It was back in 2007 during an Everton Veterans vs Barcelona Legends match that I was last invited into the Everton Press Office to cover match on behalf of ToffeeWeb. Some six years on, it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to do likewise, again versus Spanish opposition in the form of Europa League qualifiers Real Betis.
I was advised to arrive at the new Everton Media Centre from 12pm. With kick off not until 3pm I was conscious of not arriving too early and so set off at around 1pm, parked up and arrived at roughly 1:45pm. The affable Suzie Parker, Everton Press and PR Officer, greeted me on entrance, providing me with an official media pass and ran through the procedure with me. Everton’s busy new Communications Director Alan Myers also introduced himself to me. With plenty of time until kick-off, I sat with a few familiar faces. Copies of the official teamsheet were passed around, the omission of Marouane Fellaini being the focal talking point though this was later put down to a infected cut on his leg.
We were led upstairs by the Everton matchday staff and into our fantastic seats. It was just superb to get effectively the best seats in the house, bang in the centre of the Main Stand overlooking the pitch. The Real Betis radio commentary team just to the left of us. Everton attacked towards the Park End in the first half, Real Betis playing towards the Gwladys Street and Howard Webb, looking quite smart in grey, officiating.
Had the match have been a league game, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that Everton could have been down to 10 men as early as the fourth minute after a dreadful lunge by Ross Barkley left Nacho, the Real Betis captain, sprawling on the ground injured. Thankfully Webb didn’t feel the need to enforce any further action on Barkley and the game continued.
More concerning, however, was the ease in which Real Betis created goalscoring opportunities throughout the game and on another day they really could have humiliated Everton. I hope the jet lag is realistic reasoning for this as – if not for some excellent goalkeeping by Howard, dogged defending by Jagielka and wayward finishing by Betis – the match could have bee very different. Actually, as far as I can remember, Everton had failed to register a shot at goal whatsoever until Jelavic finished from inside the six-yard box to put Everton ahead 10 minutes until the interval. A lovely ball from Pienaar allowed Mirallas to scamper away down the right wing. He centered low for Jelavic who finished after good footwork created space for himself to put Everton 1-0 to the good. It’s great to see Jelavic back in the goals this pre-season and you can only assume he’ll be preferred to Kone next Saturday at Carrow Road.
Straight from kick-off, Betis countered and Howard was alert to deny Igiebor, as too was Baines to block Molina as Betis pressed for the leveler but Everton survived. Again, had the match have been a league game, Mirallas may have saw red for kicking out at a Real Betis player on the half way line though Webb, sensibly and indeed thankfully let things slip by without getting his red card out though Mirallas was cautioned. It was with worry that Gibson limped / stomped off the pitch just a minute before half time, being replaced in midfield by Heitinga. After the match, Martinez confirmed this was knee ligament damage sustained in the warm up…”Why play him then?” begs the questions as he is now an obvious doubt for next weekend's Premier League opener.
At the interval I made good use of the Media Centre facilities and grabbed some soup downstairs. Feeling brave, I felt I could make my way back up to the Media Seating Area hassle free…any idiot could but I’m not your ordinary idiot and somehow managed to get lost until a kind steward took pity on me and noticing my Media Pass led me back towards where I was supposed to be. What a fool.
The second half was livelier and passed by quickly though how Everton didn’t concede about five goals I’ll never know and somehow we maintained our slender 1-0 lead. The going would have gotten much tougher had Real Betis goalkeeper Stephan Andersen not quite literally given us a helping hand to put us 2-0 ahead. A deep Mirallas cross into the box was flapped double-handed into the net by the poor Danish keeper under no pressure whatsoever. It was a real howler of epic proportions and Everton had breathing space with 62 minutes on the clock.
2-0 should really have become 3-0 though Jelavic was up to his old tricks from last season, completely spooning an effort well wide of goal when put through after neat play by Mirallas with Real Betis shell-shocked… though 3-0 would have been incredibly harsh on the Spaniards. Like Barkley and Mirallas before him, Jelavic also perhaps would have bee shown his marching orders following a flair-up with Javier Chica though again Webb thankfully showed leniency. Regardless, it was good to see some fire in the Croat once more.
