Everton suffered defeat to Championship side Queens Park Rangers on penalties after a very frustrating 90 minutes. The Toffees never really looked like having any kind of control over the game and the home side dominated, especially in the first half.
Firstly, taking a look at an area which Everton have struggled with this season, possession. Now, a lot of games it is tactical. We sit back, absorbing pressure and hitting on the counter, but you’d expect to be dominating the ball against lesser opposition such as our opponents on Tuesday night. Everton had 39% of the ball and 35% in the first half. QPR have averaged an impressive 59% possession this season and managed to better this against their Premier League opponents on Tuesday night.
This leads me onto those who are meant to control the game and dictate tempo, the two central midfielders. Andre Gomes and Tom Davies completed just two tackles between them. If you compare this to our last game against Villa for example, Doucoure and Allan made ten between them. They also made just one interception between them and committed four fouls. They allowed the game to simply bypass them, taking no control and showing very little willingness to make a challenge. This was epitomised by one of the QPR goals, where the winger cuts inside with ease, nutmegging Davies who was made to look extremely silly. Chris Willock, a central player, completed 5 dribbles. He looked like a cut above any Everton midfielder and controlled the game for them.
Defensively, especially in the first half we looked extremely vulnerable. Neither Mason Holgate or Ben Godfrey looked comfortable dealing with the presence of striker Charlie Austin. The QPR man won nine aerial duels during the match, with the Everton centre half pairing only winning three between them. He bullied them all game and was the difference for the home side with two headed goals. This situation wasn’t helped by Everton being poor positionally in wide areas. QPR produced 16 crosses and it took Everton an awful long time to realise this was their main threat. We seemed happy to let them get the ball wide and were very slow to press and allowed them to get the crosses into the box. Holgate and Godfrey, even before tonight, have both shown vulnerability in the air and stopping crosses into the box would have been key to getting a victory.
QPR clearly knew which side was Everton’s weakest, with 44% of their attacks coming down Jonjoe Kenny’s side. As you can see in the image above, Chris Willock, who attempted 8 dribbles with 5 successful, really targeted that left hand side himself, despite being a more central player. Both QPR goals came from crosses from this side and Kenny looked completely out of his depth, not for the first time in an Everton shirt. The home side, who loved to play out from the back, showed their intent to play through their left hand side even starting from the goalkeeper. This was shown, by their left side centre back, touching the ball a huge 109 times and making 93 passes. Significantly more than any other player on the pitch.
It was another difficult night for new striker Salomon Rondon. He only managed to touch the ball 23 times, the least out of all the players who started the game. When he did touch it, it wasn’t much use either. He only completed 12 passes when he received the ball. He also lost possession 3 of those times with an additional 2 unsuccessful touches. One slight positive is he won his fair share of aerial duels, winning 6, more than any of his central defender opponents.
Another positive from the game, was our two wide players. Anthony Gordon and Andros Townsend were two shining lights in what was a very dark and gloomy performance. Gordon completed 4 key passes, more than anyone on the pitch. He developed a great understanding with Lucas Digne during the game and was working extremely hard off the ball to make runs and track opposition attackers. Townsend, who has impressed many Evertonians since signing on a free transfer, had another exceptional game. He setup the first goal, scored the second and was working so hard for the team on and off the ball. He delivered 8 crosses, more than anyone else on the pitch. Unfortunately, due to the lack of movement from the forwards none of these were successful. He also had the most shots for Everton, made 2 interceptions and completed 2 key passes. Andros is probably Rafa’s first name on the team sheet at the moment and I’m sure he wishes he had one or two more of him to play at the weekend.
Huge credit to Queens Park Rangers, by the way. They seem to have a real identity of how they want to play and made Everton look like the Championship team. They have a mixture of real talent and old school players and I expect them to do well this season. Willock, Chair and Austin had great games and gave the Everton side real problems all game.
Everton move on to Norwich City at home on Saturday which all of a sudden has turned into a massive fixture. The Canaries have lost 15 straight Premier League games but if Everton play how they did in the first half against QPR, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Norwich pick up their first points of the season.