Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.
Yes, fine, obviously it was heartbreaking conceding a goal so late on Saturday night that John Terry was played onside by Paddy McGuinness and some syphilitic boiler from Stourbridge. However, once you take Ramiro Funes Mori’s stolen sleep-mask off and look at the big picture you have to see the positives in how we approached this run of fuck-off-fixtures in January.
From the second half against Spurs onwards, these young Toffees have more than held their own twice with title-tipped money-monster Manchester City and absolutely out-footballed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. There was no arguing whatsoever when they took a two-goal lead in London and were only denied the three points their performance deserved by bad refereeing and some trademark Tim Howard.
The football they are playing at the moment is utterly sensational. And it just seems completely ‘Everton’ to adopt a purist possession style when almost everybody else in the league seems to be going for this reductive pressure-and-counter approach. Roberto Martinez doesn’t seem interested in accepting limitations though, and as a result we saw the home crowd at the Etihad, mostly comprised of fellas who man stalls at Sunday computer fairs, cheering when Sergio Aguero – reduced to the Marcus Bent role – managed to make Everton go long with a clearance, such was their frustration at the Blues’ monopoly of the ball.
In the past, this possession-mania has been just as exasperating for the Everton fans as the opposition, when it felt like it was passing for passing’s sake, but that’s no longer the case at all. This team is clearly developing before our eyes, and now that the passing routines have become second nature for the whole squad they are getting steadily better at not just keeping the ball in the big, safe areas of the pitch, but using that possession to manoeuver the opposition where they want them before switching play to the exposed weak spots.
The next level again will be turning those ‘overloads’ and one-on-ones into goals on a more consistent basis, or at least ending them with a free kick in our favour. That may seem counterintuitive given we have the leader of the Capocannoniere in the shape of Romelu Lukaku, and have already scored plenty this season, but if the game-plan is to give a bit up defensively in order to commit to attack, then by definition you have to make more opportunities count than your more ‘solid’ opponents.
We are crying out then for someone other than Lukaku who is clinical and clever in the opposition penalty area, whether that’s Andriy Yarmolenko, Wayne Rooney or, on Saturday’s evidence, Kevin Mirallas.
At one point Kurt Zouma (just one touch and then his arse went boom-a) was left spinning in the ostrich-featured Belgian’s wake following a sublime turn deep in Chelsea territory. A second such outrageous rotation, picking up a low, driven ball from Leighton Baines near the penalty spot, was topped off with a rasping drive beyond Thibaut Courtois that seemed to have the Toffees en route to a famous victory.
Those moments were those of a top class attacking talent, although when Muhamed Besic played Mirallas clean through later in the game, his hurried finish straight at the keeper was sadly more Louis Walsh than Luis Suarez.
That obviously assumes that the boyband-loving X Factor impresario has no goalscoring talent, which is perhaps unfair. He might really, really good at football, although we envisage him more of a ‘no nonsense’ central defender, but we’ve nothing to back that up. So we take that original comment back.
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: we will be very lucky to make a signing during this transfer window who is capable of adding as much to our attack as Mirallas. His attitude has been questioned during his brief appearances since appearing to fall out with the manager, but here at ‘the Bridge’ there were no signs of any lack of commitment whatsoever.
Mirallas’ goal was Everton’s second, and came after Terry had already turned a low cross from Leighton Baines into his own net at the end of a great move that saw defenders bouncing off Lukaku like that time when Gulliver went on the Stella and Jaeger-bombs all day in Lilliput.
‘Oh my god, he’s having a shite on the orphanage!’
Anyway, if Everton could have kept Chelsea out for a little while longer and forced them to chase the ball, their squad of brittle-hearted phoneys would have thrown their hand in like they did at Goodison. But we always have to figure the Howard wildcard into any equation, and this time the under-fire keeper, who had actually gone some way to restoring his reputation by saving all the shots smashed right at him at City and earlier in this match, decided to to rush out of his box to intervene when Diego Costa muscled ahead of Phil Jagielka as they pursued a long, bouncing ball out of defence.
Whether T-Why? was right to come for the ball is up for debate – if he hadn’t then it’s conceivable that the bastardy-faced Brazilian would have been clean through with a lot of goal to aim at. However, once he decided he was coming, he had to smash the ball and, if necessary, friend and foe, into the fucking night sky. Instead, his bottle went, he took his eye off the ball, collided with Jagielka and left Costa with an unguarded net.
As you would expect, that utterly undeserved reprieve gave the home team a lift, and it surprised absolutely no one when moments later they drew level thanks to a deflected Cesc Fabregas effort.
Everton kept attacking though, and in the final minute of normal time, two of Martinez’s substitutes combined for what should have been a memorable winner. When Gerard Deulofeu’s initial corner was fed back to him the young Spaniard looked up, puffed out his chest and sent a malicious cross screaming out of the clouds to the back post. As Lukaku prepared to head goalwards from the tightest of angles, Mori steamed in Zlatan-style to Taekwondo the ball back across Courtois and into the net.
And lo, ‘scenes’ ensued.
The referee added seven minutes of stoppage time for an earlier injury to Bryan Oviedo, and then kindly played the full eight of them. Enough time for a load of head tennis in the Blues’ box that ended with England’s Brave John Terry flicking the ball home from what looked like a resoundingly offside position. Seriously, if the he’d scored any later we would be starting the Swansea game 1-0 down.
Anyway, once again we experienced one of the worst feelings in football, the sucker punch following the lunatic elation of what looks like a last-minute clincher.
We really could do with a better trademark than that.
So it’s clearly a right pain in the pipe then, the game ending like that, but fucking hell, you have to see the wood for the trees here. Yes, we need to be cuter, more clinical and maybe even more cynical, but that will come with experience. The foundation we have though, in terms of the football that is now second nature for this pretty special group of players, is not be underestimated. We can and will get better at ‘managing’ games. Can the rest improve their style enough to keep pace with us?
We’re unlike almost any other team in this league, with some of the best young players in Europe. Admittedly, some of our teething problems are fucking infuriating, but the feeling that we are on the cusp of something very special continues to grow.
Thrilling, raw and inconsistent.
Everton are punk rock.