If one thing besides dropping all three points ruined the game for me, it would have to be the manner in which we did it.
Not only did we concede our seventeenth goal in the final fifteen minutes of a game this season but we once again failed to keep a clean sheet on the road.
As heartbroken as I am, we didn’t perform badly at all there. We brought the game to them for the majority of the match and had no real trouble getting into the final third, the issue was what to do once we were there.
Ally Samatta seemed to be a particularly weak link against Everton. He did hit the ground running on his arrival at Villa but since the restart he’s been a shadow of his former self. His heading and hold up play is unrivalled in our squad on his day but with each passing game it doesn’t seem like the day we are hoping for.
He struggled to beat his man and register any shots on target and frustrated the players feeding him the ball. I can recall hearing Mings and other players (due to the lack of crowd noise) barking at him to hold the ball up and to play the ball properly, proving my frustrations to be shared with the rest of the team. Whether that’s reassuring or not, I haven’t quite worked out.
Aside from our struggle to finish chances we were defensively sound for the majority of the game, Konsa was a stand out player for me. Ezri has really grown into his place in the squad and managed to form a decent partnership with Mings at centre half. Elmohamady was fantastic once again, never shy of making a challenge and his ability to cross the ball is a joy to watch.
As usual in the midfield Doug Luiz was the gift that kept on giving, his work rate and the quality of play that comes with it was unmatched. McGinn looked back to his old self as an engine, his ball carrying was brilliant yet again. And I want to make a point of emphasising the quality of Hourihane since he joined the first team again. Not only has he assisted nearly all of our goals since the restart but his passing of the ball has been superb.
Against Everton he was once again a huge difference maker in terms of set piece delivery and maintaining possession to have real foundations for an attack. How he was benched for the likes of Nakamba for the majority of the season is beyond me to be quite frank.
Konsa’s late goal was probably the most exciting goal of the season in my personal opinion, even with the countless last minute winners and equalisers we’ve pulled off. His instinct to throw himself at the ball was reminiscent of James Chester’s goal against Wolves in 2018, and it got a similar elated reaction from fans too.
Unfortunately by the same reasoning, the equaliser was possibly the most painful. One of the only defensive slip ups all game left Theo Walcott with a free header that went beyond Reina’s reach. My body genuinely ached as the ball crossed the line, so frustrating considering how much fight there was on display all game.
It feels like every time we come away with a result we didn’t want I find myself saying this. It’s not over.
It is absolutely gutting considering how close we were, but I’m reassured by the fight we showed against Everton. I’ll be the first to say I doubted the heart in this team and I’ll hold my hands up and say I’ve been proven wrong. There’s some real grit in this squad and you can call me deluded all you want but I’m encouraged by that performance.
Like a broken record, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And I’ll say it until there’s an ‘R’ next to our name on the table. It’s not over until the bubbles blow at West Ham.
Stay positive. We are not dead just yet.
By Micky Lyons