Everton FC: 5 Talking Points to Emerge from the Defeat to Manchester City

Matt CheethamCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2011

Everton FC: 5 Talking Points to Emerge from the Defeat to Manchester City

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    Everton put up a resilient effort at the Etihad Stadium, which was eventually ended by Mario Balotelli's deflected goal and a break-away strike from James Milner.

    As well as the Toffees defended, they can have few arguments about the final outcome.

    David Moyes shuffled his pack after two Premier League games unchanged, but there was still only one alteration on the team sheet: Phil Neville’s midweek League Cup stunner against West Brom elevated him back into the starting line-up in place of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

    Tim Cahill was therefore once again charged with leading the line, this time supported by Marouane Fellaini. Jack Rodwell and Phil Neville played centrally and Leon Osman was drafted over to the left.

    After a positive start by Everton, it was attack against defence for most of the match. The Toffees offered capable resistance, superbly organised by David Moyes, but were unable to ever offer a genuine threat offensively. Manchester City kept the ball for long periods, yet were mostly restricted to shooting from range.

    It was always likely to take a special effort or a deflection to settler the matter, and sure enough, when Mario Balotelli latched onto a Sergio Aguero pass, his powerful drive deflected further away from Tim Howard and into the net. 

    With Everton suddenly needing to press forward, Manchester City found them a far easier opponent to contend with, and skilfully added a second late on after a poor pass from substitute Royston Drenthe.

    Here are five talking points stemming from today's loss.

Is Sylvain Distin Everton's Best Defender?

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    How Sylvain Distin has never won an international cap seems bewildering considering the form he has maintained in an Everton shirt. Against City he was Everton’s stand out player and an inspiration at the back to his teammates.

    He kept Sergio Aguero and particularly Edin Dzeko on the periphery of the game for long spells and produced a superb overall display. He tackled more than any other Everton defender, and made 13 clearances, five more than any other player on the pitch.

    Whilst many, perhaps not paying such close attention to matters on the pitch, will continue to call for Johnny Heitinga and Phil Jagielka to play together, so far this season it has been easy to see why Moyes has always preferred to stick with Distin and one other. This year, the Frenchman has been Everton's best player defensively, and possibly all together.

    With Distin's contract up at the end of the season, surely he has done enough to merit another?

Negative Tactics or Referee to Blame?

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    After the game, David Moyes was not happy with the refereeing display from Howard Webb. Five Everton players entered the book, to just one City player, suggesting the Toffees were intent on using rough hand tactics. This was not the case. 

    Jack Rodwell was instructed to cling to David Silva and was a fraction late for his booking, although he clearly got some of the ball. Leon Osman’s booking was no worse that several other clashes on the pitch, Phil Neville's trip was fairly innocuous, and Tim Cahill suffered a deep gash and had to be substituted after his alleged foul.

    Whilst there cannot be any real complaints over Phil Jagielka’s frustrated late lunge, one can see Moyes’ frustrations at his side's treatment when the overall foul tally only stood at 13-9, remembering City’s 63 percent hold of possession.

    Additionally, two blatant Vincent Kompany fouls were missed right on the edge of Manchester City’s area, in a game where Everton were always going to need a set pieces to score. City also scored first from a throw-in that should have been Everton’s, so Moyes’ notion against the referee does seem to have some foundation, although few can argue Roberto Mancini's men were not deserving winners. 

    As far as tactics, Everton were certainly negative, but there were no underhand methods used and Moyes should not be criticised for his cagey approach, either. How easily were Manchester City able to make offensive incisions once Everton were attacking near the end of the game? Was a similar approach so condemned when David Moyes' side won last season? No, the performance and tactics were described as heroic and ingenious.

    When taking on 11 players worth £183 million away from home (with a bench worth over £100 million), the playing field is simply not even with teams so separated financially. Everton had to adapt to survive and nearly escaped with a point which, given the circumstances, would have rightly been heralded.

    To face these ordeals and triumph, as Everton have so often done against City, you also need a fair slice of luck. Although the Toffees did not get much today, most Evertonians will surely admit the quality on show from City was always likely to create an opening, regardless of Howard Webb's performance.

    Similarly, despite the score, Everton's tactics were also warranted given the result achieved at Manchester City last season. As well as the Toffees defended this time around, City were simply the better team today and deserved their win.

Rodwell’s New Niche?

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    This season, the creativity and flair of David Silva has been Manchester City's most deadly facet. The Spaniard has been widely recognised as one of the top performers in the Premier League so far this campaign, already contributing three assists and two goals in only five games.

    To combat this obvious threat, Davis Moyes decided to make Jack Rodwell the Spaniard’s shadow, assigning him the duty of man marking the slippery Spaniard. It was a ploy that worked well. Despite receiving a contentious booking early on, Rodwell stuck to his task and expertly neutralised Silva’s threat throughout the game.

    This season is likely to prove pivotal in Rodwell’s Everton career after enduring such a frustrating last year. Thus far he has started well, perhaps benefiting from the extra space left in central midfield since Mikel Arteta's departure.

    Still only 20, as this game showcased, it is far too early for anyone to be writing off the potential of Jack Rodwell. His role today paraded some of his leading assets.

Dilemmas for Derby Day

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    Everton must mull over this defeat quickly and turn their attention to more pressing matters, namely their October schedule. As daunting a task as Manchester City away is, Everton now face Liverpool home, Chelsea away, Fulham away and finally Manchester United at home, all crammed into October.

    Whilst today’s defensive scheme was superbly organised by David Moyes, it would be criminal to replicate such tactics at home against rivals such as Manchester United and Liverpool. They may resurface against Chelsea away, and if so, Everton would have to be more clinical on rare forays forward, but otherwise tactically the Toffees must now conjure up some new tricks.

    The Toffees' playing personnel is therefore also likely to change. There will be a temptation to revert to type and put Phil Neville at right back, but Tony Hibbert has played well, and generally features in Merseyside derbies.

    No prognosis has yet been made on Tim Cahill’s injury, but if he is fit, would he lead the line in a derby? Surely one of Louis Saha, Apostolos Vellios or Denis Stracqualursi would be better suited, as manfully as Cahill has performed up front?

    Were Cahill to then drop back, and Leon Osman return left, somebody would lose their place in midfield. Jack Rodwell and Marouane Fellaini are forming a decent pairing centrally, but would club captain Phil Nevuille be surplus to requirements on derby day?

    A big week in training is certain to ensue as Everton gear up for their biggest game so far this season. Each player will be out to win a starting berth and David Moyes will end the week making some big calls.

The Streak Ends at Four Wins

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    Prior to kick-off, Everton’s remarkable record against City was justifiably talked about. Seven wins in eight, including four straight, is remarkable considering City's recent transformation. Today’s result is the first time Joleon Lescott can say he has tasted victory over his former side, and his team certainly had to work for it.

    Their is no shame in this defeat. Considering the way Roberto Mancini’s men pulverised Tottenham and have averaged 3.5 goals a game, losing to a deflected effort and a late finish on the break is no disgrace. As was already written, it is understandable for Moyes to adopt such a defensive approach, especially a week before the derby, and given the recent success in this fixture.

    Manchester City have the resources to assemble a line up worth hundreds of millions, and on some days that will simply prove too much. However, as Everton’s recent streak suggests, there are obviously still many ways for those less financially fortunate to prevail.

     

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