Well it was nice to stop the rut against Norwich City… one of the worst teams to grace the Premier League over the last few years. Having drawn four and lost one of our last five fixtures with the Canarie, I was fairly convinced another disappointing draw was on the horizon as I set off to Goodison Park, though at full time, and despite a slightly nervy last 20 minutes, Everton ran out comfortable winners with two excellent goals separating the teams.
I set off pretty early and was outside Goodison Park at about 12:30pm. It’s nice getting there early and seeing some of the goings on around the ground as they prepare for kick off. The ‘Fanzone’ now has a FIFA ’14 stand set up for kids to try their hand at the popular video game. You see corporate gentlemen in suits entering the lounge and some of the assembled media arriving and setting up for the afternoon.
I was there early to see some of the memorabilia provided by the EFC Heritage Society. Every home game, they have the upstairs of St Luke’s Church decked out with all sorts of memorabilia including matchday programmes from yesteryear, old newspaper cuttings, flags, old tickets stubs and plenty more. Entry is free and it's certainly worthwhile visiting if you have a spare 10 minutes on match day. A section is also included for the visiting team.
It was nice to browse around before making my way to the pub which was fairly empty when I arrived, though soon packed out. Katja, my better half, joined me. She is German and brought with her two German Evertonians from work. Gaz soon followed. Gaz is Welsh and brought with him a group of Welsh Evertonians, so we had conversations flowing in German and in at times barely detectable Welsh accents… Gary was very bemused by it all when he arrived. It as good fun in the pub, everyone in good spirits and everyone, bar myself, very confident of a home win for the Blues.
There were quite a few changes to the team which crushed QPR in the FA Cup last weekend. Howard and Baines both slotted back into their regular positions whilst Jagielka was the surprise inclusion into the backline replacing the presumably injured Alcaraz. Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar both returned to the team to replace the injured Ross Barkley and Stephen Naismith whilst Lukaku regained his place in attack, replacing the seemingly departing Nikica Jelavic.The substitutes bench perhaps demonstrated our pressing needs for reinforcements with Magaye Gueye and Apostolos Vellios joining Robles, Hibbert, Heitinga, Oviedo and Naismith on the substitutes bench.
Norwich City had ex-Everton keeper John Ruddy between the sticks, Leroy Fer (who almost signed for Everton 12 months ago) in midfield, and their record signing, the fantastically named Robin van Wolfswinkel (whose only league goal so far is against Everton) in attack. We took our seats to find a remarkably tall gentleman directly in front of Gary, much to his dismay. You felt a bit sorry for the bloke as he was clearly quite conscious of it… there’s nothing you can do about your height.
If our substitutes bench indicated a pressing need for more reinforcements, then it was a great surprise to see Everton had wrapped up the deal to bring Aiden McGeady to the club, the Ireland international signing for the club on a 4½-year deal. Aiden was introduced to the Goodison crowd prior to kick-off. He’s always looked a good player and could be a great addition to the squad. This brings our contingent of Irish internationals in our squad to four — even five if you count our Under-21 international Shane Duffy, currently on loan at Yeovil Town.
Everton attacked towards the Park End in the first half and, despite a fairly uncomfortable first few minutes, were soon in control of the game and creating opportunities against, barring Fulham, the leakiest defence in the league… Lukaku missing a gilt-edged opportunity to put us ahead when he headed his fellow Belgian Kevin Mirallas's pinpoint centre over the crossbar. It didn’t take long for us to take the lead however when a Gareth Barry piledriver gave us the advantage when he smashed home from about 20 yards out. I love goals like that – unstoppable drives from distance. That was Barry’s 50th club goal and what a way to score it.
Everton put Norwich City under a lot of pressure for the remainder of the half and on another day could have been further ahead. Coleman blazed one over, somebody (I don’t know who) just about cleared his own crossbar in what would have been quite an own goal and Everton’s general play around the Norwich penalty area was very threatening. At the other end, Tim Howard tipped Robin van Wolfswinkel’s curling effort around the post in what was pretty much Norwich’s only opportunity in the first half. At the break, we lead 1-0.
Into the second period and Everton’s general dominance continued, a lot of pressure was applied but it took another piece of individual brilliance, this time from Kevin Mirallas, to give us a two-goal margin. Leighton Baines was felled about 25 yards from goal and Mirallas stepped up to take the free kick. You sort of had a feeling he’d score and the moment the ball left his boot you knew it was nestling into the corner of the net. Ruddy, if I’m being harsh, might have got across to it but nevertheless it was an excellent strike from the Belgian to put Everton 2-0 ahead. The crowd were now in great voice.
