Slow starts and a leaky defense
Everton have been notoriously slow starters this season. They haven’t scored in the first half since their draw to Crystal Palace on September 30th and these slow starts are costing them points. When playing on the road, it’s understandable to try to absorb pressure for the first half hour or so and come out swinging soon after. That task becomes increasingly difficult when you let the home team score in the first minute of the match.
This week’s tactical analysis will no doubt cover what went wrong with the defense, but looking at this philosophically, one has to wonder what the heck is going wrong with Everton’s defense over the past few months. To think, the defense was actually a strength of this team early in the season. Everton had only allowed three goals in their first five matches. Since then they have allowed 11 goals in their last eight league matches. Something needs to change with this squad. At this point forget Europe, this team will be lucky to finish in the top-ten if their current form continues.
Sloppy passing and a lack of situational awareness
Say what you will about Everton the past few season, but passing was one of their strong suits. The passes may not have always (or often) led to scoring chances, but at least the team was competent with the ball at their feet. I saw nothing of the sort in this match, in fact it was the opposite.
Throughout 90 minutes Everton’s players consistently failed to hit players in stride with passes, move the ball quickly or react well to the look that Southampton was giving them. Over and over passes into the midfield were snuffed out and players either failed to give outlets to the player with the ball or just didn’t make the pass when the opportunity arose. When that failed they flung crosses into the box and bombed long balls against on of the better center back pairings in the league. When that didn’t work, attempts to dribble around Southampton’s midfielders were shot down, sending the opposition on the counter attack.
Is this due to a poor game plan by Ronald Koeman, or an inability for the players he has to execute that game plan? It’s probably a combination of the two, but at the moment it appears the players aren’t currently up to the task.
The road forward looks difficult
Looking at Everton’s upcoming games, it’s tough to see where they are going to make up points. Over the next few weeks they face Manchester United, Arsenal and will host the first Merseyside Derby of the season. Earlier in the year I may have looked at matches against Watford and Hull and seen an easy three points, but at this stage it’s hard to look at any match as a sure thing.
Everton have struggled to defend against teams that are both good and bad and have had an equally difficult time scoring goals. Optimism in the squad is waning and as problems continue to mount it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly will get the team back on track. Teams often go through peaks and valleys, but Everton appear to have entered a canyon and have shown no signs of even attempting to climb out of it.