In hindsight it would have made sense to save Miles’s knockout Being: Ludicrous for today and used it as the derby preview piece, because how the Hairy Biker are you meant to follow it?
It’s good that confidence is high amongst a lot of Evertonians going into the game – despite what you’ve been brought up to believe, you can’t actually jinx results, because you are not actually that important. Sorry to break it to you like that. However, it does feel like a lot of that bullishness built up ahead of the mediocre performances at Wigan and Queens Park Rangers, and certainly before Steven Pienaar’s suspension and the injury to Marouane Fellaini.
The feeling seems to be that Fellaini will be back for Sunday’s match, which will be a huge plus, while Tony Hibbert will be eligible after playing 90 minutes for the under-21s in midweek. Phil Jagielka was asked whether David Moyes has a potential dilemma, choosing between Hibbert and Seamus Coleman, but if the senior man is fit it surely makes more sense to put him in and stick Coleman back on the right-hand side of midfield. Kevin Mirallas can then start on the left, in place of Pienaar, with Fellaini supporting Nikica Jelavic up front.
There seems to be a temptation to push Mirallas infield wherever possible, presumably so he can get a bit more involved, but thus far it seems to be a dubious tactic as he gets bogged down with his back to goal. He’s at his most dangerous when he has a bit of grass to run into; when he can get turned and build up some momentum. That’s when defenders panic and try to drag him down.
He does have a habit of telegraphing his mad shots a bit when he cuts in from the wing – it’s called ‘doing a Ross Barkley’ – but at least he is creating those openings. Eventually they are going to start flying either straight in or at least take favourable deflections off defenders. Sunday would be as good a time as any.
For all the piss-taking regarding Liverpool and the fact Brendan Rodgers’ is clearly a massive phoney, they still have some really good players. The number is dwindling but they have a core that can win games, most notably Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez. With Everton playing so openly at the moment, and looking particularly clueless at coping with counter-attacks, those two in particular must be confident of getting opportunities on the break.
Whoever plays in the defensive midfield position then – Phil Neville, let’s face it – has to always be alive to that danger when we are in possession around their box. When they break he has to try and hold them up for as long as possible and stop them getting a clear run at the centre-halves. Otherwise we end up with Stevie G handing out red cards in his own inimitable fashion.
And no one wants that.
There are clearly dangers then, as there are always are when you face teams that contain some top players. Everton are a very good side though, especially at Goodison, and if they maintain their concentration and focus on their own strengths without getting dragged down into derby madness then they are more than capable of outplaying a Liverpool outfit that is decidedly average. Look at where they finished last season and where they are now – they are a really ordinary Premier League team. Nothing more, nothing less.
There’s not a lot more to add that we haven’t said before about these games. For all the pre-match talk about fight and aggression, it’s nearly always the team that can keep their cool and play a bit of football, especially as the atmosphere settles down after the first 20 minutes, who does the best. And that’s usually Liverpool.
Everton can change that though if they really want to.
Finally, for all that we are cynical about anything that footballers say, we do secretly go a bit gooey when one compliments Everton. This then, from someone as generally well-respected and intelligent as Landon Donovan, is just great.
“Everton was a fling that grew into a full-blown affair. I do think about them because they really stole my heart when I walked into Goodison Park, everyone was so unbelievably welcoming, from Moyes to the tea lady. I have such affection for the club.’
A return for the US international seems unlikely now as he’s been struggling with his fitness and has been talking about living a life away from football. Fair play to him – it’s fair to say that he will always be welcome back at Goodison though, even if he just wants to have a pint of Chang and a ciggy in the Park End bogs.
Incidentally, do you reckon that Everton, and indeed any other club, still employ a woman who does nothing else but make tea?
“I’d actually prefer a coffee, if you have any.”