This article could quite easily have been titled '100 Thoughts', because right at this moment I sit here with those 100 thoughts and more flying around my head due to Everton's performance on Monday. To score 3 goals and then to concede 4 at home is simply not good enough not is it what we expect from this current squad of players.
This isn't about blame, this is about the defence getting things right as a unit. It's about the goalkeeper, right back, the two centre backs and left back taking responsibility for preventing goals, en masse, as we're currently leaking at home. It starts from the very bottom. The coaching and the training that takes place at Finch Farm on Monday to Friday is something of an unknown quantity to the fans, we can only hazard a guess at what is worked upon. But, we have had defensive frailties for the majority of the season and things are only deteriorating and seemingly not taking any steps forward.
It has to be made clear that although this isn't an issue with any one player, there is one player that can't and shouldn't be taking blame from our fans. John Stones has prevented Everton from losing games by more goals than we have so far this season. The England youngster has really taken large steps to maturity and running a defence. He will be the first to admit that he has made mistakes during games this season, but on the balance of things his presence has saved us some embarrassment. The best thing of all is this current experience and struggle will only improve him and help him find ways of overcoming the situations he finds himself in during games. Just for the record it wasn't a penalty and Mark Clattenberg knew it as he waved away the appeals from the Stoke players, but then proceeded to award it after some time to think, or not in this case.
One thing is for sure, our defensive unit has to turn a corner and allow the rest of the team to really take advantage of a very weak league in terms of quality.
We find ourselves here again. At almost exactly the same point as last season we begin to build more than disconcerting opinions on our manager and his peculiar decision making. It wouldn't be all that bad if his decision making paid off and resulted in the Toffees earning victories, but 9 times out of 10 it just doesn't. On Boxing Day Everton beat Newcastle with a last minute winner, okay, I accept we again had all the possession and nothing to show for it and that is ultimately one of the things that need to change, but, we won the game. We as a team are in a desperate search for consistency in our performance. Not conceding goals, scoring goals and most of all a team that can win the game in hand, these are all things that have to be of the utmost focus in order for consistency to be achieved. So, beating Newcastle away 1-0? Does that not tick off all those boxes? It does! But why when it came to our game against Stoke did the manager revert back to the team that has so far failed to achieve? The Blues have yet to beat a single team currently in the top ten of the Premier League. That screams mid table.
Kevin Mirallas played a pretty solid 60 minute game against the Toon and the following game didn't even make the bench. Aaron Lennon played a similar length of time in the Newcastle game but the next game found himself as an unused substitution. Tom Cleverley scores the winner against Newcastle and took our side forward in that game, he also found himself as a sub. Are you seeing the common theme here? There is an awful lot of questions that Roberto Martinez has yet to answer either with the way he sets his team up, the players he puts in the side or actually fronting up to the teams under-achievements and inform the fans as to why he is making these decisions that just aren't working.
I'll be the first to admit that sacking our manager is not an option we should be entertaining just at this moment in time, but Roberto must make big inroads into showing improvements in the team's defensive efforts, their chance creation on the back of large chunks of possession and finally and just as important as any other, he must start to play the players that have something to prove or are in form over those who aren't pulling their weight and are not in form. That starts with Tim Howard. Mediocrity and regular errors should not be rewarded with a place in the team.
The Everton Spirit
There once was a time when Everton would take the lead in a game and would refuse to draw or lose from that point. Each and every single player would stand up and be counted for in defence of our lead. You might think those times were long ago? Well you'd be wrong to think that. In the era of David Moyes every player would show grit, determination and a willingness to retain their lead. The late great Howard Kendall also drilled home that 'dogs of war' mentality to his players.
However, it appears that willingness to throw everything at preventing goals and preventing the opposition from mounting a comeback has all but gone. There is no aggression to our defence, we are not a team that is feared any more. Teams used to hate coming to Goodison, now they turn up knowing they will take some form of points away with them. There is nothing better for a fan than seeing one of our players go into a crunching tackle and come out on the other side having won the ball, we just don't see that anymore. The team is set out so conservatively at home it results in the opposition taking the lead almost always. I believe that conservative setup is detrimental to the attitude of our players when it comes to defending a lead, they set about keeping possession in our own half instead of trying to kill the game and put the opposition back on that coach without a single point.