Right, same again, another cut and shunt report where we weld the rusting arse end of the Arsenal game to the chassis of the Swiss and hope that no one asks for the logbook. There is a discount on Lacoste in the boot though.
First, up Berne. Everton won 27-4 on aggregate. Or something like that.
This tie was essentially won with the Swiss miss – of the late penalty in the first leg – and just as in that match, Young Boys opened the scoring here when Junior Sanogo’s header diverted a scuffed shot past Tim Howard.
Again though, they were blown away by Romelu Lukaku, whose topping of the all-time European scoring charts for the Toffees, during a supposedly fallow second season, probably reflects as much on the club’s skimpy exploits in continental competition down the years as it does on the youngster’s goal-getting talents. Still though, fair play young man, credit where it’s due.
The equaliser was from the spot after the keeper felled Steven Naismith, then Lukaku added a second soon after, steering home a side-footed volley from a cross by the impressive Luke Garbutt. You have to say we are well stocked with decent full-backs at present and on the strength of what we’ve seen thus far of Garbutt, getting him to sign new deal looks a must, even if it would mean that it would be hard to stand in little loveable Bryan Oviedo’s way if anyone then came in for him in the summer.
After the break, the best goal of the night came when Darron Gibson turned neatly deep in his own half and spotted a run down the middle by Kevin Mirallas. The former Manchester United midfielder drove a perfect pass through the heart of the Swiss defence, allowing Mirallas to draw the keeper and finish coolly at the Park End. It was the Belgian at his best, and hopefully the whole penalty nonsense and the fact that he looks as if he fancies a move at the end of the season can be put to bed until then. Surely all of us over the age of 10 are all past the point where we genuinely believe that any of the players could give a shite about whose shirt they wear as long as they are getting paid top whack and maybe are in a position to win some trophies as an optional extra. Just enjoy watching them play for you in between transfer windows, that’s what you pay your dough for – anything else is just naive.
Going back to Gibson, everyone seems to agree that he definitely adds a welcome new dimension to the way we play. And that’s despite the fact that he now has to wear absolutely enormous shorts. Seeing him take to the field is like when you watch one of then UNICEF games and gasp: ‘Jesus, look at the fucking STATE of Georgi Hagi now. Has he been ill?’
We drew Dynamo Kiev in the next round of the Europa League, which is pretty minty, but there you go. We won’t get knocked out by Liverpool though, which everyone expected, as they actually lost a penalty shootout for once. You almost expect the opposition to concede the frame when they go to spot kicks against that shower, but for once, no. Which was fun.
However, to their credit they picked themselves up and beat Manchester City in the next game where Everton, on the other hand, went to the Emirates.
Again, it’s same old, same old. We might as well start running out to ‘I Got You Babe’.
20 minutes of sterile possession eventually faded out as the lack of any genuine threat up front – with Lukaku willing to run about but painfully isolated – allowed the home side to press higher and higher up the pitch and wrest control of the game back from the Blues.
The opening goal saw a corner struck low into the box – it made its way unmolested to the penalty spot where Olivier Giroud used his strength to steal a yard from John Stones and turn a deft finish inside the far post.
Everton had some half chances in the second half, with Lukaku and substitute Aaron Lennon forcing saves from David Ospina, but Tomas Rosicky killed off any thoughts of a late equaliser when his long-range effort deflected off Phil Jagielka and beat Tim Howard’s dive.
To use one of those boxing analogies we are so fond of, Everton are great sparring partners. They go through all the moves and force you to get a sweat on, but they never look like really hurting you. Especially as most of the forwards play like they have got 16 ounce gloves on their feet.
Arsenal weren’t great, but they didn’t have to be, and they knew it. When they went forward it was with a bit of purpose though and in numbers, as opposed to the Toffees’ almost apologetic ventures into home territory. The sight of Mirallas and Lukaku cutting further and further inside, trying to find a gap for a shot, until they end up more or less on the other wing before giving the ball to the fullback, is becoming a real ‘feature’ of these matches. And not a good one.
That defeat, like every one between now and the end of the season, raked up the whole debate about whether Roberto Martinez is really the man to manage Everton. And the answer is, nobody really knows.
As we said when he first came and have done so ever since, under him: when we’re good, we’re very, very good, and when we’re bad we’re Wigan. The other thing we’ve always stressed is that the debate should never be so much about sacking managers; it should be about appointing them. If Everton have identified a better long-term one than Martinez then they should look to replace the Spaniard, be it now or at the end of the season. As results and performances continue to be generally poor, then perhaps the list of people who could actually do better starts to expand, but sacking a manager inflicts a major trauma on a club. History has shown, over and over a-fucking-gain, that it’s not something to be taken lightly.
What sort of manager do you bring in to replace him anyway? Do you take the England national team approach and alternate with every appointment? Which means we go for a no-nonsense British fella next, someone who will ‘get us organised’ and ‘hard to beat’? Perhaps in the long term that would be the best – maybe with our lack of resources we should accept our limitations and become more risk averse. The players would probably prefer it – Martinez’s style demands they all take more individual responsibility than the player who gets a round of applause from Tony Pulis for ‘getting it in the channels early’, and therefore they are more likely to get exposed and ridiculed when their errors lead to goals. As they so often do, let’s face it.
Or do you look for another stylish foreign chap, but perhaps one with a touch more pragmatism? Ronald Koeman! Is the obvious reply. As Michael Laudrup was the other season. Maybe that is the way to go, to look for someone who is doing well in Holland or Spain, playing decent football with limited dough.
Genuinely, none of these are disingenuous suggestions. And neither is the idea that the best thing might just be to sit tight and see if Martinez can tough it out. He won the FA Cup with Wigan Athletic and took Everton to their best ever Premier League points total. Put it this way, with those achievements on his CV he won’t struggle to find work if we do give him the bullet.
He does need to learn from his mistakes though, and he’s made plenty. He’s worrying, when he looks as if he thinks that just believing in something hard enough will make it happen. Again, when it works, his unshakable conviction about how the game should be played appears admirable – he’s a visionary – but when it doesn’t, like right now, you feel that he could take us all down with him on his sideways-passing suicide mission, screaming ‘Possession is Great! Death to Getting it in the Mixer!’
Put simply, we cannot lose at Stoke City.
On a different note, some chaps in work have kindly offered 20% off all full priced Lacoste gear for readers of This Is Not Football. The code to enter at the checkout is LACOSTE20 and their website is here: http://www.oxygenclothing.co.uk/mens/lacoste
Fill your boots.