Obstructed View – Reflections on the Stoke (A) Game

It was probably my fault.

Moses

Sorry and all that, but I was unconditionally rude about Stoke City and the so-called ‘City’ of Stoke after our shameful defeat at Goodison in December, so karma has got the better of me, and I’m sorry if that sets the Club on an even sharper trajectory downhill and the prospect of relegation looms even larger. Or it could be that I changed my twitter profile picture from the out of focus and rather dark one of me and Roberto. Anyway, blame me – I’ll probably be the only one not blamed so far for yet another defeat and a dire lacklustre performance, so you might as well make it a complete set.

Or…..it might be something, or more likely someone, else….

What, as they say, the f*** is going on? Please excuse the asterisks, but like many Blues, and many other football watchers, I am somewhat bemused, and just a wee bit angry.

I’m angry at some of us to start with. The twitter reaction when Barry received a yellow card was almost as voluble as when we score. You boo boys/girls have every right to vent your spleen, and express your opinions, but in the context of how much our players need our support at the moment, how exactly does this help? If Barry’s admittedly poorer run in the side since returning from injury is in any way due to his confidence being a bit shot (yes, I said ‘shot’), how on earth does it help him if he were ever to read some of the bile that goes on to social media? Really? Is it worth it? By all means express your discontent, but do it in a constructive way that isn’t revelling in the misfortunes of others; it’s the equivalent of booing your player when substituted….Fellaini against Wigan deserved that reaction, but Barry’s performances hardly do.

I’m angry at misfortune, but bear with me on this one. If Moses meets that kind of cross (I sense some biblical humour in that one) again in the next 10 seasons, he’ll never head it that perfectly again. It was a fine goal, and not the fault of Howard (another source of ire last night), but really, in normal life, that would have just popped in to the keeper’s arms or drifted wide of the post, but no, it nestles in the back of the net. Let’s ignore how Moses took advantage of the Everton defence parting like the Red Sea in front of him because a) it isn’t that funny, b) it isn’t that accurate, and c) I’m guessing some readers won’t have a clue what I’m talking about. And then, oh yes and then, the game is all but won anyway, Arnautovic has a fantastic shot that hits the post and bounces where? Right in to the path of Diouf that’s where, and a simple tap in completes our fate. It reminded me of Norwich last season, but in game 1 of the season you take it, in game 28 you kind of don’t.

But let’s not blame misfortune on our current malaise. After all, if we’re winning 3-0, losing a couple of dodgy goals to ‘luck’ wouldn’t matter. Stoke deserved to win. And that’s where Mr Angry focuses next….

I have been a defender of the faith for some time. The faith, in this instance, is the faith in Martinez. But now, I’m sorry to say it, but something is clearly amiss, and changes have to be made. Now is probably not the time as I’m not sure who is around that could rescue matters in the last 10 games of the season (“No, Mr Warnock, sod off…..and you can pipe down as well Mr Redknapp”), but changes have to be made to what we are doing and how we are trying to do it.

What’s happening behind the scenes? Rumours are rife of fall outs between Manager and Distin, with Ferguson, and with Eto’o, and these don’t just come from nowhere – no smoke without fire as they say. Now, admittedly, some would say Eto’o could fall out with everyone even if he was in a room on his own, but players or former players who have served this Club with distinction don’t just fall out for no reason. I’m guessing (of course), but it wouldn’t surprise me if the ructions were due to suggestions that “things aren’t working this way Gaffer”, and that we can suggest an alternative. Distin has never been that comfortable playing out from the back; Dunc was reasonably happy with more balls played in to his enormous head in the box, so maybe, just maybe they’ve suggested a Plan B. Has Roberto listened? Not obviously. A slight variation in playing style, but the basics of possession and then giving it away in the final third are still there for all to see. Not enough width, not enough pace on the passing interplay, balls played too slow, and balls bouncing off the striker as if it was a ticking time bomb. Anyone notice how Rom prefers a ball down the channels? How many times has he set up a goal for himself or others (for Everton I mean) when it starts with his back to goal and it’s played in to his feet (or mini trampolines as they appear to be). The lad is quality, but play to his strengths. But don’t just focus on poor Lukaku, there’s something else amiss.

If every single player last night was put up for sale, how many do you think would be left like the last Chicken at Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available)? And how much would they sell for, assuming they had decent contracts to be bought out? Couple of million for Timbo or Barry perhaps, but who wouldn’t spend top dollar on the likes of Seamus, Jags, Baines, Besic, Naismith, and of course diamonds like Stones, McCarthy, Barkley, and Lukaku. If we had to sell the lot, we’d find buyers for every one of them. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting a fire sale, so put down your calculator you lads in the Everton Boardroom, I’m making the point that the quality is there. Roberto doesn’t have his previous challenge of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (or put it another way, wondering what the f*** Caldwell is going to cock up next – apologies, asterisks again), he has got – on paper – a squad that should be Top 6. It finished 5th last year remember, and then we added a bit.

