You can’t help feel that these Everton players are going to look back on this season as a massive opportunity missed.
Carlo Ancelotti insists that Europa League qualification has always been the primary aim – that we are not ready for the Champions League – but can you really afford to be so choosy when opportunity knocks like this?
Empty stadiums, VAR, and the disjointed COVID-calendar have been the disrupting factors, along with favourable managerial life-cycles at some of the traditional top-four contenders, that have left the door ajar for someone else to steal in and have a shake of the midweek money tree.
Farhad Moshiri has a long-term plan for the Blues’ future – or at least you hope he has. Do you reckon his missus refers to Yannick Bolasie as ‘the yacht’? Anyway, the Everton owner surely has designs on essentially not continuing to pour money down the drain, and sees some sort of return on his investment way down the line when Bramley Moore is established. However, surely getting his hands on some of those Gazprom Benjamins in the meantime would have been welcome? Even just psychologically, it might have given the whole club a bit of a lift.
‘Well, that’s most of the Dave Klaasen money recouped I suppose. Onwards and upwards, Marcel. Onwards and upwards.’
To watch the Everton squad though, especially at home against shite, you really would not think that they can even conceive of such a prize, never mind attain it. Burnley are shite, by the way. There’s no point saying ‘no disrespect’ here, because it is really, really disrespectful, but just to reiterate here, in case you have any doubts whatsoever: Burnley are shite.
And yet they beat Everton comfortably.
The big story about the team selection – essentially Everton’s Harry and Meghan – concerned Alex Iwobi and the interpretations of his Instagram message saying he hopes to be deployed in his proper position when he goes on international duty. It’s not big at all, clearly, but what else have we got to do except look for narratives like this to fill the gaps between games?
In response to the pantomime-horse-headed midfielder’s exhortations, Ancelotti basically Jason Nevinsed him. The music producer did the remix of Run DMC’s It’s Like That but received only the standard production fee, despite his argument that it was his input that transformed the relatively obscure track into an enormous worldwide hit. The band’s response was: ‘If you’re so smart, do it again, magic man.’
Actually, I’ve just looked Jason Nevins up there and realised that this is a terrible analogy, seeing as he went on to actually do the same again, producing a massive hit for Nelly. And not getting shot to death.
Anyway, the point still remains, Ancelotti gave the nebulous Nigerian the opportunity to state his case, playing in the role commonly known these days as the ‘false footballer’, and he was just as anonymous there as he is out wide, the position he was shifted straight back to when the Toffees were 2-0 down.
Ancelotti’s post-match comments seem a bit weird, suggesting that we are better when we stick to the basics and we’re defensively solid, as if this result was the product of us being unpicked while attacking with gay abandon. Heaven forbid like, at home to Burnley.
We got lucky in a couple of home games against Chelsea and Arsenal, sitting dead deep and conceding midfield, and now we seem completely wedded to it, regardless of the opposition. It feels like a crutch, like when at the slightest hint of adversity, at Everton and Manchester United, David Moyes would go, ‘Right, fuck it, I’ve seen enough, tell that big Belgian twat to get his arse up front. Actually, while you are at it Steve, tell the them two to swap wings for a bit.’
Mason Holgate is another, by the way, who needs to play where he’s best suited, and that’s the Hawthorns. Fair enough (it’s not) he offers little going forward, but defensively he’s terrible, spending the game pawing at his opponent like Helen Keller on a first date.
Another youngster, Tom Davies, has been on a better run of late, and much is required of him now to fill the void left by Abdoulaye Doucoure. However, he has a habit of gambling when he feels any sort of challenge, turning into the opponent and going limp. Every game there’s at least a couple where you exclaim: ‘Jesus! Good job the referee blew there.’
Well on 13 minutes he never.
The ball eventually found its way to varsity rower Chris Wood and he bent his shot into the bottom corner. If it wasn’t for lockdown he would definitely have gone out to towny bars afterwards to get mullered with the lads, wearing his Leicester Tigers jersey tucked into his jeans and absolutely massive belt.
And If that wasn’t fun enough, 10 minutes later, Allan – the forklift driver who sits on his own in the canteen reading imported karate magazines – looked like he was wearing a surgical truss as Dwight McNeil manoeuvred past him like a spill in aisle nine before curling an absolute pearler into the top corner.
Only wools say ‘worldy’. Or ‘pelters’ for that matter.
On 32 minutes, Iwobi – who was no worse than the rest of the shite, in all honesty – set Davies free and his brilliant cross left Dominic Calvert-Lewin with no option but to score.
A goal back then. Game on. All to play for. That will have Sean Dyche panicking now.
None of it. Everton were just as bad in the second half.
Where other teams’ passing is described using words like zip, fizz and even ‘ping’, these Toffees roll the ball laboriously across the back four like they are trying to start a snowman. It normally ends with Ben Godfrey gesturing to the midfield like a misunderstanding over the last space in the Asda car park before ushering it back for the keeper to smash it long towards the isolated strikers.
Ashley Cole mentioned something in the build up to the Chelsea game, and not a lot has really been made of it. He said that he doesn’t fancy Everton for the top four, not because of a lack of enough talent, but because when he watches them he gets the impression that they don’t work hard enough.
Now the whole ‘they don’t want it enough’ shout is too reductive – everyone says it when their team gets beat – but watching the Blues consistently perform like this against – let’s say it again, shite – it’s becoming hard to argue with the him.
Luckily it’s Manchester City next week. And keeping them at bay for some of the game is enough because they are dead, dead good.
We can’t end it there though. This week’s recommendation is a history of online communities call Lurking: How A Person Became a User by Joanne McNeil.
It’s full of fascinating stuff – not least the thing about Google Street View and Leonard Cohen.
Did everyone else know that already?
See, you’ve forgotten about Everton already.