Everton 2-2 Watford: We’re gonna fume in a minute

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A hangover and a burnt head were the only tangible outputs to be taken from Roberto Martinez not-so-new-look Everton’s customary 2-2 opening day draw.

Team News

The big pre-match news was regarding Leighton Baines, and the ‘hammer blow’ that our key creative outlet will miss the start of the new season due to injury. In his place Martinez opted for centre back Brendan Galloway rather than the like for like width of Bryan Oviedo, with the backline otherwise as you’d expect.

In midfield, as per most of last season, we were again without our principal ‘3 wise men’ with Gibson and Pienaar injured and Osman only fit enough for the bench. This meant that responsibility for curing the creative void rested with debutant Tom Cleverley in the left-sided midfield spot, although he often shifted inside to enable us to go from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3. Messrs Barkley and Mirallas made up the numbers as the more advanced support to Lukaku.

Six of Watford’s nine summer buys were defensive minded players, and new boss Flores approach appeared a tad more conservative  to the gung-ho approach that secured promotion last season. The Spaniard setup in a 4-4-1-1 with Deeney supported by journeyman schemer Jurado.

First Half

The opening credits to the 2015/16 season were nothing short of a total shambles as the chosen ones endured 45 minutes of utter woe, and were lucky to still be in the game by the interval.

Its difficult to know where to start with this latest mess, but one of the major subjects of irritation was the sluggish passing from back to front, and the non existent service trickling through to a half-fit Lukaku.

The absence of Baines was certainly not helpful here; the left back offers our best outlet of service on the ball from defence  into the forwards, usually providing double figures per game for passes into Lukaku. His replacement Galloway did nothing wrong, but as an inexperienced centre back it isn’t really in his nature to ping angled passes into the attacking players, or for that matter to steam forward and offer width to the attack, and this was underlined by the fact that he made no passes into Lukaku in  the 60 minutes he was on the pitch. With Coleman intent on dribbling the ball out of play on the other flank, there was precious little in terms of output from the backline to support midfield and attack.

This was in stark contrast to the way Watford used Deeney at the other end of the pitch.

The supply line for the Hornet’s chief groc came from the impressive Holebas at left back, and from the gargantuan deliveries from Gomes in goal, who combined to play 20+ passes into the big forward. Deeney was then able to link play with the likes of Jurado and Anya, with Watford making significant gains down our right flank early on.

Before the break Watford’s greater purpose and penetration was rewarded with the opening goal, as Layun pinged home after Jagielka’s rash clearance from Jurado’s cross.

The 1-0 half time lead was the least Watford deserved, and with their disciplined, rigid two banks of four keeping us firmly at arm’s length it was clear that changes were needed if we were to get back into the game.

Second Half

The second half started in a similar manner, with Watford holding firm and any forward momentum for us being checked by Lukaku’s poorly timed runs, leading to a flurry of offside calls in our opponent’s favour. The forward only really had one sniff of goal all afternoon, but failed to move his feet quickly enough after an excellent centre from Barkley shortly after the break.

In response, Martinez rolled the dice and to his credit the changes made helped galvanise Everton to get back into the game in what was – at least in an attacking sense – a much improved second half display.

The Catalan’s key switch was to introduce Arouna Kone, who came on to replace Brendan Galloway. The resulting reshuffle meant that Gareth Barry switched to left back and Ross Barkley dropped deeper, allowing the Ivorian to join Lukaku and Mirallas as the attacking triumvirate.

Barry’s lack of speed is obvious, but his move to left back increased the quality of pass from the backline, and enabled us to get the ball forward quicker to Lukaku, who looked more of a threat with Kone now supporting him.

The much maligned ex Wigan ‘hitman’ isn’t anywhere near as bad as people make out, but its unquestionable that he has struggled to make any real impression since signing 2 summers ago.

Here, however, his impact was immediate.

Firstly he could – and probably should – have dispatched a header after a superb, pin-point cross from Cleverley down the right flank.

After more good work from Cleverley, this time to pick the odious Behrami’s pocket,  Coleman swung one in for Kone to contest. The sub controlled well was able to play a nice cushioned pass onto the right boot of Barkley, whose fourth shot of the game was emphatically dispatched, driving the ball high into Gomes net.

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Rather than turn the screw on our now stuttering opponent, another defensive gaffe, this time from Stones, was to put us right back to square one. After Gomes thundered a trademark massive throw downfield, Deeney was able to link with Ighalo who then cooly sidestepped rash lunges from both Stones and Jagielka to drive home from 20 yards.

