Manchester City 3 Everton 1

Aguero-Everton-Goal

According to the nice people at Newsnow, the reason that stories from this website haven’t been appearing on theirs is because they filter for cuss words and won’t publish articles that contain them. Which is fair enough, although if the worst things that kids are seeing on the internet is a potty-mouthed match preview you have to think that their parents are getting off quite lightly.

Still though, it’s their site so they makes the rules. However, it doesn’t exactly feel like the right time to get all puritanical when you have just suffered your first defeat of the season and witnessed something of a disastrous refereeing display. We’re always up for a challenge though, so let’s crack on with the delicate sensibilities of the little kiddywinkles foremost in our thoughts.

With Gareth Barry ineligible to play and Darron Gibson apparently only fit enough to start on the bench, Robert Martinez opted to add Steven Naismith to the attacking trio supporting Romelu Lukaku. You can’t help but pull a little nose-wrinkling expression when you see the Scot on the teamsheet but he ‘puts in a shift’ which is all you can really ask of him. To use boxing parlance, and not for the last time in this report, it’s all about levels, and you suspect that Naismith’s is slightly below Premier League. That said, he put Lukaku through with a great little first-time ball in the opening moments, only for Joe Hart to smother at this feet.

The gaff-prone England keeper has the spotlight on him at the moment, which is perhaps why he has replaced his Vyvyan off The Young Ones haircut with a much sleeker ‘do. With the pressure on him then he wouldn’t have appreciated the way his defence left him exposed on 12 minutes for the game’s opening goal.

Everton looked the far more composed side in the opening stages, with City showing that familiar unwillingness to put the hard yards in, and it really came as little surprise when Lukaku, looking electric again, beat an embarrassing offside trap in pursuit of Phil Jagielka’s slightly hopeful long ball. Joleon Lescott did well initially to recover, only to get bamboozled by the Belgian whose low shot had enough power on it to find the back of the net despite Hart getting a fairly solid touch on it.

A perfect start then, and all Everton had to do from that point was keep hold of the ball, one of the strengths of Martinez’s teams, and pick the home side off as they became desperate.

What they almost certainly didn’t want to do was concede an equaliser from the kick off.

Guess what they did.

A rare heavy touch from the masterful David Silva saw the ball break to Yaya Toure just outside the Everton box. Despite being surrounded by royal blue shirts the former Barcelona man showed his class, changing direction like another Raheem Sterling court case and threading a perfect ball inside Seamus Coleman who, despite his pace, couldn’t close down Alvaro Negredo before the Spaniard got off a low shot that beat Howard with its power, much like Lukaku’s at the other end only seconds earlier.

Great.

Everton continued to look threatening, especially on the counter-attack, but a number of promising moves broke down thanks to poor decision-making. Granted, there are few players who couldn’t learn from Silva, but Ross Barkley in particular would do well to observe the Spaniard’s pass selection and his economy in terms of touches. To go back to the pugilistic parallels, Barkley is guilty of headhunting at times, looking for that one knockout blow whereas Silva breaks opponents down with the accuracy of his jab, confident in the knowledge that if he keeps doing the right thing then the openings will present themselves eventually.

And indeed one did right on half time. With Negredo and Coleman arguing after the striker dived in the box, the Everton defence was all over the place. Silva fed the ball into Sergio Aguero and the Argentine, who for much of the first half appeared to have left his ‘shooting boots’ at home – he actually fouled himself at one point, with only Howard to beat – took advantage of the goaly and Sylvain Distin’s dodgy geometry and fired low into the far corner.

Drat.

Still, Everton had done more than enough during that opening 45 minutes to suggest that they could come back into the game. And that is what made the second half so disappointing.

City more or less cruised to victory after the break. Not for the first time this season, Lukaku played like Eusebio early on but then after his milky tea and half an orange came out and looked ‘a bit Jonathan Walters’.

Distinctly ‘playable’.

Likewise Barkley no longer posed a threat while Kevin Mirallas, one of the senior players at Everton now and one of whom big things were expected this season, again failed to make much of an impression. During a start to the season that’s been almost entirely positive, the wonky-haired wing Walloon has probably been the biggest disappointment so far.

