Some thoughts on today – Derby day Blues by name & nature

The recent Spurs’ game and today’s Derby is a sobering reality check in terms of where we are in Koeman’s project. The defeat is still raw but the manner in which it’s being portrayed is not accurate in my book.


I’m going to start by addressing this so called “fear” of playing Liverpool. It’s nothing more than a convenient label that requires no thought or analysis. It’s all so easy for pundits or whomever to say “Everton possess a fear factor, a mental block versus Liverpool”.

Four Everton players had never started a Derby game, so how can they fear or have a mental block about something they’ve never experienced?

It’s a totally inaccurate and lazy way of judging the real problems, which is leadership and accountability as individuals. Yes, football is a team sport, but for a team to function and achieve its objectives each individual has to perform to the level expected – each achieving and completing their given tasks in order to function as a team. Only teams with exceptional talent can perform when one or two players are not at their best. We don’t possess those players currently, and sadly it was more than one or two who didn’t perform. Part of that is down to youth and inexperience, the rest is a reflection on the abilities of the senior members of the squad.

There’s not an Everton player on the pitch today who will have met their individual objectives set prior to the game. That’s what needs addressing.  Koeman and his people have to sit down with each individual and say “we agreed the following…….., yet it didn’t happen. Why did it not happen, and what has to change to ensure it doesn’t occur again?” Now for several it’s probably too late in their careers, particularly their Everton careers to do much about it, but for the youngsters surely that’s the only way they’re going to learn from the experience.

The way to learn from days like today is to take individual responsibility for your own actions, there’s no point in hiding behind the team performance or “fear” – that’s not an accountable action.

To compound the lack of individual responsibility, there was a total absence of leadership on the pitch to identify and address the problem. Leadership has of course been an issue for a long time and will surely be addressed in the summer. The only time today I saw any, was Lukaku of all people, making sure that Lucas did not talk Barkley into the referee’s book early in the first half.

Whilst we have a core of promising youngsters, the paucity of our squad was laid bare again today. Koeman will have put out what he considered our best available team and his tactics probably acknowledged that he’s aware of our relative strengths and weaknesses. However, for the tactics to work, individuals across the team had to perform their given tasks. Having just Gana and Davies in the centre of midfield is a great display of confidence in their abilities. As it happened, it didn’t work – not only did neither not perform to standard but nor did their team mates around them.

We’re surely seeing the last season of Jags, Williams (albeit his first) and Funes Mori in the centre of our defence, either in a back four or a three/five like today – Robles who had a terrible game was left horribly exposed for each of the three goals.

What of Ross? I can only say the occasion got the better of him, perhaps the fact that it was the Derby and the frustrations of his international break got to him. Regardless there are significant behavioural weaknesses to his game that become all too evident on occasions like this. Until he learns that self control and decisiveness in thinking, especially on the big occasion, he’s going to remain a talented but enigmatic figure who won’t meet his full potential.

Romelu? I don’t subscribe to the “he wasn’t arsed” comments but he was horribly isolated even with Calvin Lewin supposedly playing close to, alongside him. I’d say three things to defend his attitude today, his actions in stopping Barkley from receiving an early booking, his reaction to our goal, and in the second half the positions he took up in the box. Holgate had several opportunities to deliver but failed to deliver beyond the first man. Had Coleman been on the pitch, Lukaku would at least have had opportunities. Having said that, he can do better, and if he’s going to fulfil his personal ambitions and opinions, then start putting in match winning performances against better teams. Tuesday night would be a great place to start.

Koeman’s tactics were interesting today – I expressed delight when I saw the side, Barry has a role as substitute in games like today but he can’t be seen as a starter in the really big games. Mirallas has long since ceased to be a starter for Everton in my eyes, although I appreciate the view of some that he at least gets up for games such as this.

It’s clear that Koeman doesn’t believe we can go toe to toe especially away from home against the top 6. His preference, probably determined by personnel rather than through choice has been to play defensively hoping to catch teams on the break. Sadly it’s not worked in any of the games against the top sides away from home this season.

