Everton were beaten in the Premier League for the first time under Ronald Koeman after positive, lively and organised Bournemouth beat them 1-0. The Blues’ bubble of optimism was burst with sobering reality as old habits resurfaced and recent improvement dissolved. Junior Stanislas’ devastating 25-yarder separated the sides, but beyond the scoreline, Everton were comprehensively outplayed.
Stanislas scores at a rate of one every seven and a half games and has just five for Bournemouth not against Everton. Yet here, he grabbed his third in as many starts against the Toffees, and it was a cracker. With Idrissa Gueye out of the centre, Harry Arter craftily slid Stanislas the ball. 25 yards out, free to the left of Gareth Barry, he had a sight of goal with no Everton player prepared to press. A swift draw of the right boot and a rasping drive into the top corner later, the Blues were done for. Stanislas, no one’s bogeyman, became Everton’s scourge once again.
The strike was inconsistent with the scrappy football that preceded and followed it, but it was the least both teams deserved after their respective first-half showings. Bournemouth were so dominant it became a repetitive source of stupefaction they were not already ahead by the time Stanislas struck. Callum Wilson headed just wide a minute in, Seamus Coleman deflected Jack Wilshere’s shot onto the bar, the outstanding Arter also clipped a post. There were plenty more close calls.
As for Everton, scarce chances were handled with such disillusioning fecklessness that abandoning attacking was almost preferable late on. Ross Barkley’s whipped cross presented Romelu Lukaku with the sort of headed chance most lampposts would accidentally score only for the Belgian to aim right next to Artur Boruc. Weak header, sharp reactions – take your pick. Later, Barkley himself rose to meet Coleman’s cross only to finish with the composure of a new-born foal. And, genuinely, that was about it. From top to bottom, Everton were awful.
The Blues’ defence was disorganised throughout the first-half, but there is a sense the game was lost in attacking midfield where Everton were totally ineffective. Barkley, Kevin Mirallas (left) and Yannick Bolasie (right) were really poor. Had they put in these sort of shifts as schoolboys, their parents may have been tempted to switch off the radio on the way home and ask if everything was alright. They struggled to complete passes, to notice opponents, to kick properly!
With Bolasie and Mirallas constantly veering inside, Everton lacked width to stretch Bournemouth. Barkley suffered the most. As standard, he was constantly crowded. Low on confidence with eyes pointed ever more fixedly down, he was unable to cope. The last thing he needs is teammates occupying the same space dragging in opponents. Width is essential for Barkley, and for Koeman’s approach: the manager must put this dereliction of duty right.
After impressing and scoring against Middlesbrough, Coleman’s levels dropped again. He was erratic and irresponsible defensively, he repeatedly turned back with space in behind, he… …. he kept running out of play. I’m honestly convinced I have sore eyes from rolling them so hard after a truly bewildering, low cross late on. Coleman’s occasional brilliance must be underpinned with consistency: his off days have no place in a top half side.
Everton have allowed just three shots on target in the last three matches, but they’ve conceded four goals in that time. The first was a foul, the second a fluke, the third and fourth absolute screamers but the Blues were not unlucky. Middlesbrough were on top, Norwich were dangerous on the break, Bournemouth were totally dominant. Everton were at fault for all four of the goals, often in several different areas. Koeman’s players need to get to the ball quicker, block far more crosses and disrupt a lot more shooting opportunities. Defensive solidity is not there yet despite vast improvement.
Koeman himself must take a share of the blame having thrust five peripheral players into the side against Norwich after five straight wins. Whether he was resting players or developing the squad, Everton have now lost their rhythm and momentum. But often knowledge arises through error, progress can be a consequence of failure. That quite frankly is the crutch to cling to after such a shambolic outing as this one.
By Chris Smith
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