At long last Everton have scored from a set piece, with Tony Bellew calmly rolling the ball in to the net from the penalty spot in the half time frolics. All we need now, is for the actual players to do the same during game time and things could be perfect. That might sound churlish after a 4-0 drubbing of one of the poorest Villa sides ever seen at Goodison Park, and in truth, I say it decidedly tongue in cheek.
The game was deemed Retro Day, and so it seemed, as for the first 15 minutes there were worrying reminders of yesteryear when we seemed unable to hurt a packed Villa defence, and with a free kick and then the ensuing corner, Barkley was incapable of clearing the first man, much to the dismay of the vocal Everton faithful, who, at that stage, would not have seen what was coming. What came was a whirlwind performance reminiscent more of the Everton that narrowly missed a CL spot a couple of seasons ago when sides like Newcastle and Arsenal were put to the sword. We may well face similar tactics from better-organised teams visiting us this season, but albeit against the 2 worst teams in the league so far this season, we’ve scored 10 goals and you can’t ask for more than that. We’re now the third highest goal scorers this season to date, just behind Man City, which we’d have expected, and a little further ahead are, ahem, Leicester City, which perhaps we wouldn’t.
What was the key to yesterday’s thumping victory? It’s hard to know who to praise most, with every single player doing their bit. Howard only really had two things to do all day, and he did those just fine; Coleman was ok, great assist and a surging run picked out brilliantly by Barry; Mori solid again but for an underhit back pass when complacency had set in; Galloway fine; Stones immaculate and a real joy to watch, especially his two passes to Deulofeu, one through a Villa player’s legs, and the one through the middle that helped set up Geri’s run for the 4th goal; Barry was superb, remarkably little to do, but what he did he did calmly, efficiently and effectively; Barkley excellent and bossed the midfield, but perhaps a bit generous to give him MotM; Kone another transformational performance (and that’s not just his dance routine with Lukaku) and now we’re seeing the true value of the Ivorian, and why Naismith must be wondering if his number is up; and then Lukaku who scored another couple of excellent goals to send him to second in the top scorers table to date, still 4 behind behind Vardy who has 13 goals which, of course, everyone would have predicted.
That leaves me with two players to talk about.
We Need To Talk About Geri.
Deulofeu was without any doubt in my mind the Man of the Match. I think if you asked Villa fans, they’d say the same, even if they probably couldn’t pronounce his name properly.
Geri absolutely slaughtered Richardson, a man not long ago suggested by some Blues as a potential transfer target, but for now more resembling a Hispanic pirate with his new hair style, than a Premier League left back. I suspect he’ll be having nightmares at Deulofeu’s dancing feet approaching him at pace, and then seeing his rear end disappear in to the Goodison lights as he beats him yet again for pace and trickery. And who didn’t love Geri outmuscling Westwood out on the right touchline, to show we have a strong lad that’s developed his physique and not just his game. Still can’t head the ball mind you.
What I love about Deulofeu right now is that he’s developed as a team player. The extraordinary Everton 4th goal was all his making, even if he doesn’t get the assist. Last time he was with us, he’d have gone on his own, and most likely end up in some blind alley and lost the ball. In this one move (watch the camera angle from behind the play to prove this), he looked up, and you could almost see and hear him working out the angles like a Maths Professor that said ball to Barkley who hooks to Rom, is a better probabilty ratio than pushing it through the middle to Lukaku, and certainly better than flicking it out wide to a screaming and unmarked Coleman. Which is why we scored. His cross-cum-shot for the first goal, his advance in to the area for the second that had Villa defenders panicking and back-tracking; and that every time he got the ball, the Everton anticipation went higher and higher and Villa fears grew stronger and stronger. There will be coaches and tacticians all over the country trying to work out what to do to snuff out his threat, which of course is excellent news for Barkley, Lukaku and Kone who will exploit the space left behind. And if he is the unhappy recipient of a few more ‘robust’ challenges to quieten him down a bit, we have Mirallas and Lennon waiting in the wings to continue the onslaught should the need arise. Quick note – that was also the best 30 mins we’ve seen from Mirallas for some time. And his pinged volley from Gibson’s exquisite cross so nearly became goal of the season.
Arise Sir Geri, you have come of age.
Which leaves me with one more player to eulogise after yesterday, and no it’s not Leon Osman who once again proved how easy it is to fall over in a mere gust of wind. It is, however, James McCarthy. The lad has come in for a bit of stick of late, and one phrase lingers in my mind from Twitter as someone said “I just don’t know what he does, what he brings to the team”. Well, yesterday he showed it. His understanding with Barry is first class, with the older head happy to sit and patrol the back four, and let Jimmy Mac bomb forward. You look at who closes down opposition defenders: it is our forwards, sometimes, but frequently it’s McCarthy that follows an opposition backward pass from midfield to back four, who invariably hear the Scottish (sorry, Irish) hooves closing in and either hastily punt the ball forward, or pass it to their keeper who does likewise. McCarthy’s job is to harry and pressure the opposition with the ball, to break up attacks with well timed tackles, and then give the ball to someone who can pass – don’t expect him to be playing Iniesta or Barkley-like passes across the field, that’s neither his job nor his expertise. Instead, he runs and runs, not the first ginger-haired midfielder to lay claim to having covered every blade of grass at The Old Lady, and his work rate is first class. Yesterday we saw the best of him, his licence to roam forward adding extra threat up top, but mainly simply moving his theatre of operations to another part of the pitch. He’s the sort of player oppositions hate, and so that makes him just like Geri, although they achieve it in slightly different ways.
On now to a tricky couple of Away games travelling the length and breadth of England, as first Bournemouth and then Middlesbrough come in to view. For different reasons, we want two wins, one to maintain momentum in the League, and one to continue the dream of winning a trophy, which performances like yesterday would certainly suggest are within our compass.