“Oh come on Everton, stop this fancy stuff”, the quote came from a row or two behind me in the Upper Gwladys some way in to the second half, from a woman clearly playing truant from the School of Science! Not for her this fancy approach play, with the unnecessary one touch triangles, and incisive passing trying to unpick a well organised defence. Lump it up to a big lad up front, and see if Barlow can pick up the pieces in the box from the knock downs.
Thankfully those days have gone now, and all the better for it. Our new style of play in fairness is not really that new. I don’t see the neat interplay as being entirely of the Martinez era, what is substantially different is the decision-making by the manager before and during games, and Roberto showed against Liverpool just how different he is from Moyes in that respect.
Three key decisions for me.
Firstly, selecting Barkley. With all his inexperience and maybe slightly headstrong capabilities, Barkley would probably have been benched by Moyes in favour of his tried and trusted favourite of Osman. But yesterday, Barkley for me came of age. He is 20 next month, and so he’s still a kid, but he showed maturity beyond his years on Saturday. Some excellent passing, plus he was all over the pitch, clearly has a great engine, and his decision-making about when to pass, when to shoot, when to dribble and take on opponents, was the best I’ve seen from him this season. Well done lad, thoroughly deserving the Man of the Match in my opinion, although he was certainly run close by a couple of players – see later!
Secondly, sending on Deulofeu for Baines. Of course, no one wants Baines to leave Everton, but on those rare occasions where he has to miss some game time, we need to know we can cope. And cope we did, but not the way we expected. Surely, on comes Heitinga or Stones, and Distin shuffles across to use the only foot he’s got at left back – but no, on comes the best little Spaniard we know at the moment, hardly like for like, Barry shifts across, Barkley drops deeper and arguably was more influential, and Deulofeu assumes his more typical position.
Let’s talk about Gerard, the one we actually love. I was lucky enough to be the first caller on 606 as I drove home on Saturday, and managed to get in the pun that Deulofeu can’t head a ball for Toffee. Ok, I thought it was funny. Simmer down at the back. Anyway, this lad with the ball at his feet, is absolutely electric. I hope he gets a lot more game time this season, and in doing so, gets as many chances as he got against the RS because this lad will score goals. And he will learn to lift his head too and play in others so they can score too. I’ve not seen a player that immediately gets people off their seats like he does when he gets the ball, and who wouldn’t want him in your team? Ok, he can’t head a ball, he doesn’t seem that robust in the tackle, and doesn’t track back that much, and so some would call him a luxury player. But who do you want – a flair player like that, or a nitty-gritty player like Geoff Nulty (sorry Geoff, no offence, different eras and all that)? It looks like under Martinez and his playing ethos that Gerard Deulofeu will go back to Barca with Evertonians singing his name all the way there.
By the way, have we got a song for him yet, or are we concentrating on learning how to pronounce his name? And, back to the Moyes reference, he wouldn’t be at Goodison if DM was still manager. He wouldn’t have asked, and if he had, Barcelona would have said no.
And thirdly, finally, the whole outlook on the game was different. No longer the “we hold what we’ve got at 0-0 before we’ve even kicked off” approach to playing the big games. No longer the defence first and occasionally punt a ball up to Victor to outmuscle weedy defenders (er, Skrtel looks a big lad, and I never trust taking on a man without enough vowels in his surname). No longer the defensive substitutions (that’s at least 3 notable game changing subs that RM has made at key points this season). No longer the inferiority complex. We will go to United and to Arsenal in the coming weeks, and I fully expect us to go out to play to win, not play to avoid losing.
So, madam, if that means us playing “all this fancy stuff”, then it’s a YES from me, and I suspect a YES from every Evertonian.
Other reflections on the game? McCarthy for me was pipped by Barkley for MoM. Once again, massive energy, and his breaking up of the opposition moves would have been a joy to the watching Lee Carsley. Lukaku, a bit non descript in the first half, and balls kept on bouncing off him and not sticking; but what a second half, and what a second goal. That is an Everton Centre Forward header the like of which we haven’t seen in a while. Seamus had a cracking game too, and certainly Coutinho won’t be sad not to be facing him every week. Kevin Antonio Joel Gislain Mirallas y Castillo (“pardon lad? Nah, stuff that, we’ll just call you Kev if that’s ok”) was a threat all game, one of his best for Everton this season. And no, he shouldn’t have been on the pitch all game, and yes that’s three possible sendings off we’ve escaped this season (Barry v Hull, McCarthy v Villa), but he isn’t there to send himself off, he gets on with the game on the pitch, and he was really good I thought.
It is a mystery how the same team, more or less, can turn up like that and only two weeks before had been so insipid against Palace. But the wake up call will be to the defence, because Villa, Palace and to some extent Tottenham haven’t got the quality up front that punished us on Saturday. We now have Stoke where we need to show the same intensity to get the three points that should be ours if we play to our best, and then previously daunting trips to OT and the Emirates; not so daunting nowadays under Martinez, but make no mistake, United and Arsenal will punish us like Liverpool and City did if we give them openings. Plenty to work on this week then. But plenty to be proud of too, and build on this excellent start to the season, and continue to show the self belief that ran through the team – and the crowd – against our Mersey neighbours at the weekend.
It’s all looking good from behind my pillar.