Everton turn in another inept performance at home in Swans loss
Goodison Park remains hospitable for anyone but its regular inhabitants. As Swansea recorded a 2-1 win and their first-ever league win against Everton at the 22nd attempt, Goodison reached 46 goals for the season, the most of any top-flight stadium.
The Blues shipped two or more goals for the seventh time in 12 home league games this term. Of those 46 Goodison goals, 22 have found the back of the Everton net. This is a team with the leakiest home defence in the division and one of the worst home records, winning three games and claiming 13 points from a possible 36 on their own ground.
Nerves are fraying and the atmosphere is closing in on the toxicity prominent throughout last season. Fans are making players nervous and vice versa, often due to an unpredictable defence or a spate of aimless passing too close to their own goal. Both parties are stuck in an endless cycle that is doing little to ease tension within the stadium.
No ground has seen as many inept home performances or inexcusable defensive errors as Goodison Park this season. The build-up to the first Swansea goal was the stuff of nightmares and made amateur football seem like a high-class spectacle.
The overall picture paints an image as bleak as the one constructed on home turf. Since overturning a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 at West Brom in September, three wins in 16 league games is the sum total for Everton, who have won once in the past 10 games.
Swansea, a club in supposed crisis, recently sacked their manager and began the week in the relegation zone. That they now sit only four points behind their beaten hosts shows the extent to which this Everton squad and their increasingly under-pressure manager are underachieving.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Tim Howard, 5 -- Caught napping for the Swansea opener, conceding his fifth penalty since August 2013 in the process -- three more than any other Premier League goalkeeper in that time. A terrible lack of awareness and snail-like reactions led to the ill-advised trip on Andre Ayew. His relationship with supporters continues to deteriorate.
DF Bryan Oviedo, 6 -- Out of position and out of his comfort zone, the Costa Rican is paying the price for Everton's right-back shortage, but stuck to his task and demonstrated his usual industry and determination in defence.
DF John Stones, 5 -- His fondness for delaying passes finally resulted in the punishment it has flirted with all season, yielding the penalty. Aside from one defence-splitting pass to Seamus Coleman, the young defender over-complicated things in possession and has to bridge the gap between reckless adventure and basic defending.
DF Ramiro Funes Mori, 7 -- Displayed the maturity, composure and assured decision-making lacking in his central defensive partner. His aerial prowess is one of the few constants amid a defence riddled with issues.
DF Leighton Baines, 7 -- The Everton left-back remains one of the few the club can rely on regardless of the scoreline or match situation. Baines was tireless in his efforts to salvage this latest home defeat.
MF Muhamed Besic, NR -- His injury was a cruel blow for a team so much weaker in his absence. The team noticeably lacked tempo and aggression once Besic departed injured with 10 minutes on the clock.
MF Gareth Barry, 8 -- Created two chances, made the most tackles on either team (five) and his telling flick led to the Everton goal. The stand-in captain continues to lead by example and his consistently excellent form deserves better than the surrounding ineptness.
MF Gerard Deulofeu, 6 -- Fashioned a game-high six chances and delivered a succession of teasing crosses that his teammates failed to seize, but the young winger is too peripheral and his lack of stamina is alarming.
MF Ross Barkley, 5 -- Form has dipped in recent weeks and an early turn worth the admission fee was the high point of a disappointing and largely anonymous performance. Needing to impose himself on the game, Barkley seemed to shy away from the task.
MF Kevin Mirallas, 6 -- Some pleasing early signs and the Belgian looked eager to impress before injury ended his afternoon early.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 5 -- Attacking burden is beginning to weigh heavily on a player who is an ever-present in the league this season. Superb goal-scoring form has dropped to one goal in the past five matches. Over-reliance on the Belgian is one of several issues needing attention.
MF Tom Cleverley, 5 -- On for the injured Besic, Cleverley struggled in front of the back four and lacked the positional discipline and awareness required alongside an overworked Barry.
MF Steven Pienaar, 7 -- Injury may have dulled his physical attributes, but the mind is as sharp as ever and the South African linked well with Baines amid a flurry of neat touches and deft flicks.
DF Seamus Coleman, 6 -- His introduction created a better balance on the right, but two clear-cut chances spurned in the closing stages spoiled his afternoon, with a glaring miss in the last minute especially poor.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.