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Pathetic Evertonians. Who Can Save You Now?
Moshiri: “Jimwytus, I’m bored. What plaything can you offer me today?”
Jimwytus: “An obscure body in the English Premier League, your majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as plucky Everton”
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Moshiri: “How peaceful it looks”
[Proceeds to have a shot on that pimped up ZX Spectrum that zaps targets with natural disasters like floods, meteor showers, hot hail and Steve Walsh signings, before absolutely pissing himself]
Jimwytus: “Most effective, your Moshiriness. Will you destroy this, uh, Everton?”
Moshiri: “Later. I like to play with things a while first….before annihilation.
Moshiri: “Pathetic Evertonians. Who can save you now?”
I’m pretty sure there’s probably still one badly misguided person on the planet singing “BILL!! Aah-Aaah!!” at this point (sorry, “CHAIRMAN BILL!! Aah-Aaah!!”), but despite his recent clarion call to…err…just chill out, believe blindly in the current Everton board and cut that bloody banner business out sharpish, for Sharpy’s sake…his position is, ultimately, going to have no bearing on the games remaining between now and the end of the season, so we’ll come back to him and his cohorts later.
Instead, lets concentrate first on what, or who, could have a positive impact on team performances in the short-term.
Who is going to step up at this late stage of the season to prove themselves ‘king of the impossible’ and ‘save everyone of us’? Or, for the ‘realists’ out there: which straw shall we clutch at next?
Here are the contenders, as I see it:
I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly enamoured with his appointment from the off, as the most fundamental thing we were missing in the first half of the season was firepower and a threat. Yet, the field was a fallow one, he was free and available, and at least he didn’t fancy spending half the year trying his hand at a little spot of youth coaching.
Now, surely no one would expect Sean Dyche to turn any side…never mind this Everton side…into a free-scoring, front-foot outfit. Rather, what was expected from a man who prides himself on pragmatism was organisation, discipline, the tightening up of a porous defence, the instilling of a better work ethic and the bringing about of a battling mentality that would make heads less likely to drop at every blow landed.
Yet, none of this has actually materialised thus far. We remain a defensive team who defend woefully.
In the 13 games Dyche has overseen, his side have scored 10 and conceded 22. An identical record to the last 13 Premier League games of Lampard’s reign. Dyche has managed to accumulate 5 more points throughout that same period though, but lose against Leicester and that number narrows to a mere 2 point difference from 14 games.
It’s obviously hard when, for long periods, your only option has been Neil Maupay looking the least natural thing to be lobbed up top since Nicolas Cage’s last hairpiece, but Dyche desperately needs to find a way to get goals from this side and he’s beginning games with basically 3 defensive midfielders on the pitch and central defenders filling in at full back. Yes, the squad is poor and lacking in almost every area, but there are still permutations possible that don’t immediately hobble almost any and all ability to hurt the opposition.
We show no invention whatsoever in our attacking play. Do we not work on ways to break down opposing teams, other than set pieces? On pass and move, interchanging or dragging opposing players out of shape, getting runners into the box?
It maybe forlorn hope but while there’s still a chance of survival, no matter how slim, we surely have to throw everything at it rather than submit meekly. At the moment, when we’re on the deck, mid-way through a beating and the Penguin is shouting “down down, stay down”, we’re mumbling “nice one, Mick” in reply and doing exactly as he says, instead of summoning every last drop of determination, climbing off our knees and causing our opponent’s shoulders to slump in sheer disbelief that we’re prepared to go once again.
For some reason, the manager has been frustratingly reluctant to make changes, either taking far too long to react to events unfolding before his eyes, or simply not bothering at all.
That a struggling Godfrey was permitted to stay on the pitch until the final whistle versus Newcastle, after seemingly being targeted and given a torrid time by Joelinton, with the first two goals resulting directly from him being skinned and left for dead, all while a ‘specialist’ right-back remained parked on the bench for the duration, was particularly alarming decision-making (or decision avoidance) from the discombobulating disc beard. Same thing with Holgate when struggling against Ayew for Palace and his failure to foresee a second yellow was a real possibility.
When we’re behind, why not throw a second forward on and see if an added threat can give us a chance to get back into it, rather than waiting, waiting some more, waiting just a fraction more, before eventually replacing like-for-like and then turning to tell Tom Davies to get ready?
