6 Everton Talking Points from 1-1 Draw with West Brom
Everton spurned a golden opportunity to move ahead in the race for fourth place, dropping two key points against West Brom.
Having started the game two points off the Champions League pace, a win was required to rise above both Liverpool and Tottenham and return to the top four.
Once Kevin Mirallas slotted home on 41 minutes, the Toffees were right on track, only for a woeful second-half performance to dash their hopes.
The lead was eventually relinquished on 75 minutes when Diego Lugano glanced home an equaliser, securing a valuable first point for Pepe Mel.
Here's a look at some Everton-related topics to emerge from this contest.
Tame 2nd-Half Showing
The most disappointing aspect of this game was Everton's abject second-half performance.
Having worked hard to find an opening, there was an alarming lack of urgency during the second period, with West Brom almost invited to take the ascendancy.
An equaliser felt inevitable, as the Toffees struggled to keep possession or find any sort of rhythm.
Having had nine shots during the first half and made 244 passes, Everton managed just four second-half shots and attempted 50 fewer passes.
Overall, the visitor's play disintegrated. It was the third-worst passing performance of the season (77 percent) and only the fifth time an opponent has had more possession and more shots than the Toffees.
It was a lethargic showing and an uncharacteristic effort under Roberto Martinez.
Strange Switch of Shape
In the absence of both Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley, Martinez shuffled his trio of attackers.
Leon Osman started in a narrow role on the left, Bryan Oviedo moved to the right and Kevin Mirallas began just behind Romelu Lukaku.
As usual, Martinez encouraged a fluid approach which saw much interchanging with phases of Mirallas on the left or as a genuine striker.
How much these alterations worked is another matter.
Martinez is renowned for craving width, but this shape failed to provide him his desired dose on either flank.
By inverting both his wide players, Everton needed to supply this from their full-backs, who weren't always available to stretch the field.
West Brom's inclusion of two strikers left both Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines far more reluctant to roam forward, with their centre-backs more exposed at any turnover.
Opportunities to overlap were missed, especially on the right, and the Toffees struggled to create as much space to work with. Coleman had arguably his quietest game of the season, which won't have been the plan.
Mirallas Hit and Miss in the Middle
This different approach centred around Kevin Mirallas as a focal point.
Evertonians have been desperate for their peripheral winger to become more involved, but Mirallas did not contribute enough to justify a permanent switch in the middle.
He took his goal well—after drifting in from the left flank—and showed more prolonged flashes of brilliance, but he was also wasteful on the ball, particularly during the second half.
He lost possession twice as much as any other teammate (eight times) and could not provide his side an outlet in the way a No. 10 should.
Ross Barkley and Leon Osman will also drop into midfield in this role, helping to outnumber the opposition and recover possession.
Mirallas' defensive contribution was minimal, at best. He didn't make one single tackle, interception or clearance during the entire game, leaving Everton a far less resilient unit off the ball.
Lack of Options on the Bench
Everton have negotiated a number of injuries over the festive period.
Pienaar and Barkley joined long-term absentees Arouna Kone, Gerard Deulofeu and Darron Gibson in missing this game, while Coleman departed with what looked like a hamstring injury.
This has left a lack of options in reserve, preventing any manoeuvrability from the bench.
Three substitutes—John Heitinga, Tony Hibbert and Apostolos Vellios—have played 21 minutes of Premier League football between them this season.
Aiden McGeady has arrived without playing a competitive game since November, which left Steven Naismith and John Stones as the only options in this game.
In total, the Toffees' seven substitutes had played the equivalent of just under nine full Premier League games since August, emphasising this point.
Lukaku and Osman were among those starters who struggled in this game but were required to remain on the field with so few options available. With a stronger bench, Martinez would have presumably looked to alter things and substitute them earlier.
Everton must use the remaining days of the transfer window to boost their squad.
Lukaku out of Form
Whisper it quietly, but Romelu Lukaku is badly out of form.
His touch has been getting heavier and heavier over the past few weeks and now that he's not scoring, it's far more of an issue.
Goals mask deficiencies, and these lapses can be forgiven if he's on the kind of scoring spree that brought eight goals in his first nine games for the Toffees. However, one goal in nine games suggests the wheels have rather come off.
Part of Lukaku's struggles in this match was his inability to hold onto the ball and provide his side a platform to attack from.
A lack of support and poor service contributed to this, but his control has deserted him in recent weeks, which is affecting his side's fluency.
It's easy to forget the Chelsea loanee is still only 20 and very much learning and adapting his game. Were Everton to find another striker in January, Lukaku could do with a chance to rest.
Increased Importance on Derby
This was very much a missed opportunity for the Toffees, who may rue the result for some time.
To surrender a lead in such disappointing fashion severely dents their prospects of making the Champions League next season.
Having missed the chance to overtake Liverpool, the importance of the pending Merseyside derby only increases for Martinez's squad.
Lose, and the Toffees will suddenly fall four points adrift. Win, and it's very much a sprint for the finish.
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