Lukaku: Leave or Remain?

Leave or remain? It is a question that is currently at the heart of British politics as the country will decide on Thursday about whether or not the stay in the European Union. A leave or remain debate I find more interesting however is the one on the future of Romelu Lukaku. We all know that he’s been speaking too much and has now disrespected the club on a number of occasions, but he is of course an immense talent and capable of being one of the best strikers in Europe.

The case for leave:

There is a right and a wrong way to do many things, including how you should leave a club. It’s fair to say that Lukaku has been doing all the wrong things over the last few months and has consistently used the media to express his desire to leave Everton for one of Europe’s “beautiful” clubs, as he put it. You don’t need the media to make clubs aware of your intentions; his agent Mino Raiola is capable enough of finding out the interest of other clubs without his client showing a lack of respect.

There is also the case of Lukaku’s current ability, he of course has a lot of potential, but he is by no means the finished article as shown in the last few months of the season, and especially his performance vs Man Utd at Wembley. We could replace Lukaku with a player who is currently as good, but won’t have the same potential. The money that we’d receive from his sale would be able to be reinvested into the squad and we might be stronger for it. The comments show that Lukaku isn’t yet a perfect professional, and that kind of attitude may not be great for team spirit

The case for remain:

Lukaku is already a 28 million pound player, and the huge record sum paid for him has already been justified. How much we could sell him for has yet to reach its upper limit. The current consensus is that a fee should be around the 60 million mark, but with an ever inflated market and the possibility of him being one of the best, this could rise by 20, even 30 million. Paul Pogba (another one of Raiola’s clients) is another raw player, not yet polished, but Juventus are apparently asking for 150 million euros. For this reason alone, it’d be tempting to keep him.

For Everton though, we finished 11th. We may have investment now, but until we have a solid league finish and European football, it may be hard to attract a striker close to being as good as Lukaku. His agent has eased off slightly in his rhetoric and said that “things have changed” at Everton, they certainly have. If Lukaku can be convinced that his heart and head should be at Goodison, in a few years’ time Everton could be in a great place, challenging for league titles. He has improved a lot this year and will do the next, I’d hate for Everton to be looking at the finished product in five years at another club and thinking “What if?”, we’ve had enough of that thinking with Wayne Rooney.

My vote:

We may be annoyed now, but Lukaku is only a Gwladys Street winner away from the fans forgetting what he said in the past and looking forward to a future with him. We could be at the beginnings of having a special team at Goodison Park, and Lukaku will be a special striker. We have a very talented group and a strong manager may get the best out of Lukaku and fully motivate him to play at his best week in, week out. It is for these reasons; I would be voting ‘Remain’ in a ‘Should Lukaku leave Everton’ referendum.

Time To Protest

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As a proud Evertonian I feel Saturday is a rare chance for my voice to be heard and hopefully enact a genuine change in the club. I will be joining and protest and will be proud to do so.

That’s not saying anyone who doesn’t isn’t a proud Evertonian. What you do on Saturday is your perogative, and it doesn’t make any match day going Evertonian more or less of a blue whether they decide to join in or not.

The outline protest by “Everton Aren’t We” is a call for banners, chants and a sit in (stand up) protest after the match. It’s the least we can do to try and wake Kenwright and Moshiri up to the fact that the current managerial situation is untenable and that it won’t magically resolve itself over the summer.

Saturday is a chance to be a part of something and a part of Everton’s history. If you want Martinez to leave the club then you have a chance to enable our club to have a better future, it’s not a chance that I want to turn down. If you don’t want Martinez to leave or don’t want to join in then you don’t have to, it’s as simple as that.

However it seems the vast majority of Evertonians want change so it will be interesting to see how loud the chants are. Goodison as it’s best can be a very hostile place, and on Saturday Martinez will see that hostility directed towards him. I am typing these words hopefully as a waste of time, as I hope that by the time I come to post this, he’ll be sacked and render the protest redundant. If you’re still reading these words, we need to protest.

Kenwright should put Martinez out of his misery but it’s looking increasingly likely that he thinks that the current situation is acceptable. We are not privy to the conversations that go on behind closed doors, but at the moment it seems Moshiri is happy to take Kenwrights lead.

