Even a basic diploma in Evertonianism teaches you about great balance in our universe through the medium of if something is really good then something really bad is soon to happen.
Not that anything much is really good these days that we fester in, but the (welcome or not) distraction of football has invoked a return of the old feelings. Seven from nine points including two consecutive wins since restart certainly has our eyes looking up rather than down the table and pondering what we would like to happen.
That diploma doesn’t sit firmly on your wall without realising this Tottenham backlash is gonna ruin your Monday somewhat.
Or maybe this attitude of Everton, that, permeating throughout the entire club is some form of wide reaching constrainer of progress. The being believes what the brain tells it, continual reinforced messages of failure and impending doom usually turn out to be a self defeating prophecy. I’m cautious about buying fully into “winning mentality, lad” as while it’s one facet there’re many others needed to invoke sustainable progress. Which has to be our goal.
But what if we were all a little more patient and open minded. What if we realised that we’ve been going nowhere fast for 25, no 33 years? What is one more season to not sweat? What is one more failure to endure? What if in this ultra competitive Premier League marketplace we operate that the advent of patience around a club and players actually give it a competitive edge over those continually only 2 games away from crisis? It’s relative of course to expectation which has only heightened since Moshiri came, and now even higher with such an elite Manager at our helm.
You know what, I’m gonna watch the Spurs game and try to not fume on this basis, and if a point or three comes my way then it will rock my belief gently that maybe, just maybe, this time will be different. Self depreciation is a mask we wear all too well as blues – there’s more important masks to switch it for right now however.
The Leicester game was pleasing on many levels despite it being a game where Everton were mostly on the back foot at home for the last 70 minutes of the game. Despite that, and Leicester pulling a goal back with 40 mins to play, it wasn’t as nervous as I’ve felt in such a situation. Mr Ancelotti simply made necessary tweaks and took the sting out of the game effectively, the Hollywood toothed wife stealer in the opposite dug out was exposed as having absolutely no Plan B.
Now we’ve got excited about plenty of Managers before which means my enthusiasm is always tempered with pragmatism, but in the spirit of dropping the mask I’m just gonna enjoy having someone running the team who does stuff in game that actually helps us win points. God knows it seems so long since that was the case.
So onto the super, aspirational Tottenham Hotspur stadium this Monday for a game that is as close to a European six pointer as we’re likely to experience this season, with the loser surely out of the mix and in the usual Everton territory of late. You can find some comfort in consistency if you really try.
Now usually this is the point I’d tear into the opposition as a cheap satirical rejection of all the samey sterile match previews I used to read but there’s some exceptions if I have any feelings of fondness towards the unfortunate bastards facing the blues that week, and Spurs just happen to be one of them. The allure of clubs with proud history and staunch culture coupled with a propensity to crush their fanbase repeatedly through various acts of humiliation perhaps gives me a sense of empathy towards them. Spurs have the self deprecation of Evertonians in a cockney sort of way anyway and as a result this usually is a good prohibitor of any fan arrogance and entitlement that Evertonians despise with all their might.
There’s a lovely narrative around Spurs – certainly benefitting from southern media fondness – of their appreciation for football played in the right way (this is a subjective preference as I love a good dog of war or three in royal blue shithousing, personally) and strong appreciation of their history and local area. Endeavouring with good intentions has its seductive qualities even if we are all swimming into this most foul capitalist pig dog play jacuzzi of billionaires to some degree. They’ve had some truly brilliant teams over the years but seldom be able to smash through that crystal ceiling, if you will, to succeed with impunity. The roulette of hope and responsibility has now swung round to Jose Mourinho and I can’t help but feel that this is not such a good match. If it was Tinder you’d be upset with the algorithm placing someone opposite you who is generally the opposite of what you seek, if indeed any of you, me, truly knows what they want in union anyway.
