It's every football fan's dream. The ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’. No tension, no worry, just simply watching the team you love knock the ball round with ease and going to sleep at night comfortable in the knowledge that, man for man, you were the better side. It's is arguably the result all fans want out of a home game. 1-0 and you may have put in a shocking performance. 2-1 and you’ve lost your clean sheet. 2-0 and you run the risk of a comeback, a dodgy penalty here, a bundled goal there... and points get dropped. The beauty of the 3-0 win is that it asserts dominance. It sends a message to the opposition that you’re hungry and uncompromising in taking three points.
Against West Bromwich Albion, Everton put on a performance at Goodison Park which was the very definition of the ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’. We were comfortable in possession, Barkley and Lukaku were electric and the defence was barely troubled. All the usual stress of watching football was removed. Everton were cruising, we had one hand on the wheel and still made sure West Brom knew we were a club with top four ambitions. Having attended this exact fixture last season and watched 80 minutes’ worth of defending by the Baggies after an early goal, I know how painful it feels when Tony Pulis ‘does a job over you’. West Brom are in the form of their Premier League lives and, after a dismal Everton performance against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, I can’t lie, I was nervous.
However, one man settled those nerves immediately – French international and recent signing Morgan Schneiderlin, who is quickly becoming a fan favourite. Schneiderlin oozes the kind of class our central midfield has been lacking for most of the premier league era. It still baffles me that Jose Mourinho never viewed Morgan as Michael Carrick’s long term successor given his magnificent passing range and tough tackling.
In fact, it is this combination of ball playing ability and physicality which made him the league’s most sought after defensive midfielder two seasons ago. Schneiderlin can tackle for 90 minutes like N’Golo Kante and yet is just as likely to ping a ball out wide to create chances. Despite his obvious pedigree, I was still surprised by how calmly he finished off our second goal to really put pressure on West Brom. Koeman called for more goals to come from midfield. Both Gana and Schneiderlin have responded in recent home matches.
Our usual goal scorers were also bang in form during the ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’. Mirallas impressed immensely in the first half, beating defenders and using his speed to cause the Baggies defence all kinds of problems. For all the questions surrounding Kev’s attitude, there is no denying that, on his day, he can be a devastating winger. It is just too late for him to find the consistency which seems to elude all but the best wide men. Lukaku scored his now customary Goodison goal to keep pace with Harry Kane in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot but it was Ross Barkley who really caught the eye. Barkley put in a Man of the Match performance which was simply outstanding and would have definitely grabbed Gareth Southgate’s attention.
The England manager, who happened to be sat in the stands, must have Ross on his mind when picking the squad for the nation's friendly against Germany in Dortmund. In particular, Barkley’s assist for our third goal demonstrated how far he’s come since Christmas, spinning away from the oppositions defence to float a beautiful ball into Lukaku. Young Tom Davies, whose work rate in the second half was relentless, should also be on Southgate’s mind. Box-to-box Davies was tireless and an England call up next season wouldn’t come as a shock.
However, as is customary with every ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’, it could have and maybe should have been six. Against opposition in the Champions League positions, we'll have to be more clinical in the 18-yard box given how few our chances may be. We were wasteful in the first half and it was a shame it took us half-an-hour to score.
But, no matter how nervy those first thirty minutes were, I would never go as far as to say we were uninspiring. If anything, a professional ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’ at home is as inspiring as it gets. Routinely beating teams below you in the table is how titles are won. Fact. Therefore, any post-match backlash is absurd given that consistency is something we’ve craved under Koeman. Same as everyone else, Barry’s place in the starting XI raised an eyebrow but we must rotate so that the squad stays fresh. Quite frankly, Barry or not, there wasn’t a single West Brom player who could have claimed to have outplayed anyone in a blue shirt. Position for position, we were superior. Fact.
As I left Goodison having suffered through this fixture last season, I overheard a Baggies fan shout “How the hell did we get away with that!?!” – there would have only been silence from the away support this season. Football fans in general have short memories and can often grow cynical quickly; some of Everton’s support have been guilty of the latter. The last time I spoke about a need for a ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’ was on a warm summer night at a friend’s house, watching England's build-up to that fateful match against Iceland. So innocent... so unaware of what was to come... So cherish the ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’ and count yourself lucky we took three points.
That’s five home wins in a row now and, with Liverpool, Manchester United as well as Arsenal left to play, our fate is in our own hands. The top six is quickly becoming a top seven, with favourable cup finals only enhancing The Blues' chances of achieving European football. In Koeman’s post match interview he spoke of closing the gap to Arsenal, even though it is Man Utd who sit above us eternally in 6th. But he was right to target Wenger’s sinking ship. United have just exited the FA Cup and are looking more likely than even Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League. That means that, by the day, our away match at the Emirates is looking increasingly enticing. Koeman must have spotted this potential opportunity.
But It is only through beating the likes of West Bromwich Albion that we can dream about nicking European football from The Gunners on the last day of the season. Goodison is rapidly becoming a fortress so get used to the ‘Solid Three-Nil Win’... love it. Against Hull next weekend, there’s nothing else I’d rather watch. COYB.
Reader Comments (2)
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1 Posted 15/03/2017 at 07:01:01
How long ago was it that Fat Sam was in the same stand watching Barkley v 2.0 have a stinker and left after 65 mins. Good work by player and coach.
2 Posted 16/03/2017 at 22:04:08
One down, three to go. If he comes through them having done well, I'll be the first to give him credit. If he plays anything like he did at White Hart Lane... for me, the jury will still be out.
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