Everton 4 Stoke City 0

deulofeu_stoke

First of all, an apology. Last week, while musing on how Roberto Martinez would cope with the absence of Leighton Baines, we deduced that Bryan Oviedo’s absence from the derby squad meant that the Everton manager doesn’t rate him. In fact, the term ‘a bit shit’ was used.

Well, the Costa Rican started against Stoke City and was excellent. Granted, he wasn’t up against much, but he was full of running and supported the attack superbly, scoring one goal and creating another, to the extent that Baines wasn’t missed in the slightest. You really couldn’t ask for much more from an understudy getting his chance in the spotlight.

Similarly we hold our hands up to Gerard Deulofeu, who we might have labelled one of the few disappointments of the season so far in an interview with United We Stand. In his appearances before Saturday he always played with an air of ‘I know we lost 4-1, but my goal was a cracker wasn’t it’, but starting here in place of Kevin Mirallas he was, at times, absolutely electric.

Ok then while we’re at it, Martinez as well. Admit it though, you pulled your face a bit too when you heard Mirallas and Ross Barkley were being rested. It just had the feeling of something that could backfire spectacularly, but the Everton boss has the magic touch at the moment and this slightly ‘rotated’ side gave their most complete performance of the season.

Stoke, for their part, are clearly in a ‘transition period’. Mark Hughes is trying to get them to play more football, which is to be lauded as they were mostly a disgrace under Tony Pulis, but at the moment he is trying to do that with a squad of players that was assembled in order to intimidate, not entertain. As a result of that they seem caught between two stools.

Neither swish nor foul, if you like.

Everton, on the other hand, have loads of good footballers and with Steven Pienaar pulling the strings expertly they played the visitors off the park. Stoke never lacked for effort though, not while the game was goalless at least, and the game might have panned out differently had they achieved their initial aim of getting to half time level. However, Deulofeu, who had already seen Asmir Begovic make a smart save from a free-kick, capped off a dizzying move on 45 minutes, exchanging one-twos with Pienaar and then Gareth Barry before clipping the ball inside the near post.

Whatever Hughes said to his side during the break was rendered moot only four minutes after the restart when Deulofeu broke down the left and his low cross eventually came to the onrushing Seamus Coleman whose awkward volley sliced weirdly across the goal, leaving Begovic helpless as it spun into the far corner.

It was all over from that point. Stoke had come looking to frustrate Everton and take a point. They weren’t equipped to overturn a two-goal deficit but had to go through the motions and in the process simply exposed themselves to one of the best counter-attacking sides in the league.

Begovic saved from point-blank range following a, let’s just put it out there, ‘Messi-esque’ run from sly eyes Deulofeu, but was again left without a prayer on 58 minutes when Oviedo took the long way around Charlie Adam’s wide load and smashed a 20-yard shot home off the foot of the post.

Talking of old ginger-sidies, did anyone else think the extent of the lusty booing he got when substituted seemed well out of proportion to his whole Kopite career? Oh, and while we’re on the subject of that sort of thing, a quick message to Cardiff City supporters – not that there will be any reading this. What is with you absolute lickspittles, applauding Aaron Ramsey for stuffing two goals past you? Fair enough, some of you meekly argued that wearing red instead of blue is a price worth paying to be in the Premier League, but that doesn’t mean you have to abase yourselves at every opportunity, does it?

Those scenes were even worse than when the Portsmouth support famously dropped their knickers for Thierry Henry.

But back to Everton, who far from applauding the opposition, have no qualms about openly and freely criticising one of their own players – even one who looks likely to finish as their highest goalscorer since Gary Lineker. Loads of people after the game commented about how shite Romelu Lukaku played, but the big Belgian still managed to score, turning home Oviedo’s low cross on 79 minutes.

It was all the stuff we’ve mentioned before, about how flaky he looks with his back to goal and how he should be giving defenders a far tougher time. It might seem overly harsh given his goalscoring record but there will be games when we are up against it and we will need him to do the basics better and win some free-kicks. If he wants to reach his almost unlimited potential as well, and be as good or better than the player he supposedly wants to emulate, Didier Drogba, it’s that unglamorous, old-fashioned centre-forward stuff he needs to work on.

Before we get too dismissive of him though, we need to bear in mind what we’d be working with if Martinez hadn’t secured his loan at the eleventh hour of the transfer window, and substitute Nikica Jelavic served a reminder when played clean through in the dying minutes and shot apologetically straight at Begovic.

However, none of those asides should detract from a great afternoon. As one wise Park Ender remarked: ‘It’s great isn’t it, a couple of hours in the pub and then watch Everton batter someone. We don’t ask for much’.