Saturday represents a chance to show exactly what this club means to us, and that we should abide by our motto.

No-one wants to protest. It has however now become a necessary evil that can have an effect. The protest can be a huge statement. It shouldn’t have come to this, but it has.

Crystal Palace Preview

Overview – The apathy for this match is huge. Everyone knows our league season is all but done and fans and players seem to be just waiting for the semi-final to come around. The players must surely be trying to play for their place in that match but it appears they have stopped playing for the manager. More unrest has happened with Martinez being confronted at an Under 21’s match. He clearly knows now how the fans feel but is still coming out with the same rhetoric that things will only get better. The type of talk that us fans used to believe, but not anymore.

Team – With the upcoming semi-final and the derby next week, it would appear to be a good time to start some of the fringe players and rest some of our best players. With the pressure Martinez is under however, I can’t see him resting the like of Lukaku. Niasse needs to have a start and show what he can do. His substitute appearances have been uninspiring but you can’t judge a player on half an hour of football. As mentioned though, it’s unlikely. The likes of Kieran Dowell have impressed for the youth team and it seems like now would be a great time to blood in players, however we’re much more likely to see the likes of Cleverley play instead.

Prediction – Everton have had more than a few issues with Crystal Palace in recent years. Palace have just won their first game in a long time so will go into the game with a bit more added confidence. They’ll know another win and they can stop worrying about relegation so the is motivation there. The awful thing is that a win would mean they go above Everton into 14th, albeit on one more game.

What Will It Mean? – Very little. A win would move us up to the heights of 11th, a long way from Europe which is now unreachable via the league. There is talk about whether a loss would hasten Martinez’ exit from the club, but it’s extremely doubtful the board would do anything between now and the semi-final. The cup is treated very differently from the league, but surely to be in such bad form going into the cup will be a negative. Hopefully we can gain momentum that will help us in Wembley.

We’ve Got A Diamond Called Niasse

We’ve got a diamond called Niasse, or an overpriced, average, soon-to-be flop depending on whose view you hear from someone who’s never seen him play.

You only have to look back to an almost identical situation in the summer when Funes Mori’s transfer was doubted and was dismissed by many as a waste of money before he’d even kicked a ball. That has turned out to be a great bit of business as the young South American centre back has impressed in his first season where so many foreign players struggle.

Martinez for all his faults has brought brilliantly since he has been at the club. Kone’s time at the club may have been different if he didn’t have a year out through injury and McGeady was a low value deal that filled a gap at the time. Overall he’s had a lot more hits than misses. The scouting system has transitioned well with the change of managers and is still bringing quality players too the club.

As fans we have to trust that this will be another good signing until proven otherwise. Not many fans of other clubs would be as protective of their own transfer budget than Evertonians, we know how precious it is.

We needed a back up to Lukaku and it seems Niasse can fill that role in case of an injury but at £13.5m Martinez must see him as much more than a back-up. As we know Martinez prefers his left sided player to be the more central and defensive of the two wide men. Niasse has experience of playing a wider role and by all accounts is a hard worker. If he’s been signed so we no longer have to play Kone, I doubt many Evertonians would argue with that.

Time will tell just how well spent this £13.5m is, but hopefully he feels at home at Everton and can hit the ground running and gets the fans on his side. In 6 months hopefully we can look back on the signing in much the same way as Funes Mori and see it as a great deal for the club.

Martinez’ Judgement Day

Man City is the biggest game of Martinez’ two and a half years at Everton. Not only are the fans fed up with the results at the moment, but the media have caught on to how mediocre our results have been in the last 18 months. The pressure is increasing but our League Cup run has given light in our increasingly dark season. If we are knocked out on Wednesday then it will tip a lot of fans who remain on the fence in favour of wanting Martinez to leave the club. A win and we will be looking at the best chance to end this barren period in our history since the FA Cup final in 2009.

