Deconstructing Everton: What’s gone wrong and stopping the rot

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This time last year Everton was undefeated with three wins to their name, quite a stunning difference to this season’s single victory that’s left them 14th in the table and one point from the drop.

Such a slide in form is typically attributed to the sale of key players or the acquisition of a new manager but for the Toffees, it’s quite the opposite. This summer business at Goodison Park was booming as the club tied up key players to long term deals (Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Ross Barkley), extended the contract of manager Robero Martinez and even convinced Romelu Lukaku to ditch uppity West London for the row-houses of Walton.

To say hopes were high for Bluenoses heading into the 2014-15 Premier League season would be an understatement: A strong, healthy core of players with an optimal mix of youth and experience. A young, likeable manager with creative, attacking ideas. A club with a distant, albeit foreseeable opportunity to achieve Champions League play through either a Top 4 finish or Europa League title.

Yet somehow, things have crumbled quickly for the Toffees. Below we explore four reasons for the early season woes and look at some potential solutions to stop the rot.

Howard’s Freshness

Tim Howard’s horror show against Crystal Palace last Sunday came at stark contrast to his performance just three days prior when he stood on his head making 12 saves in the 4-1 win over Wolfsburg. Bad matches will come and go but some believe Howard has lost his edge, as evidenced by the concession of a league-high 13 goals in five matches.

In fairness, however, the lion’s share of those goals have been the fault of slack defending among the back four rather than misjudgments by Howard. “I think the goals we conceded are quite soft and we got some basic errors and we lack a bit of intensity defensively,” Roberto Martinez said following the 3-2 loss to Palace. “On others we have been quite unfortunate – own goals, deflections – and you get periods like that.”

Nevertheless, one issue that’s cause for concern is Howard’s desire to play every match, even those like Tuesday night’s League Cup match to Swansea City where Martinez put out a b-squad and the Toffees were beaten 3-0. No question Howard is Everton’s surefire starter. But at 35-years-old additional recovery time can be a blessing meaning rotation with backup Joel Robles, certainly for non-league matches, feels like an obvious decision Martinez needs to make.

Back Four Shake-Up

Nine goals. That’s the difference in goals conceded between this time last year (4) and this season (13). And while all three goals from last week’s loss to Palace fall directly on the shoulders of Howard, the remaining 10 goals are almost entirely the fault of a disjointed back four.

The leader, Phil Jagielka, has been anything but that. In a matter of months he’s gone from a drill sergeant to vocally meek. With Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman eager to fly up the pitch the control factor rests with Jagielka, who needs to ensure the defense remains balanced. If that means keeping Baines or Coleman back, or hassling Gareth Barry or James McCarthy into a cover role, so be it.

Physically, Jagielka looks off-the-mark as well. Known as one of the best center-backs in the league at last-ditch tackles, the 32-year-old seems to have lost a good deal of his lateral sprite. The team has kept quiet on any injury but whatever is plaguing him needs to be addressed, and quickly.

As for his center-back partner, Sylvain Distin, age seems to finally be catching up with the 36-year-old. Despite having notable pace Distin has been caught flat-footed on a number of occasions while his nervy touch continues to let him down. Non-league matches and the occasional Premier League match will do Sylvain well but the time has come for John Stones to be handed the reigns alongside Jagielka. At 20-years-old Stones’ youth is a cause of concern but his positioning, intelligence and slick touch on the ball prove him wise beyond his years. At 6’2″ Stones has good height and seems to have grown a decent amount since last season. Continued work in the weight room could soon see him morph into a monster but even as is, Stones should be the starting partner alongside Jagielka.

At full-back an off season last year has seen Baines return stronger and more determined while Coleman continues to impress. As noted before, all-out attacks from both sides must be chosen wisely but it’s hard to knock this pair.

European Dedication

Roberto Martinez has made clear his aspirations for European glory:

“Last year we had to work so hard for 38 games to achieve that, it would be nonsense to say we don’t want to be giving it everything we’ve got. As long as people understand that making changes to the line-up doesn’t mean you don’t care about a competition. We really want to go all the way in the Europa League.”

