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 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.

Everton 2 Norwich City 0

Barry_norwich

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.

Mcgeady_unveil

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.