What a difference a week makes. The clouds that have been gathering over the old lady in recent weeks have been penetrated with small beams of gleaming sunshine after an incredibly and unexpectedly impressive performance at St Mary’s last weekend. Evertons’ slick and disciplined counter attacking football dismantled Ronald Koeman’s Southampton and gave a timely reminder of just what this team is capable of when the game plan is right and the talented individuals who adorn the blue jersey play as a cohesive unit.
Roberto Martinez got his tactics spot on last Saturday and his team looked both well balanced and dangerous in attack, something that has been lacking in Evertons’ set up for some time. The bold decision to include Arouna Kone in the starting eleven paid massive dividends and gave Romelu Lukaku the freedom to terrorise the Southampton back line every time he ran at them. In truth this was one of Evertons’ most impressive performances under the Catalans’ guidance to date and gives fresh hope that this season could indeed be a memorable one for all the right reasons after all.
The game at St Mary’s was played out to a backdrop of unrest and disharmony amongst some Evertonians after a week of supporter group protests against the Everton board accompanied with constant radio phone ins and national media articles highlighting the current divide in opinion amongst Evertonians about the direction our great club is heading in. The Airplane that flew over St Mary’s shortly before kick off with the message ‘Time to go’ aimed at Bill Kenwright and his boardroom associates together with the deafening silence emanating from the corridors of power at Goodison Park did little to brighten the gloomy mood that has transcended over all things Everton since a disastrous campaign came to its conclusion Last May. The lack of major signings and constant speculation surrounding the future of John Stones has only intensified the flames of anger amongst some, and given the doubters even more ammunition to fire at the current regime. A shot in the arm was required then from Roberto Martinez and his players and they responded with as near a perfect performance as you will witness away from home this season and set a template of exactly how Everton should set up on opposition territory going forward. If Roberto Martinez can now devise a plan that will penetrate compact defensive opposing teams at Goodison Park, the recipe for a fruitful season will have been concocted. In order to do so though more new faces will have to arrive at Finch Farm between now and the end of this month…..Over to you Bill.
Next up at Goodison Park we welcome current Premier League favourites Manchester City, a game that will provide our biggest test of the fledgling season so far. City are a club that disgruntled Evertonians look upon with great envy given the circumstances that have transformed the club from lower league strugglers to a Worldwide brand and a major domestic and European force in the space of less than ten years. Before 2009 Manchester City’s history pailed in comparison to that of Everton’s. Their two league championship triumphs seemed feeble compared to Everton’s nine, and it seemed highly unlikely that they would ever get anywhere near Everon’s total. But then Sheik Mansour entered the fray and Manchester’s perennial bridesmaids would no longer have to play second fiddle to the might of their Salford neighbours. A brand new home was presented to the club on a plate following on from the Commonwealth Games in 2002 opening the door to interest from the Abu Dhabi billionaire and what followed is what dreams are made of.
Sheik Mansour has an estimated personal wealth of seventeen billion pound and shares a family fortune of at least a trillion. Suddenly players of the ilk of Paul Dickov and Nicky Weaver were no more. Now World class stars like Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure were adorning the sky blue shirts and the conveyor belt of world class stars continues to move at pace. City splashed out a staggering 49 million pounds on Raheem Sterling this summer, some investment considering they were only buying potential. Again this week they have spent big purchasing the signature of Valencia defender Nicolas Otamendi for a fee in the region of 31 million pounds. In stark contrast to the occupants of Goodison Park, money is no object at the Ethihad. And it is not only on the pitch where money is ploughed in. Last weekend a new third tier to the stadium was unveiled as part of ambitious plans to expand the ground and the area around it. Little wonder then that envious eyes of a royal blue persuasion are cast in their direction. Unfortunately We can only look on and admire considering our current financial predicament but the hope remains this great club will one day be once again standing shoulder to shoulder with the giants of the English game, City included
It seems unlikely Roberto Martinez will make any significant changes to the team that won so comfortably at St Mary’s last time out. You would expect Manchester City to have the bulk of possession in this one but Everton demonstrated last week how affective counter attacking football can be when the right personal are called upon. Pace will be an important asset for Everton so expect Deulofeu to be introduced from the bench in the latter stages if the game is still up for grabs. Steven Naismith could be pushing for a start given how impressive his scoring record has been against the big boys for Everton, but that would be harsh on Arouna Kone after an excellent performance last week.
Predicted eleven. 1. Howard 2. Coleman 3. Galloway 4. Jagielka 5. Stones 6. Barry 7. Mccarthy 8. Barkley 9. Lukaku 10. Kone 11. Cleverley.
Manchester City are one of only four clubs to have assembled maximum points so far this season. After brushing aside West Brom on the opening weekend they embarrassed the current champions Chelsea at the Etihad last Sunday putting three goals past the Londoners repeating the scoreline from the Hawthorns. At time City’s attacking play was awesome and you would hope Roberto Martinez was taking notes on how not to set up against Manuel Pellegrini’s men. Everton have their work cut out this weekend but confidence should be high going in to this one after last weeks superb performance. Four points from the opening game is a good return and anything from this game will be looked upon as points gained. If Everton take the momentum gained from last weeks victory in to this one they have every chance of causing an upset and and causing the old lady to rock to its foundations once more. Expect a cracker.
Last three results. Everton 1 Manchester City 1; Manchester City 1 Everton 0; Everton 2 Manchester City 3.
Score prediction Everton 2 Manchester City 2.