Obstructed View – Reflections on the Middlesbrough (H) Game

I must admit things didn’t start well yesterday. There I was, getting ready for the game, splashing eau de toilette on my face, when the seat fell down and hit me on the back of the head. Then we get to our normal parking place at Walton Hall Park Leisure Centre to find that the robbing, thieving gets have increased the charge from £5 to £7, just a 40% increase then, and they still can’t sort out decent toilets. And then an innocuous cross apparently is wafted in to his own net by Stekelenburg. Not, as it turns out, but more on that in a moment.

barry

Gareth still doesn’t know how to celebrate a goal. Very old school this….

This man was, sentimentally, nailed on to be Man of the Match. Why not? Flawless 90 minutes, a goal, and a 600th Premier League appearance. Certainty. But then as he had done all game, Idrissa Gana Gueye sweeps in and nicks it off him. Dear oh lord, what a player. Gueye that is (Barry too as it happens, but stay focused Ross). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, he is one of the best players in Everton Blue that I have ever seen. You won’t measure Gueye’s importance to the team in Stats, impressive though they certainly are, and you’ll not measure it in the fact that we’ve only conceded 3 goals all season, at least in major part due to his disruptive influence on the pitch preventing any attacks developing anywhere near our goal. You’ll measure it more, I suspect, when he’s not playing. We’ll worry about that when we have to (and cheer on whoever Senegal are playing in the ACoN), but in the meantime, we can luxuriate in the performance of a diminutive dynamo that at 5ft 8in in old money (1.74m for you kids down with the metric ting) was an absolute beast and without doubt Man of the Match in reality. And in his post match interview, his self effacing tributes to his team mates and to his family (has he got any brothers who need a game…?) show that he does indeed strike you as a ‘Man’ and not just an ego, many the like of which are down the East Lancs road, and across the park. Methinks RK doesn’t do egomaniacs either.

Thankfully, once we got in to gear, my day improved, significantly. But that first goal wasn’t an auspicious start. It’s funny how things change. I must admit, from the UG I didn’t see an awful lot wrong with the goal, Negredo apparently heading in a less-than-convincing attempt at a catch by the Dutchman; and if that had been last season, with particularly Howard and possibly Joel, I have a feeling that the crowd’s anger would have been directed at our own ‘keeper rather than at the woefully placed Lee Mason. Replays, to the benefit of all except those who can only see it in real time, show that Negredo only succeeded in heading Stekelenburg’s arm, not the ball, and the goal probably shouldn’t have been given; but then neither should our equaliser on similar grounds, so I wonder if Mason got anything in his earpiece from the 4th official that led to an evening-up? Who knows. In the end, both goals stood, and we are left with two observations:

  1. Stekelenburg needs to be stronger in the air like that, no pressure, easily catchable ball, but you’re not always going to get Ref protection so either punch it clear, tip it over, or jump and catch with every limb you own pointing in the direction of an on-rushing Spanish forward (other nationality forwards are available). He might want to think what pressure Benteke would put him under in a fortnight. Be safe, not sorry.
  2. The Barry goal was probably a high Williams boot, but my main question is when the hell did Victor Valdes grow hair? I must admit I haven’t been a close follower of his follicular development, but my memory of him is of a shaven or even balding class shot stopper at the Camp Nou and for his national team, not turning out like a modern day Tom Selleck. Get it shaved Vic, get it shaved and your form will improve. I can’t cope with these new fangled hair styles.

Anyway, back on the football, what a pleasure to see Seamus score. And a fine goal it was too.

seamus-coleman-everton-goodison-park_3788705

I love it when the unexpected happens (e.g. Barry has 2 goals already this season, and that matches his yellow card count, which is totally unexpected; his goals were even winning 2-1 at one point), but actually we’ve sort of come to expect goals from the Irish Wizard. Only one goal last season after five the season before, seemed like a bit of a failure, and instead of banging in a few, oppo players were simply using the space he’d vacated to set up their own chances. Now, with Gueye and Barry backing up the full backs, and Bolasie and Mirallas doing likewise, perhaps we can expect Seamus to get a bit further up the pitch without risking a nosebleed, and assists and a few more goals would be a bonus. Baines has lost his obvious 1-2er in Pienaar, and is yet to strike up anything like that understanding with anyone else, so perhaps he’ll feel able to go past people more to put in his telling crosses than he did last year. Both full backs on full burn, with back ups for their primary defensive duties, just adds more dimensions to our side going forward. Last note on this – what a left-footed finish Seamus!

We need to mention the enigma that is Ross Barkley. After a reasonably public rollicking, in so much that being hauled off at half time and your Manager openly declaring to you and the media what you’re doing wrong is “reasonably”, it would have been of little surprise to have seen him on the bench yesterday, and Geri deserving of a start to the match. But that’s why I spend my time hammering away at a keyboard (no, not like that….), and Ronald Koeman earns ‘fractionally’ more than me in his £6m a year contract as Everton Manager. Right from the start you could see what was different, he gets the ball, he looks up, he finds a player with a simple ball; I’d be surprised if he didn’t have an impressive pass completion rate in that first 20 minutes, and confidence will have risen at the same time as the crowd’s applause in his ears. But that first 20 minutes was arguably when we were settling, some might even say insipid, in our approach play. This is the conundrum. Do we want a Ross that plays safe balls square and 5 yards (we had Rodwell who could do that), or do we want a Ross that charges at defenders and possibly creates openings? The answer of course is the latter, and the issue is that having created the chance, the half an opening, his decision-making at that point seems to desert him, and there were still signs of that yesterday. An improved performance, a much improved performance in fact, but still a work-in-progress, but great management to say – “you got it wrong Ross, here’s what you need to do better, now here’s a chance to immediately put things right”. I expect him to be skipper on Tuesday again too.

That’s it from me, a day of joy (I even enjoyed the last 20 mins as we saw the game out whilst others were baying for more goals – go and watch Belgium for that now), and now back to earth with Norwich at home in the League Cup, and then Bournemouth away, who will be tough – they surely won’t be as timid as they were against City.

And time for the bump on the back of my head to heal. Damn toilet seat.

Ross Crombie

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