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.

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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.

What Would Be Success This Season?

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The drop from 5th to 11th was a harsh one for Evertonians. The first season under Martinez saw us play open attractive football and put up a genuine challenge to 4th place which only fell away in the final few games of the season. That season gave optimism for the next that we could once again challenge for the much coveted Champions League qualification and also have the opportunity to win a European trophy. Obviously that never materialised and Everton fans were left wondering if Martinez was a one season wonder or whether this was just the difficult second year.

There are a large section of Everton fans that remain sceptical about Martinez, who at the beginning of the year would have been happy to see him go. There was certainly a stage where many other chairmen would have pulled the trigger but hopefully Kenwright’s patience will be rewarded. There have been signs this season that the swagger and arrogance of that first season has returned, slightly disguised by the particularly challenging first ten games that Everton have had.

The minimum expectation this year would be 7th and many Everton fans would hope for higher. Arsenal, Man Utd and Man City seem out of reach but with our comparative squads, we should be battling for league position with Tottenham and Liverpool. Chelsea is an interesting one was you’d expect them to come back strongly and still may quality for the Champions League. If all the above named teams finished above us then we’d be 7th. There is no other team in the league whose first eleven would be a match to ours. The likes of West Ham, Southampton, Swansea and Stoke may be close but to finish below any of them would be a failure.

Would 7th be a successful season though? Not really. And in many recent seasons it hasn’t been enough for a European place with various other teams winning the League Cup or getting to the FA Cup final. There are a group of precocious Everton youngsters who would demand Everton to be challenging for more, and a group who will play regular Champions League football, whether that is with Everton or not. This was seen with John Stones and his desire to leave and although eventually he was happy to stay, the likes of Stones, Lukaku, Deulofeu and Barkley aren’t going to wait forever. I doubt they would see 7th as a success.
Whilst a trophy would be fantastic for the club, it wouldn’t serve to appease our ambitious youth. There are many a hypothetical question asked about sacrificing league position for silverware but it’s not a hypothesis Everton can entertain. Would 8th and a League Cup win be a success? You’d have to say yes but the short term win would come at a long term cost. Everton have to prioritise every competition and we now have the squad size to do so.

Everton like all clubs want to win trophies but unlike most it isn’t a case of attracting players for the future, it’s as much about keeping the players of the present. The potentially world class players that we have through the spine of the club need to be kept and they’ll only stay if their ambition is matched.
Everton aren’t in a position to pick and choose success though and much as we can say what would be a successful season; another trophy less 11th place is equally as possible.

A trophy in any form would make this a successful season, and with that, winning any domestic trophy comes with the prize of European qualification. The ultimate aim though is the Champions League and although qualification this year would be a tough ask, an attempt at least as strong as in Martinez’ first year is most likely the minimum expectation to the players who want to play in it.

Everton Icon: Duncan Ferguson

Duncan Ferguson’s arrival at Goodison Park in 1994 came at a time when the club was looking for inspiration and a light to shine in what had become a very dark period for the club. Only seven years removed from Everton winning the league, Everton was a club primarily concerned with staying in it. Clubs at the bottom end of the table find it hard to find players with commitment, passion and love for the club. Struggling clubs are often filled with rejects or players past their prime. Ferguson was neither, and his elevation to be loved by the fans was due to his love for the club.

Best Moment

Everton’s last trophy came with Ferguson at the club but the often injured Ferguson had only just returned for the final and was unfit, yet his passion to play and win for the club was evident again. The solo moment that may be remembered most fondly however was his performance against Man Utd in 2005, a game Everton needed to win if the dream of Champions League qualification was to come true.  On a memorable night Ferguson headed home the winning goal in a 1-0 victory which helped us achieve that dream. When Everton needed inspiration, he was there again. A trademark header, sealing Everton’s transformation from relegation candidates to Champions League qualifiers.

Worst Moment

Some of Ferguson’s worst moments on a football pitch are ones that are remembered most fondly. Whether it was throwing Paul Ince to the floor or throttling Steffan Freund, Evertonians always had a soft spot for the Glaswegian’s  hard man imagine. The worst moment in his career in my eyes should have been his best. Having helped us get to the Champions League play offs, he should have helped us get to the group stages if it wasn’t for a mysterious decision from Collina to disallow a goal. That goal should have bought the tie level and the momentum would have been with Everton. Instead Villarreal went through and eventually went to the semi-finals.

Greatest Goal

When Everton bought Ferguson it wasn’t an easy decision after a loan spell which didn’t fully convince. However the faith was immediately re-paid with a derby goal and a derby win in 1994 when a trademark header put Everton on their way to victory. It was one of many great performances in the Merseyside Derby and the start of his legend.

Why I Love Him

Duncan Ferguson helped to lift the doom and gloom around the club and give the fans hope. All football fans want to see the players on the pitch have the same passion as the fans do in the stands. Ferguson was very much a fan on the pitch and fell in love with the club with the same strength that the fans fell in love with him. This shows in the Everton tattoo he got in 2001 and showed off on the pitch after another Derby goal. He may have missed many games due to injury or suspension but his impact on the club was huge.  He came to the club to help us stay in the Premier League and left after helping us get into the Champions League. He knew what the club meant, and still does as a coach, and having those characters at a club is priceless.

Crazy Night At Oakwell. Stones And The Rest.

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.

Why The League Cup Matters

There has been a lot of talk recently about why we have gone 20 years without a trophy and who is to blame. But for now, let us look forward and think ‘What can we do to win a trophy?’

For me the first answer to that question is this: Take the League Cup seriously for once.

I get infuriated every year with poor selections and no culpability for the manager when we inevitably have our early round exit.

The League Cup is silverware, it will forever be apart of your history. To call it a second rate competition for me has never made any sense, of course it would come behind the League and FA Cup but that’s not the point. For any Evertonian who says it doesn’t matter just think back to 2012 and Liverpool lifting the cup. I spent that final shut off from the world as I couldn’t bare thinking about them winning a trophy. You can also cast your mind back to our semi-final vs Chelsea and how much it meant to us and how much we wanted that Wembley final.

Not only does it mean something, it is also the most winnable of all the trophies.

Sunderland, Swansea, Bradford, Cardiff, Birmingham and Aston Villa have all reached the final in recent years.

We will make changes on Thursday however and play a mixture of unfit and young players. If we make it through against Barnsley then we are likely to come unstuck further down the line with Martinez’ policy of weakening our League Cup team.

Our last few years have been very weak efforts but if we were to give this competition everything we have then winning it is very achievable to get that much missed silverware. We have no European games this year so a run the competition won’t be too much for our squad and may give us something to smile about for once.

More likely is that we’ll get knocked out again by a Leeds, Brentford or Fulham. . . Or maybe Barnsley and I’ll have my yearly fume then kid myself that it doesn’t matter.

It does matter, and the manager should pick our strongest side. He shouldn’t be given an easy ride if he doesn’t. I don’t want to be hearing those words “The players we had were good enough to win” for another year.