I watched the game today; initially I thought the team Martínez named looked decent on paper, however it worried me how we would set up from the midfield forward. Barry and Eto’o came in for Mirallas and McGeady and these were the two only changes from Monday night against QPR – meaning we lost two of our main creative outlets from that victory. Barry started alongside the recently impressive Mo Bešić but this meant Ross Barkley, who dazzled in a more central role in our previous game, was shoved out wide left. This also meant Naismith played out on the right too, and basically RM was just accommodating both Eto’o and Barry with the formation he started with. This decision, and the fact that every single one of our players were absolutely dog sh*te, resulted in us losing 3-0 in embarrassing fashion to Southampton at St Mary’s this afternoon in what was as worse a performance from Everton, probably since the 4-0 Derby at Anfield or the FA Cup debacle against Wigan a couple of years ago.
I only wrote a blog the other day trying to remain upbeat; I spoke about building some form over Christmas, taking the positives from the QPR win and taking heart from our upcoming opponents – I now look a complete fool. There was me, believing that my optimism would be proved and my hopes for the coming games would come true. I should know better shouldn’t I. F*cks sake Everton. Injury-ravaged, low on confidence after five defeats on the spin – you never would have guessed that it was Southampton who were being described here, more like the visitors who without even the sight of a bit of a fight today, went missing for 90 minutes and succumbed to their third straight away league loss.
From the off we were second to the ball, Southampton looked hungrier and the impressive Long and Pelle set up to cause our defence no end of problems. We looked narrow, and our team lacked any sort of balance. Barry, as he has done on numerous occasions this season, looked off the pace in the middle of the park and collectively we could not forge any real positive play, apart from a half chance for Naismith and a harmless Ross Barkley effort. Long’s pace was a problem for Distin and Jagielka, and it was the striker who after the half hour mark was unlucky not to get a penalty. Jagielka attempted to clear the danger in his own area but instead took a chunk out of long who was quickest to the ball. Referee Jon Moss thankfully waved away appeals but before us Evertonians could take a sigh of relief for a bit of good luck – the ball was in the back of our net. The corner that followed the initial penalty appeal was taken by James Warde-Prowse who saw his set-piece headed into his own net by Romelu Lukaku of all people. Yet another own goal – that was our third consecutive own goal against Saints at their place- our defence and our flat-footed goalkeeper asked questions of each other. It was a cheap goal to concede but summed up our display until that moment. F*ck knows what Howard was doing because he didn’t flinch when the ball bounced off Rom, talk about reactions, there simply wasn’t any. He could have even attempted to catch or punch the initial cross that came over, but that would be classed as ‘commanding your area’ wouldn’t it, something which he never does. The home side had the lead and this just increased their energy, confidence and desire – three things that we lacked all afternoon. From then on in there only looked like there would be one winner, and frustratingly for us blues it was never going to be Everton.
At the break many of us called for changes to freshen things up but we started the second 45 with the same XI and the game continued in the same vein. For all Saints’ injuries, suspensions and recent bad form they were far more organised, defended tougher and wanted the ball much more. They never played like a side on the back of five defeats and took the game to Everton, who just could not break them down all afternoon. Even some of the younger lads in their side looked comfortable and assured, as Everton continued to frustrate into the second half. As we approached the hour mark we still saw no changes much to the annoyance of our support. Many, like me, thought Martínez had already left it a bit too late to bring on a sub or two and on 65 minutes we got what we deserved when Southampton increased their lead and those thoughts of imminent substitutions became irrelevant. The damage had already been done. In fact the writing was on the wall in the first half, we were an embarrassment to ourselves and I felt sorry for those thousands of travelling blues who were down there watching us on the South Coast. It was Pelle who notched Saint’s second and his 11th of the campaign and what we’d give to have someone in such rich form like he is. Long knocked down to his strike partner for the assist and the duo’s link up play was rewarded with the goal. If our heads went down after the opening goal then after Pelle’s strike we were on the floor. All out of ideas once again, conceding cheap goals, no plan B, the wrong formation, failure to break a side down and create any real chances – unfortunately in our league form this season this has been the theme.
To cap a shocking afternoon for the Toffees, Yoshida headed past Howard from a Davis cross late on to make it 3-0 and seal the three points for Koeman’s men who were simply head and shoulders above us today. Credit where it is due, they were by far the better side and we got what we deserved. I don’t even think 3-0 flatters them, in fact it could have been more. In the second half we created as little as we did in the first and apart from Lukaku stinging Forster’s hands with a late effort I doubt we even registered another shot on goal after the break.
It was an all-round nightmare and Martínez will rightly be questioned after such a bad result. His formation and starting XI was wrong, Barkley and Naismith – two of our most effective outlets when deployed centrally, were pushed out wide to accommodate old-timers Eto’o and Barry and this decision has no doubt been a focus point. However, collectively they all need to take responsibility. From the back to the front, we were p*ss poor. Howard came in for criticism again and rightly so, the likes of him and Distin surely now have to be on borrowed time. Others like Coleman and Baines were just not good enough and this has not just been the case today, it has been in recent weeks too. I don’t know if Coleman is still being hampered by that injury but since his return he has been ineffective. He’s lost confidence and by his own standards he isn’t having any sort of positive impact, meanwhile Baines, he’s been off-colour for a while. We expect much more from Baines but he isn’t offering much down that side, it could be because the people who are playing ahead of him are chopping and changing, I just don’t know. One other thing is that the lad can’t pick out a man from our corners and someone else needs to step up. With all due respect he should spend a few hours a day just practicing them with Garbutt, because Leighton’s deliveries are far too predictably shite these days. I’ve always been big advocates of Coleman, Baines and others like Distin too – but this season there is no room for sentiment, I can’t keep trying to defend certain players because they are just not helping themselves and not playing anywhere near good enough.
