There’s that bit in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves’ character begins to realise his own power and potential, looks up at Laurence Fishburne, makes the Bruce Lee ‘come hither’ motion with his fingertips and says, ‘I know Kung Fu’.
Everton know Kung Fu.
Well, they looked like they did on Tuesday night at Saint James’ Park when Roberto Martinez’s ballsy – yes, ballsy – team selection resulted in Newcastle United perhaps not quite getting torn a new one, but at least poked vigorously in the old one.
Martinez dropped Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady after the strangely meandering team performance at the weekend and brought in Gerard Deulofeu. The result was arguably the best blend of talent available to the Blues’ boss, certainly in terms of setting up to counter-attack away from home. The ever-dependable Gareth Barry and James McCarthy shielded the pacey and promising central defensive partnership of John Stones and Sylvian Distin while up front the rampaging trifecta (tri-fuck-yeah?) of Deulofeu, Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley continually streaked straight towards Tim Krul’s goal like predators through the pampas.
And linking it all together – his appreciation of space a substitute for his absence of pace – was little Neon Leon.
McCarthy initially made a double block during a goalmouth scramble that was scruffier than Gideon Yobo’s bachelor pad, and Vurnon Anita was guilty of a horrific miss in the second half, but you only have to read the wistful North East match reports to know this night was all about Everton.
Barkley started it off with his wonder goal, initiated when Deulofeu showed some courage to chest down a clearance despite a defender’s lunging limb. The ball dropped to Barkley in the Everton half and he started running.
It’s not often that Lukaku reminds you of Alan Partridge, but his shouts of ‘Ross, Ross, Ross’ fell on deaf ears as the midfielder cut across the penalty area, dribbled around his Belgian teammate and lashed the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot.
‘No, he’s not heard me.’
An incredible individual goal that overshadowed the quality of the rest somewhat, but they were all pearlers in their own way.
The second, not long after the break, started with Osman unmarked in the centre-circle, clipping the ball out into the path of Deulofeu. As soon as the Spaniard took the aggressive first touch that sent him straight down the wing, fullback Paul Dummett was reduced to the position of observer.
With Deulofeu in full flight and half a hectare of space, Lukaku’s run to the near post wasn’t so much a gamble as a bigger sure thing than your Mum. The confluence of striker and sphere, timed to perfection, meant only one thing.
In the dying moments, following a clever touch in midfield from Steven Naismith, Deulofeu drew two weary defenders before finding Lukaku who in turn teed up Osman. His swerving drive into the roof of the net was thoroughly deserved.
At the same time as all this was going on, Arsenal’s stirring fightback at the Emirates was undone by Matthieu Flamini’s own goal. And the Premier League landscape shifted ever-so-slightly.
After playing Manchester City this weekend the Gunners travel to Goodison Park, and that Flamini goal means that encounter has the potential to be an era-defining game for both clubs. Because if Everton were to make it into the Champions’ League at Arsene Wenger’s expense, well, the repercussions would clearly be far-reaching.
To make that so, Everton’s result at Craven Cottage really needs to at least match Arsenal’s against City, and that seems eminently achievable given the recent form of all concerned.
And that would bring us to the Arsenal game itself and an opportunity that recently we never looked like getting, i.e. another chance to lose our tag as big-game chokers. Let’s be honest, there have been plenty of high points this season but there is still that lingering doubt, that hangover, from the last regime when it comes to the ‘clutch plays’. The Anfield derby – and to a lesser extent the Goodison one – and the FA Cup tie against Arsenal saw the Everton public let down on the big occasions.
But there just might be one last chance to set that record straight. And if Martinez’s men go into the Arsenal match in touching distance of the one-time title tips, with a game in hand, have they got what it takes to just seize the fucking day this time?
It’s mad isn’t it, to be even thinking like this given the way the season looked to be slipping away from us in the past month or so? But, you know, as the man says, just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in.
But they’ll do that, Everton.