Every now and then Everton provide us with an evening of absolute perfection. Thursday night wasn’t quite that sort of night but it was damn close.
James McCarthy picked up another knock and for the most part we were totally under the cosh. Apart from that, it was excellent. I’ve heard some pure shite this week about how Wolfsburg are ‘average’ and the Bundesliga isn’t even a good league. Bollocks to that. I watch an awful lot of both and a 2-0 win at the Volkswagen Arena is a hell of a feat. They score goals, and actually we got a helping hand from a proper Scouse assistant referee to prevent that, but on that most auspicious of evenings fate conspired to let Lukaku and Mirallas punish Wolfsburg. Both were brilliant by the way. The Romelu Lukaku we wanted when we spent £28m on was present in Germany – powerful, pacy, lethal. Even his first touch remained in the same postcode. Meanwhile, Kevin Mirallas reminded us exactly why we pined for him while he was gone. The second goal was a glimpse into the boss Everton of March-April 2014 that we’ve wanted to resurrect ever since the wheels came off.
How many good performances were there? Howard made some top saves. Distin and Jagielka were on hand to save us at vital moments. Hibbert was roundly spanked by Perisic to be fair but he survived. Luke Garbutt is the emergency replacement Baines, and when one boss left back hangs up his boots we’ve got another one ready to take his place. In lieu of Barry and McCarthy, the pair we thought were irreplaceable, Besic and Osman actually did a good job. Mirallas and Lukaku, as I have said, were fantastic. Samuel Eto’o is an ageless genius. Ross Barkley came on and caused havoc. Aiden McGeady….er….tries hard. I think. And he’ll secure us silverware, even if it is in the form of the Miss of the Season award. We’re on a high, so let’s presume he could still improve.
It’s fair to think so positively now as we’re on a run of eight games without defeat and we’re barely out of second gear. Anything’s possible again. After a rocky opening couple of months we’re starting to feel like we did on our quest for glory last season. With the league looking more unsteady and the potential for the luck of the draw favouring us – and the belief that we don’t need luck so much as we can smash anyone put in front of us, like this so-called “tough” Europa League group – Everton are still capable of tearing it up.
Right, I’m getting way too happy-clappy now. There’s a long way to go yet. Games like Sunderland and both against Swansea have been blighted with inconsistency. However, the ridiculous mistakes that cost us points and games have filtered out. Remember the Chelsea game, when we were Robocop up top and the Keystone Cops at the back? None of that any more. We’ve only conceded three goals in the last eight games, and the form book reads W-D-W-D-W-D-W-W. The key, now that the defence looks solid again, is to keep scoring goals. Plenty of firepower on offer so it’s entirely possible. So the Everton Roadshow, back from a boss outing in the Niedersachsen, rolls on again.
Have a few beers and think good thoughts as you approach this one though. It’s White Hart Lane, a place that has literally sucked the colour out of its surroundings. It’s well known that those who pass within a certain radius begin to lose their zeal for life. You can always spot a Spurs fan. Balding, ageing much too quickly, getting fat, throat reduced to a sandpapered mess from chain smoking and the light in their eyes dimming from the constant fog of depression. And that’s just the women. In the younger generations, beyond the bright-eyed kids who clearly don’t know what they’re in for, you get snapback-wearing #LADS to whom Scousers are as foreign and mythical a beast as Hobbits or significant silverware. No, put the League Cup away Juande Ramos you whopper. Hillsborough jokes are hilarious to these sort of melts. That’s the sort you have to deal with. If the government ever wants to cull disgraceful Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, they can just get on COYSLAD’s account and go from there.
But I’m being harsh perhaps. Yes, Spurs fans are on the most part depressing people. But we share a very similar feeling that something is going to go wrong soon. We both have some particularly jammy neighbours. And you don’t really get plastic Spurs fans, do you? They have a traditional fanbase, and I’ll leave it there for fear of going all Dave Whelan. So it’s easier to relate to them than, say, Arsenal fans, many of whom honestly believe their manager’s a bastard and their board are crooks even though they’re mainstays in the top 4 no matter how good or rank poor their team can be at times. The ingrates. But one reason to dislike Spurs is that they really are a bit of a bogey team. This is the team that dished out the biggest defeat in our history, after all (10-4, if any wannabe stat fans were wondering). Magic stat alert – it’s six years to the day since we last beat them at White Hart Lane. In fact, no away side has won this fixture in the last eleven attempts. I’m full of these, and they’re not very fun. But we’ve had some good times. If I say those three magic words – “injury time Jelavic” – you can do the rest. Still gives me goosebumps to this day.
