Make it three games now since Everton have last scored a Premier League goal. The Toffees were shutout for the third time in a row as they lost 1-0 to Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday. The win lifts the Swans out of the relegation zone, while the loss for Everton basically assures them of the seventh-place finish they were likely destined for anyway.
Everton’s sudden drop in form is likely the result of a team with little to play for as well as there being almost no competition within the side for playing time. It has been the same 15 players who get minutes week in and week out. Of course, with the transfer window approaching, that doesn’t mean that additions will not be made, but there is little threat from within the club.
Something that continues to be annoying is how poorly the Toffees begin matches lately. It took this team a good 20 minutes to grow into the match and finally start looking like they wanted to score at all. For most of the first half, Swansea controlled the pace of the game. Everton are the more talented side by a long way, they should have been dictating how this match would be played.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin got the start over Ross Barkley. This is just the latest it what appears to be a “tough love” approach with manager Ronald Koeman. He clearly feels that the way to make Barkley a better player is to challenge him. Perhaps it is working? Calvert-Lewin was pretty bad in the opening 45 minutes, so he was replaced by Barkley at halftime. With the addition of Ross, suddenly Romelu Lukaku came alive a bit and was involved in the attack. It wouldn’t be enough, however, as the Blues failed to find the back of the net.
Kevin Mirallas had an up-and-down afternoon, which is a reflection of his season as whole, really. There were moments where he looked like the creative influence that Everton desperately needed, but then he would take an ill-advised shot or give up on a play too soon. That has always been the story with Mirallas. He is supremely gifted, but just can’t seem to put it all together on a regular basis.
Defensively, Everton bent put didn’t break for most of the day. Mason Holgate had a terrific tackle to deny a tap-in goal. And Swansea hit the post at one point. Those were their two best chances outside of the goal.
The goal was the result of some questionable play by three aging Everton players that may not be with the club come next season.
First, Gareth Barry gave just enough room to Jordan Ayew to allow a cross. Then, Maarten Stekelenburg was left scrambling across his goal mouth, but never reached the ball. And finally Phil Jagielka was just beaten in the air by Fernando Llorente, who put the ball in the back of the net.
That was the best action of the match. As commenter rook0119 said in the game thread “everton today is me on the last day of school”.
There is not a better way to describe it. Everton have clinched a spot in the Europa League qualifying round for next year, which is decent. It is a much-improved side from a year ago. But they can still, mathematically, catch Arsenal in sixth place. Yet they act like they have handed in their final assignment of the year and are now looking forward to planning their beach getawat.
It’s unfortunate. Perhaps their passions will be reignited next week when they play their final match at Goodison Park of the season on Friday against Watford. They then follow that on May 21 with a trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal.