A win is a win, especially for a team that was so desperate to end a three-game losing streak. With Sunday’s victory over Fulham, Everton now sit in sixth place and are tied with Southampton at 16 points apiece.
Another Spoiled Clean Sheet
Yet again, Everton relied on their high-flying attack as opposed to strong defending to earn three points. The Toffees have conceded two or more goals in six consecutive Premier League games for the first time since October of 2008. This has been an issue all year, with Everton keeping only one clean sheet — opening day against Tottenham. While individuals have underperformed, the issue with the defense is a collective one more than anything. Jordan Pickford is sporadic and unreliable in net. Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, while both decent center-backs, have overlapping skill sets. And injuries plus suspensions to Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne have seen players inserted into unfamiliar positions at fullback.
Acknowledging that Fulham possess several quality offensive weapons, both goals the Toffees conceded in Sunday’s match were down to poor positioning and lazy defending. Hopefully Coleman will be back soon, although even the skipper might not fix the defensive deficiencies.
Without the services of right back Seamus Coleman, Carlo Ancelotti opted for a back-three against Fulham, with mixed results. The back-three of Ben Godfrey, Keane and Mina certainly lacked speed, outside of Godfrey, as Mina was beaten too easily on Fulham’s first goal. The three central defenders were decent in the air, but Godfrey also was culpable of giving away a cheap penalty, which Ivan Cavaleiro utterly botched. On the wings, Ancelotti deployed Digne on the left and Alex Iwobi on the right.
While Digne contributed two assists and Iwobi finally looked all his 30+ million transfer fee, they too had their defensive struggles. Digne was baited by Ademola Lookman, who drove and delivered a cross into the box for Fulham’s second goal, and Iwobi was caught out on several occasions, leading to scoring chances for the opposition. With Coleman out, Ancelotti will continue to tinker to find his best formation. The jury is still out on this one.
Solving the Everton Riddle
What team can score three goals in the first half, then lose all momentum and nearly gift the game away in the second? While obviously a rhetorical question, the point within is nonetheless alarming. A first half that was reminiscent of how the team started the season, in wonderful form and top of the league, devolved into a pitiful second half. They couldn’t move the ball up the field, failed to finish the few opportunities to score they generated and overall looked discombobulated and out of sync. And this isn’t the first time the Toffees have failed to put together a complete performance. In fact, aside from the opening win against Tottenham, Everton have gone from in complete control of games to having to desperately hold a lead and withstand late-game pressure. Against the likes of Fulham and West Brom, the offense is good enough to compensate for a lack of focus, but what happens when the Toffees face higher quality opponents? Just ask Manchester United.