It was a simple situation for Everton going into Sunday's game with Tottenham; improve or face more unwanted sledging from the media, pundits and fans, not to mention a further drop down the league table.
It was clear that an improvement from the last few games had been made on Sunday, the defence invite the opposition onto them as we've previously seen, the midfield held strong for parts of the game and our attacking line, in particular Romelu Lukaku, moved well in order to create space for opportunities.
However, the poor first half performance we displayed dragged up the memories of our recent home games. Although we scored, we could have easily conceded 2-3 goals ourselves. Our defence is all to happy to allow opposition players to have as much space as they want in front of our box. The shot from Harry Kane that rattled the post, crosses that came in mainly from Leighton Baines' wing caused us unnecessary issues and eventually the goal Tottenham scored, all due to players not being tighter to the man in possession of the ball.
Thankfully, the Blues improved in the second half and finally displayed some resilient defence and determination to try and score the winning goal in the closing stages. Although that winning goal didn't come for either side, we musn't take anything away from the efforts the Toffees displayed in that second half.
Changes made the difference
For a while now, there has been cries for Roberto Martinez to change his team. Not just the team that starts the match but for the boss to make substitutions a lot more readily than he has been doing.
Against Spurs we saw both of those objectives have a positive impact on the team. Martinez opted to go for Aaron Lennon on the right over Deulofeu, it was a simple change which made an obvious difference to the way in which we attacked. Teams are already starting to foil our one dimensional attacks of playing everything down the right wing when Gerard Deulofeu is in the side, but, with a different man in the position, comes a different set of skills. It was obvious that Tottenham had not done as much of their homework on Aaron Lennon as they had for Deulofeu. Lennon found himself in aches of space on the right hand side throughout the 50 minutes he played. Due to one slight change in the way we went at Tottenham, it allowed Everton to create the chance for Aaron Lennon to score, which he did.
Instead of over-playing our attack down the right wing, we went at the visiting side down the middle and occasionally down the left. It wasn't a big change but one that made a difference, it gave us opportunities in a couple of places in and around the box from any one attack.
The second half came around and Martinez made two subs just eight minutes into the half. Again, this wasn't a drastic thing to do, instead it was appropriate as it was clear Tottenham were beginning to get a foothold in the game. I'll be the first to admit I didn't necessarily agree with who Roberto took from the field. But it was the timing of the changes that ultimately allowed Everton to regain a little more control and allowed the Toffees to keep progressing forward.
Two very simple tweaks to the way Martinez has displayed his team and performed his tactics so far. Hopefully, Martinez can continue to trust himself to make these kind of tweaks and changes as it was evident it had a positive effect.
Is the relationship between players and fans at an all-time low?
It has been a very challenging season so far for both the fans and the players. The players themselves have done exceptionally well, on occasions, not to show their frustrations with not just the results but also the moans and groans that continually come from the terraces at Goodison park.
That old cliche springs to mind - "Everybody is human". Our players are indeed human but they have to continue to show the professionalism they have so far this season with the way in which they show, or hide, their frustrations.
Unfortunately, it appears that the respect for the fans is slipping somewhat. Don't get me wrong this in no way is any kind of jibe at the Everton squad, but more of a reminder to them to keep their heads and block out any discontent from the fans around them.
The slips of self control came from both Tim Howard and John Stones on Sunday, the latter not causing as much offence to fans as the first however.
25 minutes into the first half the fans inside Goodison once again became on edge, frustrated and unhappy with the way both Tim Howard and the defence attempted to pass the ball out from the back from goal kicks. The reaction from Howard, who has become a scapegoat for the Everton fans this season, was to gesture to the Gwladys street to calm down.
That lit a fuse with quite a few of the fans in the stand. Those supporters in the ground have paid their way and are allowed to have an opinion and express it during the game. The players should be wearing of questioning the supporters' reactions, especially with the performances they have so far displayed at home this season.
Howard has been massively out of sorts this season and has conceded goals that some other goalkeepers in the league would have prevented. With both that and the fact the team are underperforming at home in mind, has only added fuel to the fire with the fans.
John Stones also made a similar gesture at the back end of the second half when he was inside his own penalty area. The centre back twisted and turned over and over again to lose his man who was marking him closely. Stones has shown some massive amounts of courage and professionalism so far in his career, I don't believe on this occasion he was necessarily wrong to make the gesture to the fans . Maybe, though, there are other ways for the players to get their points across.
A word for the fans
So, we've highlighted the slip in control of emotions from the players, but are the fans inside Goodison Park getting behind the players or are they to ready to complain? I'll be honest, from a fan that sits in the lower Gwladys myself, I do believe far too many of us as fans are happy to get onto the player's backs. At one point in Sunday's game, the moaning and groaning from parts of Goodison Park became ridiculous and frankly unacceptable. We are all fans of the same club and yes we all have opinions, but we must up our own game in support of our players.
During the second half, the Toffees attacked Tottenham's goal and played a little more confidently in midfield. But still, the ground was quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I remember the days, not so long ago, when we'd be 1-1 at home to Tottenham and the ground would be bouncing with noise and encouragement for our players. We must get back to that. Whether it be an issue with certain players being out of form or the tactics from the manager not being right, we have to start supporting our team again. I have to say, I was disappointed to see Howard's gesture to the fans in the way he did, but I also understand why he did it. How must it feel for the lads wearing our Blue shirt to hear the fans shouting they're frustrations at them?
In previous articles, I have mentioned how Goodison Park is no longer a tough place to come for a travelling team. If we are to get that back, we have to be loud and pressure the opposition with the noise we as fans make, the players are capable of doing the rest.
The next time you're at Goodison and you want to spout your frustrations, turn them into support, when you hear a song going around the Gwladys street, get involved. The players need us and our support as much as we need them and their good performances.