A game neither side proved capable of winning

By Lyndon Lloyd 19/01/2020 20comments  |  Jump to last

It’s odd that despite Everton’s abysmal start and all the worry and upheaval that followed, culminating in the sacking of Marco Silva, in the context of the top six and European qualification, Everton’s season is very much alive.

That’s down to a Premier League that remains inconsistent and erratic below the runaway leaders and in that environment there are opportunities — opportunities like this one where the Blues came up against a West Ham side that was there for the taking after Jordan Pickford had restricted them to one goal but Carlo Ancelotti’s men just couldn’t get their act together in attacking areas enough to grab a winner.

In that sense, this was one of the most frustrating games of a season that was full of them prior to Silva’s dismissal and it starkly exposed the void that exists in central midfield, one that, paradoxically, meant the point gained was a decent one from an away game.

With Gylfi Sigurdsson out with a groin injury and Ancelotti deprived of any option he might have taken to play Mason Holgate in midfield when Michael Keane was forced to bow out on the day with a ricked neck, Everton had to fall back on the increasingly maligned Fabian Delph alongside Tom Davies in the middle.

It was a chance for both to stake a claim in this most vital area of the pitch but both failed on almost all counts. Delph, for all his much-touted experience and supposed leadership can be utterly brainless at times, a notion exemplified but his unnecessary foul that put the Blues in the kind of position defending set-pieces that has been their undoing all season.

Together with Davies, the veteran midfielder lacked any authority in the middle of the park, routinely mis-placed passes and kept checking back rather than driving forward against an opposition that barely warranted such caution and lack of adventure.

They weren’t alone, of course. Theo Walcott was a huge let-down on one flank for the umpteenth appearance and once again failed to make it to the 70th-minute before being hooked, while Bernard on the other side was as mystifyingly profligate and ineffective on the ball as he had been impressively creative and productive last week against Brighton.

Nevertheless, while the Brazilian’s distribution was largely off, most of Everton’s attacks went through him so Ancelotti’s decision to substitute him at half-time in favour of teenage Premier League debutant Anthony Gordon felt very premature and proved to be so when what cohesion and retention the Blues had in forward areas largely fell away in the opening quarter of an hour in the second half.

Bernard is the epitome of mercurial; not everything he tries or does comes off but you keep him around for those two or three moments of magic that can carve a team open and without him there was no one really capable of breaking West Ham down.

All of those factors combined for a performance that was more maddening the more the game wore on because it was clear that once they had seen some decent opportunities go begging, David Moyes’s Hammers didn’t have much more about them either. Indeed, it became one of those games where it didn’t look like either side knew how to win it and that a draw was the inevitable outcome.

More than anything, Everton missed Richarlison and you feel that the Brazil international’s ability to fashion a goal out of nothing could have made all the difference. He was was one of three changes Ancelotti had to make as Yerry Mina returned to the starting XI after shaking off a minor injury that had prevented him from training in the week, Delph replaced Sigurdsson and Moise Kean was handed a big chance to impress in Richarlison’s absence with a knee complaint.

Kean battled to make an impression on the game, although he was given almost no support from that weak midfield and though his first touch often let him down and was as prone to running down blind alleys as his more experienced striker partner, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, he did exhibit some nice flourishes here and there together with plenty of willing running.

That Everton were forced to chase a winner by throwing Oumar Niasse on for the final 15 minutes was another illustration of the paucity of resources open to the manager whose eyes really must have been opened in recent weeks as to the scale of the rebuilding work that is needed ahead.

If part of that reconstruction involves turning Everton back into a side that plays out from defence after the brief interlude of direct, high-tempo fare under Duncan Ferguson, then that, too, is going to take a lot of time. The Blues spent the first 15 minutes of this game in a mind-numbing pattern of passing back and forth along the defence, attempting to move it into midfield and then going all the way back to either the centre-halves or Pickford.

Seemingly incapable of beating their hosts’ fairly innocuous pressing game, they resorted to this tedious possession game before Pickford shanked the ball out of play or one of the outfield players simply handed it straight to a claret jersey. And on the odd occasion they did get forward, the final ball was abysmal — either mis-placed or overhit.

West Ham, meanwhile, tried to force turnovers in possession to then break quickly which they did in the sixth minute when Robert Snodgrass fired at Pickford from around 20 yards out and then when Mark Noble picked Sebastien Haller out with a cross and the Frenchman dropped a header an inch or two past the post with 19 minutes gone.

