If you’ve been concentrating, or are even bothered, you may have noticed that there hasn’t been an Obstructed View for a while. In fact, nothing since the Burnley game, just after Christmas. This will be my last OV as I’ve decided I’ve very little new to say, and I’m not finding it easy to keep writing 38 blogs a season; and it also hints at my attitude towards social media in general, of which more later.
This morning was a good morning. Some of you may have noticed that we were in a Merseyside Derby yesterday, the atmosphere for which was the best I’ve known it for years; and the good news was that whilst we were shouting ourselves hoarse, we were mainly doing it in support of our own team, and not just directing bile and abuse at the opposition. Well, mainly….
Yes, you may have noticed it, but not if you were listening to the National radio phone ins afterwards, or reading the press coverage in newspapers and on line, as they mainly focused on what Liverpool did or didn’t do, and precious little mention of the plucky boys in Blue. Frankly, I’m sick of the ‘Plucky Little Everton’ attitude towards us, not just from the media or opposition fans, but from some of our own fans too. Having supported Everton for 52 years now (and I’m only 35…), I knew not to build up my hopes before the game, as the fall can be worse from dizzying heights, as per the draw at Anfield. But whilst I was pleased we got a draw, as my inner reality check said we’d get beaten 3 or 4 if the Everton of New Year’s Day turned up, so pleased yes, but I wasn’t satisfied. We shouldn’t celebrate a draw, we should aim to celebrate a win, and to do that we need a team that’s capable of doing so, and we were a little toothless yesterday and badly lacked a true cutting edge, a fact we all know to be true, however much we like Calvert-Lewin and wish him to succeed, or even Cenk Tosun who, one suspects, isn’t Silva’s cup of herbal tea. Consider Chelsea’s loanee, one Gonzalo Higuain, who would never have joined us, but a player of his capability would have scored yesterday, and his presence would develop DCL as well.
Where are we then? Sadly, we appear to have had another false dawn, and no run of 9 straight wins from now to the end of the season will change that. We’re sitting horribly in mid table, a paltry 37 points from 29 games, and 10th, a decent way off 7th, let alone the top 6 that we crave. Marcel Brands and Marco Silva have undoubtedly set us on a better path than the dross served up by Allardyce, and actually better than Koeman as well, but whilst we weren’t necessarily expecting top 4, we were certainly expecting top 6, and to do so with a style of football that we could only see developing on to even better things. Don’t tell me that everything was rosy with our League form and position prior to the Anfield defeat, because it wasn’t. We drew at home to Huddersfield, we were thrashed at home by West Ham in the next game, we coulda/woulda/shoulda got wins from our away fixtures at Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd, but we didn’t. The reality check is that there are 6 good sides in the PL at the moment, and even four of those are inconsistent, and then there are about 7 or 8 sides battling it out for supremacy in mid table, and then there’s dross. We WANT to challenge the top 6, and we will, and we have some players that can help with that, and we need Moshiri to dip his hand in his pocket again in the Summer. Poor bloke, I wonder how quickly he had hoped for a return on his investment?
What have we got?
We have England’s No.1, which is as good a place to start as any, and with his save from Salah he justified that. But he also lumped the ball out in to touch too often, and didn’t release players as quickly as he has done. But he’s still young-ish, 25 by the end of this week, and he’s certainly developing. I said at the start of the season that he had come back too soon post World Cup, and needed to rest his brain. Where he’s been caught out this year is when he’s actually been over confident and tried to do something he knows he shouldn’t, so perhaps play the percentage game more. He’s an excellent ‘keeper, and I expect him to be-in-nets for many years to come at Everton.
Then there’s the back four, sometimes called ‘the Defence’, that has at times this season more closely resembled da fence at the bottom of my garden (get it?), it has that many holes in it. In Digne we have an excellent Left Back and, assuming he stays, and doesn’t wander off to the MLS or the Championship, we have a great back up in an ageing Baines. We have Coleman, who has at times this season been so far off his best that it was embarrassing, but signs are he’s back on it, but he’s ageing as well, and Kenny seems an able if not over-exciting deputy. Keane yesterday had his best game in an Everton shirt, and we should build around him. At 26 he’s not a young lad, but surely about to play his best years. In Zouma there is an un-flashy, hulk of a player, quicker than he looks or you’d expect, and wins most of his aerial duels and tackles, but he’s Chelsea’s player, and I doubt if they’ll sell him if they have to endure their transfer ban. And then we have Mina, a hit on the videos as he laughs and jokes with team mates, but has he really settled yet? I doubt it. Can he hack it? I’ve seen enough to say ‘yes’, but I haven’t seen enough to say ‘Yes definitely’. There always seems to be a mistake in him, but we’ll see.
The issue with the defence has been the system. I don’t understand zonal marking, because by definition it implies that there will be space, albeit between zones, unless the players are mobile and realise a zone can be lateral as well as longitudinal. Too many holes, too many times, Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Jimenez’s goal for Wolves a few weeks ago and our embarrassing exit from the FA Cup (*far too many other examples are available). We need to sort this out more than we need to sort out the personnel. Our first choice back 4 next season could well be Digne, Mina, Keane (say it quickly and it sounds like an Indie band) with Coleman or Kenny on the right.
Moving forward we have made strides at DM with Gomes, but I doubt he’ll stay (which I think he’s already told Silva which is why Schneiderlin has started the last two games), and we’re pretty confident Gueye will go too. That leaves us a wee bit light and vulnerable, but whilst I’m not going to spend my time here speculating who, we’re going to need a disruptor like Gueye and a ball-forwards-player like Gomes.