Too many times recently we’ve witnessed the game drifting away with Dyche simply standing there looking like a deuteragonist who should be taking his dog bowling with the Dude.
It would seem on the surface ‘big Sean’ could also share certain character traits with The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak: unearned confidence, stubbornness, excessive pride, an obsession with rules masking an almost total inability to adapt, a propensity for plans that backfire badly, along with an annoying air of nonchalance after being knocked on his arse?
(“People may try to mock me when I endlessly repeat that my managerial mantra is that ‘the minimum requirement is maximum effort and, beyond that, a couple of corners would be cracking’ but I don’t listen to it. Forest Gump used to say ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ and you lads lapped it up. What’s the difference? It’s all just perceptions isn’t it? Nazis were rightfully perceived as pricks but say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude. At least it's an ethos. ‘The minimum requirement is maximum effort’ is exactly that: it’s the ethos of any team I manage…and if we can just eke out a couple of corners as well…”).
I don’t want to be unduly hard on the man as he’s only been here a few months, there’s no quick fix for the mess he’s inherited and there’s multiple distractions surrounding the club on an almost daily basis, but the fact remains we need him to find a way to win a few games now, before it’s too late. Our current predicament has been caused by factors and parties that long preceded his arrival, but he is the man tasked with finding answers on the pitch and pulling our arse from the fire. So far he appears to be failing.
The finger of blame may ultimately point elsewhere, but surely no manager with professional pride would want to go down in the history books as being the bloke holding the reins during the first relegation for a club in 70 years. I’m hoping that fact gives him added impetus (over and beyond his significant survival bonus) to ensure his charges come out fighting with absolutely everything they’ve got for every single minute of the remaining fixtures.
It’s often been said that the man performed miracles at Burnley during his decade in charge, getting them up into the Premier League, pulling off a 7th place finish and, perhaps most significantly, moulding together a team an entire town and it’s people could embrace and be proud of.
Time to pull off another one if it’s not too much trouble please, Sean.
Against Arsenal he demonstrated the positive difference he could make to this teams performance, putting in a proper, aggressive centre-forwards display. Occupying defenders, holding the ball up, providing a target for wide players to aim at. Then, true to recent form, his comeback was cut short due to injury and we’ve not seen a team performance to match it since. Finally back in the starting line-up, I thought he looked surprisingly sharp against Newcastle. Despite being ruled out for offside, his movement and dinked finish for the disallowed goal was top class and something a mostly sterile outfit has been screaming out for.
He’s shown in the past that he’s capable of going on a goal-scoring run and, god knows, we could do with that right now. It’s not his fault we’re so reliant upon him and been utterly bereft of other options in his absence but, having waited so long for him to return, we desperately need him to hit the ground running.
In the space of a couple of injury-ravaged seasons he’s gone from an ever present, being talked up by Carlo Ancelotti as a one-touch finisher on par with Filippo Inzaghi and touted as Harry Kane’s potential successor in the national team, to a player facing serious doubts about his physical durability and ability to even set foot on the pitch regularly. For himself and his own future, as much as that of the club, he needs to stay fit and start slotting again.
After all, he surely doesn’t want the most glowing write-up of him in recent memory to remain the one from GQ magazine which stated:
“The Sheffield-born footballer is as happy posing up a storm in a collarless Gucci coat-cum-dress - finished with a spray of the brand’s interlocking Gs - as he is in a Bottega Veneta bouclé two-piece in a trademark parakeet hue. With the Bottega he chooses to wear a turquoise quilted-leather Chanel handbag from his own collection”.
Far rather something along the lines of:
“The revitalised Sheffield-born striker rose to the occasion in the final five games of the season and fired relegation-threatened Everton to Premier League safety. As well as notching a number of vital goals, his all-round sharpness, aerial prowess and hold up play, allied to a lovely little pirouette..that has become something of a trademark..to take him away from the last defender, has seen the prolific forward secure his place in Everton folklore, alongside the likes of Kevin Campbell and Hans Segers. With form like that, not even the most grizzled blue nose could begrudge Calvert-Lewin dressing up as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill whenever he yearns to”.
One of the few things I thought Frank Lampard got right was making his mind up fairly early about certain players who had been able to repeatedly bluff previous managers they could be banked upon.