Then, when Lucas Digne was robbed of possession weakly, West Ham attacked in a three-on-two situation and Noble slipped Haller in but Pickford made an excellent stop with his foot to deny him what looked to be an almost certain goal.

Everton’s best chance of the first half came with 32 minutes gone after Bernard had almost coughed the ball up again but Everton kept possession with a nice passing move that ended with Digne crossing from the left and Walcott meeting it at the back post with a poor connection that made the resulting save from Darren Randolph fairly routine.

A pretty dire game of football came to life in the final few minutes of the first half, though, starting with Delph fouling Manuel Lanzini in a dangerous area near the touchline despite the Argentine forward going away from the Everton box and posing no threat.

The resulting set-piece was an exercise in deja-vu for the travelling Blues as the ball was flighted in and Issa Diop rose largely unchallenged to glance a header past Pickford into the far corner of the goal.

Thankfully, Everton responded just four minutes later from a dead-ball situation of their own. Digne’s corner got the merest of flicks at the near post and it arrived at the back post for Calvert-Lewin to cushion the ball home with a composed header to level the contest again.

It looked for all the world as though Everton would be going into the interval 2-1 down, though, when 35-year-old Pablo Zabaleta easily out-paced Digne down the Hammers’ right and crossed for his namesake Fornals to head home but Pickford pulled off a miraculous reaction save to paw it behind.

Though Everton were generally better in the second half, particularly as Gordon grew into the game and began to exhibit more confidence to express himself in the final third, but chances were still few and far between. All too often, they resorted to slinging in crosses that were easily dealt with by Diop and Angelo Ogbonna when the more intricate stuff (when it worked) on the ground was causing the greater problems for the home side.

Indeed, Walcott’s most dangerous piece of play handed Gordon an opportunity five minutes after half-time when Randolph palmed the ball out but the youngster snatched at the ball and ballooned it over the bar.

A minute later, Walcott was played in beautifully by Delph but again the final ball was lacking, giving Calvert-Lewin little chance at the near post with an overhit centre and Davies headed a difficult opportunity wide from the resulting corner.

At the other end, Pickford had a couple of “clown” moments that threatened to undo his earlier moments of brilliance; first, when he flapped at a cross having ambitiously tried to claim it near the edge of his box and Holgate had to clear off the line as the ball was hooked goalwards over the keeper’s head; then, he almost fell over the line with the ball having made a fairly comfortable catch under his crossbar.

Pickford was back to his best with 20 minutes to go, however, when a Snodgrass shot took a wicked deflection that had the ball spinning towards the far post but the England goalkeeper stretched to make it sure it went behind via his fingertips.

Davies would have one last chance for Everton in stoppage time when a corner was cleared to him just outside the box and he lined up a shot but it was deflected well clear of goal.

Ultimately, a point on the road is never a bad thing, particularly during this period of transition under the new manager, but it still felt like two points dropped. It was hard not to feel hair-pulling frustration with a number of players who seemed to want too much time on the ball and then didn’t seem to know what to do with it when they got into forward areas. The returns of André Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin to hopefully provide some composure, strength and passing ability into the midfield can’t come soon enough!

Reader Comments (20)

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Jim Bennings
1 Posted 19/01/2020 at 18:04:37
The only positive we can take is it’s another point on the board but that’s about it.

Terribly disjointed performances all over the pitch, only Pickford and Holgate looked anything like decent.

Our midfield is absolutely invisible, nothing ever comes through the centre of the pitch, waif like characters in Davies and Delph that are so one paced and clueless it’s embarrassing on their part watching them sometimes.

Walcott is a nothing player now, which is sad.

What the hell happened to the Theo Walcott that first arrived at Everton, he was really positive running with the ball, pacy, direct, I remember his debut against Leicester and I thought we had a hell of a player.

Bernard started his Everton career positively but he’s just never really given the impression he’s going to be anything other than just ok, I can’t overlook his lack of goals, it’s a major bugbear for me.

I worry about us in midfield I really do, even the return of Andre Gomes, he’s great on his day but there were too many games he strolled through casually also, he was anonymous for the early part of the season and certain fans were quite critical of him.

Gbamin I’ve no idea what to expect but didn’t someone come out who knew him from his previous club and said eventually he’ll move to centre half?

So that doesn’t bode too positively for a dominant athletic box to box midfielder.

I feel we must must must look at solving this area of the pitch sooner rather than later.

Simon Harrison
2 Posted 19/01/2020 at 19:02:48
A very good write up Lyndon.

Pickford (JP) had a mixed game, but was probably our second best player and saved us the point.

The defense were poor trying to get the ball forward,
I recall Mason driving forward three times in the game, two good passes, one over hit to the irons. One of the other passed went straight back to Digne to JP, the other Delph got bullied off the ball.
Otherwise he had a good game, I didn't see 'brilliance' y'day, and at times he was back to ball watching. However, I agree he was our best 2Half player (Gibson 1Half)

Yerry needs to move forward to pass, I have no idea why an International defender hops from his left to right foot whilst shouting, and then plays underweight, misdirected passes either laterally, or more usually back to JP?

Coleman was workmanlike, and I don't remember a serious problem down our right.

Digne tries, but has some sort of problem (attitude? niggle? lack of trust in the MF?) I think I'd prefer to see Baines start against NUFC, but I think we'll see Luca start again. I thought he generally had a good'ish game, but noticeably tired as the game went on.

As above(#1) the Midfield are our embarrassment;

Walcott, all pace, no end product. Doesn't close down, only tracks back when he loses the ball, and doesn't have the footballing top 2" unfortunately. He is a decent 'reactive' player, but we and Carletto don't want or need that sort of player in a system.

Tom, well, he has an 80 min engine; a faulty radar (Hit or miss, mostly miss y'day), he is either gung-ho in the tackle, or backs off until he is at our defensive line. I keep thinking if I was Spurs, Wolves or Sheffield United, would I be looking to buy him? Answers are an opinion, just like mine, but I'd say no, and those teams are our rivals for 6th.

Delph, had a horrible start, and first half, including giving away the foul that led to the goal (Needlessly!), yet in the second half, he dropped deep between Mina and Holgate, gave them confidence and brought the ball out well. Probably the best I've seen him play for us since Silva left.

Bernardo, seemed to be trying to hard. Probably on a high from the BHAFC game, and the praise from Carletto. However, he was profligate in possession, and offered no threats, other than two ultimately threat-less lay-offs for overlaps to Digne (Two good crosses, just cut out by the Irons) Rightly pulled at HT.

Kean, well he has potential, but yesterday, he had absolutely no chance of scoring, was assigned the wrong man, and didn't scream for help for their goal, NB actually Tom 'I'm a short ar$e too' did try to help... He made two (three?) good runs ahead of DCL and Walcott, but wasn't passed too (see below) and he was very poor with his control and passing. Needs confidence, minutes and goals!

DCL, worked hard, scored, could have had a brace, dutifully bollocked Theo for being Theo. Yet his link play was poor yesterday, probably missing his buddy, Richi, he had Kean on good runs twice, but he was so slow to decide he lost the ball, and the other time he passed to Theo..? In general either he wasn't getting the shouts, or he dithered too long on the ball.

Subs, Gibson, best midfielder for us in the second half, and definitely has the attitude and ability. Needs minutes and careful nurturing now.
Sidibe was Sidibe, made errors and did a couple of good things. Niasse collected his £55K, gave two fouls away, lost us possession three times other than that, and cheered up the Hammers fans...

Carletto, in my opinion, as I typed in the Live forum, made the right decisions.
Bernardo was ineffective and was being bullied by the bigger Hammers MF, plus he was being bypassed by angled or high balls.
Theo, didn't impress at all and made it as far as I 'predicted'.
Kean, he tried, but he doesn't fit our 'team' just yet, maybe when Carletto installs a system, he'll start to blossom.
He probably started the best team he could, but as Jim@1 said, we just don't have the personnel available just now!

General observations;

We still run out of steam at the 75-80 minute mark. This needs fixing ASAP.

Playing out of the back seems to be slowly improving especially when Holgate and Mina actually bring the ball out.

Too slow movement all over the pitch, does anyone actually know how to 'run' into space, or what space looks like?

Far, far too much lateral movement and passing, the goals are North-South, not East-West.

Lack of striking teeth if either Richi, as y'day, or DCL are out. Time to give Simms a bench spot I think.

The MF options till Iwobi, Gomes and/or GBamin come back, or even Beni come back; could/would/should lead to more minutes for Gordon and maybe Adeniron?

