WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
Everton and Wigan Athletic played out a goalless draw at Goodison Park, a result that benefits the visitors more than the hosts as Everton continue to search for a first Premier League win since October.
The Everton XI was unchanged from the one that drew with Chelsea a week prior, which meant no place in the starting line-up for the Stamford Bridge goal hero Jermaine Beckford. The personnel might have been the same but, for the first half, the performance was not. Against the champions Everton rose to the occasion and matched their more illustrious opponents for most of the game, playing with urgency and attacking threat for much of the second half. Faced with a physical and aggressive Wigan side, Everton too often were bogged down in a midfield stalemate and had no outlet with the static Louis Saha leading the line.
Saha – even last season as he netted 15 goals – is not a particularly mobile striker, preferring to receive the ball to feet, turn, and play in a teammate or unleash a snap shot. The Frenchman is also adept at dropping into midfield and getting involved in the build-up play, but when the centre of the park is as congested as it was on Saturday, with both sides using three central midfielders, the added presence of Saha only constricts matters further. When space is at such a premium Saha’s penchant for dropping deep becomes a hindrance, not a help, even more so when the player is struggling for form and his touch remains uncertain. Saha’s best moment came when doing the opposite of his regular contribution – he raced on to a Pienaar through ball in the second half but shot straight at Ali al-Habsi. Beckford replaced Saha on the hour mark but his inability to stay onside robbed him of any real effect.
It is not only Saha who is failing to impress for Everton at the moment. Young full-back Seamus Coleman retains his ability to trouble defenders vastly more experienced than him, but too often the Irishman undoes his own good work by holding on to the ball for too long – including cutting inside, into traffic, on his left foot – as his teammates are waiting in the penalty area. Steven Pienaar might be Everton’s brightest goal hope outside of Tim Cahill but the South African is also guilty of indecision at times, passing when he should shoot from the edge of the box – when the midfielder did shoot on goal, he stung the hands of al-Habsi. There is a temptation to say Everton’s current malaise is down as much to bad luck as bad performances – Cahill was inches away from scoring with a header – but a team must make their own luck with the right decisions at crucial times and Everton do not sit so close to the relegation zone because of misfortune. All round improvement is needed for the Toffees to improve on their precarious position before they reach crisis point.
18 Neville – 6 Jagielka – 15 Distin – 3 Baines
23 Coleman – 25 Fellaini – 26 Rodwell – 20 Pienaar
60 – 16 Beckford on for 8 Saha
66 – 28 Anichebe on for 20 Pienaar