Everton vs. Norwich City: 6 Things We Learned
Everton's impressive early-season form continued to stutter this afternoon as Sebastien Bassong grabbed a last-minute equaliser to earn Norwich a 1-1 draw.
There was a frustrating sense of deja vu for Evertonians, who again watched their side dominate first half proceedings, yet fail to claim all three points after more second half struggles.
Steven Naismith had given the Toffees the lead after fine work from Bryan Oviedo, but despite dominating possession and territory, David Moyes's side never created enough chances to finish their opponents off.
Norwich made Everton pay for this with Bassong benefiting from a generously awarded free-kick and some poor defending from Tim Howard and Johnny Heitinga.
Here's six talking points to take from today's encounter.
Late Lapses Still Hurting Everton
Everton have had trouble defending set-pieces for most of the season, but conceding late strikes is also now becoming an unfortunate trend.
For the third time in four games, a goal at the end of the game denied the Toffees vital points and sent supporters home frustrated. Some Liverpool fans would even argue that statistic could read four times in five games.
Moyes must now find a way of restoring confidence into his back four, who have now kept a clean sheet for nine games and are looking increasingly vulnerable to a deep cross into a congested penalty area.
This may also be an area where the Toffees miss Tim Cahill, as so often the Australian would attack the delivery and clear the danger from set-pieces.
Fellaini Clearly Missed
Everton created just nine chances today, the fewest they've made in any game this season, as the effect of Marouane Fellaini's suspension was clearly felt.
Without him, despite playing well in and around the final third, few players had the intricacy needed to panic a well organised Norwich defence, and at times Everton seemed unsure of how to attack their visitors.
If Fellaini's not scoring goals himself, he's been laying off chances for others, or at least providing his team with instant possession in advanced positions thanks to his exceptional chest control.
His form this season has rightly been lauded and today demonstrated just how integral he is for the Toffees at the moment.
Moyes Running out of Options
Everton have never possessed the largest of playing staffs under David Moyes, and a growing injury list is now beginning to limit his choices and leave his bench looking particularly depleted.
From today's substitutes, Matthew Kennedy, Ross Barkley, Apostolos Vellios and Shane Duffy are all young and largely untried. Tony Hibbert is severely short of match fitness and Magaye Gueye has rarely suggested he is a player of Premier League calibre.
The game's situation required a calming influence to be brought on in central midfield and absorb possession, something nobody on the Toffees' bench was likely to contribute.
As much as there was clamour to bring on Barkley in particular today, a player that will surely blossom into a top performer, using him would have had little effect and could have been detrimental to his progression.
Bodies should start returning for Wednesday's clash with Arsenal, but central midfield is certainly an area Moyes may need to address in January.
Pienaar Continues to Struggle
A concerning issue this season has been the erratic form of Steven Pienaar, a vital part of the Toffees' offence who has so often been a top performer over the past few years.
With other important contributors missing from today's starting line-up, Moyes needed Pienaar to bring his best form and orchestrate attacks, but once again the South African painfully inconsistent.
His passing was often wayward, he lost possession 19 times, the second highest total on the team, and he was also dispossessed four times, double as many times as any other team-mate.
It almost seems he's trying too much at a time when Moyes needs him to simply be effective and provide others with opportunities to finish teams off.
New Boys Showing Their Worth
Away from the negatives, two of Everton's recent recruits were among today's better performers and combined well to give their side the lead.
Bryan Oviedo came in and looked a bright prospect on the left. He adds pace to the line-up, works hard for the team and has a large array of tricks to choose from to beat an opponent with.
Steven Naismith featured opposite Oviedo on the right, but spent large portions of the game lurking around just behind Nikica Jelavic as well.
Whilst he's still adapting to the Toffees' on-field playing style, the Scottish international is beginning to demonstrate a handy knack of appearing in the right place at the right time in the penalty area.
His strike today means he now has three goals in the last three Premier League games he's started.
Arsenal Game Is Now Must-Win
With more points dropped today, Wednesday's clash with Arsenal now takes on even greater significance for Everton, especially in terms of their top four aspirations.
With just one win from seven games, albeit only one defeat too, Everton's momentum has well and truly stalled over recent weeks and is in dire need of reigniting.
Beating a rival for a Champions League place would be an instant remedy for this, although it won't be an easy task, and Moyes certainly has issues to sift through before Wednesday's game.
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