Still tightly buckled into that rollercoaster? It’s been a wild ride.
Everton made it through November unbeaten, but the draw with Bournemouth was insanity. It was…well…Everton. And then we beat a team we were expected to beat comfortably in a pivotal cup clash and everyone was surprised. And if that’s not even more Everton, then what is?
The way things are looking, we’re in a good place. Not great, not poor. When did I say that last? Oh, right. Basically every other preview. This season continues to tease, offering up the opportunity to take a step forward, but so far it is more of a casual stroll, punctuated regularly with juddering stops. For every West Brom, there was a Man Utd. For every Aston Villa, there has been a Bournemouth. But the win against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night signified a leap in the right direction.
It was a vital Tuesday night on Teeside – a first semi-final since 2012 was at stake, and against a side that had not conceded more than one goal in any of their last 33 home games. That run is well and truly ended, thanks to that dream duo. Remember when you were watching Gueye and Anichebe, or Stracqualursi, and you wanted the horror to end? Remember when we were linked with Kevin Doyle, or Kenwyne Jones, and some Evertonians actually supported such moves? Well, think of them whenever doubt fogs your view of this current crop, and you will see that this is truly a golden age.
Gerard Deulofeu was nothing but a showy Spanish teenager when he graced Goodison on loan two years ago, but as if he’s gone off on his gap year and come back with a glint in his eye having “learned a few things”, he’s a man now. The flicks and tricks now come with clever crosses from deep and excellent tracking, and he is providing goals as well as assists. The goal at the Riverside was as brilliantly executed as his stepovers that left Fernando Amorebieta suffering with vertigo, before the clipped cross that Lukaku latched onto in fine style. The Belgian is in top form as well, and having notched a few goals his confidence is up too. It’ll help if you don’t scream at him that he’s lazy tonight, you meffs in the back of the Park End. You know who you are.
It was bizarre that Leon Osman started on Tuesday night, and concerns were justified by the fact he contributed absolutely nothing. So how does Kevin Mirallas get a game in this team? Even the previously flaky Deulofeu now outworks Mirallas, and at 28 years old the Belgian should be at his peak. Frankly, apart from the odd glimpse of magic he has consistently failed to reach the level he should have. He’s worth keeping around, if only to provide a cautionary tale for Deulofeu. But he must have run over Martinez’s dog to be behind Leon Osman in the pecking order.
Manchester City are the opponents in the League Cup semi-final, and we stand a better chance over two legs than one because – well, you know Everton and big one-offs. We had to beat City at some point to win the cup, so why not get on with it and do it sooner rather than later? That cup night under the lights at Goodison will undoubtedly be a big one. Goodison Roars at the ready please Blues.
Anyway, onto tonight’s festivities. Very very wind!
We take on a Crystal Palace side that we just can’t figure out. The last two times they’ve visited Goodison Park they’ve come away with all three points in mind-boggling 3-2 wins. They put five past Newcastle last week, which put a smile on Alan Pardew’s snidey rat face, and that is an awful shame. They’ll probably stay unchanged, meaning Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney and Souare at the back, Cabaye and McArthur in the middle, Bolasie, Puncheon and Zaha ahead of them and Wickham up top. It’s not a special side, but it’s a good one, and a side that will give us plenty to think about.
Robles was solid at the Riverside, and Howard has been slighted by the press recently so…yeah, Howard in goal. I don’t know. Sigh and carry on. Leighton Baines is back in business and could come in on the left, with Funes Mori, Stones and Coleman completing the back four. McCarthy could be back, but if not it’s Barry and Cleverley. Somebody has turned Gareth Barry’s switch from “rusting cruiser”to “midfield general”, and so he’s indispensable again. Deulofeu, Kone and Barkley behind Lukaku, because they’re bringing us all sorts of joy.
There comes a time in the season when chances present themselves, and the teams that end up doing well grab such chances with both hands. A win tonight and we’re in sixth place and the semi-final of a domestic competition. There’s plenty at stake, and you know that part of you is preparing you for when we Everton it, but maybe it doesn’t happen tonight. Perhaps, in this bipolar season we’re having, the next turn we take will be a positive one. Why can’t this be our night?
Up the Blues.