The course of true love never did run smooth, and in Everton’s case it’s a bit like Ike and Tina Turner levels of rough. Arsenal came to town ripe for another kicking, and boy were we dishing it out to them. It was all going swimmingly, and then we turned off. It was incredible. Seamus Coleman decided Nacho Monreal could have as much space as he wants, because he’ll never-oh shit, 2-2. Sylvain Distin also wins awards for best imitating a lemo merchant subjected to a surprise police raid on a football pitch, and the panic-stricken milkman only had an impact on Olivier Giroud after he’d ghosted in to equalise. Sorry about the foot Olivier lad. So that’s us. Two games in and half the fanbase has kicked off. Do yourselves a favour; get the Pink Floyd on and relax for a second. There is no pain, you are receding…
Let’s take stock. Yes, they were two languid, tired performances. The season often starts that way, especially after a World Cup. The results aren’t totally pleasing but with four goals scored and no defeats yet registered we do have something to build on. It gets better from this point, not worse. That said, the total dejection after the Arsenal game was justified. We…well, we Everton’d it. We’ve done it all before. If you can think back more than a few years you can basically levy a bad result against anything. If you’re saying “But we’re better than that now”, good. That’s the ambition kicking in. And from there it all gets a bit exciting.
To start with…Samuel Eto’o. Lower Gwladys Lad summed it up in more words than I will (and frankly they’re better to read too) right here, but those comparing him to the has-beens of the Smith era need to behave. Eto’o, apart from his brief and lucrative spell at Anzhi Makhachkala, has played at the summit of European football since the start of the century. At 33 he’s not at his peak, but 12 goals in all competitions as a sub for Chelsea last season shows what he does. The man just scores. None of the Jelavic wing-hogging antics, not a headless chicken (albeit a loveable one) like Denis Stracqualursi. He’ll get to the box faster than a kid at Christmas and score faster than the old man if he got his better half exactly what she wanted. If you can name me a better free transfer (getting paid less than Phil Neville I hear – instant bonus) then I’ll desist. But it’s another sign that big name players see Everton as a big club. Adios Nineties Everton. You were dirge.
Then we had all the fun of the draws. Not Leicester and Arsenal again, but the Capital One Cup and Europa League. There are people dead serious about the former – COC gobblers, if you will – but on the most part Swansea’s a nice place to send bit-part and youth players. Mo Besic tearing through some poor lot. Arouna Kone charging defences on his camel. And then there’s that return to Europe. “Ha, the Europa League is shite” yell the fun lot from across the park, but then again it’s hard to miss a competition you don’t send fans to go see isn’t it. We have two fantastic opponents in Lille and Wolfsburg, and the great big spanner in the works that is FC Krasnodar. I don’t want to go all football hipster on you and explain why the team that finished 5th in Russia’s Premier Division are a weird group to predict, but that’s a hell of a trip. If rebels decide to pipe up too it’s the most Everton trip ever. Lille won the French “best of the rest” prize, and have Divock Origi who turned from a nobody into the BEST POTENTIAL FIFA SKILLS POTENTIAL QWALITEE striker in European football in the amount of time it took for him to pick up his Liverpool shirt and scoot off back to France. They’re a side laced with quality and have a great stadium. It’s the same story for Wolfsburg, who expected to challenge for the Bundesliga title after some major investment but let themselves down. A bit like an alternate universe Arsenal if Everton didn’t Everton it last season. You see? History’s an ever-spinning wheel.
