Stoke City 2-0 Everton

Despite prolonged periods of possession our lack  of  incision supplemented by a lack of desire and poor pressing contributed to another woeful defeat today at the Britannia. …

Line-ups

Everton made just 2 changes from the draw at the Boleyn Ground, with Louis Saha coming in for Jack Rodwell and Phil Jagielka restored to centre back with Tim Cahill reverting to his usual position in a flexible 4-5-1 setup. Stoke setup with their usual 4-4-2 system with Jones and Fuller the target men for the predictable aerial bombardment.

Early Exchanges

Everton started well and could have had a penalty as early as the first minute after Marriner inexplicably missed a Shawcross trip on Louis Saha.  The misfiring Frenchman actually had a decent first half and put himself about more than he has done in other outings this campaign, but in the second half he reverted to type and went missing in action. Generally, we had the better of the first half and played the more controlled and expansive football with Baines and Coleman  providing good width down the flanks.

Stoke get goals at right times.

There is no surprise element to Stoke’s play; they will look to get the ball out wide and pump it into the opponent’s box at the earliest opportunity. Twice this tactic worked either side of half time to win the game.  Wide man Etherington has 7 assists for the season and is their most accurate exponent of the cross. Quite how he was allowed to whip the ball in though with Neville and Coleman doubling up on him is hard to fathom. Neville had a woeful afternoon. He has many failings but in this instance and on several other occasions this afternoon he unnecessarily went to ground with rash tackles, perhaps indicative of the desperation evident in our play. With the ball whipped in well, Jones split Distin and Jagielka and pumped a fantastic header inside Howard’s left hand post. Cahill then missed a header from a superb Baines delivery although on reflection the Aussie should have squared to the unmarked Saha as the angle was tight.

Worse was to follow in the second half when another aimless punt from Stoke resulted in Jagielka inexplicably putting the ball past Howard under pressure from Fuller. Jags had one of his poorest afternoon’s in a Blue shirt today although he did look at times to be playing with an injury throughout as did Seamus Coleman for the last 20 minutes.

Everton pressed but it was a similar tale of woe in the opposition half. Despite completing 223 more successful passes than their hosts we never looked like making the breakthrough in the second half especially.  Pienaar and Arteta are the two midfielders we look to for a creative spark. Neither have managed an assist this campaign and today they where again blunt. The chalkboard below illustrates this well, with both only registering one pass each into Stoke’s 18 yard box during the entire game.

Arteta/Pienaar Missing Creative Spark Chalkboards


Premeditated rant about Stoke

Quite how certain media personalities can keep a straight face when saying Stoke are starting to develop their game to be more expressive is anybody’s guess. Granted, we where inept in the second half and lacked Stoke’s desire, but the torrid route one rubbish  and over the top tacking Pulis’ mob dishes out is terrible to watch.

This maybe the rantings of a man who has spent today banging his head against a wall in frustration but as a portly out of work Spanish Manager once said, this is fact.  Out of their 298 passes Stoke completed just 140, so almost 1 in every 2 passes didn’t go to a team mate. Marouanne Fellaini  had a stinker for us today but still completed the same number of successful passes in open play as the ENTIRE Stoke midfield four of Delap, Whitehead, Pennant and Etherington put together. Whitehead in particular is a hatchet man of the most heinous order and should have been dismissed for his over the top lunge on the again dismal Arteta. …Rant Over.

Stoke shut up shop

The Stoke defensive wall of 8 was hard to penetrate

With the two goals in the bag, Stoke completely shut up shop and never looked like conceding. The Potters are good at closing down opponents and stopping attacks, whether this by fair means or foul. With their 2 full backs and wingers tucking in and central midfielders Delap and Whitehead sitting directly in front of the centre backs a wall of 8 players shut down the centre of the field. The last twenty minutes where frustration personified with Everton time and time again trying and failing to intricately play through the wall to no avail, leading to 29 interceptions from Stoke shown below.

In terms of effort and commitment we where clearly second best today. This season we have been able to get ourselves up for the big guns with results against the Manchester clubs, Chelsea & Spurs where our tenacity and bite have given us the platform to take results. The same endeavour and pressing high up the pitch has not been forthcoming against the lesser lights of the league with only 1 victory against teams in the bottom half of the table.

Stoke Interceptions Chalkboard


Conclusion

This defeat leaves us well and truly in the mire. Losing because of a lack of desire and fighting spirit is hard to take, given that these qualities have often been the reason for us getting results against better sides during the Moyes era.  Whilst this group of players have proved their desire in the past and will get this back, reinforcement are required if we are going to start creating and taking enough chances to see us build any kind of momentum.

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