I hope ‘Alan from Bootle’ feels a bit more positive about his Everton life this morning. Certainly, at 3.30 yesterday afternoon, ringing in to BBC Radio Merseyside, and despite a 2-0 win with an entertaining-ish second half, it seems he had a bad case of indigestion, largely caused by Seamus Coleman, the main target of his biliousness. Calm down Alan, we won lad. Or was it Andy. Can’t remember, I was too delirious.
It’s funny how some react after a game. I was quietly confident before the Burnley game, only to come unstuck, which made me a dull old chap for the rest of the weekend. When we win, I’m happy. Not blind to failings as some might think, but certainly happy, and certainly my preference is to focus on the positive. Why would you use some of your hard earned cash to ring a phone-in to grumble when you’ve won, and won comfortably in the end? Don’t quite get it.
It’s fabulous to see something work; you knew it worked, you’ve seen it work, it brought you great pleasure occasionally, but from time to time the great looking car on the drive doesn’t start first time, and only finally splutters in to life when you’ve missed the start of the thing you were going to go to. It’s a bit like Ross Barkley. We’ve seen him do the sublime, we’ve seen him do the ridiculous; we’ve seen him do the outrageous; we’ve seen him fail to find a team mate from 5 yards. And there have been more column inches written, football pundits have expelled more breath, and yes, even phone-ins preoccupied themselves with ‘what has happened to Ross Barkley’. And I’m about to add to it.
Yesterday he had a pretty good game, not brilliant, but in the context of his last season and so far this, a much more rounded performance and more like the Ross we know – or more like the Ross we’d like to know on a regular basis. Koeman clearly knows he has a talent on his hands. He isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it is a major source of both joy and frustration that having found space, advanced on a back-peddling defensive line, getting us up on our seats, that too often he fires high and wide, tries to take on one too many defender, passes to the wrong option, or the pass to the right option is easily intercepted. In short, no one doubts his talent, but most doubt the quality of his decision making when it most matters. Oh, and most want him to play more of a defensive role (and that includes his manager), which he did much better against the ‘appy ‘ammers. So he deserved his Man of the Match yesterday, mainly because he scored, a goal for which he could almost claim an assist given he started the move, also because he closed down more up front, and equally because it’s clear he’s listening to his gaffer (don’t we all?) and doing what’s asked of him. And if he keeps listening to The Wise Wizened Old Dutchman (that’s the one with a face like a smacked-arse when he’s doing his pressers; he knows he has to do them, but he clearly hates them) he’ll continue to get better and better and fulfil the talent that undoubtedly exists. The moment at the very end of the first half when he brought down a high ball, turned and beat his man all in one movement, advanced on the West Ham penalty area only to get crowded out, summed up the good, the bad, and the ugly for me, but I firmly believe Koeman will get Ross to a place where the Good outweighs the other bits on a more consistent basis.
Which brings me to Oviedo. No one says much about Our Bryan, except to say they can’t wait until we can drop him to restore that epitome of defensive solidity, Leighton Baines. Maybe that’s the inevitable life of the understudy, a man still clinging on to the memory of his United winner, and probably his Stevenage leg-break, but a man very much capable of a decent job at left back. This is the man who’s nearly clocked up 50 appearances for Everton, over 30 for his Country, and at 26 is probably in the category of ‘still developing’. OK, before you choke on your quinoa (what the hell even is that, let alone how do you pronounce it?), I’m not saying Oviedo is good enough to be our regular LB if we have ambitions to get in to the Champion’s League. He’s a Premier League defender, but probably not for us longer term. But whilst Baines is spending more time nursing his hammy than skinning his opposite number, you turn to your back up, and credit to the lad, Oviedo has done alright for us, and yesterday was no different. Cutting across and blocking Ayew’s shot late on, nicking the ball from a lost cause eventually setting up Ross for his chance that Adrian saved brilliantly, and providing a regular outlet wide left when the need arose, were just some of his highlights. But two lowlight ugly swipes at where the ball had been to take out Payet and Antonio to give up two very dangerous free kicks in the second half, show he’s not the complete article. But he’s ok, he’s solid, he’s the best alternative we’ve got at LB when the main man isn’t there. Well done Bryan.
A word for Joel. Who didn’t get a blast of a Halloween chill down the back of their necks when the teams were announced to hear Stekelenburg was out? Me included. But did he do ok? Yeh, sure. As with Stek before him, our new found defensive solidity meant he didn’t actually have that many shots to save (by the way Alan or are you Andy in Bootle, the reason Seamus doesn’t bomb down the outside as an auxiliary winger like he used to when following the Headless Chicken Defending Manual, is because he’s been told not to, not because he’s as you called him “truly awful”), and he looked ok under the high balls in to the box from their numerous corners, and a Bellew-esque punch clear was a particular highlight for me. So well done lad, especially given you’re not even getting a game for the Under 23s, so no game time at all then.
Just thought I’d put this photo in to cheer up West Ham fans.
I’d like to break the habit of a lifetime by saying the Hammers’ fans were ok yesterday. These aren’t the seat-ripping numpties of the London Stadium, these are the genuine fans. These aren’t the scruffs that smash up visiting side’s buses, or even their own. These aren’t the yobs more interested in a scuffle than watching what is a pretty good team on their day, a team that could easily have scored a couple against us in the tepid first half. These are the fans that sold out their allocation to drive 200+ miles north on a lazy Sunday to watch Lukaku score AGAIN, and then couldn’t get back down the solid M6 afterwards. Well done to them; call the fans out when they’re idiots, but congratulate them when they are the true supporters and do the right thing, including joining in the applause for HK on 4 minutes.
Reasons to be cheerful: we won; Rom scored again; Ross played well and scored; Joel played well; Mori did ok too; and Bolasie was more alive at the back post than any West Ham defender.
Alright now Alan? Or are you Andy? How’s Bootle looking today?