Martinez, along with pretty much anyone with eyes in their head, recognised that his side were fading fast and, in a move akin to taking the batteries out of your telly remote and then rearranging them before pressing the buttons dead hard, attempted to get more from the team by replacing Mirallas and Leon Osman with Gibson and Gerard Deulofeu on 63 minutes.

Unfortunately for Everton though, they never got to see whether the change could give them a second wind because City, or more to the point referee Jon Moss, killed the game off five minutes later.

This clown not only broke Boy George’s heart but he’s been banished to the Championship since the start of the season for a phony decision he made at Old Trafford and this was his first game back in the big time. So, if it was the equivalent of a wrong ‘un at school returning after exclusion and signing one of them weird behaviour contracts well, Moss set off the fire alarm, gobbed a physics teacher and then drew a big knob on the blackboard before first break. His bookings were utterly random – City got away with some shockers and Silva was very lucky not to get sent off – but his crowning moment was the penalty award when Pablo Zabaleta went down after Coleman brushed his sleeve.

Absolute garbage.

Justice was done when Howard saved Aguero’s low spot kick, but then it was undone straight away as it rebounded off the post, hit the keeper on the head and went in.

The rest was a formality. We are clearly not Bayern Munich just yet and City remain a team packed with really good players who, when they are in the mood, are a match for anyone. The first half of this game showed that questions remain over their attitude and defensive capabilities though.

As for Everton, there were plenty of positives early on but youthful daring can quickly start to look like careless naivety when things aren’t going your way, and the second half was something of a chastening lesson. Only really James McCarthy came out of it with much credit, for his never-say-die attitude if nothing else. He could be a little bit more positive on the ball – even Giovanni Trapattoni has said that he needs a bit more arrogance – but you can’t fault his effort. He looks like one of those fellas who realises how fortunate he is to be playing top flight football. Coleman’s similar – he just happened to have a bit of a poor game in this instance.

There are certainly lessons to be learned from this performance, but ultimately you have to look at the standard of the opposition. A few more second half capitulations and people are going to start raising questions about fitness, but it’s too early for that just yet. A lack of concentration and experience in some positions look more likely at the moment.

So, in summary… Actually, do you know what, bollocks to it. Jon Moss is an incompetent, fat fuck-stump who goes the David Lloyd in a Marksies vest, Hi Tec Silver Shadow and a massive tubigrip on his knee. He always has a ratty bath towel around his neck and gets talc everywhere in the changies.

We’ll try again next time.

Chelsea and Managers and That

PhilNeville

The lack of importance of this match was highlighted by the fact that Steven Naismith started up front alongside Victor Anichebe.

It was ages ago now so there’s little point dwelling on the details. Tim Howard failed to hold onto a straightforward low shot from Demba Ba on seven minutes and Juan Mata – whose name always makes you think of a Levellers chorus – tucked home the rebound.

However, Everton, who played good football throughout, much as they did against these opponents at Goodison, had Rafael Benitez doing his pink-cheeked glasses polishing thing just seven minutes later. The Toffees’ strikers combined on the edge of the home side’s box and Naismith, who really does have a disturbingly sickly ‘bubble boy’ look about him, clipped a neat finish over the sprawling Petr Cech to level the scores.

A deflected Darron Gibson drive then almost embarrassed Cech, striking the post, his daft hat and then the post again but crucially staying out of the back of the net. Two supposedly misfiring strikers, Fernando Torres and Everton sub Nikica Jelavic featured in the closing stages. The Croatian, almost inevitably, failed to convert a couple of decent chances while Chelsea’s hormonal hotshot webbed Victor Moses’s knockdown inside Howard’s near post for the winner on 74 minutes.

At the end the Chelsea crowd help up banners for Benitez that more or less said ‘YOU’RE STILL A CUNT’ while Moyes waved farewell to the Evertonians as manager for the final time. Thwarted again at Stamford Bridge and a handful of other specifically singled-out grounds, next season it will be interesting to see how he fares when he’s no longer accused of, as the old saying goes, ‘Bringing Tony Hibbert to a gunfight’.

