They could all be representing Everton at the 2014 World Cup. It’s a long chalk from getting excited because Nuno Valente’s on the bench for Portugal, eh? I’d like to think it’s both a sign of growth and a positive from two sh*te weeks without our beloved Everton. Nevertheless, the job’s done now. England are going the World Cup, a whole host of Blues are going to the World Cup, Scotland…won a game. Happy days.
Not, sadly, for Darron Gibson. You start to get the impression after a while that he was born on an old gypsy burial ground or the like, because that was some awful timing for a nasty ligament injury. Roberto Martinez is hopeful, but that’s his season. Ricky Hatton has a quicker recovery time, for God’s sake. We can only hope he comes back stronger, but it’s like Arteta vs Newcastle all over again. Get well soon, Gibbo.
On the plus side, the international break was mostly a happy one for us. Leighton Baines is finally being recognised as the naughtiest left back in the nation, rather than in our own back yard. Even the Kopites want him in ahead of Ashley Cole, which is testament to Baines’ quality and Cole being a right tit. Tim Howard was allowed to come home early, which is a real treat, while Romelu Lukaku banged in a couple for Belgium to remind us how boss he is. In case you were wondering, Eto’o and Ba did f*ck-all, and Fernando Torres is still Fernando Torres. Nice one, Jose.
It was also good to see how ace Stevie was. A classy performance, capped off by a goal which ended an iffy campaign on a high. Don’t let visions of DJ-slapping tw*ts dance in your head – I of course mean Steven Naismith. He excelled playing in a centre forward role for Scotland, which is sad when he has no chance of playing there for us. Although you never know…
What we do know is that we deserved to lose last time out, against Man City. My preview for that game went along the lines of avoiding a magnificent City backlash, and we didn’t. I did get some stick off a mouthy Citeh fan for that, but they’re the perils of a confident claim and teaching a Manc how to use a computer. But the result was fair, if not a bit flattering for City. They were ace, the penalty was a load of sh*te, but most importantly, we weren’t good enough. While there’s a transition from what I’ll call ‘Moyesball’ to a more sophisticated game, there’s also no room for arseing around on the ball or panicking in possession. I’d look more at Barkley for the former and Osman for the latter.
But, although the longest unbeaten start in the Premier League this season is over, there’s still a ton of optimism about. If we play like we did in the first 10 to 15 minutes against City every game, we’ll need to find a good further 80 minutes to peg onto it. Perhaps it was just fatigue. So a fixture at home to newly promoted Hull – albeit a side barely affected by international call-ups – is just what we need. That being said, it’s not worth writing them off just yet. Alright, we all have the urge to not take the middle aged fans with tiger face paint seriously. And listening to Steve Bruce seems more like a challenge to your sanity than your team. But Hull have put together a tidy squad.
Their strength comes from the back. Allan McGregor has done so well that he has attained the dubious honour of being my back-up keeper on Fantasy Football. And Martinez will know that Figueroa’s a bit of alright. He’s going to look sh*te in comparison to the other left-back on the field, but he puts in a shift. The key for them is in the solid midfield partnership of Huddlestone and Livermore. Huddlestone’s deffo one of those a few of us would’ve loved at the club in the past couple of years, without a few injury issues, while Livermore could well be handy for Spurs in the future. Apparently Huddlestone will cut his hair next when he scores, so he’ll want to get the hedge clippers out ASAP. Meanwhile, Danny Graham against Jagielka and Distin is like throwing a sack of sh*te in against Jagielka and Distin. Not worried.
However, we have to do what we failed to do against West Brom and Cardiff, and actually stick in a goal or two. And Hull can be tough nuts to crack. It used to be an achievement, being above Man Utd, but seeing as Agent Moyes is having a ball there it’s not so grand. Still, Cardiff and Crystal Palace can only aspire to Hull’s lofty standing. And they’re in eighth because they have only conceded 7 goals so far – less than us, Man City or league leaders Arsenal. And they sure know how to kill a game – the 0-0 draw against Aston Villa two weeks ago was a crime against football. People watching it were declared legally dead during the second half, it was that dire.
It means, hopefully, that we can take the game to them. That means a choice of two formations. Either the 4-5-1 that was used against Man City, or the 4-3-3 (ish) unleashed on Newcastle. The former would mean the usual suspects in defence, Barry and McCarthy in the centre, Mirallas right, Naismith left, Barkley behind Lukaku. Leon Osman can keep his coat on. The latter would have Barry sitting in front of the defence and covering for the roving full-backs, with McCarthy and Osman in front. Barkley and Mirallas would effectively sit behind Lukaku, but get up as much as possible to support him. Unlike with Moyes’ formations, this Martinez-brand team can change from attacking to defensive at the drop of a hat, and back to attacking just as quickly. However, too much short passing will just mean frustration.
There’s a lot to suggest that those stalemates against West Brom and Cardiff are well behind us now. To begin with, the Duracell Bunny-trashing James McCarthy is looking ace in midfield – absolutely all over the place, in the positive, non-Heitinga sense. And Gareth Barry provides the cool, experienced defensive midfielder, which makes us look much more solid. That block on Eto’o is still popping up in my dreams. And, in Romelu Lukaku, we have a striker we can rightfully expect to score every week. Imagine.
Of course, it’s never as easy as all that. Everton, aren’t we. It’s going to be a game of patience, unless we lay into them from the off. It worked against Newcastle, and Hull look impotent on the counter without Robbie Brady, so it’s certainly on for a real siege. We keep saying that we’ll hand out a long-overdue thrashing to some poor sods, but we don’t deliver. So we better sort someone out soon, because I’m sick of the 7-1 vs Sunderland DVD now. BK could do with the revenue, he’s funding another showing of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Kinell.
Speaking of barmy chairmen, Hull fans are planning once more to sing “City til I die” 19 minutes and 04 seconds into the game (have a bonus point if you worked out the timing straight off) as a protest against Assem Allam trying to turn them into some franchise. It’d be embarrassing for us all if the side sounding most football-like, Hull FC, are playing the wrong sport. So feel free to join them in that. Power to the people and all.
So lads, before your mind wanders to the beaches of Brazil, sort out Hull City on a drizzly Goodison Saturday. The World Cup’s a B-List attraction after that.
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