It’s a funny old feeling when you win a game with no drama. I’m not really used to it.
Right from the moment that our favourite (and only) Argentine powered home an un-challenged bullet header after 5 minutes, Everton coasted to victory, punctuated only by the occasional raising of a sweat, as a sweeping counter-attack from Jags to Barkley to Mirallas to Lennon led to the second, and then again as Funes Mori found himself looking around for a left back to challenge him before cross-shotting for Lukaku to knock in a third with his not insubstantial thigh. Ok, perhaps after Villa got one back from our usual Achilles’ heel, the lob in to the box for the big lad to head in, we got a little anxious as we do have a bit or ‘previous’ not defending commanding leads this season. At least West Ham haven’t got any big lads up front…..oh, hang on.
But no, hardly a stiff workout, but perhaps an ideal way to settle back in to the arse-end of the season after a mini Spa break in the sunshine of Dubai. Not sure we’d have coped with anything high intensity, not that Villa ever threatened to make it so. Since Derby County’s pathetic season in 2007/08, when even a ‘youthful’ Yakubu managed to bag a goal, I have not witnessed such a wretched home performance from a fellow Premier League side, and this comes after the game at Goodison when Villa were arguably even worse than this. Balls given away, absent defenders, huge spaces for Everton to run or jump in to, lacklustre tackling, and all compounded by poor managerial selection. Why on earth Gestede wasn’t on from the start we’ll thankfully never know, they clearly hadn’t had us watched, or didn’t care. Why aren’t the U21s getting valuable experience at this level, certainly at the expense of woeful performers like Cissokho, Bacuna, Agbonlahor and…..well, any of the Villa line up frankly.
Why should I care? Isn’t this an Everton blog? Well I do, and yes it is, but there are two reasons why I care. When I first came to live in Nottingham, I couldn’t bear to go to the City Ground, but I was up for a trek down the A38 to see exciting European games, like Villa against Barcelona in the European Super Cup with a 3-0 win (3-1 on aggregate) that saw just the 7 bookings and 2 sendings off for the Spaniards; and yes, it was quite fun watching Withe, Shaw, Morley and co., whilst never in any danger of losing my Blue-blooded affiliations.
The second reason is also a lesson for Everton. A stadium developed in it’s heartland, with the clearest of Unobstructed Views wherever you sit, but with an atmosphere to die for. There’s a banner in the Holte End self-proclaiming their position as the 12th Man, and we got a taste of what that could be like when they began to sing with one voice after going 3-0 down. OK, their ‘song’ was calling for the collective heads of the abject and absent Board, but this was swiftly followed by “Villa ’til I die”, which both raised the roof and got appreciative applause from our own merry band of supporters, not un-used to the frustrations of under-performance with everyone else to blame. Villa got the American investment, revamped their Academy and training complex at Bodymoor Heath, enhanced the stadium, but under-invested in the squad, and let key talents go, allegedly to help pay back Lerner (just think how they would be doing if they still had the likes of Benteke, Delph, Cahill, and Vlaar still at the Club). The assets were modernised whilst the team went from well, not quite a Rolls Royce, but certainly a 5 year old 3 series BMW, and now looks more like an East German Trabant, with barely a clue how to start it, let alone drive it.
We can only hope our new investor spends more wisely, and doesn’t have to sell any or all of the Crown Jewels, unless it’s for silly money and we can strengthen the squad with the dosh.
Anyway, back to the game, enough of the lessons from the Villa past to inform the Everton future. It was hard to say who played well, given the lack of much of a stern test. But Funes Mori was probably the stand out player, and proved he can score and defend with that shiny head of hair and shine. He’s a mean tackler, just getting in ahead go Agbonlahor with a crucially timed tackle, his threat in the opposition box seems to grow with every game, and his partnership with Jags at the back has almost eclipsed the best of Stones and Jags (do you remember when we had Alcaraz and Distin at the back – sleep sound, don’t have nightmares). It will be interesting to see how he develops assuming Baines returns, because I think Mori has helped get the best out of Oviedo, and they’ve kind of looked after each other. Don’t under-estimate the importance of the left CB having as good a bond with his LB as he has with his right CB. Funes Mori is already beginning to look like one of the buys of the season, we’ve almost forgiven him for his penalty against Leicester, and his cult status is assured.
It is a pity that Oviedo looks like he’s crocked again, especially after he’d had a spell in the side, had signed a contract extension, and was beginning to shed the look of someone who perhaps didn’t think he deserved to be first choice. You are worth it Bryan, we love you, we’ll always love you, you know that, so get better soon, and get yourself back playing again.
Lennon wonderful once more, and not just for his defensive cover which is still significant, but for his use of pace to dispossess and or unsettle defenders further up the pitch, his fine attacks down the right (OK, it was only Cissokho, well, it was when he was there), and his general link up play. And his goals! His goals per game at Everton far exceeds anything he achieved at Spurs, and whilst we assumed he’d be banging in crosses for Rom, it’s a bonus that he’s doing that and chipping in with a few himself. His presence in the team also removes our obsession with getting every ball out to Deulofeu – which means we’re less predictable and harder to defend against. The Spanish wizard will be back, but in the meantime we’ve got one from Yorkshire instead, even if he doesn’t smile much for a wizard.
So on we go, 11th as we go in to the weekend, with everyone closing on a largely stuttering and spluttering top 4; we won’t get there I don’t suppose, but there’s no reason why we can’t string results together and if we do out bit, there’s every chance doors will open. And why not have a European campaign to attract players now we’re so effing rich?