Picture this. On Wednesday I, your humble previewer, sat with an Arsenal fan and a Man Utd supporter watching streams of Everton-Hull and Arsenal-Southampton. 53 minutes in at Goodison and Sone Aluko ambles on to the pitch. My compatriots laugh. “Aluko’s sh*t” they tell me. “Correct,” I reply, “And that’s why, in five minutes, he’ll make Sylvain Distin look like a tit and score.” I turn then to my Arsenal-supporting mate and say to him “Stop fretting because Arsenal are drawing 0-0. You’ll score a late winner, and you know it.” And – would you believe it – on 58 minutes Aluko roasts Distin and slots home. Half an hour later Alexis Sanchez nabs the winner for Arsenal.
Am I the Oracle? Perhaps, for all I have said is a true recollection of events. Or maybe it’s just that football – or to a lesser extent, life – is much more predictable than we like to think.
Simple fact is, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re an Evertonian. In that case, you should be used to the fact you support a bipolar football team. Yes, there are moments of lucidity, even euphoria. And then those moods hit and there doesn’t look like there’s a way out. It’s horrific. How many times have we decided on the streets, in the pubs, on social media and in the forums that the end is nigh? Those peaks of euphoria will return. They always do. The only question now is how long we have to endure Sh*te Everton and return to the age of Boss Everton.
So wouldn’t it be the most Everton thing ever if we let Hull nick a point off us at home and then took one or more off the league champions away?
That’s what we’re telling ourselves anyway.
Roberto Martinez has got a challenge on his hands. Luckily for him, it’s glaringly obvious what’s wrong with the team. Having scored in all Premier League games but one, the attack certainly isn’t an issue. Wednesday was the 3rd time in 17 home games that we haven’t scored two or more goals. There are two major problems – defensive organisation and options. Defenders are having to play from the back under this system, and that’s fine. We keep the ball. But when opponents push us high there’s no outlet and they panic. If you look at the stats, Everton and Liverpool are the two teams who have made the most errors that have led to a goal. That’s because both play from the back, have too many defenders who are panicking under pressure and cannot trust their goalkeeper to make a save. Sad when we have stuff in common with the Kopites.
And options too. Tim Howard is having a sh*te streak. Replace him, right? Mannone was having a mare for Sunderland so they stuck the big grock Pantilimon in goal and it sort of worked. But we’ve only got the less trustworthy Joel Robles with his tombstone teeth and the annoying habit of punching everything in reserve. If the likes of Naismith and McCarthy are injured, which they are, and Kevin Mirallas can’t complete 90 minutes, which he can’t, who do we bring on? McGeady? Osman? It’s hard to trust them at the moment. Whatever Steven Pienaar did not to get a game even in these times of hardship must have been akin to a war crime. Clearly it’s time to introduce some young players – but if it turns out they’re not ready, we’re back to square 1, with the addition of having a bunch of youngsters with their morale in ribbons.
Basically, the source of all power is in that point in the middle of the park. That’s the portion that McCarthy and Barry should be bossing, with Naismith in front of them causing havoc even when the ball’s nowhere near him. A point from which we launch quick counter-attacks or at least get the ball moving forward. Some claim the specific source of that power is McCarthy himself, but in reality it’s all about the combination of players who can push Everton on. Barry was of no help lumbering about on Wednesday, while Barkley’s verve and creativity means nothing if he has no options and four defenders have Lukaku wrapped up. He’s doing alright, is Romelu. Quietly tucking away goals. If we get the line-up right, and we can trust the defence enough to throw the kitchen sink at our opponents, we’re back on the road to success. And we had that just nine days ago in Germany. Nine. That’s how quickly moods change. In the next nine days it’s today’s opponents Man City away, plus Krasnodar and QPR at home. Come a week Monday things may well be looking up again.
Right. We’re sh*te, but we’re Everton, so once more unto the breach. These are sh*t these. Etc etc.
Man City are a footballing behemoth now. It’s as if that little lad who was a decent mate and tagged around with you has discovered steroids and lemo and turned into an absolute menace. Somewhere inside that monster is the team we once had a good rapport with. And by rapport, I mean for the most part we spanked them. But those times are gone now and Manuel Pellegrini, he with the face like a cheese toastie left in the press for too long, is leading them in a title defence after winning the Premier League twice in the last three seasons.
Boss team this. But there are cracks. Every defeat is a crisis for them nowadays, and you can see all sort of home collapses from them. Stoke. Newcastle. CSKA Moscow. This isn’t a fortress, because there’s no atmosphere. But they play great football so there’s no easy game. Also, while we beat Wolfsburg and toiled against Spurs and Hull, they look Bayern Munich, Southampton and Southampton and ripped the three of them limb from limb. Sergio Aguero will be haunting Sylvain Distin’s dreams for months if this goes the way you’d expect it to.
In goal is Joe Hart, who likes to flit between boss and dross. He’s been flicked on to the boss setting recently so forget that. At the back, Zabaleta and Clichy out wide. May well be Mangala and Demichelis in the centre, and Lukaku may fancy it against Mangala seeing as he’s surprisingly crap for the most expensive defender in English football. Ah well. It’s alright when you have money to burn isn’t it. All sorts of talent in front – Yaya Toure and his interchangeable partner, Fernan-do/dinho. Silva is out apparently, which is a rare occasion in which you thank your lucky stars a player is unable to ply his trade. Similar thoughts have been expressed about Aiden McGeady, but I won’t comment on those. In front of them…take your pick? Nasri? Milner? Navas? Frank Lampard loves stuffing Everton so mark him down for the winning goal. In front of them is obviously Aguero, but Pellegrini might fancy putting Dzeko on too. Boss players in the starting XI, boss players on the bench. There are no obvious weaknesses, except the chance that they’ll shoot themselves in the foot.
And for Everton…just have a good game please Tim Howard. Even the lids judging you off the World Cup are calling you sh*t now. Stop diving too early or folding yourself in half. You’re a Premier League goalkeeper for f*ck’s sake. He could do with protection from Coleman, Jagielka, Distin and Baines though. It’ll be interesting to see if Coleman or Baines in fact make any sort of progress in the City half this time around. Probably Besic and Barry in front. Gareth Barry better be up for this. In front of them, Barkley in behind Lukaku, Mirallas on the right. Sorted. So who goes on the left? For all-round balance Pienaar would be the shout. If not it’s Eto’o, Osman or McGeady on the left. You’d think it’d be a no-brainer. But it’s not apparently. Someone has to take on Zabaleta and track back to deal with Navas. Anyone fancy it?
This week we’ve succumbed to Everton rules #1 and #5. #1: Everton reserve the right to make you fume whenever they want. #5: The worst player on the opposing team is always the most likely to score against Everton and should be regarded as the biggest threat. So it’s about time we threw caution to the wind. Hey, what pressure is on us? City are at home and looking to peg Chelsea back. May as well go for it and give them a headache. It’s almost certain that we will concede one. It’s more than likely that we’ll put one past them, as we have done in 16 of our last 17 meetings. We may as well try and make it three or four, given that they’ll box Distin around like lions on a lame zebra.
You know you love it really. It’s Everton. We’re sh*t. We’re also boss. And maybe today we’ll be both. Plenty of questions then, but only one way to answer them…
Come on then Everton.