As for the midfield Bešić was probably the only positive from the game and I hope that once McCarthy is back he can form a formidable partnership in the middle in the near future. Barry is greatly experienced but you can see he’s struggling at times and we can’t keep putting a younger lad next to him to do all of the running. In Europe we might get away with Barry there but in the Premier League you just don’t get a minute to think and Saints ran rings about the former Man City man today. Barkley could not have a real influence from the position he was deployed in today and after his starring role against QPR less than a week ago you just have to ask – if it’s not broke don’t fix it? Admittedly we were always going to make changes because of the injury to Mirallas but why not keep Bešić and Barkley in the middle and give McGeady another go to provide some width. We offered nothing down the flanks all afternoon, one or two moments through Baines but nothing major, and at times it felt like we had three or four number 10’s on the pitch, all vying for one position but being forced out wide. Eto’s was anonymous, Lukaku wasn’t good enough, all across our team we were disappointing, lacklustre and half-ars*d.
I never saw one leader out there today, even when we went a goal down or in the second half, not one of them looked like they were up for the battle and they wanted something from the game. Think of the experience out on that pitch; the Howards, Jagielkas, Barrys and Eto’os of this side, hundreds of games and years of experience between them but not one of them stepped up today. The team as a whole are to blame and the manager too but on days like this you need players to step up, show a reaction, so a bit of emotion. Too many coasters and too many passengers. As me bird said to me earlier ‘what’s up with them?’ my answer was simple – ‘they’re not ars*d are they, they’ll still be getting their £50,000 this week just in time for Christmas’. And here’s me spending my Saturday night ranting about them. Being an Evertonian is testing at the best of times but I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of guy, however after watching that today it makes me wonder why I f*cking bother.
Martínez of last season had every one of us on the edge of our seats and there was an excitement and buzz about the place that I’d never witnessed before. But this season he has made some strange, questionable decisions and although I won’t be one of them, there is plenty of Evertonians already calling for his head. Social media has gone into overdrive tonight and I’ve been reading some of the comments our manager made after the game, he hasn’t helped himself at all. In his post-match interview the Spaniard said “I wasn’t tempted to make any substitutions, I felt the team was the right one to get back into the game” – he also said “I never felt we were outplayed or tactically inferior”. Well I’m sorry Roberto what game were you watching, because I disagree with all of the above. As for no substitutions, I think many of us wanted them even before we went a goal behind, never mind trying to get back into the game! You could see the problems with the shape and the personnel from the off. He had players like Pienaar, McGeady and Kone on the bench there, all of them offensive and still they were not utilised. If you can’t get on when you are 2-0 down away at Southampton then I don’t know when you will get on. To me Roberto just doesn’t want to upset of a few of our well-known players, and this is sometimes factored in to his thinking. In terms of being outplayed or tactically inferior, I believe we were more than outplayed, we were out-battled, out-foxed, out of character, out of leadership, fight or any passion. Koeman got his game plan spot on and we can’t blame it all on us having an off-day because let’s be honest we haven’t been good enough all season.
We remain in 10th place in the table but now need to beat Stoke on Boxing Day if we want to get ourselves a bit of breathing space from the likes of Liverpool, Stoke and Villa who are all just within a point or two of us. I can’t even believe I’ve just wrote that sentence, it is so disappointing to be where we are and how differently we are playing compared to last season. Martínez deserves to be questioned, and our players need a good kick up the arse after that. No positivity to take at all. Plane and simple – not good enough and f*cking embarrassing, and it needs sorting out. I can’t wait until Stones and McCarthy come back in because this side needs some life breathing into it and those two can offer that. The fact that we are relying on two of the youngest players in our squad to get us back on track sums up our season so far. Without Mirallas in the side we offer hardly anything going forward, Barkley blows hot and cold but he needs to remain in a central position and without Naismith and McCarthy in the team we lack any real urgency or energy. It makes for testing times at Goodison Park but who is going to stand up and be counted?
Apparently we won’t be making any major moves in January and I tell you what, if we don’t then this is going to be a long season. We need new faces, and we need to be ruthless, but I can’t see either of these things happening in the new year and it makes me worried. There is obviously problems at Everton and although I am not going to start calling for Martínez to be sacked, we need to sort our sh*t out and soon because the season as a whole could turn out to be an embarrassing one, just as this afternoon proved to be. It has been difficult to watch during periods of the current campaign but today was the ultimate kick in the b*llocks. The fans who went down there deserve an apology but they won’t get one, stuff like that just doesn’t happen. So us the supporters are left to argue it out on Twitter, write rants like this or phone radio shows and let off steam. That’s football isn’t it and that’s supporting this Football Club I suppose, if only our players had the same heart that our supporters do, we can only dream.
Merry f*cking Christmas Everton.