And indeed there are few more life-affirming feelings than leaving the ground, bathing in the hazy orange glow of County Road and breathing in the coppery winter air following a proper school of science showing from those famous boys in blue.

We really don’t ask for much at all.

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.

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.

Norwich City 2 Everton 2

coleman against norwich

After a summer of uncertainty, capped off by that directionless display against Real Betis, Evertonians got their first real sight of Roberto Martinez’s Blues at Carrow Road and all the signs were pretty encouraging.

The narrative that’s been written ahead of time is that Martinez is going to take David Moyes’s supposedly prosaic but professional grafters and turn them into a swashbuckling but naïve side destined to sit at either end of a 4-3 result every other week.

The reality, in this first match anyway, was his side produced a performance that was largely reminiscent of so many away games in the Premier League last season. Everton were often superb in possession, operating as if they were the home team for long periods, but almost mesmerised themselves, such was their dominance, until their opponents inevitably scored with one of their infrequent attacks.

The 4-2-3-1 system, with Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley supporting Nikica Jelavic, looks a winner. Marouane Fellaini was allowed to play in the deeper, defensive position he prefers, but having Leon Osman alongside him meant he never had to take the ball off the defenders and start attacks, the part of playing that role he struggles with.

Also noticeable by its absence was that slavish devotion to rolling the ball out from the back that was such a feature of preseason. Tim Howard mixed it up and so the Blues never became too predictable as they did against Betis.

The only real revelation then was the performance of Barkley. Playing as part of that advanced midfield three, as opposed to the deeper role he’s occupied in the past, allowed him to utilise his strengths – his strong running and powerful shooting – to devastating effect.

Last season, when he was maybe asked to do a job that required too much restraint and maturity, he was constantly trying to over-elaborate in dangerous positions and there was definitely a creeping feeling of ‘what’s all the fuss about with this kid’? Against Norwich though, especially when Everton counter-attacked, he looked terrific.

We said last season that we lack someone who, when teams are camped out on the edge of their own box, can simply power into the area and make something happen, and Barkley looks the part. He’s being compared to all sorts after this display, like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, but his performance was most reminiscent of Thomas Gravesen at his best, and despite what many think of the deranged Dane that’s meant as a compliment.

He certainly couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first goal in the top flight, a rasper from the edge of the box after good work from Fellaini and possibly the Premier League’s most underrated player, Seamus Coleman.  That came on 61 minutes, 10 minutes after Steven Whittaker had given the home side the lead.

The former Glasgow Rangers right-back broke through a cluster of blue shirts with a combination of skill and good fortune before bending a low shot past Tim Howard. He thought he had scored and wheeled away to celebrate, only for the ball to strike the inside of the post and rebound straight back to his feet. The lucky twat couldn’t miss.

It was to Everton’s credit that they never panicked though – Barkley levelled matters with his pearler and four minutes later a lovely move resulted in Coleman putting Everton ahead. Pienaar, who had another quiet game by his standards, shaped to shoot before slipping a delightful pass into the path of Jelavic. The Croatian’s shot was parried by John Ruddy but Coleman was the man on the move, taking the recovering Norwich defenders by surprise and ramming the ball home to provoke delirious scenes in the away end.

However, that joy was relatively short-lived. On 71 minutes Whittaker was again tres spawny, as the French say, as he completely miscued a volley that turned into a perfect cross for the lively Dutch forward Ricky van Wolkswinkel. That said, the laser-haired striker, whose name actually translates quite amusingly to ‘wolf’s winkle’ still did brilliantly to guide his header into the far corner of the net.

Martinez gave a nod to his predecessor at that point, replacing Mirallas with the shaven-headed Steven Naismith. If Barkley at times looks like the young, strutting Paul Gascoigne, Naismith actually resembles the supporting-a-nutty-gunman-disgracing-himself-in-hotel-bars-bucket-list-favourite Gazza of the here and now. Seriously, he almost makes Danny Murphy look well.

The Scot did see a decent chance blocked by Ruddy though, before Jelavic’s attempt to bladder home the rebound struck a defender. Jelavic was then replaced by Aroune Kone, but he’s clearly still famished, as he struggled to make any impact in the late stages. Coleman had another shot snake narrowly wide but there was to be no breakthrough at the end for Everton.

Martinez was only left to try and deal politely with Delia Smith’s infamous wandering hands in the boardroom afterwards before returning to Merseyside with the rest of the Evertonians, pleased with the way his team shaped up in what everyone had down as a difficult game to open the season with.

Chris Hughton, who is increasingly looking like Gustavo Fring from Breaking Bad, said he thought a draw was a fair result, but he was clearly talking shite.

Goodison is going to be buzzing for this game against West Brom next week.