These are the teams that Everton should be beating. That’s the thought that’s probably going through the minds of most Evertonians this morning. If, as many of us believe, the team has a chance of breaching the top-five for the first time in quite a few seasons, then it’s clubs of the calibre of Fulham that we need to be taking points off.
Over the last few weeks, Everton have played the two clubs that finished directly beneath them last season. In both fixtures, we have had periods of dominance, periods when we should have killed the game off. That we haven’t been able to do this suggests that Everton currently lack the killer instinct that the big clubs tend to possess.
Worryingly, in both games we’ve also started poorly. This seems to be part of an ongoing trend that has seen the Toffees go one-behind in the last six games we’ve played. Although some might take comfort from the bizarre nature of Fulham’s opening goal yesterday, a free-kick that ricocheted off Tim Howard into the net, it still meant that the Merseysiders once again made the chances of victory that bit more difficult.
It’s a testament to David Moyes that at least his teams are able to respond to these difficult beginnings. I’m old enough to remember times when this certainly wasn’t the case. It has long been a characteristic of Everton sides, particular in the bad-old days of the nineties that going a goal down would effectively mean the end of the game for us.
That we haven’t been able to do this suggests that Everton currently lack the killer instinct that the big clubs tend to possess
But in the Moyes-era it seems that Everton are more robust. Under Moyes, going a goal down (or even two, as last week’s derby illustrated) need not necessarily spell disaster. And this proved to be the case yesterday.
Whatever Moyes told his team at half-time, it certainly did the trick. During the first half, Everton had been dominant without being threatening. We had huffed-and-puffed without any sign of the creativity that delivers goals. This changed after the break.
That the equaliser should have come courtesy of Marouane Fellaini should probably come as little surprise. The Belgian is on inspired form at the moment, so much so that it’s often difficult to believe that this is the same player that has been turning out for Everton during the past few seasons.
Although ‘the divine afro’ has always been impressive, at the moment he is arguably world class; directing the tempo of the midfield, terrifying opposition defences and, vitally for Everton, scoring goals.
That the equaliser should have come courtesy of Marouane Fellaini should probably come as little surprise
Along with Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas, the Toffees now have the kind of creativity that was so evidently lacking for much of last season. When these players hit form together, as they have done in successive games this season, then we’ve become uncontainable.
And this was the case yesterday. During the second half, we were as good as their lofty league position would suggest. Chance upon chance reigned down upon the Fulham goal and it’s arguable that Everton should have put themselves several goals ahead and well out-of-reach of a fairly underwhelming Fulham side.
As it was, we were only able to get another goal, courtesy once again of Fellaini. And this time, it was pretty much a solo effort as the mighty Belgian latched onto a Jagielka long-ball, muscled his way past the Fulham defence and fired low and hard past Mark Schwarzer.
Although further chances followed, including another fine effort from Fellaini that hit the post, Everton failed to extend their lead. And it was this failure that ultimately cost the club two points.
Along with Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas, the Toffees now have the kind of creativity that was so evidently lacking for much of last season
At certain times this season, such as the final minutes against Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle United, Everton have shown a certain weakness. Despite dominating those same teams, we have sat back and given them opportunities to get something from the game.
And we did it again yesterday. Fulham’s 90th minute equalizer was underserved and a sloppy goal to give away. We didn’t deserve to draw this game but a failure to concentrate until the final whistle meant that we did.
This has got to change in the future. As too has the side’s profligacy in front of goal. There is little point creating chance-after-chance if the team is not going to make something from them.
One worrying element in this trend has been the disappointing form of Nikica Jelavic. The free-scoring forward who transformed our form during the final months of last season, seems to have gone missing. Hopefully, this will be temporary and the ‘Jellyman’ that we all know and love will return soon. But until he does, it means that players such as Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Pienaar are going to have to recalibrate their shooting boots.
Despite dominating those same teams, we have sat back and given them opportunities to get something from the game
Despite the many disappointments of yesterdays result, Evertonians shouldn’t be too disheartened. Yes, it’s another two points dropped and yes, it’s another game that we probably should have won. But cast your minds back to this fixture last season. Although we won that game, it was a close run thing. What’s more, our form before the game, during it and after was not a patch on the way that we are playing at the moment.
When Everton last played Fulham at Craven Cottage, the two teams seemed equals. Yesterday they were poles apart. While some of this might represent deterioration in the Cottagers quality, much of the disparity is due to the Toffees massive improvement.
We might lack the killer instinct and the ability to play a full 90, but Everton are a much better side than they were twelve months ago. And that dream of a top-five finish is still very much alive.
More stories on the blue half of Merseyside
Click here for more stories on Football and Sport
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook