Category Archives: Everton

Open letter to Everton fans

Greetings, Toffees. It looks like we have begun a beautiful. tumultuous relationship, having exchanged pleasantries via a win, a loss, and a draw each. I’ve always admired you from afar, hoping you might someday overtake our own noisome neighbors. However, I  never imagined you’d do so in such fine fashion—nor did I think you’d overstep so far, with designs on elbowing us out of the way as well. Thank god order was restored before too long. Know your place, Toffees, and stick to it. Don’t get too big for yer britches, are you’ll get spanked, and we’ll be the ones holding the paddle.Speaking of spankings, we’ve offered a few over the years. 7-0. 1-6. 4-1. That last one of course paved the way for us to win the FA Cup. Sorry if we never thanked you properly.

Your last campaign was a bright one, no doubt, and it started some tongues wagging around the idea that there might be a few Toffees good enough to make the jump over to Arsenal. Lukaku. Martinez. Barkley. Ultimately, though, we calmed down a bit and came to our senses. Yes, Martinez has you playing some positive, attractive football, but you can no longer sneak up on folks (tricksy habit), nor can you count on such carefree salad days.

People are going to expect things from you, bigger things than last season. However, that’s a Damoclean sword dangling over you. Last season, you were the plucky upstarts punching with the big boys (and landing a few hay-makers, I’ll admit). This time through, you’ve been pencilled in as a top-four contender. The ‘underdog’ label is gone, and with it the naive freedom that allowed you to ignore the pressures. Not sure you agree? What happened then in the run-in? While our attention was split between the FA Cup and the Prem, you could focus on the Prem. Even fighting the ghosts of our nine-year trophy drought, we also had the grit to reel you in and finish fourth.

Fifth, though, is no mere door-prize, not when the top three spots have already been all but auctioned off to the highest bidder. However, you’ve also incurred the curse of Europa, and with it accursed sojourns into far-flung footballing backwaters. Long trips. Harsh, unforgiving pitches. Consonant-strewn, vowel-deprived opponents. Long may you toil there, and many Prem points may you drop as a result. I never wish injury on an opponent (well, maybe I did it to John Terry, but exceptions and rules, eh?), but I do foresee fatigue and possible injury becoming more regular companions to you.

We have our own travel-woes, of coruse, having returned from Turkey, land of clubs with that little curlicue in their nameş. Beşiktaş battled us to a draw, hacked Arteta to the ground, and forced us to treat our second-leg next week like a cup final. You see the dilemma? Despite my vows that we put you in your places, we may not be able to pull it off. We’re a bit…distracted. It’s not that we underestimate you—quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just that we have little choice but to focus keep one eye on Wednesday’s clash, a few players have already picked up knocks, and our German contingent may not be available after winning the World Cup.

Am I prepping a few excuses in case we lose? Yep.

It would be a back-handed compliment to suggest that we’re wary of the threat you pose. There’s more to it than that. Martinez has you believing, and deservedly so. Meanwhile, we’ve done a nice bit of business over the summer, but much of that has simply been to replace departed players. You all may not have been as aggressive in the summer-window, but we know full-well that you mean business all the same. I just hope you don’t get a chance to give us the business today. We know what you’re capable of both today and through the season. Lukaku terrorized us last the last time we came to Goodison Park, and I again am casting about for excuses when I hope that he struggles to live up to the expectations that now surround him.

Truth be told, Toffees, I’m pulling for you. Just not today, of course. I’d love to see you finish above theSpuds and Kopites, the Chavs and Mancs. Just not above us.

Help! A Toffee has hijacked the blog!

A quick note: today’s post comes courtesy of Planet Goodison, an Everton blog whose editor has been bold enough to venture into our midst with his musings ahead of our Saturday clash. For what it’s worth, I’ve returned the favor with my own post at Planet Goodison. Give Goodison’s piece below a read, and give him what-for in the comments below!