Since the final match we seem to wake up every morning to read about the latest ‘big mover’ in the betting for the Everton job and it is getting pretty tiresome already. In essence, these stories boil down to ‘the amount of money you would have received in the event of an unlikely thing just decreased’. There can’t be many sectors where the lower the return is the more popular the investment becomes.

Roberto Martinez was the nailed-on choice for a good while and it seems that the only real thing you can be sure of with him is that he will be even more divisive in terms of the supporters’ opinions than Moyes. He seems a lovely fella and he obviously has loads of experience of managing in the Premier League on a budget, but a big leap of faith is required in terms of assuming that all of Wigan’s deficiencies, most notably that they never win that many games, are down to the lack of finances at his disposal. Everyone does seem to rate him in the game though – you just have to judge for yourself how significant that fact is.

Another option that keeps getting mooted is Phil Neville taking over. He certainly wants the job, and he is extremely respected within the club, but fucking hell what a bad appointment that would be. Seriously, it’s the footballing equivalent of Kenwright moping round the flat, wearing one of Moyes’s oversized workshirts as a nighty and occasionally flopping disconsolately on the bed and inhaling his scent from the pillow.

It’s very rare that simply working under a number of top managers qualifies you to walk straight into one of the country’s top jobs. It just reeks of Stuart Pearce, and the Everton boss can’t be seen to be peddling organic fucking supplements to visiting managers.

‘Honestly Jose, all fucking night mate, absolutely rock solid.’

Perhaps more importantly though, Neville isn’t showbiz enough for the situation Everton are in at the moment. The Blues have had the same manager for 11 years and the stability he brought – and that we all longed for during the long years of chaos – has bled into boredom for many supporters. As a result, Neville doesn’t really stand a chance. If he started off performing worse than Moyes did this season – and there’s every chance that the next boss will – then he will simply be seen as a watered down version. More of the same, just not as good, and woe betide the first remotely defensive-looking substitution he makes.

A more exotic manager could perform exactly the same as Neville and would get far more latitude because there would be the feeling that his new ideas were ‘taking time to bed in’. It’s essentially the Brendan Rodgers strategy, of providing a narrative and a way of looking at a set of results and performances that gives the impression that they are leading to some imperceptible but definitely really ace point in the distance when in fact the real picture is ‘this is how good we actually are’.

To be honest though maybe that sort of bullshit isn’t really that bad. Maybe that false hope is what we all want – perhaps Moyes’s biggest ‘downfall’ was that he seemed quite frank about the Blues’ position; he was getting the very best out of his players and there was going to be no great leap forward unless things changed massively off-the-field. And that in turn meant ‘some mad fucker to just give us an immoral amount of dough to throw at hateful players’. Therefore relatively unlikely

With all that in mind then, Porto’s Vitor Pereira looks by far the best of the front-runners. We don’t know anything about him really, but that’s the best thing about him – he might be ace, and that’s enough.

Another factor that could favour someone who has been working abroad is that the new Premier League television deal gives English clubs a marked competitive advantage when buying from overseas. With everyone getting more dough over here buying off each other doesn’t really change, but that extra cash should allow shrewd operators to bring over really good players from the Continent. Obviously all Premier League clubs already having a working knowledge of foreign markets when it comes to the biggest and best players in other countries, but Michael Laudrup, for instance, showed with his signing of Michu that day-to-day experience of working in a country can allow you to unearth some absolute bargains.

Don’t ask for any more examples like, just accept the theory as seeming quite plausible at first glance. You would if it was in the Telegraph.

In short then – to summarise, if you will – no one’s got a fucking clue who is coming or which of the proposed candidates would actually be any good.

Apart from Neville. He’d be a disaster.

Southampton 0 Everton 0

baines southampton

Look on the bright side, at least we can’t complain that Everton dominated this one but just failed to score.