The first leg leaves Everton in that difficult mental position of knowing that a draw will do, which is always a dangerous thought, especially away to such a good team. Everton need to go out there and play their natural game but with the defensive solidarity that we saw in the first leg, a solidarity that seems to happen when Joel Robles is in goal. Both teams set up with the same formation and will go toe-to-toe. I’d hope we could play out a boring 0-0 but I don’t think anyone expects that to happen.

The biggest positive in terms of team news is the aforementioned return of Robles, the defenders look more composed in front of him and John Stones’ best performance in recent weeks was in the first leg when he didn’t have to worry about Howard. A hugely important comeback was the one of Seamus Coleman. When Coleman got injured I called him the 2nd most important player in our team behind Lukaku as we have no back-up for him, and that’s seems to have been proven with Ovideo played awkwardly out of position. The biggest negative is the injury to Besic, not only has he been playing well but his absence could lead to the return of Kone with Cleverley played centrally. Hopefully McCarthy is fit and Cleverley can move out left instead. Pienaar’s return hopefully puts him ahead of Kone now in the wide left pecking order, but that remains to be seen.

Regardless of where we are in the league, getting to a cup final would give the whole club a lift. The opposite almost doesn’t bear thinking about. Evertonians are on the brink with their patience and Martinez needs to start winning, and quickly. This time last season we were in a similar position but had the excuse of ‘2nd season syndrome’ and there was still the proverbial credit in the bank from the season before. That doesn’t exist anymore. A cup win not only gives us silverware but also a route back into Europe. Going through on Wednesday night will keep the wolves from the door until the final. It’s Martinez’ biggest game since arriving at Everton, it’s not just a semi-final, it’s his judgement day.

Are The Fans To Blame?

Goodison can be hostile. At its worst it’s hostile towards our own team; at its best it’s hostile towards the opposition. How much the fans can affect the players on the pitch can be debated, and it’s not something that can measured.

One game that is a great example of how the Goodison Park crowd works was the FA Cup quarter final vs Middlesbrough in 2009. The team went into half time 1-0 down and to boos and jeers from the fans who bemoaned a lack of effort in the first half of such a huge game. When the players came out in the second half it was to huge noise and encouragement, the fans put their frustration into that famous Goodison roar. The bear pit. It was a different team, and Middlesbrough started making mistakes that they didn’t in the first half. At 1-1 Goodison was loud, at 2-1 it was deafening. I sat in the Bullens Road that day and looked over to the Gwladys Street and it was literally bouncing. That was the old lady at its best in what Leon Osman described as the greatest atmosphere he’s played in.

This game I think shows the advantages of booing and the advantages of getting behind the team. The team needed to know that they weren’t good enough but walking out to a wall of noise must have been a real experience and turned any anxiety into passion.

After eighteen months of mediocrity I think our fans can be forgiven for not going through the repertoire of songs against Swansea and giving the team a good old cheer when a goalkeeper makes yet another error. This wasn’t an FA Cup quarter final it was against a struggling Premier League team. The players shouldn’t have needed the fans. When the fans are unhappy with certain players, the manager and the board, it’s hard to be enthusiastic.

As for booing, I’m not one who jumps at the chance but I’m also not against it at the right time. Martinez seems to be in his own little bubble and is rarely challenged by local media, booing may be the only way of telling him it’s not good enough. I think a lot more negative than booing is in-game anxiety. The moans and groans from the stands that can have an impact, but when the team is 12th and playing badly, a fan paying around £40 for a ticket to watch the club he lives for is hardly going to clap a mistake, it’s only natural.

Is it the fans that affect the players or the players that affect the fans? Unless it’s a big match then the atmosphere is only sparked by what’s on the pitch, there was nothing negative about the atmosphere until Stones’ pass to Howard. Yes it was quiet, but Everton should be beating Swansea regardless. The fans may not help at times but it’s only ever the result of what is seen on the pitch, and if that doesn’t improve, neither will the atmosphere.

Everton vs Swansea: Player Ratings

GK: Tim Howard – 5

Stones was more at fault for the penalty but Howard dawdled and would have cleared it if he reacted straight away. Made a few saves and suffered from another deflection.

DR: Bryan Oviedo – 5

Clearly not a right back. Coleman’s introduction was a big positive as having a left footed right back doesn’t work.

