These are all the contradictory words or phrases I heard or read about when reviewing our all-important win against Southampton. There’s another one – “3 points”. Despite being down to 10 men for 70 odd minutes against Sunderland, we were at times unplayable, but we didn’t score, and we lost. Against Southampton, our performance was, to my mind, inconsistent, but we won, so that’s the most important thing, that and making sure we learn from the game and move ever forward.
From our lofty position of 4th, and on 37 points (or “only 3 points from safety” as we used to call it), we can reflect on a game between two strong footballing teams that by no means was a classic, but that showed the virtues of playing the ball on the surface rather than just using the grass as something to stand on whilst hoofing it aimlessly skywards (or “the early 1990s” as we used to call it) to a disconnected beanpole up front. Both teams prospered from such a style, and frankly Southampton could have done better than they did had Lallana, Rodriguez and Lambert been more clinical with their finishing (yes, yes, and so could we if Barkley and Lukaku had taken their chances), but they didn’t, we scored two excellent goals, and we find ourselves in the league position that our performances have deserved this season. I’m not too bothered (I am really….) about who we leapfrogged to get in to 4th, because ultimately it is our respective performance over 38 games that matters, and we can look forward to much ebbing and flowing in the top positions with the current top 7 (or even 8) favourites to be right up there come May.
Back to the Southampton match. It would be very easy to give Seamus the Man of the Match award, not just for his fantastic goal, but for his energy up and down the touchline, and being able to defend one minute and be in the opposition box the next. I love Hibbert, I really do, but you can see why Martinez loves a player like Coleman, and the reality dawns that Hibbert will not be part of the match day set up for some time. I think it was telling how Roberto Martinez went out of his way to highlight Hibbo’s work off the pitch with the youngsters, and that probably says it all for me. Brilliant career Tony, but you’re now cover for that position, and your main role is to bring on the kids who are going to eat your lunch. Sad reality of football, and sentiment won’t play a part in picking the best XI for the job. I wonder what Hibbert will do at the end of the season?
It would also be very easy to give McCarthy Man of the Match, not just for his fantastic run and one touch pass in their box for the second goal, but for his tireless energy and marshalling of the defences. He clearly missed his partner in crime, Barry, but once more he covered every blade of real and artificial grass on the Goodison pitch in fighting for the cause (or “Alan Ball” as we used to call it) and this lad has frankly been a bargain at £13m. His gingerness does indeed make him a dead-ringer for 1/3 of the Holy Trinity in appearance, his energy and lung-busting runs, his break up of play, his tackling, his awareness and his team play makes him right up there with most comparisons. He doesn’t yet have the same creativity of Bally, and he hasn’t scored the goals yet, but frankly he’s playing a different role. Perhaps I should stop making comparisons, and rather than call him “the new Alan Ball” (as we seem to enjoy calling any new prodigy after a namesake, countryman, or player-type) and just call him the brilliant James McCarthy. A young man with a long future at Goodison.
No, for me, I’m going to say Alcaraz was Man of the Match. Being plunged in to your first Everton league start, your first competitive start for that matter, and not having played for 5 months, you’d be excused for expecting some ring-rustiness. But he seemed assured, great on the ball, cleared attacks with head or boot, and built up a pretty good understanding with his defenders. For me that is an excellent sign of the lad’s future potential. At his ripe old age of 31, you could be looking at an Everton Centre Back for the next 5 years.
We had a massive amount of disruption to the team, suspensions and injuries not just depriving us of key players, but key leaders too. Howard was clearly missed, sorry Joel but you had the look of a Mucha in this game – capable of a brilliant save one minute, and drop an absolute ricks the next. It can’t be easy without game time, and I don’t understand why he isn’t playing for the U21s to get proper game time under his belt. Barry was missed for his understated authority and companionship with McCarthy, the rock steady pair. But a tribute to Alcaraz was that Jags wasn’t missed – he’ll probably get a few games in now, fitness allowing (maybe Stones will play one of the next two?) so we don’t just have cover for injuries and suspensions, we have true competition for places.
Final learning? Lallana is not as big as Distin. What the little lad was thinking of squaring up to him we will never know, maybe he’s his childhood hero? But that would be about as one-sided a fight as Australia vs England.
Bring on Stoke – a tough game ahead, but another 3 points needed, as they always are. But a result away at the Brittania is worth more than the points, as the aforementioned top 8 sides will always find it hard there, and it is what we get versus what others don’t . And they are due a result or two now – let’s hope not against our tired limbs.