Once again it took the opposition to score first, on our home patch, to spark us into life. It was as if the Everton players would prefer to be down by a goal before mustering up a performance of some kind. Having gone a goal down through a penalty midway through the first half, Everton needed to wake up. Not long after the opening goal from Leicester, Lukaku put the Blues level, scoring his 7th goal in 7 games.
The second half came and not much changed from the way Everton began the first. Conceding yet another penalty through some slow movement in midfield and something pretty similar from Tim Howard, who has been less than impressive recently. Everton went on to concede another goal due to the back four's inability to clear the ball on this occasion. The Toffees did pull it back in the 89th minute through a strike inside the area from the out of favour Kevin Mirallas, but the game finished with the Blues sinking to a 3-2 defeat.
This current group of players that graces the training pitches at Finch Farm and the hallowed turf of Goodison, are spoken of as the best young team the club have had. So, why is it that far too often we find our young stars struggling to perform to a good standard? As it stands, the games since Bournemouth have completely passed Ross Barkley by. The young Evertonian has dropped his standards from what we have seen of him earlier in the season. Ross has struggled massively of late with his control and his final pass in the attacking end of the field, causing the ball to be lost on one too many occasions. We've stopped seeing those driving runs through the midfield and defence of the opposition, instead seeing a more laboured and unconfident approach and demeanour.
Ross isn't the only one who hasn't hit his expectations. Tim Howard has been frustrating many Evertonians with his performances since last season. The American international is beginning to look like a player at the end of his career and his loss of sharpness is the first sign of that. To put it bluntly, Howard has looked like he has been running through treacle when attempting to collect the ball or trying to claim a cross. My use of the words 'attempting' and 'trying' should stand out as pretty poignant in that sentence because for a while now it has been only trying and not completing a catch from a cross or corner and it's been only attempting but not being successful in coming off his line to claim the ball. If you asked for the opinion of most fans at Goodison on Saturday, they'd tell you that Howard has had enough chances to improve. It's time to see Joel Robles get an opportunity between the goalposts.
Those are only a couple of players in our current team that just aren't playing well enough and its costing the team dearly. For the record, I do myself believe that both the player and manager have a hand in how each player performs on any given matchday. If Roberto Martinez was to set his side out to go all out attack, I have no concerns or doubts whatsoever that we'd win most games. Currently, Roberto's current style both home and away seems to cause the team to start games slowly and only perform at the back end of each half. All of which, leads me nicely onto my next cause for concern from Saturday's fixture.
Recently results have not been good enough and should not been seen as acceptable. It's important to make that clear straight away. We should all remember our manager telling us how much of a difficult period we've had to start the season and that he believes the run up to Christmas is the point in the season where we make our move up the league and gather our much needed points. That hasn't happened. Martinez has given oppositions lower than ourselves in the league far too much respect. The way in which we have setup in second halves of games would invite even a Sunday league pub team to come and try their luck. We haven't got that killer instinct, like Martinez speaks of, because he hasn't sent our teams out to kill the game. Prime example, that we can't get away from, Bournemouth. We absolutely played them off the park in the first half. In the second, our manager clearly had given orders to our team to sit in our own half a little deeper and not to press the opposition into their half, Otherwise why did we witness both Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley loitering behind the half way line for a large chunk of the last 45 minutes? You could also use the Norwich game to further back this theory up.
If you want your side to play in a particular fashion or with a particular degree of character, you have to set the side up on all occasions with those objectives at the front of their minds. It has to be worked on in training and any player that isn't performing these objectives has to be replaced for a player that does and will. For me, that's one of my biggest criticisms of Martinez, he leaves things to long. We were 2-1 down to Leicester on Saturday with there being only 10 minutes between conceding a second goal and conceding a third, we had yet to make a substitution. Why wasn't the team changed? Instead, the manager left the subs sitting on their respective seats on the bench, whilst Leicester scored their 3rd goal.
The length of time it takes Martinez to make his first sub in a game is usually around the 70th to the 75th minute mark. By that point in most matches the game is no longer in the balance and a team has control. On Saturday, the fans could see the second Leicester goal coming from a mile away, with Kone struggling to have any impact, Deulofeu tiring and Barkley also struggling to control his performance - the side was crying out for changes to be made.
It's clear from our last four or five league performances that Martinez just isn't getting what he is looking for out of his starting eleven. That has to ring alarm bells to the boss to shuffle one or two players. Kone has not performed as well as now expected, after his efforts in matches at the start of the season. Deulofeu seems to be marked out of the game due to our predictable tactics, Leighton Baines has replaced Galloway at left back and hasn't created many opportunities down the left and Gareth Barry is now attempting to second guess a team's movement in order to prevent a play. It's all very reactive instead of proactive at the moment - the players' mentality, the making of substitutions or in the way we play.
The first change I feel most people would make to our current team would be for Joel Robles to replace Tim Howard in goal. Underperforming shouldn't be rewarded in any case let alone with keeping your spot in the side. Some thought it was harsh on young Brendan Galloway when he was dropped from the team to be replaced by the incoming Baines, but it'd be a little early in the piece to look at another change there.
Its obvious also that the sooner Phil Jagielka and James McCarthy are back in the side the better and the more stronger defensively we become. A change on the left hand side of the midfield is now a must for me, in order for teams to feel threatened once more by our attack we need to turn away from this over-reliance we have down the right hand side with Gerard Deulofeu. Kone's replacement is pretty obvious and would be timely in an effort to keeping Kevin Mirallas at Goodison Park. Finally, I do feel Ross Barkley would improve his own game if improvements or changes were made around him. Dropping Ross wouldn't be the right move for either the player or the rest of the team.