Spurs Preview

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Gameweek 25 in the Premier League and it’s all to play for, boys and girls.

And yeah, that is gameweek, all one word, even if the spellchecker in Word really doesn’t like it. We’ve got a new look website, a new logo and we are using fancy American-style sports words.

Or sportswords, even.

Thanks very much to Jonny Gray for the logo. He accepted no payment, because as usual we never offered him any. Hopefully he understands though that it represents a unique opportunity for his work to be seen by literally dozens of people around the world.

But seriously now, we are very grateful and think it looks dead smart.

Thankyou also to computer whizz Laura Johnson who offered to help us sort the website out. We didn’t need her assistance at this point – so if it’s shite, don’t blame her – but we are always overwhelmed by the generosity of people out there, united by a love of the Toffees and gratuitous swearing.

One blue nation, under a fucking groove.

Talking of all things blue and internet and all that, the club invited a selection of active online supporters to go along on a magical mystery tour that culminated in them being the first to find out that…

Hang on, wait for it.

They’ve signed a new five-year kit deal with Umbro.

They must have been blown away.

In fairness, they got to meet Roberto Martinez which will have been ace, and the Blues’ boss expounded on how he is sure that the new kit will help the team perform. And all that.

So, here we go, we are going to be unashamed misery arses here.

The club’s marketing people obviously adore Martinez with his sunny disposition and seemingly unlimited availability. You can imagine he makes their job so much easier – ‘That last miserable cunt wouldn’t give us the steam off his shite’ – but they need to be careful they don’t abuse the privilege.

The position of Everton manager itself should carry a certain amount of gravitas, and Martinez himself is a really smart man. When he speaks it should be a case of turning the volume up on the telly and hushing the kids. He needs to be used sparingly then and not simply wheeled out to endorse anything and everything.

‘I really think that Chang lager is perfect for Everton. It has a warmth that reflects the atmosphere of the club and when the supporters consume a lot of it and scream ‘come on Everton these are sheet’ that lifts the players and helps them perform and fulfil their potential as a group.’

Less is more sometimes. They need to protect the Martinez brand lest his become the Burberry baseball cap of football soundbites, piled high in the Sports Direct bin of aimless punditry. That doesn’t even make sense – but if it did, Brendan Rodgers’ outbursts would be the Londsdale three-quarter length kecks, that’s for sure.

Going back to the new kit, Robert Elstone added some spiel about the history of Everton and Umbro, but in all honesty they miss the point with regards to what supporters really care about. Something along the lines of ‘The new kit won’t look ridiculous and we are guaranteed that there will be no supply issues’ would be more relevant than a load of press release piffle about performance, etc.  The players don’t care about it for a start – let’s face it, they would wear their granny’s skin stitched into a onesy if there was a few a bob in it for them – and it won’t make them play better.

Ultimately it’s just another blue nylon scratchy shirt that a lot of people see as their way of helping the club out morally and financially. And even then, if you believe some tinfoil-hatted internet sources, we negotiated a deal with Kitbag to supply our gear that is the footballing equivalent of Blue Monday so we lose money on every shirt sold.

Or something.

But enough of all that. A trip to the Lane on Sunday is intriguing to say the least. We’re not really used to being so close to that all important fourth place at this time of year and that sort of brings its own pressures. The need to pick up points in each and every game is relentless when the Champions League is your genuine ambition – and it still has to be at this point – so you don’t get to write any weekend off.

So we go to Tottenham, who are somehow only a point behind us despite both clubs experiencing very different ‘narratives’ this season, knowing there’s a lot at stake.

Barn-owl-featured Tim Sherwood’s thumbs-in-the-braces cockney ‘I don’t have time for any of this new-fangled nonsense this is a simple game and we’re Spurs we only play one way and I learned at the knee of Bill Nicholson ooh wasn’t Gazza brilliant!’ attitude comes across as massively disingenuous from someone who is chiefly remembered as a sideways-passing bore of a Blackburn player in the second worst side to ever win the league (Leeds, Carl Shutt, etc. before you ask). That said, Tottenham have undoubtedly perked up since the departure of that ludicrous Portuguese chancer, as they get the ball forward a bit quicker, using the occasionally brilliant Emmanuel Adebayor as a target-man instead of having that little Spanish fella legging around waiting for through-balls that never came from the eighteen man midfield.

Spurs held onto the ball well at Goodison but never really threatened consistently during a tiresome stalemate – they will definitely have more of a go on Sunday and, like all of Everton’s opponents now, will have noted with some interest what happened at Anfield the other week.

Hey, hey, it’s ok to talk about it. This is a friendly space. Relax.

