherever they live and would be more rested.
Stop laughing, Dick, it's true I tell you.

Geoff Williams
28 Posted 09/01/2017 at 14:44:28
There was an air of optimism at the beginning of the season and this was reflected in those early performances as one would hope with a new regime. Koeman's negativity and his public humiliation of Barkley began to have an affect on the team.

Please remind me of one good performance since the Norwich game. Please give me one reason to be optimistic.

I don't believe we have poor players but we have an awful team and Koeman must shoulder some responsibility for that and not blame everyone else. If he accepted a job where he didn't have the final say on transfers the he was a fool.

Martin Nicholls
29 Posted 09/01/2017 at 15:01:51
I've never heard of anyone "walking away" from a £6million pa contract and, for that reason, I cannot agree with those who think Koeman might.
Tony Hill
30 Posted 09/01/2017 at 15:14:21
He might, Martin, if he thinks his reputation and career are at stake at the age of 53. He could, at least, look to engineer exit terms.

I have no wish to think in that way, but I am increasingly of the view that his words after the game were the result of deliberation and not merely annoyance in the heat of the moment.

Alan J Thompson
31 Posted 09/01/2017 at 15:25:21
Isn't the Barca coach thinking of taking a rest at the end of this season?
Dave Ganley
32 Posted 09/01/2017 at 17:19:18
Nice article Paul, pretty much how I saw the game too. I was particularly disappointed about not starting with 3 at the back and having wing backs bombing forward. Seamus looked lost in that first half. Tend to disagree that Leicester looked better in the first half, I thought we dominated that game right up until we scored then just stopped playing. I wasn't worried at all about them scoring, until they did and it all went tits up.

It disturbs me that players have a ready made excuse to be less than motivated when the boss wants other players. What happened to proving the boss wrong? What happened to having the "I'll prove that bastard wrong, and having a bit of professional pride. Problem we have is that the players are just not very good or not consistent. He has tried arm round the shoulder, tough love and it just doesn't work with this lot. I'm not surprised that he's looking for other players. Your comments on Deulofeu are spot on. Seeing the best and worst of him. Great run to set up the goal then he spoils it by thinking his job is done and showboats for the rest of the afternoon. What the fuck is it with all those stepovers? It fools absolutely no one least of all defenders.

I think Koeman is quite justified having a go at the board. We are well into the window and all we have to show for it is one long term prospect. Get the players in as soon as, sooner they are here the sooner they can bed in. It's an inflated market, there are very few bargains so just pay it. Walsh needs to do his job and identify unknowns. If he has why haven't we gone in for them?

I just hope this is not going to be a false dawn yet again with transfers and how much money we have. Alas I fear it is. Saturdays game just typifies why we need new blood. It was a game we should have cruised and we ended up plucking defeat from the jaws of victory. Not sure what Koeman could have done to see that last 20 minutes coming. Pathetic from the players really. Just caved in at the first sign of trouble from the opposition. Not good enough from players who have shown over the last 3 years they are not good enough.

John Barnes
33 Posted 09/01/2017 at 18:28:00
Your last sentence Dave just about sums up our major problem. No one can change an entire squad in one or two windows. The same players have been gash for longer than just the last 4 or 5 months.

At least now, it is hoped, something will be done about it, but not all in January alone.

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