Ah. The green, green grass of home. Five of our last six games have been away from hallowed turf, and we’re raring to go again in front of a roaring Goodison crowd. Except before the first goal when it’s eerily silent. Or after the opposition scoring when it’s fuming at any little thing and thousands of tuts coming from the Bullens Road. Basically, think of that Goodison you remember from more famous nights. That’s why it’s great to be at home.
We’ve been all over recently. We won’t dwell on the trip to Old Trafford or 90 minutes of the derby, but Phil Jagielka gave us the one boss memory to keep Everton ticking over. Krasnodar and Lille brought two very, very different away days, but both yielded a single point earned. That brings us to Burnley.
In a bit Burnley.
It was very Everton, the first half an hour. We put some rank average in their place for about five minutes, with an excellent team goal. Then, being Everton, we gifted them an equaliser. Romelu Lukaku’s mistake wasn’t due to recent form. It was just a total lapse in concentration. A total loss of brain function. Simple fact is that if we had three established first team strikers he’d get to have a break, but no, Arouna Kone’s on a camel tour of the world, so there’s no choice really.
As it turns out Lukaku’s performance summed up the team’s showing as a whole. Often lifeless, tepid and occasionally thoughtless, but Lukaku still got his goal and Everton still got the win. There were some excellent performances amidst what was often a match fraught with sloppiness; Gareth Barry pulled the strings yet again while James McCarthy was everywhere. When those two are in form, opposition midfields don’t stand a chance. Naturally, of course, Samuel Eto’o received most of the plaudits because he stole the show.
There was a bit of doubt when he joined – a 33 year old, possibly demanding an extortionate wage (which turned out not to be true) – although when it’s a free transfer and a two-year deal, how much of a risk can it be? What we have found is the perfect back-up or even attacking partner to Romelu Lukaku, as well as an excellent mentor. Eto’o showed from both the clever run and bullet header and the beauty at the end that he still has the mind and body to provide plenty of goals. While we were hoping that Arouna Kone (ahahahahaha. Aaaaaaahahahaha. Ahahaha. Sorry.) and Naismith would give Lukaku plenty of support, Eto’o has stepped in and provided four already. He’s actually in danger of outdoing the 28 million pound man. Not that I’m complaining.
So everything looks a bit sunnier now. That’s a run of three unbeaten, two straight league wins, and a continuing run of goals. Chelsea are the only other side who have scored in every Premier League tie. In fact, the only side that has kept us out at all this season while putting one (or three) past us is…
Remember the simpler times, when they’d never beaten us, ever? What times. Then we went down there low on confidence and even lower in motivation, and they tore us a new one. Fair enough. Tony Hibbert redeemed himself in following weeks but Sylvain Distin fell apart. We’re talking about a decent team here. Garry Monk has lost all decorum in recent weeks, which is sad because it seems he’s throwing his toys out the pram the moment Swansea’s results have dropped off even slightly. It’s going to be a long season for him. They’ve got a reputation for playing decent football whether it’s the lackadaisical Michael Laudrup (*HE NEEDS TO BE DA NEW EVERTON MANAGER KENWRONG*) or Monk, who has turned into his psycho namesake from Mean Machine in recent weeks. Added to the fact (you’re not gonna believe this) that a few years back they were milling around the bottom of the Football League – they don’t like to mention it – and it’s a side we appreciate coming to Goodison. Especially as they’ve never won here.
Potential curses caused by that aside…
Since Michel Vorm has departed to get a view from the bench watching Tottenham play every week – imagine the horror – Fabianski keeps goal with his usual reliable brand of keeping. Between him and fellow Arsenal graduate Vito Mannone it’s clear to see who has come out on top. Ashley Williams is still living off the snide levels earned by thwacking the ball into Robin van Persie’s head and almost giving him a mild headache, and he’s alongside Fernandez. Rangel and Taylor on the flanks may fancy having a go at us, so they’ll need to be piped down by whoever is out wide. Ki and Sigurdsson are the engine of this side, especially with the latter charging up to support attacks, and they’ll be assisted by Shelvey (guaranteed scorer isn’t he), Routledge and the tricky Dyer. Bony is back in scoring form right in the nick of time, and big grocks Gomis and Emnes could come on as well for that 80th minute scrappy goal that makes us all wet ourselves. It was fun watching Man Utd fail to deal with the tricky Jefferson Airplane Montero but when it’s us, it’s less fun, so pipe him down yeah? If he’s playing at all, that is.
I get the feeling the line-up will change for this one. As fun as an Eto’o-Lukaku-Naismith front line is, we were left susceptible to the counter and if Burnley had any threat apart from Trippier and Ings we’d have been punished. Coleman and Baines, if they want to get forwards more than they could on Sunday, will need some support. So Howard, Coleman, Alcaraz, Jagielka, Baines. I like Alcaraz. Fight me. Classy player, although in classic Everton style he does put us all on edge when he’s dealing with anything in the air. Barry and McCarthy being magnificent – Barry is my early tip for Man of the Match – should offset a front four that could include Naismith, Pienaar, Barkley, Eto’o, Lukaku, McGeady or Osman. Osman, anyone? Ought to stick to writing his book. Good fun that isn’t it? Don’t drag me into it. I’m spending Halloween dressed up as James McCarthy and hanging around various Premier League strikers’ houses to scare the living shit out of them.
It has been a decent week. Turns out that Jagielka’s Big World Cup hangover was mostly nonsense as in the Leicester game he recorded the fastest sprint by any player this season, and our accounts are looking quite solid, even if the Chang deal is about as underwhelming as a Leon Osman shot. The only way, we’re being told, is up. It certainly translates to the pitch. Decent looking run of games coming up and we’re back on that sweet, sweet Goodison turf. This is where Everton can come into their own. Whisper it, but fourth place looks up for grabs. We’re a long way from the end of the season but if you turn two straight league wins into three things can snowball from there.
Don’t let the weight of expectation weigh you down Everton. This is up for grabs.