With a Champions League spot on the line, it’s hard to argue with that kind of logic. Surely, Everton should try their best to win the Europa League. But that kind of dedication comes at a cost, as seen this past week when they thumped Wolfsburg 4-1 before succumbing to Crystal Palace 3-2.

Those kind of lopsided performances have to be overcome and Martinez could have benefitted from some fresher legs against Palace if substitutions against Wolfsburg had been made earlier. Notably, after going up 3-0 to Wolfsburg after 47 minutes, Martienz waited until the final eight minutes of the match to make two of his three substitutions. Lineup rotation can be difficult in such a small club but smarter substitutions will be key to preserving fresh legs moving forward.

Loss of the Boss

When Ross Barkley went down in August with MCL ligament damage, so too did the hearts of Evertonians. Barkley was a revelation last year with his bombing runs, stunning strikes and playmaking ability, he was the attacking midfield cog that set Lukaku free.

Without Barkley, there is no true playmaker in the Everton midfield. McCarthy can create from the deep-lying role and Kevin Mirallas can break opposition off the dribble but both lack the consistency and transitional devastation that Barkley provides. In the 20-year-old’s place Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith have deputized well but the former is more dangerous on the wing (and has yet to come into his own) while the latter has had a fantastic season but lacks the back-tracking and well-rounded ability of Barkley.

Along with Lukaku and Mirallas, Barkley is absolutely crucial to the success of the Everton attack. His return, currently slated for mid-October, will be a massive lift for the Toffees.

FA Cup fourth round live! Scores, how to watch live, predictions

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The FA Cup always delivers shocks and plenty of Premier League clubs had tricky tasks facing them in the fourth round. One still has one, in fact.

After Aston Villa, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest, and Bournemouth were all knocked out by lower league opponents in round three, plus Everton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and Brentford knocked out by fellow Premier League sides, there were only 10 top-flight teams left in the competition.

[ LIVE: Follow FA Cup scores, updates ]

Arsenal lost narrowly at Manchester City in a heavyweight clash, while Brighton won late on against Liverpool, and Manchester United beat Reading easily. West Ham will be on upset alert as they face a tough trip to third-tier Derby County.

And then there’s Wrexham AFC, who nearly sprung a big upset of Sheffield United but will have to settle for a replay.

Read on for FA Cup stream info, fixtures, and predictions.


FA Cup live scores, schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Fourth round (January 27-30)
Times: Below
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: ESPN+


FA Cup fourth round schedule

All games 10am ET unless otherwise stated

Monday
Derby County vs West Ham – 2:45pm ET

Results

Friday
Man City 1-0 Arsenal – Recap/video highlights

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 0-1 Leicester City
Fulham 1-1 Sunderland
Bristol City 3-0 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Birmingham City
Luton Town 2-2 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 0-0 Burnley
Southampton 2-1 Blackpool
Preston North End 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 3-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-1 Liverpool
Stoke City 3-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 3-3 Sheffield United


FA Cup fourth round predictions – By Joe Prince-Wright

Friday
Man City 2-1 Arsenal

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 1-2 Leicester City
Fulham 1-2 Sunderland
Bristol City 1-2 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City
Luton Town 3-1 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 1-3 Burnley
Southampton 2-0 Blackpool
Preston North End 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 2-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-2 Liverpool
Stoke City 2-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 1-2 Sheffield United

Monday
Derby County 1-1 West Ham


FA Cup third round replays

Tuesday 

Swansea City 1-2 (AET) Bristol City
Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Birmingham City (original tie postponed due to waterlogged pitch)
Wigan 1-2 Luton
Wolves 0-1 Liverpool
West Brom 4-0 Chesterfield

