It's 100 up for Everton. The first team in Premier League history to achieve such a landmark, but it isn't congratulations. David Moyes' men become the first team to reach 100 Premier League defeats at home. And what a way to do it.
For starters, this wasn't the fault of Bill Kenwright or the Board so get that excuse out of your head straight away. Why? Because Kenwright, Woods, Earl etc. do not pick the team and do not lace up their boots and grace the hallowed turf on a Saturday afternoon. Its the eleven players who do that, and its David Moyes who picks them, and therefore the blame lays firmly at his feet for today's shambles.
En route to the ground I was told of the team before it was announced and I must say I raised a brow. The boss went with the usual rearguard of Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin and Baines. However, he mixed it up a bit in midfield. Jack Rodwell was employed on the right of midfield in front of the skipper. Dutch centre half John Heitinga paired up with Leon Osman in the middle of the park with the absolutely excellent Ross Barkley on the left of midfield.
Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford were asked to find goals and if I performed in my job like the latter did today, I'd be docked a day's pay. Marouane Fellaini, Mikel Arteta and Louis Saha found themselves risking splinters on the bench due to a lack of fitness, along with goalkeeper Jan Mucha, Tony Hibbert, Apostolos Vellios and quite rightly Victor Anichebe.
Expectations were obviously of a home win, three points in the bag, and a performance to suit with us being fresh and a game ahead of the visitors due to the unrest in the capital last weekend. Instead, Everton looked a yard, and sometimes two yards off the pace.
QPR defended really well throughout. They were well organised, compact when defending and worked very well as a unit. The 57 year old midfield general Sean Derry organising his troops well when not in possession and allowing Adel Taarabt the freedom to create. A virus deprived Rangers of DJ Campbell, and apparent Everton target Jay Bothroyd deemed only fit enough for a place on the bench. Patrick Agyemang spearheaded the attack with goalscorer Tommy Smith dropping in behind him.
Everton started well, with Osman and Barkley showing neat touches and Neville and Baines pushing forward linking up to provide opportunity for Cahill and Beckford. Cahill was knocked from pillar to post in the first 20 minutes but the referee seemed oblivious to it. The first real opportunity fell to the home side when Ross Barkley picked up the ball on the left and found himself in a bit of space 20 yards out. After taking on three players and feigning shots twice, he prodded the ball out to Phil Neville only to be brought down. The resulting free kick on the edge of the box slightly to the keeper's left was sweetly stuck by England left back Leighton Baines only for the ball to hit the bar flush and rebound out.
Everton started to turn the screw, Beckford wasted an opportunity to chest the ball down and rifle us into a lead by choosing to try a scissor kick, but then performing an air shot. When Beckford found himself out wide on the right the forward lashed in a superb cross which bounced once in the "coridoor of uncertainty." The one person you would want (and expect) to be at the back post with an open goal at his mercy is Tim Cahill. And he was. The Aussie headed the ball whilst on his knees and the Bullens Road side of the ground raised to their feet, only to see the fella sat in Row C of the Gwladys Street Lower catch the ball and retrun it the Rangers keeper.
If that would have gone in then we almost certainly have had a different ball game on our hands.
With Rangers under the cosh, Everton talisman Tim Cahill piled on the pressure and slid in on Danny Gabbidon. The Welsh international, who obviously robbed his caps, fell over and Cahill found himself in miles of space heading for goal. Beckford made a superb run across and was screaming to be fed in. However, Cahill was too slow and the defender recovered, making a great tackle.
In the same phase of play, QPR worked the ball neatly down the Everton right with Taarabt, Buzsaky and Smith. Rodwell was caught ball watching and Neville forced out to close down. This in turn dragged Jagielka across and left a hole. QPR played the ball neatly into that hole and Smith took one touch, turning at the same time and placed a lovely shot past Tim Howard. Two shots, one goal, and a half time defecit to make up for the home team.
