The latest instalment in Everton’s new year season-salvage operation took us to Selhurst Park for a showdown with cock piss pardew and Crystal Palace.
In his 8 previous tussles with the joop whiffing ming, both he and martinez have shared 4 wins each, with Pardew coming out on top in the most recent face-off at St James at the end of December.
The Eagles excellent form since the tkmaxx Swiss Tony took charge, coupled with the catastrofuck showings we have churned out away from L4 of late made the home side most people’s favourites for this one before kick off. The fear of impending doom was particularly potent given that Palace had slayed us in our last 2 meetings, although you could argue those wins were a tad fortuitous given they scored 6 times from just 7 shots on target.
Teams and Tactics
In terms of selection, the much maligned Aiden McGeady returned to the toffees starting elven at the expense of Ross Barkley, and formed a jet healed front three with fellow speedsters Mirallas and lukaku. Naismith played the duel role of target man and midfield dogsbody.
Palace were without 2 of their more effective players with tough tackling Jedinak and toffee oppressor Bolasie (both in international duty) missing out. The home side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Puncheon and Gayle on the flanks and Chamakh behind Sanogo up front.
Counter Attack Toffees
Given the personnel Martinez selected, our game was even more suited to counter attacking than usual and the opening goal after just 2 minutes was a classic.
Stones played a long pass into Palaces left channel and after some brain dead defending by Delaney the ever willing Steven Naismith went through on goal. Although Speroni repelled the Scotsman’s initial effort Romelu Lukaku was on hand to bundle home the loose ball for his 10th goal of the campaign.
The late goals of last season may well have dried up, but we do get out of the traps early this campaign – no side in the league has scored as many goals in the opening 10 minutes of games this season as have the toffees.
Given our setup and the fact Palace were chasing the game there was an inevitability about the onslaught on Robles goal that ensued.
Palace had more possession and territory but they didn’t really create too much.
The home side huffed and puffed but were pretty much out of ideas by the interval, resorting to peppering Robles 18 yard box with cross after cross – 38 in total- in a futile exercise of brainless football. Robles stood his ground well, though, and made an impressive 9 claims from crosses – a figure Howard has failed to surpass in any game this season.
Defensive strengths return
At the back it was a defence masterclass that Josephine Karlsson would have been proud of.
Whether this was down to fresher legs from the warm weather training camp in Qatar is unclear, but there was a significant spike in Everton’s workrate off the ball in this game. In total we made 81 defensive actions in the game (defensive actions = interceptions + clearances + blocks) which was the highest figure in any game since Martinez took charge. To put that into context our average per game this season is 52.
Naismith, Barry and Besic were pretty ordinary on the ball but off it they run their tripe out in a midfield pressure triangle of terror. At the back Jagielka had one of his most commanding games in ages, crucially repelling Palaces best chance off the line shortly after we had taken the lead. The skipper made more defensive actions (24) than any of his colleagues and was a worthy shout for man of the match.
On the ball we can certainly do better, and our ball share and pass completion figures were both the 3rd worst we have posted this season, although there was mitigating factors in place. Besic and Barry looked to play to our strengths on the break, so there was little desire to dominate possession.Instead we let Palace have the ball in our half and when play was regained the midfield duo would look to play longer, more direct forward passes into the gulleys for the wide players to run into, albeit it had mixed results.
This one was all about the result with the key takeaway being our impressive capability off the ball to dig in and repel everything Palace could throw at us. The result means we are unbeaten in five since the horror of Hull and that back to back clean sheets have been secured for the first time this season – an indicator that the ship is finally steering itself out of stormy waters.
There is a feeling now that this could be the launch of a prolonged assault at rectifying the madness of Christmas in the league and also in the Europa – hopefully continuing next week by turning the rs over at L4.
Up the toffees!