Patience key with teething problems evident at Goodison

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olssen and Marouane Fellaini battle Everton v West BromPA PhotosManchester United target Marouane Fellaini was unable to help Everton to victory against West Brom.

Prior to kick-off, those in attendance marked the passing of Everton legend Dave Hickson with a period of applause. One wonders what Roberto Martinez would give for someone of his ilk in the current squad. The Cannonball Kid inspired those around him, and there was a lack of that on Saturday.

When the match lulled, with Everton monopolising the ball and West Brom content to sit back, there was nobody driving the team on, nobody to encourage the players. Shorn of the crucial midfield presence of Darron Gibson for the second successive match, Everton struggled to turn dominance into clear-cut openings.

It is imperative that Gibson overcomes his injuries and features regularly this season; Everton suffer without him. Shielding the defence, with his positional discipline a key aspect, the midfielder also excels in another area.

Boasting an accomplished passing range and willing to retrieve possession from the defence, he is the man who kick-starts attacks. Central midfield lacked direction in his absence. Leon Osman has regressed into the Osman of old -- only the pre-match announcement highlighted his presence on the pitch, such was his anonymity.

Alongside the ghost-like Osman was the languid figure of Marouane Fellaini. Hot and cold throughout, mixing good and bad in equal measure, Fellaini created havoc on a rare foray forward. Unfortunately, his effort rebounded off the post to safety.

Leighton Baines attempted to inspire in the second half. Chastising several players, the left-back wanted more from his team-mates. Nevertheless, already weighed down by the creative burden on his shoulders, this is a thankless task from the full-back position.

As good as Baines is, he cannot do everything. Although that is not for a lack of trying, he again showed why 12 million pounds is a chronic undervaluing of him and his worth to the team.

Since West Brom only threatened sporadically, thereby ensuring a comfortable afternoon for the home rearguard, it was at the other end that problems arose. The Blues hampered themselves due to a slow tempo and a passing game lacking the invention that was shown on the opening day.

Indifferent displays are likely in the early stages as the players adjust to this patient, possession-based approach, and this was certainly one of those. Frustratingly, on the infrequent occasions that Everton moved the ball at pace, the chances materialised.

Dictating the play is commendable, yet Everton must be wary of overkill, which is what this descended into at times. Once or twice, the passing clicked and sliced the visiting defence wide open. Over time, Martinez must strive for the balance between passing with a purpose and merely retaining the ball with absent attacking intent.

Admittedly, and enduring a rare off-day, the error-strewn display of Kevin Mirallas did little to help the Everton cause. If the Belgian had been a farmyard animal, the farmer would have reached for the shotgun and put him out of his misery; it was one of those days for Mirallas.

Elsewhere, featuring as a second half substitute, Arouna Kone hinted at his talents. The direct running of Kone gave Everton a greater threat in attack. Gerard Deulofeu is yet to feature, and given the insipid displays of those on the pitch, this felt like the perfect time to gamble on him -- but Martinez thought otherwise.

Overall, while two draws from winnable matches is a far from ideal, the optimum word is patience; Rome was not built in a day. Last season aside, Everton are notoriously slow starters, and that is without the added upheaval witnessed this summer.

Everton began the season before last with three wins in the opening ten matches, a return of ten points from 30. The season before that saw a six-match winless streak and 2009-10 saw just four wins in the first 18 matches.

David Moyes, a man famed for his slow starts, found time and patience in abundance during his Everton tenure. The same should apply to Martinez. Granted, the opening results are disappointing, but there are signs of life as this new era takes shape.


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