Initially, looking and finding positives in this defeat was hard work. Unless you’re a Burnley fan, in which case you’ve got a top rate goalkeeper in Heaton, an impressive CB in Keane, a tenacious and belligerent midfield, and an otherwise toothless attack that managed to be the first team to score twice in the PL against an improving Everton side. If you’re a Burnley fan reading this, don’t bother looking for mentions in the next 1000 odd words, you can look away now if you’d prefer. I’m done with my charitable notes for the time being….
Bluenoses will probably be either spitting feathers, frothing at the mouth, or nodding sagely (with or without a ruminatory chin rub) at the concept of what I’ve described as “an improving Everton side”. In fairness, there may even be some who have just sworn at this website. On the face of it, rather than being “improved” this was the same old, same old Everton, dominating a poorer team for most of 90 minutes, and not only failing to win, but failing even to gaining a point, and doing so in the last death throes of what was a fairly uninspiring match. The stats will be used by some to say we should have won. About 2/3 of the possession, not all of it in our own half as of yesteryear, 20 shots, 8 of them on target, and 8 corners. But we lost. No escaping that fact, obviously, and for many parts of the game we were timid, almost insipid, and the 8 shots were hardly raining in on Heaton’s manor were they? Relatively comfortable saves, no worldies, and that’s only if the ‘keeper had to do anything – two of our ‘nearly’ moments were Lukaku just failing to touch in Mirallas’ fine if over hit cross, and Keane nicking the ball off Lukaku’s foot when it seemed more likely he’d tap home.
Nevertheless, the quality of Bolasie’s goal, equally nicked off Lukaku’s foot/feet, although ‘slightly’ further out, will cheer those Blues wondering if the £25-or-was-it-£30m price tag was just a wee bit too high for a player who’s been at best enigmatic so far this season, at worst erratic, or just joined the ranks of our wingers who seem to have more off than on days. His all round performance was better, but we can still see much room for improvement, but he is showing signs of being on the same wavelength as Lukaku, and at times on the same square inch of the pitch, and we were only a stumble away from one of the best goal-saving tackles on our own player in recent Everton history. But it wasn’t, and Bolasie advanced and scored, and that should have been that. Mysteriously, it wasn’t.
Koeman contributed a little to our own nearly-men status by removing Gueye, not a bad idea, but replacing him with Cleverley, which was. Why replace almost-but-nowhere-near-as-good like for like, and leave someone like Valencia on the bench? We were hardly being threatened at that stage, and surely the dice that should have been thrown was one that added to attacking options, which Cleverley hardly does? Maybe the thought was that ‘too many cooks would spoil the broth’, but it turned out that the end result was exactly that, but delete the word ‘cooks’, and insert the word ‘cocks’. I hate Saturday nights when we lose, hate them even more when we should have won, and Sundays after such matches are even worse.
So can I truly find any positives once the red mist is allowed to subside?
A few maybe. Barkley, as most expected, did start the game, and he had a pretty positive first 60 minutes before tiring and showing his innate ability to give the ball away when it seemed easier to find a, ahem, yellow shirt. Still a few signs of trying too hard, but a positive overall, and probably better to do that in front of a legion of loyal away fans than in the melting pot that is Goodison. Heaven knows what awaits his return to the Old Lady next week against some other meff Claret and Blues if he doesn’t score a hat trick and give at least two assists.
Coleman, much better going forward this season I think, and a week after impressing most of the City fans I’ve spoken to (well, all one of him) he didn’t disappoint again defensively, although he was barely tested.
Oviedo was ‘adequate’ once more, a man capable of scoring 6/10 all season long (even when an unused sub) as the memory of his winning goal at Manure fails to subside, but he doesn’t really inspire confidence that he’s a long term solution for the hamstrung Baines, who, as before, is appreciated more when he’s not playing than when he is.
Jags was awful in ball distribution, and Williams was solid if not sensational. It was his small nick on Arfield’s (I think) scuffed shot, that wrong-footed a hero of yesteryear, who could only weakly palm the ball in to the path of Vokes, who looks like a Championship striker and usually plays like one too, except when gifted a sight of goal. I’ll be generous to Stek and say he was partially unsighted, and then wrong-footed, but of course he went down a well-trodden Everton path of hero to zero, and we need him to bounce back and sharpish. Those calling for a new No1 in January are wide of the mark; January is a bad time to sign anyone, and who is going to release a ‘keeper better than Stek? We all know we’d like a Heaton, a Forster, a Butland, a whoever, but no-one is going to give them up to a rival, and certainly not mid season. Let’s support Stekelenburg, he’s our No1 for the season, and the City game shows us what he can do. More of those please Maarten, not so much yesterday.
That’s about it from grumpy-pants this week. Patience is a virtue, and it’s always in high demand when supporting this great Club, and it’s needed more than ever now. We need to recognise this is a journey, Koeman isn’t the Messiah, he’s just a good manager starting a transformation of our team’s fortunes from base camp, and making do with the resources he’s got available. It isn’t perfect, far from it, but it’s a step forward; last two seasons felt one step forward and two steps back – this feels more like two steps forward but then one back, so we’re still going forward at least. Play like we did for significant periods yesterday in 80% of matches rather than 40%, and we’ll be top 6.