Everton 2 Norwich City 0

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Welcome to Goodison Park.

Wipe your feet and leave the points at the door.

Chris Hughton’s Norwich were simply the latest in a long line of barbecue-coated Christians thrown to Roberto’s rampant lions in the County Road Coliseum.

And if that appears condescending towards the Canaries then it’s meant to. That’s right, every head-patting, dismissive comment goes out to the outraged denizens of that forum who were hoping to ‘stuff our words down our throats’.

Look, look, he’s talking about us!

In the unlikely event that Norwich had escaped without a routine hiding, by an Everton side that never even needed the explosive skills of the injured Ross Barkley, you could bet on the life of your seven foot sibling who you keep in the wood shed that they would have been giving it the proverbial large one in the comments here.

So, to quote Delia – oh yeah, he’s going to do it, he’s going to be THAT obvious – where are you? WHERE ARE YOU? Let’s be ‘aving you…

Not really, we’re not interested in your bumpkin banter in the slightest. Sorry to build your hopes up like that.

The game itself was kind of routine for the first 70 minutes or so. Everton firstly unveiled Aiden Bad Kecks on the pitch and then had most of the possession and did most of the attacking while the visitors sat back, tried to frustrate the Blues and hoped that they could snatch something on the break through the distinctly misfiring Ricky van Wolkswinkel or from the dangerous set-pieces of Robert Snodgrass.

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Romelu Lukaku missed a sitter when he bottled out of running into the post and glanced his header wide, but before you could say ‘we need to turn some of this possession into goals’ Gareth Barry collected a pass from the Belgian on 23 minutes, advanced unchallenged and then BA-DOOM!, let fly with a swerving shot that almost scorched the Park End net. If John Ruddy got anything on it he would have been left dancing around with his hands tucked in his armpits like someone who gets a bowl out the oven using a deceptively damp tea towel.

For all the great passing, positional interchanging and playing through, between, on, around and even despite the lines, Everton are thrashing home some old fashioned ‘FUCK OFF!’ blammers this season.

Rumour has it that it’s because David Moyes never allowed the players to shoot.

True story that.

On 59 minutes Leighton Baines, back in the side and reminding everyone just what a footballer he is, was fouled 10 yards outside the Norwich area. Just as someone was saying ‘Is there anyone apart from Wayne Rooney who takes more free-kicks and thinks he’s boss at them without scoring than Mirallas’ the scruff’s-dog-on-a-bit-of-rope-faced winger curled the ball inside Ruddy’s right-hand post to the delight of all the Evertonians but especially the lad in the hat sat behind Martinez who on Match of the Day appeared to be up completely losing his shit with furious delight before the ball even left Mirallas’s foot.

Talking of televised celebrations, you have to say ‘fair play’ to Kevin Nolan and Joe Cole for the way they went nuts when Mark Noble scored against Cardiff. They weren’t putting that on.

Back to Everton though. With 20 minutes to go Martinez withdrew Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman, replacing them with John Heitinga and Steven Naismith, switched to a three-man defence and then watched as the visitors began to pour forward.

It’s hard to know what exactly caused the change in the pattern of the game – was it Hughton introducing the tricky Nathan Redmond and his players simply taking more risks or was it down to Everton’s unfamiliar formation? There’s also the fact that the often understated and often underrated Osman and Pienaar are crucial in the way the Toffees keep the ball.

It’s as much about the passes that the pair of little schemers don’t play as the ones they do.

They are soccer jazz.

Whatever the reason, Norwich threatened the age-old Goodison ‘fingernail finale’ as Bradley bleedin’ Johnson became Lothar Mattheus and the Blues’ defence was put under more pressure than we are used to seeing at home. Tim Howard was not to be beaten though and the Blues eventually saw out the little spell of quite endearing Norwich pluck. There was even time for a quite marvelous display of tenacity and skill from Naismith as he out-fought and then skinned two hapless yellow-shirted stooges out on the touchline.

Points in the bag then, as well as the first new signing, and rumours that another big Belgian unit is in line to replace Nikica Jelavic when the Croatian is dragged kicking and screaming to Hull City.

‘Seriously, no one else? Just Hull? What sort of agent are you?’

One piece of good news for Jelavic is that he is no longer in line for the worst penalty of the season award. That’s now nailed on for Jason Puncheon thanks to his creation of rare beauty at White Hart Lane. Fancy achieving your dream of becoming a professional player and then being known only for one of the worst spot kicks ever taken and going for a Tom Tit halfway through a match.

