Everton analysis – Adam Jones dissects the key highlights from the defeat to Manchester City including the performance of Jordan Pickford
Everton fans will have been left a little uncertain about their side’s performance after this 3-1 defeat to Man City.
In fact, there was a certain duality to the display which is tough to try and dissect.
On the one hand, a lot of aspects were much more promising than they were in the defeat to Fulham at the weekend. Although, let’s be brutally honest, that wasn’t hard.
The pressing was better all over the pitch, there was generally a lot more organisation in the side as well.
The formation and personnel chosen from the start seemed to suit Everton much more and, despite City dominating a lot of the ball and pressing as much as possible, the defence stood fairly firm for a lot of the game.
On an individual basis even there were a fair few players who put in decent performances against a side who are on their way to another Premier League title at a canter.
Richarlison led the line well, Lucas Digne filled in an unfamiliar position with ease, the back four put in a lot of effort, Tom Davies was composed and cool in midfield for much of the game once more.
But, on the other hand, there is still the tinge of disappointment.
No Everton side wants to see their side lose, and being dominated on their own pitch in this manner is still something that won’t sit right.
Of course, this City side is the caveat for many. At this rate, they’re going to stroll to another Premier League title with consummate ease and the way they play is so difficult to set up against.
They strangle their opponents of possession, while slowly and relentlessly working their way up the pitch.
It is menacing in a way to see just how meticulous and accurate they are with nearly every single pass, and sometimes when a side plays that well against you there is little you can do.
But, there wasn’t a lot of ambition from Everton to do anything differently, aside from the move that saw them score their goal on the evening.
The game plan for the Blues was to sit back, soak up pressure and try to hit City with quality whenever they were given the opportunity.
Where that had worked against Chelsea and Arsenal, however, it didn’t here.
The improvements that Everton showed just weren’t enough to be able to get a result here, while in general the performance was far from being one of their worst of the season.
In terms of a result, a defeat against the side running away at the top of the league isn’t a disastrous one in isolation.
But, that’s where the Fulham game earlier in the week becomes even more important.
With a win under their belts on that occasion, a defeat here wouldn’t have seemed as disappointing as it does.
However, after a loss, some are left to focus on the fact that Everton didn’t offer too much going forward here and were eventually worn down by a very good side.
There are two ways to look at this performance from the Blues. Whether you think it was a bad display or not, however, it’s still another loss at home.
If fans were in the stadium, could things have been different? It’s hardly worth thinking about at this point.
Jordan Pickford returns
It was so close to being just a solid return to action for Jordan Pickford on Wednesday evening.
For most of the match City had dominated proceedings of course, but their real clear cut chances weren’t forthcoming for large portions.
Whenever they were managing to test the Blues goalkeeper, he was standing up well to the challenge despite being on the sidelines for a few games.
In fact, it had seemed that his time out of the side had done him a few favours especially in terms of coming out to command his area.
He was taking charge of crosses into the box, punching them away or making a few decent catches under pressure.
Then, when City were taking some pot-shots from the outside of the box, he was standing up to them relatively well.
In fact, in the second half, he pulled off a fantastic stop to deny Bernardo Silva when the score was level at 1-1 in what he would have hoped would be an important moment in the game.
There was, in fact, little the England No. 1 could do about either of the first two goals that the visitors scored for different reasons.
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A wild deflection off Seamus Coleman took Phil Foden’s opener beyond him, while two goalkeepers probably would have struggled to keep out an incredible Riyad Mahrez strike which cannoned off the post and in.
However, unfortunately, the thing that will stick in the mind is the third goal.
Of course, Silva shouldn’t have been allowed the time and space to shoot in the first place, that much must be said.
Perhaps that’s where Ancelotti’s substitutions came back to bite him in a way. In going for another equaliser, he left a gaping space open in midfield which Gylfi Sigurdsson didn’t do enough to cover on this occasion.
But, when the shot did come in, Pickford will have been disappointed to have got a good hand on the effort only for it to find its way into the back of the net anyway.
In all honesty, the game was probably already gone at that point regardless, as Everton didn’t really look like creating a meaningful opportunity of their own.
With a real competition for places in goal now, however, Pickford really could have done with just a solid and fairly quiet performance.
This was his first match since the 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at Goodison last month with Robin Olsen stepping up in his absence and producing some good displays of his own.
Rather than just being back-up, the Sweden international is a genuine and credible threat to Pickford’s starting position in between the sticks.
Without that mistake, the England No.1 probably would have started at Anfield without question at the weekend.
One mistake shouldn’t define Pickford’s display, because overall it was a pretty solid one from the 26-year-old.
But it does just leave that burning question in the back of the mind.
How important does this Merseyside derby now seem for Everton?
Everton travel to a ground they haven’t won at since 1999 off the back of two defeats, and face a side who now have a bit of confidence behind them after a Champions League win in midweek.
The task will not be easy. In many ways, it might be just as tough as the game against Man City on Wednesday evening.
Liverpool when they’re on form can be just as lethal as the runaway league leaders and it could be a tough task for the defenders once more this weekend.
However, a similar performance won’t be accepted by Everton fans next time out.
At Anfield, the Blues will have to attack as much as possible, they will have to try and pen Liverpool back and take advantage of their defensive flaws.
Their home record recently has been poor, while Ancelotti’s side have been much stronger on the road this term.
The opportunity is there, but the desire has to be there for everyone involved as well.
Everton find themselves in seventh place in the Premier League table even after a difficult pair of results, five points behind Chelsea in fourth but with a game in hand on the Londoners.
In fact, the Blues have the opportunity to move level on points with their nearest rivals if they were able to finally break their Anfield hoodoo. They’d still have a game in hand on Jurgen Klopp’s side as well.
All that should serve as ample motivation to secure a result which could really turn around recent fortunes.
Ancelotti rested Allan for that match. He’ll have Dominic Calvert-Lewin fit again. Unfortunately, Yerry Mina will be a big loss for the side after limping out of this City match early.
But it’s clear the manager knows the importance of the game ahead for his side.
Do the Everton players feel the same? We’ll find out on Saturday evening.