Obstructed View – Reflections on the Leicester (A) Game

I wonder whether Lukaku would have scored that 90th (and a bit) goal if he had paid attention to all the Everton fans out there who think he should run around like a blue arsed fly all game. He’d have been knackered, and when it came to the ‘Clash of the Titans’ moment with Morgan (ok, based on today, it was more like ‘Clash of the Clapped Out 1980s Nissan Micras’) he’d have been brushed off the ball and we’d never have known any different. But at least he’d have run 10.3km. But no, his one moment of opportunity in a game when he was more isolated than Port Stanley in 1982, proved decisive and he scored what is becoming a typical Lukaku-goal, for his 10th of the season. And we know how vital it is that he keeps scoring, because my commentator on the live streaming said that “the only other player to be in double figures is Barry with 2”, thus proving his ignorance of Seamus’ 3, and that double figures is not defined as double 1.

A much-needed win, especially after the derby calamity, and yet in a truly horrible and largely forgettable game, there were more than just the 3 points to crow about. In a game where the impressive Chilwell stood out for the hosts, and it looked on more than one occasion that this impressive youngster was going to get all the headlines just like Josh Sims did for Southampton against us a month ago, it was a couple of our own young guns that particularly deserve mention.

Mason Holgate is no stranger to the Blues, but his position in a back 3 still certainly is. But whilst Coleman occasionally slipped back (as did Baines on the other flank) to help out, Holgate’s maturity stood out, his only blemish being his failure to get close enough to Ulloa who should have scored from his free header. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Holgate under a ball he should be on top of in our own box, but it would be churlish to focus on that alone when his otherwise commanding performance gained plaudits from most spectators I suspect, and certainly from the aforementioned commentator. I’ll suggest his judgement is sound on this occasion. The lad has been patient, he’s taken the chances given to him when Seamus has been injured, and he’s looked the part. Like any kid, especially ones in defence in one of the most combative, maybe even competitive, leagues around, he quite clearly needs experience to make him an even better player, but as it looks to me at the moment, we’ve still got the best defensive prospect around that came from the Barnsley ranks. Can’t even remember the other lad’s name. Holgate doesn’t look out of place, and if we choose to play with this formation again, we won’t find him wanting; and if we need a regular right back, then Coleman has found himself some serious competition – maybe Coleman’s upsurge in form of late has something to do with Holgate breathing down his neck.

And enter the New Blond Bombshell, Tom Davies. He only had 25 minutes or so to impress, but impress he most certainly did. He was brought on to replace Barry, twice his age, and one or two more PL appearances to his name, but there’ll be many checking Tom’s passport to ensure he really is only 18. Many have been calling for him to be given a chance, maybe even further forward to provide more energy and incision than Barkley, but on he comes to replace The Old Rock (about as mobile as a rock actually) and like Holgate, he didn’t look remotely out of place. And rather than opt for the easy option of bringing on Cleverley, or even Jagielka, credit must go to RK for finally giving youth a chance. My bet is that we’ll see more of him whilst Gana Gueye goes off to Africa to buy a new set of batteries to last him the rest of the season (he might like to buy some new boots whilst he’s at it; one’s that can tap a ball in rather lift it over the bar from 3 yards). When you think what we’ve got in DM, even now, with McCarthy and Besic to return, Barry, Davies and Gana, and even Cleverley if needed, it shouldn’t be one of the priority positions to fill, even if all cognisenti seem to have bought Schneiderlin already – maybe it’s quality not quantity we need in this position, but I’d focus on the creative spark needed further up the pitch.

I’ve never seen Lukaku more ineffective in a game (how the BBC Sport website can give him MotM is beyond me), and summed at at one point when he had to chase his own flick on. He was poor today, but surely that’s because he’s given scraps to feed on, rather than any latent lack of ability. When Diego Costa has a quiet game but scores the winner at the death, he’s applauded by all and sundry; perhaps we should give Rom more credit for what he did today, just like the BBC appears to have done. But I really think Ron needs to think how to get the best from Rom, over and above his goals. ‘Isolation’ today is an understatement.

Ronnie K said our second “hullf” was better than our first “hullf” and he’s not wrong, and not for the first time this season. The early goal clearly helped that, as Mirallas interrupted Morgan and Wasilewski having a natter and a brew on the half way line to fire past Schmeichel via an outstretched leg from the unfortunate and ageing Pole. This meant Leicester, comfortable but largely toothless with only 35% possession in the first half, had to advance, but our shape held, and we looked more dangerous, and even before Gana lobbed the keeper and the bar from almost under the woodwork, and before Lukaku completed the coup de grâce, we were more purposeful with the ball, and arguably should have done more to kill the game earlier. Instead, we probably all feared an equaliser, and Mahrez’ introduction and his tricky feet around the box, added to our nervousness, but again, our organisation won the day, underpinned by a very solid and commanding performance by Joel, and a better-than-normal Williams.

Let’s not be under any illusion. We are 7th for now, but we are only top of the second league within a league, and we need performances that give results on a much more consistent basis. Hull away next, has ‘Watford away’ written all over it if we decide not to turn up and or compete. Today we beat a strangely insipid Leicester who only showed in very occasional flashes what they are more than capable of producing, and the 2 shots on target, both comfortable saves for Robles, tell the story. Leicester will not get relegated (despite me having £10 on them doing so at 28/1 from earlier in the season), and the good news is they’ll not only ease away from the drop zone, they’ll beat some of our rivals in the process. Today’s win will go under the heading “Workman-like”, but you can’t be playing thrilling, winning football every week. The trouble is, I can only think of one game this season when we could describe ourselves as ‘thrilling’ and that was only after we’d almost fossilised after 30 minutes against Arsenal. We need to build on solid foundations, but I can’t quite see where the exciting forward play is going to come from, Depay or no Depay.

The job is not ‘done’ by one win on the road. It’s a win, it’s another step along the way, but as every week goes by, we know what we need to get this club firing on all the cylinders it has, let alone any more it brings in. Any imported superstars will be welcomed provided they’re both good and adhere to the Goodison ethic; it would be a shame if the likes of Holgate and Davies miss out accordingly, but be in no doubt, we have two stars of the future in these sprogs.

Ross Crombie

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