“Well, yes, we will always score”, says our Manager to the BBC Microphone-Wielder. Get your money on 0-0 against Hull.
Once again Ronald Koeman proves that he’s a better manager than the legion of Everton supporters who grumbled and who predicted portents of doom come 3pm – 5pm, because the manager had picked Gareth Barry (or “Carrot Barry” as it sounds when Ronald gets his Dutch tongue around the pronunciation – that’s not a euphemism by the way….) and Phil Jagielka. Shows how little we know doesn’t it?
Here’s a picture of the West Brom defence waiting for us to continually lob balls in to the box to nil effect.
In an object lesson in ‘playing to your strengths’, Koeman opted to attempt the impossible, or at least so that’s been in the past when, under Roberto, we’ve met with a determined Two Banks of Five, and we’ve continually been repelled, and in many cases lost to a nicked goal at the other end usually, scored by Gareth McAuley or similar model. Maybe Barry was there for his extra height at set pieces too, rather than the diminutive Senegalese who was demoted to the bench, maybe harshly, but maybe tactically, and anyway, someone who runs 48 miles a game might need a breather from time to time. The game was never going to be played at the hectic speed of the Spurs game, so Barry’s ageing and less mobile legs would have been less of an issue against the ponderous Baggies who very rarely threatened the Everton goal. And his ability to spread the play left and right was perhaps going to be more of an asset than a liability. Still managed his customary booking though, good lad…..
As for Jags, there is an increasing unease at Mori’s brain and actual ability being aligned, so maybe the dropping of RFM was a message from the strict disciplinarian that is our Dutch Master. If RK’s handling of Mori, a decent footballer 95% of the time, gets the same results as his handling of Barkley, then we’ll all be singing the Argentinian’s name to the Old Lady’s rafters for the rest of the season and maybe beyond. But there is that lingering feeling that there’s a rick just about to break out, as he ventures too far forward, or overplays at the back, or just nods off in the face of a boring afternoon when not much really happens. Against West Brom, there were certainly enough balls lobbed in to our box, from open play or corners, for the Goodison Not Very Faithful Sometimes to get a little uneasy under the Chang-branded collar, but the central defenders were excellent, as was the rather surprising sight of Barkley heading clear from the near post on more than one occasion. The defence was well marshalled, and we continue to be the 5th best side for fewest goals conceded, and that’s with playing 1 if not 2 games more than the teams above us. Koeman is clearly improving this side at every level and in every department, and whilst none of us seem to think we don’t need to improve the defensive personnel still further, our stats show that the guys we’ve got ain’t doing so bad. And don’t forget that in the 30 goals conceded, 5 of those were against Chelsea, and 3 each against Spurs, Watford and Bournemouth. and there’s 11 clean sheets in there too. Not bad. The system is undoubtedly better, and with that, and with better players, our defensive platform next season could be the springboard to bigger and better things.
Back to the ‘playing to strengths bit’, we weren’t averse to lobbing a cross or two in to the box, hey, Rom scored from one after all, but it was noticeable from Corner 1 that we weren’t going to do it as often as West Brom would have expected and indeed would have liked. There is no doubt they possess a formidable array of Over-Heighted Defenders, who are comfortable leaping like Spring Salmons (do Salmons spring in the Spring?) to nod the ball away, and perhaps less adept at playing the ball at attackers’ feet. Patience, therefore, was the virtue demanded, and whilst the crowd got a bit edgy at times, the players actually seemed to know what they were doing (who knew?!!), and obviously thought time would tell on the Black Country Men. Claudio Jacob, a shoo-in for Yard-Dog of the year at Crufts, huffed and puffed to limited success in front of his giant defenders, a very gaunt looking Fletcher too (is he still unwell? He looks like he needs more Vitamins), but the speed of passing and little flicks and tricks you felt would eventually come good (writing this at 7pm on Sunday night means I completely forget how this actually felt at 3pm-3.39pm on Saturday afternoon) and we’d get that all elusive breakthrough. What was just as surprising as this actually happening, was Pulis not doing a thing about it until 15 or so minutes from the end, when Morrison, Brunt and Rondon were brought on. Morrison is a bit like Fraser at Bournemouth – short, stocky, quick – and I think he’d have troubled us a bit more, but never mind, we were too busy playing our A game further forward and another 3 points was soon ours.
A last word for our Alsatian Frenchman. Only closer inspection of replays shows the clever and exquisite clip up over Livermore (dreadful by the way, £10m Hull got for him; amazing deal, and enough dosh to pay Niasse’s wages and his dental bills) that saw him advance on goal and then clip again, this tome over the advancing Foster. Delightful. We certainly have a player in Monsieur Morgan Schneiderlin.
Right on to the Hull game, via the Under 23s on display at Derby on Monday night. I’m sure you’ll all be there…..