Everton have been praised to the hilt for their eye-catching football this season.
The likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku have been outstanding and arguably look as dangerous as any attack in the top-flight.
The facts speak for themselves, as only Premier League leaders Leicester City and Manchester City have scored more goals than Roberto Martinez’s team this season.
However like every Martinez team of the past, they seem to leak goals at an alarming rate. Everton’s defence looks more suspect than a drag queen with a beard at the moment.
Everton’s generous all-year round
Christmas is a time for giving, but Everton have generously been giving their opponents gifts all season long. The Toffees recent defensive form has been even more concerning, as the Toffees have conceded eight goals in their last four matches.
The current period of Premier League games had the potential to define the Blues campaign. Unfortunately it has defined the Toffees as a team that are sparkling going forward, but atrocious at the back.
It is not just the current team’s fault. It is rather more an Achilles heel that Martinez as a boss has throughout his career as a manager. His teams play easy on the eye football, but defensive solidarity is sacrificed to be able to produce the Spaniard’s favoured style of play.
The crazy thing is the former-Wigan boss has not learnt from his mistakes. A number of Everton’s goals this season have come from defensive errors, which may not be his fault, but a lack of organisation is his fault.
The lack of organisation in the Toffees current backline is criminal. A number of the goals that Everton have conceded in recent games have come from set-pieces. Those are the sort of errors that should be cut-out on the training ground.
Certainly bosses have made managerial careers out of creating well-organised team, if limited teams. Martinez does it the other way round. If the Spaniard cannot produce a team with an organised defence he needs to hire a defensive coach, because nobody is perfect.
Everton will not progress without defensive solidarity
The current Everton team has so much potential. The likes of John Stones, Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu are reportedly highly-coveted by other clubs. They all seem like highly-ambitious young players.
Everton fans have the same ambition. They want their club to be challenging for those top four spots, but their defence is letting them down time and time again. The highly-rated youngsters are unlikely to stick around if the team are not progressing and this team are not at the moment.
Defensive chaos has cost Everton dearly this season. The Toffees have kept just four clean sheets this season and have conceded 24 goals in the top-flight, which is the joint-highest of any of the teams currently occupying a top ten position in the league.
Martinez’s side have also drawn the joint-most games in the Premier League, many of which the Toffees should have won. If they had won just three of those drawn games the Toffees would be level on points with fourth place Tottenham.
A vital return
Everton captain and England international Phil Jagielka is due to return from a knee injury and if reports are to be believed could return on Boxing Day at Newcastle. His return to fitness could be the key to Everton finding solidarity again.
His replacement Ramiro Funes Mori has done a decent job, but he lacks the same leadership and influence on the Toffees backline. Jagielka formed a very solid partnership in the second half of last season with the highly-rated John Stones.
Jagielka has been sorely missed, as a player and as a character. When on form he is a very dependable performer and has a calming influence on that Everton defence.
Due to the open nature of the Premier League this season the Toffees are still in with a chance of a top four finish and are odds of 25/1 to clinch a Champions League spot.
Unfortunately I have a feeling that Martinez will continue to bury his head in the sand about his team’s defence and Everton will carry being gold that never gets the chance to shine.
Are Everton’s defensive problems costing them a chance of a top-four finish?