Much has been made since Rafa Benitez was appointed as new Everton boss in the summer of the team’s ability to battle back from adversity, as epitomized by the number of points that have been gained after they have fallen behind. This characteristic had been notably absent under previous regimes, so it is worth celebrating now that it is so evident. On the flip side, however it must be noted that the Blues are often shipping the first goal, as happened again on Sunday at Selhurst Park and this time there was no turnaround.
Everton have conceded the first goal in 12 of their 18 games in all competitions this season. #EFC— EFC Statto (@EFC_Statto) December 12, 2021
Too Easy to Play Against
Since I started writing this column this season, this is the third time I’ve highlighted an opposition midfielder for putting in a noteworthy Man of the Match calibre performance when facing the Toffees. This time up, it was 21-year old Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher’s turn to generate the headlines, the talented youngster running riot amidst a passive Everton midfield. Gallagher took 7 shots (scoring twice) and of his 43 pass attempts, only 2 were made under pressure, which shows how easy it was for him to find space.
Conor Gallagher v. Everton— Matchday365 (@Matchday365) December 12, 2021
• 2 goals
• 2 accurate crosses
• 3 key passes
• 5 duels won
• 7 shots
• 2 tackles
• 2 blocked shots
• 94% passing (45/48)
• 100% long-ball accuracy (3/3)
Up to 6 goals and 3 assists this season, the 6th-most goal contributions in the PL. pic.twitter.com/YLgcybgcja
Doing the Simple Things Well?
Nobody will confuse Everton’s players with Manchester City’s in terms of skill and the ability to string together intricate moves, but the passing stats for the team at the moment are embarrassing. This game week, only Watford and Burnley - both in the relegation zone currently - posted less accurate passing numbers than the men representing the “School of Science”. Benitez sets the Blues up to play on the counter, but 70.3% pass accuracy makes gaining any kind of control of a match very difficult. The team’s long-ball success rate on the season is a horrific 38.4%. Are the players Everton have available really this poor at the basics, or is this just not a focus in training?
Overall Pass Accuracy from TheOther14 teams in #PL week 16. @Other14The @CPFC the most accurate passers this week.#CPFC #NUFC #LCFC #NCFC #Wolves #WHUFC #BrentfordFC #SaintsFC #LUFC #AVFC #EFC #twitterclarets #WatfordFC pic.twitter.com/mS0kuy9kCc— TheOther14 (@Other14The) December 13, 2021
If Not Now, When?
Blues fans travelled to South London at the weekend with a reasonable expectation of a positive performance, coming as it did off a stirring come-from-behind win against Arsenal at Goodison Park on Monday night. Selhurst Park has been a happy hunting ground for Everton for many years - 27 in fact, since they have fallen to defeat there. In fact, the Toffees hadn’t lost to Palace in the last 13 meetings but if ever there was a time for the home team to turn that around, it was Sunday, with them playing some decent football under new manager Patrick Vieira and the visitors enduring a terrible run of form.
Crystal Palace have beaten Everton at home for the first time in 27 years:— William Hill (@WilliamHill) December 12, 2021
Oct 94: Palace 1-0 Everton
Aug 96: Vieira joins Arsenal
Jul 11: Vieira retires
Jul 21: Palace appoint Vieira
Dec 21: Palace 3-1 Everton
It has been a long, long time coming. pic.twitter.com/H850smrV8p
Where does this all End?
At the final whistle on Sunday, realization struck that Benitez has now managed only 1 win and 2 draws from Everton’s last 10 league fixtures, a haul of 5 points from 30 available. It makes for ugly reading and barring a miracle another defeat looms large as the team visit Stamford Bridge to face reigning European champions, Chelsea. Now, the home side have stumbled a bit of late and have improbably started shipping goals in uncharacteristic fashion, but are the Blues the team that will take advantage of any frailty? On appalling form, with a beleaguered, unpopular manager and ongoing uneasiness surrounding the entire club, it appears unlikely.