As part of Daniel Levy’s big “and this time I’m sticking with it, honest” overhaul, Mauricio Pochettino comes in as Spurs end up being a smaller dog grappling over a steak with the fat mess that is Liverpool. They spent the best part of £50m on Lovren, Lambert and Lallana, so perhaps Tottenham were the real winners. It hasn’t shown on the pitch though. It’s not really Pochettino’s fault that he’s dealing with cack. Eriksen is a magician and we should be very wary of him, but with the Chuckle Brothers up top in Adebayor and Soldado and a defence so poor that they actually miss Kyle Walker – imagine – there’s plenty of explanations for why they, like us, have started slowly. Naturally being abysmal Adebayor scored the winner past us last time, so it’s Soldado’s turn this time. Or, God forbid, Harry Kane. Now we’re back in snapback territory.
Like us, they’re in the Europa League, and rather than facing off against a couple of top teams from the locality, they’re having to negotiate their way past a bunch of annoying beauts from the fringes of Europe. They’ve done it well, in fact. However, when they come home to the wall of groans that is White Hart Lane, it all goes pear-shaped. Losing 3-0 at home to Liverpool is unforgivable. To get rolled over by Stoke, Newcastle and West Brom too is a disaster. They know they need to give their home form a kick start because that’s the key to the charge for fourth. Remember, we’re on the same number of points as them, and if we want that coveted fourth spot we’ll have to get through Spurs.
It’s quite an injury list they have. Kaboul, Adebayor, Capoue, Chadli, Townsend, Rose and Walker. Kyle Naughton is suspended too.
It’ll be Lloris in goal. Brilliant keeper. He has a phobia of Romelu Lukaku’s thighs though so he may want to be tested. On the right will be Eric Dier, who we had on loan once and thus is up there with Shkodran Mustafi and John Ruddy in the annals of players that we don’t actually miss but FFS MOYES GET YER CRYSTAL BALL OUT LAD. In the middle it’ll most likely be Chiriches and Fazio with Vertonghen on the left, or Chiriches and Vertonghen with Ben Davies on the left. Hopefully the former, because that’s Eto’o-fodder right there. A fair bit more choice in the midfield, but it could well be Dembélé and Bentaleb with Paulinho, Eriksen and Lamela in front. If not, there’s Ryan Mason and Harry Kane too. Soldado up front just to give us all a bit of a laugh.
Seriously though, you may as well lump your mortgage on him getting the winner here.
In comparison to Spurs our injury list looks more favourable at first, but we’re actually missing quality players. Stones, Oviedo and Gibson are definitely out, Barry and McCarthy are big doubts, while Baines, Naismith and Pienaar all have knocks to get over. But I’m still willing to bet we’ll see a defence of Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin and Baines return. Besic and Osman actually happened to make a decent pair so they may well have to deputise for Barry and McCarthy. In front comes the embarrassment of riches, especially with all the players who love sitting in behind Lukaku. If Naismith’s back he has to go there just for being Steven Naismith, while Eto’o could certainly play on the left after looking a danger there both against Burnley and Wolfsburg. Eto’o. Burnley. Wolfsburg. It’s like we’ve been playing Football Manager so long that it has gone insane. Mirallas right, Lukaku up top, Barkley ready to come off the bench and commit footballing atrocities against the Tottenham back line. And Kone! Arouna Kone! The novelty isn’t going to wear off any time soon. Party at my place if he nets the winner. Bring your camels.
Years of watching Everton have conditioned us to the degree that we’re much too apprehensive about this one. They’ve lost four home games directly after playing in the Europa League. No matter how much money they’ve pissed away this lot are still barely on our level, let alone bigger or better than us as it has been claimed. When it comes down to eleven versus eleven on the field of play we’ve often been found wanting against this lot. This is like a small dip on a rollercoaster before we hit the peak and go flat out through all sorts of festive fixtures. Negotiate this without wetting ourselves and we’re ready to take anything on.
The window’s open, Everton, and through it are the opportunities for all sorts of boss things to happen. Just power through. Thursday felt damn good. Please Everton, may we have some more?