1. Goals conceded at home.
2, 2, 1, 1, 3, 2, 0, 1, 3, 4!
In ten home Premier League matches Everton have conceded 19 goals, just a fraction short of two goals per game, a terrible defensive record for any team with serious aspirations of Champions League football.
Where should the blame lie? Martinez’ tactics? The goalkeeper? A defence clearly missing the leadership and nous of Phil Jagielka? A reluctance to defend as a team?
Everton have three of the most exciting attacking talents in the league, they are a joy to watch (probably more so for the neutral, I personally have no finger nails left), yet defensively we are a shambles, easy to breakdown and even easier to score against.
2. Defence cut open with simple ball.
Stoke City’s second goal, scored brilliantly by Xherdan Shaqiri has quite rightly stole the headlines. The Switzerland international’s finish was exceptional, but he was allowed to drift into a goalscoring position far too easily. This is not the first time this season that Everton have been cut open by a simple pass, which I believe is due to a change in Everton’s defensive shape.
Under David Moyes Everton adopted a tight defensive line, with both full backs playing close to the centre halves. This use ton annoy the faithful in the Gwladys Street who would scream at the full back to pick up the winger, however even if the winger pulled out to the touch line to find space the Everton defender would hold his position. The main benefit of this was that opposition teams were unable to thread balls between defenders and they would be reliant on a percentage ball from the wing.
Everton retained this philosophy in the opening 18 months of Martinez’ reign, although after Everton and in particular Seamus Coleman were found out, Martinez adapted his tactics with the full back later playing closer to the touch line. This ensures the winger has little time on the ball to pick out a striker in the box, but it does allow runners to get between defenders and a pinpoint through ball can then dissect the defence. Stoke managed this twice in the first half with Shaqiri the beneficiary on both occasions. The former Bayern Munich winger ran off Brendan Galloway to score both Stoke’s goals, firstly latching on to a pass from Arnautovic and later from Bojan.
In this case there is little the full back can do if he doesn’t instantly spot the run. He is reliant on his central defensive colleague to cover and either cut out the pass, track back and block a shot or for the defence as a whole to operate an offside trap. Shaqiri demonstrated his class with two excellent finishes and left Everton chasing a game they dominated for large parts.
3. No leadership at the back.
We are certainly missing Phil Jagielka, his experience and know-how would have been a crucial factor in helping Everton see out the game when they had taken a 3-2 lead. He is a calming influence at the back and his constant direction helps John Stones, who we should not forget is still only 22 years old.
After a promising start, Funes Mori is finding life in the Premier League difficult. He too would have benefited from a spell alongside Phil Jagielka, someone to guide him through the nuances of English football.
In Jagielka’s absence you would hope that Tim Howard would have stepped up, but with the American international struggling with his own game that hasn’t happened. Instead the former Manchester United keeper has shrunk into his shell. I actually feel a little bit sorry for Howard, he desperately needs a spell out of the team and away from the limelight to remember what made him such a good goalkeeper for most of his Everton career, as right now he is miles away from the required standard.
4. Lukaku smashing Everton records.
We are running out of superlatives to describe Romelu Lukaku. The Belgium international is in the form of his life and is making his £28m transfer fee appear small change. If Everton were to sell and God forbid if they do, they would be looking at a fee upwards of £50m.
Lukaku scored his 17th and 18th goals of the season on Monday. 15 of which have come in the league. He now has 31 goals in 2015, smashing Everton’s post war record of 28 goals in a calendar year which was previously held by double league winner, Adrian Heath.
Lukaku, in just half a season, is already just one goal short of the record for most Everton goals in a Premier League season, the current best is 16 which is held jointly by Tony Cottee and Andrei Kanchelskis.
Lukaku looks certain to become the first Everton player to score 20 league goals in a season since Gary Lineker in 1985/86 and will have his eye on a season tally in all competitions of over 30.
If and it is a big IF, Everton can stop leaking goals at the back then Romelu Lukaku’s goals could yet fire Everton back into contention for European football.
5. Barkley growing into a top class player.
Ross Barkley is now establishing himself as one of the best midfield players in the country, grabbing games by the scruff of the neck and driving his team forward. Alongside Romelu Lukaku he has every right to be frustrated by Everton’s league position.
During the Stoke game, with Everton twice behind he constantly looked to get on the ball and drove the Blues forward. His link up play with Lukaku for Deulofeu’s goal was superb as was his determination, strength and drive to force his way past the Stoke full back before centring for Deulofeu to put Everton 3-2 ahead.
Barkley completed an incredible 96% of his passes, assisting one goal, he completed more passes in the final third than anyone else and he ran with the ball more than any other player on the pitch, taking on his opponent on 7 out of 8 dribbles. His flick though the legs of Glen Johnson in the corner near the Park End/ Bullens Road, was brilliant and he was unlucky not to score in the same move when his goal bound shot was blocked. We really do have a diamond called Ross Barkley.