The Disappearing Men
Everton know the blueprint for defeating Leicester City; look at what they did during the first meeting with the Foxes back in mid-December. Despite ceding a majority of the possession to Leicester, Everton left the King Power Stadium with a 2–0 win and three points. They won by taking advantage of opportunities and excelling in individual roles. On Wednesday, too many players simply vanished when called upon. Where was Richarlison? André Gomes? Tom Davies? Dominic Calvert-Lewin? (through no fault of his own).
Each player had a somewhat decent game but couldn't help Everton to the three points. Richarlison didn’t look as threatening on the wing giving up the ball umpteen times; Gomes flubbed what could have been the game-winning opportunity; Davies looked lost and languid at times; Calvert-Lewin, again, had very little service and then missed his best opportunity. On a night when Everton needed to be impeccable, there were far too many mistakes.
A Draw that felt like a Win
In a blind exercise comparing teams A and B, most would feel comfortable declaring team B easily won the fixture after consulting yesterday’s stat sheet.
8 shots, 2 shots on goal, 35% possession, 298 passes, 5 corners
19 shots, 6 shots on goal, 65% possession, 573 passes, 11 corners
Team B, of course, is Leicester, who, despite being the superior team in Wednesday’s match, only had a point to show for their efforts. One can look at yesterday’s draw two ways. One: Everton played so poorly and failed to execute in the final third that they are on the precipice of another slide. Or two: on a night when the Toffees clearly were not at their best, they weathered the storm — figuratively and literally — to earn a point in a game they should have lost, further illustrating Ancelotti’s impact on the team. The latter sounds better to me.
To be fair though, for all the chances the Foxes created, very few could really be called high danger chances and the xG for the game was 0.47-0.79 in Leicester’s favor.
Pickford Strikes Again
To use Pickford as the scapegoat for the draw against Leicester would be simple yet irresponsible. Stating Pickford has had a tumultuous season is a gross understatement. He has flashed lightning-quick reflexes to stifle point-blank shots and keep Everton competitive, but he also has committed some jaw-droppingly poor errors that have cost his team points.
As my colleague Pete Reynolds smartly pointed out, just this season Pickford had conceded 2.6 more goals than expected, making him one of the bottom four keepers in the league from a sample set of 34 goalies. Last season that number was -4.3, and he was 35th out of 37 shotstoppers.
Yes, Pickford was screened by nearly every player on the pitch for Youri Tielemans’ goal, but England’s number one between the sticks was in a position to make the save — until the ball glanced off his wrist and into the back of the net. Pickford certainly hampered Everton’s ability to win the game, but he was not the only culprit in a dismal outing for the home side.