Last night's game ended a spell of 5 against the Sky 4. The record shows just one defeat, away, to the current English, European and world champions, by a soft penalty.
Reasons to be cheerful? You bet.
Whilst I will never be satisfied when we give the ball away cheaply through hoofs and suicide passes (there was a bit of both early on last night), to not praise the boys and Moyes for where we are at the moment would be churlish in extremis.
All our boys put in one hell of a shift. A bit worrying given the size of our squad. But the differences in the 2 teams go beyond effort (which should be standard for someone being paid £50k+ a week).
Our style and composure is in a different league to the shambles unfolding across the park. You never see an Everton player calling for an opponent to be carded or sent off (Gerrard, Mascherano). You never see Everton players rolling around on the ground as though they've been hit in the temple by a javelin, just to try and get the ball out of play for a rest and then get up again as soon as we do the decent thing (Torres).
You don't see an Everton manager whinging incessantly about tiredness or injuries (particularly with a squad of 66 players, 42 of them native Spanish speakers). You don't see an Everton manager talking utter bollocks about "crazy things" or labelling a blatant sending off as "wrong" and "disappointing" and "that changed the game".
Seems that we, along with good clubs like Arsenal, maintain high standards of sportsmanship and fairness. We work hard, enjoy our victories and bemoan our defeats. But we don't moan, we give credit where it's due and sometimes you just deserve to lose. When you do, that is a true test of character and manners. Benitez fails on every count. He's proven beyond doubt that he is a very little man indeed. Players like Carragher will tell it how they see it and honestly. Benitez lets his players down, he lets his club down, he lets his fans down, and he lets himself down.
The analysis of Lescott and Jagielka is almost getting boring. Sumptuous, imperious, confident, safe, brilliant. But what about our full backs? Didn't think I'd ever be thinking the words "Hibbert" and "England" in the same context. But unashamedly that is now a valid consideration. I hate to tempt fate, but both Hibbert and Baines are only just back in for extended runs. If their form (and our form) is kept up, by the end of the season these guys could be unassailable.
Hibbert seems to be getting more and more confident. His defending has always been good (it makes Ronaldo switch wings). But his offensive play looks more assured. He made one run last night that made me look twice as I thought it must be Arteta. Baines' run is well overdue and the kid is getting better and better. Sometimes the deficiencies of Baines and Hibbert is more a team issue than theirs. By that I mean that if and when we get a more aggressive and offensive midfield, and real forwards moving around rather than midfielders, I expect the contributions of Messrs Baines and Hibbert to get even better.
Howard had very little to do, but made one excellent save from the Alonso through ball. That showed great speed of thought and body. Whoever it was slagging off Howard last week on TW needs a reality check.
Tiny Tim had a quiet game by his standards, but I think he's earned it. That said, he made several brilliant contributions, the weighted pass to Osman should have been a goal and how in sweet Jesus did he get up above everyone to head that corner inches wide?
Wasn't totally surprised that much of this game whizzed past Fellaini. Particularly as the kid is playing out of position. I still think he's excellent and always expected him to blossom from next season.
Call me a soppy old tart, but I was almost emotional when Moyes sent on AVDM. This has been such a waste of a talent. Sure, most of it can be thrown at his feet. But the guy has clearly had problems and just as clearly wants to make a contribution. I would be nothing short of delighted if this flying Dutchman played himself back into the team and contributed towards a strong finish for us. I can only imagine his confidence right now is near rock bottom. WIth a few outings and encouragement from the management and teammates, I sense this boy could give us something we don't have (width, pace, crossing ability etc).
And then there's the kids. And what kids they are. Rodwell looks almost assured of great things. He is strong and athletic, can pass excellently with either foot and has an eye for a shot. Gozzer is a different animal, more offensive and tricky and unafraid to go for goal at any opportunity. I get SO much more satisfaction about seeing the success of boys like this, than in seeing my club waste £10m on a fat little Mexican (Giovanni dos Santos), or £14m on Craig Bellamy, or £20m on Robbie Keane.
I'm trying to get a perspective on what to expect in this season's run in and next season. So here's how I see the state of play with our squad.
I'm not hankering after another £100m to buy Messi or Kaka. i think we have something that almost no other club has with out togetherness and team ethic. I also think Moyes might just be entering a new era of confidence, almost arrogance, and maybe Steve Round is putting something in the pot. Together I see these as advantage Everton.
As for our squad:
Defence ?Excellent, will get even better
Midfield ?With the kids now part of the scene, we have gained much needed energy, pace and surprise. If I could have one wish (actually, 2) then I would bring in Moutinho and M'Bia and our midfield would be "the bollocks".
Attack ?I have seen much of Jo on YouTube. Those who slag off the Russian league are way behind the times. This is a strong league. Their teams are easily holding their own in European competition. Jo looks fantastic. I hope it isn't JUST a loan and that's it. I think Moyes could get this boy back up where he belongs. He has pace and aggression and he works really hard. He's tailor made for us. With Yak, Saha and JV also available, could be a lot worse.
