UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Inconsistent Everton crave domestic pick-me-up

Thriving in the UEFA Europa League but in dire form in the Premier League, Everton FC are suffering a mixed start to 2015. UEFA.com's Simon Hart investigates why.

In contrast to their domestic woes, Everton are progressing nicely in the UEFA Europa League
In contrast to their domestic woes, Everton are progressing nicely in the UEFA Europa League ©Getty Images

It says everything about Everton FC's Jekyll-and-Hyde season that they have managed more victories in the UEFA Europa League in 2015 – two out of two – than in 11 domestic fixtures, of which they have won only one.

The Merseysiders, fifth in the Premier League in 2013/14, have slipped to 14th this term yet in Europe, Roberto Martínez's men have sailed through to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League, topping Group H and then overwhelming BSC Young Boys 7-2 on aggregate in the round of 32.

It begs the question, just what is the difference between the 'Dr Jekyll' Everton now just one step from a first European quarter-final in 30 years, and the 'Mr Hyde' Everton who have their worst record at this stage of an English top-flight season for 88 years?

It is a question that captain Phil Jagielka sought to answer in the mixed zone after last Thursday's Young Boys game. His team-mate Steven Naismith had just spoken about this Everton side getting "respect from a lot more teams" who have sat deep, let the Blues pass the ball around in the middle of the pitch and frustrated them.

Everton lost 2-0 to Arsenal on Sunday
Everton lost 2-0 to Arsenal on Sunday©Getty Images

He also mentioned costly individual mistakes and Jagielka expanded on these themes when speaking to UEFA.com. "In the Premier League, there have been quite a few games where we've had to try and break teams down and not managed it, and also games where we've been sloppy and given goals away," he said.

If Everton have yet to find a solution to their domestic problems, in Europe by comparison they have shone in some open, end-to-end contests such as the home-and-away wins against VfL Wolfsburg in the group stage and the 4-1 first-leg victory at Young Boys. "They had home advantage and tried to come at us," said centre-back Jagielka, "but probably left themselves a little too exposed and we took advantage of that with the pace and power we had on the counterattack."

Romelu Lukaku, who struck five of his six UEFA Europa League goals this term in the Young Boys tie, embodies that pace and power and, according to Jagielka, the Belgian international offers another example of the difference between home and Europe for Everton.

"If you compare the Premier League to the Europa League, there is a lot more analysis and teams are set out to stop Rom," he explained. "I don't know Young Boys' tactics, but he was left one v one quite a few times and those are the battles Rom relishes. If he gets you one on one, it is danger time – especially if it's close to the box."

Romelu Lukaku excelled against YB
Romelu Lukaku excelled against YB©Getty Images

Lukaku, 21, took his career goals' tally to 100 with his Goodison Park double against Young Boys and Jagielka hopes there will be more to follow against FC Dynamo Kyiv in the last 16. "He knows he's still learning – it's up to us to make sure we give him the right platform to learn and hopefully he can fire us to some sort of glory."

Jagielka – whose saved penalty spelled shoot-out defeat for Everton on their last appearance at this stage of the competition, against ACF Fiorentina in 2007/08 – added that only Europe could lend a silver lining to the Merseysiders' campaign. "I think so," the 32-year-old England player said. "The season is not over in the league, but we're not under any illusions – we're nowhere near where we want to be. But I am sure the Evertonians have enjoyed the Europa League so far and hopefully we can give them a few more memorable nights.

"I am desperate to play in a final and would love to win a trophy, but there's a lot of good teams that want the same thing this season so we're not getting too carried away," he continued. Given their domestic struggles, nobody can blame him for that.

Former Everton midfielder Graham Stuart expecting tough last-16 test against Dynamo
Former Everton midfielder Graham Stuart expecting tough last-16 test against Dynamo