Wednesday

Leeds United 5-2 Cardiff City

Tuesday, January 24

Accrington Stanley vs Boreham Wood


FA Cup third round results

Friday

Manchester United 3-1 Everton

Saturday

Preston North End 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Reading 2-0 Watford
Tottenham 1-0 Portsmouth
Gillingham 0-1 Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers vs Birmingham City — PPD
Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton
Hull City 0-2 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-5 Brighton
Fleetwood Town 2-1 QPR
Ipswich Town 4-1 Rotherham
Bournemouth 2-4 Burnley
Blackpool 4-1 Nottingham Forest
Chesterfield 3-3 West Brom
Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United
Boreham Wood 1-1 Accrington Stanley
Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Sunderland
Brentford 0-1 West Ham
Coventry City 3-4 Wrexham
Luton Town 1-1 Wigan
Grimsby Town 1-0 Burton Albion
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle
Liverpool 2-2 Wolves

Sunday

Bristol City 1-1 Swansea City
Derby County 3-0 Barnsley
Cardiff City 2-2 Leeds
Stockport 1-2 Walsall
Hartlepool 0-3 Stoke City
Norwich 0-1 Blackpool
Aston Villa 1-2 Stevenage
Man City 4-0 Chelsea

Monday

Oxford United 0-3 Arsenal


Anthony Gordon sold to Newcastle by Everton for $49.5 million

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NEWCASTLE, England (AP) Newcastle signed Anthony Gordon from Everton reportedly for an initial 40 million pounds ($49.5 million) on Sunday after the 21-year-old winger submitted a formal transfer request.

Newcastle said Gordon has signed a long-term deal as the team bolsters its squad for its tilt at qualifying for the Champions League. It is currently in third place in the Premier League.

“I think the fan base and the city really suits me as a person, the way the team are playing under the (manager Eddie Howe) at the minute really suits me, and the club just look like they’re heading in the right direction,” Gordon said.

[ MORE: Complete list of Premier League transfers ]

“I feel like it’s a really big step. People haven’t seen what I’m capable of yet.”

Gordon joined Everton’s academy at the age of 11 and made his senior debut as a 16-year-old in a Europa League match in December 2017.

Everton announced the departure of Gordon in a brief statement.

Howe described Gordon as a “top, top talent.”

“I’m really excited to work with him, to develop him, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in a Newcastle shirt,” Howe added.

Premier League transfer news, live! Complete list of January transfers so far

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The January transfer window is again seeing big-name imports into the Premier League, and the final hours of the window are seeing a flurry of deals take place.

Chelsea’s signed Benoit Badiashile and Andrey Santos, Newcastle’s formally welcomed Garang Kuol, and Liverpool’s reinforced its forward ranks with Cody Gakpo joining the Anfield set.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United | Arsenal ]

There’s plenty of discussion about Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur making additions to deepen their squads’ top-four pushes, but nothing complete yet for either big name side.

The same is true for title-fighters Arsenal and Manchester City, though their top-end footing is a lot more stable.


Latest transfer deals developing – January 29

Weston McKennie to Leeds United is a developing deal as the American midfielder is set to join on loan until the end of the season, with Leeds having an option to buy him for $36 million.

Arsenal are pushing hard to sign Moises Caicedo, with the Ecuadorian midfielder not playing for Brighton in the FA Cup against Liverpool amid a reported new $86 million bid from the Gunners. Anthony Gordon has signed for Newcastle from Everton for a fee believed to be around $60 million.


AFC Bournemouth

In
Dango Ouattara (Lorient)
Darren Randolph (West Ham)
Antoine Semenyo (Bristol City)

Out
Ferdinand Okoh (Dorchester) Loan
James Hill (Hearts) Loan
Will Dennis (Slough) Loan
Noa Boutin (Gosport) Loan


Arsenal

In
Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
Jakub Kiwior (Spezia Calcio)

Out
Brooke Norton-Cuffy (Coventry) Loan
Miguel Azeez (Wigan) Loan
Arthur Okonkwo (Sturm Graz) Loan
Ovie Ejeheri (SJK Seinajoki) Loan
Harry Clarke (Ipswich Town)