When you’re an Everton supporter, you must have a short memory. Actually better yet, you must have a selective memory. Did Liverpool beat us 4-0 at Anfield? I have no idea. Did we lose to Southampton 2-0 by conceding two own goals? Hmmm I don’t recall. Was that Arsenal that beat us 4-1 in the FA cup quarterfinals? Your guess is as good as mine, probably better.

Now if you want to hear something I do remember, it’s a 3-0 drubbing we handed out last time Arsenal stepped into the friendly confines of Goodison Park. What made the blue boys of Merseyside so dominant on that day was a fit Romelu Lukaku. Roberto Martinez switched his usual starting formation of a 4-2-3-1, where Lukaku would play as the lone striker up top, to a formation of 4-3-3, moving the Belgian striker out right. What happened next was a thing of all my boyhood dreams and all of Nacho Monreal’s nightmares.

Unfortunately for us, a repeat performance by Lukaku is a very rare possibility. He is still recovering from a deep World Cup run and a summer spent in transfer limbo. Even though he played the full match last Saturday in the opener vs. Leicester City, he was at full speed for about 30 seconds of those 90 minutes.

However I’ll gladly blame the World Cup for Lukaku if it also costs Arsenal the chance to start a fit Mesut Özil. The German’s vision and passing prowess is tailor made to gash our aging backline of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka. The collective feeling amongst Evertonians last week, after watching the Leicester City attack have their way with our back four, was one of impending doom at the hands of Ozil and Arsenal. 

Apparently, former Toffeeman Mikel Arteta will not face his former club this weekend due to a knock picked up during Champions League play (did Arsenal qualify for the Champions League? I have a selective memory).I’m not sure how widely it’s known outside of Everton but Mikel Arteta might be our most hated former player. The most recent run-in resulted from Arteta’s kissing, or from our perspective, full-on making-out with the Arsenal badge after converting the penalty in the FA cup quarterfinal against us. That seemed to rub some Everton supporters the wrong way. In the fixture at Goodison last season, with the game in the waning moments, he let a loose elbow fly at Ross Barkley before exchanging some heated fighting words with Leighton Baines. It looked, for all intents and purposes, like the birth of a heated rivalry between 4th place competitors for years to come. And finally, when Arteta came to Goodison and scored a (own) goal in the 3-0 defeat, it was class of him to leave the badge alone.

 Of course, last campaign, your team was ravaged by injuries and, with a healthy squad this year, are much closer to winning the title than Everton are to just finishing 4th. However, I do hope that Everton and Arsenal start to develop a modern 4th place rivalry. At least for the fact that if one of us finish 4th and the other finish 5th for a few years, it will mean a lot less European competition for the most boring team on planet Earth, Tottenham Hotspur. I’ll be live tweeting the game this Saturday from the account @PlanetGoodison, give it a follow and harass me every time Arsenal score and I’ll reply by telling you how stupid I think Giroud’s haircut is. 

 Final prediction? Everton 1-1 Arsenal. 

Well-played, Goodison. Toffees, give him a follow at @planetGoodison and remember to check out Planet Goodison itself. 

Just what have Everton, Spurs, and Man U been up to?

In part two of our ongoing, two-part series, we again play the part of nosy neighbors in order to learn just what it is our friends elsewhere have been up to. It’s a bit of keeping up with the Joneses, except we want to do much more than keep up with the Joneses. We want to pummel them and leave no doubt in their minds as to where things stand, pecking-order-wise, and to put them back in their rightful places, leaving things crystal-clear, nice and tidy so that there are no unpleasant misunderstandings. Yesterday, we looked at the three clubs that managed to finish above us (in large part, it had to do with out-spending us). Today we’ll look at three other clubs with designs on leap-frogging us: Everton, Spurs, and Man U.

Everton, of course, enjoyed a very brief but dangerous spell above us in the waning weeks of the campaign, bouncing back from being bounced from the FA Cup to defeat us and hold onto to fourth, only to fade under the pressures of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since, well, ever. Despite failing to prove manager Roberto Martinez’s bold prediction of doing just that, Everton will play in the Europa League, having finish fifth, seven points behind us. In what ways have they tried to bolster their squad to this point in the transfer-window (set to close 31 August)? Keep in mind, we’re focusing here on major or likely-to-be major contributors…

Players in:

  • Romelu Lukaku, centre-forward, Chelsea: £31.2m
  • Muhamded Besic, defensive midfield, Fercencvaros (Hungarian League): £4.2m
  • Gareth Barry, defensive midfield, Man City: free transfer.
Players out:
  • Gerard Deulofeu, winger, Barcelona: end of loan.
It’s been an eerily quiet summer thus far for the Toffees, with Lukaku as their only major signing to this point. We know full-well how potentially dangerous he can be. The question that arises is this: will Lukaku thrive or struggle under the price Everton have paid? For the last two seasons, he’s played with the relative freedom of being loaned-out. Now, however, he has to earn his keep. He’s still just 21, and it will be interesting to see how well he lives up to the expectations of being his club’s #1 centre-forward rather than being that chap whose club loaned him out. At a lower level, the arrival of Gareth Barry may lend a more-stabilizing, wizened sense of things, as the no-nonsense 33-year old knows the pressures of playing top-flight football and may lend a steadying hand to a squad otherwise short on battle-tested mettle. On top of that, Martinez will have a season under his belt and that his squad, largely unchanged from last season, will be more-familiar and more-competent with his system and expectations. That’s a threat not to be underestimated, even if the new stress of Europa League blunts their Prem ambitions.
On to Spurs. By contrast with last summer, they’ve been very, very quiet. Once bitten, twice shy, as they saying goes. After bringing in some seven new players and a new manager, it’s likely that Spurs have drawn the conclusion that a bit of stability might be a good thing. Indeed, their only significant additions to this point have come from within the Prem, be they players or manager:
Players in:
  • Ben Davies, left-back, Swansea: £11.1m.
  • Michael Vorm, keeperk Swansea: £5.1m.
Players out:
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson, midfield, to Swansea: £8.9m.
  • Jake Livermore, midfield, to Hull: £8.9m.
It’s easy to sneer at Spurs. You probably did it each time you saw the word. Spurs. There. Did it again, didn’t you? However, their most significant addition won’t appear on the pitch: Mauricio Pochettino. The additions of Davies and Vorm look to be back-ups, at best, but Pochettino might be the manager who finally makes good on Spurs’ perennial promise to finish above us. He was good enough to guide Southampton to its highest finish since 1990 when they finished 7th in the First Division. Between the departure of Bale, the arrivals of Lamela, Soldado, Paulinho, Eriksen, Capoue,  Chiriches, Chadli, and a few others, and the switch from Villas-Boas to Sherwood, there’s been a great of turnover at White Hart Lane, and a lost season of sorts is to be expected. However, like Everton, they may yet benefit from a more-stable approach to things. We’ll be counting in Carl Jenkinson, who will face them as a loanee to West Ham, to put an early season dent in their ambitions.
Last, but certainly not least, is Man U. It’s a bit odd to ponder just how far they’ve fallen (their lowest-ever in the Prem) and to heap scorn on the fact that they failed to qualify for European competition in any form for the first time since 1989. They’ve ben deprived of even Europa League competition thanks to Hull City’s qualification via the Tigers’ appearance in the FA Cup final. Still, that absence of a European distraction may just their biggest asset as, like Everton and Southampton, they’e been strangely quiet to this point…
Players in:
  • Luke Shaw, left-back, Southampton: £33m.
  • Ander Herrera, attacking midfield, Atletic Bilbao: £31.7m
Players out: 
  • Alex Buttner, left-back, to Dinamo Moscow: £4.9m.
  • Patrice Evra, left-back, to Juventus: £1.3m
  • Rio Ferdinand, centre-back, to QPR: free transfer.
  • Nemanja Vidic, centre-back, to Inter: free transfer.
Truth be told, the list of players exiting Old Trafford would include about 10 other players too young too make meaningful contributions. This, to me, highlights the problem at Old Trafford: too many long in the tooth, too many not yet shaving daily. Yes, Evra, Ferdinand, and Vidic are gone, but those are three Prem-tested warriors you can’t simply replace. In their place, Man U have managed to add Luke Shaw, an intriguing player but not one who can single-handedly replace the experience of Evra, Ferdinand, and Vidic. Yes, there is a stable of young, ambitious starlets chomping at the bit to replace them, but few if any are ready to deliver the consistency and tenacity of the departed. As with the 2013-14 season, I’d love to see another season of depressed expectations, led by the increasingly petulant and petty bleatings of the Dutch Skunk, among others (Rooney, I’m looking at you…). I wish we could write off Man U at that and be done with it. 
However, as with Everton and Tottenham, the real story with Man U may lie with the manager. Louis van Gaal is no ingenue. He doesn’t strike me as being in over his head as Moyes so often did. Whereas Moyes seemed to play it safe too often, a hold-over from his days with a cash-strapped Everton, van Gaal weds a Dutch, “total football” strategy with Man U’s all-too-familiar financial largesse. Suffice it to say that, for as much as we hope to hunt down Man City, Liverpool, or Chelsea, we’ll have to keep an eye on those behind us. Man U, perhaps more than Everton or Spurs, will challenge: no European competitions to distract. A legacy to uphold. A manager with a track-record. Financial reserves to exploit.
In any Prem campaign, success or failure sometimes comes down to just a few matches. We’ll face these hungry, ambitious squads six times, all told, and our ability to open up a can of whup-ass on them each time might just make the difference between winning the Prem and failing to qualify for spoils as sorry as the Europa League.

