Everton slipped to a third consecutive defeat last night at Wolverhampton Wanderers, but it was the manner once again of how the loss happened that will rankle most with the fans. After throwing away a late lead in the previous fixture at home against Watford, the Blue were flat to start at Wolves with the raucous crowd urging on the home side.
The Toffees went behind even earlier than when they did, with VAR finding a Wolves forward offside, but the hosts ensured they did not waste their positive start by taking the lead from a corner. Everton’s sixth goal conceded from a setpiece this season is the second-worst record in the league, and then Ben Godfrey compounded that error with a poorly hit backpass to Jordan Pickford that allowed Raul Jimenez to nip in and chip over the advancing goalie into a gaping net to make it 2-0 with hardly any time gone in the game.
Rafa Benitez changed his formation to beef up the midfield and brought on Fabian Delph for the ineffective Jean-Philippe Gbamin in the second half, and the change was immediate. The Toffees were able to pull a goal back through Alex Iwobi but never really looked like grabbing the equalizer despite Wolves getting their own case of the yips late on when they should have put the game away.
Speaking after the defeat, a visibly disappointed Benitez rued his side’s inability to show a reaction after last week’s reverse.
“Obviously when you lose games you have to be disappointed. Then the way we lost in the first half, we didn’t do well. The second half was much better, it’s something we have to change.
“That was the idea [to react], but we didn’t do it in the first half. We were too worried about making mistakes and then in the second half we showed the character that we have and it was a big difference.
“It’s something we have to learn the future and not waste half an hour doing.”
What did the players say in the dressing room at the half?
“The players realized that they were not doing well and they knew we had to change something.
“Sometimes you expect the manager to change something, but it’s the players that are on the pitch so we have to show what we can do, and we did in the second half.
“In the second half we deserved maybe at least a couple of goals, and even in the first half playing badly we had two clear chances.”
“We have to remember where we started, when you change things and then you miss some players. There are things we are trying to improve, and we did it in the beginning, but now with players out we are pushing players that maybe are still not at the level [they need to be].
“Like Delph today coming back from injury, we are improving things little by little. People can see what happened on the pitch or what the final score in the game, but we are changing a lot of things that will be very positive for the future.”
Midfielder Delph had possibly his best ever showing in the royal blue jersey, bringing a sense of calm to the middle with Andros Townsend and Allan also benefiting from the change of shape.
“He gave us something more on the ball. You can see still he is not at the level as he has been away for a while, but you saw the character and the mentality that we are looking for. “
Benitez might have marked his 350th Premier League game as a manager last night, but has still only been in charge at Everton for ten games and is still learning his squad and the potential they have.
“For sure. Once we have all the players available we will be much better. Doing similar things like we did in the second half, with more players available you can make more substitutions, you can change the shape of the team, you can do more things.
“I can see the team improving in a lot of things, but till now I can see we need to get some confidence and the only way is to try to play the same way we did in the second half.”
The Toffees return home for their next game with Tottenham the visiting side, fresh from sacking their own manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who ironically looked close to joining the Blues at a couple of points last summer. Replacing him will be former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, a renowned player motivator.
“Tottenham is a very good team and with a new manager I am sure they will show some commitment, to show the new manager they are good players. The Premier League is like that.
“I am quite confident we will do better, we will show that, but we have to do the same things we did today in the second half.”