Everton march on and retain their place in the top four after an interesting clash against Wigan, says David Martin.
Despite an unchanged line-up it was clear from the start that this wasn’t to going to be the fluid Everton who dominated Southampton in a spell of brilliance. It soon became clear that Wigan were a very different prospect.
Whereas Southampton tried to pass Everton into submission or boredom depending on your point of view, Wigan are a far more physical and direct team relying on pace and long balls for their front men to latch onto. Jagielka and Heitinga have been far from convincing as a partnership and Heitinga in particular has been in poor form. This continued as he was taken apart by the pace and trickery of Kone who time and again beat him for pace. Postionally Heitinga did little wrong but his lack of physicality compared to Distin or any sort of aerial presence made him easy pickings for Wigan and he was targeted as a weak link from the outset. A high defensive line didn’t help and it came as no surprise that his failed attempt at a tackle allowed Kone to square the ball for a goal and it was even less of a surprise when he was hauled off top be replaced by Sylvain Distin at half time.
Similarly, Seamus Coleman also had a torrid time at right back showing that as good as he can be going forward he still has a lot to learn defensively and while he could do little about his slip that led to a goal. He was consistently found wanting positionally and in the tackle. Lacking in confidence he also struggled going forward seemingly wracked by indecision and doubt which was a shame considering his impressive display last week. It would appear that reports of Tony Hibbert’s demise as first choice right back, will prove to be unwarranted at least for the time being.
However, it’s fair to say that the defence were not helped by another impotent defensive display from the central midfield. Osman, Neville and Fellaini were all largely useless as Wigan passed around, over or through them with ease for long periods. Marouane Fellaini in particular cut a frustrated figure seemingly in a sulk from the outset at the admittedly heavy handed officiating of Kevin Friend. Sadly a petulant Fellaini is of little use to Everton and he was at risk of getting himself sent off until he started to have a little more influence in the second half. Leon Osman and Phillip Neville remain ineffective in the centre although to be fair to both Osman did his best work where he should be, in and around the penalty area while Neville was having to cover for Coleman. As I seem to say every week the sooner Gibson returns and this partnership breaks up the better as despite our great forward play we will not get away with this, “we’re going to score one more than you” attitude forever.
Despite an erratic performance there was some positive points to our performance once again largely coming from our forward play. Baines and Pienaar combined wonderfully at times with Baines in particular putting in yet another Man of the Match display. There truly is no partnership better in the Premiership and maybe even the World. Mirallas continues to show promise with another direct and exciting display that frightened Wigan’s defence and Jelavic again proved himself to be a wonderful finisher who could have had more joy in a different game.
There are weaknesses in this Everton side but on another day and with a better referee we would still have had three points today as we continue to creat chances and take plenty of shots. With the International break upon us hopefully the return of Hibbo and Gibbo will help carry us forward and further improve our performances and we can write off today as just one of those days.