Everton limped to yet another disappointing draw, this time away to Graham Potter’s Brighton & Hove Albion.
With several first team players unavailable for the match, Carlo Ancelotti was forced to play all four of his centre backs, with Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina making up a back three behind Mason Holgate, who filled in in defensive midfield.
This makeshift defensive and midfield structure failed to deliver the competency and composure Everton needed to break Brighton down in the first half. Despite getting into several decent positions, the men in mint green could not find the run, the pass nor the space needed to open up their opposition and spent much of the first forty five tossing aimless balls forward in the hope that Richarlison might be able to wriggle away.
With Brighton unable to deliver anything substantial either, bar a stupendous effort from Yves Bissouma that nestled on the top of Robin Olsen’s net, the first half was very much one to forget and the match finely balanced going into the break.
Half Time: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton
Lacking any real options on his substitutes’ bench other than Alex Iwobi, Ancelotti was forced to stick with his starting eleven for much of the second half and hope one of them would be able to produce a moment of magic on the break that could secure his side a much-needed three points.
Unfortunately, Everton didn’t look close to conjuring up such a moment, with the hosts creating the best chances in the final twenty minutes or so. Whilst none of these were what you would consider to be golden or gilt-edged, it’s fair to say The Seagulls were on top towards the end and (as has been the case on so many occasions this season) with better quality, they could have snatched all three points.
Considering the number of key absences and the torrid record the club has on the south coast, a point apiece is not a bad result for Everton. It does not enhance their chances for European qualification but with their competitors’ incredible forms, it looks like that ship may have sailed anyway.
And whilst that is frustrating, particularly after such a great start to the season, the main source of frustration for Evertonians should be how threadbare the first team squad is. Having spent millions upon millions in the last six years or so, this squad should not be so reliant upon the fitness and form of a few key players. Furthermore, the club should not have to turn to its academy to plug gaps on the substitutes’ bench. It is absolutely scandalous and illustrates both how poorly the club has been run in that period of time and what a superb job Carlo Ancelotti has done in elevating this group of players to the position they find themselves in today.
Give him and Marcel Brands the finances and the freedoms to change that landscape this summer and who knows where The Toffees might end up. Hopefully in matches more exciting than this one anyway.
Full Time: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Everton
James’ Everton Man of the Match: Robin Olsen (Everton)