Enough of that, because another big team comes to town. Interesting bunch, Chelsea. A couple of decades ago they were the villainous bastards of the top tiers, but since New Chelsea popped up they cooled a lot, rankled at the fourteen year olds from Cambridgeshire who decided they were Chelsea 4 life, creating legends since…er, Zola and someone…and recognised Everton as the nice Scousers. The ones with a bit of respect, even if the trophy cabinet’s mostly used as an extra broom cupboard now. They still worship Peter Osgood, and too right because he’s one of the best the top flight of English football has witnessed. You’ve also got Life President Richard Attenborough, who passed away and should get a fitting tribute as one of those who showed “celebrity fans” how it’s done. Still waiting on a second visit from Sly Stallone aren’t we? You have to wade through an almighty horde of morons with this lot though. I was delighted when the red side got one tit who thought Hillsborough jokes would make him a top LAD banned from coming to Anfield. When they start talking nonsense, pipe them right down. It’s the same with the team itself. Jose Mourinho appointed himself Chelsea’s messiah, although Avram Grant and Roberto di Matteo steered them to the Champions League final, so figure that out for yourself. When Steven Naismith nailed them to the post around this time last year the excuses came out but none washed. It also started a purple patch for our wee Scot, who has spent the last year doing what Gareth Farrelly only managed for a few minutes against Coventry, and totally changing our opinion on him. By him I don’t mean Farrelly. Sorry Gaz lad.
Their line up should feature the lanky streak Courtois in goal, which is impressive as he’s keeping out one of the best keepers the Premier League has ever seen in Petr Cech – the only man to save a Leighton Baines penalty. I should know, I was right behind the Gwladys Street goal, unlucky tit that I am. Apologies. At the back we should see Terry and Cahill. Great defender, Terry, but sadly never got over the affliction of being an awful human being. Gary Cahill is clearly agile because he dodged all the blame at the World Cup while Phil Jagielka took both barrels. Hilarious. Branislav Ivanovic has clearly seen awful things in his life (and done them), but he hasn’t yet seen Sylvain Distin fall on his arse while swiping the ball straight to him. This might be his lucky day. Felipe Luis on the left is eminently more likeable than Ashley Cole due to fact he’s not Ashley Cole, and is very good getting forward too. In midfield they’ve got all sorts. The only mediocre one they’ve got now is that Obi Mikel, so he won’t play. Matic, the fluff-haired Willian and microscopic baller Oscar should all play with Schurrle a bit of a doubt, and that leaves two of the very best there are in Hazard and Fabregas. Hazard will terror that left side although if he’s not arsed he can be bullied out of it, no trouble. Fabregas isn’t like that. He may be balding at Kelsey Grammer rates all of a sudden but like a reverse Samson he’s only getting better as a player. That pass to set up against Burnley was pinpoint and he made it look like an afterthought. Up front big new signing Diego Costa may be injured, Lukaku and Eto’o are in a slightly better shade of blue now, Ba’s gone (cheers for the memories lad) and Fernando Torres is clinging to the side of the building like Hans Gruber while Chelsea jump up and down on his hand. Yippee-kay-ay you hysterical flop. So naturally it’s Didier Drogba, isn’t it. The bane of Everton. If it’s not Lampard it’s this hulking great terror.
For the Blues – Howard, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka and Baines as per. Or perhaps Stones. It’d be nice to see a centre half looking like he knows what to do with a football. James McCarthy was monumental last week and alongside Gareth Barry he keeps things as secure as possible, although it was clear that Barry tired a bit last week. Besic and Gibson are hopefully raring to go. Stevie Pienaar’s at that stage now where he’ll be lucky to get two games a month, and Christian Atsu can’t play his parent club. Them loans, eh. So it should be McGeady, Naismith, Mirallas, unless there’s a shock. Lukaku is apparently fit to go as long as he doesn’t do his laces up too tight. We’d all love him or Eto’o to notch the winner.
This week the season lined itself up before us. Cup draws done, fixtures in place. All it needs is the spark – the one that sends a rocket up the collective Everton arse and propels us to magical things. Could it be this week? The sooner the better, and if we play Nil Satis Nisi Optimum football Chelsea may have to deal with Sky questioning every fibre of their being for a bit before the glorious title bid is back on track. You’ve given us the bad Everton. Now we want the good. And nowadays when it’s good, there’s nothing better. Up the Toffees.