On the back of their slightly ropy but ultimately exhilarating comeback against Sunderland last weekend, Everton pay a visit to yet another team who fall under the category of ‘really should fucking beat these’.
What’s more, West Bromwich Albion are at home to Chelsea so there’s every chance here that we could go three points clear of the Baggies and thus stop the bastards continually putting our season into perspective, for a week at least.
Reading are still without a win, which you could say makes them dangerous, but alternatively you could also, with some validity, suggest that it’s because they really aren’t that good. Their defence in particular looks weak, as demonstrated quite remarkably in the Capital One Cup when they lost 5-7 to Arsenal. Everton seem particularly adept at dominating games against these ‘play some nice stuff’ types of teams, even away from home, and so you would suspect that once again this encounter could be decided by just how ruthless the Blues are in front of goal.
The increasingly influential Kevin Mirallas will miss out with the hamstring strain that saw him withdraw from the Sunderland match, but the good news is that he is expected to return for Norwich at Goodison the following week. Steven Naismith will probably get another chance to try and convince everyone that he is actually any good.
Reading boss Brian McDermott, who looks like he should be wearing an ill-fitting pinstripe suit and sweating profusely in the Dragons’ Den, could be without Jimmy Kebé. That was according to some website or other, anyway. Incidentally, Kebé’s middle name appears to be Boubou.
Check for yourself.
The real danger man for the Royals is Pavel Pogrebnyak – he’s only scored two league goals this season but always looks the part, and indeed did when he was at Fulham last season as well. He is officially our ‘one to watch’ then this week, in a feature that will almost certainly never be mentioned again.
Back to Everton, the complete non-story about Marouane Fellaini possibly leaving Goodison in January took another non-twist when he told a Belgian paper:
There is interest in me. But Everton are an ambitious club as well I don’t think they’ll let their best players go just like that. I want to play for one of the biggest clubs one day. But I am patient.
David Moyes said some bits after the Sunderland game about Fellaini’s future perhaps depending on whether Everton get into the Champions League, but deep down we all know that’s not really the case. The determining factor, as with every player, is who is going to pay him the most money. If Everton make it into the Champions League they will be the beneficiaries of a financial windfall, but that has to be measured against the wealth of the clubs who play in the thing every year and also have enormous financial backing from external sources, be they the sovereign wealth of some oil state, the personal fortune of an energy oligarch or just massive, massive fucking debts. That last one is Manchester United, in case you couldn’t work it out.
If one of those clubs wanted to buy Fellaini then Everton simply couldn’t, and indeed shouldn’t, try to compete with the enormo-wedge they would offer in terms of salary.
As we’ve mentioned before though, the saving grace could well be that while admiring how Fellaini is playing at the moment, the clubs who could afford to buy him might not actually want to. For instance, Chelsea are the ones that keep being linked, but would a player like Fellaini be a priority for them at this point in time? If we are genuinely talking in the region of £30 million, as keeps being quoted, then would they not be more tempted to put that money towards someone like Atletico Madrid’s Falcao, as a replacement for the struggling Fernando Torres? After all, it’s not as if they are short of attacking midfielders at the moment.
The alternative is that they would see him as a replacement for Jon Obi Mikel, but Fellaini has never looked completely convincing in that deep-lying midfield role – you could almost certainly get someone else to play there who is less of a gamble, and for a lot less than £30 million.
Manchester City seem unlikely, although you never can tell completely with them freaks, while Manchester United have Robin van Persie playing off Wayne Rooney – they don’t seem to be in the market for an extremely expensive understudy.
The other thing to bear in mind is that none of these clubs came in for Fellaini in the summer, so why would they bid massive money now?
The outsiders because of the kind of dough it would involve are Arsenal, although they would be the club with the most motivation. With their season already going a bit awry and a number of their summer signings failing to impress, you wouldn’t be surprised if Arsene Wenger wanted to try and shake things up at the Emirates, and Fellaini would certainly do that.
The most likely outcome though is that Fellaini stays where he is, at least until the summer. It’s Leighton Baines we should be more worried about, as he would go straight into any of those top sides without them having to change their style of play in the slightest. He was immaculate for England in Sweden – the runs he makes off the ball and the angles at which he makes them are just crying out for arrows and dotted lines to illustrate them and their inherent geometrical beauty.
And if ever a player’s technique deserved to be defined as ‘textbook’ it’s his.
His club colleague Leon Osman made a decent debut for England as well. Early on he got lost in no-man’s land a bit, but eventually he realised that Steven Gerrard needs less assistance in the ‘take the ball off the centre-half’ role than Phil Neville and so began to commit himself forward with more conviction. He forced the goalkeeper into making a handful of saves and used the ball intelligently – apart from conceding the free kick for the third goal he hardly made a mistake all night. His performance probably merited another cap, but at his age it’s difficult to imagine just how well he would have had to have played to become a genuine contender for a starting place in a competitive match. It’s hard to see his undoubted experience being enough to edge him ahead of the younger, quicker Tom Cleverley and, most notably, Jack Wilshere, a man who could only look more Cockney if he wore a stupid suit covered in shiny pearl buttons. And drove a sherbert.
Footballers are not normally the most demonstrative people, so you get the idea of just how much respect Osman’s teammates have for him when Tim Howard says:
This could be a blanket statement for the whole team but I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a human being than I was for Ossie. You’re talking about one of the greatest guys to be around, a guy who’s hard-working and so deserving of that call-up.
There have been a heck of a lot less deserving guys down the years to get caps
He’s just so fantastic and he’s been a rock for this club.
I was delighted for him – so, so happy.
You big soppy get!
The one unfortunate thing about the night for Osman, apart from the result, was that if it does end up being his only cap then he will show people the photographs in the future and the first thing they will say is, ‘What’s with the creepy muzzy?’
Obviously it’s for a good cause, although to be honest, despite the amount of publicity ‘Movember’ itself is getting, do you actually know what charity it’s in aid of? Oh, and have you noticed James McClean hasn’t fucking grown one. Just saying, like.
Anyway, finally, some news on Darron Gibson. Nah, not really, we haven’t got a clue what’s happened to him. In fact, the fidelity of his fitness status updates are starting to reach ‘Gazza two weeks from full fitness’ levels.
Play up Blues. Play up.