Bravo sir, bravo.

Norwich City Preview

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Thanks for all the messages informing us that a raw, unfiltered version of this preview was released onto the market in error on Thursday night. Rumours have it that a couple of readers in Scotland actually overheated and died from reading it. The present version has been bashed and repressed, if you consume it in small quantities and drink plenty of fluids you should be just fine. Go on, just rub a bit on your gums.

So right then, yeah, Norwich City.

You know, you sit down in front of your computer and you wait for something to leap into your mind that you can work with – a touchstone, a jumping off point – but when you think of the present day Canaries all that really springs to mind is the innocent, mournful face of Chris Hughton, wishing he was still in his tight shorts and Hummel sweatshirt putting the cones out down at the Lane instead of stuck in the full glare, front and centre, dressed like one of those fellas at the services who tries to get you to sign up for the RAC.

Norwich really are the anonymous team of the Premier League this season, with even the usual drab suspects like Fulham and West Bromwich Albion having a bit of drama. Whenever the new Baggies coach played in goal was he known as ‘Pepe Mel at one’?

What? If you think that’s an anachronistic cultural reference then please, don’t read on.

Anyway, a lot of Evertonians think that we get a raw deal on Match of the Day, but it seems like by the time Norwich come on everyone has turned over to watch Arthur Negus on Antiques Roadshow.

Told you.

So as we said,  we’re struggling here. It’s hard, not to start dragging up things that have been battered to death already, like Delia being arseholed on the pitch at Carrow Road and all that. That said, every time you see Alex Ferguson sat next to Bobby Charlton – inexplicably dressed like the fella on the Sandeman Port label – watching Manchester United having their latest collective emotional breakdown, do you not envisage him at some point, when the crowd properly turn on David Moyes, taking to the pitch with a microphone to start pleading with them for patience?

‘I’m going Bobby, they’re getting the hairdryer treatment, the fucking lot of them. I’ve had enough of this. No, I won’t sit down, they respect me, they’ll listen to reason.’

Of course you do.

Anyway, Norwich. Of course they were the Blues’ opponents on the opening day of the season, when looking back at the match report, Roberto Martinez and his new team veritably ‘set their stall out’ for what’s happened since.

We reckon if you actually go back and read all that then it saves us padding this bit out much longer.

Oh, and talking of linking back to previous bits on here, the latest ‘revelation’ about Thomas Hitzlsperger pretty much backs up what we suggested back before that West Hame game when the players wore the rainbow laces. The picture that Hitzlsperger paints of life for a gay fella in professional football is not the living hell that many outsiders like to automatically assume it is. He certainly doesn’t come across as any sort of victim.

Maybe more current players would be comfortable with going public about the fact that they are gay if newspapers didn’t feel the need to make such a big song and dance about it just to underline the fact that, like, they are dead cool with it and, you know, it shouldn’t really be a story but, you know, with the poor dears having to put up with all these bigoted cunts in football and that.

In other news, Everton are reported to be close to signing someone and it’s widely believed to be Aiden McGeady. Again, we’ve been over this before – everyone seems to assume that he’s last but he must have something that Martinez admires and, well, the Toffees’ chief hasn’t got much wrong so far.

The way his teams play, ideally they pull sides apart on the counter-attack, but because they dominate possession it can often lead to periods of walking-paced stalemate as the opposition retreat to the edge of their own box. When that happens you need players who can go past opponents and ‘force this issue’ from almost a standing start. Gerard Deulofeu is that sort of player and so is Ross Barkley – the Everton boss must think that McGeady brings a bit more of the same. Hopefully that’s the case.

Going back to Barkley, there is still occasionally talk of United making some sort of bid for him, and while we normally try to be as realistic as possible about transfers and the motivations that make them happen, you have to think that only some sort of short-sighted maniac would advise him to go there right now. In fact, any midfielder would have to think twice before being parachuted into that whole cluster-fuck. Imagine the pressure on him to bring back the glory days singlehandedly, especially on someone as young as Barkley.

