Category Archives: Soccer

Everton’s Poor League Cup Semifinal

Before I get into the actual Everton game yesterday, I at least wanted to mention how I watched the game.  Not too long ago, I ended up dropping down from the top tier with DirectTV and as such lost BeIN which not only has the rights to La Liga (Real Madrid and Barcelona, etc.) but the League Cup.  I wasn’t planning on watching the game but figured I’d poke around and see if there was an option (outside of going to a bar) and remembered from the World Soccer Talk Podcast and figured I’d give it a shot.  The sub costs $9.99/month here in the States (I have no clue about other countries and what’s available there) and covers quite a bit of European soccer, pretty much everything not tied to Fox or NBC.  It also offers a free 24 hour trial, which is what I used to watch the game.  Pretty good quality, mildly entertaining embedded chat, and overall a good experience and one I’d recommend if you’re interested in those other leagues.  I haven’t looked too much more into it, but it is something that was quite intriguing to me that will warrant some more investigation.

As for the game itself, it was very typical of where Everton has been all year.  So much promise and then the ship starts to spring a leak and never recovers.  The opening goal should have been enough to seal the deal as that gave Everton a 2 goal cushion, and it was a significant goal for both sides.  Barkely showed off his talent and flair with a slick turn and was able to bury that shot from distance.  However, if I were a City fan I’d be rather upset that no one closed him down given his lethality from long range.  Barkely certainly took advantage of the soft defending and made them pay, but City playing a weaker side to rest for other competitions had a hand in it too.  After that though, it was all downhill for Everton as they just couldn’t do anything to release the pressure City were applying to them.

Let’s talk about those City goals a bit.  That Fernandinho goal did take a wicked deflection to leave Robles helpless, but the non-existent back tracking by anyone in midfield was what gave him the room to get that shot off.  They just let him wander down the field and set up in an easy spot to let go a dangerous shot.  A barrage of opportunities then followed with a couple of posts included for good measure.  Sure, Everton looked dangerous at times on the counter but all too often were a pass short and then left exposed in the back.  While the De Bruyne goal clearly crossed the touch line (although the official was partially blocked by the net and on the other side of the field) I don’t think it would’ve made any difference if that goal was disallowed.  Why it is such a fight to get technology that’s been proven elsewhere for a LONG time now I will never understand, but that’s a whole other topic.  Everton wasn’t showing any sort of competent or structured defense and City inevitably would have found a way to at the very least tie the aggregate score.  As for the Aguerro goal that sealed Everton’s fate, there was the hint of offsides but I think too close to call and I’m fine with that.  What I’m not fine with is John Stones getting caught on the wrong side of the most dangerous man on the pitch.  That just can’t happen at that point of the game.

As for Martinez, I’m not sure what to do there.  I know he’s done a great job in getting this team to play exciting soccer and he’s attracted some great talent.  But he really needs to figure out how to close some games out or this will be his last year at Everton, if he even makes it that far.  I also don’t think he did himself any favors by ripping the referees.  Sure, they missed a call but there was still LOTS of time left in that game for other things to happen.  Even if you could both City goals as “bad” goals there’s still over 15 minutes left to do something.  I didn’t have any problem with the gripes after the Chelsea game as that call did actually cost them the game (last touch of the game for a goal) but that did not happen in this case.  It is very rare that a single call “costs” teams a game, and this clearly was not one of those games.

Finally, I did want to mention the Robles/DeBruyne scuffle that happened late in the game.  I will admit that even after the first couple of replays I couldn’t see what happened to DeBruyne and assumed he had flopped (ala Diego Costa) and didn’t have any problem with Robles trying to get him up.  However, it became evident that he really was hurt (reasonably seriously) as it was just one of those not too much contact causing the knee to go in directions it isn’t supposed to.  I was impressed that not only did Robles make a point to see him off the pitch and talk to him while he was on the stretcher but also went to Twitter to express his apologies about his behavior.

Luckily Everton has an FA Cup tie over the weekend that shouldn’t put up the challenge anyone in the Premiere league would, but at this rate who knows what will happen.  Some sort of turnaround (which I still think could happen) will be needed if they’re to get to any sort of credibility at years end with a hope of keeping this young core around.

What has happened to Everton?

I thought today was as good a time as any to put some thoughts out there about my favorite soccer team, Everton.  And yes, I know I’m using the wrong term but when following both American and world football, it is easier and less confusing to call one football and the other soccer, so that’s what I do.  The timing works out well as this is sort of mid-season and in the heart of the January transfer window, not to mention a crucial semi-final match today against Manchester City.

I had pretty high expectations coming into the year with the addition of Deulofeu and the ability to keep a hold of the strong youth talent this team has.  And for the most part, the youth has performed reasonably well.  Lukaku is among the league leaders in goals.  Deulofeu seems to be serving up delicious crosses every time he touches the ball.  Barkley has had his ups and downs but is still electric.  Stones has been solid for the most part, although he’s had some rough games like any youngster will.  Even Brendan Galloway performed well in his replacement role while Baines recovered from his ankle injury.

The issue, or at least one of them, has been the performance of the veteran leaders.  Now some of this is certainly due to injuries (although every team gets them) but clearly the loss of Baines and Jagielka has hurt the team.  And even when they’re in the lineup, the loss of time has put them further behind the rest of the team.  Barry has not been the same pillar of strength he was, and lets just move on from talking about Howard.  It is no surprise that with Baines, Jagielka, and Howard all struggling that the Toffees are sporting a horrific defensive record and are especially awful late in games.  That trio of leadership and confidence used to ripple through the team, and without it we’re starting to see things crumble.

Another huge hole in this team is the midfield which has been pretty lackluster this season.  I’m not entirely sure what has happened to McCarthy this season, but he just doesn’t seem to be having as much impact as he has in the past.  Of late, our best midfielder (outside of Barkley) has been Besic, which shocks me as I had more or less written him off as a red-card waiting to happen extra body and not a contributing player.  Sadly I’m not sure there’s a real easy fix for this problem out there.  I don’t think Ryan Ledson is ready to step in, but at this point I’m also not sure there’s all that much to lose in trying him out.

The last piece of the puzzle that many are jumping on is the coaching, feeling that Martinez has run out of ideas.  I’m not ready to jump to that conclusion quite yet, but there certainly are some warning signs.  I feel it is always hard to really know what portion of poor play (in any sport) is due to the coaching and what blame should be laid on the players.  Usually, it is somewhere in the middle, however there are some things that are red flags for coaches.  When the same things keep happening over and over again, that’s not just poor luck or bad play, the coaching staff is not doing something right.  And in Everton’s case, not protecting leads is becoming a routine event.  I’m not going to claim to know all the stats, but I’m willing to bet they’re near the top of goals conceded in the last 10 minutes of the game, and actually probably pretty close to the top of those scored during that time too.  So while they’re great at late dramatics, it seems like they forget about defense once that happens.  Sure there have been some unfortunate calls (Chelsea) but to even allow that to happen time and time again is just bad coaching.

While this is a rather pessimistic look at the team, I still have hope for a productive season finishing in the top half of the table.  I highly doubt they’ll push high enough for Europe and I’m not sure they have the team depth to be able to handle it if they did qualify.  If they can get some more stability in the back, fix their late game disasters, and then bring in a couple young guys during these next 2 windows they could be right back ready to make a strong run next year.  As an avid Football Manager player, I do have ideas for how to fix Everton, but that’s for another post.  And who knows, they might be able to hold off Manchester City and get a shot to win some hardware this year!