The Blues themselves could have Seamus Coleman back, which will make a massive difference to the way we play. Asking John Stones, a wet-behind-the-ears centre-half, to play out of position at the sharp end of the Premier League was expecting a lot in itself. He was certainly never going to be able to emulate the best attacking fullback in the league.

Gerard Deulofeu is close to a return as well. Having him on the bench is great because despite his inconsistency and tendency to overplay, when he comes on during a tight game he gives the crowd a massive lift. In fact it’s hard to remember a substitute who had such an impact on the expectation levels of the supporters, probably because players with Deulofeu’s immense ability would normally be certain starters.

Finally, it appears that the Blues tried to get Jack Rodwell back on loan during the transfer window. Exactly why is anyone’s guess because he’s crap, don’t let anyone tell you any different. He’s essentially a multi-millionaire because he was massive for his age and it’s hard to imagine how him sheepishly jogging around the centre circle for us again would be any sort of improvement on what we have.

But that’s all conjecture. The reality is the squad starting to look a bit healthier, Liverpool spunking most of the advantage they gained in the derby and throwing more toys on the floor than backstage with the Lost Prophets, and Everton still being very much ‘in the mix’.

All good stuff, and almost unthinkable less than a fortnight ago.

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West Bromwich Albion Preview

‘First they came for the Geordies and I did not speak up, because I was not a Geordie.

Then they came for that terrifying kid who supported Leeds and was crying when they got relegated from the Premier League and I did not speak out, because I was not a Leeds fan.

Then they came for the Manchester United fans who wear the green and gold scarves and I did not speak out, because like most of them I’m not actually sure what the real point of the scarves is any more. They must have lost a couple of games.

Then they came for the Hull City supporters who did the tiger maul dance and I did not speak out, because I was not a Hull City supporter. Or a tiger.

Then they came for those Arsenal lads who held up the Eduardo shirt when he got injured, and I did not speak out because I was not an absolute bellend trying to get on the telly.

Then they came for the Liverpudlians who dressed as cardinals and to be honest I did actually speak out this time and I said ‘there’s well more than them you know, they are just the tip of iceberg’.

Then they came for West Brom fans who do the ‘Boing, boing’ thing and I did not speak out, because I was not a West Brom fan and to be quite honest I was still seething that they only took the cardinals last time they were here. I did point though, to where the West Brom fans were hiding, because all that bouncing around is really fucking irritating.’

So then, West Bromwich Albion, eh?

West Brom.

The ‘Baggies’.

They’ve got a new manager. His name’s Pepe Mel. Apparently he left his last job because it was a grind.

What? Get out of it.

He actually left because Real Betis sacked him but he apparently worked wonders there, getting promoted and into the Europa League with no money to spend. To be honest, this was all gleaned from listening to a couple of podcasts – if it’s factually incorrect take it up with Sid Lowe. Anyway, on the strength of those passing comments we are branding him the Spanish Iain Holloway.

Unlike Everton’s own Latin smoothy, Mel isn’t particularly Spanish-looking. In fact he looks a bit like Brian Dennehy in that creepy film about John Wayne Gacy. However, he doesn’t win the Premier League ‘check his passport’ award for this season – that clearly goes to Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal who looks like he should be limping dead fast down Park Road with his Berghaus hood up in the height of summer, drinking a bottle of Lucozade Sport and only stopping occasionally to remonstrate with his Pirates of the Caribbean-looking Judy who is trailing in his wake screaming abuse at the top of her lungs.

Doesn’t he?

Going back to West Brom, apparently they will be without the services of Hull-bound Shane Long, the Irish striker who always looks pretty decent against Everton and indeed is often linked with a transfer to Goodison Park. He’s big, strong, doesn’t score many goals but absolutely works his stones off for the cause. Baggies fans need not worry though, they have a ready-made replacement in Victor Anichebe who, let’s face it, has all the same attributes as Long. Apart from the effort part, obviously.

And yes, that might seem a bit two-faced given that we always tried to look for the positives in Anichebe before his £6 million move to the Midlands, but that’s the nature of the beast. You can’t help yourself sometimes, especially when you don’t want to feel as if you are adding to the tsunami of shite that’s being heaped on a player from the stands. At his worst though he really never helped himself. For someone of such limited ability he needed to find some area in which to compensate and he never realised that early enough. The penny did seem to drop towards the end of his Everton career but it’s safe to say that a move was the best thing for all parties.

Apart from West Brom.

Long will be joining Nikica Jelavic at Hull – the crafty Croatian is their record signing and leaves with nothing but good wishes from the Evertonians. No one ever doubted his effort, regardless of how he completely disintegrated as a functioning Premier League forward, and so the supporters stuck with him and were palpably willing him on whenever he featured in the side. That he was so grateful for that and wished it to be known in his open letter was a nice touch. You want people to leave the club with their head held high and with fond memories.

