Well, that was a bit dull. Or it was until Naismith entered the fray, after which we can call it “feisty”.
Not the best game you’ll see all season, which those viewers who wait until MotD before they find out results, could probably have guessed from the last billing on said programme, and how they managed to fill 2 minutes of highlights is still a mystery. Never mind, we came away with a point, 1 more than we looked like we’d get when Kane (that’s Kane with an A, not Kone with an O) sprung the offside trap but failed to beat Howard one-on-one. In retrospect, suggesting that any Everton player could spring an offside trap like that is faintly ridiculous, so my clarification of Kane’s spelling was superfluous. However, it was almost 2 points less than we could have got had Kone (with an O) made a slightly firmer contact with Oviedo’s excellent cross with 20 minutes left on the clock. Ifs and buts and maybes, as we all know, are usually pointless, as in a “if my Aunt had balls she’d be my Uncle” kind of way. Anyway, she hasn’t (my Aunt) for those wondering. At least I assume not, haven’t actually checked.
(I don’t think this article is entirely focused on a football match, sorry….)
When you think back over a pretty bland 90 minutes, I’m left to reflect that we were probably better without the ball than we were with it. And that says something.
What it says to me is that our shape was actually pretty good, defensively at least, with a lot more pressing than we attempted against City a week earlier, but much more like we were against Southampton. McCarthy typified this, much as he often does, and his best moment for me was closing down Bentaleb (I think) down by the corner flag…..their corner flag, not ours. I love it when Ginger Jim goes walkabout. He has an astonishing engine, no little pace, and he hunts the ball down relentlessly. I guess purists might argue he was consequently out of position, but Barkley filled his space on that occasion, and it’s usually done by him or one of the normally more advanced midfielders. It also reflects a more adventurous role given to him by Martinez, first seen towards the last third of last season, when the lad even scored a couple! It ensures the advanced midfield don’t get completely outnumbered and can provide more support for Rom or whoever is up top. I like midfielders breaking through with runs from deep, and we’ll need that for when we play the deep lying defences this season. And McCarthy, very much a 100% man, is ideal for the role; he can certainly add a few goals to his CV to increase his worth to the team (and add a few £££s to his transfer value in the S*N/Mirror/Star/Mail/Express/Sky when they choose to ‘kindly’ try and sell him for us).
If McCarthy is our 100% man, Naismith proved again that he’s our 90% man, but in a different way. He changed the atmosphere of the game against Spurs, ruffling more than the odd feather, contributing to Bentaleb’s foul count (and a very lucky boy the Spurs man was to stay on the pitch after his blatant shoulder barge obstruction) and generally getting our snide count higher, which no one seems bothered to do unless Mirallas gets a full 90 minutes on the pitch. But why only 90% for Naisy? Well, he does a lot of things brilliantly, and then causes a minor heart murmur as his final ball goes astray, or as at Barnsley, he out-dribbles himself when through on goal. I love Naisy for his effort, and I love Naisy when he finishes like he has done for us albeit on far too few occasions than his effort would merit, but then he doesn’t quite get the game time nowadays, and I’m not sure he will going forward from here. He’s a 100% man for his effort, and I’d love him to win us all over with a hat load of goals, but realistically he won’t get the game time to enable it.
It’s been a funny, almost surreal week. I was at Barnsley as a handful, no more than 4 or 5 so-called fans shouted abuse at Stones as the outlet for their frustration at an abysmal first half from all 11 on the pitch, and the 1 man on the touchline who shouldn’t have allowed it to happen. Then a day or two later, for delayed reasons known only to a higher authority (that’s higher than Bill), the communication void is filled with a re-iteration of the “he’s not for sale” message, and the reassurance that Stones is one of the young players RM wants to build not just a team, but a dynasty around. You can see this ‘youth’ policy quite clearly when you really look for it. Our numerous signings this summer – Henen, Geri, Cleverley, Leandro Rodriguez, Holgate, and hopefully Mori too – are all the right ages to be bringing in to our football club, as the creaking limbs of the likes of Ossie, Pienaar and Barry represent the experience that needs to help the younger players, not build a team around. Add to the transfers, with sending Garbutt out on loan as the heir apparent to Baines next or the season after; add blooding of necessity to Galloway and Browning, even to Pennington, and big things being talked about of Walsh and Dowell, and you can see where this is headed, and I’m all for it.
The challenge is this: West Ham beat Liverpool at Anfield; Palace beat Chelsea; Swansea win 3 in a row against United; Leicester are still top 4; and we are beginning to look at a season where everyone can beat everyone, and frequently will (except City who only look capable of winning every game, either by the skill they’ve got, or by buying every other talented player on the planet). In that maelstrom of results, we have both opportunity and risk. No more the inferiority complex when playing Chelsea at home (I can’t wait), United anywhere, the RS, scruffy Arsenal, and I think we’ll consistently get results against them this year. The risk is that we’ll lose games that might previously have looked easier than they do today. Lots of stronger squads, lots of clubs (except ours) mortgaging their future on the 16/17 TV money, and a greater level of astute tactical managers in the League, means we could see 4th place going to a Club with 60 points; but equally see someone relegated with 40. We have to make sure at Everton that we blend the future of our Club in the right way, with the right tactics to suit our strengths whilst also exploiting the opposition’s weaknesses, and retain our top flight position, whilst still striving for the highest possible league finish. If that sounds a bit Moyes-esque, a bit “let’s aim for safety first”, it absolutely isn’t. It’s realism to reflect where we are. We will play games expansively and win; we will play games narrowly and lose; we will be surprised at results both in our favour and against us, because this has the makings of one of the closest Premiership leagues there has ever been, since Jack Walker fairy-taled Blackburn to the title with his millions (note, M, not B as in Billions), and we have to ensure that we win more than we lose, because there is just the hope that we are building something here that could see glory in 3-5, maybe even more, years. We haven’t got much chance of a multi-billionaire taking us over and ploughing his or her untold wealth in to buying the title, and the reality therefore has to be that we build from what we have and grow organically – it’s the evolution, not the revolution that many want.
I honestly feel we have little choice. I would love to win the Prem this or next year, maybe even a few seasons supporting an Oil or Gas magnate’s (or both please thank you) ridiculous dream, but if I’m able briefly to detach head from heart, the former knows that the future lies from building from what we have rather than waiting more in hope than expectation for an inexplicable lack of financial judgement from someone in buying our (or any) football club. That lack of judgement is unlikely from someone who by definition has probably shown rather good judgement in making their wealth in the first place.
So, for now, it’s going to be Kone with an O, not multi millions on a player like a Kane with an A, with occasional astute forays in to the market for the right Everton player that fits Roberto’s future blueprint. I am more than happy to be made to look a fool in the next 48 hours by us spending £100m on 4 over 30s ex World Cup winning players….but I don’t think it’ll happen.
As @terry_smith said to me, perhaps it’s got to be “Vive La Evolution” (yeh ok, L’Evolution….)