Well that was fun. That was about as far removed from the torture of Tuesday night’s game against Norwich as it’s possible to get, not just from the game as a whole’s perspective, but also with a hatful of fine individual performances, both in stark contrast to the Capital One Cup. Who stood out head and shoulders above all else? It can only be one man…
I’ll come back to Monsieur Kone in a moment, but first I think we should give special thanks to Sunderland, first to their fans for honouring and enthusiastically joining in with the minute’s applause on 4 minutes for Howard Kendall, and second for their team being so accommodating and melting away in the face of a constant string of chances, that probably didn’t flatter the hosts, but with 6 goals, they clearly bent over backwards to make it a fine old day for the boys in Blue. I’ve not witnessed many 8 goal thrillers, especially not one when we win 6-2, so I guess we’re now set for a few dull and frustrating 0-0 draws in our next few home games.
But whilst the glee of a heavy win will take a while to subside, and rightly so, it mustn’t be allowed to gloss over some familiar frailties that simply must be addressed. The first goal conceded was naive in the extreme, given the ball should never have been in the vicinity of John Stones in the first place, let alone when he was already sitting down enjoying his half time cup of tea. But even so, Row Z beckoned had Stones been as alert in the 45th+3 minute as he had been for most if not all of the previous 47. But as someone said, you can’t coach ‘experience’, and what better environment to learn for the future when you’re involved in inflicting a 6-2 mauling. We all know Stones’ qualities, and we all know he is vulnerable to the occasional cock-up, and his pace and long limbs usually get him out of trouble, but not today.
The momentum duly lost, it was no surprise for seasoned Everton watchers to see us lose a second soft goal whilst many of the Main Stand guests were still zipping up their flies somewhere in the posh loos. The phrase “he is in command of his 6 yard box” is not a phrase that we are using for Tim Howard at the moment, and questions have to be asked as to how exactly the cross came in, but more importantly could more have been done to claim the ball as it wafted over to the bearded Fletcher who planted the ball in the Everton net. Credit to Sunderland for their comeback, and for the quality of their goals, but to have scored effectively with two Everton assists does take a bit of coming to terms with, even if it did inject a certain oomph in to the Everton response.
Now is probably not the time to repeat it, but I think Howard’s confidence is shot to bits, and Robles more than deserves his chance. There was an extraordinary incident in the first half when during one of the many sepulchral-like quiet periods in the game, Howard retrieved the ball for a goal kick, only to turn sharply and stare at someone in the bottom tier of the Lower Gladys after he or she had quite clearly said something, and one assumes not terribly complementary. Remember Blues, we support our team, that’s why we’re called supporters – we can lobby for changes, but once the 11 cross the white line, I for one, will support my team to the decaying rafters of the Old Lady. It doesn’t sit well with me that any player is singled out for abuse, and ironic cheers for Howard catching a ball is included in that. It isn’t his fault he’s being selected despite his poor form, so once he’s between the sticks, let’s get behind him.
It wasn’t that long ago that Kone was getting similar abuse, and yet now we have a new hero on our hands. After a poor season last year, he’s come back refreshed and fit, and he’s really added something to the team, and today he got the rewards his effort and persistence more than deserved. There was a time when he couldn’t hit the proverbial cow’s derriere with an even more proverbial banjo, but today he hit a perfect left foot, right foot, header hat trick, and all three are not just goals, but good goals. His first, because of the 1-2 with Rom, but more because of the way he made himself space, and effectively shielded the ball from Hagrid between the Sunderland sticks, was a top striker’s goal, and should be nominated for one of our goals of the season. Probably won’t be, but should be. The glee on his face when he later completed his hat trick was a joy to watch.
And clearly I wasn’t alone in appreciating both it, and the build up play…
Today wasn’t only about Arouna.
In Ramiro Funes Mori, we’ve found ourselves a real top drawer defender. Like Stones alongside him, he still has much to learn, especially positionally at corners, but his tackling and movement across the turf is a joy to behold. He isn’t alone in needing to sort out his best position when crosses are raining in, and hands up who’s looking forward to the barrage that the Happy Hammers will launch in to our box in the direction of Carroll next week. But let’s face it, Mori isn’t the only player who needs to improve in this regard. We will be in for a torrid 90 minutes, so we’d better be prepared to outscore them.
Which brings me nicely to Deulofeu.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen this. I remember seeing a lot of clips on YouTube of our fleet-footed Spaniard outstripping defences to bear down 1 on 1 on the opposition goal, mainly in a Spanish reserve league probably, but nevertheless, today was the first such chance I’ve seen Geri convert for Everton. But it wasn’t just his goal, squeezed between the legs of Pantillimon, but his all round threat and crosses. He can frustrate, clearly, but at least he’s in positions where frustrations can happen; and chances are he’ll create more than he’ll waste, and if he has an off day, we’ve got Lennon and Mirallas waiting in the, ahem, wings. It’s a very exciting position to be in, and who knows, we may even play the odd game with more than one on the pitch at once, maybe at the expense of a DM, if we really feel the need to ‘go’ at a team. I know this is outside of RM’s compass at the moment, but choices, choices. A luxury. For now, we can revel in the joy of Gerard Deulofeu.
He’s magic you know.