Who, if anyone, is coming in to replace Jelavic though seems like anyone’s guess at the moment. Martinez seems unfazed – but then he always does – but releasing our second choice centre-forward would seem on the surface at least to weaken our hand when negotiating to bring someone in. The selling club is going to know that we are snookered if a deal doesn’t go through and as we have seen during countless transfer windows in the past, the Goodison hierarchy won’t think twice about walking away from the table if they think some Johnny Two-Phones foreign representative is taking the piss with the demands.

‘No mate, you don’t understand. Not all at once. Comprende? Installamentos. Er, how do you say it? Drip. On the dr… EL DRIPPY-DRIPPY! Is he deliberately acting soft this kid? That’s it, give him a Delta Taxis card and tell him to fuckin’ beat it. GO ‘EAD LAD, SLINGO YER ‘OOKO. NO DUCK TOUR FOR YOU NOW, GREEDY ARSE.’

We were linked with that young Belgian striker from Anderlecht, and Kenwyne Jones of course, but now it is being reported that Martinez’s quest for another massive black lad to play up front has seen him turn his attention to some character called Lacina Traore. Or, to be more precise, West Ham are apparently on the verge of signing the 6’8” tall Ivory Coast forward on loan from Monaco but Everton are looking to ‘do a Lukaku’ again and step in at the last minute.

To hijack an old Iain Holloway analogy: ‘Hang on, I’ve been buying her ale all night!’

Lord only knows if this Traore is any good like. He’s been scoring goals in the Romanian and Russian leagues which, as we know, means absolutely nothing.

Going back to the Baggies for a moment, another striker who could be missing from this game is Niclas Anelka. The Jewish owner of Zoopla, West Brom’s shirt sponsor, has demanded that the French striker be dropped in the wake of his goal celebration the other week: the anti-Semitic ‘Quenelle’.

Presumably the full name of the weird gesture is: ‘Quenelle! What are you thinking there you daft, offside, aardvark-faced nugget?’

Finally, did anyone hear Grant Holt being interviewed after his transfer to Aston Villa? He was asked what he brings and, rather sheepishly he said: ‘I’m different from the other strikers they have here already. I’m not as fast as Gabby Agbonlahor and I’m probably not as sharp as Christian Benteke.’

Reach for the stars, son. Reach for the stars.

Cardiff City 0 Everton 0

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Four games in and already these match reports feel a bit monotonous.

Faced with another side who Everton really should expect to beat, they once again dominated the possession but never really looked dangerous for any sustained period. And when you hear people saying we look like Liverpool did when Brendan Rodgers first arrived, and mean it in a positive way – as in ‘and look at them now’ – you know things aren’t going exactly to script so far for Roberto Martinez.

In his defence, Everton were denied a copper-bottomed penalty when Gary Medel’s on Leighton Baines was so late it actually started off in black and white, but there is still much work to be done if the Blues are going to finish around the position that we have all become accustomed to.

As someone commented on Saturday, the basics of the football we are playing are sound, but it just has to be done so much quicker. We have players like Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar, Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines who are clever and great at exploiting space, but the ponderous approach denies them any to work in. Eventually every move seems to break down with one of them vainly trying to ‘McFadden’ their way past a defender from a standing start. Either that or a wacky, off-balance shot from long distance.

Not having a competent centre-forward doesn’t help matters though. It’s still too early to pass a definitive judgement on Arouna Kone, but the biggest criticism of the Ivorian is that he has yet to do enough to convince the manager to start him ahead of Nikica Jelavic.

The notoriously harsh Everton supporters have been patience personified with the Croatian, but his performances seem beyond a joke now. One deflected header that forced a brilliant save from David Marshall, and a cross that Mirallas should have buried, were about the sum total of his contribution to the game. The rest was painful to watch.

However, he’s never been the best target man, which is why David Moyes used to deploy Marouane Fellaini up front. Martinez seems reluctant to do that – preferring to let the Belgian play in the withdrawn role that he favours, presumably because it allows him to gambol about playing when he feels like. It’s a waste – further forward Fellaini is forced to get involved and use the attributes that make him a unique threat. Phil Neville can play the role he’s fulfilling at the moment.

This is more than likely going to be a moot point by Tuesday though, with the Belgian press apparently letting slip that Fellaini is definitely on his way to Old Trafford. Fancy that.

It remains to be seen whether Baines will follow him there – some papers seem to think that Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand is already lined up as a replacement.

If selling one or both of those players allows Martinez to bring in individuals who can make his system work better than perhaps it will be for the best in the long run because so far, against pretty modest opposition, the players he has inherited are struggling to make any real impact.

Everton 0 West Bromwich Albion 0

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‘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.