Moyes kept the faith and resisted making any changes during the break, and again Everton started off ok. Barkley certainly picked up where he left off and looked instrumental to any Everton move with attacking intent. I hope Moyes gives him a run of games in the centre of the park as it was plain to see that is where he prefers to be, and hes effective there. There were two things still wrong for me in the midfield. Firstly, Jack Rodwell is not a midfielder, never mind a right sided midfielder. Second, the gap between John Heitinga and Leon Osman continued to grow on the pitch, and it was one which QPR exploited with ease on the counter. It was also one of the factors which cost us a goal in the first half.
Moyes sent Arteta and Fellaini to warm up, possibly to send out a signal to the under performing players, or simply just to change the system. Arteta came on first, rightly replacing the poor Jack Rodwell. The Spaniard took up position on the left hand side of midfield and young Barkley moved to the right. Immediately it looked better. Arteta was cutting in, allowing the space Baines needs to perform at his best, and Barkley was cutting inside to test the goalkeeper, but also linking up with Neville - who crossing stunk today!
Fellaini replaced Beckford on the hour. As the striker made his way off there was a chorus of boos, and I hope the former Leeds hitman doesnt think they were aimed at him. You could tell he knew he had under performed. Nothing went right for him all afternoon. The boos where, however, aimed at the manager for taking a striker off and replacing him with a midfielder. However, the substitution was justified. What wasnt justifiable was the continuation of the boss to play players out of position. We now had Arteta on the left, Heitinga and Osman central, Barkley on the right with Fellaini and Cahill up top. The discussion among the group I sit with was simply "Why not swap Fellaini with Osman, Barkley or Arteta." The Belgian did very well, but simply isnt an attacking force.
Barkley again tested Kenny with a low drive from the right which the keeper did well to hold after a deflection. The youngster continued to press on and showed some lovely neat, tidy touches, especially when drifting inside. Out of the whole team, Barkley was the only player looking to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. It was refreshing to see a midfielder making the game look effortless, and shoot from outside the area!!
Moyes' last throw of the dice was to unleash Louis Saha, who replaced Heitinga. He shuffled his pack, putting Osman on the left, Arteta and Cahill deep in midfield, Barkley continued on the right and Fellaini supported Saha up top. The discussion now turned to "Why has he dropped Cahill so deep? Why is Fellaini still up front?" Indeed, when Cahill drops deep he may as well come off. But, everything was in vain as QPR whittled the clock down, and not even a gift of 5 added minutes from the questionable referee was enough to rescue the blues.
I think most of us are in agreement that Fellaini, Arteta and Saha should have started the game, probably for Rodwell, Beckford and Heitinga. The boss said they weren't quite fit. In that case, play them for an hour then change them. Its blatantly obvious to see that square pegs do not go in round holes.
I would have gone with the same back four, Fellaini deep, Arteta right, Osman left, Barkley central, with Cahill supporting Saha up front.
By the way - booing at the end of a game is never ever warranted towards your own team. If you aren't happy with a performance, stay silent and leave. Trust me, it has a stronger effect.
Everton now face a potential banana skin on Wednesday night at home to Sheffield United in the three handled cup. The game against the Blades now seems all the more difficult following today. It also makes the next league game massive against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Player Ratings (out of 10)
Tim Howard - 6 - nothing to do except pick the ball out of the net
Phil Neville - 6 - crossing was poor, defended well, sucked in for the goal
Phil Jagielka - 5 - caught out for the goal, given a hard time by Agyemang, one pass of note to Beckford
Sylvain Distain - 7 - often sweeping behind Jagielka's misjudgment, solid throughout, could have done better for the goal
Leighton Baines - 6 - tried to get forward when allowed to, unlucky with a cracking free kick
Jack Rodwell - 4 - unlucky being out of position, nothing going forward, rightly substituted
John Heitinga - 5 - out of position, ball chased quite a bit, couldnt work with Osman
Leon Osman - 7 - showed some nice touches and tried to get the team playing, ran out of steam
Ross Barkley - 8 - excellent game, tried everything going forward, fearless, only lacking a goal
Tim Cahill - 6 - tried too hard, could have made the difference had he scored a very easy chance
Jermaine Beckford - 3 - played too close to Cahill, couldnt get his touch at all, rightly replaced
As ever, your comments are welcomed below.
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