Everton travelled to Manchester City in hope of finding their first victory since Norwich City back in late September. Despite the lack of expectation, the Blues failed to lay a punch on City who cruised through the game without getting out of second gear. Not many Evertonians were expecting to beat the current league champions but were at least hoping for a spirited performance which we most certainly lacked.
Manchester City finished the game with a whopping 77% possession with Everton only managing one shot on target. Rafa Benitez’s men have been known for having less of the ball in majority of games this season but the Toffees were extremely sloppy with the ball and showed very little threat throughout the ninety minutes.
Everton managed less than three passes per minute with City averaging almost ten. The lack of pressure applied on their opponents meant they could just hold the ball for large periods with no real worry. The average position of City’s centre backs was higher up the pitch than the Everton midfielders which shows you everything you need to know about the sheer dominance from Pep Guardiola’s men.
Rodri touched the ball a ludicrous 125 times. Comparing this to one of our midfielders Allan, he managed only 35 touches throughout the game. In fact, the player who touched the ball the most for Everton was Jordan Pickford which is extremely worrying and shows the lack of attacking intent.
The player I highlighted pre match for Everton to be wary of was Joao Cancelo. He touched the ball 124 times, had two key passes, four crosses, one through ball and the immaculate assist for Raheem Sterling’s goal. With the left back constantly drifting inside, he had plenty of time on the ball. Andros Townsend was tucked into midfield, possibly to nullify this threat but it certainly didn’t work. Due to the injuries, unfortunately we are putting square pegs in round holes especially due to the fact Rafa Benitez clearly doesn’t trust Jean Philippe Gbamin.
Everton surrendered possession way too many times, especially starting from our defensive third. Pickford was very reluctant to play out due to City’s high press and with our defenders looking very sloppy at the back. For example, Ben Godfrey only completed 58.8% of his passes. Out of Jordan Pickford’s 35 passes, 30 of them were long balls. Comparing this to the Spurs game at home previously, he only completed 14 long balls. Without Yerry Mina who is our most comfortable ball player at the back, we really struggled to keep possession from this area and Pickford was forced to launch the ball up the pitch. With Richarlison as the lone striker, this played into City’s hands who would either win the first ball or the second ball when the Brazilian inevitably was outnumbered.
As I mentioned previously, nobody expected Everton to get anything from the game. The most disappointing thing was the fact we completely rolled over and it almost seemed the players accepted they wouldn’t be winning the game. With Crystal Palace managing to beat City in their last home game and a few key players out injured, there was the small hope we could sit back, absorb the pressure and hit them on the counter attack with the likes of Anthony Gordon and Demarai Gray. Unfortunately, Gray was pulled off injured early in the half which of course didn’t help and the substitute Alex Iwobi certainly didn’t light the game up when he came on.
Despite the three-man midfield if you include Andros Townsend, Manchester City still had 71% of their shots coming through the centre. With what seems like a new midfielder getting injured every week (Tom Davies has a knee injury now), there are real concerns over the strength of Everton’s spine at the moment. Without Doucoure and Mina, we are significantly worse off, and the lack of squad depth is really showing.
Fabian Delph has impressed over recent weeks, but he is certainly not a long-term answer. He recently turned 32 and his contract is set to expire at the end of the season. Tyler Onyango was given a couple of minutes at the end of the match and with the midfield numbers rapidly decreasing, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the highly rated youngster given more minutes over the coming weeks.
Unfortunately, Gray picked up an abductor muscle injury and is set to be out for over a month. Also, Richarlison managed his fifth booking of the season, meaning he will be suspended for the upcoming match against Brentford. With the already lengthy injury list, Everton are going to be down to the bare bones and it’s likely we will be seeing the return of Alex Iwobi and Salomon Rondon to the starting eleven this weekend.
With the Merseyside derby the following fixture after Brentford, it’s vital some of the players currently sidelined make a return. The likes of Doucoure and Mina shouldn’t be too far away, so it would be great to see them get a little match fitness in time for the home tie against Liverpool in exactly a week.