Surprise package of the season Leicester were the visitors to Goodison on Saturday. Sitting atop the league table, the foxes, managed by Claudio Ranieri, have played some excellent stuff, particularly up top with the in-form Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez: Vardy, the leagues top scorer, and Mahrez who would end the day the joint second top scorer, and joint second in assists, too.

01

It was the same side for Everton that somehow managed to draw with Norwich the previous week. The first thing I noticed with these average positions is how keen Leicester were to defend their left hand side, up against Gerard Deulofeu and Seamus Coleman down the Everton right. Marc Albrighton and Christian Fuchs are practically on top of one another: contrast that with the other flank, and with Arouna Kone wanting to come inside and play closer to Lukaku, Leighton Baines had nothing ahead of him. The lack of natural balance in our team is something that does need addressing: especially on days such as Saturday when the opposition has such a blatant plan to stop Deulofeu down one side. It asks questions of us that this side seems unable to answer. Mercifully, I couldn’t find the game in full, so I didn’t have to sit through it for a second time- which might lead to a shortened review, but let’s begin…

The first chance of the game came to Everton. A superb threaded ball between left back and left centre half by Deulofeu put Lukaku through into space down the Everton right….

02

Lukaku looked up and dropped a perfect cross into Ross Barkley…

03

Who badly skewed his shot wide. If he had his chance again, he might’ve thought to stoop for a header, but those types of volleys are always difficult, especially once you’ve had to watch the ball through the air for as long as Barkley did.

With almost half an hour up, and Leicester took the lead, and it was an embarrassingly bad goal to concede from Everton…

04

Leicester have a throw in in the middle of the pitch, Everton are back in numbers, we have our shape… there is no reason ONE touch from this position should be allowed to cause the havoc it did…

05

But the throw in comes, and Jamie Vardy manages to move off John Stones for a totally uncontested header. If Stones wanted to follow him and challenge for the header there, that’s fine. If Stones didn’t want to get drawn into that position and would rather of held his shape- that’s OK too, because he could’ve passed Vardy off onto one of the numerous Everton shirts around him. Stones either gets caught in two minds, or he’s just switched off, because he gets caught in a horrible position as the flick on comes, and he’s out of the game from this point on. It’s poor from Stones, and the defending is only going to get worse…

06

As the header begins to drop, Funes Mori is in a decent position to deal with the ball, but he inexplicably becomes more interested in a tussle with Shinji Okazaki rather than dealing with the bouncing ball….

07

Okazaki wants it more, and once Mori begins to lose out in the battle, he ends up in an awkward position that allows Okazaki to go down and force the referees hand into giving a penalty- which it was. It’s a pathetic defensive effort from the off, indicative of the brittle play that has held us back this year. Mahrez slots the penalty and it’s 1-0.

The half would end 1-1 thanks to another goal from Romelu Lukaku. 68% possession we had in the first half and it was 1-1. There was a contrast in styles from the two sides: there was nothing uncomplicated about Leicester’s approach play. They moved the ball forwards quickly, a bit of pace and bite in the midfield, and they were excellent defensively. Centre halves only interested in defending, fullbacks intent on stopping crosses, and a midfield who could move at pace to support their best attacking players.

Into the second half and Leicester made it 2-1. It was a superb ball through from Mahrez and excellent movement from Vardy. Stones has come in for some criticism for the goal from some, but I think it was just good play from Leicester…

08

From Stones’ body shape, you can see he was anticipating the ball going to his outside as you’d probably expect, but Mahrez and Vardy are of one mind- as they have been so often this season, and as is their understanding, they’ve managed to create the chance and put their side back into the lead. Far more worrying for me is Tim Howard’s starting position being so deep- even after the ball has been released here and he’s started moving forward already, he’s too deep and has too much ground to cover to prevent the chance. Vardy goes down, and much to Evertonian dismay, Howard was only booked, and remained on the pitch. We’re at sixes and sevens at the back at the moment…

09

Just look at how badly out of position the hugely experienced Leighton Baines is here, having been undisciplined and gone ball-hunting in midfield. It’s 1-1 at this point: there’s no need. Either side of him are our midfield ‘shielders’, who are well out of the game at this point, too. Okazaki was the easier pass here, but such is the confidence of Leicester- and Mahrez and Vardy in particular- they play it through the middle, but you can’t afford to be exposed this easily. Another awful defensive effort from the toffees. Mahrez slots the penalty and it’s 2-1.

A third shocking goal would be conceded before the end. From an Everton throw in, Leicester pressed and won the ball back. There were cries of handball- maybe it was, but for as close as Albrighton was, it’s a debatable one. Tough luck, in that sense, and a fortunate bounce for the foxes mean they’re in and make it three, but I’d just like to point out John Stones avoiding the challenge as the ball went in:

10

Stones, to the right of the ball as we look, actually slows his run slightly as he approaches Okazaki, and ends up the wrong side of him…

11

Pretty fundamentally bad: get your body between the ball and the goal. He’s more interested in not taking a clattering off the covering Leighton Baines than he is stopping a goal that would ultimately prove to be the winner. Pretty unpalatable defending once again. Our centre halves need to get back to the basics of defending- fast. Phil Jagielka’s return can’t come quick enough.

We would get one back before the end from Kevin Mirallas (no, I haven’t either) after a stunning assist from Barkley, but that was that. We lost and we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot. We’re missing the boat with the most talented squad we’ve had in years.

3 Comments

  • Craig smith  20/12/2015 at 17:38

    Why we persist with kone when Mirallas and Naismith are on the bench is beyond me , give Robles a chance too , we have a belting squad and should be in or around top four, think roberto has taken us as far as he can

    Reply
  • TV critic  20/12/2015 at 22:05

    Dunno which arsehole wrote this piece but I bet he’s better on a computer than he is playing football in floods of rain. What daft cunt.

    Reply
  • Steve Boyle  21/12/2015 at 09:16

    Without Jags we are defensively less well organised and at times, as you show very clearly above, horribly naive

    Reply

Leave A Comment

Please enter your name. Please enter an valid email address. Please enter a message.