The weekend before the derby is always a weird one. Sure, the manager will be talking about just focusing on this game, but we’re not daft. Well, not most of us. Whether it’s against Cardiff or 1970s era Brazil, thoughts would always be with the game next week. We have a week’s worth of kopite arrogance and panic attacks to deal with. With no disrespect to our Welsh counterparts (who get a pass in my book for resisting changing their kits from blue to red), this week was more about keeping the status quo and not falling apart like a Teresa May cabinet.
Speaking of disasters and scrambling for the worst possible option in the face of catastrophe, ‘Matchday 13’ last season saw us get beat by Southampton 4-1 and have us crawling to Grosse Samuel in a desperate bid to avoid relegation after spending infinity billion pounds on number 10s. This season, a win in the same ‘Matchday’ (sorry, last time I’ll do that) would see us go 6th if other results went our way. What a difference a year and a competent management team makes.
The preference of most blues (read: me) was to stick Lookman up there to replace one of Walcott or Bernard, but once again Marco Silva never read my opinion on the internet and so stuck with the same 11 that played at Chelsea. That meant Yerry Mina kept his place over Kurt Zouma, both of whom are competing not just over footballing skill but who has the most heartwarming smile. Seriously, both warm my cold and brittle heart. Sigurdsson managed to get the studs out of his ankle from the Chelsea game, and Richarlison was upfront again as the makeshift striker.
I don’t like Neil Warnock – he’s a beaut – but he has a good knack for getting you promoted from the Championship and pissed off teams like Everton. He’s in the same realm of ‘good British manager’ that Sky’s Paul Mersonaries on Soccer Saturday laud, so let’s get ready to welcome him when Farhad gives in to his wage demands this time next year. Like Chico I’m not too aware of Cardiff’s squad, but in his failure I’ll give riffing on some the players a try:
Neil Etheridge – The Philippines’ first Premier League player who attracted attention at the start of the season for his impressive performances and his exotic nature despite sounding like every League 2 player ever arrested outside of a Walkabout.
Harry Arter – His name and general appearance is of someone who has a Poppy in front of the British flag as his profile pic all year long. Reposts Britain First and Lad Bible memes on his wall.
Callum Paterson – Who’s Movember ‘tache reveals a man who watched Harry Enfield’s Scousers skit on YouTube and thought it was a documentary. I know disgusting 90’s shell suits are back, but calm down.
Watching the game highlights Saturday evening, the first half took up about 4 minutes of the scheduled 30. The odds of Draw/Everton before the game was 3/1 which I really should have took a punt on because that’s free money for a game with one team struggling to score versus 10 defenders in the box. Not for the want of trying, chances were few and far between with limited chances scuppered by poor reactions.
Gylfi whipped in a free kick straight to a free and open Richarlison, who managed to head straight to the goalkeeper despite banging in a great headed goal against Cameroon mid-week. Later Andre Gomes rinsed a Cardiff defender and delivered a great cross into the box, only for Walcott to swing and miss. To be fair, in both cases, both players could have been put off by the player in front of them missing the ball too, but it would have helped break up a frustrating first half.
That sexy beast Gomes is proving more and more each week what a great player he is, and why Barca took a fancy to him in the first place. Anyone watching this game would tell you he was the best player on the pitch, and having him next to Gueye is perfect as he adds the attacking element that Gueye sometimes lacks. Gomes had his own shot on target before the chance he made that hit the side netting, which he should have cut back but given how well he played throughout the game he could probably be excused for being over confident there. Defo making fellas in the Gwladys question their sexuality though, we love him.
Everton bossed it in the first half, and the second half was much the same. Sigurdsson had two early chances – his first a shot outside the box, his second a 1-on-1 behind the defence after a good through ball by Bernard, but his shot was cleared off the line. Thankfully it was third time lucky 4 minutes later. A lucky deflection from Richarlison’s pressure set off Walcott down the right, who’s shot was saved by Etheridge but only managed to get it to Sigurdsson, who took the gift and scored. Seeing Everton concede like that so many times gives you a tinge of guilt but fuck ’em, up the snide Blues.
Cardiff had to come out a bit more after that, but the first real save for Pickford didn’t come until the 71st minute with Camarasa’s shot from outside the box warming up his palms. Cardiff had a decent shout for a penalty turned down and the visiting fans had good reason to feel aggrieved in between Welsh obscenities. I love Coleman, but he has that kind of mistake in him as he’s already shown this season. Lookman came on for Walcott not long after and quickly got involved, getting a tricky run into the box before having his shot saved.
Everton tried to get another, but both Richarlison and Cenk Tosun (subbed on for Bernard) frigged their chances. The former was kept mostly quiet all day by Sol Bamba, and although he can give as much as he can take, him falling on the floor after being patted on the head by their goalie like he just been sniped was awful to see and the sign of a frustrated player. Pack it in, soft lad. Cardiff rallied near the end to try and get their equaliser but it was more Spaghetti Western than Guns of the Navarone, and the defence – shored up by the addition of Zouma to make a back 5 – held them off and squeezed the win out.
It was always going to be a frustrating game, the difference was this time we managed to find the goal and get the scrappy win rather than the disappointing draw or even defeat. Sign of a good team that, playing shite and winning. Most players on the team we’re a bit sloppy from the international ‘break’ and so ended up making daft mistakes and a better team will punish those, but you expect them to be a bit more at the races with a long week ahead ending with the derby at the Legion of Doom. Thankfully, I’ll be in Bulgaria next weekend so I’ll be able to distract myself from anxiety attacks with cheap unpronounceable ale and various grilled meats, until I give in and force my friend to a shady Irish pub just to watch Egypt’s Rose curl his 4th into the top left. Even when we’re 6th, I can’t afford optimism.
The Look(man) of Love – Each week I say we should start him after an impressive cameo off the bench, I have to keep creating clever ways to get his name into famous phrases and song titles for this bit. Keep it up, Marco.
Family Matters – Comparing ourselves to last season again, you have to admire the speed that these new players have gelled into the squad and how Silva has got everyone buying into what he’s trying to do. Much easier to do with one manager instead of three, sure, but the likes of Digne and Gomes already look like squad veterans this early on.
Liverpool Christmas Market – If you’re missing the Everton that overpays for mediocrity and only leaves a terrible taste in the mouth, I heartily suggest paying £5 for a pint of off lager outside St George’s Hall. Still fuming.