Romelu Lukaku ineffective, James McCarthy wretched for Everton
The Drifters performed at half-time at Goodison Park and it was the only worthwhile entertainment for Everton fans in Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. Lined up in a neat four-man formation, the American soul group had all the style and organisation their hosts did not.
On the pitch, Arsenal showed their class when necessary but spent long periods in first gear. Everton simply let them. You would never have guessed the visitors toiled against Barcelona in midweek. They were quicker, sharper and stronger in every department without really having to do much.
Defeat leaves Everton close to three unwanted club records. Three successive home league defeats and six home league defeats in the last eight has the Blues on course for fewest home points, least home wins and most home defeats in any league season in their entire history. With three games still to play, this is already the worst Goodison season since a miraculous final day escape from relegation in 1993-94.
Pre-match talk centred on how much Everton would miss the suspended Gareth Barry. As Arsenal freely strolled around the final two thirds of the pitch, the answer soon became clear. There was a Barry-sized hole in the middle of the park and manager Roberto Martinez had no answer for it.
This match did little to silence the manager's critics. John Stones' half-time introduction and subsequent switch to a back three created more problems than it solved. With the exception of the three central defenders, the remainder of the formation and player roles remained a mystery. It was a disjointed and lifeless mess.
Martinez wishes to instil an idealistic passing approach but has always lacked for players willing to shoulder responsibility, even more so when matches turn in favour of the opposition. Too few players showed enough initiative or willingness to alter the flow of the match. So much of the second half saw Everton's central defenders aimlessly passing the ball close to their own penalty area. Passing options ahead of the ball rarely surfaced and players did not look interested, certainly not enough to seek possession or get their team moving forward. The longer the match went on, the brighter Barry's influence shone in his absence.
FA Cup success against Chelsea was the exception and this is the norm. More worryingly, this was the first time players appeared to throw their collective towel in the ring. There is a leadership vacuum and no fight at the heart of this current setup.
Talk is cheap and Martinez's Everton specialise in it. There are more speeches about progress than actual progress. This is simply not good enough. Martinez and Everton is a once promising partnership that looks to have run its course.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Joel Robles, 6 -- Everton's goalkeeper was blameless for the two goals but unusually wayward with his distribution.
DF Seamus Coleman, 6 -- On a day when several teammates offered nothing, the Everton right-back delivered more than most. Still some way short of his best on the ball, though.
DF Phil Jagielka, 5 -- Struggled to cope with the pace of the visitors' attack in an open first half, especially when isolated against Danny Welbeck. Slight improvement thereafter but it was game over by then.
DF Ramiro Funes Mori, 4 -- Non-existent positioning saw him caught out for both Arsenal goals. It seemed, at times, as though the Everton centre-back was playing anywhere but central defence.
DF Leighton Baines, 6 -- Never shied away from the task but often found himself outnumbered at both ends of the pitch, particularly once the team switched to a three-man defence.
MF James McCarthy, 3 -- Wretched afternoon, comfortably his worst in a blue shirt. Pressing game missed its usual vigour, and he was utterly hopeless with the ball. Midfielder looked devoid of confidence as he regularly passed backwards, offloaded possession quickly or hid away entirely.
MF Muhamed Besic, 4 -- Recent injuries and minutes played could not excuse this lethargic display. Miles behind the pace of the game and careless in possession, Besic looked to be running through mud before departing at half time.
MF Aaron Lennon, 6 -- Well shackled by an organised and determined Arsenal defence, Lennon at least displayed his customary work rate. If only others matched him.
MF Ross Barkley, 5 -- Suffered as those around him failed to provide a platform for his attacking talents. Ironically, eventual substitution curtailed his best spell of the match.
MF Tom Cleverley, 5 -- Industrious in his attempts to cover the left flank and help an overrun central midfield. However, usual composure and accuracy in possession deserted him and he faded late on.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 5 -- Isolated and starved of service, this was a forgettable afternoon. The moment he had to chase his own flick-on underlined minimal support from teammates.
John Stones, 5 -- Composed on the ball but very weak in the air.
Gerard Deulofeu, NR -- Could not get into the game.