Does Arsenal dare to hope for an Everton win?

With fourth place hanging in the balance, Everton host title-chasing Manchester City on Saturday while Arsenal wait until Sunday to host relegation-resisting West Brom. At first glance, the desired outcome is all but self-evident: if Everton lose, then Arsenal claim fourth place. It won’t matter what we do on Sunday. However, perhaps it’s not quite that easy. Might we want Everton to win? Yes, it would keep the chase for third place open, at least until we face West Brom. On the other hand, it would also keep alive whatever slender hopes we might have of climbing to third.

The last time we finished third…

It’s far-fetched, I know. With their game in hand, Man City are already four points above us. If they win, that slams shut the door on any hope we have of overtaking them. They’d have 80 points with two matches left to play, and the highest we can get is 79. Done. Dusted. However, an Everton win ramps up the pressure just a little bit, perhaps enough to open a few cracks in the facade at the Etihad. It’s a pity that Chelsea beat Liverpool, as that result keeps alive the hope that they or Man City can still overtake Liverpool for the championshp, but so it goes. Keeping the focus on our end of the business, an Everton win, for as much as it might increase the pressure on us, need not provoke real anxiety. After all, the one or two points that we hoped Everton might drop have quickly become six that they’ve already dropped. On that math, we’re ahead of the game. Should they defeat Man City, we still have an inside track towards fourth place.The highest Everton can finish is 75 points. We’re at 73 with two to play. That’s enough to work with. Heck. if we win on Sunday, we finish fourth and nothing that happens at Goodison Park can change that.

The downside might pertain more to how it affects our readiness for the FA Cup. If we’re still chasing third place, we can’t rest players against Norwich quite as much. We’d have to win, no doubt about it, and we’d still have to hope that Man City find was to drop points against Aston Villa and West Ham, both of whom have to come to the Etihad. I think by now we’re all looking at the same slim window of opportunity. However, ‘slim’ is fatter than ‘none’, if only by the narrowest of margins, and so here we are. After all, we have to keep one eye on the summer. With the World Cup looming, finishing third could (should) coerce Arsène to move more aggressively in the transfer-window. Gone would be the excuse of needing to qualify for the Champions League; we’d know that we’re into the group-stage and can entice players earlier, rather than waiting to win a play-off and make a few last-minute signings afterwards. The flip-side to this, of course, is that finishing third might convince Arsène that the squad possesses enough quality to need only one or two modest signings instead of the two or three marquee signings so many of us pray for. I do think that, should the improbably happen and we somehow finish third, whether it’s Man City or Chelsea we overtake, the pressure to spruce up the squad will remain and intensify. Our needs are too many to ignore: a striker, a center-back, a defensive midfielder, perhaps a right-back and keeper.

