It was not pretty. For those who stayed up well past their bedtime in the UK to watch Everton play their second and final friendly of their United States tour, they will be asking themselves why they bothered. Indeed, the toothless Toffees showed exactly why they were in relegation trouble for a big part of last season, and to make things worse, they go into the new season with a weaker squad than last season if that was even possible.
Minnesota United were the hosts last night, led by Everton Great Adrian Heath, and they were full value for the paying fans. The harried and pressed whenever the Blues got the ball to the midfield, and attacked with speed and in numbers, something that caused Everton’s downfall more often than not last season, and if the last two games were any indication, something yet to be fixed.
Mistakes continue to abound in this fragile team, with poor finishing ensuring they have now gone 180 minutes without scoring, a porous midfield allowing opponents time on the ball to develop attacks and a defence that is still struggling with cohesion whether they line up with two or three centrehalves.
Speaking after last night’s 4-0 humiliation at the hands of the Loons, manager Frank Lampard was in no mood for niceties.
“The players have to work and understand we were in a relegation battle for a big portion of last season.
“We had an amazing night (against Crystal Palace) and an amazing run, but as soon as that finished, I put it to bed very quickly, so the players have to put it to bed as well, because we were in that fight for a reason.
“And if we don’t want to be in that situation again, they have to be better and I have to be better. As a club, it (the Minnesota game) reinforced the situation in terms of what we need to do with the squad, because it has to be stronger than what we saw tonight.
“The players in the dressing room need to understand that they’ve put in a very poor performance individually and collectively.”
The Toffees have only added veteran defender James Tarkowski, and he showed last night that he is quite capable of making the same sort of errors that his fellow defenders spent most of last season making too. Having sold Richarlison this summer, the Blues are yet to sign any reinforcements in the attack and Lampard pointed out that glaring need.
“There is no doubt about it. When you think of where we were last year, we have lost a big player in Richarlison.
“We wish him well, but our club now continues. We know there is a void in forward areas, we are short in numbers there. Also, through the team, there are things I want to strengthen, and I can be honest about that, because a club like Everton has to have a competitive squad.
“The players must be up for the fact they have to fight to play in the team. For me, that starts on day one of pre-season and ends at the end of the season. That’s the disappointing thing tonight for me – the lads have trained well and trained hard out here but that performance [against Minnesota] should give them a lot to think about on the plane home, because it’s certainly given me a lot to think about.”
A change in formation did not seem to help the Blues yesterday as they looked equally inadept defending against a Minnesota United side who — with all due respect — did not offer much more than a decent mid-table side in the Premier League. Lampard added that all the positives gained from good training sessions meant little if the players were unable to convert that into better on-field performances.
“The lads have been training hard – physically really hard – especially in the last few days since the Arsenal game on Saturday. We can’t come off that [hard work] because the season’s coming round so quickly, but it doesn’t give excuses for a performance like that. If there is to be good that comes out of this, then the players in the dressing room need to understand that they’ve put in a very poor performance individually and collectively, and got well beaten.
“I switched the formation to a back-four, and it was really interesting to see. At the back end of last season, we went to a back-three and back-five at times to find ways to get results. For me, it was a different test for the players to go into a back-four, in terms of defensively, the organisation of the team, and the quality on the ball to move the ball through the lines.
“I got a lot of interesting answers in terms of how we handled the change of formation. There’s lots to think about, lots of work to do. What matters is where we’re at in two and a half weeks.”
The Toffees head home now for a local friendly against Championship side Blackpool on Sunday looking to make up for this embarrassment.