I don’t think I was wearing the right pants. Oh, and I forgot to drink my tea from my Everton mug. And I put the left sock on first. These, and probably a few others, are the only reasons I can think of that meant Everton failed to convert just one, let alone two, of 34 efforts on goal.
There is another reason. Like it or like it not, West Brom’s defensive performance won’t get fans flocking to the Hawthorns any time soon to see fast flowing football, but as an object lesson in how to defend a besieged goal, we could probably learn a few lessons. My suspicion is that those fans berating West Brom as a dull and boring side, are the same ones that said Everton can’t defend. Well, here it was, an ugly win for the Baggies, and however much we might bemoan our luck, it isn’t going to change just by me wearing my lucky pants. It was painful to watch, but not just Albion’s defence that relied on 28 defenders seemingly in the box at any given time, it was our inability to break it down: memories of last season.
Sure, we could, and probably should, have had a man on the post to prevent their goal, especially given our inability to defend balls in to the box at the best of times this season, but we had every single player back defending and we still couldn’t deal with a hopefully looped header that Rondon chested in to an unguarded net. Not an error by a ‘keeper (although someone somewhere probably still blamed Tim Howard, and he was cosied up on the bench under his duvet coat), but an error of tactics. And that was just the first. An inexplicable couple of substitutions has still got the lion’s share of the conversation post match, and were undoubted errors on Roberto’s part. Taking Cleverley off was no bad idea given we didn’t need to protect Oviedo from non-existent attacks; but Koné? Really? The game was crying out for trickery from Mirallas, who must wonder what on earth he has to do to get a kick, and surely he should have been the replacement. And then my MotM, Lennon, admittedly slightly quieter in the second half, removed as a straight swap for Deulofeu. There was an argument for losing Barry or McCarthy at that stage, and positioning Deulofeu or Lennon centrally, where their pace and tricks would undoubtedly have unsettled their back 10. To bring dear old Leon on and again still no Kev, was equally mystifying.
A number of tactical errors lost us the game from off the pitch, and the players who tried relentlessly to hammer down their defensive door, were not up to the task. Let’s face it, most of the attempts were blocks, not wonder saves from Foster. Barkley once again showed immense skills, but maybe didn’t give the overlapping full backs (mainly Oviedo) the ball either at all, or at the right time. But let’s remember he hit the post with a sublime shot in the first half, and his 1-2 deep in to the second half showed a glimpse of what we should have tried more of, although this one ended up skied in to the Park End when it seemed easier to hit the target. So criticise all you like, as some of you have been doing, but in Barkley we had one of the few players who ever looked likely to break down the barriers in front of him. By contrast, one moment of frustration from Koné saw him skip past tackles as he took the ball from left to right across the box, and preferred in the end to pass it out wide rather than take a shot.
So we are left feeling deflated once more, as the signs of a new dawn after three easy 3-0 wins, turn out to be more like ‘red sky in the morning, shepherds take warning’, rather than ‘red sky at night, shepherds’ delight’. We can only brace ourselves for the rest of the season, which may be over if we don’t turn it on and hold on, against Bournemouth in the Cup, to be followed by a trip to a Villa side that in their last home game before our visit have just conceded 6 to that lot. We know lightning never strikes twice, but a win by any margin has to be the order of the day for our visit, an ugly win, a beautiful win, maybe even a win like West Brom. I doubt I’ll ever see that, and I’m not sure that would bother me, but don’t blame West Brom for cutting their cloth according to their means. They won. We lost. Get over it.