‘Hi, hi, yeah. Is that you Brendan? Can you speak? It’s John Henry. You’re not driving? Ok, great. Well listen, I’ve got three envelopes here… Haha. Not really. You are sacked though.’
Well then, we’re not going to get many better chances than that to absolutely welly them everywhere, but Everton never really rose to the occasion in an underwhelming derby that will only ever be remembered for being Brendan Rodgers’ last.
The gift that keeps giving got the bullet after the match, and when you look at the kip of his team after the fortunes he’s spent on it, then he can’t really have too many complaints.
What’s that noise – the net spend klaxon?
Roberto Martinez picked the same team that was fucking rubbish in the first half at the Hawthorns and their performance wasn’t really that much different here for long periods.
You can’t overstate the impact that losing Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines has on this team though, despite the sterling efforts of Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway. For two teenagers to come in and play out of position in the Premier League with such maturity is a testament to their ability and temperament, but they are primarily stoppers, not attacking machines like the two senior stars they are replacing. We really could have done with Baines and Coleman piling into the box here, like the titles on Dads Army, and turning the likes of that horrific yard-dog Mamadou Sakho, especially towards the end of the match when the Blues finally roused themselves into pushing for a winner.
Another defender with little Premier League experience is Pee Wee Herman-haired Argentine centre-half Ramiro Funes Mori, and he also did well in nullifying Liverpool’s only real threat, Daniel Sturridge.
A lot of credit must go to the Lancashire Cannavaro then, Phil Jagielka, who is holding that inexperienced defence together and just seems to get better all the time. Remember when he always looked like ‘he had a mistake in him’ and we wondered whether he was a good enough footballer to play Martinez’s style? Long gone, those days. Long gone.
Unfortunately, while the defence played well, we were less good going forward, despite Romelu Lukaku holding the ball up and battling away like the old school hard-case centre-forward he often gets criticised for, well, not being. You know what we mean.
Everyone gets excited by Gerard Deulofeu, because he is clearly so talented, but as with all precocious youngsters, when he is bad he is absolutely fucking last. He made it far too easy for their left-back to cut him out of the game here by staying right out on the line and pushing too far forward. He never came short and put any doubt into the defender’s mind. Whenever Browning had the ball he had try and clip a perfect pass into the corner and invariably just surrendered possession cheaply.
That said, despite having a poor game, it was from one of Deulofeu’s crosses – the ones that would touch kids if they were any more evil – that Lukaku equalised on the stroke of half time. Danny Ings had scored the softest of headers from a corner on 41 minutes for them, when Deulofeu whipped the ball into the six-yard box. Emre Can panicked and cleared the ball against the surprisingly moist-elbowed Martin Skrtl, and Lukaku reacted quickest to lash the loose ball past Simon Mignolet.
The parked-car-chasing Anfield custodian had denied Everton’s two best chances when he palmed away a point-blank Steven Naismith header from a cheeky Ross Barkley free-kick and then sprawled full length to stop a James McCarthy blammer from the edge of the box.
The second half was petulant and disjointed – Barkley curled a good opportunity wide when he had better options and in the closing stages Lukaku had a couple of half-chances. Referee Martin Atkinson also made some bizarre decisions, most notably allowing snidey-faced Lucas Leiva free rein to trip and tug his way around midfield to the fury of the Goodison crowd. The tit.
That said, even if they had a man sent off in the second half it wouldn’t have made that much difference. They were happy with a point and Everton are still lacking that bit of cunning that it takes to open up unadventurous visitors. The Blues were the better side but didn’t really do enough in terms of putting that rabble under pressure for sustained periods. Other mid-table sides will undoubtedly come and steal points by playing the same way at Goodison this season.
We’re clearly a decent team with some very good players – and three absolute belters to return in defence. Martinez still looks like he’s trying to figure out his best attacking combination though. Naismith’s hat trick against Chelsea clearly put him back in favour, but Aroune Kone seems to bring the best out of Lukaku when he plays. Barkley shows his ability in flashes too, but still they look like they need to figure out the best way to utilise his skills. As Martinez has said before, when Barkley’s pushed right forward he can get a bit stifled.
Deulofeu’s interesting because he plays right on the edge – he’s always on the cusp of either creating a chance or giving the ball away, and that’s what makes him so exciting and yet so frustrating. Does Martinez embrace that though and pick him every week now? That would be interesting – to see how he reacts to that level of responsibility. However, after this display the temptation will surely be to bring in Aaron Lennon, for his work-rate and consistency, especially against Manchester United.
We also have to figure in the return of moody-arse Kevin Mirallas too. If he can get his head right then let’s not forget, he is some player.
Nice problems to have then. And if Martinez can settle on a first eleven that he really believes in then there is never going to a better opportunity for someone outside of the usual big beasts to finish in the top four. So why not us?
Finally, a tip of the sartorial hat to the seemingly growing band of fellas who batter the weights and wear dead tight replica shirts to the match.