Everton played well.
This weekend always looking like a “swing weekend” with Arsenal and Manchester City both playing away at grounds they have both struggled at in recent years. And as it turned out both teams lost 1-nil.
We predicted on Saturday morning that it was going to be a tough trip to Everton and that is eaxactly how it transpired.
Sean Dyche was always going to make his Everton side hard to break down. As predicted he packed the midfield and went with a very solid 451.
Everton worked their socks off defensively. Their players showed an intensity and attitude that has not been seen all season. We became victims of the “new manager bounce”.
Dyche’s team pressed superbly.
Alex Iwobi and Dwight McNeil put in a fantastic defensive shift, which saw Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli doubled up on every time they received the ball.
One weakness of the way Mikel Arteta sets us up is that the full backs do not really get around the wingers. This means we can then not take advantage of the space created when the wingers are double marked.
We certainly miss Gabriel Jesus’s movement when teams defend so tightly. He drifts left and right and finds that space. It just is not Eddie Nketiah’s game.
Everytime the ball went inside, Everton smothered us.
Abdoulaye Doucour, Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana ensured that Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard saw very little of the ball. Again doubling up on our creators.
Dominc Calvert Lewin also dropped deep, helping out his midfield whenever Thomas Partey received the ball.
Where ever we looked, Everton were doubled up on us. Our passing was not quite sharp enough, not quick enough. And we were just enable to take advantage of the free man.
As predicted on the morning of the game, Dyche put out a side that had a lot of players 6ft+. Set pieces were always going to be a threat and that is how they scored.
We never really got fully going and had one too many looking off the pace. But we can not take anything away from Everton.
Dyche set them up brilliantly and their players played to his plan for 90 minutes. I imagine that is how Everton will play for the rest of the season. Hard to beat and grind out wins.
There will be some frustration around. There always will be everytime we do not win a game. Some have gone OTT. Toys thrown out the pram. The same people that have spent much of these season silent, not posting, then only pop their heads from under a rock when they have negativity to share.
They will probably be trying to find a way to blame the transfer of Jorginho. Moan about our transfer deals in January. Mykhailo Mudryk or Moises Caicedo would not have made a difference on Saturday.
These people are best left ignored.
We are still top of the league. I still do not expect us to win it. Manchester City are still favourites.
I had always said that I will not consider us as having a proper chance until we are above Manchester City following the game on 15 February.
City’s defeat means that 3 points against Brentford guarantees is still being ahead of City after we face them.
Dust ourselves down and we go again against Brentford.
I expect them to set up simialr to Everton. Hard to break down and look for set pieces. Almost every team we play between now and the end of the season will play like that.
As we saw in the match day blog, stick with the team! We go again.