How quickly moods change in football. About a month or so ago, when Everton were positively ablaze, this game would have looked every inch the home banker.
Now though, with the Blues looking flakier than the Singing Detective eating a Danish pastry in bed and Norwich fresh from beating Manchester United at Carrow Road, absolutely anything seems possible. And that’s before we even begin to consider the Premier League’s battle of the bottlers that takes place when Arsenal visit Goodison on Wednesday night.
The Canaries were expected to collapse around the void left when Paul Lambert made his hasty move to Aston Villa, but there’s perhaps a tendency to dismiss Chris Hughton prematurely because of his understated demeanour. He seemed unlucky to get the boot from Newcastle United and looks to be doing a decent enough job at Carrow Road thus far: they start this game just one point behind Liverpool Philosophy Club, which presumably means that the Canaries are yet to discount their chances of playing Champions League football next season.
Interested Evertonian eyes will be on John Ruddy during this weekend’s game, as the former Blues’ keeper’s reputation continues to grow while there is always a feeling that the present Goodison number one Tim Howard is never too far away from another howler. It seems pretty rare that young players come back to haunt you, but some of the American’s critics would, and indeed do, suggest that Ruddy, who moved to Norwich for an undisclosed fee in 2010, already looks a safer pair of hands.
Canaries captain Grant Holt is exactly the sort of aggressive, physical unit that the Blues’ defence seem to struggle with, and if the season so far is anything to go by we should probably expect to see him capitalising on a blunder at the back and sticking one in the Gwladys Street net midway through the first half. Against the run of play, naturally.
Wes Hoolahan has started to get quite a bit of attention this season as well – he looks a ‘smashing little player’, sort of in the Leon Osman mold. Insert your ‘what, he fucking stinks in the big games?’ jibe-ettes just about here. And then move on.
West Bromwich Albion, who moved into fourth last week by beating Chelsea while Everton were scandalously throwing away a lead against really shit Reading, have a run of eminently winnable games coming up whereas things start to get distinctly tricky for the Blues. Which is why the importance of winning these two home games cannot be overstated in the slightest.
In transfers-that-won’t-happen news, David Moyes has apparently had a bid for Russian winger Denis Cheryshev rejected by Real Madrid. A quick look on the internet shows that everyone has been linked with this cat at some time or other – it was Reading the other month – and a peruse of his goals on web-based video sharing sites proves if nothing else that Real Madrid’s B team and the Russian under-21 side play against some utter, utter shite.
Speaking of transfers, and indeed non-transfers, in last week’s preview it was suggested that, for various reasons, a move to Chelsea for Marouane Fellaini didn’t seem to make much sense. Events at Stamford Bridge in midweek though could alter that reasoning somewhat. In short, the fact that Roberto Di Matteo has been employing a style that doesn’t require Fellaini, which is why they never made a bid in the summer, doesn’t really matter now that Rafael Benitez is in charge at Stamford Bridge.
If nothing else, Rafa is a belt and braces man – that has nothing to do with his meticulous preparation and inherent caution, he just needs them to keep his fucking massive cone-shaped kecks up.
But seriously now, Rafa, with his face like netball thighs on a February morning, is a sucker for exerting pressure by winning headers in midfield – watch his teams, it’s a massive part of what they do – which could very easily lead him to eye up Fellaini for the ‘Momo Sissoko role’. That is of course if he is allowed to spend proper money in January – if he’s really only keeping the seat warm for Pep Guardiola, and his assistant, and all his backroom staff, and all their friends and relatives, then it wouldn’t really make sense to allow such a balloon loose with the chequebook. But this is Chelsea, and it’s Benitez, who wouldn’t have signed without some guarantees that he’d be able to spunk at least some cash, so while their next move is anyone’s guess at the moment it might just be time to move the Fellaini clock a little closer to midnight.
Finally, Tim Cahill wants to come back to Everton on loan this winter, Landon Donovan-style. You only have to look at how he has been banging the goals in in the MLS to realise, oh, hang on…