Watford’s display had been excellent, and was only blighted by their west brom-lite ‘were gonna bounce in a minute’ bantz fest in the stands, an early shot across the bow to Villa in the funster stakes.

Sadly for the Hornet’s jesters there would be a sting in the tail, and, before you could say fuckoffeverton, the swaggering Kone would have the last laugh. After another good long pass from Barry down the left,  the weary Lukaku was able to tee-up his strike partner for a splendid right footed, angled finish past Gomes outstretched right arm.

'Were gonna buy Aldi trainers in a minute'

‘Were gonna buy Aldi trainers in a minute’

Last word

Many will look at this campaign as the true barometer of Martinez. Is he the tactical messiah of his first season or the muddled mess of the last campaign? The answer probably lies somewhere in between, and this game did little to confirm or dispel  either argument.

Starting Galloway was a weird call for me, particularly given that we had no real out-and-out winger on the pitch to provide width to attacks, something that will hopefully be remedied by the return of Deulofeu and, possibly, Lennon.

At the back we looked ragged and slow in possession, in midfield McCarthy was clearly rattled by arch-snide Behrami, and upfront Lukaku was well shackled by Prodl and Cathcart for the most part until Kone came on.

Martinez did show that he can influence games from the bench with his changes, however, and he will be hopeful that new blood, allied to the resurgence from Barkley/Kone and the enterprising display of Cleverley, can help us swiftly move on from this disappointing encounter.


2 thoughts on “Everton 2-2 Watford: We’re gonna fume in a minute

  1. Sadly, another 2 – 2 draw on the opening day and a point against a newly promoted team for the third time in a row (I think I have that right – please correct me if I am wrong!!) At least, I suppose, we managed to salvage a point as we went behind twice. As ever, defensive frailties came to the fore once again (poor clearance by Jagielka for the first Watford goal and then he and Stones sold themselves way too easily for the second Watford strike by Ighalo.) The fact that Baines is now injured has me majorly worried about the backline. Everybody knows (apart from Martinez…?) that we have needed a new centre – half for the last year and nothing has changed in that respect. If Chelsea do come back in with the reported £34 for Stones and he does leave, then we really are in trouble with us needing two new centre – halves with real experience; the fact that we don’t seem particularly worried about the need to sign one, signing two could be a major headache. The other issue to consider here is our frugal spending (just under £4.5 million) suggests that the pot (as usual) is completely empty so Stones may have to be sacrificed. Having seen some of the incidendary comments on the EFC website concerning the potential selling of Stones, I think some fans have lost sight of the fact that it could happen out of necessity. If Chelsea were to stump £34 million (of which £25 million + should be up front cash) then we might have to cash in to strengthen more of the team. At this juncture, people might be wondering were all the money does go at L4 (myself included) but that’s a debate for a different time…

    The need for a creative attacking midfielder to fill the gap left behind by the ageing Pienaar and Osman is getting desperate; I would be surprised if they make 20 starts between them this season. Cleverley is a useful signing as he was free and he made some decent contributions in his first game. I think he will prove a good acquisition but it may take time for Martinez to pin down exactly where he is going to play him on a full time basis to get the best out of him. I noticed you mention Lennon (and there is a lot of clamour from Everton fans to sign him) but I don’t get it. If we did sign him, that would give us Mirallas, Deulofeu and Lennon competing for one spot down the right flank. That seems completely unnecessary when we have nobody who can play down the left hand side and give us genuine width in that area (I am discounting McGeady because he is not a ‘special talent’ in any shape, way or form, and should be sold, and I am aware that Mirallas and Deulofeu can play there but they are stronger on the right hand side)

    The striker area remains a problem. Lukaku is our strongest centre – forward by a long way but if he gets injured or is half fit (like he was yesterday) then goals will be a problem. Kone managed an assist and a goal which is is more than he has contributed in two seasons at the club; one swallow does not make a summer though and I am confident that injuries will catch up with him again. Furthermore, even if he does remain fit, he’ll be lucky to get 10 Premier League goals such is his distinct lack of goal threat. I’m not sure where Naismith fits into all of this apart from being a reliable, hard – working squad player.

    So, Martinez has some severe recruitment to do (and the savvy ones amongst us have known this since January of this year at least) and he has only three weeks to do it. He has recognised it apparently (from what he has said) and with our squad at its most threadbare, it has never been more needed. Otherwise, this could be a long and more arduous season then last year.

    Rant over and welcome back EB – always good to read you on a Sunday night!!

  2. Great read EB, you have been missed. You should know that the FPL world is keeping up with your stuff, so do keep up the fantastic work mate!


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