I'm starting to tempt fate so it's clearly time to close. I have just one wish for this season; that we shoot for the sky and see what happens. It could end up as FA cup winners and 4th in the league, or it might not. But we should be going out now to win every game between from hereon in. Only unwinnable game between now and May is Chelski away. But they are slipping, so who knows.
All this excitement and positivity is making me wobble. Need to sit down and re-visit what I wrote back in October when we were serving up abject dross week in week out. Fickle, moi?
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1 Posted 05/02/2009 at 15:20:24
2 Posted 05/02/2009 at 15:26:18
There is a difference between confidence and arrogance and I feel maintained/improved confidence and belief amongth the whole of Evertonia (players, staff, fans) will stand us in great stead to go and seize what is ours to claim in the that remain...COYB!
3 Posted 05/02/2009 at 15:14:11
4 Posted 05/02/2009 at 15:29:01
5 Posted 05/02/2009 at 15:28:56
6 Posted 05/02/2009 at 15:16:29
I only wished that in the post match interview, Moyes would have para-phrased Benitez and talked about Liverpool parking a bus in front of their goal after they had a man sent off. The only difference being that Everton managed to move the bus aside for young Gosling to score ! That would be giving Benitez some of his own medicine back !! But I think Moyes has too much class to stoop to Benitez?s level. Anyway, I?ll just delighted for all the lads and look forward to them taking this good form forward to the Bolton game and beyond.
7 Posted 05/02/2009 at 15:27:45
I would also like to mention Ossie in the same way. He has been playing with an ankle injury rather than having an operation so he can help the cause and has also not been played in his best position but has also been the subject of the Whipping Boy syndrome that some fans seem to enjoy so much.
Having said all that, I still think the squad is seriously thin in MF and that will be our undoing in this season?s run in. However, let?s enjoy the moment and take the opportunity to give some stick back to RS.
8 Posted 05/02/2009 at 16:48:29
I wouldn't waste anymore time worrying about Rafa. Anyone who believes the sending off of a top player like Frank Lampard doesn't affect a game at all, but then three days later claims that the sending off of a very ordinary Lucas was the turning point, does not warrant a mention.
9 Posted 05/02/2009 at 17:53:16
10 Posted 05/02/2009 at 19:02:44
11 Posted 05/02/2009 at 20:00:20
I got the distinct impression Torres wasn’t 100% fit last night. That takes nothing away from Jagielka’s performance as he was absolutely outstanding and has been all season, Villa apart.
The Neville tackle on Ronaldo has definitely turned the season. It’s notable in 6 league games against the Sky Four we’ve drawn 4 and lost 2. And in the games we’ve played and drawn, we have more than held our own and had chances to win. Maybe it’s the fact we have better players, maybe the belief is now there.
What frustrates me is we could have been breathing down Chelsea and Liverpool’s neck had we turned up during August September and October.
Great piece Alan, it’s nice to see positivity on our situation. Yes, it ain’t perfect by a long chalk and we still need bodies but I have never been this excited by an Everton side, ever. I’m 23 and this is the best squad I have seen in the 15 years I have followed Everton. All that is needed are numbers, but we have to fill the squad with quality. I have faith in Moyes that he only brings in players he believes can do a job. Look at Saha when he first arrived before he inevitably got injured. Scored a few, grabbed a couple of wins and set us on our way. That was his job, the same as VDM came on yesterday to provide a cross for a winner (which he duly did, and erased temporarily some people’s bad memories of him)
12 Posted 05/02/2009 at 09:47:16
"We battled hard and showed great spirit but in the end we just couldn't see the job through and that's a great shame. I'm not sure if the pitch had anything to do with that. I think it looked better than it was and perhaps wasn't conducive to playing good football.?
FFS?now I?ve heard everything. COYB
13 Posted 05/02/2009 at 13:09:41
It was a pleasure to witness the old girl rocking to its core. The crowd showed from the very start what it means and put the red brethren to shame, both home and away. Make no mistake Blues, you played as big a part in that win as anyone, be proud, be loud and be dignified, keep on keeping on.
14 Posted 05/02/2009 at 20:54:51
Kissing the refs arse does no harm and sometimes pays dividends. It was terror and panic created by Cahill that drew the attention of Reina, Carragher and Skyrtl that allowed Dan G the space to get on the end of VDMs lovely weighted cross.
15 Posted 05/02/2009 at 21:39:36
I have been on a high that no legal or illegal drug could ever give, just shear pleasure since the goal went in.. 2 days with a permanent smile really makes your face ache..lol
I churlishly wanted Moyes to say in his post match comments how only one team came to win.. and stick it right back to Rafa, but the smile said it anyway.
So onwards and upwards adn Villa next. Good. I really want that scalp..I suspect the players do too.
I agree with most of the comments too, but I still think we need a better balance in midfield, I remember Oliver Dacourt too, a bit of steel, I feel we are a bit lightweight in MF but make up for it in numbers.