So it can’t be the quality of the apparently “tired” and “drained” players, it has to be what they are being asked to do – it just isn’t working. The season has never had any momentum, from a sloppy and laughable pre season, to throwing away a lead against Arsenal, to scoring 3 at home to Chelsea and still only scoring half what they did, to an inability to beat packed defences whenever teams like Leicester, WBA and Hull have come to play (as in ‘turned up’, not as in ‘actually play’). It’s our own fault, it’s our inability to unlock defences like that because we haven’t worked out how. And now, after 28 games, changing to a radically different style would take a while to bed in, so we’d probably lose yet more games, and we just haven’t got that time.

I’m old enough to remember the bad old days, of which there were too many, but back then, the man for man talent was nowhere near what it is today, and so we had to fight and scrap for every point. Not much sign of that yet this season. Where is the Everton that hunted the ball down in packs last season, where is the marauding right and left back so rarely seen this year, where are the twinkling toes of Barkley and Mirallas, where are the goals from midfield and defence to bolster whatever the strikers can score? I’m at a loss to explain it, and it’s at a loss that Roberto seems to be as well. And the results have been too many losses to boot. We’ve won 6 games all season – read that again, 6 games won out of 28 in a season that followed finishing 5th. I mean, come on.

It simply isn’t good enough to say the players will “regroup this weekend”, it simply isn’t enough for the relentless and (at the moment) hopelessly misplaced positivity. It’s time to roll up the sleeves, release the Dogs of War (step forward Mo Besic and James McCarthy, and let’s see if Joe Parkinson has still got his boots), and scrap like we’ve never expected this team to need to scrap. If we can limp through to May and still be a Premier League side I’ll be delighted (and, if I’m honest, and being just a tad pessimistic, I’ll actually be surprised given how things are going), and we can start the rebuilding process from there. If some players want to leave for a “bigger club” then let them, take the money and buy players that want to play for Everton, and blood the youngsters like Garbutt, Browning, Grant, Galloway, Henen, Ledson, Kenny, Long, McAleney (not all at once please!), and then take the most difficult decision (no, not whether to offer Alcaraz a new contract) – sack or retain Martinez. It’s the toughest decision  Bill will have had to make since leaving Corrie. He got that decision right, let’s hope he gets this one right too.

Ross

4 thoughts on “Obstructed View – Reflections on the Stoke (A) Game

  1. I don’t understand why you think sacking Martinez is the most difficult decision. You already made the case “6 wins in 28”. That equates to a 21% success rate. If any of us was performing at 20% in our jobs we would be dismissed..

  2. You seem like a genuine fan Ross, but you let yourself down with your premise and then your sudden moment of clarity.

    We have not been playing to Lukakus strenghths all season and yet you only panic with 10 games to go. Too late.

    The Southampton game away was the end for me. Bobby proved his ego was bigger than the club.

    There may be behind the scenes issues but not enough I say. If ferguson has a problem and is truly worried, he needs to come out and say so. Is tgat not what we expect of a legend.

    As for dogs of war, no team could do that any more. The players don’t exist. You can’t tackle, it’s an attackers game. Name any team that fits ur profile.

    Finally this idea the kids you mention r ready is way wide of the mark. I watched them play against Spurs under 21’s and they went 4 down in 30 minutes. They r miles away from the first team yet.

    Worry more about next season, we’ll stay up this time.

    How can Martinez rebuild a side he has totally lost?

  3. I think the cause of the problem is even more simple .I think no I am sure that all this positivity is fine when we play like last season but who the **** is going to believe it this season ,I mean some players aren’t so bright but the average player knows a load of crap
    I am really worried by this pig-headedness for Roberto’s sake it really is a mental thing if he cannot let go and face reality
    We are not playing well ,we do not deserve more and the way he sees things we will be lucky if there are three worse sides than us
    We are not too good to go down ,the league never lies ,that is the truth
    No picking on individuals here becasue on Wednesday they were all bad with the exeption of Luke Garbutt
    Who could be surprised if there are backroom incidents
    Now the answer ,I do not know where we go with the mess we have at the club
    Onwards and Upwards blues

  4. The most perplexing part of the puzzle is why we’ve played so well in the Europa league. Why not just field the squad and style we played against Young Boys every match? Couldn’t be any worse…

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