A tame performance saw Everton humbled by champions in-waiting Manchester City in a 3-1 defeat.
The two-goal deficit flattered The Toffees, barely laying a glove on Pep Guardiola’s side who now have the opportunity to crown themselves Premier League champions against rivals Manchester United next weekend.
Leroy Sane put the visitors ahead inside 4 minutes with an exquisite volley before Gabriel Jesus doubled their lead soon after. City carved through Everton time and time again and the hosts were relieved to go in at half time just three goals behind; Raheem Sterling rounding off a swift counter attack before the break.
Yannick Bolasie did reply for The Blues after an hour with a pin-point strike from outside the area but it was a mere consolation, with City completely dominating from start to finish.
Team selection was all wrong
As Sam Allardyce took up his seat in the dugout prior to kick off, licking relish off his lips, Pep Guardiola and his players must have been licking their lips with relish as they saw Everton line up.
A holding midfield duo of Wayne Rooney and Morgan Schneiderlin, possibly the least mobile partnership to represent The Toffees since Richard Gough and David Weir, were exactly what City fans wanted to see as their team sought the first of two wins needed to clinch the title.
Up against the electron-like movement of the silky David Silva, and the imperious Kevin de Bruyne who’s distribution makes Schneiderlin’s ability to pass no more than 6 yards to his left resemble a 4 year old trying to operate CERN’s large hadron collider, Everton’s midfield were truly out of their depth.
The Blues couldn’t get anywhere near their contemporaries, but Allardyce must take one on the chin (once he’s wiped away the remaining relish) for his team selection. I don’t know what Dominic Calvert Lewin’s role was; he certainly didn’t seem to know. Second striker? Number 10? Advanced centre mid? If you need him to drop in when City have the ball, why not just play an actual central midfielder?
And playing out and out wingers against Kyle Walker and Leroy Sane? Bolasie and Theo Walcott were anonymous for most of the game, chasing only the shadows of their markers as City’s wide men pinned them back to make them play as second full-backs.
City were outstanding, but Everton made it easy
Once they got over the disbelief of Allardyce’s selection, Evertonians at least hoped that those selected to deal with what was arguably the finest team to visit Goodison Park in the last 15 years, would give their all trying to limit chances for Silva and co.
Yet it couldn’t have been easier. Everton relinquished 82% possession throughout the game; that’s more than any home team in the Premier League’s 25 year history. City have played Huddersfield Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Bournemouth in the Premier League, yet Everton duly obliged. Another unwanted record.
Admittedly, this City side is the best a lot of Evertonians will have seen in the Premier League, comparable with Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’. But there was no fight from the home team and Silva, Sterling and Sane had free-reign to float about the pitch however they saw fit. I don’t expect Everton to out-play City, but I do expect them to at least match City for effort.
Mentality of mediocrity
If anything summed up the acceptance of failure currently ingrained at Everton Football Club, it was Allardyce’s post match comments. Simply highlighting the gulf in class between the sides was bad enough, but boasting that we “won the second half” is an insult to Evertonians that not even the most strident Big Sam critic expected to hear.
Players must take responsibility for their own performances, but equally we expect the same of our manager when the team fails to meet even the most basic standards. Time and time again we’ve heard Allardyce blame his players when things have gone wrong, yet roll out the stats of our supposedly great home record when we eventually manage one win in four.
The mentality of mediocrity is rife at Goodison Park, and that’s something that must change at all levels of the club: in the dressing room, in the boardroom and hopefully by the start of next season, the dugout. We don’t need to wait for Allardyce to come to terms with the phrase Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, not because the concept of a foreign language would hospitalise Big Sam, but because he won’t be at the helm long enough for it to be necessary.
It’s hard to take anything positive from such a humiliation, but there were a few players who might have left the pitch with an ounce of credibility.
Baines was probably Everton’s best performer, chasing, blocking, trying to play and trying to move Everton forward on those rare occasions they put more than two passes together. Cenk Tosun had the unenviable task of having the piss taken out of him by Ederson and City’s back 3.
Tom Davies came on for the ineffective Rooney with barely half an hour to play, and it was his energy and fight which helped Everton start winning the ball back higher up the pitch, ultimately leading to Bolasie’s consolation goal.
And of course Beni Baningime’s late cameo absolves him of any blame, unnecessarily thrown in to a humiliation that was deserving of the senior players on the pitch, but not someone so young, so inexperienced and boasting just five league appearances.
Sum up the game in one Tweet
Pep Guardiola: “For me, the second half was about saving ourselves for tougher opposition. And watching the Come Dine With Me omnibus on my iPhone.”
— Dominic Kearney (@KearneyDominic) March 31, 2018