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We can make top 4 (via the next 10 home matches)!

Friday afternoon... and a very quiet one in the office. Whilst I research my bets for tomorrow and check out the form of the teams I am backing tomorrow, I thought I would look a little ahead at the fixture list for the rest of this season.

With two massive away games approaching and the come-down from the derby still not quite finished, it was maybe a bit too easy to forget about our forthcoming other matches. Just reminding myself who the December home games were against, I was a little intrigued and unusually optimistic when I realised who we are scheduled to play in our next 10 home games. In number order they are:

1) Stoke City,
2) Fulham,
3) Sunderland,
4) Southampton,
5) Norwich City,
6) Aston Villa,
7) Crystal Palace,
8) West Ham United,
9) Cardiff City and
10) Swansea City.

And before you all accuse me of being asleep for the last two years, I am well aware we have drawn far too many matches against weaker opposition. But should you have the chance to pick the home league games in any order you want then I don't think it could possibly be kinder than this. This is a perfect opportunity to bag 30 points adding to our current tally of 21.

Earlier in the week, Roberto claimed that 70 points was the target! 10 consecutive home wins leaves us with only 19 points to search for in all the remaining 13 away games and the final 3 massive home games which are against Arsenal and the two Manchester City and Manchester United.

So... 19 points on the road and home against those last three?? Is it possible?? I think it is!! Our record away had been well below average for too long. But that consecutive list of home fixtures couldn't not be any kinder and we must take maximum points. I believe we can reach Roberto's target!! COYB

John Crook     Posted 29/11/2013 at 15:07:45   Comments (22)

The Mirallas Tackle: Compare and Contrast

Luis Suarez in the 2-2 derby at Goodison produced one of the most disgusting premeditated tackles in Prem history. With Distin shielding/running the ball out of play, Suarez launched a powerful raking stamp down the back of Distins Achilles.

Luckily ole Dusty is built like a tank, but it could have been a career threatening tackle. It still enrages me to this day and shows what an ugly little shit Suarez is. Suarez got away with it without even a booking.

Contrast that with the tackle from Mirallas, sure it was forceful and a little high/reckless but I don’t think for one minute it was malicious. Clumsy and ugly maybe.

Yet the way the press are highlighting the tackle and still banging on about it is incredulous. How much coverage was that Suarez challenge given… nothing! Hansen and Co happily glossed over it on MotD. The press are acting like Mirallas stamped on Suarez’s face.

Just goes to show the influence all those ex red mass produced pundits have over the media.

Daniel Johnson     Posted 25/11/2013 at 12:36:15   Comments (68)

The Martinez Difference

Let me start with a confession: I was a Moyesophile, an 'apologist', happy with the apparent KITAP1 percentage football. I had serious doubts about Martinez. I saw us regressing when he took over.

The truth is that we might not end up the 'best of the rest' this season. We might finish 8th behind the usual suspects plus Southampton and Newcastle. But the thing is: so what?

Whilst some of our football has been laboured at times this season and, whilst we didn't win on Saturday, both our change of style and our noticeable change of attitude — particularly against Liverpool — has meant I'm a convert to the 'Roberto Revolution'.

We totally took the game to them. We didn't arrive before the the game thinking that we were beaten before the game started. We didn't give them respect, and we didn't play the Moyes percentages. Yes, some of our defending was naive and we should have seen the game out but the fact is that, at times, we ripped them apart with through balls and confident play. We attacked them and had the attitude that "we will outscore you — and we are better than you".

So, I'll take this for this season, even it means that we sometimes lose or win. I'm bought into Bobby... Are you?

Chris Leyland     Posted 23/11/2013 at 23:09:12   Comments (116)

Money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s game

Following the news that BT have bought the Champions League rights, it appears that the top four teams will be getting the bulk if not all of the money that goes to clubs. This ensures that the rich will get richer and even richer. There will be a super league of six teams competing for the top four places and the rest fighting for survival. Sadly Everton will be consigned to the latter group. As the top few will now have even more money to spend, breaking into the top six will become even more difficult than it is at present.

