Everton’s dull 0-0 draw at home to West Brom continued their woeful form of late but the decision of Kevin Mirallas to disobey team orders and take a first half penalty, which he missed, highlights the lack of leadership on a sinking ship, writes Stephen Loftus.
A rather uneventful Monday night game was turned into a nightmare for Roberto Martinez as not only did he see his team fail to secure their first three points since New Year’s day but he also witnessed a selfish act from one of his most reliable players after Kevin Mirallas went against the demands of his teammates to hand a first half spot kick to Leighton Baines and instead insisted on taking the penalty himself.
After pleading attempts from both Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith, Mirallas went on to drill the penalty wide of the post, throwing away Everton’s chance of gaining victory.
Baines has a 93% conversion rate from penalties in the Premier League (15/16), his only miss coming at Old Trafford, so it would be unimaginable to think that anyone else other than the left-back would step up for the penalty duty last night. Instead, it was Mirallas who grabbed the ball and began to meander towards the box as the crowd gasped with surprise.
He was met by his fellow Belgian international, Romelu Lukaku, who proceeded to try to explain to his countryman that Baines should be taking the penalty. After the efforts of Lukaku were brushed aside, it was Steven Naismith’s turn to try to persuade Mirallas to give up the ball. The farcical scenes ended when Baines seemed to plead his case to the Belgian who was having none of it and sent his teammates away. The penalty then sailed wide.
Captain Phil Jagielka was nowhere to be seen although it could be presumed that he thought Baines would dispatch the penalty and give the Goodison faithful a reason to erupt. Surely it is up to Martinez to communicate to his winger that Baines is the regular penalty taker? The lack of leadership shown in such a critical situation is unbelievable.
Martinez offered up some reasons as to why his regular penalty taker was not given a chance to give his team a 1-0 lead, aiming to play down the controversy.
“Kevin felt confident and wanted to take the penalty. He scored the first penalty in the shootout against West Ham.”
Seven other Everton players scored in this shootout, including Baines, so to suggest this as a reason to take a crucial penalty is unreasonable.
Martinez also suggested that Mirallas was injured, despite the fact the penalty occurred one minute from half time. If he had a hamstring injury, why did he take the penalty?
It is unlikely that he suffered an injury in the minute after the penalty. Mirallas was substituted at half time in what appears like an effort to punish the selfish act,
“Kevin was feeling his hamstring and straight after the penalty for a couple of moments, he was not moving freely. That was the reason behind the substitution.”
The Goodison faithful then booed as Mouhamed Besic was substituted with Arouna Kone came on. Martinez is facing growing pressure from the fans as his style of football is not yielding points. Everton now languish in 12th position.
The 41-year-old’s efforts to save face fell short in the estimation of Sky pundit Gary Neville, who called it a “despicable act” by Mirallas and a “scandal” on the part of Martinez. An incident like this will bring more boo-boys to Goodison Park but it could get worse for the 41-year-old as three of Everton’s next five games see them pitted against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
The growing frustrations could lead to the sack for the manager who was rated so highly by many around the league but his time is running out with a team whose aspirations were to finish in the top six. A loss in the Merseyside derby would leave them closer to the relegation zone than the Europa league qualification spots.
A spot of warm weather training is next for Martinez and his men as, due to their loss in the FA cup, they do not have a game this coming week. Surely some penalty taking practice will be on offer too?
Stephen Loftus, Pundit Arena