Remember James Rodriguez?
That all seems a while ago, doesn’t it?
As the old saying goes, necessity is the motherfucker of invention, and this ‘pure Moyes’ Everton 2.1 are absolutely thriving despite the loss of the South American superstar of the early season.
Presumably we are still ‘massive in Colombia’ though, with fellas sat off in Medellin bars ruminating on the outstanding performances of Ben Godfrey.
‘I like this guy. When he tackles you it’s like being hit with a sack full of car parts.’
Of the three big wins in the last week, the Leicester one was the best overall performance. This Arsenal side’s problems are well documented, but still you can’t overstate the extent of the injuries Carlo Ancelotti had to contend with. The midfield, missing Allan with that hamstring tear suffered at the King Power Stadium, was also shorn of Andre Gomes with the latest in a long line of frustrating injuries for the Portuguese playmaker. That meant Tom Davies came in alongside Gylfi Sigurdsson and the priceless Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Alex Iwobi is another who has been tireless and diligent during this upturn in form, and when Rodriguez does return it might be Sigurdsson’s place that is under threat more than that of the Nigerian Kevin Kilbane. By the way, have you noticed how skilfully Iwobi dribbles when running parallel to the goal? He’s incredible. If the coaches could get him turned 90 degrees he would be Cristiano Ronaldo.
While Iwobi’s effort definitely eclipses his ability for the most part – an Arsenal supporter once said he always looks like he’s buffering – on 22 minutes he created the opener, swinging in a cross that Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed onto the thigh of Rob Holding and past the dive of Bernd Leno.
When goals feel as hard-earned as they are for these patched up Toffees, you live on your nerves somewhat. There’s always the chance, of course, that Jordan Pickford might do something abstract. And the modern game also lends itself to an almost rugby-like approach of getting the ball into the danger area in the hope that you come up with the winning numbers on your Stockley Park scratchcard.
There was, however, no VAR controversy surrounding the penalty that Davies conceded on 35 minutes. It just seems to be accepted now, like the one we gave away at Newcastle, that if an attacker – deliberately or otherwise – inserts himself between you and your genuine attempt to clear the ball, that’s a penalty.
When Nicolas Pepe converted you wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Arsenal then grew in confidence and Everton went into their shell. However, the difference with this side and our defensive displays of the past is that nowadays there’s always that element of danger posed by Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin – even if it just involves launching the ball for them to fight for it on occasion, especially when the opposition have been goaded into pressing numbers deep into our territory.
It was Calvert-Lewin then, just on half-time, with the confidence befitting a young player leading the running for the Capocannoniere, whose left-footed shot was pushed wide by Leno for the corner that ultimately decided the match.
Incidentally, what’s the deal with Sigurdsson? He’s captain, so the management and the other players must respect him, and you feel that everyone really wants him to do well, because who doesn’t like the idea of a decent fella with really neat hair and thunder in his boots prospering at the top of the game? But he never seems to get on the ball enough to really influence games creatively, and for all the distance he covers, when he reaches an opponent and tries to make a challenge he looks like he’s got his laptop bag jammed in the bus doors.
There’s the old cliche about great pros you build a team around who give a solid 7 out of 10 every game. It feels like Sigurdsson gives you 6.
Reading that back that feels a bit arl arse given that this one of his better games and it was his cracking corner that Yerry Mina headed home brilliantly at the near post.
He’ll live though. And the point remains – in the long-run we definitely need someone more ‘serious’ in that attacking midfield role.
Anyway, there ain’t no party like a Pickford party, and one of the few standout moments of a second-half where Everton were more than happy to contain the struggling Gunners was when Evel Knievel slapped a high ball to the feet of David Luiz. Thankfully a Doucoure block and the Park End woodwork combined to deny a second equaliser.
The final moments were horribly tense as Mikel Arteta’s team finally went all-out, and the Blues dropped deeper and deeper. Pickford, who for all his faults does consistently make big saves, preserved the three points with a brilliant stop from Bukayo Sako in injury time before the thousands in attendance and the millions around the world breathed a sigh of relief as a deflection off Michael Keane’s thigh dropped safely into the keeper’s arms.
A brilliant week then, and some fabulous team performances. The fixtures don’t get any easier like, but hopefully with players returning to fitness the Blues can keep this form up over Christmas and well into the New Year.