At 2-0, you felt the game could open up to become 3-, 4- or 5-0 as Everton continued to apply pressure. They seemed to be trying to create chances for Lukaku to put away and there was a lot of nice build-up play but with no further goals. Still, we looked comfortable enough.
I raised an eyebrow at a couple of substitutions with around 20 minutes still to play as Everton removed two of our most creative players for another centre-back (Heitinga) and perhaps a more disciplined midfielder (Naismith). Pienaar appeared to hobble off so that one seemed forced; I’m not sure about the Osman substitution... however, I don’t know if that was tactical or forced.
I thought we seemed to be shutting up shop a bit too soon... and so it proved as Norwich began to create opportunities in the final 20 minutes. We saw it out and thus it mattered not. Howard only really had the one decent save to make and Robin van Wolfswinkel did miss one reasonable chance so it perhaps wasn’t as dramatic as I’m making out but, had they have gotten one back, we may have struggled with less attacking options on the bench.
So that was that. Despite a late flurry from Norwich it was quite a convincing win and it's nice to arrest the rut against Norwich City. We’ve moved up to 4th position and will stay there if Stoke can avoid defeat against Liverpool. If we can stay within three points of Liverpool (whether that be above or below them) it should make for compulsive viewing in the Merseyside derby on Tuesday 28 January.
Just a sidenote to that – boy, would I fancy our chances of beating Liverpool under the floodlights of Goodison Park rather than the floodlights of Anfield. You have to go all the way back to Sunday 22 December 2002 for the last time we played the first Merseyside derby of a season at Anfield rather than Goodison Park. I wonder why that is? It shouldn’t matter of course as you have to play everyone twice of course anyway, I just think it could make quite a difference to the tail end of the season and could give us a real advantage as we hit the run-in.Also, this will be the third evening fixture in the Premier League at Anfield during this period with just the one played out in the evening at Goodison Park. We all know what a difference this can make at Goodison Park. Remember Dan Gosling in 2009 anyone?
I suppose there always seems to be something up against us – somehow you wouldn’t have it any other way. Come On Everton! We can do it. Or as my Welsh friends say – Dewch Laen Everton. Or as the German’s put it – Auf gehts Everton!
This is our year!Player Ratings:
Howard: I’ve certainly seen many a game when he’s been more underworked. He did well. His distribution has improved that immeasurably from last season. At one point he punted aimlessly upfield and I was shocked. Last season, that tended to be the norm. 8
Baines: A good display roaming forward. Won the free kick that lead to our second goal. At his consistent best. 8
Jagielka: Good, both with the ball and in the tackle. Helped Stones through the game also. 7
Stones: A few ropey moments but did very well. I like the way he looks to pick a pass and he is very composed on the ball for a young player. His yellow card was harsh in the extreme. Another good display and he’s learning his game very well. Is it too early to say he’s a potential future England centre-back? Height, reading of play, composure and good distribution – he certainly has the attributes. I’m yet to see him get tested for pace so that’s difficult to judge but he looks a great player in the making and perhaps we needn’t worry about a long-term replacement for Distin quite as much as I thought we had to. 7
Coleman: He got beaten once or twice in defence but continued to gallop forward to good effect in attack. Not a bad afternoon’s work. Is it fair to say he’s the best right back in the league at the moment? He’s got to be right up there. 7
Barry: An excellent display and capped off with a great goal. Should he be in the England squad? If Michael Carrick is fit I think he’s about the best defensive midfielder England have but is Roy Hodgson serious about putting Phil Jones in as the replacement if Carrick is unavailable? Barry would be a better choice surely. 8
McCarthy: My Man of the Match. Covered a great deal of ground in the middle. He has a lot of talent and a lot of attributes. He rarely has a bad game and I can only see him improving. Proving to be an inspired signing and I certainly had my doubts. 8
Pienaar: At times excellent though a bit in and out of the game I thought before he hobbled off. Will be interesting to see if McGeady will replace he or Mirallas in the team when he settles in. 6
Mirallas: Had a very good game, one of few this season. Scored an excellent free kick and was busy and industrious throughout. With Barkley probably out for a while with his broken metatarsal, he will be required to chip in more from a creative viewpoint over the coming weeks, so I hope he can keep this up. 8
Osman: Showed flashes of excellence and perhaps needed to show more of that. He was always a presence though and did help pressing the ball and forcing Norwich into mistakes in their own half. 6
Lukaku: His all round play is good but you feel he needs to get back in the goals and quite quickly. Just one goal in his last eight games now. With three away games coming up he’ll need to be at his best. Two of the three will be huge for him also – at the Hawthorns against his former club and then the Merseyside Derby of course. Another brace against the Reds will do. 6
Heitinga: Slotted into a three man defence and did OK. Probably his Goodison Park swan song as he did his big farewell at the end again. Good to see he’s still there and can be relied on if called upon though…it might not be the end for him at Everton just yet. 6
Naismith: Did OK. Usual Naismith – good commitment and discipline, albeit with nothing spectacular. 6
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796 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:05:12
I would have been more relaxed if Oviedo had come on instead of Heitinga we would not have to change the shape of the side. Oviedo is a natural sub for both Baines and Pienaar. We surrendered the attacking side of our game completely when both Osman and Pienaar came off. Jagielka ended up playing left side instead of central where he is better suited.