Although Roberto has recently asserted that it can be done without decent financial backing, since he said that, the game has already changed. Personally I questioned the validity of his statement at the time, although I realise managers have to toe that line even if they don’t really believe it themselves. To break into the top four will now take massive financial backing, as if it wasn’t bad enough already. In the 21 years of the Premier League, only Blackburn have broken the monopoly of the big four money clubs. Arsenal, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs have shared all the other titles. At the time they won it, Blackburn were a money club with Jack Walker's backing.

The sad fact is that, with our current board, we will never have the chance of breaking into the top four, or even the top six. Already there have been reports that little money is available for the January window without Baines being sold. Even sadder is the realization that there could easily be another 15 years of Kenwright and his zero investment flunkies.

Clive Rogers     Posted 22/11/2013 at 22:13:21   Comments (26)

Derby dates: why is Goodison always first?

From the Guardian story "Everton v Liverpool and it's business as usual with the ongoing derby" published today:

"So keenly anticipated is the Merseyside derby that for the last 10 years, alone in the Premier League, it has been governed by special rules. The first fixture will now always be at Goodison and the second, after Christmas, at Anfield. This prevents supporters having to wait more than a year for what they always used to consider their most important home fixture and avoids the situation that cropped up 50 years ago, whereby Goodison Park did not see a derby game during the whole of 1963."
So now we know.......
Mike Iddon     Posted 21/11/2013 at 16:28:01   Comments (13)

Tiger does it again for Oz

Tonight's Australia v Costa Rica game had a few points of interest for Blues fans.

Tim Cahill came on in the second half and scored his 29th international goal, a trademark header. He shares Australia's all-time goalscoring record with Damian Mori. The bulk of Damian's goals were scored in Oceana games against the like of Tonga. Tim looked to be very fit and could be worth a punt for January to mid-March when the MLS has its break.

Bryan Oviedo played at left back for Costa Rica and was one of their better players though nowhere near as good as Baines. He made a couple of good Leighton-type runs that unfortunately petered out due to lack of support.

Dick Fearon     Posted 19/11/2013 at 12:38:57   Comments (17)

Should we adopt the 3-5-2 formation?

After 11 games played and Everton sitting pretty in 6th place, I think most would agree we've made a decent start to the season. However, our performances could be considerably better – only the first half against Newcastle United and second half against West Ham United have we looked like a team capable sustaining a realistic challenge for a top 4 spot.

At the moment, the shape of our team looks all wrong. Our full backs don't seem to get forward enough, Lukaku often looks isolated and ultimately there's not enough cutting edge in the final third.

The time may have come to try a different formation...

My suggestion would be to play a 3-5-2 formation. This would give the full backs more freedom to get forward and give Lukaku a strike partner and more support up front.

It's certainly a formation Martinez is familiar with from his time at Wigan, and it's something Martinez experimented with pre-season. This formation has been used by many teams past and present to excellent effect.

Juventus have enjoyed two years of stunning success in Serie A, securing back-to-back domestic league titles – to confirm the return of Juventus as the dominant force in Italian football. Antonio Conte, has expertly utilised a 3-5-2 formation for the most part during this period of success.

The formation is flexible, accessible and refreshingly different, allowing modern day full backs to unleash their attacking potential and reduce the strain on their defensive duties.

With three central defenders, a back line will have a spare man even against 4-4-2. The likes of Marcelo Bielsa – a devout proponent of the spare man – value a flexible squad that can adjust to certain situations in a game, and being able to deploy three at the back is a must.

Should we also adopt the 3-5-2 formation?

Mark Frere     Posted 16/11/2013 at 20:57:26   Comments (17)

The problems of Nikica Jelavic

I was thinking about what a mess we would be in, if heaven forbid, Lukaku would be injured, and was thinking of the downfall of Jelavic's form since his excellent first six months after he joined.

Of course his personal performances have declined, and that is a major contribution, but I was thinking: Is that all it is?

I think not. If we see Jelavic's good form, he had Tim Cahill alongside him, not in his best form, but a workhorse alongside him who would create space for the Croatian, in his best role in the six-yard box.

Yet in the second season, he played alongside Fellaini. Did playing with Fellaini rather than Cahill make a difference?

If it did, then a decent Plan B might be playing Naismith and Jelavic as our front two. There are a lot similarities between Cahill and Naismith, and he might get the best out of Jelavic, especially as they were so effective in Rangers, yet in a worse quality of football.

