Drab draw extends Everton's search for consistency

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Chris Brunskill/Getty ImagesTottenham's Mousa Dembele, right, has been knocked off his stride by Andre Villas-Boas' team selections.

Everton squandered the chance to steal a march on the teams around them, with second place the prize for the victor, as the Blues gave a passable impression of 11 strangers for chunks of Sunday's drab 0-0 draw with Tottenham.

This was also a game of firsts. Everton became the first team to prevent Tottenham from winning, scoring on the road, and it was the first match under Roberto Martinez capable of inducing sleep. Each side edged a half -- Spurs had 58 percent possession in the first half; Everton 63 in the second -- but neither did enough to warrant the points in a match low on incidents.

-Pienaar happy with Baines partnership
-Distin happy with Martinez's leadership

This encounter reached its nadir during the nine minutes of injury time. Slugging it out in vain for 90 minutes, these middleweights appeared to settle for their hard-fought draw. There was a distinct lack of urgency from either regarding a last-gasp charge for victory.

Everton, needing to stamp their authority on proceedings, began idly as Spurs bossed possession in the early stages. Fortunately for the below-par home side, the main issue plaguing the visitors soon came to the fore. For all their possession and territory, there was a distinct lack of clear-cut openings.

The half-time words of Martinez worked to an extent, with those in blue beginning the second half in stronger fashion, though the football still failed to reach the quality witnessed in weeks gone by. Nevertheless, there was always the outlandish, inconsistent performance of referee Kevin Friend to provide a semblance of entertainment.

Although, when the ineptness of officials is the main talking point, it is clear that the football did not live up to expectation. Refereeing inadequacy aside, the second-half introduction of Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu lifted the team. Adding pace and drive to an out-of-sorts creative unit, the duo enhanced their claims for increased involvement against Crystal Palace Saturday.

Another positive to emerge was the defensive solidity on display. Though there was a clean sheet against Aston Villa last week, there was an element of good fortune behind it. Here, the defensive unit showed their familiar resolve. There is, however, the lingering concern over Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin and their suitability for this expansive approach.

Passing the ball to Howard on his left side is developing into the footballing equivalent of Russian roulette -- the outcome is unknown but there is a great risk of carnage. Wild swipes at back passes are becoming a worrying staple in the American’s game.

The biggest area of weakness, especially in the sterner tests thus far, is possession in the first third of the pitch. Against the classier sides, Distin and Jagielka tend to top the passing tables. This stilted transition between defence and midfield, which is partly due to the limitations of the central defenders, invites unnecessary pressure. Speeding up this aspect of the attacking, ball-retention process is imperative as the season progresses.

Elsewhere, replaced by Deulofeu on the hour mark, the failing in Kevin Mirallas’ game rose to the surface again -- attacking full-backs. Just as Branislav Ivanovic did when Chelsea visited in September, Jan Vertonghen often found himself with the freedom of the right side.

Whether it is frustration at inconsistent form or something else, the failure of Mirallas to track the forward runs of opposing full-backs is an ongoing problem. While the Belgian continues to lurch between influential and anonymous, Martinez must find a way to solve the erratic form shown the midfielder this season.

Overall, while there is no doubting the quality of this Tottenham side, the inability to string together a complete performance hindered the Toffees once more. Crystal Palace are next up as the search for consistency persists, and Everton require marked improvement from this latest offering.


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