Liverpool 4 Everton 0

Is it safe to look yet?

Have they stopped scoring?

Just where do you start with a night like that?

Remember against Queens Park Rangers, when we said that Antolin Alcaraz looked like a drunken uncle playing footy in the garden against little kids? Well imagine if that self-same fella got woken up from his hammock and told to play against Luis Suarez.

Clearly the responsibility for one of the worst humiliations at Anfield in living memory – and boy there’s some stiff competition there – doesn’t lie with the paceless Paraguayan. His selection in such a big game though, in a defence that also featured rookie centre-half John Stones at right-back, gives some indication of the cobbled-together nature of the first Everton side that Roberto Martinez took across the park.

As suspected, a number of other players whose fitness was in question were deemed fit enough, but as we feared beforehand, Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar looked lacking in match sharpness after a bright enough opening 15 minutes.

It was a night when almost everything that could go wrong did, apart from Daniel Sturridge blazing a penalty over the bar. By that point though, four goals up, Liverpool could more or less laugh that off.

Imagine that. In the derby.

Liverpool’s opener came on 21 minutes when Steven Gerrard connected with Luis Suarez’s excellent corner to crash a header in at the near post.

To add injury to insult, Gareth Barry not only lost Gerrard’s run but he also slipped and crashed into Romelu Lukaku, taking his leg out like a skittle. The Belgian striker hobbled off with ankle ligament damage, replaced by the willing but ineffective Steven Naismith, and our fate was pretty much sealed.

A load of coins also got lashed at Suarez as he took the corner and the police are now involved. It’s not clever, and neither is trying to convince a magistrate that ‘Banzai! You horrible fucking crab!’ is a term of endearment where you come from.

The only players to come out of the game with any real credit for the Blues were Kevin Mirallas and second half substitute Leon Osman. Mirallas has been accused of being something of a fair weather player in the past but despite Everton’s glaring deficiencies in this hopeless encounter he almost singlehandedly took the game to Liverpool at times and nearly equalised with a low shot that skimmed narrowly wide, just before the roof completely caved in.

On 33 minutes Phillipe Coutinho released Sturridge into the space where Everton should theoretically have had a defence and the England striker finished easily past the helpless Tim Howard.

If that one wasn’t bad enough, the next, less than two minutes later, essentially killed the game stone dead.

Sturridge again latched onto a high, straight ball out of defence, unencumbered by anything as gauche as a blue-shirted marker. He still had some work to do though, to bring the big hoof down and get himself facing the goal, but Howard spared him all that by legging out towards a ball he could not possibly reach. Only one of them golf sale signs with LOB ME written on it would have been more inviting.

3-0 at half time, they are all going bananas, understandably, while the Everton team shuffle down the tunnel with the haunted look of men who should be wearing necklaces made of ears.

After the restart Osman comes on and they pin Liverpool back initially, but as they say, it’s the hope that kills you. The hope, and suicide passes by Phil Jagielka.

Suarez cut out the England defender’s lazy sideways pass, surged from just inside his own half and slotted past Howard as everyone knew he would.

All that remained, as if that wasn’t enough, was for Sturridge to toey the penalty over. We could complain about the supposed foul itself by Howard on Raheem Sterling – it’s getting to the point where referees might as well point to the spot the moment a player is put through now – but that wasn’t really the night’s big talking point.

If only.

Liverpool were very good. They pressurised Everton expertly, they broke ruthlessly and when the Blues did pose a threat, which they did on occasion, red shirts crowded them out.

For Everton the result was an absolute disaster in itself – 4-0 at Anfield for fuck’s sake – and also as an indication of where the present injury crisis has left the team.

This certainly represents the first big test of Martinez as an Everton manager and he may well need the help of the supporters to get through it. Let’s face it, we knew it wasn’t always going to be brown shoes and ‘Bring Me Sunshine’.

The style of play Martinez demands from his players is one that is more dependent on confidence and assurance than perhaps more traditional British methods and when it works, as we have seen for most of this season, it is spectacular. When it doesn’t though, as occurred at Wigan on many occasions and now at Anfield, well, it’s still pretty spectacular to be honest.

Aston Villa, one of the division’s best counter-attacking teams, will come to Goodison on Saturday and seek to exploit the same weaknesses as Liverpool and play on any residual fear and self-doubt that lingers from Tuesday night.

Everyone at the club – the group, if you will – has to pick themselves up then, as hard as that is in the wake of what was an absolute fucking massacre, and pull together again for the remainder of a season in which there is still so much to play for.

However, that said, until 3 o’clock Saturday:

JUST FUCK OFF EVERTON

Stevenage and the Derby and That

‘Don’t look down, lad. Don’t look down. I’ve got some good news for you and some bad news. The good news is that it’s not soft tissue damage…’

The tale of Everton’s trip to Stevenage should have been about how the Blues made a mockery of the banana-skin-seeking BT Sport cameras and put on one of those gulf-in-class-underlining performances that always seemed to be de rigeur for most of the Premier League apart from us. However, this professional and controlled display from Roberto Martinez’s Blues was overshadowed almost totally by a gruesome injury to Bryan Oviedo.

Playing in midfield and gamely tackling back, the versatile Costa Rican got his legs tangled up in the definitive ‘innocuous challenge’ – they’re often far worse than even the really ‘ocuous’ ones – and ended up on the deck. He tried to get up, his leg didn’t, and now he will miss the rest of the season and possibly the World Cup in Brazil.

Rotten luck and that ain’t no lie.

It’s a shame for anyone to suffer such a serious injury, but it seems particularly cruel on someone who has waited as long for their opportunity as cult hero Oviedo has. Now, footballing cult figures fit several archetypes, but they are mostly energetic yard-dogs, locally born hard cases, simple ale tanks or just good goalscorers who bite white people.  The smiling, Sapphic-haired Central American though has won over the Everton supporters for the way, when called upon after so long, he stepped up and seamlessly filled the boots of one of the club’s brightest stars, Leighton Baines.

Taking his sadly historic goal at Old Trafford smoother than a Kenco coffee bean then only cemented his place in the hearts and minds of Blues who all seem gutted for someone who appears to be a genuinely good egg too. He might not be, like, he might be a right little ratbag for all we know, but he always comes across as a fairly unassuming and pleasant sort – there are definitely plenty of players in the Premier League more deserving of having their leg kicked the fuck off. But we’ll probably get to some of them in the second bit.

Oviedo won’t feature for the rest of the season now, which is a genuine loss to Everton, but everyone hopes that he at least manages to get fit in time for the World Cup and comes back next season ready to carry on where he left off for the Toffees.

In better fullback news, the man whose metronome consistency kept the Latin livewire out of the first team for so long, the aforementioned Leighton Baines, has finally agreed a new four-year deal that should keep him at Goodison until he is 33. That’s the proverbial ‘coup’ because, as we never really tire of saying, Baines is just about the textbook definition of an Everton player.

‘Supports Liverpool and never won anything.’ Yes, very good at the back, very droll. If you have to have it explained then you will never really understand. He just is, possibly in the way that Steven Gerrard is more of less the definitive Liverpool player.

And you can take that however you please.

Everton did have far too much for Stevenage, despite the changes to the squad, with Steven Naismith leading the line well in the absence of the rested Romelu Lukaku. The Scot scored two goals, with the first teed up by the impressive full-debutant Aiden McGeady. Granted, it was only a Division One fullback the Irishman was skinning but considering he hasn’t played much first team football in the last six months he looked lively enough and full of running.

Substitutes Johnny Heitinga and Magaye Gueye – did you have him last goal as well? – rounded off the scoring and their mere inclusions underlined the sorry state the squad is in at present. And that’s a shame, because with our best team you genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we went to Anfield and buried them like a pet, especially after watching their game against Aston Villa the other weekend.

With so many players missing though, you can’t have the same level of belief. A load are said to be borderline in terms of fitness, but even if they can patch up the likes of Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar, will they be sharp enough to shine in what is a pretty tough ground for any side, never mind us?

Having said all that, despite the dent to our ambitions caused by all the injuries we still probably go with more belief than ever simply because of what’s gone before this season. The confidence that the players have and the style of football we employ under Martinez are what saw us completely outplay the Reds for long periods at Goodison, for instance, as well as also beating Chelsea there before winning away at Manchester United and then terrifying the life out of Arsenal at the Emirates when almost everyone still believed that they might actually win the title this season.

In short, nobody really has a clue of what to expect from this game. Anything seems possible under Martinez – you wouldn’t be at all surprised if some youngster like John Stones was forced to play and had an absolute stormer, while Lukaku, who must be due a decent game, could have Liverpool’s centre-halves looking over their shoulders more warily than Linda Nolan on Top of the Pops. On the other hand, their front two are clearly a genuine danger for anyone, with mantrap molars in particular proving particularly troublesome for even the sturdiest Blues’ defences since he’s been there. Therefore it’s certainly no great stretch to imagine him running riot against any makeshift back-line.

It’s undoubtedly an intriguing game then, because are so many new variables after years of these games having a fairly settled pattern, but whether it is ‘the biggest derby in years’ as it is being billed seems questionable. With so many points still to play for, and plenty of matches remaining against the division’s other top teams, nothing will be settled on Tuesday night, whatever the outcome.

So then, with all that to reflect on, and in something of a break from tradition, we leave the final words to none other than smoky-eyed shite-spieler Mr Brendan Rodgers.

‘When I came in here Everton had finished above Liverpool and last season finished above us also.

‘Everton’s basis is a good defensive record, still stable from what they have been over a few years – we are a team who have upped the ante in terms of our offensiveness.’

Stevenage Preview

Right then, first thing’s first. Own up.

Come on, we’re not going on until you do.

One of you knows who it was.

According to the admin tools of this here website, someone has been entering its address into some sort of web analytics site which creates a link entitled ‘analysing competition’.

Competition, eh?

Well, take this as a warning shot across your bows, if indeed you have any bows, we are not going to surrender this much-sought-after market segment without one heck of a struggle, daddio. We’re planting a flag in our tranche of the ‘read the official site and all the papers’ reports and the proper supporters ones as well that rate players out of 10 and all that and I’ve still got 20 minutes left until my next ciggy break, let’s see what sort of cranky bollocks that dickhead has put on there, if indeed it’s even been updated, with any luck it will be something that slightly aggravates me by not confirming my existing opinions’ pie, and you will take it over our dead bodies – or when we just get fed up and jib it on a whim. Whatever comes first.

Consider that the sheepy mitten thrown down.

We couldn’t find a real gauntlet.

Now, ordinarily it would make sense to write an absolute humdinger of a preview from here on in, to hammer home the point that we’ve well and truly got our literary dander up. Despite not knowing what a ‘dander’ actually is.

That might not happen though.

First off anyway, let’s go back and see what we said about Stevenage after the Capital One Cup game at Goodison earlier in the season.

Right, are you back? Did you read it all? We’re going to be discussing it here so if you never, go back and take it all in. The more you put in, the more you will get out.

Honestly, you people.

Anyway, things have certainly moved on since that encounter with Stevenage, with the goalscoring face-saver Marouane Fellaini joining the Old Trafford fúck de clustier and Everton settling into their passing style to the point where it is not the ongoing divisive, philosophical debating point that we predicted. There are times when the Blues don’t play well, but everyone seems to be pretty much agreed now that it’s when the Roberto Martinez plan isn’t executed correctly and, crucially, not a fundamental flaw in the blueprint itself.

What? You can’t have a ‘project’ without a ‘blueprint’, everyone knows that. Everyone in the ‘group’, anyway.

Stevenage manager Graham Westley has been attempting some cut-price mind games this week, suggesting that Martinez would be mad to play his first choice team ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Psychoville, and also stating that the Toffees can expect a bizarre environment at the seven thousand capacity Broadhall Way.

How bizarre can it possibly be? Are Westley and his players going to simulate a really bad drug episode from 1970s cinema by wearing oversized animal heads, laughing maniacally and looming in and out of focus during the warm up? It’s happened before.

Talking of drugs on screen, this century’s ‘jumping the shark’, the moment when a television series announces it is creatively bankrupt, should be the episode when some uptight character inadvertently eats ‘special cookies’ and says ‘Mmm, what’s in these, they’re gorgeous. Is it cinnamon?’ while their housemate looks on horrified and replies, ‘N-o-o-o-o-o-t exactly….’

The only exception to this rule is the Operation Goodguys Christmas special when they use bags of confiscated ‘special snow’ during their increasingly agitated pantomime.

While we’re on the subject of the telly, have you noticed that when anyone is meant to be drinking a cup of tea or coffee it’s always empty? Do they forget to CGI the liquid in?

And when will girls ever learn that if they get in a pickup truck with a college sports star after the prom, especially one who is swigging from a hip flask, the night’s going to end up with a ripped dress and a chase through a cornfield?

So anyway, Seamus Coleman’s injury isn’t thought to be serious and he could be back for the derby. And as a shout out to all the dads out there, ‘What, did you get kicked in the head, lad?’ Because that’s what they would say if you told them that you had a ‘soft tissue injury’.

In other news, the Blues have been courting a bit of controversy this week, starting with Romelu Lukaku standing up for Nicolas Anelka in the wake of the French striker’s quenelle celebration and subsequent ban. To be honest, there has been very little genuine criticism of Lukaku seeing as Everton took the offending interview off their website straight away and everyone could see it was a comment he made in defence of his mate when asked directly about whether he should be punished. No one really thinks that Lukaku has given much, if any, thought to the nuances of French race relations and the cultural hot pomme de terre that is this weirdo salute.

And if all that wasn’t enough, the club has been fined £45,000 for making an illegal approach to some young centre-half at Nottingham Forest back in 2010. As efforts at tapping up go it was clearly a rubbish one as he is still at the City Ground. In fact, he actually had a loan spell at Stevenage in 2012. See, it’s not just all random this, there is some skilful weaving of threads going on in the background.

That’s pretty much the lot, really. There was some talk of the loan deal for Lacina Traore perhaps failing to go through because of the cruciate injury to Monaco’s main striker, Radamel Falcao, but Martinez seems to think that won’t be the case. Why the lofty forward hasn’t signed then isn’t clear, as he has received clearance to play over here and everything. This is definitely feeling more like a proper Everton transfer window.

Talking of transfers, could you believe paper-faced joy extinguisher Arsene Wenger saying that it’s not fair that Chelsea are selling Juan Mata to United now that they have played them twice already? Do people really think that José Mourinho is really that Machiavellian? If you boil down what Wenger said, he’s suggesting that adding Mata to that almighty mess at United could be enough to swing the league game at the Emirates in their favour, costing Arsenal points that could be crucial in their battle for league placings with Chelsea. That’s pretty specific, as paranoid witterings go.

If it does prove to be prophetic though, Wenger will no doubt choose to gloss over the fact that his side is the only vaguely decent one to lose to a Tom Cleverly-inspired, Mata-less United already this season.

Analyse that.

West Bromwich Albion 1 Everton 1

A point away at a traditionally quite tough place, against a side out to impress a new manager, wouldn’t normally be sniffed at. However, with Liverpool dropping points at home this game at the Hawthorns represented a great opportunity to pile some pressure on the other sides hoping to kick and scratch their way into that mingebag jackpot fourth place in the table.

Unusually for Robert Martinez’s Everton though they blew that chance with a poor performance, particularly in the second half when defending the lead earned by Kevin Mirallas’s well taken 41st minute goal.

The creeping fears about injuries are starting to look well-founded now, with only really Mirallas looking vaguely dangerous out of a front four that included Bryan Oviedo, Leon Osman and the desperately out-of-form Romelu Lukaku. The young Belgian needs to be rested or provided with some competition because he barely poses a threat lately. Whether a human pylon with a raggedy hamstring is the answer only time and the usual work permit guff will tell.

In Lukaku’s defence, it was his knockdown that fell to Mirallas who burst past Diego Lugano – who sounds like every holiday airport in the Mediterranean and a skirmish in the Falklands – and slotted coolly past Ben Foster. Despite the obvious delight at taking the lead though, without Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley Everton just never held the ball long enough up at the business end of the pitch and after the break were restricted to sporadic half-chances in what was a scrappy, horrible game.

Pepe Mel threw Victor Anichebe – the ‘Neech’ – on  for the second half and the much-joked-about former Everton man did a pretty passable impression of a professional centre-forward, holding the ball up and helping the Baggies to build attacks and put pressure on the Blues’ defence. Indeed, on 75 minutes he found James Morrison on the right-hand side of the Everton area, from where the winger was allowed to get the ball into the six-yard box thanks to Leighton Baines and James McCarthy’s half-hearted defending. Lugano then managed to get across Sylvain Distin at the near post and absolutely buried a diving header.

Where do the West Brom get these fellas from? They appear to have a production line of of oafish long-haired gadgies who, to use coaching parlance, ‘give you a solid 6/10 week in, week out’.  He’ll never score again, him.

Anyway, if the deserved equaliser wasn’t fun enough, Seamus Coleman immediately left the field clutching his hamstring. Aiden McGeady got 10 minutes though, so there’s something.

Distin had a goal disallowed at the very end, for being enormously offside, and Everton slipped down to sixth place. The margins for error are incredibly tight at the top of the table, so if you can’t go and outclass opponents – and you can’t every week – then you have to simply find a way to win against the less celebrated opposition like West Brom. After getting ahead the Toffees needed to exert the sort of control that has been one of the hallmarks of this season, but a combination of the Baggies’ efforts and Everton’s lack of so many first choice creative players meant that it never panned out that way.

It happens. The important thing is how you respond.

Twatting Stevenage and Liverpool would probably be adequate.

It will be interesting to see whether this slightly grubby result and the mounting injuries have any effect on Martinez’s approach to the transfer window. Does he more or less stick with what he has and hope to struggle on and stay within reach of Champions League qualification until players like Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu come back into contention, allowing him to save whatever dough there is until the summer? Or will he feel that the ‘platform’ we have given ourselves already this season is too good to waste by being cautious?

What we should do, if we’ve got any sense, is borrow a ton of cash off some lender of ill repute, get a load of Galacticos in and just win the league. Then, and this is the key part of the plan, we just Thelma and Louise the whole thing – set fire to the stadium, melt the trophy down and tell everyone that’s it, footy is over and Everton won. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT, GREG DYKE?

They probably won’t though, you know what they’re like. The shithouses.