Oh Everton, your season has got one wheel in the ditch and one wheel on the track.
Let’s not pull any punches here: that was an absolute shower of shite from start to finish and any analysis of it makes you think of the old Kit Kat advert where the record executive type is talking to a load of scruffy youths with guitars and lists all the attributes that they lack. Instead of smugly breaking a biscuit at the end though, and declaring ‘You’ll go far!’, in the Everton version where they can’t head the ball, take a decent set-piece or score a goal, it finishes with a bespectacled middle-aged fella in a Lacoste blouson screaming: ‘We’ve got more chance of getting relegated than challenging for the top four if there’s much more of this, soft lad’.
Samuel Eto’o and Gareth Barry replaced the injured Kevin Mirallas and average Aiden McGeady, and as a result the team lacked any width whatsoever. It made grim viewing as anything resembling a decent move invariably ended with Ross Barkley or Romelu Lukaku trying to force the ball through a thicket of legs on the edge of the Saints’ box.
Ronald Koeman was huddled down in his big Matalan coat, laughing at us.
The Southampton boss utilised all his experience of Barcelona, Ajax and the Dutch national team’s total football to outfox Martinez by cunningly playing Graziano Pelle and Shane Long up front – a couple of big lads who worked hard and did the basics well: winning headers, holding the ball up and generally making life tough for the Everton defenders.
Their first goal was a multi-staged shambles, starting with the referee giving a corner when Phil Jagielka literally volleyed Long up in the air. Such is football supporting, Evertonians could make a case that Jagielka’s eye was on the ball and that Long actually leapt onto the attempted clearance. As ever though, imagine if it had been the other way. The referee then wrongly gave the corner to the home side – one thing everyone apart from him could agree on was that Jagielka got nowhere near touching the ball. From the resultant centre, Lukaku clearly appeared to get a shout of ‘Eeh, it’s got shit on it!’ and tried to cringe out of the way of the ball. To no avail though, it hit his head and went in from six-yards.
Presumably we’re meant to understand though, because he’s only 21.
In the second half Pelle doubled the lead after Long flicked a header on in the box. At this point we were pleading for the introduction of Arouna Kone or McGeady – things were that bad – but Martinez stuck with what he had and eventually Maya Yoshida ambled forward, untroubled by anything as gauche as someone tracking a runner, and made it 3-0 by shouldering home Steven Davis’s admittedly excellent cross.
It was as bad a performance as we’ve seen under Martinez. You can mask defensive frailties to a certain degree, especially against the weaker sides, by dominating possession and, crucially, creating chances at the other end. When the attack looks utterly lost though – lacking any sort of shape or confidence – the shambles at the back gets exposed more shockingly than the imminent Yewtree case file on ***** *******.
We’ve said it before but the whole system and tactics question is a bit of a red herring. Martinez showed last season, when we were that whole ‘breath of fresh air’, that his system of play is modern and progressive and that even the top sides can struggle to cope against it. The big problem is that Everton are just not playing it very well at the moment.
The movement from the forwards is poor and so the threat of us getting the ball into them is diminished. That means that the opposition close our defenders down, less worried about the space they are leaving behind them. Mirallas is key to that, as he is the one who is best at finding those gaps, getting turned and speeding the game up in an instant. No one else has that same combination of ability, experience and pace. Barkley does it in flashes but he’s nowhere near consistent enough, while Lukaku just looks like he is going backwards at the moment, sadly. And on the strength of a run out against Krasnodar where he did little spectacular but merely looked competent, you can see there being calls for Kone and his Airfix knees to replace our record signing in the starting line-up if he doesn’t improve soon. And by soon, the next fucking game. Lukaku’s been that poor.
Then there’s Eto’o, who seems a lovely fella, has immaculate hair and still has something to offer as a substitute, playing right up front. Starting games in one of those attacking midfield roles just looks bollocks though, quite frankly. Almost as if Martinez is trying to appease this big personality.
And while we are being critical, that new coat is absolutely last. It looks like one of Herbert of Liverpool’s cast-offs.
Get a fucking grip, Roberto.
You can make all the usual excuses when you get beaten by Chelsea, Manchester City and the other big beasts of the Premier League, so really you make an honest assessment of your side when you face these flavour-of-the-month teams like Southampton, who don’t have more resources than you but are well-coached, determined and fully motivated. Not for the first time this season, against just that sort of opposition, this Everton team have been found severely wanting.
Ooh, grave face.
On a lighter note, despite Everton being mildly rubbish, hopefully you’re not daft enough to let it spoil your Christmas. Season’s greetings to you all, and all that jazz, and thanks to everyone who has read this old pony all year, said nice things about it, retweeted it and shared it and all that other good stuff. It’s all greatly appreciated, even if we probably don’t say so as often as we should.
All the best, plums.