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Blues continue to fail with chemistry lesson; BAINES' WORDS FROM MARTINEZ ERA REMAIN RELEVANT AS TOFFEES STRUGGLE.

Byline: ROYAL BLUE @prennodave.prentice@liverpool.com David Prentice ...WITH THE INSIDE TRACK FROM GOODISON

T says a lot that an interview given nearly two years ago nails Everton's problems today.

"Look at the teams who are having success this year and you'd say they have chemistry.

"If I had to say one thing, I just don't know if it's there with us at the moment, for whatever reason."

We all know the articulate and considered Evertonian who said it.

And Leighton Baines's words remain hauntingly accurate almost two years - and two permanent managers - on from when they were first spoken.

Roberto Martinez might still strongly disagree, of course, but few Evertonians would deny that the sentiment of what was said still hangs around Goodison Park like a bad smell.

After last weekend's draw with West Bromwich Albion, Sam Allardyce spoke like a man who could sense something isn't right.

The pathetic nature of that Toffees' performance saw all sorts of analysis erupt from the stands - but none of it was positive - and perhaps the most damning of all was that they wore the same sorry look of that Martinez rabble.

Call it what you like.

Chemistry was the term which stalked the Catalan until his sacking but it's the same as 'spirit' or a 'connection', a 'bond' or having an unwavering belief in each other.

Supporters are not privy to the mood inside the Everton camp behind closed doors at Finch Farm but what they've seen on the pitch tells them the team is badly lacking all of the above.

When was the last time a Blues' team boasted a genuinely tightknit partnership in any area of the field? When Baines and Pienaar were in their pomp? Or when Jagielka and Distin played alongside each other every week? We're talking the best part of five years ago, if not longer.

And the sense that the current team were playing as individuals last weekend could not have been stronger - or more concerning.

The season in which the interview was given was the one in which Leicester City caused the upset to end all upsets and won the Premier League title.

No side has gatecrashed the elite party quite like the Foxes and so you have to ask: why aren't Everton trying to go about it in the same way? Maybe their stars aligned over the course of those 10 months but there's no greater truth in football than the best team always wins the league.

And so what underpinned their remarkable success? "Humility, the strength of the dressing room, they help each other at important moments, they play with the heart, the soul, they play 11. There was a good blend. I told them, 'I love the English spirit',' because when I was a player I was an Englishman."

Dare we say, chemistry as well Claudio? Claudio Ranieri's harnessing and fostering of those qualities cannot be overlooked, nor his tactics, as he guided the 5000-1 underdogs to the summit. But Leicester also compiled a squad of players that were not the most talented, most expensive, or the most decorated or high-profile but one that had the greatest spirit, energy, belief and conviction of anyone else.

They had players who had something to prove. They had a team full of partnerships. They had a team in every sense of the word.

And so, as Everton near the end of their fourth transfer window of the new regime with the team sat in ninth and in the type of form which will only see them plummet, the club's power-brokers have to be asking themselves why they have not been able to compile a squad with those qualities? Especially when they took Steve Walsh from title-winning Leicester for his expertise in the transfer market.

The spectre of PSV Eindhoven's sporting director Marcel Brands has loomed large this week, as the club open talks over a possible role with the club.

His appointment would be a clear admission of past failings.

The failure to build a team with spirit.

CAPTION(S):

Everton players look dejected - an all-too familiar scene this season and (below) Leighton Baines ANDREW TEEBAY
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 27, 2018
Words:693
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