Everton Club Focus – Moyes with problems to solve at both ends of the pitch

Everton crashed to a 1-0 defeat by Stoke City on Sunday, but even more alarming than the result was the Toffees’ acquiescence. David Moyes’ side offered almost no recourse to a Potters outfit who came to Goodison Park with a game plan and executed it to flawless perfection.

Stoke’s brand of football may not be to everyone’s liking but each player’s understanding of their role and the duties involved is nevertheless impressive. Unfortunately for Everton, Stoke are a well-oiled machine at their best, and upon taking a goal’s advantage, that machine simply clicks into a different gear. The two banks of four restrict the space through the middle and force the play wide, and the towering back line deals with the resultant crosses. Perhaps most damning for Everton, however, is that Stoke’s midfield had no need to nullify Everton’s creativity, for there was none forthcoming to begin with.

It has been said before but bears repeating: today’s Everton are extremely workmanlike. The vision of Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar are long gone. In their place are well-meaning players capable of producing moments of magic, but only on a far less common basis than those departed. Against opposition such as Stoke, particularly after falling a goal down, the onus is on Everton to increase the tempo and unpick the massed defence in front of them.

On Sunday, and not for the first time, Everton were unable to do so. Sunday was the sixth occasion Everton have failed to find the net, and have netted only 15 goals in 13 Premier League games. Goals are particularly hard to come by at home, where Everton have found the net seven times is as many matches.

The numbers do not actually appear so terrible on the surface. Put into the context of events at the other end of the pitch, however, and another picture emerges. The Toffees cannot keep a clean sheet. Only twice in the league have they done so this season – and one of those, against Blackburn Rovers, saw the opposition miss two penalties.

With Everton struggling to score a porous defence only exacerbates the problem – one goal often proves challenging enough to find, never mind two. So it was against Stoke, when after falling behind early on Everton never looked like drawing level. That has mostly been the case against sides from the upper echelon. But against a well-drilled but still mid table Stoke side Everton were as frustrated as when playing Manchester United, a game that followed a similar pattern but in which Everton actually looked more like scoring.

Quite where David Moyes finds the solution remains to be seen. The return from injury of Royston Drenthe should help, but the Dutch winger is more a speed merchant and a playmaker, and in any case is consistently inconsistent. The best resolution would be a January dip into the transfer market, but as ever that is not an option really available to Moyes. The manager who once turned up the bargain signings of Arteta and Pienaar is going to have to do it again.

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