Allow us to bask a few more days.. it may not make a season but it certainly makes a difference!
16 Posted 05/02/2009 at 22:15:38
We?ve all grown so frustrated at the lack of activity in the transfer market it easy to forget the work that s already been done in the last 4 years.
The praise surrounding Everton seems to centre on the spirit, resilience and togetherness. Some pundits find this hard to believe giving the numbers Everton are working with but it's no surprise to me. The results achieved recently come down to 1 factor, for the first time in a long time we have no deadwood at Everton (a claim our red shite neighbours cannot even hope for ie Dossena, Lucas)
Every player to pull on a Blue shirt at the moment leads by example. This comes down the managers dealings. The majority of the players brought to Everton have a common theme. They were mostly the best players from teams lower than us when with clear evidence of leadership and application. Examples Baines, Jags, Lescott, Cahill. There's no major science to it, when you cant afford top names you go take the cream of the shit below and make sure of the character before agreeing the deal.
This is why we don't have mercenaries like Bellamy in our side. Selfish brats available to the highest bidder have no place at Everton and never will under Moyes.
It's a simple formula and when done correctly over a period of time you end up with a team who fight for each other week in week out and invariably get on well because they share the same ideals.
Krøldrup aside, the success rate of Moyes's signings is astounding. If you mix this formula with a decent youth policy that is how you can still produce results despite losing your full strikeforce and carrying injuries. If we had even 2 or 3 passengers during this time its possible we could've lost every game played since mid-December.
We have great pride at Everton at the moment. No amount of Ab Dabu's billions or American finance could match the class and integrity of how business in conducted at Everton. For me this is what changed the day David Moyes walked into Goodison.
17 Posted 05/02/2009 at 23:52:14
18 Posted 05/02/2009 at 23:52:17
The point made by Christine and others about DM giving back some to Benitez in post match words is valid. I actually think the way Moyes did it, purely by mentioning that we do our work with style & dignity, was spot on. Only the mildest hint of sarcasm and retaining the moral high ground without any hint of a fight. Liverpool are a charmed team led by a charmless little man.
Paul Connell ? you make an excellent point Paul that I touched on some weeks back. The spunk and character of this team, at this moment, is surely unmatched outside of possibly Man U. Specifically in the number of "captains" in the side.
Outside of Pip himself (who I think has become a terrific captain), we have so many others with leadership stature; Lescott, Jagielka, Cahill, Arteta, Yobo, Howard, even Pienaar. This, as much as anything else, must go down as a tribute to Moyes.
Sure, I love watching us play football. But I?m starting to get a similar emotional uplift to when I watch England in the Rugby World Cup. It has more to do with a noble cause, men standing together, fighting for the shirt and doing everything for each other, than it has to do with money or self-agrandissement.
This emotion would dissipate the moment an Arab billionaire waltzes into Goodison and promises Kaka, Messi et al. Sport is as much about emotion as it is about anything, or at least it is for me. Long may it last.
19 Posted 06/02/2009 at 00:04:16
When Riley took Screech to one side, Neville ran over and did the ref’s job for him, reading the Big Fella the riot act and making Riley forget that he was about to get a card out.
When Riley made Cahill and Carragher shake hands after Cahill laid Carragher out, Cahill smiled at Gormless as if to say "more of the same coming, bucko".
When Gosling was getting ready to come on, he looked like a fox being shown where the henhouse was.
When Rodwell was sent on, he looked like a veteran.
From the first tackle, Jagielka looked like he was playing for fun. Remember that Life On Earth episode with the killer whales playing volleyball with the seal? The killer whales were Jags and Lescott; the seal was Torres.
But the best bit for me is the mental image of dozens of Reds wandering round in this weather without any socks.
20 Posted 06/02/2009 at 07:44:52
21 Posted 06/02/2009 at 10:08:44
"When Gosling was getting ready to come on, he looked like a fox being shown where the henhouse was."
Priceless. Henry Winter would have been proud of that one. I’m still in mirth :-)
22 Posted 06/02/2009 at 10:12:08
I have rarely if ever seen a top class striker (and let’s face it, he IS one of the very best) get so dispirited and look so crest fallen.
It must be so demoralising to come up against a defender who can read your movement, match you for speed (almost) and tackle as powerfully as a lion and as clean & accurately as an eagle.
The image of Torres near the end laying on the ground after colliding with (forgotten who it was) and wallowing in self pity for the ball to be kicked out, simply wanting & needing a rest... Says it all really.
In truth Torres remains a great player. But I’m afraid his manager gets increasingly smaller with every passing hissy fit and total lack of respect & good grace.
Jags & Lescott’s total domination of Torres & co over 3 games (and Berbatov & others) will have created a stir around Europe. Aside from everything else, it’s the total lack of fuss or aggression that they employ. Rarely spoken to, nevermind booked. Can’t say that about a certain John Terry.
Don’t be totally surprised if Real Madrid, Milan et al turn up at our games for a look. That might be our next challenge.