This is a reflection of the inability for most of the squad to perform at the highest levels as individuals in these games, rather than a reflection of the system deployed. Almost all the goals conceded away to the teams above us have resulted from individual error by one, sometimes more individuals.

It’s not until the quality of individuals (mentally as well as tactically) improve through further strengthening of the squad, that we’re going to see significant uplift in performance in these games.

We’ve come a long way since the very dark days of last year’s Anfield debacle and the semi final – “the defining week” as Martinez put it, but we’ve clearly got a huge way further to go.

Being realistic, 7th in the Premier League is the level at which we are operating. We are currently the best of the rest, and that’s a significant improvement on the last two years but as we all know we need even further changes in the squad, the release of those not good enough, replaced by higher talents.

It felt like the wheels coming off our development project by the end of the game, and it always does feel terrible when losing to Liverpool. The truth is we were horribly exposed by injuries, we don’t have enough depth to our squad, but equally none of our players took the individual responsibility required to perform as part of a team.

When we have a team full of individuals who accept that personal responsibility that’s when we’ll start winning the games that really count, and then perhaps we’ll win some silverware.

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2 replies »

  1. Nice post. I’m worried about Koeman being “proud” of our performance. It smacks of accepting mediocrity. I’d have accepted it as him not wanting to protect the younger players but then to Tweet it makes me think he really believes we were good.

    I’d be happy to see both Lukaku and Barkley leave in the summer if I don’t see a performance on Tuesday against Man United as it’ll show they’re not big game players which we need if we’re to break into the top four. I know it might sound as if my emotions are getting in the way of me thinking clearly but if it came to us needing to beat the big teams and we can’t because they fail to step up then what’s the point?

    This summer is massive. I believe we need at least 6 players covering each position who all want to win and are not here to collect big wages and have us as a stepping stone. No Payets, please.

    This club is in a bigger mess than I thought and has been mediocre from the top right down to the bottom. A massive summer ahead.

  2. Whilst I agree with almost everything written, I personally don’t think the ‘mental block’ is either innacurate or lazy. As pointed out, four of yesterday’s team hadn’t played in a derby, but they’ve been around a dressing room full of others who have and sadly, negativity breeds more easily than positivity.

    Dynamic and forceful leadership is hugely lacking in our squad, as again as pointed out, it was Lukaku – normally only a mouthpiece for himself – who talked/cajoled/harangued the referee out of booking Barkley earlier than he did.

    Jagielka has never been captain material, our best captain material player is sadly out with a double broken leg !!

    I honestly feel that Everton squads have, since those glorious mid-80s days, almost accepted that ‘Liverpool are the better team’ and have gone into games with the ‘knife to a gunfight’ mindset all too prevalent.

    Joe Royle had players with grit, determination and character and sent his teams out to fight, battle and scrap, hence his Derby record was unblemished.

    Right now, and made worse by the current blight of injuries, we are woefully lacking in grit and determination particularly from some of our senior players.

    Williams and Baines yesterday were shocking examples of senior players not fit for purpose, and Jags has enough problems this season with his own game to captain in games of such importance.

    The January transfer window has proven to have been something of a double edged sword. By that I mean Koeman trimmed the squad of a large chunk of deadwood, but injuries have served to highlight the lack of true, meaningful depth in the squad.

    There will need to be another cull come the end of the season, and if we don’t bounce back sufficiently from the Anfield horror show then that cull may need to be harsh… but that then throws massive pressure on the Steve Walsh and Koeman to identify genuine quality recruitment targets, and even greater pressure on the board to act quickly and decisively as soon as the summer transfer window opens.

    There can be no prevarication this summer, no unnecessary penny-pinching over fees and salaries, the board need to step up to the plate and deliver… and it needs to be grand slam home runs, not base hits.

    We are the best of the rest currently and as stated, that’s a marked improvement upon the dross of the last two seasons, but being and finishing seventh must only be accepted as a stepping stone for the club on its way back to at least the top four… and I for one want us to begin every campaign with the Neville Southall mindset of ‘first or nothing’.

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