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Benitez addresses Everton collapse, setpiece defending woes

The Blues were miserable last weekend in a number of key areas against Watford

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

It was not the defeat as much as the manner of how it came about that rankled the most last weekend. With Everton up 2-1 at Goodison Park against relegation fodder Watford and about a quarter an hour left to play, you could be forgiven for thinking the points were in the bag.

However, through a series of braindead errors, horrible miscommunications and half-hearted challenges, in just a matter of minutes the Blues relinquished that lead to end up 5-2 losers.

Speaking during his pre-match press conference ahead of Monday’s trip to Wolves, manager Rafa Benitez talked about what his side’s focus has been in training this week after that humiliation.

“The first thing was to analyse why, after winning 2-1, we could concede in the way we concede. Thinking about the mistakes, where to change, how to improve that, then we needed to start working on these issues.

“The main thing is to be sure we stick together as a team. We need to stay compact, and the easiest way will be winning the next game. We will try to be sure we are as competitive as we have been for the rest of the season.

“Football is very emotional. I was really disappointed, and you can understand the frustration of the fans. My job is to analyse what was going on and try to find the solutions. We are working on that, it’s part of the job, I’m used to doing it.”

Everton’s defending last week came in for particular stinging criticism, with all four members of the backline as well as the two midfielders in front of them deserving of every brickbat thrown their way. It was telling that the Blues conceded five times and there was precious little Jordan Pickford could do for a single one of them.

“We have been working with four at the back this week. I said before I was frustrated, we were not expecting that. You can make a mistake and lose against West Ham, they are good at setpieces - you made a mistake and they scored, that’s fine. You had your chances, you couldn’t take them, and you lose the game.

“In this case we were winning, with Richarlison coming back, with the fans behind the team everything was positive. You try to analyse, you try to explain to your players and be sure it won’t happen again, but still it’s difficult.”

A lot of Everton’s defensive issues have come from setpieces, with Benitez’ zonal marking struggling to pick up attackers in the Toffees’ box. The Blues expected goals against from setpieces of 4.0 is tied for second worst in the league, while their actual goals conceded of 5 is third worst.

“I think it’s so many years, when I came here [England] in 2004 we were doing zonal marking and people were criticising the system. Two years after, we were the best at defending with the zonal marking. It’s just a matter of how you do it, if a player is coming running at you then you have to react.

“The main thing for us is to make sure we attack the ball and show some character when we have to challenge, we’re not doing that. It’s not just zonal marking, if it’s man-to-man, then they block your defender and you could have a man free.

“I think it’s a question of how to defend, show character and the aggression you have to show when defending a setpiece.”