Please JP, when you can please, please, please throw the ball to a player, or at least give it to a defender... Ours of course!

Lastly, how can 'PL level' PROFESSIONAL footballers, not be able to pass and control a pass upto the 20m range? Our basic skills in the main were embarrassing yesterday. Rightly noted and mocked. On this display we're not the School of Science, its more like Nursery School, and baby steps...!

Roll on Tuesday and an injury ravaged team of Magpies.

Anyhow, my final thought, for an injury depleted team, one point is better than none. As above, I feel it is two points lost...

Brian Harrison
3 Posted 19/01/2020 at 19:10:43
A really strange season apart from 1 team the only thing consistent is the inconsistency of every other team. Even last years Champions are struggling in certain games, a few months ago Southampton and Watford were nailed on to be relegated now both look like they may escape the drop. Who would have predicted that Crystal Palace and even more surprising Sheffield United would be in the top half after 22 games.

I suppose this only adds to our frustration, as this could have been the season that we actually challenged for a Champions league spot. Koeman and Walsh really did a number on Moshiri, to have spent so heavily on such mediocre players is embarrassing. I wont list the high earn failures we all know who they are, and how much that will hamper Ancelotti and his ability to bring in quality players given FFP rules. I am sure that Ancelotti is now well aware of what may be needed but he has yet to see Gomes and Gbamin or Kenny. Lets hope now we have a world class manager the manager merry go round will stop and we will allow Ancelotti the time it will take to rebuild this club. Just a pity Moshiri didnt appoint a world class manager before allowing the previous incumbents to spend £450 million.

I know the last thing Evertonians want to hear is the manager needs patience as thats all we have been told since Martinez replaced Moyes. But if we are ever to produce a team to challenge at the top end then it will take Ancelotti a couple of transfer windows at least. But unlike his predecessors I feel confident he will get it right given time.

Tony Abrahams
4 Posted 19/01/2020 at 19:21:35
Missed Richarlison, but it’s the slow build up, not enough players taking any real responsibility, and nowhere near enough craft coming from the middle of the pitch.

Seamus is struggling offensively, Walcott struggles to be positive or brave, and DCL, seemed to be the only forward on the pitch who possessed any energy.

Mentally fragile, a braver team would have went on to win yesterday’s game, but we never lost, and this seems to be about where we are at right now.

A positive midfielder could do so much to improve us, and I’m hoping that once we have played Newcastle, we can go and get in one or two players, that could push us up the table, but if we don’t, then I can’t see much more than a mid-table finish, in what seems to be a “strong and physical“ but mediocre league.

Mick Davies
5 Posted 19/01/2020 at 20:33:55
Who is Bernardo and did Gibson play?
Des Farren
6 Posted 19/01/2020 at 20:49:53
Ha ha Mick. Had to check the alcohol content on my bottle of Crozes there!
Simon Dalzell
7 Posted 19/01/2020 at 21:01:03
Something I don't understand,and seems like an Everton trait, is that we get rid of players without having a replacement lined up. The squad is down to its bare bones, yet we ship Tosun out. I'm not a great fan, but in that shitefest yesterday, surely he could have been an option.
Ryan Holroyd
8 Posted 19/01/2020 at 21:06:13
Take a point away, win home games.
Simon Harrison
9 Posted 19/01/2020 at 21:07:13
Haha Mick @5, Doh!! *Facepalm!*

My apologies, Bernard of course, and indeed Gordon not Gibson.

I did get Gordon correct later, but Bernard, I apologise and make a bow of an apology.

Too much work and maybe a drop of wine or two, might have just got to me. Plus some long term thinking.

Mind you, Mike, if we'd got the second, I'd like to have seen Gibson get some time at the back.

Simon Harrison
10 Posted 19/01/2020 at 21:08:37
Des @6, I've just gone to check the alcohol content on the wine. 14.9, quite robust I'd say.. :D *Hic!*
Tony Abrahams
11 Posted 19/01/2020 at 21:21:04
Simon@7, I think it’s got to be to free up wages, and we are going to release another young player, (Foulds I think) and are also trying to get rid of Niasse, before hopefully getting in one or two of better quality, even if they just come in on loan?
Tony Everan
12 Posted 19/01/2020 at 21:49:28
The game was crying out for Bernard's creativity to win the day. No-one else on the pitch had the talent that Bernard possesses. David Silva, who has (sort of) similar DNA, produces the goods consistently, why can't our Bernie? He should be linking it all up and unlocking these bore-fests. Has he got a niggling injury?