815 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:30:27
816 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:25:43
I would also agree with Ross Edwards - our 18-year-old youngin who did a great job announcing on the PA yesteday 9/10 and he even stumbled over Naismtih - that Naismith was a bag of shite in admittedly a last quarter run-out and giving him the same rating as Lu and Nuts - Jesus wept!
Paul I know ratings are in the eye of the beholder and I also know that I rattle on about this week-in-and-week-out but you have an unenviable ability to pull off howlers!
831 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:42:57
Apart from that goal v Chelsea of course.
832 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:07:11
This comes up time and time again.
It's done like this at our request - Derby at Goodison first, as the club is worried that having the Derby at home in the second half of the season would impact on ST sales.
833 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:07:11
This comes up time and time again.
It's done like this at our request - Derby at Goodison first, as the club is worried that having the Derby at home in the second half of the season would impact on ST sales.
836 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:48:40
842 Posted 12/01/2014 at 18:59:10
845 Posted 12/01/2014 at 19:05:57
An Anfield Derby second would create more interest for TV as there is more to play for than if it would be at the start of the season.
That's my (wrong) take on it.
848 Posted 12/01/2014 at 19:07:32
850 Posted 12/01/2014 at 19:12:47
852 Posted 12/01/2014 at 19:16:26
853 Posted 12/01/2014 at 19:21:36
The clubs obviously have a say in the schedule.
889 Posted 12/01/2014 at 20:26:10
If Baines stays, which looks likely, whats going to happen with Oviedo? This very talented and likeable lad has had a raw deal throughout his Everton career.
892 Posted 12/01/2014 at 20:46:48
I might be reading too much between the lines but I remember RM said that McGeady can contribute to the experience or learning or something of that matter.
My belief and this is the same for many players is to cross train players into other positions, probably the first being Oviedo. That will also be true for other players of cos if my guess is right.
I'm equally surprised Ovideo not having a part in Norwich, but if RM fully rotates between him and Baines, say Oviedo playing the full Brom game, I actually don't see a problem short term.
893 Posted 12/01/2014 at 20:30:07
There was a thread on here about it, I don't know if anyone can search the site for it.
920 Posted 12/01/2014 at 21:48:07
I'd agree with Paul Ferry that Stones had a bit of an off day too. Seemed to get caught out by a few long balls....but he's young and will have learned some lessons hopefully.
As for Naismith, again useless performance with nothing positive. If it weren't for the fact that most of our reserve players who are close to the first team are off getting valuable experience in the lower leagues, I'd have one of them on the bench without hesitation ahead of Naismith.
I'm sure Naismith isn't as shit as he's showing. He probably plays better in and around the box where he doesn't need pace, to be able pass, or to get past anyone, but played on the wing or in midfield he's as bad a footballer as I think I've ever seen. How you've given him the same rating as Pienaar or Osman is beyond me.
926 Posted 12/01/2014 at 22:20:54
930 Posted 12/01/2014 at 22:40:53
My first option though is not Oviedo but Baines into a DM. Quite a few reasons for that, tactical, cover, skill set and succession wise. But it's really personal preference. And surely RM sees things that I didn't consider yet, e.g. age, transfer or a million reasons.
I can see Oviedo and Coleman being trained as wingers or into Bale-ish players. The reason I say Oviedo first is his natural flexible positions and availability of direct cover, although I consider Coleman closer to the Bale mold than Oviedo. Based on what I see of course, which might be a selective sample of their performance.
We'll see. Injuries will be the headliner for the next 2 weeks but I'm sure we'll see a bit of this transformation coming soon.
959 Posted 13/01/2014 at 00:14:35
965 Posted 13/01/2014 at 01:17:56
970 Posted 13/01/2014 at 02:26:40
Having said that the whole team seemed to fall apart when Naismith came on, but I don't think we can blame him for that.
