Blues punished by high-flying Leicester City who will top the Premier League at Christmas
Romelu Lukaku’s scoring streak continues – Belgian becomes first since Dave Hickson in ’54 to score in 8 successive games
Everton out of ideas against savvy Foxes while defensive issues persist
Everton became the latest side to fall prey to Leicester City’s blistering form, crashing to a 3-2 defeat at Goodison Park.
Despite enjoying the majority of possession Everton fell behind within half an hour after Romiro Funes Mori brought down Shinji Okazaki in the penalty area.
Riyad Mahrez converted from the spot, only for Romelu Lukaku to equalise from close range minutes later.
The second half followed a similar pattern of Everton labouring to break down a resilient Leicester defence and struggling to deal with their lightning quick counter attacks.
Tim Howard brought down Jamie Vardy for Mahrez to score his second from the spot and moments later Everton’s collapse was complete, gifting the ball to Vardy who squared to Okazaki for a simple finish.
Despite Kevin Mirallas’ exquisite turn and finish in the dying minutes, the result seemed beyond doubt after the Foxes’ quick fire double put the 3-1 up. The visitor’s 3rd win in as many games see’s them top the Premier League at Christmas, while Everton remain in mid-table uncertainty in 10th place.
Imbalanced Blues at tipping point
Everton are one of the leagues top scoring teams this season with 31 goals. In fact they’ve only been outscored by Saturday’s victors Leicester (37) and Manchester City (33).
Evertonians won’t need that particular figure to tell them that their team have been lighting up the Premier League, flying forward at will and dazzling any defence who dare stand in their way.
But Everton’s finest attacking football since the championship winning sides of the 1980s is in danger of being quickly forgotten -and worse disbanded- thanks to a distinct imbalance in the side.
What good is a flurry of goals when you ship more than you score? What use is easy-on-the-eye football when ugly defending continues to let you down? And what’s the point in controlling the game for 89 minutes if a 1 minute lapse in concentration is enough to unravel a week’s worth of training?
John Stones has the potential to become the best centre-half this country has ever produced and is currently one of the best defenders in the league, but he cannot shoulder his club’s defensive frailties by himself.
Lack of leadership missing in team brimming with exuberance
Hopeless and unorganised resisting set-pieces. Frail in aerial challenges in the proximity of their own 6 yard box. And prone to basic, individual errors which have led directly to goals against.
It doesn’t matter how good they look at the other end, without a solid, organised foundation to play in front of, this current Everton side will leak goals and drop points.
It’s been obvious from Everton’s last four games -whether they’ve had to chase or have given up the lead- that a distinct lack of leadership is missing from the team.
Gareth Barry has been in fine form from an individual point of view, playing as well as we’ve seen in a Blue shirt in his assured screening of the defence while helping convert possession into attacks. But has he stood up and taken the captaincy seriously in Phil Jagielka’s absence?
Tim Howard has the most appearances in the Everton team, and has 105 international caps for his country. I can’t say his own form has been anywhere near that of Barry -to the contrary- but we should at least be able commend the American for his influential displays, for his encouragement of younger players and decisive actions.
Unfortunately we can’t say any of that. Instead we have to ask ourselves how many more times a Tim Howard error will cost Everton a goal. How many more penalties will be conceded by the hot-headed, on-rushing stopper. And how many more missed crosses will allow Scott Dann and Olivier Giroud simple headed goals.
While it’s far too simplistic to suggest that the return of Jagielka will act as a one-fits-all remedy to the Toffees’ defensive woes, it will at least introduce an effective leader into the back four, someone who can organise and inspire more resoluteness when the dirty job of defending is called upon (we can’t all glide out of the back four with the grace of John Stones).
The goals Everton have been threatening to score in the last few games will no doubt manifest itself soon enough in a three or four goal hiding, but what about the games when it’s just not going their way in front of goal? That’s when leaders need to stand up and inspire those around them. Jagielka is the best captain Everton have and the sooner he returns to the starting line up, the better.