Obstructed View – Reflections on the Bournemouth (H) Game

After 38 minutes, I turned to my son and said: “isn’t it fun watching a game without tension?” The only time I can remember feeling the same at half time was when we were 5-0 up away at Sheffield Wednesday in a 1988 FA Cup Third Round Third Replay (remarkable similarity of the Sharp and Heath goals to two scored yesterday). But, of course, things in the PL are never plain sailing, and Everton and Bournemouth reignited their passion for thrilling goal fests as the hardy South Coasters threatened to spoil the Everton party with not just a draw, but who knows what, had Arter’s drilled shot not been excellently saved by Joel, in what might have been the pivotal moment in the eventual victory.

Everything that our first half was, the first 30 minutes of the second half wasn’t. I may be alone in thinking it, but 6-3 flattered Everton as Bournemouth fought back when others may have just gone for damage limitation, and they encountered a lethargic Blues that seemed to have had aromatherapy chill out massages, complete with relaxing whale music, at half time, such was the contrast to the first half intensity. An abysmal first goal for the Cherries (for us), with neither Williams nor Mori clear about who should be tight on King (who looks a player by the way, or maybe we made him look like one as he’s not always a regular starter for his side), was followed by an excellent second with the impressive Ryan Fraser making the most of non-existent cover from Lookman to square across the 6 yard box. Fraser looks like a latter day Joe Harper, for Blues old enough to remember the craggy Scot from our early 1970s side, except he’s actually rather good, whereas Joe was the proverbial hot but mainly cold. Had Arter’s strike arrowed in the top corner, Goodison would have been on melt down mode (if it wasn’t already at 3-2) and God alone knows what would have ensued. But it didn’t. And Joel made the second of two great saves on the day, and we forgave him his fumbling claim of a first half ball when he clearly didn’t say “Excuse me” or “Coming through”, let alone “MINE” as he just bumbled in to a Bournemouth player and one of his own. No idea who.

Well there’s a funny start. We won 6-3, Lukaku bags 4, and I’m talking about the bad bits first. Yes, sorry, and I do normally like to accentuate the positive, but my posts are often after a period of reflection to allow the ire or the elation to subside, and a calmer perspective given. And we weren’t all there yesterday. Lookman showed some mouth-watering flicks and party pieces, but clearly has all the upper body strength of a young Osman (Leon, not Russell), or even an old one come to think of it. I can imagine Koeman tore him off a strip for the way he tried one trick too many, but at least he can do the tricks, and the one on the corner of their box in the first half and a shot across goal would have had Messi watchers drooling. It was good, and he’s good, but there’s a time and a place for everything, and he didn’t always judge correctly when that should be; but he’s 19 and fresh from League One, so we’ll give him time. It’s lovely that just as one player capable of getting us off our uncomfortable seats jets off to Milan, another one arrives, and whilst different players, the New Lookman looks capable of more than filling Geri’s shoes, even if he does only look 12. A summer in the gym awaits!

It is inevitable that Lukaku will get all the plaudits for his 4 goals and rightly so. His first was sublime, his second was a ‘gimme’, his third a joy because of the finish and his part in the approach play, and his fourth in some ways the best of the lot because of the supporting role from a back heel from Barkley. OK, as our Dutch Crag would say, Man of the Match, but I’m not surprised that given the right service, and if afforded as much room as he was yesterday, let alone an errant back pass, then we know the lad will score bucket loads. He’ll now go on a goal drought until Easter of course, but for now, let’s enjoy it for what it was, a master-class in finishing from a master at work. He’s nailed on for yet another 20 goals this season, and just dwell on that a moment – he’s 23. Mind you, he doesn’t run much does he?

But actually, given his ‘journey’ this season, I’d pick out Barkley for special praise, and a close second for MotM. I haven’t seen his tackling stats from yesterday, but by heck he didn’t half put a few in, and his covering on the right hand side in front and sometimes alongside Coleman was extraordinary. It was extraordinary that he was there at all, but doubly extraordinary that he put a real shift in nullifying much threat down that side, but was quick to move more centrally when required, as well as supporting Lukaku up top most of the time. His goal was a thoroughly deserved cherry on top (see what I did there), but I would have collapsed in hysterics had he missed after his premature celebration. I’ve seen it happen!

I’m delighted for him. We may forget that Ross suffered a broken leg fairly early in his career, and when he returned, he never came across as the combative midfielder that he had been in his much younger days. Who can blame him? If you’ve had the agony of the pain, and the double agony of the time out of the game afterwards, are you going to rush back in to 50:50s? He’s a professional footballer many will say, and he needs to do it; well, maybe, but not every midfielder gets stuck in like a Reid or a Bracewell (or a Schneiderlin), it depends on their role. But Ronald Cragman clearly wants Ross to be the complete midfielder and he’s got the lad playing just that way. He’s slimmed down a wee bit, but actually looks stronger, and certainly a bit quicker; he’s putting the effort in back to front and back again; he’s picking the pass quicker; he’s still trying his shots; and he’s linking really well with Rom. Not perfect despite my applause, but this is a different Barkley to the one that got dropped by RK to work on his game earlier this season.

I can’t go through this without tipping my hat to McCarthy, a player much maligned of late, and not many tears would have been shed had he gone off on loan somewhere, but yesterday he was much closer to his best, and interestingly much higher up the pitch. Clearly, a pinball goal is testimony to that, but then so too the quick interchange on the edge of the box with Rom for the first goal. We have a real strength in this area of the pitch, and McCarthy seems inspired by the competition rather than sulking off to the North East or similar.

Joy of joys, a 6-3 win to watch on continuous loop for a week, and something for Everton TV to trot out this time next year or when we next play Bournemouth, but the hard yards are really starting now. Away to ‘Boro next week won’t be a doddle, and we’ll have to keep tabs on the lightning quick Adama Traore and narly Negredo up top, plus the obligatory ex Everton player to watch out for in Forshaw, but on form, we should win.

But will we?

Ross Crombie


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