Everton Club Focus – Slow starting Toffees punished by slick Arsenal

Everton continued their mediocre form over recent weeks with a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal at Goodison Park. Although the score line could have been different had Royston Drenthe’s first-half effort not been ruled out by an incorrect offside decision and the Toffees rallied in the second-half, the dominance of Arsenal in the opening 30 minutes was such at David Moyes could have no real complaints at the outcome.

Indeed, Drenthe’s goal that never was aside, Everton were distinctly average in attack. Not a new problem, perhaps, but one compounded by the lax defending that saw Arsenal players with time and space on the edge of the Everton penalty area with alarming regularity in the early going. The high-tempo and pressing all over the field that led to victories against Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur went missing.

Instead Arsenal were allowed to stroll through midfield and pass the ball at will while Everton’s defence was bamboozled by Robin van Persie’s tendency to drop into midfield and the sudden appearance of Theo Walcott or Aaron Ramsey in his place. While Arsenal were in good form for that first half an hour, Everton were complicit in their own downfall.

The spring-loaded arm of the assistant referee may take much of the brunt of Evertonian anger but avoiding asking questions of why Everton have gone from nine games unbeaten to two defeats and a draw in their last three outings would only be skirting the real issue. The games have no doubt come thick and fast – Everton played four times in the 11 days between March 10 and March 21 – and injuries have begun to pile up, leaving Moyes with scant effective options to call on from the substitutes’ bench

The purpose of switching six players between playing Tottenham and playing Liverpool was to avoid fatigue, yet Everton have looked exhausted in the opening stages of their last three matches, only picking themselves up once the opposition has already taken the lead. By that point, considering Everton’s perpetual problem with finding the back of the net, the game is almost lost.

Five times this season Everton have come back from a goal down to win a match, twice in the League Cup, one of which needed extra-time, once in the FA Cup, and twice in the Premier League. But the Toffees have fallen behind and been unable to overturn the deficit far more often, on 14 occasions. Going a goal down is devastating to Everton’s hopes of winning a match but the slow starts that have plagued their recent performances have virtually ensured just that.

It is almost as if the perennial problem of starting a season slowly only to recover in the New Year when the danger of a relegation battle is most pressing has crept into Everton’s performances in individual matches. Moyes has been unable to improve how Everton begin a campaign but solving the more immediate problem of the way his side start games is now equally important.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Swansea v Everton

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