Everton: The Spirit Of Profilgacy Has Departed Anfield And Made Itself Home At Goodison
Last season Liverpool suffered the ignominy of being one of the most profligate teams in the top-flight. Despite his many detractors (both inside and outside of the club) it’s possible that with the addition of a polished goal-scorer, Kenny Dalglish could well have steered the club to a higher league position and still be in charge of Liverpool today (instead of his wet-lipped, bullsh*t-spouting, tactically-anal successor).
Time and time again, Dalglish’s Liverpool had the better of the opposition, created chance after chance and should have walked away with all three points. Instead, they conspired to waste golden opportunities, direct the ball towards the woodwork with alarming regularity and generally provide a masterclass in how to pi*s-away a game.
And this was all good fun for Evertonians. Watching the frustration evident amongst red-sh**es as they tried to comprehend why all their craft and guile was resulting in humiliating defeats was a joyous experience.
Sadly though, it’s not so fun much when it’s Everton attempting to claim the title of the Premiership’s most wasteful side. This season, the spirit of profligacy has departed Anfield, travelled across Stanley Park and made itself thoroughly at home at Goodison.
Match after match, Everton have had significant spells where they should have put the game well beyond the opposition. In the last few weeks alone, we have battered Fulham, Sunderland and Reading, and yet only taken four points from a possible nine.
In yesterday’s game at the Madejski, it seemed that only one team had turned up during the first half. Everton dominated proceedings, making the most of a Reading side that were calamitous at the back.
And an early goal courtesy of Naismith suggested that perhaps, for once, Everton were going to capitalise on their dominance. But this wasn’t to be the case and this season’s familiar theme of wastefulness continued to characterise the team. Chances came and went, with Jelavic, Pienaar, and Osman, all guilty of failing to make the most of the opportunities presented to them.
It was a wastefulness that ultimately cost the team dearly. Reading emerged transformed after the break, taking the game to Everton with an urgency that was entirely absent from their play in the first-half. Two goals from Le Fondre (along with several near misses from Reading’s sprightly forward), gave the home-side all three points and Everton a valuable lesson in the importance of being clinical when it matters.
For those Evertonians seeking some scraps of comfort from yesterday’s defeat, there are two factors which could justifiably be employed to sooth our sense of disappointment; namely injuries and Atkinson.
I always feel faintly embarrassed when bemoaning the absence of players such as Darron Gibson or Phil Neville from Everton’s line up. I’m fairly sure that supporters of bigger sides see my valuing of these players as proof of how poor Everton’s squad really is. But regardless of their quality compared to bigger-names, their absence is still felt.
Gibson in particular has been sorely missed. He might not score loads of goals or dazzle the opposition with his technical brilliance but he does provide the team with stability. Since he limped off the pitch against West Brom, Everton have lacked a strong defensive presence in the heart of midfield. It’s made the team more vulnerable to opposition attacks and is arguably one of the principle factors behind our inability to keep a clean sheet.
As difficult as it is to play with the loss of several key players, it might have been bearable yesterday had the opposition not also had the addition of a twelfth man; Martin Atkinson.
That referees make mistakes is one of the few immutable truths in the game. But despite the sense of injustice that some fans feel after matches, it’s likely that over the course of the average season the vast majority of teams break even when it comes to unjust decisions going for them/against them.
And so, there is something faintly depressing about a supporter whining about the disallowing of a legal goal or the dismissal of a clear penalty appeal, when it’s probable that their own team have benefitted from similarly poor refereeing decisions in recent weeks.
But an exception could justifiably be allowed for the growing loathing that Evertonains feel towards Martin Atkinson, a man who it seems is hell-bent on becoming a hate-figure amongst the Goodison faithful.
This is the referee who inexplicably sent off Jack Rodwell in last season’s Goodison derby, thereby ruining the game and all-but handing Liverpool three points. This is also the referee who blew full time during an Everton attack in our 3-3 draw against Manchester United in 2010.
In yesterday’s game he ignored two clear penalty appeals for Everton; waving away a Sean Morrison handball and Kaspars Gorkss foul on Naismith. Referees are only human and their mistakes part of the game but Atkinson’s growing litany of errors directed towards Everton is verging on the suspicious.
But regardless of injuries and poor refereeing, the main problem yesterday remains profligacy in front of goal. Everton had plenty of chances to kill the game off and ultimately failed to take them. The frustration of the fans was shared by David Moyes who said:
“I'm angry with my team because we should have scored and it's down to us to do it. We didn't punish them, we left the door slightly ajar for them to come in and they did.”
Somehow Everton have become Dalglish’s Liverpool, squandering chances and needlessly dropping points against inferior opponents. The worrying aspect of this for Evertonians is that unlike Liverpool we don’t have an endless supply of money to remedy this problem.
No matter how frustrating things got for Liverpool last season, the club’s fans always knew, come the next transfer window, money would be available to buy a forward. We don’t have that luxury. For the remainder of the season, the squad that we have at the moment is probably as good as it gets. Regardless of their evident quality and their ability to dominate the opposition, if this doesn’t produce goals and victories then, as Liverpudlians can testify, it’s going to make for an exasperating season.