A flurry of substitutions affected the flow of the game slightly as we approached full time. Indeed we even made it to stoppage time with a clean sheet intact. You can always count on me to spoil a good party though and I just couldn’t contain myself, stating to Simon and Peter “This will be our only clean sheet this pre-season won’t it?” Naturally upon this, Real Betis found the net immediately, Rodriguez finally scoring after the ball seemed to ping around the penalty area for what seemed like forever. No clean sheet this pre-season after all. “For God sake Paul!” snapped Peter. I couldn’t believe it.
Howard Webb blew for full time shortly afterwards, Everton signing off their pre-season preparations with a win, albeit unconvincingly.
We waited on a few minutes before heading downstairs (I again managed to get Simon and me lost) for Roberto Martinez post-match press conference. Martinez urged us not to read too much into the team which started today in terms of which team is likely to start at Carrow Road next weekend. On Alcaraz he explained that the Cardiff City match is a more realistic target for him to be involved in than either of the proceeding games. He was also asked about transfer targets in the next three weeks of the season and was quick to explain that he only wants a certain character of player at Everton Football Club, that he understands this is important and will ensure only good human beings are considered to play for Everton. It’s difficult to be unimpressed with Roberto. He’s very likeable, I just hope he talks as good a game in the dressing room as he does to the media.
I dabbled with the idea of asking a few questions but they both kind of answered themselves anyway. I’m interested to see where Martinez sees Heitinga playing for Everton as he has featured in defensive midfield for the most part of pre-season, though I imagine Martinez would have explained about the importance of adaptability and he in fact eluded to this earlier in the press conference. I was also going to ask if we should be patient with Deulofeu… though the answer in a longer format would have been – yes.
Before leaving, Suzie Parker spoke with us again, explaining how Everton are looking to engage with fans more so than they have previously. Overall I was very impressed with the friendliness of the staff at the Media Centre. Everyone was very helpful and courteous. It was very insightful and intriguing to get a flavor of how it all works behind the scenes of the media side at Everton FC… and I’m very grateful for this opportunity to have been involved in it.
So onto the serious stuff next week. Let's hope the team is ready for Carrow Road next Saturday.
Howard: My man of the match. Made countless good saves. Seems as though he’s ready. 9
Baines: Pretty consistent though not at his electrifying best going forward. 6
Distin: Looked very comfortable at the back. 7
Jagielka: Made some crucial blocks and interceptions though didn’t look incredibly comfortable with Real Betis’s high pressing strategy. 6
Coleman: Coped pretty well. As with Baines, not at his best going forward. 6
Gibson: Looked very good in patches though his passing was at times sloppy before he was subbed just before the break. Sounds as though he may now miss the beginning of the new season. 5
Osman: At times unnoticed and had a generally quiet game. 5
Pienaar: One of our busier players. Got about the pitch well. 6
Mirallas: The pick of the bunch of the outfield players. Two assists and a good all round performance. A big season ahead I think. 8
Barkley: I still feel he’s not quite ready. Far too erratic in his play. Some things excellent, others very sloppy. Yet to find that level of maturity but he’ll get there. 6
Jelavic: Missed a sitter but did take his goal well. All round play much improved on last season. Looks like the old Jelavic again. 7
Heitinga (for Gibson): Good. Nice range of passing and looked quite focused and comfortable in defensive midfield. Could have a future at Everton in that role after all…at least for this season. 7
Kone (for Jelavic): Didn’t really get going. 5
Naismith (for Barkley): Not on long, difficult to judge.
Deulofeu (for Mirallas): Not on long, difficult to judge.
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484 Posted 12/08/2013 at 08:59:17
I was sat not far away from you I think. The thing I notice, and I think the people sat around noticed too, is this playing out from the back business... How do I put the politely??? WE ARE GOING TO BE FUCKED!!!
The tempo of the match was very slow but Betis were pressing and when a midfielder comes deep to collect to ball he is facing the keeper. Jags and Distin are 50 yards apart and Ossie or whoever is on the ball has nowhere to go apart from back to Howard.
In the Premier League in a much higher tempo game you are going to get raped prision-style no lube but maybe a bit of swarfega for extra pain!
Barkley for me looks raw but about the only player to try inject any sort of pace into the game.
I was not impressed one bit. This fancy dancy tippy toe football is fucking boring. I wasn't Moyes's biggest fan but we always looked solid as a team; against Betis, we looked shit.
