Everton vs. Real Betis: 6 Things We Learned

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2013

Everton vs. Real Betis: 6 Things We Learned

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    Everton rounded off preseason with a 2-1 win over Real Betis, albeit in rather unconvincing fashion.

    The Spanish side created a catalogue of chances and dominated long periods of the contest, continually opening up the Toffees' defence. Only a combination of shoddy finishing and some smart goalkeeping from Tim Howard kept the visitors at bay for so long.

    Despite being under the cosh, Everton took the lead on 35 minutes. Steven Pienaar found Kevin Mirallas, who threaded a cross through to Nikica Jelavic to score, aided by some fairly clumsy defending.

    While the goal improved Everton, it was still the visitors who dominated, and the Spaniards were unfortunate again, as a clanger from Stephan Andersen gifted the Toffees a second goal.

    The Danish international somehow fumbled Mirallas' high cross into his own net, presenting Everton with a 2-0 lead just after the hour mark.

    Brian Rodriguez managed a late riposte for the impressive Spaniards, who can be encouraged by their performance, despite the scoreline.

    Here's a look at some Everton-related talking points to emerge from this final friendly.

Defensive Concerns

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    While intensity levels inevitably suffer in friendlies, there are still one or two worries to stem from this performance, particularly defensively and off the ball.

    The Toffees' back four was continually carved open by their opponents, and on another day Real Betis could have scored several.

    It seemed more to do with individual hesitancy and a lack of communication than any system-related troubles, as far too often Everton players were slower to react.

    Part of that comes with concentration and part of it will be to do with getting back into match practice and the required levels of urgency.

    It will, however, need to be improved on considerably before the Toffees tackle Norwich next week. No clean sheet in preseason is a concern at this stage.


More Pace Required on the Ball

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    Everton looked most dangerous on the break in this match, as their passing game became sloppy and predictable when building from the back.

    Roberto Martinez's short-passing approach requires players to use quick feet, sharp touches and put pace on the ball, but too often Betis' pressing resulted in the ball returning to Tim Howard.

    To improve this, Everton's midfielders need to be more comfortable turning and being more incisive themselves by driving forward, instead of just shifting play laterally or back to the goalkeeper.

    Long diagonal balls can also provide a release, as John Heitinga did well in the second half.

    The Toffees' efficiency on the break has a lot to do with the speed of both full-backs and Kevin Mirallas. To capitalise on this further, Everton should hang greater importance on the turnover of possession and produce a more organised counterattack, the same way they did at Tottenham last season.

Jelavic Showing Signs of Recovery

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    Another goal for Nikica Jelavic is certainly a positive to take from this game.

    After an explosive start, his Everton career stuttered last season. He found the net just eight times in over 40 appearances and lost his starting place.

    One goal in his past 21 outings for the Toffees emphasise that decline, and he finished last season almost completely bereft of confidence.

    He's appeared closer to making a recovery during preseason and continued showing gradual improvements against Betis. Aside from one criminal miss, he appeared calmer in possession and showed better poise in and around the penalty area.

    His goal was simple but taken well and may have been hashed at during the latter stages of last season.

    It was his fourth goal of the summer and will hopefully serve as another step towards his best.

Toffees Short in Midfield

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    A large concern for Everton is the health of their first-choice midfielders: Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini.

    Fellaini watched this game from the stands, sidelined by a minor leg complaint, while Gibson was withdrawn moments before half-time with an injury.

    That left Leon Osman and John Heitinga as Everton's central pairing, which shows a certain lack of depth in this position.

    Even if the Toffees keep hold of Fellaini this window, Roberto Martinez could do with an extra body in his engine room. As of yet, neither Phil Neville nor Thomas Hitzlsperger have been replaced from last season's squad.

Starters More or Less Confirmed

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    Looking at this starting XI, and assuming Martinez sticks with a 4-2-3-1 and keeps his favoured 3-4-3 for a later date, at least nine of Everton's starting lineup seem assured, if fit.

    Tim Howard will start in goal and a first-choice back four will consist of Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin and captain Phil Jagielka.

    Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar will start in wider roles and, if fit,  Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini will play together in the middle. Their fitness could turn all of this on its head, but assuming they make Norwich, that leaves the Toffees' two most attacking positions as the only roles with question marks.

    Ross Barkley and Nikica Jelavic did well enough in their auditions today. Barkley showed typical flashes of brilliance coupled with one or two infuriating touches that Martinez will been keen to iron out of his game.

    While both could feasibly start, Everton's new manager will find it tough to leave Leon Osman out and it wouldn't be a great shock if Martinez turned to the physicality of Victor Anichebe or Arouna Kone against Norwich. 

More Positives Than Negatives

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    Although this was arguably Everton's least convincing display of preseason, overall, it's been a promising summer under new leadership.

    There are certainly aspects to brush up on, specifically at the back and off the ball, but Everton have appeared bright and imaginative during most games this summer.

    The likes of Kevin Mirallas and Seamus Coleman have been in red-hot form, and the Toffees have generally found goals easy to come by, while the progression of youngsters John Stones and Ross Barkley has also been encouraging.

    Nothing on the pitch can be excessively read into or scrutinised over the summer months, but there have been more positives than negatives so far.

    The real test, however, starts at Norwich.