Aston Villa

In
Aaron Ramsey (loan recall)
Tyreik Wright (loan recall)
Alex Moreno (Real Betis)
Jhon Duran (Chicago Fire)

Out
Cameron Archer (Middlesbrough) Loan
Tyreik Wright (Plymouth Argyle)
Frederic Guilbert (RC Strasbourg)
Indiana Vassilev (St. Louis City SC)
Danny Ings (West Ham)
Jan Bednarek (loan recall)
Morgan Sanson (Strasbourg) Loan


Brentford

In
Byron Wilson (Coventry)
Conor McManus (Bray Wanderers)
Fin Stevens (loan recall)
Mads Bech (loan recall)
Beaux Booth (Dorking)
Kevin Schade (Freiburg) Loan
Paris Maghoma (loan recall)
Romeo Beckham (Inter Miami) Loan
Nathan Young-Coombes (loan recall)

Out
Myles Peart-Harris (Forest Green Rovers) Loan extension
Aaron Pressley (Accrington) Loan
Lachlan Brook (Crewe) Loan extension
Edon Pruti (Hartlepool)
Mads Bech (Groningen) Loan
Ellery Balcombe (Bristol Rovers) Loan
Tariqe Fosu (Rotherham) Loan
Paris Maghoma (MK Dons) Loan
Charlie Goode (Blackpool) Loan


Brighton & Hove Albion

In
Facundo Buonanotte (Rosario Central)
Jamie Mullins (Bohemians)
Mark O’Mahony (Cork)

Out
Aaron Connolly (Hull) Loan
Reda Khadra (Birmingham)
Ed Turns (Leyton Orient) Loan
James Beadle (Crewe Alexandra) Loan
Leandro Trossard (Arsenal)


Chelsea

In
David Datro Fofana (Molde)
Benoit Badiashile (Monaco)
Andrey Santos (Vasco da Gama)
Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid) Loan
Mykhailo Mudryk (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Noni Madueke (PSV Eindhoven)
Malo Gusto (Lyon)

Out
Bashir Humphreys (Paderborn) Loan
Malo Gusto (Lyon) Loan

Chelsea transfer news
Benoit Badiashile (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Crystal Palace

Out
Killian Phillips (Shrewsbury) Loan
Jack Butland (Man Utd) Loan
John-Kymani Gordon (Carlise) Loan
Malcolm Ebiowei (Hull) Loan
Ryan Bartley (Eastbourne Borough) Loan
David Boateng (Dover) Loan


Everton

In
Ellis Simms (loan recall)
Nathan Broadhead (loan recall)
Niels Nkounkou (loan recall)

Out
Salomon Rondon (released)
Nathan Broadhead (Ipswich)
Tom Cannon (Preston) Loan
Niels Nkounkou (Saint-Etienne) Loan
Sebastian Quirk (Accrington Stanley)
Tyler Onyango (Forest Green) Loan
Anthony Gordon (Newcastle)


Fulham

In
Anthony Knockaert (loan recall)

Out
Idris Odutayo (Maidenhead) Loan extension
Anthony Knockaert (Huddersfield) Loan
Ibane Bowat (Den Bosch) Loan


Leeds United

In
Max Wober (RB Salzburg)
Georginio Rutter (Hoffenheim)

Out
Mateusz Klich (MLS pending)
Alfie McCalmont (Carlisle) Loan
Leo Hjelde (Rotherham) Loan
Max Dean (MK Dons)
Cody Drameh (Luton) Loan
Joe Gelhardt (Sunderland) Loan


Leicester City

In
George Hirst (loan recall)
Victor Kristiansen (Copenhagen)
Tete (Lyon)

Out
George Hirst (Ipswich) Loan
Ben Nelson (Doncaster) Loan
Jakub Stolarczyk (Hartlepool) Loan


Liverpool

In
Cody Gakpo (PSV)
Billy Koumetio (Austria Vienna) Loan recall
Max Woltman (loan recall)
Jakub Ojrzynski (loan recall)
James Balagizi (loan recall)
Fidel O’Rourke (loan recall)
Rhys Williams (loan recall)

