Really? We are genuinely doing this dance again?
There really is nothing that quite compares to an ignominious, perfectly avoidable League Cup exit in terms of sucking all the positive atmosphere and happy thoughts out of Goodison Park. After fielding an almost full strength side against Leyton Orient in the previous round it appears that David Moyes had finally taken on board the seemingly endless harsh lessons of the past and realised that the benefits of keeping a settled side outweigh those of mass squad rotation.
That will show us.
Neil Warnock’s Leeds United are by no means a fearsome outfit by any stretch of the imagination, but they are still a side of experienced full-time professionals who were never going to be cowed at home by that ludicrous first eleven that Moyes picked. It’s like he plays squad selection Jenga for these cup ties, attempting to see how many fundamental pieces he can remove from the team and still keep it just about functioning.
No one would complain if he rested a couple of players and let their replacements get a feel for the first team. It would have made perfect sense, for instance, to slot Bryan Oviedo in at left-back, where he could get used to operating in tandem with Steven Pienaar and playing passes inside for Leon Osman, because that’s what he will be required to do if Leighton Baines ever gets injured. Instead, he made his first start in English football behind Magaye Gueye, doing whatever Magaye Gueye does, and looking infield to see Francisco Junior having a nervous breakdown. Cheers boss.
Similarly those young players, instead of coming into a fully functioning team and being able to stick to clear, simple responsibilities, surrounded by experienced players supporting them, were hung out to dry in a cobbled together eleven that was doomed from the first whistle.
Moyes can stand on the touchline with his pursed lips and Scanners death stare all he wants, he picked that team and even his justification about resting players – ahead of a home game against Southampton – is a ropy one. By handing Leeds the initiative in the first half, before Gueye and Francisco were replaced by Pienaar and Phil Neville, the Blues were drawn into a hectic battle in the second. Instead of cruising to a win as they surely would have if they had played anything like they did at Premier League Swansea, it ended up a madhouse where injuries and disciplinary offences became a big risk. And if the match had gone to extra time, as it might have if the referee had spotted a late foul on Victor Anichebe, how refreshed would the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini have been then?
The home side, for their part, did the basics well and thoroughly deserved their win. In only the fourth minute Steven Naismith, who was more subdued than one of Anne Frank’s farts, played a dreadful pass in midfield, allowing Leeds fullback Aidan White to storm forward, side-step Fellaini and Sylvain Distin and beat Jan Mucha easily with his left-footed shot.
Luciano Becchio had a chance to double the lead just before half-time but headed straight at Mucha. A side-foot wide from Anichebe was the best Everton offered before the break.
The substitutions livened Everton up a bit and Naismith, who on this evidence should go back to being a sinister Deep South gas station attendant, should have equalised when Anichebe’s cross found him unmarked at the far post. He headed it wide though.
Leeds then pretty much settled the game with a second goal on 69 minutes. Danny Pugh’s low drive following a set-piece took a couple of nicks in a crowded penalty area – the decisive one that took it into the bottom corner of the net was off the ankle of Rodolph Austin.
Distin looped a header home with ten minutes remaining but a succession of terrible decisions and even worse set-piece deliveries meant that the home side were never really put under the sort of pressure you would expect from a top Premier League team.
Moyes can say all he likes about wanting to win the game and, in turn, the competition, but his actions suggest quite the opposite. Like we’ve already found with the Europa League, when there is little financial reward for the clubs in winning a trophy then that is reflected in how they financially incentivise their staff. No one at Everton really cared that much about going out of the Capital One Cup. They don’t like the embarrassment they have to endure for a couple of days afterwards, but other than that it’s only a big deal to the fans.
Premier League points though, are a different matter.
If at Everton we are the People’s Club; one where there is almost supposed to be a new paradigm now, in terms of how the fans understand the club’s financial situation to a point and so are supportive come what may, then those in charge could perhaps consider returning that understanding. If the League Cup isn’t a priority then they should just be up front about it and say from the outset that they are going to play loads of youngster, like Arsenal do, or at least used to. Don’t string thousands of people along like they did at Elland Road as it just causes disappointment and disenchantment at a time when it should all be sunshine and fucking lollipops.
They never fucking learn, and neither do we.