Apr 162014

The five big talking points from a bitterly disappointing loss for the Blues

Everton aren’t the same side without James McCarthy

There were plenty of raised eyebrows when the Everton team was revealed an hour before (Free £25 bet offer) Kick-off and McCarthy’s name was not in the starting XI. But was this one of Roberto Martinez’s selection surprises, or an enforced change?

The ever-consistent McCarthy was dropped to the bench – Martinez later revealed the Irishman had been suffering with a ‘muscle injury’ – and Ross Barkley drafted in to partner Gareth Barry in central midfield, behind what the Blues boss likes to call his ‘front four’.

While McCarthy’s absence was by no means the sole cause of the defeat – far from it – Everton would surely have looked more solid with him and Barry anchoring the midfield. The former Wigan man was fit enough to come off the bench for the final half-an-hour.

Only Martinez, McCarthy and the Everton medical staff know the full extent of the injury. It was a costly one for the Blues.

Everton's Ross Barkley and John Stones (left) react to the defeat after the final whistle Everton’s Ross Barkley and John Stones (left) react to the defeat after the final whistle  

It was a rare off-day for the Blues’ back four…

Everton have not got to where they are now by defending badly. You don’t win seven Premier League games on the spin with a leaky back four. But what happened tonight?

Scott Dann was left completely unmarked from Yannick Bolasie’s corner to make it 2-0, and Cameron Jerome cut inside John Stones too easily for Palace’s third. Credit to Stones for getting on the ball late in the game and driving his team forward in search of an equaliser, but the young defender will not be happy with the way Jerome evaded him. The teenager will have learned plenty from tonight – and will be a stronger player for it.

… and a brilliant one for the Eagles’ defence

They shipped two goals but Tony Pulis will be delighted with how his defence performed in the face of plenty of Everton pressure. Leighton Baines carried out a series of raids down the left, and Aiden McGeady skipped past players all evening. Barkley frustrated at times, but dazzled on occasions too.

However, time after time, a Palace defender got his head to a cross or managed to make a crucial block. It was almost like watching a cup tie by the closing stages, with Everton battering away at the Gwladys Street goal while Palace sank deeper and deeper. It was soul-destroying to watch for the Goodison faithful, who will still be wondering how Eagles keeper Julian Speroni smuggled Barkley’s rasping right-footed drive around the post.

Everton made a staggering 36 take ons vs Crystal Palace, their second highest EPL tally of the season (41 vs Fulham). pic.twitter.com/VKYncYzoNd

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 16, 2014


Palace’s ‘stop-start’ game plan was frustratingly effective

Martinez’s customary diplomacy almost deserted him in his post-match press conference as he spoke about Palace’s spoiling tactics.

“Crystal Palace are specialists on frustrating the opposition,” said the Everton manager. They did a thorough job all evening – all too thorough.

Cynics would say they looked like a typical Tony Pulis side, but the Eagles are soaring under the former Stoke boss. They now have 40 points and look safe from relegation, having looked virtually doomed when he took over. Since Pulis became manager, they have conceded 20 goals – and only Chelsea (14) have conceded fewer in that time.

“Palace make things very stop-start and they can frustrate you. They were probably the worst opposition we could have faced,” added Martinez.

20 – Since Pulis took charge of Palace, they have conceded 20 goals in 22 games. Only Chelsea (14) have conceded fewer in that period. Cap.

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 16, 2014


The race for fourth is not over – and it’s time to stick together

It was a desperately disappointing evening at Goodison – a bad week when you consider Arsenal’s win last night – but with four games to go, Everton are only a point off fourth place.

Tonight’s game is gone and should be forgotten. Next up? Manchester United. The return of David Moyes. Goodison Park sold-out. And, significantly, the chance to prove tonight’s result was a one-off.

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