Everton are still unbeaten, and yet there’s still something to fume about. Welcome back, everyone.
Alright, so maybe the unbeaten record shout fails to hold any cachet unless it remains intact a month from now, but the two wins in four days each had their positives. The West Brom match said a lot about the character of the players and the manager; given our atrocious record under Roberto Martinez when going behind or trailing at half time (or, more generally, our atrocious record under Roberto Martinez), we did not want to be 1-0 down to a set piece goal from elective Grock of the Day Gareth McAuley at the break. Luckily, thanks to some Kevin Mirallas magic after some football that makes you want to proclaim that the School of Science is on its way back, we weren’t. Gareth Barry, that evergreen midfield stalwart, that sturdy general, the man with a constantly furrowed brow as if he has been working out a particularly difficult equation for the last 15 years, once again came up trumps for Everton – though goals from him are as rare as Burnley victories in the Premier League. Though when they win, they pipe their opponents right down. Is the parade cancelled?
The biggest moment of that game came just after the half-hour mark, when Romelu Lukaku appeared on the sidelines stripped and ready for action. Was Gerard Deulofeu carrying an injury? No, James McCarthy was trotting off. The system changed. Lukaku used his power to help change the game. What Ronald Koeman had done you see, boys and girls, was make an early substitution because he saw things weren’t working and identified the solution. No dithering. No stubborn persistence. No blind faith. Once again, Koeman’s better judgement shone through. It’s well worth pointing out how excellent Mason Holgate was – so good that signing a centre back has slipped down the list of priorities.
Which brings us on to the matter of the transfer window and all its ounces of fun. We have swerved from giddy transfer-based euphoria – whispers of Mata, Witsel and Draxler – to bickering over signing multiple trophy winning Joe Hart, to panicking that we’ll sign nobody, claiming Farhad Moshiri is a fraud, and desperately searching for Denis Stracqualursi’s phone number. Alright, maybe not that far. But the mix of ecstasy and hysteria has been dizzying. A bid for Lucas Perez Martinez, a player not many who do not watch Spanish football regularly were previously aware of, was a trifling matter until Arsenal ‘hijacked’ the deal. Suddenly the club are failures, Bill Kenwright’s stockpiling cash in his secret Bond villain-esque island retreat and David Nugent is imminent. Rachid Ghezzal ditto.
We have to face facts. Everton have finished 11th in the past two seasons. There is no European football, no recent trophy-collecting pedigree. We can offer more money than we previously could but still cannot break the bank for every single target. What’s more, in footballing terms we can give promises and explain our potential, nothing more. Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh will have worked on a long list of targets, and there will be bids considered and pursued right until the deadline. That does not guarantee players will simply flock to Goodison as if we’ve dressed Moshiri up as the Pied Piper. It is exactly why our major signings have come from Fulham, Swansea, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa. We will pick up promising players from teams of a lesser standing, they will elevate our league position, and as our influence grows, so does the list of attainable transfer targets. That’s the plan, and it requires patience.
But we don’t have that. Fuck off Everton.
The plan to win the lot is going smoothly at least, with Yeovil comfortably brushed aside at Goodison. The main talking point was of course the fact a local hero and Everton legend in the making was the goalscoring focal point of a display that oozed consummate professionality.
But aside from Arouna Kone’s brace, it was great to see Ross Barkley captain his boyhood club and get the chance to pay his respects to Sid Benson after his goal. The man is pure class. You may have blasted him in the past for frustrating performances or even his bulk, but remember he’s one of us. It helps that he’s got some magic in the boots as well. The silver-haired assassin notched twice against tiring League Two opposition, so I’m sure I can say without reproach or fear of being proved wrong that he is well and truly back. How far off the European Golden Boot standings is he? There’s time. Aaron Lennon finished off a really nicely worked move involving James McCarthy, which reminded us that both can play a part still. While neither are first choice, there is no rush to shunt either of them out of the exit door. Aiden McGeady and Oumar Niasse are crammed in there anyway, and there’s no getting past them. Norwich at home is a desperately dull fixture, but we can give Steven Naismith a warm welcome and then utterly shank them to make up for last season’s struggle in the same competition.