I didn't really see Fellaini getting the best out of his striking partners, especially as our tactics last season were so focused on him, although it was effective. I just think if Jelavic had a run in the side with Naismith if Lukaku ever got injured, then we might have an improved Jelavic.

Ben Jones     Posted 15/11/2013 at 13:53:41   Comments (38)

Styles of Play or just Great Players?

The subject of styles of play and how to achieve the best results seem to be the most talked about subjects — both for domestic and International football.

Presently everybody seems to want us to play the way Barcelona and Spain play, and as far as International football is concerned we have been over the decades encouraged to adopt certain countries' methods of playing. I am not sure there is one particular way of playing that can ensure success, Probably Germany has enjoyed as much success as any nation in the last 50 years yet I don't remember a cry for everybody to play the German way.
Brian Harrison     Posted 15/11/2013 at 10:22:18   Comments (17)

Pass, pass, pass... and pass again.

Below is a table from the very good (but not quite good enough) FourFourTwo Opta stat zone pages.

The first table relates to the top 18 pass combinations made during the Palace match, with the number of times these passes are played. And not just Everton's, this is from both teams. Palace combinations don't make the table!

Everton v Palace

McCarthy to Barry 26
Distin to Baines 25
Jagielka to Distin 23
McCarthy to Jagielka 21
Coleman to McCarthy 20
Baines to Pienaar 18
Pienaar to Baines 17
Jagielka to McCarthy 17
Baines to Barry 17
Jagielka to Coleman 15
Barry to Baines 14
Barry to McCarthy 14
McCarthy to Coleman 14
Coleman to Jagielka 14
Howard to Jagielka 13
Distin to Barry 12
Barry to Pienaar 11
Howard to Distin 11

And this highlights the problem when the opposition park the bus which has, and will come from, many teams this season. The team build-up with no pace, allow all our forward men to be man-marked, and any threat is nullified.

If we're to rely on lesser teams coming out to win, then it's going to be a long old season. Palace CouldaShouldaWoulda 'stole' all three points and will be the way to go for many teams looking to pick up a point or more from top 8 Everton.

For comparison, the second table shows the combinations in the Newcastle match where their open and reckless approach meant Everton wasted no time in finishing them off.

Everton v Newcastle

Debuchy to Gouffran 18
Osman to Barkley 17
Debuchy to Anita 17
Osman to Baines 13
Gouffran to Debuchy 13
Tioté to Anita 12
Lukaku to Barkley 12
Barkley to Barry 12
Barry to Osman 11
Barry to Barkley 11
Coloccini to Santon 11
Tioté to Cabaye 11
Sissoko to Debuchy 11
Santon to Tioté 11
Barry to Distin 10
Barry to McCarthy 10
Distin to Osman 10
Baines to Osman 10

Nick Entwistle     Posted 11/11/2013 at 13:54:21   Comments (138)

What Will Roberto's Ideal Football Style Look Like???

Serious question: Can somebody tell me in DETAIL what Roberto Martinez would like to see in our style of play? Not a label such as "possession football" or whatever. Talk me through how it looks as it develops up the pitch. What is it in the style that will lead to significant chances in the box? How will we get there?

Then tell me what it is in that style of play that our players still have to learn?

Then tell me which players will never be able to learn it and will need replacing.

That is a SERIOUS question — not a criticism.

Brent Stephens     Posted 09/11/2013 at 19:00:48   Comments (105)

Charitable Double Standards

Anyone else had a call out the blue (excuse the pun) from the club asking for £2 a week for a charity they are running? I listened to what the girl was saying for a while and then said, "Let me think about it."

She was very pushy, saying they are signing people up over the phone and there was no number I could ring later if I opted in. I politely declined but afterwards thought, "How bloody cheeky are they?"

It reminded me of a situation a few years back when i was one of those who bought an Arteta shirt and was later reimbursed by the club as he was sold to Arsenal. I thought it would have been a great oportunity to frame the shirt (as no kid would wear a shirt with an ex-player on it) because, once framed, only the front is seen.

I contacted the club and told them my son's school was holding a raffle for a Liverpool shirt signed by all their players. I asked would it be possible, if I arrange delivery and collection, could they get it signed by the players? They said No, but they could offer me a signed photo print.