If nothing else, I’d prefer that we earn our fourth place finish, much as we did with St. Totteringham’s Day. Instead of backing our way into it by hoping Everton lose, I want to claim fourth place. If we can do that and keep a finger-hold on third, so much the better.

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Newcastle’s fading fast. Let’s put this ’em to bed.

The weekend’s been a bit of a mixed bag, but one can’t get too greedy now, can we? Tottenham won, meaning we can earn St. Totteringham’s Day instead of them gifting it to us. That’s downright decent of them, I must say. Chelsea also won though, meaning that whatever slim chance we had of finishing above of them have all but disappeared. There is now a very real and very tight three-way race for first, which is sure to motivate all three of them, that’s good news for us. Speaking of good news, Everton lost for the second time in three matches, and we now have a good deal of breathing room going into Monday’s match. Whereas we once hoped that Everton would drop a point or two, they’ve now dropped six, and this is before they face Man City, who have to be chomping at the bit to get level with Liverpool, which is precisely where they’ll be if they defeat Everton. We live in interesting times.

With just three matches left, we now control firmly our destiny, at least as far as fourth is concerned, while Newcastle can ease the off the clutch and let it coast across the line. After all, they’re firmly ensconced mid-table, with nothing to venture, gain, or lose. Their recent form—five consecutive losses—suggests that they may have already taken the keys from the ignition, not that we should apply any handbrakes at our end.

 Whereas Newcastle will somewhere between 12th and 7th, we have much more at stake. Win out, and we could finish as high as 2nd (unlikely) or as low as 6th (possible if also unlikely). If the match were decided solely on motivation, well, we could just as well mail it in and receive our three points and that would be that. However, it’s rarely that simple. There are banana-peels to consider, and we simply can’t afford to slip up, not with the run-in we have and the low-lying fruit on offer. Whether it’s motivation or health, Newcastle just don’t look like they’re up for much of a fight. As to Newcastle, they might just best us in one key area: injury. While we’ll continue to go without Wilshere and Walcott, and Diaby has been again ruled out, here’s a quick run-down of who we won’t see, except perhaps on the bench: Obertan. Santon. Ameobi. Taylor. Sissoko. Cisse. Ben Arfa. It’s hard to feel like Newcastle will have the resources or the motivation to put up much of a fight. If we can take this match by the scruff, scoring early if not often, I don’t see us running up against too much opposition. They’ve been held scoreless in four of their last five, conceding 12 goals along the way. Even in the one match in which they showed some fight, scoring first against Swansea, a Bony brace, assisted by an untimely Tiote foul, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

 By contrast, we’re building momentum and finding reinforcements with each passing week. Diaby’s setback aside, Ramsey is back if not fully fit. Podolski is playing the best he’s played all season. Özil is back. For as much as we’d struggled in February and March, we’re rounding back into form just in time to stake a claim to fourth, perhaps third. To finish second is now clearly asking a bit much. The half-full glass is not a mug that overfloweth. That said, however, we can take one more massive step towards securing fourth while reaching for the next rung. The last time Newcastle came to the Emirates saw an epic, epic match in which we scored six goals in the second half to win it 7-3. I’m not sure we’ll see anything quite as, well, slap-dash from Newcastle (although they did find time enough to score those three), but it’s hard to see them summoning the will or the man-power to offer much in the way of resistance. Regardless of what has happened elsewhere, we simply must take care of business on Monday. Plain and simple. We have the momentum. We have the men. Let’s make no mistakes.

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