In our match preview yesterday I predicted a 3-1 win for Everton, and despite being wrong by 2 goals I still feel we deserved to win by my predicted margin. I spoke yesterday about Phil Jagielka being the only absentee from what would be a very strong Everton line-up, this however was ripped up when the team sheets came in with Sylvain Distin missing with a Hamstring issue. John Stones came into the team to deputise leaving a premier league debutant and a player playing only his second game for the team as the preferred pairing.
In Defence of the Defence
All in all the back 4 did ok, in particular John Stones impressed against the aerial threat of Peter Crouch. The Stoke goal, coming just after the break was initially marshalled well by the defence with Stones heading away the cross, however the midfield left Assaidi unmarked on the edge of the area. All that was left was for the man on loan from Liverpool to catch Tim Howard wrong footed and blast the ball in at the near post.
All this came after Everton had dominated much of the first half, particularly towards half time, and started the second half in much the same way.
The Only Stat That Counts is Goals
On another day we could and perhaps should have scored 3 or 4 against Stoke. Mirallas hit the woodwork twice, Barkley hit an instinctive shot just over that bar and Lukaku inexplicably put a near post (unmarked almost) header wide. The only stat that counts in football though is goals, and the fact is that we are not being clinical enough in front of goal. Lukaku looked jaded throughout, as he has done for some weeks now but least the FA Cup should give him some rest. Barkley who himself also looked out of sorts, indeed with the rest of the midfield, seemed to be trying to force passes rather than the effortless play we have been used to in the first half of the season.
I can only imagine that the previous few performances are a direct result of the fixture pile up around Christmas in the country. Four games in nine days cannot be the perfect formula for free-flowing attacking football, unless you have the squad depth of well, just Man City really.
That being said Stoke are a hard team to play at the Britannia Stadium, they have lost only to Man City this season at home, and a draw cannot be considered a complete disaster.
We now have the FA Cup in two days, and QPR will provide a stern test at such an early stage of the competition but I expect Martinez to fully rotate the squad. Expect to see Robles, Hibbert, Ovideo, Osman, Naismith and Jelavic come in to give some much-needed rest to some first team players. Hopefully the nine days rest between now and the Norwich game at Goodison will see the likes of Mirallas, Barkley and Lukaku back to their best form.
Come on You Blues!