Hang on. What is this trickery Everton? Two games in to the season and the optimist’s bubble hasn’t burst yet!
Image from ESPN
A first half of pace, movement, goals only fuelled that optimism still further, and only an obstructed view could have failed to spot an appalling howler from a punch-drunk Pickford (see last week’s blog), but the unbelievable recovery to keep out a thunderous drive from all of a yard out from Ings on to the bar. It would be save of the season but for the cock-up that created the opportunity. There’s no doubt in my mind that Pickford is not on top of his game at the moment, and a little rest might just be all he needs, except that’s not coming any time soon. After all, the International Break will still involve him, unless Southgate, watching our last two games, thinks as I do and decides to give Butland a go.
Front 4s get a lot of positive press on Merseyside at the moment, and with just cause. The Other Lot have been at it for a couple of seasons, and now Blues have something to shout about as Tosun, Walcott, Richarlison and the particularly impressive Sigurdsson did all they could to put defenders in a spin, not knowing where the runners were, or who was going to be where. Such fluidity, a thing rarely seen since the first Martinez year. And two excellent finishes: a well-worked first goal, seemingly derided as “off the training ground”, although I thought that was the whole idea of training, using a little bit of ingenuity and that fluidity I’ve mentioned, rather than the same old same old lumping in to the box for the big lad. Moves like this, especially if it results in a goal, get replayed time and again, and opposition scouts and analysts (or “spies” as I like to call them) will have to report back that the new Everton isn’t predictable any more. and that has to keep future opposition guessing, surely a good thing.
Where we were predictable I’m afraid, was at the back. Keane played well against Wolves, but was jittery here, and I’m convinced he plays best when he’s playing in a settled back 4. He may not get that chance, as I suspect Zouma will play at Bournemouth, probably to replace the still ‘green’ Holgate, or maybe even Keane himself. But I’m not going to blame Keane for the Southampton goal, that was something lost on the training ground, never mind ‘straight off it’. I’ve rarely seen a striker with so much time and space to slot home as Ings buried his second chance of the day, but the only good news is that it was such an almighty cock-up, that that’ll be replayed time and again over this week and the culprits will have their feet metaphorically, and maybe even literally, held to the fire. Don’t do it again you naughty boys. It had a nasty echo of the Martinez era level of defending – in other words, it wasn’t defending at all. The Rotherham Forwards, I’m guessing none of whom are whippy 5ft 8ers, will be licking their lips too!
What else was different and better?
Playing a ball forward. The obvious example is the ball played up top by Holgate to Sigurdsson in the build up to what would have been one of the team goals of the season, but turned out to a horrible drag wide by Walcott. And Holgate’s pass was fast and direct, not lofted and aimless; just as Sigurdsson’s through ball to a marginally offside Tosun to set up Walcott’s disallowed goal was equally incisive – this Everton side can come again, it’s lovely to watch. Schneiderlin, before his untimely departure, was also less of a crab and more direct, and even Gueye seems to have learnt how to pass, the latter having an excellent game. Whether Davies will keep his place will presumably be a tactical shout – Gomes isn’t fit, so Beni Baningime is the only other option if Silva wants to play Bournemouth tight, rather than the fluidity that Davies can offer. Young Tom, I use the word ‘young’ advisedly, was pretty good I thought, and maybe one who can silence a few doubters this season. He’s got a great engine, a good football brain, and if he can just nail his first touch, he’ll be a hell of a player. Good signs he’s getting back to his heights.
Pickford did, in my view, clear the ball through to Ings with added snide. It wasn’t quite Schumacher cleaning out Battiston in the ’82 World Cup (google it kids), but I’d say he left a bit in there, some sign of a second movement with his foot, unless it was caused by Ings’ shirt getting caught on his studs. Sending off according to Hughes, but I think he wanted to send off Davies for tying up his shoelaces before coming on as a sub, and he also blamed Everton for breaking up the game in the second half – this is from the Manager of a side who committed 20 fouls to Everton’s 8, and who had 5 players booked to Everton’s none. Grow up Mark Hughes, your constant griping and moaning is turning everyone against you. Talk up the positives rather than always moaning about what you didn’t get and didn’t deserve.
OK, another impressive performance from the side that Sam (largely) Built, but that Sam couldn’t manage or motivate. On we go, soon we’ll have new players available, and it’ll be fascinating to see how these are melded in to this side. It looks obvious that Mina and Zouma will be the two CBs; Gomes for Schneiderlin when both fit; and not altogether sure where Bernard Matthews fits in. Certainly not in place of Gylfi on this showing, maybe an option out wide when Richarlison needs a breather, or if Theo is off form. At the moment, Everton’s Front Four is doing a lot of the talking, and they look like making the shirts their own.