Everton are dead edgy.
To start with, we celebrated cruising to the top of our Europa League group by not being arsed about the Europa League for a night. It was a pleasure to see young players such as Ledson, Dowell, Long and Jones get a go, while Garbutt and Browning were given a chance to establish themselves even further. And how good was Garbutt? Looks like the young Yorkshireman could be Leighton Baines Mark II. When Roberto Martinez was talking about shifting Baines into a defensive midfield role, a la Lahm, he was either thinking about Garbutt or Oviedo slotting into that left back slot. Seeing as Oviedo’s looking sharp again we’ve got that sort of option. Ryan Ledson also deserves huge praise for playing in the James McCarthy role – the understated star of the show in the deep midfield role. It was a timely reminder that our future looks safe – with the young talent we draft in and the ones coming through the Academy ranks, there’s plenty of quality to keep Everton at a high standard.
And how boss was Arouna Kone? That ice cream-headed Ivorian lit up Goodison Park at times. He’s desperate to get shots off, which is a useful attribute. Once he starts putting some in the back of the net he’ll be able to start redeeming the time and money that so far have yielded nothing. Pity about Joel Robles though. Big fan of letting the goal in like the half-arsed makeshift keeper in a five-a-side game. Making a save with his nose as well. Great effort. Tim Howard can wander around his goalmouth counting his cash now and not be in any danger. Losing at home to Krasnodar was a bit of a blight on our Europa League group record, and a defeat against what is a bit of a rank average side is a disappointment. But on we go.
And edgy Everton continue by bucking the British trend and landing ourselves in the seeded group for the final 32 draw. While Spurs, Celtic and our venerable neighbours travel to Fiorentina, Internazionale and Besiktas respectively – say hi and thanks to our Demba for us will ya Stevie lad – we’ve got the easier task of taking on BSC Young Boys. They’re all tough of course – they beat Napoli 2-0 at home and ran them close in Group I, but there were much, much opposition in the unseeded group. We would’ve taken them all, but a trip to Switzerland that will cost you your mortgage will be followed up by another European night under the Goodison lights. Cheers Europa League. See you in February.
And look at that boring lot playing in the weekend. They’re probably the sorts who would play an FA Cup third round game on something stupid like a Saturday or Sunday instead of a Tuesday night, or the sorts that wouldn’t sort out a new contract for Leon Osman before Luke Garbutt. Clearly, Everton are edgy. Or we Evertonians are being shanked by the cold hard steel of life.
It has been a dodgy old season. There have been too many mistakes (8 directly leading to goals, more than any other side – go figure) and too many false dawns. Naturally, Roberto Martinez has been criticised, and certainly he has to take a share of the blame. But short of going on to the pitch and stopping these random errors, there’s not much he can do when it comes to that particular stat. What he can help with is the defence and understanding their shortfalls. Sylvain Distin, for instance, is apparently scared of footballs and has more balance issues than a vertigo sufferer. You know, just little things. The goals have dried up a little bit, and I don’t want to say it’s all because we’ve missed Steven Naismith, but it’s all because we’ve missed Steven Naismith really. “Movement” and “awareness” have become football know-all buzzwords in recent times, but defenders hate playing against Naismith because they can’t pin him down and he defies all logic to win every header he goes for. That’s a vital skill that he provides.
Guess who’s back? Is right. Go on then, you albino Prince.
There’s a chance for a decent run, but it needs a catalyst. I’m getting bored of saying this now. So what do we need to aid our ailing home form? How about a team that has lost all seven away games they’ve played this season in the league, as well as one away to a League 2 side in the Capital One Cup?
Nah. Sod’s Law – or Everton Rule #2 – dictates that QPR are having us tonight.
Very little sympathy for QPR fans having to come up here on a Monday night at the behest of the Sky Sports overlords, because the vast majority of ones I’ve met are melts anyway. Further cases for the prosecution against Melt FC include the patchwork squad of mercenaries including Adel Taarabt, with his Santa Claus gut. And Harry Redknapp in charge, who resembles Droopy more and more with every passing day.
Who’s in for them then? Rob Green in goal. Up to you if he’s the subject of endless mocking or some pity, but – whisper it – he’s been decent recently. Isla and Yun Suk-young at right and left back – no, I’m not making them up – while Caulker and Dunne are in the middle. Nice to see Hyped-Up Young Centre Back of the Year 2013 linking up with the 1998 winner of the award. Great stuff ahead of them as established internationals and all-round dangerous players are put together with laughing stocks. Leroy Fer with Karl Henry. Eduardo Vargas with Joey Barton. Junior Hoilett with Bobby Zamora. Incredible. Zamora’s odds-on for the grubby 65th minute equaliser. A few in reserve that might cause problems like Kranjcar and Phillips, but top scorer Charlie Austin is suspended.
It’s painful how nailed-on they are to draw this. Not another Hull please Everton.
Back to normal then. Tim Howard in goal. Baines back on the left, Jagielka in the middle. Seamus Coleman can do better things for a right wing than UKIP could ever dream of, so he needs to get going again. And…is that young John Stones there? How we’ve missed him. Well, keep missing him, as he’s on the bench. Distin starts, which is very charitable of us. James McCarthy’s out and Gareth Barry won’t get the chance to get his 100th Premier League caution due to missing this one due to too many yellow cards. Go figure. So it’s Besic and Barkley in a very tasty-looking midfield. No Osman at all. Merry Christmas, the cynics say. Ahead of them, Mirallas with his limited period of magic like a like the January sales on a showboat. Naismith in the middle. McGeady running into defenders like a lemo-free Irish Royston Drenthe? Steven Pienaar to come off the bench and show us the twinkle-toes? Shame about the parts of his feet he’s meant to use to pass the ball with like, but beggars can’t be choosers. Lukaku up top. Samuel Eto’o and Arouna Kone as the dream duo on the bench. More like a pipe dream, but apparently it’s real.
You know what Everton? If you were a normal semi-boss football team, you’d smash these out the park. You did it in the FA Cup with Nikica Jelavic (and this is post-2012 edition Jela too) pissing out taking Panenka penalties. You owe us one too, because we’ve put up with some dross so far and these are sh*te. Most importantly, life’s a bit of a drag, Everton. It’s too cold, grey and generally poor in standard. We don’t need that from our beloved club as well. You’re meant to make us happy when skies are grey.
Just light it up tonight Everton, and we’ll love you forever. Actually, you’ve already suckered us in. But this time give us something to warm up these cold nights. Up. The. F*cking. Blues.