1-0 to the Dark Side.

I mean, why not collect all the shirts back then frame them and auction them off to all pubs, clubs and any other establishments around the world to hang on the wall for all to see? How much could this have raised for good causes and what a free bit of promotion at the same time? It's a no-brainer but I think our club lacks the grey matter far to often.
Tony Doran     Posted 05/11/2013 at 18:21:50   Comments (7)

Put a pile past Palace, Please

I am pretty pleased so far. Two points better off than last season, when the general consensus amongst both blues and the media types was that we had got off to a pretty good start. We are still unbeaten at home, and were the last unbeaten side in the Premier League until a Pollesque refereeing display pretty much ensured we were beaten by a much fancied City side.

Our three big signings have settled well, although question marks remain for me as to why we signed Kone? I feel we needed to either buy a better calibre of striker, spend a bit more, or hold off and use the money a little more shrewedly – possibly getting in an attacking midfielder in the Honda mould. (Anyway, I digress, sorry.)

We are sitting 7th, a win against Spurs would have taken us 2nd. The players seem to be grasping the Martinez way of playing. I agree, we are not Barcelona yet, but they do think we are a good place for one of their top prospects to add more to his game whilst not deviating too much from how he has been coached so far. (That was a bit surreal to type!)

We have in parts played some pretty good football. The first half against Newcaslte for 90 minutes every week? Yes please! We are missing one thing though: for a while, we have not given a team a good hiding. We have seemed on the verge of it a few times, and I have had many a chat with football-minded mates and collegues, and even my dad (Leeds fan, so not so football minded) — We all agree, we haven't for ages, put a team to the sword à la the 7-1 defeacts of Sunderland and Southampton. We had a League Cup five goal haul, but we haven't done it in the Premier League for ages.

I am probably going to look a right div but I think Palace could be the team. We have to put out a much better performance than against Spurs, and you can bet El Jefe wasn't pleased with the first 45 minutes. Everton looked Smithesque at times and so a slick crisp midfield performance will be demanded. I think there will be a few points to be proved, and when this is coupled with the fact that we have a tough little run of fixtures, I think we need to put down a marker. A "This is us — This is what we do" performance.

I for one am rubbing my hands with glee, to quote Jimmy S: "Am I the only one?"

Dominic Tonge     Posted 04/11/2013 at 19:02:53   Comments (46)

Fer play, lads

This is basically a tale of two goals... well, actually one goal. Well, actually one goal that probably wasn't a goal and one no-goal that actually was a goal. See: clear as mud.

The fist one, Barry's cheeky backheel from Super Kev's shot. The goal has been credited to Barry, who appeared at first glance maybe just the tiniest little fraction (miles) offside. When interviewed after the game, Gaz Baz said he hadn't got a touch to his knowledge. Not really tallying with his cheeky "I touched that I did" (pointing at himself) chat with Ross after it went in.

The no-goal I am talking about was Leroy Fer's effort at the death last week, knocking the ball into the net instead of giving it to the keeper was followed with an interview that was slightly at odds with Our Gareth's: Leroy came out when asked and freely admitted to just trying to score. Did he try to score the winner or knock it in by accident?

"I thought I had scored the winning goal." said Mr Fer, unrepentant. In fact, 'unrepentant' is not the right word; Fer just thought he was within his rights to score and so he did. The ref said he hadn't restarted play. He had however signalled to take the throw and knock it back to the keeper.

Okay so he stopped a lot of controversy, but let's have it right — the goal should have stood.

I will say right now that the goal should have been followed immediately by Norwich either allowing an equaliser or scoring one themselves... but the fact remains, the goal should have stood; ours... not so much.

Here is the thing, I personally was cringing when I saw Barry just lie about the incident on telly. I like Gaz Baz, top signing, and so forth, but the fact remains I would have preferred it if he had come out and 'done a Fer' and just said: "Yeah I did get a touch on it, so we were a bit lucky yeah. I just tried to flick it in, and I was maybe lucky with the flag, but these things even themselves out over the course of a season".

I was just wondering what you lot think, would we be standing behind Leroy if he had done that In a blue shirt? Would Barry have come off better or worse if he had just been honest?

Dominic Tonge     Posted 01/11/2013 at 03:56:28   Comments (47)

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