It has become extremely boring writing that story every week, so the Blues very generously offered up something a bit different this time, performing, in the words of L’Equipe, ‘like 10 pounds of shite in a five pound bag’.

In the first half at least it looked as if the outfield players had all agreed not to show Steven Naismith up. Sadly, we are sort of getting used to games passing the Scotland international by, but on this occasion he was matched by more or less the rest of the midfield as well as the strikers.

If we were to draw a parallel between the first 45 minutes at St. Mary’s and perhaps your job, imagine a Friday afternoon when all the managers have already sloped off early and you have had three pints of Stella with your lunch. Any fellow anaesthetists will understand exactly what we are talking about there.

Southampton, despite the shock of Nigel Adkins’ death – oh, really? – were quite good indeed. The Saints, with Mauricio Pochettino in charge for the first time, ably assisted by someone who looked like Mike the Cool Person from The Young Ones, did all the basics, the man-stuff, far better than the Blues. They won tackles and headers, held the ball up and made runs for each other. That gave them the – here come the ‘we know this is cliché’ marks again – ‘platform’ to rag an oddly passive Everton all over the place.

Ricky Lambert in particular, the striker who looks like Donal McIntyre’s cousin from Craggy Island, had a stack of chances but was continually denied by a thankfully inspired Tim Howard.

Everton’s only effort on target in the first half was Naismith’s snapshot straight at fat tramp Artur Boruc. The fact that the Blues hardly troubled the ropy keeper who looks like he should be lying on the his back while Jim Watt says that David Price really needs to start stepping up in class now, says all you need to know about arguably their worst 45 minutes of the season.

Everyone expected some sort of reaction from Everton after the break and five minutes in they produced their first decent move of the match. Seamus Coleman, easily the most positive player in the first half, broke down the right and hung a cross up to the far post. Fellaini’s initial header was blocked but the ball broke again for the Belgian who forced a decent save from Boruc at the near post.

Five minutes later Coleman was forced off with a thigh injury, replaced by Victor Anichebe. Phil Neville went to right-back, Fellaini dropped deeper into midfield and the whole team instantly looked better.

Anichebe has looked Everton’s most lively attacker recently and again his movement up front made a world of difference. Indeed, on the hour it looked as if his introduction might be decisive when he found space on the left and squared the ball perfectly for the inrushing Jelavic. Unfortunately for the out-of-sorts striker though, it looked as if someone had tied his bootlaces together as he miskicked horrifically.

To add to his his frustration the Croatian was replaced six minutes later by the returning Kevin Mirallas.

There’s a temptation to over-analyse players’ performances, especially strikers, when they aren’t playing well. Perhaps over-sympathise too. If Jelavic has got anything about him he just needs to do his job, work hard, and eventually he will start scoring again. You watch someone like Fernando Torres, for instance, looking like he’s living out some great Greek tragedy in his head every time he sets foot on the pitch and you just feel like saying ‘grow up, knobhead, or go and get a fucking proper job if you don’t like kicking a ball any more’.

Everton’s bright spell continued with Boruc making a good save from Anichebe and then Mirallas blasting wide after wrong-footing Maya Yoshida, but then they faded once again and the game limped to its rather unsatisfactory conclusion.

At which point Bill Kenwright received a text from ESPN that said simply: THAT’S WHY.

10 Wigan And Chelsea Things And That

Lawro goes feral

Come on, it’s that boss bit between Christmas and New Year when you would rather be watching World’s Strongest Man or feature-length Futurama’s than going online to read about football. Therefore the Wigan match report and the Chelsea preview are being condensed here.

1. Darron Gibson’s red card picked up against West Ham has been rescinded. Can you rescind anything except cards in football? When does anyone else use that word?

Anyway, it was sensibly overturned and Gibson – one of the real revelations of the Everton nuddy calendar apparently, along with Leon Osman – faces no ban. That would be great news if it wasn’t for the fact that he hurt his thigh while attempting what them football freestylers call a ‘blammer’ against Wigan. Thomas Hitzlsperger showed him how it should be done when he almost broke the bar from long distance in the same game, but the German still looks a bit ‘off the pace’ and you fear for him trying to cope with the energy and skill in Chelsea’s midfield.

