Away games are hard enough to get to these days, let alone in deepest Wales, and particularly if ‘somebody’ accepted an invitation to a meal and drinks at a friend’s house on the day in question. If that wasn’t bad enough, just as kick off approaches, I find out that said friend doesn’t have Sky. Mmmm….thank you Sky+ remote, and all I’ve got to do now is not look at my phone. With that problem solved by running out of battery, I know that I’ll be watching Everton ‘as live’ and the only question being how, er, inebriated I’ll be.
I have to say that at 10pm after 7 hours of rich food and rather too much alcohol, football matches pass at an alarming speed, unless I’d sat on the remote to watch at x12, which is distinctly possible, given that I could hardly even focus. My views therefore are slightly under the influence of external factors and I was not in full control of my faculties.
We are a work in progress. We are still getting used to how RM wants to play. We don’t have strength in-depth yet. We have some key players missing. Jelavic felt his hamstring in the warm up. All these quotes are ones we’ve heard over recent weeks, days, and hours, and yet we are 4th as I write, people are talking about us as realistic top 4 candidates and who knows maybe even dare to dream about wi……..no, don’t tempt fate. We have a 53% win rate, one defeat, and at times our play has been of the highest quality and intensity. We have yet to deliver that quality for 90 minutes, and the game against Swansea was one of those. At times we were downright sloppy, and at times unplayable. The team that gets us playing brilliantly for 90 minutes is going to get one hell of a spanking.
But before then, we have games like Fulham and now Swansea, and we win them by playing slightly better than the opposition, however much below our own highest possible standards. That’s fine, top teams do this, and however much it might surprise some observers, we are very much a top team right now. Win ugly some say. Well, it wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t us at our best, but so long as we win, I don’t care if we win like that in every game left this season!
Coleman was wonderful, possibly one of the best long-range strikes by a Blue for many a year, and one of the longest knee slides in Europe this season in celebration. But he also did his defensive job too, and he is certainly turning out to be one of the best right backs in the game at the moment. He would have been my man of the match had it not been for Barkley’s performance, who once again was outstanding, even if I have to forgive him his spectacular slip and dive – almost funny if it wasn’t at 0-0 and the game beginning to take a look of a goalless frustration. As he and Rom lined up the free kick, I was slurring at the screen to pass it to whoever the blur was standing just off the D, “try something different”, “no point trying to bang it in from…..oh…..[household limbs ensure]”. Another great strike – two in one game, a rarity indeed!
I thought Lukaku was anonymous this week. But when he doesn’t score as he hasn’t for a while, we are still scoring as a side, another good sign of a top team. One factor worth mentioning that might have affected Rom’s contribution was we had 10% less possession than Swansea, and more than 15% less than our season average to date. To put that in to context, that is 9 or 14 minutes without the ball, so inevitably certain players will not feature as much as normal. The key is that those who do get on the ball, actually do something with it. Once again, our marauding full backs were the stars, with Barkley up front and centre orchestrating the midfield. Frankly, Swansea could not handle him at all.
And so to Goodison. Sunderland should be there for the taking, Southampton will be very tough, but it is not unrealistic to expect 6 points. And if the form book works for these two, perhaps it could work for January, and then we’d be going to Liverpool in one heck of a strong position. And then we would not just be in the top 4, we could be actually t……… No, there I go again. But as an Everton fan, isn’t it amazing that not only are we daring to dream, but we are beginning to expect……