Different week, same problems for naive Everton

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Jamie McDonald/Getty ImagesDavid Moyes and Everton may have kissed their Champions League hopes goodbye after losing late to Norwich.

In the space of nine second half minutes, the dreams of Champions League football began to fade into the distance. Given the lead thanks to a stooped Leon Osman header, Everton fell into the traps that have caught them all season. The inability to kill matches off is hampering the Toffees and it resurfaced here. Despite offering little threat for the most part, Norwich bullied their way into proceedings and snatched the three points.

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The late Norwich fight back highlights the soft underbelly of David Moyes' side. Only Reading (20) and Southampton (24) have given away more points from winning positions (19) this season. Having seized the initiative in the opening hour, Everton began to drop deep and provide Norwich with encouragement. A similar pattern emerged at Oldham last week and lessons need learning quickly.

Once a strong point, aerial ability is rapidly descending into the biggest weakness. The Norwich goals came from a set piece and a deep cross into the area. Teams noticing the slack marking and concentration lapses are able to exploit this weakness in the Everton rearguard. When all else fails, teams can play direct football with chaos likely to ensue; Norwich did exactly that at Carrow Road today.

Enduring a frustrating day, with Norwich players constantly goading him, Marouane Fellaini was culpable for the first goal. The Belgian can be an asset defensively, possessing tremendous strength and aerial ability, but he is a liability at present. Easily wound up, it appears the frustration is affecting his concentration levels. In recent months, his set piece defending has fallen below expected standards. Until Everton address this issue, Fellaini is doing more harm than good on defensive set pieces.

Prior to the calamitous defending, Everton had begun the second half with purpose. Unfortunately, as the half wore on, the final ball evaded the attacking players and Everton resorted to aimless balls forward. While the visitors ran out of ideas, Norwich seized their chance and brought on Kei Kamara. Capitalising on Everton's failure to grab a decisive second, the forward gave Norwich an attacking foothold in the match.

On the visiting bench, as the clock ticked down, how would Moyes counter the attacking Norwich substitutions? The answer: by removing his only striker, placing a wide player upfront and leaving a centre forward floundering on the right wing. While substitute options were lacking, to an extent, Moyes remains reactive rather than proactive. Too indecisive, it is no surprise that Everton have used the fewest players and the fewest substitutes this season.

Dropping too deep in the latter stages, Everton are counting the cost of an unproductive January. Players look tired, especially the left-sided duo of Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar. Given their tremendous work ethic and the pressure on them, it is unsurprising to see the pair flagging in recent weeks. Overworked and under pressure, the lack of January additions could be the difference between European football and a near miss for this team.

Needing improvements in form and fitness, but lacking the lift provided by new faces, a big effort is required from this thin squad in upcoming weeks. Facing Oldham on Tuesday, with the visitors sure to be fired up, Everton need an improvement on current performances. Too often bullied, outfought and outthought this season, Moyes and his men need to toughen up and fast.

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