Obstructed View – Reflections on the Stoke (A) Game

Sometimes things just drop in to your lap. As soon as I heard Cenk Tosun describe them as “my lads” that was the image I wanted to feature. Of course, his translation from his native tongue is a bit liberal in this sense, we all know what he meant, but it’s nice to hear something that actually rather sums up his performances of late, and the way the team and our fans are responding to him.

Cenk and My Lads

It’s also rather nice to be able to feature photos of his goal celebrations for yet another week, as he hits his straps (I have no idea what this means) in the Premier League and we start to see the kind of finisher we’ve spent some dosh on. It’s also rather nice, I repeat, to reflect on a large sum of money paying dividends, so we don’t have to read as many reports of mega £m being spent in L4 on time wasters and players taking the £ without putting in the requisite Evertonian shift. It’s also rather nice (have I used that phrase before?), that we have a forward who scores goals and runs his heart out for the Blue. Always tends to go down well.

Whisper it quietly, but whilst my rose-tinted reading specs are on, that side yesterday had more than a sprinkling of players that not many weeks ago (days even?) were looking like expensive misfits and too much like splash-the-cash-signings, and now look like the genesis of a half decent side. Add to that our best player since January, Sigurdsson, taking an enforced leave of absence for a while, and we have reasons to be cheerful beyond having reached 40 points. Let’s be crystal clear, given anticipation levels last August when we last played Stoke, to be cheerful in mid March that we’ve probably assured our place in the PL for next season, is frankly NOT a reason to be cheerful, but we are where we are, and with our well touted wobbles this season, we can at last start a process of rebuilding with the EPL in our sights, not the EFL. Who leads that process is the next question, and nothing I’ve seen in back-to-back wins makes me think Allardyce is that man, but we’ll have to wait and see what plans Big Mosh has for Big Sham.

Look at our multi £m talent pool:

Pickford is the best English ‘keeper in the league. Keane has suddenly looked a player with Jagielka alongside him rather than the erratic Welshman, who I for one hope has played his last game for Everton. Walcott has transformed our play out wide right, especially in tandem with Coleman. Bolasie is coming back in to form, and 2 if not 3 crosses in the last 2 games show what he can do with his ability out wide, and all we want to see is that PLUS the Bolasie that ripped us a new one on more than one occasion for Palace in the past. There’s Gylfi. And then there’s Tosun.

We still need to get a tune out of Klaassen, and don’t get me started on what tune we need from Schneiderlin, but all of a sudden, fresh from back to back wins, things do look a bit brighter. Amazing what winning can do for you, isn’t it? But let’s not be unrealistic, there’s a massive amount we still need to do.

It starts with our next two games. Ordinarily, we’d be a bit circumspect about welcoming the Champions Elect on one Saturday, and the Free Scoring Neighbours the next, and on current form expecting anything less than two spankings. But. Big But. No offence. But, if ever there were a context for Everton to shine against both these sides, now is the time. City play us the weekend before a Champions League QF against the RS; the RS come to the Old Lady as (hopefully) the meat in the sandwich of both QF legs. How much will both sides want a blood, thunder and guts game at Goodison? This is your time Everton, lets get the remarkable stats from @stevejohnson95 that tell us how long it is since we’ve beaten Liverpool, home or away, and how long it is since we’ve won back to back home wins against City, and then let’s go out and break that cycle, just as we did to prevent the unwanted stat of losing 6 PL away games for the first time since Mike Walker’s days. Thanks Steve.

Now whether the players can summon up the enthusiasm for this themselves, given the likely emotional blast of hitting a theoretical safety mark of 40 points, only time will tell, but the potential is there. Come on Everton, after a season of deflation, surely we can finish on a flourish and stoke (oops) up optimism for next season?

The Stoke goal, scored by Choupo-Moting, apparently on ‘Special Teams’, underlined how much work there is still to be done – a catalogue of errors: silly place to give away the free kick, no player tracking C-M, Pickford dallied a bit too much, and then a certain amount of readjustment needed by the goal scorer which could have gone wrong, rather than the back of the net. But a great ball in by Allen, who apparently auditioned for a part in the forthcoming Mary Magdelene re make, but that’s enough oblique references to his hairstyle and having a way with crosses. We could, and should, have defended that better, so we aren’t anywhere near the real deal yet, and don’t think I don’t know that, just because this Review is a little upbeat. After all, we beat 10 men, just. But it was a brutally cold Saturday in Stoke, so we need that acclaim whilst we’re at it.

So Cenk Tosun and his lads clear off for international duty, assuming Tom Davies has any clue where he is at the moment. He looked utterly bewildered as he trudged off yesterday, and I’m assuming that was from the blow to his head, but he could be just as mystified as I am at the senseless muttering from some fans (look it up in the dictionary: I’ll help you – “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, player etc”) that having applauded him for last season, are getting on his back this. He’s 19, he’s started more PL games than any other teenager before him (I think; certainly for Everton), and he’s in his second season at the highest level the game has to offer in Europe. He’s having a rough spell it is true, his assurance on the ball is not what it was. But who, in their right mind, thinks that the way to help him back to the level at which we know he can excel, thinks that the right way is to slag him off and says he’s “sh**”? Give your heads more than a little wobble if you’re in that camp; I’d suggest first removing it from up where the sun don’t shine. 

A good win, a second on the road this season, at last, and now on to two daunting home games, but as I said earlier, NOW if ever it wasn’t the case before, is the time to tear in to these two teams and maybe, just maybe, we could, well, you know, possibly, with luck and a following wind, just about knick a couple of wins. One in particular would be most welcome.

Ross Crombie

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