Anyone who did not see Everton’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City – and had only casually glanced at many of the preceding matches – might struggle to understand quite why there is so much frustration in the stands of Goodison Park at the moment.
After all, Everton are still fifth in the table, on the tail of the teams in the Champions League places and a vast improvement on this time last year, right? Not quite. While the reaction to the draw with the Canaries was in part due to the completely understandable disappointment of conceding such a late goal, there is more to the Toffees’ story than that. And the notion that Everton are much better off in 2012 than they were in 2011 does not quite stand up to scrutiny, either.
Having played a game less, as of November 26 2011 Everton were only five points down on their current tally. They sat eighth, with 16 points from 12 games, compared to today’s fifth place, with 21 points from 13 games. Goal difference is better today than 12 months ago, +6 to -1, but it still is not the massive difference popular belief would have you think. While it is true that Everton’s immediate start to the season was better than usual, either it has by now worn off or the recovery was already under way last November, whereas now it at least feels as if the team are on a slide.
That perception may not be entirely fair but it is still the feeling of an increasing number of supporters. There can be no denying that results of late have not been particularly good. Everton have won once since the end of September. But on the other hand only once have Everton been beaten, which in fact goes a long way towards explaining why fans are frustrated. Everton are doing well. They could be doing so much better.
The Norwich performance was a case in point. After a slow start, perhaps explained by the amount of players appearing in unfamiliar positions due to a lengthy injury list, Everton found their feet after taking the lead through a well-worked Steven Naismith goal. For the 15 minutes or so that followed Everton played some of their most stylish football of the season so far, a statement made more than once already this term, which goes to show just how impressive Everton have been.
But the second goal never came, and Norwich survived until half-time. After the break, the Canaries caught a second wind and by the final whistle, were well worth a point. Everton had spurned a few more chances by then but increasingly lost control of midfield, letting the game become stretched and putting pressure on a defence that never coped with the burly Grant Holt. John Heitinga in particular struggled against Holt, although that was as much because the Dutchman’s defending was particularly sloppy all afternoon.
For Norwich, read Reading, Fulham, Newcastle, Liverpool – the litany of missed opportunities is long and growing, and, unfair or not, the discontent is rising in equal measure.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton