Everton 0 West Bromwich Albion 0

Everton-v-West-Bromwich-Albion-Premier-League-2216690

‘Ah, see that arl fella off the Barclays advert’s died’ was the first of several misunderstandings on a muddled afternoon at Goodison.

Fair play to the Match of the Day editors, they managed to make it look like something of a humdinger when in fact Roberto Martinez’s first Premier League home game was, let’s be honest, really boring.

Solid, unadventurous sides, and that’s exactly what Steve Clarke’s Baggies are, can cause problems for anyone, and Everton have struggled in the past to break down teams who treat a visit to Goodison the same way they would Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge.

What we saw on Saturday then was hardly anything totally new, and as we’ve already stated previously you have to resist the temptation to fall into the trap of attributing every event to a proscribed narrative. However, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that the patient approach by Everton that served them fairly well at Carrow Road hampered them to a large degree here. It was the sort of performance that would have been deemed textbook if it were the away leg of a European tie, but at Goodison Park against the sort of side we expect to beat it often looked pretty anaemic.

When Everton got the ball in the box or forced a corner the crowd showed that they were itching to get behind the team and build pressure on West Brom but those moments were simply too infrequent. During the closing stages especially, when you traditionally expect an element of ‘the Alamo’ at Goodison, the match just slithered to its unsatisfactory conclusion. The Goodison atmosphere is a massive weapon in any Everton manager’s arsenal and it just felt like our own approach negated it.

Marouane Fellaini had Everton’s best chance, stabbing a shot against the post, and the largely subdued Seamus Coleman saw a cross glance off the crossbar, but overall the visitors found it reasonably straightforward to maintain their shape and put all the onus on Everton to try and figure the game out.

There’s really not much else to add. Everton weren’t exactly terrible, but the fact is they will face plenty of fit, strong teams like West Brom at Goodison this season and so they will need to consider methods that will force those opponents out of their comfort zone and into making mistakes.

There’s a massive amount of goodwill for Roberto Martinez, aided somewhat by the ongoing fallout with the previous manager, but he needs to sustain that by playing exciting football and, most importantly, winning games.

Finally, you know you shouldn’t watch Sunday Supplement but sometimes well, hey, no one’s perfect. Anyway, who is the Mancunian tit on there from the Sunday People who reckons that £12 million for Leighton Baines is reasonable given that he is 28 years old but at the same time Chelsea are taking the piss offering anything less than £50 million for 27-year-old and far less clean-living Wayne Rooney?

For all the verbal jousting going on between Everton and Manchester United, everyone needs to remember that this whole thing, like almost every transfer ‘wrangle’, just boils down to the price and nothing else. When David Moyes countered Martinez’s jibes about the way United now do business by remarking that he knows better than the Spaniard ‘how Everton work’ it was something of a cheap riposte but unfortunately we all know that there is an element of truth in it. If the Toffees really want the cash for the two players concerned – although the suggestion is now that Fellaini is the most likely to go – then as the end of the transfer window approaches the pressure will mount on Martinez to start taking these ‘derisory’ bids more seriously. Moyes knows that because he’s been there.

The sooner it’s sorted now, one way or the other, the better. Because it’s fucking boring.

Black And White

It appears that Roberto Martinez is ushering in a new era at Everton that will represent the polar opposite of everything that took place under the yoke of David Moyes. Here are 10 things then to expect in this new, bizarro Everton.

1. Silverware
2. Wingers ordered to stay on their allotted flank.
3. ‘Leave someone back for the corner, for fuck’s sake!’
4. Buccaneering victories at Old Trafford and Anfield.
5. ‘Another sub? Jesus!’
6. Not rocking the Tony Pulis look.
7. Or dressing like a riverboat gambler on big occassions.
8. A reluctance to buy players from Manchester United.
9. A bottom half finish.
10. ‘Get Vellios off!’

A New Career In A New Town

deulofeu

Well, they are all back in training, doing fancy exercises around flag poles and ostentatiously ‘rehydrating’ wearing them weird monitoring sports bras, and it’s a far cry from the days when Richard Dunne was photographed struggling along at Bellefield with his bag-minder knees and chippy tits wobbling all over the place.

In fact, it’s all change even from this time last year, what with the new manager, coaches, players and, fuck it, even a fancy new badge on their pristine Mustang muscle car shirts. In the flesh, and from a bit of a distance, the controversial new Everton badge looks like that of some tiny Caribbean island’s piss poor cricket team, but it’s only here for another year so we’ll survive.

The Blues actually played a game against a decent side, Austria Vienna, and went down 2-1 – Apostolos Vellios scored the consolation goal with a ‘classic’ centre-forward’s header at the near post converting Leighton Baines’s cross from the left. Normally Everton beat some part-timers first before going down 2-0 to the first group of half-decent Northern European professionals they face, so in many ways this can probably be judged as progress already under Roberto Martinez.

But seriously though… it’s going to be interesting – well, almost certainly the absolute opposite, to be honest – to see how the debate about the merits of the new manager develops as Everton play more games, especially competitive ones. Online at least, you can almost be certain that there will a hangover from the David Moyes era in so much as every minty goal we concede will be attributed in some part to Martinez’s proven defensive naivety while every passage of decent attacking play is likely to be testament to the shackles coming off after the oppression of the Moyes the Merciless era.

The truth is rarely that straightforward though. Everton conceded plenty of horror goals under Moyes and also played a lot of very attractive winning football. From Martinez’s perspective, if he’s the intelligent football man that he is portrayed as he will surely be loathe to try and change too much too soon when he’s taken over a side that finished sixth in the Premier League. Defensively at least, if he switches to a back three immediately he will be taking a massive gamble.

Such a fundamental alteration to the team’s structure would bring a lot of pressure on him, not least from the players themselves. How would someone like Phil Jagielka, say, who is an England international on the back of playing within a system that comes naturally to him, react if he ends up being made to look a bit ‘Gary Caldwell’ by being asked to do things he’s not comfortable with?

Bear in mind that Martinez hasn’t come in, like most managers do, to pick up someone else’s shite, so there is not that pressing need to affect wholesale changes. He can’t do a Moyes or a Paolo Di Canio and get instant results from just improving the squad’s fitness, for instance, so what’s more likely is that he will look to make more subtle changes in the short term, perhaps to the disappointment of some supporters who are expecting to watch the Banzai Blues playing in 6-4 thrillers every other week next season.

Thus far Martinez has already strengthened the squad in terms of numbers – you wouldn’t exactly have been insanely jealous if any of the individuals he has brought in had gone and signed for West Ham or Sunderland, let’s be brutally honest, but Aroune Koné, who sounds like an ice cream they sell at Old Trafford, certainly offers something a bit different up front while Joel Robles seems to have been brought in as more of a live competitor for Tim Howard’s starting position than Jan Mucha or Stefan Wessels ever were.

Antolin Alcaraz sort of looks like a straight replacement for Johnny Heitinga should the Dutchman finally get the move he’s been rumoured to be looking for just about every summer since he arrived.

The young chap from Barcelona, Gerard Deulofeu is the wild card, clearly, but you have to be realistic about what you can expect from someone so young with almost no top level competitive experience. Bear in mind that Ross Barkley, for instance, is meant to be an absolute superstar within his own age group but has found the demands of the Premier League Thunderdome heavy going, and he hasn’t had to cope with moving to a new country and all that entails.

If we could just start the season now we’d certainly look a much healthier outfit than last time around, but the papers at least continue to agitate for moves away from Goodison for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines. How Martinez deals with replacing one or either of those pair will prove more taxing, and perhaps more revealing, than simply bulking out the squad by bringing in a load of fellas from Wigan.

Welcome back to hot soccer chat!