Anyway, you’re here for Everton, so back I go. If you honestly didn’t see last week coming, you were kidding yourself. Away from home against a team on a major high and looking to prove themselves. Not a nice way to kick off the season. Also, compare the number of Leicester players who went to the World Cup and had less time in pre season training to ours. Exactly. Although some of it was indefensible. The pinball defending where Sylvain Distin did his best Bambi on ice impression was just as criminal as not bringing Mirallas or Atsu on when Paul Konchesky and Leicester were on their arses. But there were positives. Steven Pienaar, Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith didn’t jet off to Brazil and – would you credit it – absolutely ran the show. The two goals were as beautiful as Leicester’s were infuriating, which is just classic Everton. In the past we’d have lost that and you know it. A point isn’t great but it’s something on the board.
Since Leicester, we’ve heard very little. We’re waiting for the transfer deadline because when the conveyor belt gets going something often falls into Everton laps. There’s a lot of talk over Samuel Eto’o. Yeah. Sound. He scores goals. What would be nice is someone who can score goals for us over a few years. Of course, loans don’t provide that and Arouna Kone was last seen cruising around on a camel, so unless that camel’s timing a last minute run into the Arsenal penalty area we’re not getting far in the hunt for a proven goalscorer to assist Lukaku.
Ah, Arsenal. As part of Sky’s Big Five they are on the most part condescending, arrogant and whiny but less so than Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool, which makes them quite loveable really. City remember suffering vividly, whereas it’s been a long time for the Gunners. They were dead snide during Arsene Wenger’s first years at the club but now they talk like it’s beneath them. Ah well. We can relate to Arsenal because they, like us, have the constant suspicion something terrible is just around the corner, and we sure can admire them just as many Gunners have a soft spot for us. They’ve got staying power. And they know how to secure Champions League football, which is what we wanted, and were beaten to by a side that deserved it more. We let Cameron Jerome and Ricky van Wolfswinkel score against us. They didn’t. There’s your difference. Now they’re genuine title challengers. Yes, they are. More big money spent and a squad that can secure another trophy. They won something, developed the squad and will look to win more. We’re still at stage zero in that respect.
But that magical Goodison game in April was a significant moment. We broke them in every way. The tactics deployed by Roberto Martinez befuddled Wenger. The players all did their jobs brilliantly. We taught a team a science lesson; a team that has schooled the rest of the league over the years. They never expected it from little Everton. Of course they weren’t exactly at full strength, but they were in December when we took a point and a ton of plaudits. Naturally we Everton’d it hugely, but a first win against Arsenal in seven years is a breakthrough. We didn’t beat Chelsea for a decade, and after that even Denis Stracqualursi was dishing it out. The pros and cons of Arsenal’s week are that the German contingent return after some horribly draining experience that somehow bypassed Andre Schurrle, but a tough ninety minutes in Turkey trying to avoid slipping up against Demba Ba and co (oops…) doesn’t help considering the World Cup certainly did disrupt them as it did us.
In goal, the formerly errant Wojciech Szczesny is now a safe pair of hands and kept fifteen clean sheets last season. Well, it was fun while it lasted. In defence – ah, Mathieu Debuchy. A man that looked utterly lost dealing with Baines and Pienaar in the black and white of Newcastle. A handful going forward though. On the left, the talened Kieran Gibbs – remember being told he’s better than Baines? Oh, what times – is injured. Nacho Monreal was the lass in the nightclub born without inhibitions last time, and there isn’t all that much faith in him. Koscielny, Mertesacker and Calum Chambers, who should play the Sundance Kid to John Stones’ Butch Cassidy in England colours (or if you ask Arsenal fans, the other way around), are all excellent. No Mikel Arteta. Shame. Watching Naismith, Barkley and Baines turn snide on him was a thing of beauty. Instead the wind up job can be played on Jack Wilshere, who is the most Scrappy Doo player ever seen. Hold him at arms length and watch him squirm. Not able to live off potential any more is Mathieu Flamini, who is the enforcer as opposed to Wilshere’s more technical type.
In front of them is the source of all the magic. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are world class. Don’t quibble. Aaron Ramsey has also grown beyond expectation – remember when we offered way below the asking price after Arsenal’s bid had been accepted? Magic. Santi Cazorla has magic at his feet and Greggs settling in his stomach, so although he’s slowly becoming Mike Bassett’s Christmas Pudding he can have an impact. Speaking of impact, Oxlade-Chamberlain made an instant one from the bench at Goodison last season and looked like the only Arsenal player still interested. He should play some part in the game. Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell could also be involved – the latter is much more dangerous – while up top we’re looking at Giroud or Sanogo. Giroud is good at what he does, and Sanogo is 90% leg, but there’s no killer instinct between the two. Throw in a defensive midfielder better than Lego Head, get a striker who purely slots for a living, and they’re the done deal. Until then, there are gaps.
Tim Howard is taking a break from tending net for USA, which is good news, although I’d rather he did the occasional drop at the striker’s feet while in the American ‘uniform’. John Stones really isn’t a right back, but Seamus Coleman is back, so if he does keepy-ups down the right wing again it’s party time. That puts our loveable Yorkshireman in contention with Sylvain Distin to play alongside his compatriot, Phil Jagielka. Leighton Baines at left back has to see to Sanchez, which is no mean feat. We have an embarrassment of riches in midfield. McCarthy and Barry will continue in the defensive slots, although there are suggestions that the former could move into an advanced position. If so Mo Besic can snap Wilshere, which is what we’re all paying ticket/TV money (well in you Soopa Bloos) to see. Ahead of that, Kevin Mirallas returns, while Pienaar, McGeady and Atsu are options. Steven Naismith has already notched up a goal so who’s that Ross Barkley anyway? Also there’s Leon Osman-er, get well soon Ross lad… Very, very soon.
Lukaku should start up top despite late injury rumours, but our out & out striker options remain limited.
“Hey, Samuel? Will you play for a bag of Monster Munch and a Crunchie a week? Samuel? Hello?”
We’ve beaten good teams with less – I mentioned the Stracq earlier right? I haven’t mentioned the best bit of all – we’re back at Goodison. The Old Lady welcomes us home again, floodlights glaring along with most of the Bullens, Z Cars tickling your spines, raising the hairs and making us believe once again that magical thing can happen for the men in Royal Blue. Line up that famous track.
Let’s have at it, Everton.