520 Posted 12/08/2013 at 11:29:32
Also good to get a bit of an insight into the Press Box. Sounds like TW is going up in the world! Pleased to hear the club are trying to connect with the fans more. Alan Myers seems to have the right idea.
As we all agree, for this system to work we need a different type of central midfielder. Unless Heitinga makes the position his own, which is possible. It's going to be a season of transition. I can't say that too many times. I am confident Martinez will get it right in the long run.
521 Posted 12/08/2013 at 11:29:52
Martinez will be thinking he's jumped from the frying pan into the fire, at Wigan he had to try to do well on a shoestring, & low and behold hes being being asked to do the same again!
If we don't get 2 or 3 top class footballers, it looks like we would be better reverting back to more direct play.
523 Posted 12/08/2013 at 11:50:43
Opposition managers only have to push their centre-forward and two wide midfielders right up and abracadabra – you're fucked!
545 Posted 12/08/2013 at 12:59:20
As the clock ticks towards Saturday at Norwich (who have not held back in bolstering their team) we will be lucky to get a result, unless we are holding back something! What is that 'something' because I fail to see it?
548 Posted 12/08/2013 at 13:11:18
We need the Fellaini situation to be sorted quickly. The likes of Barkley and Naismith need to step up if they want to be part of the starting eleven. I thought Naismith had a good outing against Madrid but consistency is the key. Heitinga is not getting any better and tends to be erratic.
577 Posted 12/08/2013 at 16:24:32
After giving it more thought I'm even more worried as I watched Liverpool vs Celtic and even though Liverpool lost, their speed of passing in midfield more than compensated for their also lack of a pacey midfielder. Our passing was slow, sideways, backwards and sloppy.
With Distin and Jags pulling out wide to give Howard options to throw it to them, all it needed was for a midfielder to lose the ball and hey presto we were cut wide open in a flash – we will get a real tonking if we continue to play like that.
All the talk of tiredeness, jet lag etc is of little consequence when the Real Betis team had actually played 90 mins on Saturday afternoon at Hull, where they lost 3-0.
579 Posted 12/08/2013 at 16:43:03
I wonder when the rest of the fans will wake up?
585 Posted 12/08/2013 at 16:47:55
When I work on my kids' speech I get them to say things slowly and over-exaggeratedly (if that's a word). I don't expect them to speak that way.
Hopefully the robotic stuff... CBs in the fullback position every time Howard gets it and CM dropping to CB is just an exaggeration of how he wants them to think. Because its pretty mindless if we just do that every time.
That, and the fact that the squad that finished 6th is (currently) stronger than last season, is the positive view. The other view is that we are either:
A) Experimenting too close to the real stuff; or
B) Actually going to commit hari kari and play like that.
Martinez's recent history does bother me.
586 Posted 12/08/2013 at 16:53:03
With three weeks still to go of the transfer window nothing is really settled. It is still nail biting time. We go to Carrow Road nervously I think.
593 Posted 12/08/2013 at 17:03:10
Why not just leave the back 4 to do their stuff and just get shut when being closed down, then, when we get the chance further up the pitch to pass & move more, encourage that for now. School of Science wasn't built in a day.
607 Posted 12/08/2013 at 19:08:39
609 Posted 12/08/2013 at 14:00:40
Looks like Alan Myers is already dealing with the negativity in the PR dept.
I guess Leroy Fer will be wearing the wrong shirt on Saturday.
Many things would have been different if we'd signed him in January IMO.
610 Posted 12/08/2013 at 19:24:04
612 Posted 12/08/2013 at 19:23:29
Barkley and indeed Pienaar were largely starved of the ball because the delivery was slow, inaccurate or not in their direction at all because it went backwards! There was a point when it looked like attack against defence – regardless of Betis getting a touch of the thing or not.
The link between the deeper two midfield players and those further forward looks very wrong at present and watching us made football look like a very difficult game to play at times. When the play is linked obviously it gets very messy and mistakes happen. Sort this out (somehow) and I think those further forward will give a far better account of themselves.
614 Posted 12/08/2013 at 19:29:44
Weather we have wasted our money on Kone or not will depend on Jelevic's form. Norwich signed Fer and Redmond for not much more than we paid for Kone.
I also get the feeling we've invested in the wrong area of our squad. Time will only tell I suppose.
Still, a little while longer to go in this transfer window, a lot can change.
