Landing at 6pm at Birmingham Airport after a long weekend away, meant that if I turned right out of the terminal car park I could have been at the Hawthorns just in time for the match. Luckily for me, I didn’t have a ticket, otherwise I might have 90+ minutes of my life owed to me by the boys in, ahem, yellow and blue. So off I tootled back to Nottingham, much to the relief of my two fellow passengers who might have found things a tad boring waiting in my car whilst I went to fume and shout at the team I love in a laboured and poor 1-1 draw.
However, I couldn’t escape the viewing, thanks to my trusty Sky+ planner, and my refusal to look at any texts as they came in as I watched the match ‘as live’ about 30 minutes behind the rest of the world. If I had looked at the texts, it would only have confirmed what I was fearing as the game unfolded, that a tame and shabby performance only earned us a draw, and frankly could have been worse.
We were poor, there is no escaping it, but those with short memories have probably erased the Palace performance from their souls, let alone their brains. We cannot play brilliant football every week, but it is a shame that 9 days after writing on these pages about giving Everton a standing ovation during play against Norwich, we couldn’t muster many moments at all that would have lifted us from our seats. It happens, we were dreadful, but we aren’t like that as a norm, so let’s try to get a bit of perspective, and recognise that days like this will come, and sometimes we’ll get beaten, sometimes we will actually win because the oppo is even worse than us, and sometimes, like Palace, we will only secure 1 point. It is probably a measure of how far we have come, how high expectations have rightly been raised, how close we are to a Champion’s League place, how distant we are from the chasing pack, that a draw is met with such outrage. But of course, it was the manner of the draw, not the draw itself.
Where did it go wrong?
Let’s start last Monday. I’m not a big fan of a warm weather escape, so despite the lure of the sun and the sand and the who-knows-what-else in Tenerife, I think the ‘deserved break’ is best had at home rather than introducing a relaxed and lethargic mood in a less intense environment. We certainly looked like we’d had a break, it was almost comical pre-season mistakes that blighted the second half in particular, as continual misplaced passes served only to irate the faithful away support.
It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that some of our best football has been played on the manicured turf/astro combination of Goodison Park or similar at OT and the Emirates. Playing on a ploughed field at the Hawthorns won’t have helped our fluency and it unnerves me somewhat to think about what surface awaits us at lowly Stevenage on Saturday. I fear that the warm up for that game might be had in between the tractors, not sprinklers. The last thing they will want is a surface with a bit of ‘zip’. A bit of ‘sludge’, yes, but zip? Not so much.
Hold up play. Right, it is not appropriate for me to eulogise ex players, but I thought Big Vic added something to West Brom’s play by being able to receive, hold, and play-in his co-workers (as I think they’re called these days). The ball, not for the first time this season, seemed to bounce off Lukaku. I think he is a great and natural goalscorer, and I believe he will get us 20 goals this season. But this game was not his best, and it is something I think he needs to work on. A game or two off might also help to re-energise the big man, who after all is only 20. I know a few 20 year old lads, my son included, and boundless energy isn’t a phrase I could use to describe them on 100% of occasions. He needs a bit of a rest (Rom, not my boy), and maybe a signing to allow that is imminent – work permit allowing (not a phrase to strike fear in to Evertonians in the past is it??) – and maybe just one other opportunity might help: Mirallas up top.
Playing Mirallas further forward last night was a great bit of tactical nous (nowse? nouse? Not sure…) from Martinez. He looked interested throughout, high intensity, lots of good holds, turns, flicks and backheels, and of course a well-taken goal. He wasn’t innocent of the misplaced pass either, but certainly not as guilty as some, and for two matches in a row, he gets my Man of the Match. But frankly, it’s an award that hardly shines out amongst a lot of cruddy performances.
I can’t go through every player and say good/bad, mainly because it would be too depressing. It was an off night, and we just have to take it on the chin.
The good news, the very good news, is that things will start to improve very quickly. If that XI turned out at Anfield, it would play far better than it did against WBA. We must also remember that our injury list looks pretty scary at the moment, and whilst that won’t automatically be resolved this month, much though we’d like it to for Saturday and Tuesday, it means that February will see the return of Barkley, Deulofeu and Pienaar, and hopefully Coleman if his hammy isn’t too bad after last night. We won’t see the likes of Gibson or Kone this season, but we will get other players back, we will step up again to our high standards, and we may even see one or two signings. We may even take back the U21 short-term loanees and see if any of them are ready to step up. I’m not sure, but maybe? And how about Green to play off the bench on Saturday?
That’s it for this week, a lovely short break for me ends in a bit of football gloom and doom, but my glass resolutely remains more than half full, and I won’t dwell too much on last night. It happens, get over it. The players know it, the players won’t be happy about it, and the players will do their utmost to do something about it.