Obstructed View – Reflections on the Burnley (H) Game

I reckon that was one of our worst 3-1 wins ever. A drab first half, enlivened only by our own defensive frailties, and watching Vokes try to move through the gears away from the last man, only to find he’s a Toyota Prius with a 0-60 speed that you could outrun in your slippers after an evening on the ale. But a better second half in which two inevitabilities came to the fore – Ross Barkley would score (via our two new CBs for next season, Keane and Mee, who come on a special Buy One Get One Free offer), and Romelu Lukaku would not only score, but he’d applaud the Gwladys as if it’s his last ever goal in front of them – at least wearing Everton Blue. But enough of that tosh.

This could be a blog all about Ross, by Ross. Suffice to say that he showed great guts, great focus, and great skill as he glided over the Goodison turf, and certainly played his part in a victory that, frankly, we barely deserved (him, not me, to be clear). His passing was still at about 80% – the stats may say he completed better than that, but the stats don’t count when he loses possession and picks the wrong pass, so as ever, there’s statistics and there’s statistics. I prefer to look at a Boy-Man that didn’t hide after a tough old week, a tough old season when he’s been called out by his manager, dropped from Club and Country, or in the case of the latter, then called up and subsequently ignored, just like Euro ’16 all over again. I honestly think this season will be the making of the Man, and he can finally lose the ‘Boy’ tag, not just because he turns 24 in December. Ross is a local lad made good, playing for his boyhood team, in a team that has largely lacked the skill and refinement over the last few years that he has in abundance; with no disrespect to a worker-bee like Cleverley, but if that’s your midfield, then you may well be excused for thinking the whole weight of the team’s creative force lies squarely on what most people would acknowledge are still quite immature shoulders. And maybe you try too hard. Enter Tom Davies (don’t), a revitalised Mirallas, and all of a sudden, it’s not all down to Ross, and he’s benefited from having that load lightened somewhat. He still infuriates as he dribbles down dark alleys and or fails to see the killer pass to a better-placed team mate, but this is happening less and less, and instead you get a performance that in the second half, was all about Ross Bossing it. Good lad.

The first half, by common consent, was pretty dire. By Everton. And, not yesterday anyway, this was not down to Everton; it was down to Burnley. Their excellent travelling support, who yesterday won the ‘Best Away Fans’ award this season (bear in mind I’m in the Upper Gwladys so I’m 100m away from them, so I may stand to be corrected by closer neighbours in the Bullens, Paddock or Park End), were treated to a display that only served to mystify why they are winless on the road, and have only scored 10 goals in the process. This can’t just be down to Vokes and his startling lack of pace. Yesterday from the first whistle, they harried, closed down our Full Backs, especially Baines, and gave Schneiderlin no time on the ball at all. Some would say that Barton’s harrying was a little close to the mark, but he wasn’t booked (and Clattenburg continued to prove, however much we, erm, ‘love’ him, that he’s the best Ref in the PL by a country mile; contrast him with last week’s appalling Madley performance), and he, or rather Dyche and Woan on the touchline, realised, that pressurise Morgan, and we become a little frenetic and mistakes will happen. Expect others to have seen this and we’ll see what happens for the rest of the season. Again, things improved when Barry came on and took some of the load off Schneiderlin and Davies, and gave Ross more space further up the pitch rather than going deeper to pick up. You have to give Burnley credit for their performance yesterday, and frankly we could have been 2-0 down at half time easily, had they had a little more quality up top (why they didn’t start with the pace of Gray I’m not sure), and had Barkley not extended his floor show to clearing off the line, a feat he managed again in the second half as well. I was impressed by Keane, but just as impressed by Mee, and as hinted (hinted?) above, I’d happily see their double act take a turn down the East Lancs road to GP next season.

Another player I’d happily see going down the East Lancs after yesterday’s performance, is Joel Robles. He can go back to Wigan. Or Blackburn. Or Bury. Or Glossop Rangers. Having been great, he’s turned in three dodgy games on the bounce, and made us feel like it’s the Joel of old, a decent shot stopper, but barking mad decisions cost him. It’s not just the penalty which if we’re being very, very generous could be dismissed as a rush of blood to the head, it’s also the appearance of the Mighty Spaniard on the edge of his area to punch clear deeply taken free kicks, when you know, you just know, that one day someone will leap higher, or more likely he’ll misjudge it, and there’ll be a gentle header arcing in to an unguarded net. I’ve been quick to praise him this season, and his dental work, but if we are to progress next season, he has to be replaced. And not by Hart, who at the moment seems to be auditioning for the part of Joel in the forthcoming mini series ‘The Armada Is Coming But It’s Not Quite As Good As We Thought It Was’. I think we go younger and more reliable, a Butland if we can get him, or a Pickford.

A Day Out Dahn The Smoke awaits us next week, and I’m sure West Ham fans will give us a warm welcome. Let’s hope Ross continues to strut his stuff, and our apparently Wantaway Superstar in Lukaku doesn’t behave like theirs did earlier this season. Compare the class of Payet to Lukaku. There, that didn’t take you long did it?

Ross Crombie

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