Kinell, what a week Everton.
So we welcome the fallen Moyesiah back to the hallowed turf of Goodison, and his charges are well and truly smashed off of it. Yet they aren’t his charges any more, as Messrs Moyes, Round and Lumsden have all been given the chop. Phil Neville spread the news of his departure via a few errant Wispas and the journalists had a field day. As did we. But of course, just to remind us that we’re Everton, Sylvain Distin and Kevin Mirallas had to pick up season-ending knocks.
Let’s rewind to the start eh.
Memories of that Easter Sunday match will be resurrected more than Christ himself or those “Riquelme to Everton” rumours – it was magic. Roberto Martinez got his tactics spot on again – knowing United are confident away from home and take advantage of teams under pressure from the home crowd to keep the ball and attack freely, he allowed them to keep the ball as much as they liked. Yet when they reached the final third a solid bank formed by the defence and midfield intervened. The two goals came from lightning counter attacks. As a result, it all went our way. Jonny Evans had a free header and inexplicably put it in Howard’s hands. Wayne Rooney was in one on one and again the big American smothered it. Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy make me want to send David Cameron a letter imploring him to invade Ireland so they can go to the World Cup. And, adopting the face of a jarg ITV drama detective…it was good. Too good…
Losing Mirallas and Distin is a bit of a pain at this stage, what with both being regulars, but incredibly we can replace them and feel quite comfortable about it. Instead of Heitinga and Anichebe, read Alcaraz and McGeady. The big Paraguayan was cool and confident on the ball against United, and also threw in some excellent blocks. Much like an asthmatic at a Bob Marley tribute concert he isn’t spending nearly enough time on the grass, but what he does means Distin’s loss isn’t too keenly felt. Kevin Mirallas loves to frustrate but has still weighed in with eight goals and eight assists. Deulofeu’s got about half of that and Aiden McGeady’s just kicking off at Everton, but both have done well and provide a better alternative than “Reckon we should just stick Jelavic out there Roundy?” “Yes boss.”
Speaking of Pish and Chips there, a discussion on the worst of Moyes-ball included memories of our last trip to the South Coast, when Mauricio Pochettino was welcomed to the English game with a dire ninety minutes of football. Luckily, both teams have evolved a great deal since then, and so this should be an enjoyable spectacle with the ball being fizzed across that pristine grass. Southampton threatened to become England’s next bandwagon club for a long time by hanging around the top lot, but just seven league wins in eighteen matches post-Christmas have left their place in the league looking like a Tommy Cooper magic trick; as in, between a couple of jokes. The Saints have looked toothless since Jay Rodriguez suffered his season-ending injury and April has brought defeats to Manchester City and Cardiff, as well as a dire 0-0 draw with Aston Villa. The season’s over for them.
For a couple of them the World Cup is the only focus, including, apparently, Luke Shaw. Luke Shaw the media darling de jour. Apparently a couple of favourable Match of the Day outings means he’s better than Leighton Baines, which is like sacking off the Peroni Gran Riserva for a good ol’ Carlsberg. “If Carlsberg did-” ‘Koff. Baines scores penalties but doesn’t run off screaming like he’s just replicated Maradona as a certain other media darling does, so it’s the youngster who can join Captain Fantastic in the Team of the Year. In any case Shaw might do well to learn from Baines, particularly in his sacking off of a certain red-bedecked Titanic case for the club he loves.
Shaw will join Clyne, Lovren and Fonte in a defence that could do with a couple of clean sheets on the spin for the first time since five consecutive shut-outs in September/October. Artur Boruc is due some wild swipe or a calamitous step-over too, so here’s hoping for one of those. Wanyama, Schneiderlin, Cork, Ward-Prowse or Davis could flank the in-form Adam Lallana and lethal Rickie Lambert. That’s a duo we need to keep quiet. Their bench isn’t up to much, so the real question is which Southampton will turn up.
In any case, their main threat will be the movement of their attacking players and full backs, which will keep our own full backs and wingers busy. However, when you see Graeme Jones identifying that very threat and discussing it with Everton.com, it’s clear that not only have we considered it, but also a way of countering it. That’s how Everton have out-thought and out-fought a number of teams this season. Not wearing daft headphones like a daft telemarketer.
“Hello? Is this Bayern Munich? I was just wondering; are you happy with your current manager? Because I’ve got David Moyes here and….hello? Hello?”
— Luke Brennan (@Luke_Brennan17) April 22, 2014
— Mollie Bennett (@molliebennett) April 22, 2014
— Warren Winrow (@WarrenWinrow) April 22, 2014
— Robert Borthwick (@RFBorthwick) April 22, 2014
— Jock (@_bluejock) April 22, 2014
— Warren Winrow (@WarrenWinrow) April 22, 2014
We may as well assume that the boss winning-at-Anfield Southampton might decide to turn up, so which double-over-Man Utd lot want to take them on? Howard, Coleman and Baines are the foundation upon which the House of ‘Berto is built, so they need to stay magic. In the centre we could see either Alcaraz or the returning Jagielka partnering the Barnsley Bobby Moore, with Gareth Barry and the man who will outlast capitalism, James McCarthy, bossing the space in front. So who’s in front of that? Steven Naismith’s having a brief Jelavic period where he misses sitters but there are no offsides so he’ll be fine. Barkley was a bit busy tracking Nani in the first half on Sunday and only came into his own in the second half, so he may have a tough time following Lallana and Clyne. With Southampton’s roving wing backs it’d be more likely that Osman starts on the other side, but McGeady and Deulofeu could also do some running. Lukaku can be arsed for about half an hour for this one too. I swear we’re seeing him run just a little bit less every week. Perhaps he’s winding down to when we actually pay for him and he can make a smooth transition into the accursed Everton striker. No way. Loans forever.
Clearly I don’t understand loans too well.
Anyway, let’s take stock. A victory this weekend means even two defeats from the last two games would put us in fifth place. Fifth. European football returns, Spurs and Man Utd looking up at plucky wee Everton, and the real belief that we can make an even better challenge for fourth next season. That’s the worst case. How much better does it get? Bill Kenwright bets millions on Liverpool to f**k up their title bid and it comes off? We sign a player on that thing that isn’t a loan, whatever it’s called? A new stadium in Walton Hall Park? David Cameron to get a bump on the head and have a vision of some f*cking common sense? The race for fourth may be uphill for us but I’d say at this moment in time it’s all looking rather rosy. So leave off with the pressure talk. Saturday’s all about showing Southampton and the watching world how boss we are once again.
Go do the boss thing you do Everton.