Tom Davies rescued a point with the last kick of the game in Everton’s final home match with relegation threatened Southampton.
The host’s lack of imagination and quality in attack saw them muster just one shot on target before Leighton Baines’ 94th minute free-kick was tipped over by Saints ‘keeper Alex McCarthy.
Mark Hughes’ came to Goodison looking to avoid having a hand in a second relegation in a single season after former club Stoke City suffered defeat hours earlier, sending them down. A surprising lack of interest characterised both sides yet it was the Saints who enjoyed superior possession and showed (slightly) more enterprise by half time.
Substitute Nathan Redmond nodded in for the visitors barely 10 minutes from the restart. The winger’s first goal for over a year looked to be enough to secure 3 precious points in Saints’ bid for survival but Davies’ late deflected strike spared Everton’s blushes.
Evertonians will be hoping it’s not enough to spare Sam Allardyce’s job come the end of the season.
Substitutes prove decisive
When both managers decided to make changes at half-time, one decide to be bold while the other looked to maintain.
With Everton’s lack of enthusiasm permeating every inch of Goodison Park, the slightest whiff of indifference was enough for Hughes to roll the dice. Everton’s players looked far from interested in having a go, their fans similarly greeting this game with the enthusiasm of Big Sam in a vegan all-you-can-eat.
Lee Mason’s board signalled the arrival of Nathan Redmond to the field of play for Mario Lemina; a like-for-like roll of the dice. Allardyce’s instructions to Mason was Ramiro Funes Mori’s number for Yannick Bolasie’s. A winger for a centre half.
To offer fair context, Bolasie was a passenger in a starting XI full of inconvenienced players. But the changes had an almost instant effect. With Seamus Coleman now pushed higher up the pitch as a wing-back, Michael Keane didn’t seem to know whose job it was to mark Redmond. As it transpired (despite several glances in the seconds before the goal) the centre half didn’t feel it appropriate at any moment – not even once the winger skulked into the Everton area – to try and impede him.
Where have all the wingers gone?
With one winger affecting the game at one end, there was no one capable of making an impression at the other end. The Gwladys Street have long adored the powerful partnership of winger and centre forward. Far from comparing the Turk with Everton’s long tradition of great number 9s, Cenk Tosun is at least a powerful presence, ready and willing to make himself known in the penalty area.
Where were our wingers armed with pinpoint crosses? Big Sam deemed one of them inadequate at half time, so much so that he replaced him with a defender. Nikola Vlasic? His 12 appearances for Everton may have come as a winger but at Hajduk Split the Croat enjoyed spells as a number 10 and second striker, and looks more at home operating in the thick of the action as opposed to the fringes. Our most effective, Theo Walcott missed the game through injury and the other recognisable winger at the club has scored three and assisted two in 10 games for loan club RB Leipzig.
The onus thus fell on wing-backs Coleman and Baines, but the team barely utilised this outlet, instead opting for longer balls into Tosun who is a much better player in the 18 yard box, then he is with his back to it.
The Keane Conundrum
For the record, I do think Michael Keane is a good player. Though you’d be forgiven for thinking anything but on the evidence presented this season.
Without a consistent centre half partnership till the last quarter of the season and coming in and out of a defence that included Ashley Williams and Cuco Martina (as well as an inexperienced Jonjoe Kenny), admittedly Keane struggled to adapt to life at Goodison Park.
His performance against Saints was far from his finest in a blue shirt. He took an eternity to decide what he might do with a bouncing ball in the first half before Charlie Austin decided he had the time to order himself a round of drinks in the 1878 Lounge, chat to some of the fans, discuss the implications of Britain leaving the Customs Union, pose for photographs, have a quick wee and then return to the pitch to force a good save from Jordan Pickford.
For Saints’ goal, the former Burnely man was all at sea, turning his head at least twice to see where Redmond was but making no attempt to mark him. Later in the second half a reckless attempt to win the ball (with no cover behind him) almost gave Redmond a one-on-one with Pickford.
Yet despite all this, there is a good ball-playing centre half in Michael Keane. One who can make up a solid rear guard, read the ball well and position himself in order to avert potential danger. But it does say much about our first XI that 35 year old Phil Jagielka is still the best centre half at the club by a country mile.
Sign of things to come, hopefully
Hopefully the small number of fans who decided to stay for the loathsome ‘Lap of Appreciation’ at the end of the game was a sign to Farhad Moshiri. A sign that this season has simply not been good enough. A sign that we expect more from the players, from the management and from the board. A sign that we will not applaud mediocrity, and that we feel the players and staff should understand this under no uncertain terms. A sign that the club hierarchy risks alienating droves of faithful fans from a club they have cherished and supported their whole lives.
And hopefully the absence of Sam Allardyce on the Lap of Appreciation is a sign of forthcoming change this summer. I think most Evertonians would really appreciate that.
Why can Darren Moore compete, but Everton can’t?
For a team that had aspirations of Champions League qualification in pre-season (can almost say that with a straight face) the Blues have been embarrassingly cut adrift from the top 6 all year.
The Toffees have taken just 4 points from the top 6 all season, failing to win in any of their encounters. Darren Moore took over the reins at West Brom at the start of April and has overseen five Premier League games. He remains undefeated, drawing with Liverpool and beating Manchester United (away) and Tottenham in the process.
That Moore has achieved more against the top 6 in five games as Everton have all season, says all you need to know about our ‘why bother’ mentality.