At times last night the frustration of watching a team clearly out of form got the better of me, as it did thousands alongside me at Goodison. Importantly the mental resolve of the team remains strong and despite playing considerably below their potential, Everton were far too strong for a very poor Queens Park Rangers side.
The three points picked up last night will obviously prove important as the season progresses, but until the confidence returns, Roberto’s Blues are going to have to win ugly at times and last night certainly wasn’t pretty.
The Martinez philosophy is based around retention of the ball and at times that means going sideways and even backwards. This is frustrating at the best of times, but last season the Evertonians developed an understanding of the manager’s game plan and appreciated the free flowing nature of our attacking play. However last night the plan faltered in similar ways to the previous week’s fixture against Hull City. Everton failed to pass the ball well, completing just 81% of passes. Combine this with a tendency to look for the easy pass, which was often back to a defender on the halfway line you begin to understand why Everton failed to impress the watching faithful.
In fairness to the team the heart of the midfield was missing. James McCarthy and Gareth Barry are excellent exponents of the possession game and despite Besic and Barkley playing well, they were unable to dictate play in the same way as McCarthy and Barry did throughout the majority of last season.
Mirallas looked a threat throughout the 90 minutes, but at times the eagerness to get the ball wide to the Belgium winger led to balls going astray and too often the ball flew into touch, or straight to a grateful QPR defender.
Upfront Lukaku failed to sparkle, but in fairness to Everton’s record signing he often created space for Naismith to exploit and that was certainly evident for the third goal of the night, which the Scot finished expertly with his head. Lukaku will need to learn to deal with the close attention of several defenders if he is to flourish into the striker his price tag demands and in Samuel Eto’o he has the perfect mentor. In his brief cameo the Cameroonian looked lively and he was incredibly unfortunate not to add a fourth Everton goal in the dying minutes of the match.
It is easy to forget that this remains a team in development, learning a new way of playing in the heat of the Premier League. Everton will certainly improve as the season progresses and with very few of the top sides taking advantage of the open nature of this seasons league table it is too early to write off a European finish.