I know that friendly matches are supposed to be for exploration and trying new things, but you can also see how relationships are forming on the pitch and if mentally they are even on the same page.
Friendly matches are also infamous for ridiculous numbers of substitutions, it’s an attempt to manage stringent pre-season training regiments with a bit of game time. So, without further ado — I’ll share what I saw from the Everton vs. Blackburn Rovers match.
First off — I am aware that the expectations are supposed to be lessened for preseason matches, because they are 1) preseason and 2) aren’t supposed to count.
1) They are in the preseason yes, but we’re only 2 weeks away from the start of the Premier League, this isn’t a first week in June friendly.
2) They literally don’t count, no statistics are reported. Really, these games are supposed to be an opportunity to show your (new) boss what you can bring to the side.
However, all this goes out the window when your team gets shut out by a team that’s 6 years removed from the Championship and just outplayed in most every area of the pitch. The 3 – 0 scoreline for Rovers, might not be a completely fair representation of Everton, but they were exceptionally poor in the first half. I’m not going to tell you Everton is done for the season or anything — but I am going to go through the scenarios that led to the goals and then provide my take aways at the end of it all.
Blackburn Rovers is a Championship (Tier 2) side that was last relegated from the Premier League in the 2011-2012 season (though in 2012-2013 — they were actually relegated to the Tier 3, although they’ve since recovered).
How the goals came about
Goal 1 (Blackburn 1-Everton 0) 10′: The Rovers players outnumber the Toffees players in the back by a fair number. This really is a mistake that should be made at the recreation or youth leagues, you can’t just not cover people in your penalty area. Take nothing away from the goal scorer, Lenihan, it was undoubtedly a brilliant strike, wonderful control off his head, great placement just past the keeper (and let’s be honest — there’s a bit of luck here). But this goal scoring opportunity never should have happened.
Goal 2 (Blackburn 2-Everton 0) 40′: This opportunity starts from a nice cross-field pass from Nyambe at midfield onto the foot of the Elliot at the byline. The play begins after the ball has been passed on to Dack and when he finally brings the ball back for Samuel, there are seven Everton players (not counting the keeper) between any Blackburn Rover and the goal. Again, it’s a great ball flicked out to about the penalty spot and even better work to finish the shot off the bounce. This shouldn’t have happened either, the “back seven” looked totally out of sorts and just generally confused.
Goal 3 (Blackburn 3-Everton 0) 68′: The third goal is given away by a poor defensive clearance by the Leighton Baynes. A few quick passes, and there’s very little that Everton can do to stop this one. It’s a 50-50 ball with Jagielka and Dack just shoulders him off the ball and blasts is to the keepers far side.
Now that we’ve relived those awful moments…
Let’s just start with the obvious: Do I think Everton played well? No, but (yes — there’s always a but) the game was far closer than the score indicates. There were a number of reasonable chances for the visitors that just didn’t fall their way, while the home side managed to get every bounce. This isn’t really a true first team for Everton with a number of players either on World Cup rest or resting/being rotated. Marco Silva has added a number of pieces in the recent past and has only become manager himself not ago but with that in mind…
Keeper: I don’t have too much to say here, Jordan Pickford will be the starter when the season gets under way, and frankly, performances like this one from Stekelenburg outline exactly why he’s the backup. He was pretty all over the place and really didn’t organize his defense at all. He also probably should have done better for Everton in at least the first goal, I’m not convinced he had much chance to alter the others.
Defense: This might be my biggest concern coming out of the game, this unit seemed like it was fairly close to the starters (at least in the second half with Baines, Keane, Coleman and Jagielka). Jagielka gets completely out-muscled for the third goal and even the “homer” commentators can’t help but note “he really should do better” especially if he’s going to play with the captains armband at the heart of defense. There also seemed to be little to no organization in the back, royal blue jerseys were all over the field, but I’m not convinced they could have stopped much of anything (reference first goal). The second half was dramatically improved for Everton, my pick of the defense for the game probably goes to Coleman/Keane/Baines, they were all very solid. I hope that Silva can sort out the organization problems before the start of the season, or they might get a thumping from Wolves.
Midfield: Not overly impressed with the starting midfielders. I think that Sigurdsson did alright, he got a good look at goal but wasn’t able to finish it. He showed a good work rate along with Sandro. Schneiderlin looked alright in this game, but consistency still seems to be a problem. I think if he can give performances like he gave today he could be in for some more time, as long as he can keep it up.
Forwards: I mean this in the nicest way possible, but are we sure that Mirallas and Niasse actually arrived at the game? In all seriousness Everton really struggled to get the ball forward with any sort of service that they could have done much with. When Richarlison came on for his Everton (preseason) debut, things seemed to get much more lively, he worked hard for his manager and wanted to show his team he was willing to give everything for them. He’s definitely my pick for the attackers, with two reasonable chances and some clever play.
Concerns going forward:
I want to see how Marco Silva handles this rather humbling defeat. I’m positive that the side and the fans will not be pleased with how outplayed they were. With that in mind, my biggest concern, by far, is the defensive organization — sometimes I felt like I was watching youth outfielders that are more interested in the bug or the grass than professional athletes. I know that the starters have played together, but we need to see more.