In an emotionally charged few days for the club the 2nd round tie to Barnsley came at the wrong time. The football club is all over the headlines at the moment and will be until the transfer window shuts. Evertonians are constantly being asked questions from fans of other clubs about Stones and our manager is getting bombarded at all times to give the press their sound bite.
Martinez has been very clear in his statements that Stones is not for sale and that he is an important member of this football club. To sell him now would completely undermine Martinez who up until this point has managed the situation impeccably. His relationship with Stones has clearly not suffered and his constant selection of him has shown resilience and fantastic management. Not many people expected Stones to play vs Barnsley but he did, and all though it wasn’t his best performance, his challenging for the ball, communication with his team mates and attitude towards his play shown his professionalism. Maybe his performance was due to matters playing on his mind but that may have been sub-conscious, it certainly wasn’t a Lescott type of attitude.
I called for a full strength team vs Barnsley and we certainly didn’t get one. Regardless of how strong the team was and whether or not it was good enough to win is not the point. In cup competitions we should always give ourselves the best possible chance to win, and to do that we need our strongest 11. For a team due to be fighting relegation, or a team challenging for the title you could see why they wouldn’t prioritize the League Cup but 3 games into the season, we certainly don’t need to be resting players and it’s a very winnable competition for us, even if it’s one we’ve never won.
The performance of McGeady and Pennington in the first half showed why they should never have been selected. I’m certainly not going to criticize Pennington too much here as his ability to play for Everton won’t be judged on 45 minutes of football and he didn’t do too much wrong, but Martinez had a ruthless decision to make at half-time and he made the right call. McGeady was bought to fill a gap that we required at the time. He runs a lot and can look exciting but the end product is just never there. To be dragged off at half-time seemed to make the statement that he blew his last chance. Bar an injury crisis, he shouldn’t play again.
Martinez looked like he was seething at half-time and whatever he said at half-time worked wonders for the team. If he started on the wrong foot with team selection, he made up for it. Barkley and Deulofeu simply put in world class performances. Barkley in a deeper role dictated play and started attacks, often finding Deulofeu early and in space for the Spaniard to wreak havoc.
The manager has been reluctant to play Mirallas and Deulofeu in the past but, opposition granted, they shown that they can work together here. Deulofeu worked hard to win back the ball and shown a desire to work hard for the team and Mirallas just worked non-stop all night. On most nights it would have been a man of the match performance if it wasn’t for the Deulofeu/Barkley magic. Mirallas was a fan favourite this time last year and lost his was somewhat with his comments, missed penalty and contract issues but he is now warming the fans hearts again. He deserves a start vs Spurs.
The negative performances from the night can be forgotten. Stones wasn’t at his best and Jagielka had a very poor game. Besic for his great tackling gave the ball away too often and Oviedo is clearly unfit. Lukaku was utterly dreadful in the first half.
Lukaku was utterly magnificent for the rest of the game. His touch was much better and he held up the ball and kept up the pressure in the final third. If trapping a ball is his largest negative, scoring goals is his largest positive. I think I can speak for all Evertonians when I say we can forgive the former if he produces the latter. He gets himself in great positions and is a brilliant finisher. 40 goals in 85 games is a very decent return, and it’ll only get better.
Cleverley along with Mirallas were the only one to come out of the first half with any credit. Unfortunately for Cleverley he had to fill in at right-back for the next 75 minutes, and did so with great aplomb. He’s a brilliant signing and has shown his worth many times already with season. Without his versatility tonight Martinez might have been unable to bring both Deulofeu and Barkley on at half time and we may have been knocked out.
The win in the end was a huge relief. Evertonians will now go back constantly checking twitter and news websites frantically checking if we can keep players, sign work permits and resurrect deals. The match against Barnsley could have been very bad but we move on to Reading. Everton fans deserve more, the away support was brilliant as always and the passion for the club is unwavering even when faced with 20 trophyless years. Our best chance to end that is with the League Cup, so hopefully Deulofeu and Barkley start the next match.