He decided to cut his losses and get rid of Dele Ali at the first opportunity. He got rid of Gomes and Allan. Perhaps most crucially, at least when it came to promoting calm amongst the back line, he stopped using Michael Keane unless there was absolutely no other option available. A perfectly understandable and long overdue decision, in my opinion. Particularly, when taking into consideration the amount of times his lack of pace, propensity to panic under pressure, his ‘Jawa Sand Crawler’ turning-circle, timidity and ‘Ed-209 teetering at the top of a flight of stairs’ tackling style, had been exposed during his Everton career.
However, the arrival of Keane’s former Burnley boss appears to have granted him something of a reprieve and he’s recently been reinstated to the starting line-up.
During this run of games he may have lashed in an absolutely wondrous worldie while venturing forward and Dyche may have (bizarrely) declared “I thought Michael Keane was excellent tonight” following the Newcastle drubbing but, for me, he’s been as flaky as ever and a deterioration in the teams defensive displays has duly followed.
With Keane in the side we’ve conceded 18 goals in 9 games. The four games prior, when Coady partnered Tarkowski, we conceded 4. Clearly, going from conceding an average of 1 goal per game to 2 goals per game cannot be blamed solely on the reintegration of Michael Keane, but nor can it be written off as mere coincidence.
If Dyche is reluctant to select Conor Coady because of a couple of errors in the first few games of his tenure then that’s fair enough, but he’s not the only alternative. He’s had Yerry Mina sat on the bench as an unused sub for all 13 of the matches he’s been in charge of. Obviously, the Colombian has barely featured this season, but if he’s being selected for every single match day squad then you would think he must currently be fit. In the eyes of a lot of Everton supporters he remains the teams best central defender and if you look at the numbers from previous seasons then you can see why.
As of a year ago, Everton’s win percentage when Yerry Mina was playing was 40% which dropped by half to 20% when the Colombian did not take to the pitch. Everton ended up conceding 1.85 goals per game when he was out of the team as compared to 1.11 goals when he featured. The season prior (20/21) his numbers were again the best amongst his teammates with 1.02 goals conceded per game.
Once more using figures from a year ago, he also came out on top in number of tackles won (1.25), aerial duels won (68.9%), passes received and passes completed under pressure (7.36) per 90 minutes.
Admittedly, it sounds far too simplistic, but if the team concede less goals and win more games when he’s on the pitch, then surely it makes no sense whatsoever to leave him on the sidelines when available?
Of course there is the argument that, traditionally, central defenders have always thrived in a consistent partnership and this is something Mina, with his perennial fitness issues, has proved incapable of providing. However, apart from the very beginning of this season when Coady and Tarkowski got off to a good start and seemed they might form a solid duo, the only consistency on display from the defence has been its continued vulnerability and timidity. With no stats whatsoever to back up this particular observation, I would assert that when Mina does play, whoever he is partnered with often benefits and appears to perform better alongside him.
He’s also a threat from set-pieces and seemingly a popular character, possessing an upbeat personality, leadership abilities and a wind-up’s propensity to get himself involved in running battles with grock forwards. We’re a demoralised outfit who could do with all those qualities in droves right now. With the limited number of games left and given the severity of the situation, perhaps it’s time to forget any question marks over his fitness and future and throw Mina back in?
‘Disappointment’ is the one word that comes to mind when you consider how Iwobi’s campaign has petered out.
Turn back the clock to late October and he’d been enjoying an unusually productive start to the season. Directly involved in 6 of his sides 11 goals and playing with self-declared “unstoppable confidence”, until, predictably, it…err…stopped.
For a brief moment it looked like he’d turned the corner, finally found a modicum of form and appeared capable of possibly contributing goals and assists semi-consistently going forward, before being sucked back into his former bad ways faster than a deviant wretch discovering how to access the dark web.
He’s quite clearly a confidence player and Lampard had (however briefly) managed to imbue in him a belief that he was an integral part of the side and the main man to get on the ball when looking to progress play forward.
That elevated confidence level may long since have been eroded, but the players cause has not been helped by the position the new manager has chosen to deploy him in. Crucially, the improvement in Iwobi’s game all came about after he was moved into the centre of midfield. Whereas, it has been proven time and time again over previous seasons that Iwobi is ineffective out wide. Yet, that’s where he finds himself consistently once again.
