If ever there was a more joyous Zero to Hero transformation than Oumar Niasse, currently our favourite Senegalese as Gueye seems a bit AWOL, than I’m all ears. As it were.
And this picture says it all. After a goal that was on the list of ‘Poachers’, or ‘Gift’, or even ‘Lucky’, but one made out of first his own persistence pressuring the ageing Speroni (is he only 38? He’s been around since Noah was a lad), who having dummied Niasse to appreciative jeers from the Palace cognisenti, continued his one man (legal) harassment to force Speroni in to the kind of error we’ve seen all too often ourselves. Scott Dann duly dispossessed (by Gueye, doing what he does best, not passing by and large) from Speroni’s panicked pass, Gueye releases Oumar who even had time to run round it on to his favoured boot and tuck it away. Then the passion evident in this picture.
Is it any wonder we’ve taken to him, doing what the Straq did, only much better, and now, can you believe it, out on his own as our leading goalscorer in the Premier League. Who’d have thunk it? He doesn’t get labelled as a “quality striker”, or possessing a “sublime touch”, but what you’re going to hear a lot of, whenever and wherever he plays, is how he is hardworking, chases lost causes, an irritant to defenders, and, actually, a goalscorer. He’s scored his 5 for Everton in just 7 appearances. I’ll say that again, 5 from 7. Whilst no one I’ve spoken to, or written to on Social Media, thinks he’s the long term answer to our Striker problems, he will do a job for us whilst he’s doing what he’s doing, preferably in my book doing it alongside Calvert-Lewin or Rooney as part of a two man strike force. Evertonians love someone who puts a shift in, sometimes more, it seems, than someone who is apparently more lethargic and only bangs in 53 goals in 110 appearances.
His spirit is just what we need at the moment. Many have been quick to round on those who were pleased with a point at Palace, by dismissing false joy at a draw at the PL’s bottom Club. But let’s try and get some context here. Firstly, Palace are only bottom temporarily, after a truly woeful start. This is the side that beat Chelsea only a month ago, and comfortably at that. This is the side that narrowly lost to Spurs. This is the side that came back from 2-0 down against West Ham. A side that has Zaha, Loftus-Cheek, and maybe even Townsend all of whom would probably be welcomed in our ranks, let alone many other PL teams, and then there’s Benteke…..anyway….. Point is, ‘on paper’, their side is not bottom of the League material, and neither yesterday were the quality of their goals, albeit benefitting from absent defensive prowess in their opposition.
Second, we’ve been terrible, and the last two games has seen us improve, and instead of ‘terrible’, we’re only ‘awful’, so at least we’re improving. I’m assuming that means a certain measure of momentum, which may come to an end on Thursday unless Unsworth chooses to rest the first team with another ‘must win’ fixture on Sunday (and then Wednesday and Saturday after) and plays a largely second string and U23s for the visit of the Italians on Thursday. Can’t we just throw in the towel for the Europa and donate the points? After all, we’ve all but done that in the competition already (see what I did there?). I would agree that in the manner of the comeback against Watford, and then twice against Palace, we’ve shown the stomach for a fight on which we can build. “It’s only Palace” some will say, but a point there is a well-earned point if you’ve been playing as badly as we have, and they’ve been playing so much better before and on Saturday itself.
Thirdly, and lastly for this week at least, we still haven’t sorted out a new Manager, and so no new philosophy and playing style is in the squad. Rhino has little choice but to base his teams and playing style based on what he’s got, and what state of mind they’re in. I’d argue there are signs of growth there, but I still worry that more clinical teams will tear us a new one and may be less generous than Anthony Taylor (no, it wasn’t) and the Palace defence were yesterday in return.
The season is now one more of survival first, build second. Not what we expected. Nowhere near it of course, and no, not acceptable, but we are, as they say, where we are.
What can we build on?
We have one of the best goalkeepers in England, even if he hasn’t kept a clean sheet since Stoke on the opening day. Gosh, how long ago that seems.
In Jonjoe Kenny, we have a young lad who is developing fast with PL game time, and as a defender, is showing just what he can do. He’s aided and abetted by Aaron Lennon who was superb yesterday, got very little air time on Twitter , but worked really well with his RB so that, sadly by contrast, most of the Palace threat came from the left flank where Baines was showing all of his nearly 33 years, and was not helped much by Lookman, which might be one of the reasons the kid got hooked and why he’s not holding down a more regular berth.
In Idrissa Gueye, we have a DM who continues to tackle and break up play better than anyone we’ve got, and yet who continues to give the ball away when he tries a pass any longer than 5 yards (or meters if you’re under 30). I’d play him with Davies or Baningme rather than the woefully out of form Schneiderlin, or maybe alongside McCarthy, assuming he’s ever fit again.
Keane WILL come good. He’s too good not to. But he’s suffering from the inadequacies around him, but trust me, buy a proper young CB to sit next to him (what about Ben Mee?) and his confidence will certainly return.
And I believe in Sigurdsson, who I still think is playing catch up from no pre season, no start of season for that matter, and weighed down by his £45m price tag. He looked in better ‘shape’ yesterday not having to share his role with Rooney, and he just needs a spell in that position so that he, let alone us, truly believes in himself. He’s like Keane – too good to suddenly become dreadful.
And I still believe in Calvert-Lewin, who I wish could finish like a Morata or a Suarez, but he’s him, not them, and he’ll improve too.
Things to build on, not things to cling on to in false hope.