Our No10 position is sorted, with a guy who’s a little hot and cold, but Your Favourite Icelander Mr Sigurdsson has scored 11 goals so far, and we don’t often have someone doing that from midfield, so pipe down. But consistency is key for Gylfi, and perhaps an up and coming understudy to give him the occasional rest. Have we got anyone?
Out wide, Walcott has flattered to deceive, and frankly seems past his best, and if Arsenal thought he’d had it, I’m not sure we’ve seen enough to disprove that assessment. In Bernard we have a tricky player, a bit slow and that won’t change, but he brings a different dimension out wide and I’m sure his second season in the PL will be better than the promising first. In Lookman we have an enigma, not even trusted to the bench yesterday, and it’ll be time for this young man to step up, get his game time, and prove what we all believe exists; but we’ve only seen glimpses. Richarlison is a player, his goal tally is a little lower than I expected, but I’m happy with him, but whilst I’m happy, he certainly never seems to be. Cheer up lad. And up front, I’ve said all I need to say, in DCL we have youth, a lad who’ll put a shift in so we like him, bizarrely more than we seem to like someone scoring 25+ a season but apparently doesn’t run around enough. Give me a goal every other game as Lukaku has done throughout his career, rather than a goal every 7 games like Dom. I think Calvert-Lewin is still one for the future. Still. He’s only 22 later this month.
The squad is still a Work In Progress, and given how much we shipped out on loan, it’s progress but still plenty of work to do; not one of the loanees would be welcome back from my perspective, and that includes Vlasic, and Dowell, but maybe Williams (Joe, not Ashley) based on what little info I’ve had. So more to leave, more to promote and develop from a successful U23 and even U18 side, but we fundamentally need a proven striker, one more out wide, and new DMs if both Gomes and Gueye finally leave.
Our 12th man, allegedly, finally made it to a home game yesterday. No one can ever doubt the vociferous support that Everton get for every Away game, but at far too many Home games we, the crowd, have been lacklustre and actually the equivalent of playing with one man less, not one man more. The moaning in the stands is undoubtedly audible to the players, and just doesn’t help. Here is not the place to debate whether it’s the players who respond to the crowd or the crowd respond to the players, but derby or not, the noise and unbelievable support yesterday was exactly what we should aim to deliver every week, whether we’re playing Liverpool, or, sorry lads, Huddersfield. It’s up to us, I can’t shout on my own, we can’t wait for a thunderous tackle to go in, or a goalmouth scramble, we’ve got to get stuck in, and the players will feed off that. And vice versa. It’s not them, it’s not us, it’s both.
One thing we seem to have lost is an identity. Many a pundit has jumped on this bandwagon, but it’s true. Are we a high press, high intensity, are we a lump it up to the big lad, are we intricate triangles from front to back? It’s not clear. We need an Everton way, and don’t look to the past to try and find it, except that we will always want players who put in a shift for 95 minutes (and score 25+ a season…). I live in Nottingham, and there’s a Club in Forest who seem too rooted in their past, a pretty glorious one it must be said in the late 70s and early 80s, but it’s gone, look forward (how another ex player with Clough connections will fare at the helm there only time will tell). We need to develop the Everton way that’s relevant to the way the game is played in the Premier League, in what will soon be the third decade of this millennium, not hark back to the Dogs of War, or the mid 80s bliss, or the Holy Trinity: those were great times, but whilst there may be a consistent thread that binds them together, if we play like we did in 1985, we’ll get beaten every week. Let’s find our way forward, an identity, and make it relevant and also, of course, successful.
I’m smiling thinking of the social media reaction to that last paragraph, after all, how dare I sully the memories of some golden ages? Well, I’m not doing that. What I want is the success that those times gave us, I just don’t happen to think if we replicated it today it would work as well.
Which brings me finally to Social Media, and my farewell from Obstructed View.
I used to love Twitter. I’d enjoy friendly banter amongst fellow Everton fans, I’d enjoy hearing a bit more about the inner workings of our political system, and learning more about world affairs as well. But now, Twitter seems more than ever just to be people shouting at each other, and doing so with the least amount of respect that can be managed without getting a yellow or even a red card. This player’s crap, that player’s worse, your selection is laughable, this manager is inept, that manager is a heroohnoavillain, Brexit, Trump, Alt Right, you’re all c****, you name it, a valuable source of dialogue and debate is just a load of people shouting and no one listening. Facebook is worth an occasional glance, but full of people posting 100s of photos of their holidays, their cat, their baby, LadBible, etc etc. Dull. Instagram is ok, but it’s different to the other two in its purpose I think. After all, where else are you going to post photos of your latest meal or your latest brown legs by a pool in Tenerife?
This grumpy old man has had enough. I’m a positive person by and large, and I like to think (pompously) that occasionally I can come up with some valuable insight without someone shouting abuse at me. I effectively came off Twitter at the beginning of February (it was the Wolves game that pushed me over the edge) and I’ve only posted something like 3 tweets since then, as opposed to 3 tweets every 10 minutes in the past. And I don’t miss out. I still find out what’s going on, and life is just a bit calmer. If you read Twitter and you find it makes you angry and want to shout, have a break, see how you get on. I still look at Facebook and it’s on its last legs, and Instagram is ok, but for now (and I do retain the right to change my mind completely) I’m lost to the angry versions of Social Media. For now.
That’s it. Thank you if you’ve supported Obstructed View all these years, and hope I’ve poked a little ray of sunshine in to your lives occasionally.
Be good to each other. There’s too much hate in the world. And no, I’ve not joined a weird cult.