619 Posted 12/08/2013 at 20:17:30
It's all silly nonesense disecting pre-season performances and using them as a stick to beat the manager with. Let's wait untill real time kick off happens then have a go if it not up to scratch. At least when I used to moan about Moyes, there was a reason for it. This is ridiculous.
625 Posted 12/08/2013 at 19:23:53
The new system is highlighting the inadequacies of players who were brought in by a different manager to do a different job. Instead of getting the best out of these lads, Roberto is getting quite the opposite. Decent footballers like Osman, Gibson and Jags are looking completely lost and are definitely not happy.
As Tony Doran suggested earlier, in our own half we need to play in our old manner, strengthen the midfield and pass and move quickly in the final third.
Will Martinez continue to force square pegs into round holes or will he change tack? We'll have to wait and see. He's not a stupid man and will hopefully make all the right decisions at the right time.
639 Posted 12/08/2013 at 21:30:15
Fact is, if that £6/7M turns out to be the sum total of our summer expenditure, Sr Roberto will have blown it all on his love children.
But all managers do it. Their peripheral view of the transfer market goes no further than players they know or those that get foisted on them by their fellow countrymen.
I don`t think that Martinez had ever done enough to merit his becoming our manager and from what I`ve seen of his tippy-tappy football, he is about to destroy all Moyes put together in his 11 years. And I was one of the MOB!
Do you remember how it pissed us off when we were told ... "Be careful what you wish for"? I`ve started wishing already!
640 Posted 12/08/2013 at 21:59:11
Even if we lose a few or ship goals, we need to give Martinez a chance to get the right players in to play the way he wants. By Christmas we'll have a much better idea of how far away we are from where we could potentially be.
We've played really difficult pre-season games against teams who work really hard and who have really good technical players. Even though the premier league is 100mph, I think its a step down in quality from our pre-season opponents most of the time.
Importantly, Jelavic appears to have re-found his goalscoring form, and we have a fair bit more depth to the squad with Martinez willing to use the promising Barkley, Oviedo and his 4 new signings.
641 Posted 12/08/2013 at 22:09:47
I think your right there. The problem I have is that Jelavic and Kone do not strike me as 12 million pounds worth of talent. We could have bought Tevez for that amount!
What's done is done though and here's hoping one of them can hit some form as we haven't had a goalscoring striker since the Yak.
Central midfield worries me most and is paper thin. Gibson divides opinion on here but few would argue he's a player we don't have a replacement for. Barkley is kid and can't really be counted on too much just yet. Osman is in woeful form. That doesn't really leave you a lot of options. Will be very interesting to see how Fer does. We also missed a cracking player in Capoue he is gonna be immense for Spurs.
643 Posted 12/08/2013 at 22:21:37
I wouldn't profess to be a tactical genius but that makes some sense to me.
647 Posted 12/08/2013 at 22:52:20
Check out Spurs' midfield options asuming that the Capoue transfer goes thru tomorrow:
Huddlestone, Bale, Holtby, Andros Townsend, Lennon, Dembele, Parker, Sigurdsson, Sandro, Paulinho, Livermore, Capoue
And our midfield: Osman, Gibson (injured), Barkley (19), Fellaini (probably off this week), Naismith.... oh yeah Heitinga...
Money sadly talks......
658 Posted 12/08/2013 at 23:36:34
As for our midfield. Scary stuff indeed.
659 Posted 12/08/2013 at 23:54:40
660 Posted 13/08/2013 at 00:07:38
661 Posted 13/08/2013 at 00:06:32
Everton's midfield so far for the coming season is actually: Gibson, Pienaar, Deulofeu, Osman, Barkley, Mirallas, Fellaini, Naismith, Junior. Not that bad really and take into consideration the Spurs squad will have to compete in the energy-sapping soul-destroying Europa League as well as the domestic competitions.
It's not all gloom and doom son.
668 Posted 13/08/2013 at 01:03:28
670 Posted 13/08/2013 at 01:19:01
697 Posted 13/08/2013 at 08:15:09
I just wanted to point out how poor we are compared with Spurs who to be frank were on the same level as us 3 years ago...
912 Posted 13/08/2013 at 21:54:58
944 Posted 17/08/2013 at 08:46:43
Decent - but obviously not good enough or not adaptable enough to play a 'new' system.
They better start learning otherwise they are certainly going to show their inadequacies and we shall be waving them goodbye as soon as RM identifies their replacements.
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