‘Right then son, David’s invested £50 million in you. Pardon? £55 million? What? I thought we agreed… Seriously? Again? Can someone get David on the phone please. Anyway, that’s not your problem. As I was saying…’

At Everton Barkley is guaranteed his place, in a team built around him by a manager who has already shown he believes in him and can bring the best out of him, and he’s playing in a side with a lot more confidence than United who, as things stand, have more chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. If not too much changes between now and the end of the season then he looks like a near certainty to be going to the World Cup, after which his profile worldwide could be off the scale, putting him in a much stronger position than he is in now to negotiate terms with whoever he plays for next season.

Why would you jeopardise that?

Finally, did you read Big Sam’s email to the West Ham fans giving it loads about ‘coming out fighting’? In other words, ‘this lot are going to have to sell more wrist pamphlets and pay up my contract, Big Sam don’t walk away from the Benjamins’. It’s almost stirring stuff, until you get to the crux of his plan of attack, which is to wait until they get their defenders back which should see their ‘clean sheet ratio’ back up.

St Crispin’s Day it ain’t.

Right then, er, Efan Ekoku, Pat ‘van den Howitzer’, Mike Walker, that’s your lot.

Sunderland and Southampton and That

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The games are officially coming all Darren Huckerby now – that’s right, ‘thick and fast’ – so once again we adopt the lazy-arse scattergun approach of talking about what’s going on, Toffee-wise, at the moment.

Systems are no substitute for intelligence

The horrendous snafuckup that blew the Sunderland game was more down to poor decision-making than the Roberto Martinez ‘method’. Granted, if you watched a lot of Wigan Athletic over the last few seasons you would be forgiven that horrific blunders at the back were an integral feature of the Spaniard’s philosophy, but the responsibility for ‘doing a Caldwell’ has to lie with the players.

After all, it’s not as if our goalies have never rolled the ball out before during the past century or so of football at Goodison.

That said, if you do it every time without fail it does become a bit predictable and maybe encourages the opposition to make that bit more effort to pressurise the outfield player receiving the ball. Again though, it’s down to the players to make the right decisions – it’s not enough to take unnecessary risks at the back and then simply shrug and say ‘the manager told me to do it’ when it all goes cigar shaped.

Incidentally, a lot of people have said that Tim Howard made a further error by bringing down the Sunderland player and getting sent off. In that split second though, his instinct will have been to stop a goal. He tried to make a save but Ki Sung-Yeung was a bit too quick for him. It’s easy with hindsight to suggest he should have allowed the Korean to walk the ball in, but could you imagine the scenes at Goodison if he had stood there and ushered him forward like a footman doing the ‘your carriage awaits’ sweep of the arm towards an open net?

We need to talk about Romelu

With 10 men you need a heroic performance from your centre-forward, unfortunately though ours is having a horrible time at the moment.

Romelu Lukaku looked like an utter phenomenon when he first arrived at Everton but in the last month he seems to have fallen apart. A key feature of Everton’s play has become brilliant moves culminating with Lukaku and Ross Barkley shaking their heads at each other and pointing at completely different areas of the pitch as the ball dribbles out for a goal kick,  even during the majestic team performances at Manchester United and Arsenal, .

We’ve said it before but the burly Belgian needs to get back to basics. He has to accept that he can’t always have 30 yards of pitch to run into with defenders bouncing off him like Jonah Lomu, and that 90% of being a centre-forward involves getting the better of the jiu-jitsu skirmishes with the centre-half and taking your lumps for the team. Drifting out to the wings and making applause-prompting loping jogs to hurry the keeper up are all well and good, if you want to be Marcus Bent, but Lukaku apparently wants to be the best striker in the world.

When Nikica Jelavic is coming on and showing you up by winning a simple free-kick you know you need to have a look at what you are doing.

When we played Arsenal and they started getting a bit of joy towards the end of the first half, it was because Olivier Giroud was standing strong on the edge of the box and the attacking midfielders were confident that they could fire a pass into his feet, make a run past him and he would hold the defender off and try and ‘turn the ball around the corner’ for them. Everton are crying out for a bit of that simple stuff at the moment, especially given how much possession they have just outside the opponents’ box.

There’s no lack of effort by Lukaku – if anything he’s trying too hard.

How will Martinez cope with his first hint of adversity?

Two games away from going the whole year unbeaten at home, facing a team bottom of the league who traditionally get prison-petted all over the place at Goodison – ka-blammo, 1-0 reverse.

Everton that.

As they say.

Apparently.