Out
Jake Cain (Swindon Town)
Jarell Quansah (Bristol Rovers) Loan

Liverpool transfer news
Cody Gakpo photo vis twitter.com/LFC

Manchester City

In
Liam Delap (loan recall)
Maximo Perrone (Velez Sarsfield)

Out
Josh Wilson-Esbrand (Coventry) Loan
Liam Delap (Preston) Loan
Kayky (Bahia) Loan


Manchester United

In
Jack Butland (Crystal Palace) Loan
Wout Weghorst (Burnley) Loan

Out
Martin Dubravka (loan recall)
Shola Shoretire Loan (Bolton Wanderers)
Charlie Savage (Forest Green) Loan


Newcastle United

In
Amadou Diallo (free) 
Garang Kuol (Central Coast Mariners)
Martin Dubravka (loan recall)
Anthony Gordon (Everton)

Out
Garang Kuol (Hearts) Loan
Chris Wood (Nott’m Forest) Loan
Dylan Stephenson (Hamilton) Loan


Nottingham Forest

In
Gustavo Scarpa (Palmeiras)
Danilo (Palmeiras)
Alex Mighten (loan recall)
Chris Wood (Newcastle United) Loan

Out
Loic Bade (loan recall)
Dale Taylor (Burton Albion) Loan
Aaron Donnelly (Port Vale) Loan


Southampton

In
Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb)
Carlos Alcaraz (Racing Club)
Jan Bednarek (loan recall)
James Bree (Luton)

Out
Dynel Simeu (Morecambe) Loan
Dan Nlundulu (Bolton) Loan
Nico Lawrence (Torquay) Loan


Tottenham

In
Arnaut Danjuma (Villarreal) Loan


West Ham United

In
Luizao (Sao Paulo)
Armstrong Okoflex (loan recall)
Danny Ings (Aston Villa)

Out
Thierry Nevers (Bradford) Loan
Craig Dawson (Wolves)
Pierre Ekwah (Sunderland)
Darren Randolph (AFC Bournemouth)
Will Greenidge (Colchester) Loan


Wolverhampton Wanderers

In
Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid) Loan
Joe Young (loan recall)
Louie Moulden (loan recall)
Theo Corbeanu (loan recall)
Christian Marques (loan recall)
Lewis Richards (loan recall)
Mario Lemina (Nice)
Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain)
Craig Dawson (West Ham)
Dan Bentley (Bristol City)
Ki-Jana Hoever (loan recall)

Out
Leo Bonatini (released)
Joe Young (Telford) Loan
Goncalo Guedes (Benfica) Loan
Theo Corbeanu (Arminia Bielefeld) Loan
Leonardo Campana (Inter Miami)
Connor Ronan (Colorado Rapids)
Fabio Silva (PSV) Loan
Matija Sarkic (Stoke) Loan
Ki-Jana Hoever (Stoke) Loan
Jackson Smith (Walsall) Loan

Premier League transfers
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Matheus Cunha  (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Transfer Deadline Day, live! Join our show, send questions, analysis

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Transfer deadline day is almost here for January 2023, as the winter window shuts at 6pm ET on Jan. 31 for Premier League clubs.

[ LIVE: Every Premier League transfer deal as it happens ]

The clock is ticking late in the window and we will have all angles covered for you here at Pro Soccer Talk.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United | Arsenal ]

From clicking on the links above to read the latest reports and analysis, having Sky Sports News live on Peacock all day long and to our own Pro Soccer Talk live deadline day show which starts at 5:30pm ET on Jan. 31, you won’t miss a thing.

WATCH: Sky Sports News live on Transfer deadline day on Peacock

Click on the video below to send in your questions for the PST crew for our deadline day chat where we will round up all of the deals happening late in the window, dish out grades to Premier League teams based on their business and give our analysis on the best signings of the January window.