Also, he is such a gifted and important player, especially with Gomes injured, I would like to see Bernard fit to play a full 90 mins. I don't know why he fades and looks fatigued after 70 mins. If he was butcher's dog fit he would be a major asset for the latter part of matches when defences are tiring. I want more from the little feller, he can give more, Carlo needs to work on him.

Simon Harrison
13 Posted 19/01/2020 at 21:49:52
Hi Brian @3,

Regards trying to get a 'Hollywood', or World Class Manager. Here is a 7-minute video regards Moshiri trying to get Carletto. In case anyone still thinks that Brands wanted Carletto, before Moshiri said he wanted him, have a watch.

Bill Watson
14 Posted 19/01/2020 at 22:05:03
At least Ancelotti seemed as agitated as the rest of us by the painfully slow pass the parcel, especially in the first 15-20 minutes.

It must be as obvious to him, too, that the real problem lies in the lack of options in midfield. Hopefully, this will be, at least, partially remedied by the end of the transfer window.

I hope for a few changes v Newcastle, not least Baines for the way-off-the-pace Digne...

Shaun Laycock
15 Posted 19/01/2020 at 22:19:38
We need to chill out. Bernard is able to manage the ball well... one of our only ones who can. We are a better team for it. Davis and Delph are always looking to make a positive forward pass but the movement isn't there yet. It will come.

Important players were injured, so I see a draw as positive. A little more clinical and it would have been 3 points. Have patience, people, and stop slagging them off. No business in January, assess the squad and invest in the close season.

Jack Convery
16 Posted 19/01/2020 at 00:17:12
Go and get Traore from Wolves for the right winger position – a real handful and doesn't give the left backs he comes up against a minutes piece – ask Digne and Roberston. I would also love to see us go after Grealish – he's exactly the player we need in midfield. he's like Gerrard in that he can carry a team on his back week after week. With better players he would be even better.

Theo and Siggy can leave and these two would be massive upgrades on them. The other thing is they rarely have bad games, somethibg Theo and Siggy too often do. I know there's no chance in January but come the summer I would have a real go at recruiting them both.

As for yesterday, it was good we got a point as, before Carlo arrived, that would have been a defeat. We need a couple of loans to come in to give us some fresh legs as some players are finding it harder to complete 90 minutes.

It's difficult to understand why Man City and Leicester City appear knackered in January (us too), whilst others appear unaffected by the heavy workload of the past 6 weeks. Sometimes it makes you wonder.

Mike Gaynes
17 Posted 20/01/2020 at 01:01:24
Just "go and get Traore from Wolves", Jack? Yep, no problem. Wolves will be happy to sell off the most improved player in the league, whom they have contracted through 2023 at a bargain salary, and of course Traore will be eager to drop five places down the table (and out of Europe) to a slower club with dimmer prospects. You betcha.

Grealish, on the other hand, will certainly be up for sale if Villa get relegated, but we will have to compete with Man Utd's deeper pockets.

We need to find guys like Traore, Maddison and Grealish while they're still in the Championship and relatively unknown, not after they've already proven themselves in the Premier League. Young guys like Bowen of Hull City, Eliason at Bristol, Watkins at Brentford, players of quality whose clubs won't be promoted to the Premier League but will want to move up themselves. Those hungry young players who can genuinely impact our club at a reasonable price. Finding them was one thing Moyes was pretty good at.

The Traore ship has sailed.

Paul Jones
18 Posted 20/01/2020 at 04:14:17
Apart from Richarlison, I do not believe since we signed Gareth Barry there is any no other premier league club that might match the fee or wages we have paid for players. Even Richarlison was there any competition to sign him?

We have paid a lot of money for players who had no great market value. You really need to question the advice that has been taken.

Jimmy Hogan
19 Posted 20/01/2020 at 08:10:24
Consistency is our big problem, both as a team and as individuals. Bernard is a good example of this. He has not yet this season put in two good performances back to back.
Bobby Mallon
20 Posted 20/01/2020 at 12:11:24
Shaun Laycock: well said. Forget buying in January (unless we can get a top player at a bargain price and wages). Otherwise, let's start using our big squad and one or two of the Under-23s.

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