Thursday, December 2, 2010

15 Games In: A Defensive Look

Ok so now that I am done throwing things and burning my picture of Fat Sepp in effigy, I decided I may as well talk a little about the Everton defense so far this season, followed by a look at what is ahead for the Blues

Everton's defense has been fairly stout giving up 19 goals in 15 matches which is good for being tied for 8th fewest goals allowed in the league which is not particularly bad, and have had 4 clean sheets which for them is about average. Although the stats show an average defense, most observers of Everton in action will agree that the defense has looked fairly shaky this season. In goal TIMMAY! Howard has looked uncharacteristically shaky allowing an opening day goal to Blackburn where he just flat out dropped the ball after grabbing it, and an excellent Flappyhandski-esque wave at a cross against Spurs which led to an easy tap in. Although Howard hasn't lost it to the point where newly arrived backup Jan Mucha should be mentioned as a possible replacement, Howard is certainly not playing at the level most Evertonians are accustomed to seeing him at, which certainly does not help a shaky backline.

As for the backline, Leighton Baines has been in great form offensively and his defensive performances have been solid if unspectacular. On the opposite side Phil Neville has been his usual stalwart self with a particularly amazing performance against good ole Gareth Bale that caused even 'Arry to comment on Neville's excellent defensive abilities. In the center Phil Jagielka continues to do well although he and partner Sylvain Distin have had some communication issues. Distin as always continues to be an enigma. While he rivals Peter Crouch in foot skills, Distin has definitely had a small dip in form from last year, but at this point still remains a better option than John Heitinga who still appears to be suffering some type of lapse after his long World Cup campaign culminated in a sending off by none other than Howard Webb in the final.

The biggest problem for Everton on the defensive side really seems to be the midfield. In most games where Everton concede goals, for example against Manchester United or West Brom, the midfield fails to truly tack back and help out on defense. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that both Jack Rodwell and Marouane Fellaini, both of whom have done excellent jobs in a defensive midfielder role, are just returning from injury and suspension. Recently David Moyes has tried to deploy Heitinga in the defensive midfield role, but it is an experiment that has seemed ill suited for the team right now. One bright spot from the midfield on the defensive side is Steven Pienaar who continues to motor around on the field both offensively and defensively although lately he has been doing a much better job with the latter.

In the end, the Everton defense does need a small amount of work, but there is not a huge amount of concern for it, especially compared to the offense.

Now looking at the upcoming fixtures in December, Everton first visit Stamford Bridge this weekend before hosting Wigan, and then travelling to Manchester Arabia, followed by a Boxing Day visit from Birmingham, and finally a visit to Upton Park against relegation contenders West Hame. Looking at the impending visit to Chelsea, the champions are currently sitting in second, but a drop in form has rendered this a chance for Everton to snag a potential point, although it is likely that Chelsea secure the victory. Following this Everton should snag 3 points from both Wigan and West Ham, and have to be favored to win against Birmingham after their convincing victory against them at St. Andrews, the only loss Birmingham have suffered at home this season. The one game that could certainly change the fortunes of Everton for the better comes a week before Christmas in Manchester against the Citizens. If Everton can take 3 points from this game, it could certainly lead to another stellar run of form that Everton usually have come the end of the year. Last year at this time a 2-2 tie against Spurs after being down 2-0 at halftime led to an unprecedented run of form leading to them only 2 times after the beginning of the December.

Regardless of what happens this should be an exciting month for Evertonians. Until next time COYB


  1. I think the big reason it looks so shaky is that it's been so darn good for so long. Personally, I'd like to be shot of Distin, and getting Rodwell into a holding/screen role more permanently would certainly help. The defense is at it's best when it has the screen, like two years ago when Phil was in front of the back four breaking up play very well.

  2. Leighton Baines = one of my fantasy starters all season. Him scoring + Chelsea loss = early Christmas.