DR: Seamus Coleman – 5

Welcome return and maybe should have scored twice. He helped increase our attacking threat but couldn’t help find that goal, but his misses cost us.

DC: John Stones: – 4

Possibly his worst game at centre-back. It seems almost a case of him believing his own hype in the last few months as his performances have gotten worse. At fault for the first goal and his game didn’t get any better.

DC: Ramiro Funes Mori – 7

Is he, on form, our best centre-back? Another good game for the Argentine and didn’t put a foot wrong. Seems to know when to clear the ball, unlike Stones at the moment.

DL: Leighton Baines – 5

Frustrating game. Got in all the right position but his play and crossing weren’t quite at his top levels.

MC: Gareth Garry – 8

Another classy performances from Barry. Helped control the middle of the park again but must feel helpless at times with errors being made around him.

MC: Muhamed Besic – N/A

Big shame for the injury. He started well and hopefully would have had another top game but hopefully he’s not out for too long.

MC: Tom Cleverley -6

Did well in Besic’s absence. Always showing for the ball and working hard for the team. Typical solid performance.

AMR: Gerard Deulofeu -8 (Man Of The Match)

Should have had about five assists. His wonderful crossing got more and more frustrating with each missed opportunity. A poacher on the end of those crosses and the result may have been different.

AMC: Ross Barkley -5

His short passing is brilliant but his contribution leading to goals seems to have gone missing recently. He seems to be playing within himself and making poor choices in the final third. These types of games he should be dominating.

AML: Kevin Mirallas – N/A

Feel sorry for him, he had his chance to show Martinez that him and Deulofeu could work in the same side but injury robbed him of that chance.

AML: Steven Pienaar – 7

We looked a lot better with him. His link up play and footballing brain was on show again. Hopefully it shows signs of getting the old Pienaar back.

ST: Romelu Lukaku -6

Where was he for those crosses? The goals have dried up in the last few matches but had the balls to score four or five here. It seemed he was coming too deep to be involved with the build up but that’s not where we need him.

Man City: Post Match Review

Man Of The Match

Howard produced a solid display. Funes Mori and Jagielka were excellent in the centre. Barry continued his great form but once again for me the man of the match goes to Besic. I don’t think it’s any co-incidence that our run of defensively solid games has come with his run in the side. He showed everything once again and his tenacity and work rate were on show once more. He has also must have been learning lessons from Barry as he took a yellow card for the team to stop a very dangerous attack with Stones injured.

Could Do Better?

Deulofeu seems to have run out of steam, he also doesn’t appear to be very fit and can hardly make 90 minutes. Maybe this is due to playing the majority of our games in the last few months and needs a slight rest. He had his dangerous moments but they were few and far between and his crossing was poor. Maybe Lennon or Mirallas need a run to give him a break. We need him at his excellent best.

Most Improved?

It’s pretty obvious that it’s Tim Howard. It was great to seem look solid and he even claimed a few crosses. He only solution for Everton fans with Martinez’ refusal to play Robles is for Howard to get back to the levels of two years ago. There were signs of it here. A clean sheet was kept to Man City away and Howard very much played his part in that.

Moment Of The Match?

Howard’s inclusion came with the usual moans and groans including from myself and there is no doubt he knows what the fans currently think. His save in the first half from a close range header may have been the confidence booster he needed for the rest of the match, and hopefully the rest of the season.

What It Means?

Confidence. Confidence in Howard, our defence and getting through to the League Cup Final. Getting wins against Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea was always going to be tough but we needed to so fight and defensive resolve to give us confidence for the rest of the season and that’s what we’ve done so far in this run of hard games. Hopefully the same can be shown against Chelsea and we can then fight for wins to the end of the season.

Man City Could Provide Future Hope

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Preamble

After the wonderful distraction of the cups, it’s back to the grind with the league competition and seeing Tim Howard in goal once again. Consecutive fixtures of Man City and Chelsea away would usually be seen as games to get what you can, but for Everton it could be an opportunity to show the fight and resolve needed to have a good run until the end of the season. Wednesday night also provides the opportunity to gain confidence going into the League Cup 2nd leg. Any more mistakes from Howard again though and the atmosphere will turn instantly toxic.

