Happy Christmas! Happy and Healthy 2018 as well.
Anyway, Jordan Pickford.
And Bobby Madley.
But let’s start with our superb ‘keeper. Our lovable Mackem from Washington Tyne and Wear, is a fantastic acquisition. His pinpoint passing with that side on hoof to a waiting Calvert-Lewin seems temporarily to have left him, but in return we’ve got a shot-stopper par excellence. A recent spate of clean sheets and stern defence, including yesterday, tells all sorts of stories; the poor quality of the Opposition in the case of West Ham, or an amazing rearguard action in the case of Liverpool and now Chelsea. But whilst Pickford was relatively untroubled by the the RS despite their overwhelming possession stats, yesterday, with a little help from a crossbar after a fine glancing header by Williams, and terrific goal-line blocks from Jagielka and his resolute defenders, Pickford was immense. A fingertip save from Pedro’s close range drive, and fine spread-eagle saves from the likes of Hazard and Fabregas, were just the highlights, and the saves that get the headlines, quite rightly. But the confidence he oozes, his command of the area, and his firm if relatively low key bo11ocking of errant defenders in front of him, all contribute to one of the best young goalkeepers I’ve seen at Everton. He’s light years ahead of Hart in my view, and if Butland is truly England’s No1, he too must be a hell of a talent.
I’ll not get too carried away with superlatives, and we all know that he’ll have a rick at some stage, but don’t all players make mistakes? For now, he’s building a reputation which, like Big Nev before him, will play on the mind of opposing forwards; it’s not a coincidence that the likes of De Gea and Courtois have great defensive records, as forwards know they have to pick out a space in goal that they know their wondrous talents won’t reach, and so percentage wise, may knock more wide as well as having to contend with wonder saves. Make no mistake, De Gea is the best ‘keeper in the UK at the moment, and maybe even Europe and the World, but I don’t think Pickford is too far behind him.
Anyway, back to Bobby Madley, and here I dwell not on superlatives, but on bug-eyed wonderment at complete incompetence in a match official. I am seriously not a fan of slating refs who have the most difficult job in football, as week after week, so-called expert pundits (and Merson) pick apart decisions made ‘in the moment’, but with the benefits of multi-angle camera positions, slow motion, and the full array of gadgets and gizmos developed for us by Sky, BT and MotD. So that’s the hard bit. What is not hard is to scrutinise early bookings given to Everton players who undoubtedly fouled their player, but bookings? Seriously? Calvert-Lewin deserved a stern talking to, a ‘one last chance chat’, for casually leaving a wafting boot that seemed to have broken a player’s leg, only for Moses to rival his Biblical colleague Lazarus for his powers of recovery and be running around terrorising poor old Cuco within a few minutes. And then Martina made a rash challenge, could undoubtedly, but a booking? No chance. Where is the accountability for poor decisions like that? Incompetent ref in my view, and you can always spot the sort (think, early Clattenberg), that struts about like the Big I Am, rather than quietly getting on with his job.
One last biblical Moses reference if I may. When he was subbed, I shouted out “No rush Moses”, which in my head sounded hilarious, but barely raised a titter around me, and only one neighbour turned and referred to Moses and the Bullrushes. Oh well, no-one likes a smart arse.
Two much maligned players in recent weeks can hold their heads high after yesterday. Morgan Schneiderlin got the wrath of this writer’s keyboard last week and before, and Cuco Martina has also been similarly ‘binned’ on account of an apparent inability to do the job that gets them a high weekly wage. But Schneiderlin was much improved last week, even got his shorts dirty, and more forward passes than we’ve seen from him. It looks like Gueye will be out for a while, so Schneiderlin needs to step up, maybe as the sole DM, maybe alongside Baningime or a returning McCarthy. But probably not Besic who looks destined for a move away if he can’t get the nod for the bench ahead of young Beni, and not Tom Davies who’s needed for his energy further forward, but preferably without losing possession as often as he did yesterday. But Morgan, well done yesterday, let’s see it consistently for the rest of the season.
And Martina, possibly the most light-footed left back in Football, but yesterday stuck to his task really well. If you see a Chelsea team sheet, bench included, with that array of glittering talent, and when you see them whiz bewildering triangles in front of your eyes, it’s not unreasonable to fear the worst. But the lad did OK, no more than that (he says, grudgingly), and I still can’t wait for Baines to return, or maybe even Garbutt to be registered in January, and Connolly to return from loan at some point in 2018. But if Martina is the short term solution, then so be it.
Jagielka and Keane also did well yesterday, as did Williams when he came on as part of a mystifying double HT substitution that left us more vulnerable I thought, not more solid. At least it was part of an attempt to give the willing DCL up top some support. Calvert-Lewin looks absolutely shattered, and has to have a breather, and I’d stick Niasse in against West Brom, maybe with Sandro too who needs a chance to show what he can do in a normal game, not like yesterday’s. His first touch was more Teflon than SuperGlue, but we’ve got to use the squad we’ve got until such time as it can be supplemented, and Sandro deserves his chance. He cuts a lonely figure on the warm up pitch, so his time may already be up, but he’s here, let’s use him. We know he’s got talent, let’s try and play to his strengths.
That’s it from me. Have a wonderful festive break, and we’ll be back again after the Baggies. Let’s not be complacent eh? That would be atypical of an Evertonian, granted…..