Well then, 2016, the year when loads of famous people shuffled off this mortal coil, the British public voted to cut off their noses to spite their faces, and not the faces of the ‘hordes’ of immigrants, as they had been led to believe, while over in the US the political landscape finally dissolved once and for all into a nightmarish bad trip scene from a 70s exploitation film, with some weird cunt running around wearing a blood-stained rabbit head and Donald Trump’s big orange face looming out of the shadows, lit harshly from below and laughing maniacally.
It was also the year that Everton finally appeared to be free from the financial straitjacket that’s limited them for decades, a new ground down at the docks is being talked about with some confidence, and we appointed a big deal, high profile European footballing legend as manager.
But still, the mood around the club remains weird.
A memorable win against in-form Arsenal, a typically shitty loss to the other shower, and then a much-needed ‘classic away performance’ at the home of the reigning champions saw us take six points from a potentially tricky nine and lift us up to seventh in the table, but the fact remains that everyone just seems a little bit puzzled about the direction in which we’re heading on the pitch.
Is Ronald Koeman instigating a revolution at Goodison? Does the Dutchman, who shares with Kenny Dalglish that ability to always look like he’s just got out of the shower, simply have higher standards than those that have been accepted at Everton for years? Are his blunt statements about players in the press and his decidedly pointed ‘snubstitutions’ just his reaction to endemic complacency that he’s encountered at his new club?
Or, is he trying to insulate himself from criticism by scapegoating certain players and more or less saying ‘what the fuck do you expect me to achieve with this load of shite’? And is his man-management – which is just ‘management’, really, isn’ it – just absolutely shocking?
Genuinely, it would be fascinating to know what’s going on at Finch Farm and what his relationship is like with the majority of the players.
It’s certainly a high-stakes game he’s playing at the moment, more or less writing off half the squad and telling everyone that the players don’t work hard enough and that some of them don’t deserve their elevated reputations.
Ross Barkley, basically.
The thing is, any of us sat in the stands can point out the faults of the players – and let’s be honest, there’s very little that Koeman says that we don’t agree with. It’s doing something about it that’s the hard bit though. The bit that they pay you £6 million a year to sort out.
Presumably he talks to Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright and has their backing with regards to his approach. And so you have to think that they are going to give the manager and transfer-titan Steve Walsh the money to bring in a load of players who are an improvement on the titty-lipped runts and weaklings that Koeman can barely bring himself to look at, such is his disgust.
He loves a tricky winger, does Ronald – we’re linked to loads, in the way that David Moyes was always ‘tracking’ obscure teenage goalkeepers – and apparently a £10 million deal for Charlton Athletic teenager Ademola Lookman – who sounds like someone asking a dentist a question, mid-procedure – is set go ahead the very moment the January transfer window is cracked open.
Where we are absolutely crying out for a big signing though is in the attacking midfield role that Barkley continues to disappoint in. We’ve got Romelu Lukaku there – an absolute phenomenon – but he gets almost no service. We need someone supporting him who can take the ball in tight spaces around the opponents’ box, turn and see passes quickly. And if they’re not on, be clever enough to keep the ball and win free-kicks. Barkley’ strength is coming from deeper, running onto the ball, not playing with his back to goal. Everton have tried to compensate for his poor work-rate and lack of aggression by putting him in that freer role, but it’s done him no favours and it robs the team of a specialist in the position that requires the most intelligent player in your squad.
Barkley needs to work on what he does when his side don’t have the ball if he’s going to play as a proper midfielder and fulfil his potential, because Koeman seems unwilling to indulge his inconsistency any longer and it seems highly unlikely that any other top side would either.
It would be a massive shame if he never becomes the player that his enormous natural talent deserves. Hopefully he takes Koeman’s criticism to heart then and uses it as a spur to get better in a Rocky training montage and prove everyone, including the crowd and that Dutch fucker, wrong. To see that sort of righteous indignation from him would be brilliant.
On the other hand though, he could just ask his agent to get him a move.
We go to Hull on Friday, then play Southampton next week, and you just don’t know what to expect. The football we play is horrific at times – seemingly without any sort plan other than to twat the ball into the corners and leg after it. Isn’t it weird, how football has become strangely inverted, with centre-halves worth tens of millions because they are skilful on the ball, while attackers are now judged on their ability to run around and tackle.
Anyway, Koeman still has to work with the dregs at his disposal for a little while longer, until ‘Walshy’ works his magic. The Toffees’ signings-stud has presumably spent the last few months travelling the globe like Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables, recruiting dead-eyed soccer-assassins from illegal Far East footy pits and terrifying Siberian goal mines. He better had, anyway.
That’s your lot then. As ever, loads of questions and absolutely no answers.