973 Posted 13/01/2014 at 03:03:17
There are certain parameters they try to work in. (Travel distances over Xmas and New Year being one, though sometimes you wouldn't think so).
Police forces also have input, as well, obviously, as TV companies. It's no coincidence that Sky's "Super Sunday" of the top 4 playing each other on the same weekend is a regular occurrence.
Clubs can also make requests. Everton's request was purely from a commercial point of view that they would prefer to host the Goodison Derby in before Xmas, as they fear having it after Xmas would adversely affect Season Ticket sales (but lead to more people buying half STs). That's why this season they make a big play of "Man Utd, Man City and Arsenal included in the ST deal".
Liverpool were happy to go along with this as it gives them a home derby on the run in to their eventual title win... er...
It's been this way for years now. It's up to you if you believe me or not. I've been wrong before, I'm sure I will be again in the future.
975 Posted 13/01/2014 at 02:46:07
David. You got it right with Naismith. People calling him useless are insulting Martinez.
976 Posted 13/01/2014 at 03:57:34
Harold, yep, that's the same way in NFL or other sports too. Even with the license to roam, I'm sure there are defined tasks for each position. Even Barkley seems to be defined within a certain area and tasks based on the tactic.
As for the winger role, I've never given it much thought, so when you mentioned the regular vs inverted, it made sense. It does seem to me that McGeady will have a more diversified winger role while they might get Coleman and Oviedo to do winger duties. Wonder if we'll get someone to be the target man for the crosses but that might be a distraction form the way the current team plays. If I'm to judge from the Noriwch game, we might be able to benefit from those speedy strikers with a delicate touch.
977 Posted 13/01/2014 at 05:05:25
978 Posted 13/01/2014 at 05:10:10
I was thinking, given his workrate, is it possible to convert him to a DM? I know size and height might be an issue but it does open options for both us and Naismith. More ball winner than control or playmaker.
980 Posted 13/01/2014 at 06:53:16
One of your more insane suggestions there I think.
981 Posted 13/01/2014 at 06:56:09
Oh - how's the plan to spend less time on ToffeeWeb going? You must be asleep by now surely - it must be 3am for you!
984 Posted 13/01/2014 at 07:22:24
The ToffeeWeb article referred to above, http://www.toffeeweb.com/season/13-14/comment/talkingpoints/26106.html, advises, "So keenly anticipated is the Merseyside derby that for the last 10 years, alone in the Premier League, it has been governed by special rules. The first fixture will now always be at Goodison and the second, after Christmas, at Anfield. This prevents supporters having to wait more than a year for what they always used to consider their most important home fixture and avoids the situation that cropped up 50 years ago, whereby Goodison Park did not see a derby game during the whole of 1963". The quote is taken from an article in the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/nov/21/everton-liverpool-merseyside-derby.
Personally, I think this explanation is a smokescreen. I can't find a link, but I have previously seen a more plausible reasoning, along the lines that a lot of Everton fans buy season tickets to guarantee attending the derby. If the Goodison derby is in the first half of the season then a full season ticket needs to be purchased, if it's in the second half of the season, a half season ticket will suffice. In my opinion, the special rules were introduced and have been maintained by the powers-that-be at Goodison.
Apologies that I can't find a way to slag off our bastard offspring on this occasion.
037 Posted 13/01/2014 at 13:43:50
94-95 season results:
Liverpool (h) W 2-0 (21 November 1994)
Liverpool (a) D 0-0 (24 January 1995)
95-96 season results:
Liverpool (a) W 2-1 (18 November 1995)
Liverpool (h) D 1-1 (16 April 1996)
So it has happened in the Premier League era.
079 Posted 13/01/2014 at 16:12:20
091 Posted 13/01/2014 at 16:32:14
It's a shame some posters on here feel the need to disect your very comprehensive view of the game and performance ratings, trying to score points like children is not clever, same old crowd dishing out the same old sarcasm. have a go yourselvesif you think its so easy,
I've just seen Sam Higgins post, you beat me to it Sam
207 Posted 13/01/2014 at 22:09:15
211 Posted 13/01/2014 at 22:29:22
Just in case your wondering I regularly attend the Grand Old Lady.
212 Posted 13/01/2014 at 22:25:45
213 Posted 13/01/2014 at 22:30:02
Figures that the idea was way out there with Naismith. He works hard tho, but best to offload him in the summer, good for both parties.
We can beat rs any day. It's really down to tactics, some luck and quite honestly, refs. Sunday refs are horrible! And from what I heard its not an EPL thing.
321 Posted 14/01/2014 at 09:00:32
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