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Everton at Leicester City: Post-Match Analysis

The Toffees picked up a point after a sloppy second half showing saw them throw away a solid first half. Here, we take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the match.

Michael Regan

The Good

Steven Naismith proved that he is a capable fill-in for Ross Barkley against inferior opponents.

A player such as Barkley cannot be fully replaced, but if Naismith can put forward more performances like this weekend's, Barkley will not be quite as sorely missed. Naismith is not the play-maker that Barkley is, but if the wingers and full-backs can create offense as they did in the first half, it will not be incumbent upon the Scotsman to create plays. Rather, he can focus on using his nose for goal and intense willingness to run himself into the ground, playing more as a second striker than as an aggressive midfielder.

Of course, against Arsenal and Chelsea this more aggressive mindset may not be plausible, but it is good to know going forward that against teams in the lower reaches of the table, the club has a plan that should work offensively.

Everton's wide play was excellent in the first half.

Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines were in mid-season form down the left flank for the first 45 minutes, creating constant headaches for the Leicester back-line. After an extremely disappointing season last year, seeing Pienaar perform well certainly had to please Roberto Martinez and supporters. The South African's ability to come central and be a distributor cutting in from the left wing is a huge asset to the club, particularly in Ross Barkley's absence.

Aiden McGeady is certainly a different kind of winger than Pienaar, but proved his worth in the first half as well. McGeady has impressive pace, is willing to take players on, and proved he has an ability to score goals with an absolutely stunning opening goal. In the second half, McGeady seemed tired, and still appears to be searching for his role with his new club, but he showed that he can be a weapon this season.

Everton's Top 4 rivals did not particularly impress on opening weekend either.

It is no secret that securing a Champions League bid is the next big step in the league for Everton, so it cannot hurt to look at the top 4 landscape, even at this stage.

Manchester United stumbled to a home defeat against Swansea City, Tottenham needed a stoppage time winner to sneak past West Ham, Liverpool was nearly pegged back late by a resilient, but mediocre Southampton, and Arsenal needed an Aaron Ramsey stoppage time goal to secure a home victory against Crystal Palace.

It is obviously early, but the fact that none of these teams stood out this week is an encouraging sign that the Toffees will not fall far behind.

The Bad

Romelu Lukaku looked rusty.

It isn't a cause for panic, or even particularly unexpected, but it was still a disappointing part of the match. His ball control was consistently poor, his runs were not sharp, and his passing was unimpressive.

After playing in the World Cup and facing uncertainty about where his new home would be, Lukaku did not participate much in any sort of preseason training, and it showed.

As long as his play improves as he gets more regularly training though, which is expected, this should not be a long-term problem.

John Stones is not a right-back.

This does not appear to be a long-term issue, with Seamus Coleman making an appearance as a late substitute, but it is something to note for the future. Stones has clearly grown to be much more comfortable as a central defender than a full-back. He was unable to provide much in terms of attack, was pulled out of position on Chris Wood's equalizer, and struggled with the speed of substitute Jeffrey Schlupp.

Most of the second half.

Perhaps it was an attempt by Martinez to try to slow the match down, perhaps it was fatigue, perhaps Leicester just vastly improved between halves, or perhaps it was some combination of the three, but the Toffees simply failed to create much of anything in the second half. With Barkley out, Mirallas and Coleman limited by injury, and Cristian Atsu only just arriving to the club, Martinez was always going to have his hands a bit tied in terms of altering the match with substitutions.

If Mirallas, Coleman, and Atsu all reach a more acceptable level of fitness and we see this kind of half again, then there will be serious concerns, but it seems reasonable to think that this was just a fatigue/injury spurred aberration.

The Ugly

The defending was simply putrid.

The back-line struggled with the work rate of David Nugent, the strength of Leonardo Ulloa, and the pace of Jeffrey Schlupp. Phil Jagielka couldn't win a header, John Stones looked out of place, the whole team looked uncomfortable defending set pieces,  and general defensive cohesion was lacking.

Seamus Coleman's return will likely help, but that may be the only obvious immediate solution. It did not appear to be a tactical issue that ailed the Everton back-line on Saturday, but simply underwhelming individual play, particularly from the center-backs. Hopefully an opportunity to continue regular training, which was shortened in the pre-season to the World Cup, will help improve defensive play.

If not, we may see John Stones slot in as a center-back soon.