Sorry this is late, I’ve been horizontal for 24 hours or so, and not the “tired and emotional” sort. A back spasm has laid me low, literally, not ideal when you’ve a fascinating (?) blog to write, or indeed when you’ve got a 14 month old Granddaughter to look after whilst the parents of same are off enjoying themselves at a wedding in the Smoke. Spoiler Alert: Tenuous Analogy About To Follow. Switch Off or Look Away Now.
Ready? Ok, here goes…..
Lying on your back unable to do things you know you want to do, but are suddenly incapable, is like Everton trying to see out a 2-0 victory with barely 20 minutes left. See, I told you. Tenuous. And poor. But my excuse is I’m in a lot of pain.
As indeed I was on Saturday at 5pm. There must be something in the sea air in Bournemouth (and possibly along the coast in Southampton and Brighton as well) that we seem incapable of seeing off opposition we seem to dominate, only to give them a glimpse of a Brave New World, which they grasp with both hands (not sure that works, but I’m not well…..think I’ve mentioned that….). In fairness to Bournemouth, we were pretty poor in the first half, or they were pretty good (more the former IMO), but we went down to our usual 10 men, and came out by far the better side, scored two excellent goals, and then a defensive aberration from Baines let them back in with a penalty, and then a collective defensive aberration by the whole team (and maybe the whole squad, including the manager) let them in for an equaliser. If you think that’s harsh, well, I’m not well.
Let’s start with the positives. Walcott was superb on Saturday, and his goal really well taken and makes his dreadful miss last week all the more inexcusable. The quickly taken free kick for the second shows a speed of mind completely absent last term, and Gylfi duly plonked the ball on Keane’s Unfractured Head for a second that should have seen the game home. The fall backs to this point had been solid, Holgate imperious, Keane pretty decent, Gana his normal wasp-like self (topical reference, and me not well, that’s good work….) buzzing all around the opposition (just a pity Bournemouth didn’t have Jam Sandwich playing otherwise this topical reference would have been even more – more? – relevant), Davies dependable if not exciting, Tosun excellent workrate, and Richarlison quiet but effective up until his feigned nut job. I imagine the betting companies would have agreed with me. Away win. After all, we haven’t won at Bournemouth in ages, so now’s the time to change the trend.
That we didn’t, will be of concern to the coaching staff and manager alike. We can’t just say that Baines was sloppy, even though he was, we’d need to look at how King was able to cross so effectively having been penned in on the touchline just seconds before. Balls in to our box (ooh, matron) are not things we crave, and once more Rotherham will have taken note, as indeed will every Prem opponent. The answer isn’t Zouma, Digne and Mina, although it includes them. The answer has to be in a whole pattern of defending, not allowing opponents to exploit weak points, and sending them down the flanks (as we did with Wolves to be fair), or getting them to pass backwards not put incisive thrusts into our wobbly underbelly. I’m not going to leap on to a negative bandwagon here, using a + or a -, but I think it’s worth pointing out that whilst we can unsettle teams with our attacking flair, it’ll come to nothing unless we learn the art of defending from every position on the pitch. I didn’t see the intensity of the first two games in closing people down, or at least not consistently, and that’ll come through soon enough, and it needs to. Huddersfield can exploit that and we have to sort it out. It’s not changing personnel, it’s about consistently implementing the game plan. It just goes to show it’s a hard task turning round the Everton juggernaut, we’re seeing really positive signs, but a sharp 180 degree turn isn’t possible.
Richarlison’s decent from hero to zero was mystifying, and it was clear he reacted to something said to him, what, we just don’t know, as I suspect Smith’s Portuguese is about as good as Richarlison’s English, but they boy has to learn, that he’s going to be hacked, pushed, tapped, pulled and all manner of narks, verbals just being one of them. Learn from the best Richo – you never see Oumar getting wound up…..