It is a measure of how far we have come this season that the rapture of the Chelsea players, management and fans at their last gasp goal was as much because they knew they’d stolen the 3 points as keeping their title tilt on track. Every now and then you saw Chelsea at their best, but by and large you saw a better side in their opposition, and a side that not only nullified the threat of the billionaires, but outplayed them for large periods.
Everton from back to front were really good today. Except the last 20 yards. A handful of shots, Osman’s belter the best of them, and one or two mishits, but frankly a poor return for the quality of play up to the Chelsea box. Corners seem to be a waste of time at the moment, no real threat at all, but we just lacked that incisive last pass in to a top notch striker. Naismith ran his socks off today, but never looked like he was going to score; Mirallas left his shooting prowess on the coach; and the least said about an appalling 20 minutes from Barkley the better. And Deulofeu didn’t get in to the game at all. You have to give Chelsea credit as well for their rock solid defence, it wasn’t just Everton frailties.
But when you look at the players today, you find yourself thinking what great games Howard, Baines, Coleman (much more like his zippy self), and in particular Jags and Distin had. Barry and McCarthy looked untroubled and offered an effective protective shield. All of which would make you think if our back 7 players were the top performers that we were on the rack all game, which we unquestionably were not. No, it was the solid foundation on which we could build going forward, and Pienaar, Osman and Mirallas picked the ball off them and with the overlapping full backs, they created a good deal of threat that troubled Chelsea in a way they’ve not been troubled by many visiting teams for many years. But. Big but. But the last ball, the last few yards, it just evaded us and so we were left with the annoying stats of more possession and just 8 shots, only 2 of which were on target.
We are in the first season of the Martinez era, we are playing without fear, we are playing some exciting stuff, and we just lack that killer punch. But it’s coming. We have outplayed Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal on their home patch, and come away with 1 point out of the 9 available, a poor return, but without question a style of football is emerging that is not the finished article yet, but something of which we can be truly proud. Of course it’s frustrating, of course it is, but how wonderful to feel frustrated because we know it can be better, rather than frustrated because we can’t string passes together and never threaten to beat the top sides.
We are on a journey, and I for one am loving it. There will be better days, days when your striker doesn’t pull up in the warm up, days when we have a choice of which top quality striker to play, days when the striker you sold doesn’t score twice, days when it all clicks when it matters and we not only threaten the top 4, but we are an established part of that elite.
Be patient. It coming.