What about that Shankly hologram then? Another bit of purest cringe that. I still remember when we made that Per Kroldrup hologram and put it at centre back.
Onto the next lot to fall under the wheels of the Ronald Koeman blue machine as it rolls on to glory. Or at least to that shite run we have around December when heads start to fall off. Oh, and it’s Stoke. Marvellous.
Stoke City were at their best back when they made people fume. Long throws, towelling balls, elbows, rash tackling, Ricardo Fuller. They were pragmatic small-time hired goons. Tony Pulis preferred the hands-on touch you only get from hired goons.
But then Pulis left, and in came Mark Hughes. From there, everyone began to see Stoke for what they are. Boring. Have you been there? Boring. They’re known for potteries, for God’s sake. They’ve got an eerie habit for churning out professional darts players, perhaps the least renowned of whom is Mark Frost – nicknamed “Frosty the Throw Man”. Because that’s what passes for humour in those parts. Their best known export gropes women in vans. Read into that what you will. The purge of fume-mongers left only Peter Crouch and Jon Walters, while Robert Huth stopped playing politically incorrect Twitter games with fellow bad eggs (you know who you are) and won the league with Leicester. They’ve tried to inject talent – Arnautovic, Shaqiri and Bojan – but they’ve all become dull. When did you last hear of them doing anything special in Staffordshire? The whole place is like a black hole for creativity. Arnautovic had previously come out with such lines as “I make so much money I can buy your life”. Now he says little. Mark Hughes looks and sounds like the human embodiment of Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh series. The last two seasons they’ve finished 9th and 9th again.
But they’re alright folks really. Carry on.
The annoying thing is they’ve got a habit of winning at Goodison now. Last season they prevailed 4-3 with a last minute penalty, which is out of character as I previously mentioned that they’re dead boring. Luckily for them, Roberto Martinez was the elixir. They’ve started the season slowly, though the season is still embryonic – a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough was not as bad as it looks on paper as quite a few teams may come unstuck at the Riverside, while they were second best throughout in a 4-1 defeat to Man City. Pulis’ Stoke would’ve won that game 2-1 with a scruffy injury time Jon Walters flick-on from a long throw, but they gave all that up for the promised land of 9th.
No Butland, so Shay Given goes in net, meaning the two goalkeepers will be a combined age of 73. That’s the equivalent of three Tom Davies plus one Mason Holgate, or one person who has seen Newcastle win anything. Bardsley, Shawcross, Wollscheid and Pieters looking like Lord of the Rings extras in the defence. Joe Allen, the Welsh Nyarko or whoever the reds thought he was, with Imbula and Whelan in midfield. Shaqiri and Arnautovic flanking Diouf, though Crouch scored a hat-trick in midweek and would love to put one past us, the gangly LadBible-reading honorary Kopite. Bojan provides another option for them, and that’s about it.
Our “never scores so he’s nailed on to get one against Everton” raffle winner this week is…Erik Pieters. Put your mortgage on him. This could be a regular feature, this one, sponsored by Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
On to the Blues then. We’ll be getting in a first choice keeper, though seemingly not Joe Hart. Another rumour that was fun while it lasted. But Maarten Stekelenburg has proved himself a very worthy deputy. No Coleman still, so Holgate and Baines on the flanks. If there are only two centre backs, it’d have to be Williams and Jagielka because Funes Mori still has a touch of the Distins when on the ball anywhere near his own goal. Idrissa Gueye’s form means Steve Walsh is already getting congratulatory back pats in the Finch Farm corridors, so he will join Barry and Barkley in the midfield. Bolasie and Mirallas either side of Lukaku would be ace if you please Ronald. The three of them could strike up a very exciting triumvirate. Deulofeu, Lennon, McCarthy and the Ivorian assassin on the bench.
We don’t have the toughest of starts to the season, so right now what we need is momentum. A nice series of wins to get our hopes up and if we prepare well those hopes won’t be dashed when the big guns come rolling in.
Do us a favour Everton. Smash these.