It’s not a crisis, or even a mini crisis. Hell, it doesn’t even merit the term ‘crisette’, but things have been running so smoothly this season that even one rather unlucky defeat at home feels like a bit of a blow.

Anyway, as a result of that game the new Blues’ boss now has some selection problems ahead of facing a more than decent Southampton team.

Joel Robles obviously comes straight in for Howard while presumably Leon Osman, after having a good long think about just what he did on Boxing Day, gets to try and redeem himself in midfield alongside Ross Barkley and James McCarthy.

Gareth Barry’s experience will certainly be missed against a wily sort of Saints team – the wide-waisted former England man was magnificent again organising the 10 man assault on Sunderland in the second half on Sunday. Given that he is almost certainly the slowest player in the Premier League he should be getting mugged off constantly, but his first touch, anywhere from the neck down, is so immaculate, and he shields the ball so effortlessly, that it is almost never a problem.

12 months ago you would never have imagined that we would all have a massive man crush on a player famous only for trailing in the wake of Mezut Ozil – can’t do the Umlaut – and that the form of Bryan Oviedo would have people weighing up whether a decent bid for Leighton Baines might be worth considering.

Something about Southampton

Their jowly young-Homer-Simpson-haired manager Mauricio Pochettino has essentially become the poster boy for sacking popular managers who appear to be doing ok. And for people who like to pass off as their own deep insights into the game the shite they read in the paper and hear on Match of the Day – for instance that clueless Portsmouth supporter on The Football Ramble when he does his ‘but seriously now, it’s just not good enough’ voice – it’s de rigeur that you mention Saints’ ‘high pressing game’ whenever discussing them this season.

So we just have.

They have some decent players and are ‘coming off the back of’ a good win at Cardiff City. Incidentally, can you wait to see who takes over there? Or even better, listen to their first press conference when they are asked about working for Vincent Tan?

‘I know what you’re saying like, but, you know, we’ve all got to put a loaf on the table, lad’.

And that’s where this thing just sort of peters out, almost apologetically.

Swansea Preview

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‘The English language is the wall that divides us, and ‘fuck’ is my chisel’

– Tommy Tiernan, 2008

Right then, Swansea City away. It’s going to be a short one as there’s Christmas stuff to do and this isn’t being written on the man’s dime. You know how it is.

First and foremost this one will be interesting simply because of the similarity in approaches both sides have in terms of their possession obsession. In fact, they both hog the ball so much that the coin toss could actually prove crucial.

‘Don’t sweat it, we’ll get it back at half time. Be patient, like they are abroad.’

Despite cutting a dash in the Europa League, the Swans haven’t been as impressive in the league as they were last season, with people already speculating that To Live And Die In LA-looking manager Michael Laudrup might fancy moving on already, with the job at Tottenham looking like it could be a snug fit. Being, well, Michael fucking Laudrup would certainly carry more weight with the massive mob of gum-chewing, big-headphone wearing snides at White Hart Lane than looking like a prefect and telling everyone that you used to carry the laptop for Jose Mourinho.

Broken-hearted-English-holidaymaker-consoler-in-chief Michu has been a bigger disappointment to Fantasy League smartarses than even Christian Benteke, and a look at some statistics that we can’t be bothered doing would tell us whether he has actually been injured loads or he has, to use a ludicrous term, ‘been found out’.

An even bigger let-down has been the rather ironically named Wilfred Bony. This big unit looks more like a 1990s heavyweight boxer than a 21st century football player. You know, the sort from a ‘troubled background’ with shorts pulled up to his neck who you still see on Mike Tyson knockout compilations staggering around with what the legendary boxing writer Bert Sugar called ‘bad spacker legs’ as Richard Steele or Mills Lane tries to intervene and stop his head getting punched out of his arse.

That’s exactly what Wilfred Bony looks like.

Obviously the most obvious connection between Swansea and Everton at the moment is Roberto Martinez who still gets credit for everything good that happens at the Liberty Stadium despite leaving the club in 2009.

It’s ace, he’s like the Foxy Bingo fox, striding through the streets of football spreading tiki-taka tremendousness everywhere he goes. And for that reason, the follow up to ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ should be this.

‘Hey, is it just me, or has this Chang actually started to taste a lot better this season?’

‘You know, funny you should say that…’

Feliz Navidad, to Toffees, Toffettes and various non-Evertonian heathens everywhere.