Post-Match Brooding: Bournemouth (A)

Days like Saturday are a sobering reminder that this season is indeed a season of transition, lest we’ve forgotten. We’re three games into the season and you already feel like you could write a novel about the layers to this thing, but ultimately we’re all seeing far more to be both interested in and encouraged by in three games than we saw in the whole of last season.

That being said—if you’re honest with yourself—you’re having to make a slight bit more effort to focus on the positives given the sequence and series of events against Bournemouth. A 2-0 lead is a 2-0 lead and it simply can’t be squandered. Period. Full stop. Time to nip that shit in the bud now before it becomes a “thing” that reminds us of past “things” that we don’t want to discuss anymore. But again, lest we’ve forgotten, this is likely to be a season of lessons, some good and some not so good. The key to evaluating progress besides the bottom line of the points return will be to see how quickly we learn from the bad and avoid the repeat performances that turn a valuable education into a defining trait…

And yet with all the opportunity to waive our judgmental finger at Saturday’s outcome, it’s important to recognize that there is a major sea change on the horizon in regards to the personnel on the pitch. Some of that will be enforced by yet more injury misfortune that Everton have excelled in of late, but yet more of it will be the result of the inevitable passing of time. With that, let’s talk about Leighton Baines…

 

I’ve enjoyed the first couple of weeks for Baines, even if I knew in my head it was a bit of fools gold. But simply stated, Baines has lost the pace he once had and his agility is an increasing concern as well. Given his age and recent injury history, surely none of this is a surprise and there’s genuinely no malice in such an assessment. For me, Leighton Baines is the finest Everton player during my time as a supporter. Bar none. I love him.  He’s an icon and I’ve always dreamed of smoking a J with him at an outdoor music festival while watching Tame Impala and reflecting on the comedy of life. But mortality comes even for the immortal. There comes a point where physical limitations begin to affect split second reactions–and that becomes particularly problematic in a sport and a league which continues to press the gas pedal through the floorboard. It’s time to see what Lucas Digne can do to change the fortunes of a backline that hasn’t been awful, but certainly has cost us in key moments in these early stages…

The Michael Keane head injury was scary. The crash into the ground looks worse upon each replay. His upcoming absence is a shame on multiple levels as Keane seemed to be finally finding some footing at the club after a season of disappointment. He had his best game of the season for me Saturday and it’s hard to argue that any other player has seen a more significant change in fortunes in terms of performance since Marco Silva’s arrival—even if that means he’s simply gone from being a liability to being a solid contributor. Whether he’d stayed healthy or not likely wouldn’t have impacted his long term outlook in regards to Yerry Mina eventually staking his claim in the side, but who really knows? Everton now find themselves once again dangerously thin at the center of defense and in the surprising position of being anxious for the return of Phil Jagielka who has one more match to serve in his suspension. Given that Mina likely won’t become an option of any sort until after the break, Kurt Zouma and Mason Holgate are gonna need to become BFFs and fast—all while trying to stay fit. I’m already tense thinking about it…

It’s true that the red card was silly and/or the rule is poorly written or whatever, but it’s also true that Richarlison got baited into doing something he shouldn’t have, even if it seemed so ridiculously minor. His quick little head nudge was like a committed/married man who thinks he can get away with liking a photo of his significant other’s hot friend in a bikini on Instagram. Sure, it’s there and it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but no good can come from touching that heart-shaped button. Why even tempt a potential world of pain? If Richarlison is going to be all the things he purports to wanting to be in regard to performance and elevating Everton’s fortunes on the pitch, he’s got to truly learn from this. He’s simply too important to miss 3 games when the talent margins—while not as thin as previous years—aren’t the same as a City or the like. And he’s also now got to accept that being the main man at Everton comes with taking deep breaths and walking away at times. Because there’s simply no way to be the main man if you aren’t around…

 

And this was the inevitable moment that shows just how little wing depth we actually possess. The idea of Ademola Lookman leaving now feels absurd—or somehow more absurd than it already did. He’s an insurance policy that looks as if it will need to be cashed in shortly. And what of Lookman’s perspective on this? Fairly or not, Lookman has one of “those” faces. You’ve heard of “resting bitch face”. Lookman has resting pout face. It’s just his default face, but seeing it plastered next to a hundred tweets about him wanting to go to some Red Bull startup club in Germany does him no favors, does it? Either way, it’s time for him and the club to agree to move forward. Together. Because what realistic choice is there? He wanted first team football. Well here’s his chance. If he can look at this opportunity and be anything but desperate to get on the pitch, you’d have to question his basic competitive makeup. This is not a crossroads for Ademola Lookman. This is THE crossroads…

Would’ve preferred to see Niasse instead of DCL late on. I get what Silva was thinking in terms of a more like for like switch with Tosun, but the biggest difference between the two is that defenders aren’t scared of Calvert-Lewin scoring, bottom line. Tom Davies wasn’t poor defensively. At times on Saturday, he was really good. But the passing was a stink-palm of a thing today. And if not for Seamus Coleman’s passing display being nearly historical in its ineptitude—especially in the first half—this might be getting more discussion. I don’t know if Davies and DCL are ready to contribute meaningfully to this thing, but we need to start seeing a bit more, a bit more often from them.

Cenk isn’t scoring. But he’s doing everything else you’d want to help the attack flourish. His work rate, his link-up play, his movement, etc.—all very good. It’s really somewhat difficult to fully assess the attack given that we’ve played so much of the early season at a man disadvantage, but you can “feel” how different it is and you can see the pace of it and he’s playing his part. Attacking players willing and eager to be a vital cog in the machine even when they’re not scoring are rare, so let’s not take for granted what we’re getting from Tosun thus far…

 

If presented with a poll regarding who should be Everton captain, I would and have previously voted for Seamus Coleman. There’s little I can add in this space to a story and a track record which is well known. Yet while we’ve been debating that, it’s fair to say he’s made a poor start to the season. It doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t come good, but Coleman’s play has gone from being a bit off the pace to genuinely concerning after his display Saturday. Given his age and other options that may present themselves in coming windows, Coleman’s long term place in the side is anything but assured. Something to watch…

And if you were going to consider an alternate to Coleman as your future captain, how about Gylfi Sigurdsson? If not for some missed chances by teammates and his own missed chance at the death yesterday, we’d be seining the sort of national attention for his play so far that is usually reserved for whatever 19-year old U-23 midfielder from the other side of the park that Paul Joyce has decided merits a huge profile piece in the Times this week. In short, Sigurdsson has arguably been our best overall performer in two of the three games so far and the example he sets with his decision-making and work rate is something I worry we’re quickly taking for granted. The Night King is AWESOME in ways that go beyond the mere numbers and I’m excited to see more of him under Silva…

Some winnable games coming up and some major lineup changes lie ahead. The tests of a season are relentless, but the joy in seeing such tests as part of something with a defined goal and direction makes what lies ahead so intriguing. There are a bunch of moving parts and there’s sure to be some bumps, but the Bournemouth game showed that the dance between promise and peril is often an awkward one to choreograph. So the question is two-fold: Does the choreographer have moves worth learning and if so, do the dancers have the ability to learn the moves quickly? The answer to the first question appears to be an emphatic YES. The answer to the second will define the fortunes of the season ahead.

2 Comments

  • Beesdontfly  28/08/2018 at 06:04

    “Defence”

    Reply
  • jambo  28/08/2018 at 10:22

    Generally agree with this piece. I thought seamus was poor, I thought Tom Davies was awful and I agree with the comments on the attack generally. Where I think Rob is totally wrong is Gylfi. Best player on the pitch in 2/3 games? get over yourself man! he came off after half an hour versus Wolves. Granted he was excellent against Southampton, but yesterday he completely went missing and did not contribute anywhere near enough!

    Reply

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