Everton manager Ronald Koeman has defended Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku after their no-shows against Liverpool and believes the pair have received 'unfair' criticism in the fall-out from the Merseyside derby.
Both Lukaku and Barkley delivered disappointing performances as Everton were soundly beaten at Anfield on Saturday (1 April) and have been widely scrutinised and condemned for their ineffectiveness. But Koeman, who said he was 'proud' of his players after the derby defeat, says the detractors may not 'understand' football.
"Maybe some players didn't perform at the level that they showed in the last few games," the Everton boss said in his press conference. "For Romelu, it was difficult. I spoke to Romelu, he was not really sharp, he was a little bit tired (after international duty).
"(But) he's the top-scorer in the league. Why do we need to criticise him? He's a great striker, he's working hard for the team. It's a human boy, it's not always a 10/10, that's football and if you don't play football, maybe you don't understand it."
"Ross played in a little different position than he played in the last few weeks. Of course, he lost several balls in the midfield, instead of playing a little bit faster and no dribbling with the ball. He needs to improve in that, but not to take out one or two (players for criticism) and that was the problem last Saturday, that's not fair.
"It's easy to give your opinion in front of the television without any responsibility. I'm happy, I see a lot of progress in the club, in the team, it's a whole season, it's not one game."
Koeman will hope Barkley, Lukaku and the rest of his Everton players improve on their drab derby showing against Manchester United on 4 April. The former Southampton manager emerged victorious on both occasions when visiting Old Trafford with the Saints, but Everton have only won once at the Theatre of Dreams since 1992.