There are times when an awful display in a terrible game would probably be best to left to settle in the brain a little while before writing about it. This is not one of those.
Lukaku shown here celebrating what turned out to be an Upson OG, turned himself from Villain to Hero and back to Villain in the space of a week, as a succession of spectacular misses left Everton constantly exposed to the counter. Or rather, left Howard constantly exposed. For all Lukaku’s efforts to gift Leicester the game at one end, there was a GK straining every sinew to do the same at the other. Neither player can look back on that game with anything other than embarrassment, and the real test for two players at either end of their careers is how they’ll react to this debacle. Romelu’s profligacy is only tempered by the fact that he had so many chances, in a dire game, and at least he was in a position to repeat his hat trick of last Thursday. But what turned out to be a sign of things to come against Young Boys was not the big lad’s return to form, but the worrying ease with which he not only missed chances seemingly easier to score, but by the margin of the miss. Not a post. Not a crossbar. Not a worldy save from a keeper. Not even an inch wide or over. No, today, as per Thursday, when Rom misses a chance, he misses it good. Balloons over the bar, not balls rattling it; a scuff or a complete mishit wide of the post, not even close to making the keeper work or scraping the paint off the woodwork. If the lad still wants to go to a “Big Club”, rather like Mirallas, he’s got an awful lot to do to get his act together and make a so-called big club want him.
I was not pleased when Howard came straight back in to the side as Joel had been pretty impressive in his place, but I quickly ate humble pie as Tim produced string of fine saves in his comeback game. And yet today, Howard was as hopeless as I’ve ever seen him. Both goals came from his uncertain handling and his flap pre the Cambiasso goal made Joel look like Gordon Banks. His dark moody stare in to the camera to advertise the launch of Season Ticket sales next week needs to be swiftly edited or we’ll find more people asking for a refund for this season let alone buying one for next.
It’s funny what you miss when it’s gone, isn’t it? In this case, it’s ‘who’ we missed. At the risk of incurring the wrath of millions, I have to say that we missed Barry. Our dynamos Besic and McCarthy are very similar in style, but both lack the incisive pass that Barry can make, and that Gibson made once he replaced our cult figure Besic. I’ve always been a fan of Gibson, and at 27 he has the experience as well as the youth to lead our DM for a long time to come, in the assumption that his legs (that are as fragile as twiglets) hold out. Barry probably only has another season in the top flight, and Gibson represents the longer term option. Besic and McCarthy are two of my favourite players in the whole squad, but mainly because they break up the opposition play, not because they play defence splitting passes. Within 10 minutes, Gibson made more excellent, early passes forward to the front men than had been played all game to that point (by either side), and in his quiet metronomic way, that’s what Barry normally offers as well. It’s actually what I’ve seen Ledson do as well, so there’ll come a time when the lad is pushing for his first team place too. Barry’s passing has been the aspect of his game that went off the boil after his injury, but we’ve seen that coming back in his last two games.
In the end, we were undone today not just by a dire display of football, but by missing a hatful of chances. We had 18 shots and a pathetic 3 of those were on target. Yes Howard was at fault for two goals, but we should have been out of sight for it not to matter. We are in a awful mess, and it needs sorting. I can’t believe Kone hasn’t had more of a shout, even for a handful of minutes given his return from injury is far from complete, clearly, despite what it might do to the confidence of Lukaku who is clearly a ‘confidence player’, but there comes a point when you have to say, have a breather lad. Naisy looks knackered as well, and we need to give Atsu more game time. Mirallas may be a very naughty boy and not the Messiah he thinks he is, but he too represents more threat than Lennon for me, especially his final ball. In Lennon’s defence, he’s acquitted himself reasonably well, but I’d rather have Mirallas for an hour and Lennon for the last 30 to run at knackered defences.
I’ll be at the Old Lady on Thursday (probably on my own) as we aim to complete the formalities of a victory over Young Boys. Whilst we can’t afford a complete second string side, we need to give Joel a run in goal so he’s ready for Arsenal (it won’t happen); we need Kone to replace the worryingly inconsistent Lukaku (neither will that); we need Atsu and Mirallas to go out wide and stay there ready for a wobbly Arsenal defence (nope, nor that); and maybe even ask Garbutt to give Baines a breather (Full House of ‘not happenings!’).
If we don’t do something soon to turn this rather long corner, which is bearing a resemblance to a supertanker trying to turn (or a ‘Huth’ as it’s sometimes known), then I suspect Season Ticket sales will plummet to an all time low, especially if that spectre of relegation refuses to bugger off.