Anyway pressure is on Spurs with a bunch of disappointing performances and football not played in the Spurs way. The Spurs fan who I’m hankered down with has just this moment replied “fuck Spurs” when I engaged him over something related to the game. Maybe that empathy is why we work so well together.
What do you want me to talk about with their players? You know how Harry Kane just needs a whiff of space and assurance to punish Everton and how his bottom jaw works independently of his top jaw. How Dele Alli is one part Fine Young Cannibals, one part in your bird’s ear at the bar twat, one part fine footballer on his day and two parts getting a pasting off the bouncers in Revolution for thinking status works the same in Liverpool as anywhere else. How Gomes may be interested in this game as the prodigal Son returns to the same field since, well, last time. How a whole host of expensively signed wingers and midfielders of much flair must be a lottery for Spurs fans wondering just who of them will turn up in any given game. Everton’s task will be made much easier if they misfire or if that backlash doesn’t gain an early goal against them, for sure.
Two consecutive wins are not an easy bedfellow for change but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them for this game in Everton’s cause. Despite the positive results we’ve a midfield that is misfiring and had to be propped up by an additional defender last game to handle the pressure. It would not be a surprise to see this continue but from the start for this game, or perhaps Holgate moved into midfield although I think we’d loathe the absence of his pace and assurance in the backline if so. Maybe Ancelotti will go for five across the middle, or maybe I’m talking through my arse and he will stick to the 4-4-2 he’s deployed most. To reinforce a point earlier made it’s pleasant to at least contemplate flexibility in approach when it’s been lacking for so long.
Richarlison and Calvert Lewin have had a sort of muted restart when we compare how they were before lockdown, both however keep working incredibly hard for the good of the team and it was nice to see Richarlison get on the scoresheet in trademark robust fashion against Leicester. Their ability to keep defenders a bit deeper when we’re playing on the break has its virtues too, but goals maketh the striker so all of us will be hoping for a run for a either, or both, soon.
Young Ant Gordzilla (I’ll cease right there) announced his presence with finally a performance on the left that yielded presence, and his first assist for the first goal. There looks to be an exciting player in there and this period of relatively less pressure should be a good platform for him to stake his claim for first team regular inclusion next season, even if we sign someone for that position. Iwobi didn’t really follow up on his Norwich performance but now we know it’s there it’s a question of form for him I reckon, unless someone steps up and nabs his place which is a possibility with Walcott getting fitter.
It’s in the centre of the park that the chemistry just isn’t happening. Gomes has shown at least flashes of why he will be the fixed midfielder we are looking for a partner for. Davies was much improved in a cameo appearance but that’s probably his best place at the moment, and it’s unfair to dismiss Sigurdsson’s contribution to the win in there but overall that midfield will not push us any further than we are, with no easy solutions before the end of the season. Maybe that’s why those tactical switches I talked of at the start may be coming sooner rather than later.
Defence however is very sound. Both full backs are much improved and contributing adequately in both halves, Mason Holgate is the assured consistency and pace we’ve sought since the demise of Jagielka and with potentially a similar or higher ceiling. An Evertonian trait is a love of the underdog and while I’m unsure if that’s truly applicable to a £25m player with England caps, it feels a little that way as he’s been wrote off more than once and returned with a spell of performances that showcase what a high quality full spectrum central defender he can be. He’s been brave to talk about the challenges of his own mind but he should take great comfort in the character he continues to show on the pitch. I’ve no idea where his career goes with us from this point but I really hope it’s a springboard. Perhaps he talks with Mr Pickford who is only one headfuck away from invoking widespread Everton anxiety. An appreciation of flaws is evidence of a maturing mind but I’d much prefer less stress in my Everton experience.
So it’s with this almost mindfulness principle of spectating without judging or resisting too much that I will attempt to view Everton this forthcoming Monday night. The inevitable fume at a listless Everton shipping an easy second will only reinforce the notions I started this preview with, so it’s a good a place as any to end it.
Remind me why wearing a mask is so difficult again?