In that position, it has often been posited that his work-rate will prove of benefit to whoever plays behind him, but (in my opinion) he’s a complete bluffer who gives the illusion of tracking back and ‘closing down’ but has no real intent to do so. He runs about on the flank aimlessly like the stop-motion rabbit from Michael Jackson’s ‘Speed Demon’, only looking infinitely less threatening. The ball either cannons off him, he stops his run short as soon as an opposition player appears within his sight-line or he gets to it, eventually brings it under control and then just wellies it blindly toward the box anyway.
Playing in the middle however, behind a forward, where a little trick, subtle touch or sudden burst can open up space to exploit, is an area (perhaps, the only area?) to which Alex Iwobi’s attributes appear infinitely more suited.
He’s surely got to be more likely to create or assist than Doucoure who, while being deployed as a makeshift ‘number 10’ may put in the ‘hard yards’, but does so in the haphazard manner of that mad kid from school who used to shout “Meep Meep” at the top of his voice while careening wildly through the corridors with a parka coat tied around his waist, fluttering behind him like some fucking weird arse-cape cum crap-flap.
I lost count the other night how often he ran onto the ball in a promising position in the final third, before woefully misdirecting passes a four year old could make. Simply being eager and energetic isn’t enough…..the kid from ‘Billy’s Boots’ could bring that to the table bare-footed (actually, they should bring that series back, but modernised: Beyond Billy’s Boots: ‘Young Billy Divvy thought his luck had changed the day he found a pair of orthopaedic shoes which once belonged to old-timey soccer star ‘Dead Keen Doucoure’. These magic boots bestowed upon Billy the fantastic footballing ability of a hero from a bygone era. Sensational skills such as forever failing to find a man, being sent off for brushing fingers against an opponents brow and, of course, the fucking hoooooof, were now Billy’s to wield whenever Dead Keen’s boots were worn. Everton are said to be monitoring Billy’s situation in preparation for a summer bid’).
Whilst the raucous frenzied support and crackling tension remains, there has been a noticeable change in atmosphere during this seasons run-in compared to last, with an almost palatable air of resignation creeping in to replace righteous anger.
That’s perfectly understandable when a feeling permeates that the even bigger problems which have been slowly bubbling underneath ever since Moshiri bought the club are all finally about to boil over, simultaneously, at the most inopportune time in order to ensure maximum devastation. The fact it’s cost half a billion pounds to paint this particular Boschian hellscape only feels like the brutal punchline of some bored deity taking the piss.
At least during the dark days of Walker, Walter and HK3 we could always cling to the belief that poor finances were responsible for our plight and a bigger budget/new benefactor could bring about the possibility of a renaissance and a rise back to the top of the table.
That kernel of hope has been conclusively removed by a clown troupe posing as commercial decision makers and ‘football men’ and we’re forced to now crack on, in the knowledge that Everton football club is probably condemned to perpetual crapness for current and future generations to choke on, no matter how big a purse is chucked at it.
Yet, still we remain. Enthusiasm trammelled but never to be terminated. If any of us could truly ‘give up on it’ we would surely have done so already.
Long suffering fans need to find it within themselves to go to the well once more and try to help drag a group of players, truly undeserving of such support, over the line yet again.
They’ll do it, because they always do, always will.
Then, succeed or fail, it must be made clear that such a situation will be stood for no longer.
Whatever our fate, stay up or go down, after that full-time whistle has gone, then full ire has to be directed at those in charge who have brought this club to its knees with their continual blundering and back-handed bull-shitting. No matter the blessed relief, there can be no more over-the-top scenes of sheer unfiltered jubilation at just staying up by the skin-of-our-teeth for a second successive season. I don’t want to see a pitch invasion, partying, singing, dancing and Sean Dyche doing the fucking Crip Walk to ‘Still D.R.E.’
I doubt they’ll be there even on the ultimate day of destiny, but we need those duplicitous dissimulators in the boardroom to be under no illusion that their time is done.
There is no redemption through simply avoiding relegation, and the summer break shall bring no respite from the resounding cries demanding they and the dark Nosferatu style shadow they cast over the entire football club must fuck off forthwith, so that a first chink of light can come creeping back through.
Change must come and accountability amongst the calamitous custodians of this historic institution is long, long overdue.
Only then can we dare begin to believe once again…as a bearded fat man wearing fake bird wings and baggy budgie-feather Y-fronts might yell…that “EVERTON’S ALIVE?!?!”
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