Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone at home?
In a change from the scheduled programming, your Everton reviews are now going to be coming in a game by game format rather than monthly. Why? Because I fucking said so. Missed the L4 Azzurri over the summer? Ready to get back into it? Buckle up then and enjoy the ride.
Of course this wasn’t quite the first Goodison outing of the season. Due to last season’s 7th place finish, we were all given the luxury of a two legged tie against Spartak Yerda from the former Yugoslavia and let’s be brutally honest, it was perfunctory yet crap. 1-0 in each leg was enough to earn a tie against Hadjuk Split of Croatia for a place in the group stages and Thursday night matches until Christmas.
To the league then, the bread and butter as you were. Stoke were the first visitors of the season, featuring an array of beanpole strikers, wee fat wingers and the Premier League manager that most resembles a menopausal hag. Throw in a Stone Island clad travelling support with the highest bulldog tattoo per person ratio and that’s your opposition. I can’t be too mean to them though, because they made Paul Nuttall cry. Well in.
Ronald Koeman set up Everton in an unconventional 3-5-2 to start with Dom Calvert-Lewin at right back, Rooney and Sandro up top and Davy Klaassen at the tip of the midfield diamond. Quite why there’s a need for two holding midfielders at home to Stoke, I’m not sure but Koeman is an internationally renowned football manager and I’m a dickhead off the internet that writes about football so we’ll let it go.
The first half was, without kidding ourselves, rancid shite. Stoke were mostly set up to draw with a faint hope of hitting on the counter so the impetus was on the Blues to set the tempo. The only problem being, there was a distinct lack of pace, movement or width, with the players looking uncomfortable with the setup. Chances were at a premium, with only a Gana Gueye long range effort and a Sandro scuffed pea roller to shout about.
Right on half time, with only an additional minute announced, Wayne Rooney started and finished the only really promising move of the half. A flowing sequence of passes found Calvert-Lewin in space wide on the right and his first time drilled cross found England’s record goalscorer in space, heading back across Butland to leave him floundering as the net rippled. “ROONEY ROONEY ROONEY”
The abject shapelessness was obviously not lost on RonKo at half time, with Williams sacrificed from the back three for Martina, allowing Everton to revert to a 4-4-2 system with Calvert-Lewin being freed up to move further forward. Rooney sat slightly off Sandro and really came on to a game. Buoyed by his first league goal for the club since 2004, he began to dictate play, displaying a range of passing that freed up Calvert-Lewin and Sandro to press Stoke further back, although in truth, Butland wasn’t really tested anywhere near as much as he should have been.
With only a goal advantage, Everton were always susceptible to a breakaway but anything coming forward from Stoke was immediately repelled by the excellent Keane. Fucking hell, if Kim Jong Un starts lashing ICBMs at Goodison (not sure why he would like) I reckon Big Mick Keane would get up above his man to head them to safety. The only real moment of worry came in the games dying moments when Shaqiri broke from midfield and unleashed a thunderbolt that was destined for the top bag, but for the intervention of the leaping Jordan Pickford and an excellent fingertip save. Isn’t it nice to have a goalkeeper that inspires confidence instead of “oh fucking hell, what’s he tried to do there???”
In the end, it was a game that should have been won by more, but without any real moments where you thought we wouldn’t take away the three points. We’ll have to play much better than that against teams that aren’t utter dog shit mind. Still, I’d take a season of 38 scruffy 1-0 wins, wouldn’t you?
See you next week. Up the fucking Toffees.