5 Things We Learnt | Everton 2 – 6 Tottenham Hotspur

1. Everton are caught in a rut and must snap out of it

The Blues have taken only 2 points from their past 5 games and as a result are spending Christmas 2018 in the bottom half of the table. Not something anyone would have been happy about if told the future back in the summer.

Granted, three of those five games have been against what most people consider the strongest trio of sides in the Premier League. Circumstances beyond our control also played a huge part in contributing to those losses (more below). However, in the other two matches, against Newcastle and Watford respectively, Everton did not look at all impressive or even hungry for it. That is not acceptable when you consider that neither of those have anywhere close to the quality we have.

The heartbreaking nature of the defeat at Anfield seems to shattered the players mentally and the manager hasn’t looked the same either. The time is now for everyone to buck up and get over it, there is still a full half-a-season to get on with and there will plenty of opportunities to right that particular wrong in the future.

To borrow a phrase from the late American golf legend Sam Snead;

“The mark of a great player is in his ability to come back. The great champions have all come back from defeat.”

It’s a great piece of advice for any person to take onboard. Right now Everton’s players could really do with hearing it.

2. Officiating in the Premier League is so consistently bad it needs investigation

At least on half-a-dozen times this season alone Everton have been victim of poor decisions made by officials in the most crucial moments of a football match. Against Spurs it happened on three different occasions.

First Calvert-Lewin had a brilliant headed goal disallowed for a phantom foul in the build up. Then a free-kick was awarded on the edge of the box for an extremely soft tangle which led to the visitors scoring their 3rd goal just before half-time. And then to put the cherry on the cake replays showed Son Heung Min in an offside position when he ran through on goal and subsequently netted his second and Spurs’ 5th.

Had the Blues gone 2-0 up the game would surely have played out in a drastically different manner. Yet, because of sheer incompetence, they had any chance obtaining points completely snatched away from them. And let’s not even mention the countless other examples this season not just for Everton but other sides as well, all of whom aren’t in the supposed ‘big six’, have gotten the short of the stick when it comes referees making controversial decisions. All just a coincidence? No way.

Something has to change because these officials can’t be allowed to just continue screwing teams over, crushing supporters hopes and costing managers their jobs and then be allowed to walk off scot-free. Whether it’s introducing VAR or bringing in referees from other countries, change must happen soon or Premier League football will before long become a completely rigged game that the vast majority can’t enjoy.

3. The midfield is a big problem

At times Everton against Tottenham looked like men against boys, particular in the centre of the park. Whilst the Londoners had Christian Eriksen sitting deeper and Dele Alli running riot in a free role Everton’s midfielders looked clueless and lost.

Andre Gomes has been mostly brilliant since coming into the side but that last game was not his finest hour. He was caught in two-minds too often, did not pick his passes particularly well and gave away several cheap fouls. We’ve been over-reliant on him and now he unfortunately looks set to be out for a little while. It’s high time someone else took on the burden and coped well with it. The question is, who could it be?

Idrissa Gana Gueye is also out injured and will never be a creative player anyway. Morgan Schneiderlin looks likely to leave the club in the next few weeks. James McCarthy has been out for nearly a year with a leg-break. Beni Baningime has yet to feature at all for the first-team under Marco Silva.

Tom Davies was given the opportunity to partner the popular Portuguese maestro but simply didn’t take it. It was his first appearance in over month and he looked well off the pace. He was partnered with someone whom he’d never played with before and hadn’t any minutes at all in recent weeks, for those reasons he probably deserves a pass this time. However, if he’s ever to become a top talent many believe him capable of he must start proving it now. The best players don’t hide behind the age or too much pressure argument.

The three games between now and January 2nd will tell the manager for certain about whether or not new midfield options are something the squad desperately needs to add when the transfer window opens.

4. The defence looks unsettled and out-of-sync

Everton’s defending was all over the place not just against Tottenham but also against Man City, Watford and Newcastle. We keep giving away silly goals that get even more excruciating every time you watch them back. If it’s not getting caught on the break by Salomon Rondon then it’s lashing a clearance right to the feet of Ilkay Gundogan and if it’s not that then it’s our goalkeeper barging into his own centre-half.

Marco Silva has switched around the backline numerous times but not once so far have his decisions ultimately paid off in a game. Instead they’ve just looked confused and have played at a level that is sub-standard.

Much was made when he arrived of his tactical acumen which improves players. His supposed attention to details was such that he would actually stop a training session to instruct people to stand in certain positions in order to create the organised team shape he desired. Right now Everton really need some of that back-to-basics training ground work that makes a difference on the pitch in a real match situation.

We haven’t kept a clean-sheet since beating Cardiff, if we’re are going to have a strong second half of the season then we must do a far better job of keeping the ball out of our net. Conceding 2.6 goals a game, our average for this month of December, is no way near good enough.

5. Jordan Pickford is in bad form and needs to refocus

It may sound harsh but Everton (and England’s) number 1 needs to be read the riot act after that latest calamity. He is undoubtedly a world class goalkeeper, one Evertonians love and are extremely grateful to have, but his erratic performances this season have been a far cry from the pillar of consistency supporters had grown used too.

He has been too eager to involve himself in the thick of the action, too often allowed a rush of blood to cloud his better judgement and shown too much confidence in his own ability to play out from the back even whilst under pressure. His error which led to Spurs’ initial equaliser gets worse every time you see it on replay.

Pickford is obviously a very talented and self-assured young man. That’s absolutely brilliant. However, he must also learn to better reign-in his showman instincts because right now he is making life harder for his team-mates and ultimately harming the side. Dropping him is not a realistic option, not when his understudy is a Dutch hologram named Maarten Stekelenburg. No, for this one we’ll just have to let our favourite Wearsider play his through this sticky patch. Here’s hoping he and Everton can bounce back quickly.

-Paul