2. Wigan don’t look like a relegation team. Twice we’ve played them this season and on both occasions they have been really competitive. Roberto Martinez has built his most physically robust side and they are certainly not the pushovers they were in the past. They will run all day too and caused Everton quite a few problems, especially in the second half.

That appetite for hard work is what could very well set them apart from the rest of the relegation-threatened sides when push inevitably comes to shove.

3. That was a penalty. You can argue the toss all the day about Shaun Maloney making a meal of going over Osman’s dangling leg, but if it had been the other way around not one Evertonian would have said the referee was correct to wave play on. In fact, if it had been an Everton player the crowd would have screamed as one and Lee Mason would almost certainly have given it.

We go mad when these things go against us so it’s only fair to hold your hand up when a little bit of good fortune, i.e. minty refereeing, goes our way. That said, Aroune Kone’s consolation goal had more than a touch of Central Park about it.

4. It’s no surprise that Victor Anichebe looks better away from home. He’s no world-beater but David Moyes believes in him and so he wears an Everton shirt. Maybe he hasn’t done himself any favours in the past, but the stick he gets is not helping him to play better.

In fact, some of the comments getting screamed at him from the Park End are embarrassing. He would have to be 15 feet tall, run like Usain Bolt and be triplets to get to every punt, cross and clearance he is venomously accused of not challenging for.

5. Rafael Benitez must feel similar at Chelsea, i.e. ‘I know I’m not your first choice but come on, let’s all make the most of it.’ The whole ‘show just how great a Chelsea fan by how much you hate Benitez’ meme just looks odd to everyone else in football.

Managers do what they do for money – it’s their living – and there is only a relatively small pool of roles available. Now, granted, apart from Liverpool and perhaps Valencia, there is probably no ‘cloob’ in the world that would be particularly overjoyed to be getting Benitez and all his massive baggage – literal and metaphorical – but, you know, you would just suck it and see, surely? Especially if he’s only come in on a temporary contract.

A lot of Chelsea supporters now must be experiencing that weird, very modern phenomenon whereby they don’t know how to react to their club’s results. If the team do well it looks good for Benitez, and that makes their entrenched position look weak, and obviously vice versa. It’s like the Manchester United fans who predicted Armageddon under the Glazers and yet keep seeing the team twat all and sundry. What would make them happier, another League title or the chance to stand amidst the rubble saying ‘I told you so’?

6. Everton will miss Marouane Fellaini in this game. Against the better sides the Blues, by necessity, play more directly and having Fellaini as a target makes that more effective. Whatever people think of Benitez as well, you can be sure that his team will be far more committed and physical than the shameful group that came to Goodison last year during the last days of Andre Villas-Boas and were forced to kneel before the might and majesty of Denis Straqualarsi.

7. Steven Naismith is getting better. It’s taking time, but perhaps that’s not surprising given he’s had to cope with such a long time out of football and the step up in the standard of football from the Scottish to the English Premier League.

He looks like he is growing in confidence though and seems reminiscent of someone like Nick Barmby in that he is not particularly outstanding in any one particular area but he does everything well enough, he’s intelligent and he seems willing to work hard.

You can’t really ask much more of a free transfer than that.

8. This is going to be the toughest game we have for a while. Once this one is out of the way there really is no reason why we shouldn’t go on a decent run until we visit Old Trafford in February. That’s not to say we can’t get a decent result there, but in January the toughest tests we face are a trip to Newcastle and the visit of West Bromwich Albion. As we know all too clearly though, we are liable to beat Chelsea and then undo most of the good work by conceding a late equaliser at St. Mary’s or something equally frustrating.

9. Struggling a bit now. Let’s just reflect again then on how ace Osman is. Dead ace is the answer.

10. Finally, the highlight of the Christmas television was Mark Lawrenson getting caught unawares as the Match of the Day camera switched back to him following Gary Lineker’s jibe about his shirt and almost choking on the massive phlegm oyster he had clearly just hawked up.

See photograph above.