Tactics

It seemed in the 1st leg like Besic had three back pockets: One for Yaya Toure, One for David Silva and one for Kevin De Bruyne. It’s hard to see the latter two having such a quiet game at home but Besic will once again be looking to control the centre of the field and dominate Toure. Toure has shown in recent games against Watford and Arsenal that he can produce a goal from nothing even when he’s not playing well, hopefully again Besic doesn’t give him a chance. Everton were more defensively solid at Goodison bar overcommitting from a corner, as they were against Spurs. Hopefully Martinez has decided a more solid approach is needed, our counter attacking ability will surely be key.

Team

Howard will come back in goal and Kone will be out wide left. It’s the reality that Evertonians have come to expect, no matter how baffling. Apparently Howard offers ‘unique experience’ to the team, star jumping over footballs is certainly unique. Hopefully Cleverley is fit as that might remove Kone from the team but I feel Martinez will be happy enough to go with the Ivorian. The rest of the team picks itself apart from the right back position, with Martinez any number of players could be used in that role but from his comments it appears it won’t at least be John Stones. Oviedo played there in the FA Cup so could feature again.

What it means?

Three points is what we need but there isn’t many harder places to get them, we need to push up the league table and coming out of the game with a positive result is the aim. You would take a draw but we have just beaten them and can beat them again. One important thing to focus on is what it means for the 2nd leg of the League Cup, if we can get a result that would equate to progression to the final, it may give us added confidence when the real thing comes along.

Prediction?

Three positive results in a row gives hope, it could be one of those classic away performances and a memorable victory but we’ve been experts in getting score draws this year and think it could happen again. Hopefully Lukaku is fit and firing ready to bully the Man City centre backs again.

Man City – Quickfire Preview

Overview

The League Cup represents a clear chance of ending our near 21 years of hurt by winning a trophy that no Evertonian has seen us lift, and give a generation of Everton fans the chance to see us lift any kind of trophy. There has been a call to arms from Jagielka to make Goodison Park into the bear pit it can be, and hopefully it will be a special night. Unfortunately it’s the 1st leg at Goodison and not the 2nd, but if the team can get a victory and hold at the Etihad, we’ll be through. This is Martinez’ biggest game as Everton manager and a chance for him to win over the sceptical fans, or add fuel to the fire.

Tactics

Everton defended better against Tottenham than they have in recent weeks, only conceding a great goal but will have to be defensively solid against a full strength Man City attacking line. Everton have been unfortunate by the fixture coming around just as David Silva and Sergio Aguero have regained fitness, and the latter started scoring. Lukaku will be looking to exploit Otamendi’s form and should hopefully give him a torrid night. Kolarov hasn’t been playing well in recent weeks and should have a nightmare against Deulofeu if he plays.

Team

Martinez should stick with Robles as his ‘2nd choice’ goalkeeper who will be looking to finally convince the manager to play him in the league matches, though Robles performance against Norwich shows that regardless of how well he plays, it won’t be good enough for Martinez.

It may be a game too soon for Jagielka, Funes Mori has settled in extremely well as his replacement given the league he came from and looks like we have a great singing, but Jagielka’s leadership and experience has been missed recently. The rest of the defence picks itself.

The rest of the team depends on Cleverley, who Martinez will play. If he plays centrally then it will be Kone of the left again. If he plays on the left, it should be Besic in the centre. Whilst a lot of Evertonians want two wingers, it seems unlikely Martinez will change his mind on that against such a strong side so the choice seems to be between Kone and Besic. Most fans will hope he opts for Besic. I imagine Deulofeu will start after a rest on the weekend.

Prediciton

Anything other than a win would make it extremely difficult to qualify. Away goals count after extra time so I don’t think we should get too hung up on trying to keep a clean sheet, especially with how difficult that has been this season. Man City aren’t playing anywhere near as well as when we met them in the league and we have to go into the match expecting to come away with a lead. Another score draw may be the most likely outcome however.