Everton are still missing a vital piece of the puzzle?
“Ronald Koeman must find a way to utilise his defensive-midfield to actually defend then”, suggested Ben Darvill in a ComeOnLads.com analysis on September 12. Everton’s problems haven’t been resolved since then.
Traditionally, Everton are one of the top seven biggest sides in the league and they have been proving this over the last few seasons. The gap between themselves and sixth place has been closing, while the owners have finally sanctioned the much-needed spending to take Everton from a good team with aspirations to do better but that lack the tools, to a side that have a genuine chance of breaking into the top six.
However, as Koeman claimed, they looked weak at times. The more traditional four at the back, while supposedly solid, failed to give Jordan Pickford much protection on the day.
Of course, the first goal was a bit of a freak goal as Harry Kane’s cross found its way into the top corner. However, for Christian Eriksen’s goal there were mistakes across the park. Dele Alli ghosted away from Ashley Williams on the left flank and put in a dangerous cross. Initially, the only person the ball should have been met by in the box was right-back Cuco Martina, but his air-kick allowed Ben Davies to strike at goal which was saved by Pickford before Eriksen lashed home.
This goal alone displayed one of two things. Either the defence is still finding its feet playing together as Koeman has not been afraid to rotate his players, or their lack of big game players in the back-line is hurting them. Martina, who is deputising for Seamus Coleman, is a rather unknown quantity at the back as he is yet to establish himself as outstanding or otherwise. This does convey the fact that he is largely inexperienced at this level, with big games against the likes of Tottenham bringing a pressure he will not have felt in before.
For both Michael Keane and Ashley Williams, the defending should have been far better. Keane earned his move to Goodison Park following an outstanding season with Burnley, while Williams did the same with Swansea the year before. Both are experienced in the Premier League and were not playing out of position, making their inability to get tighter to Eriksen in the box worrying.
Indeed, Kane’s second goal was a fine finish, but he was able to sneak between two defenders, something that should never be allowed to happen. One of the two centre-halves should have tracked Tottenham’s most dangerous player as he made his way into the box. These defensive frailties will cost them in the bigger games, as it already has. If Everton have serious aspirations of taking a Champions League place and playing against the best teams, then they must first find a way to defend soundly against the top teams in the Premier League, who are still some way behind their European counterparts.