For Newcastle United games up at St. James' Park we used to drive up and stay at a hotel to make a bit of a trip of it. We were in our twenties then and would always make a good night of it around the Newcastle city centre with its vibrant nightlife. Maybe I'm in something of a mid-life crisis but we thought it would be a good idea to do it again this time for the Sunderland match. What an idea this turned out to be! After drinks around Newcastle we were back at the hotel in bed even before Match of the Day had finished...I think I'm getting too old in the tooth for these late nights!
Awakening hangover-less was ideal mind with going the match on the Sunday. Gaz made the short drive from Tyneside to Teeside. We parked up near the imprerssive stadium and were in a nice little pub called The Halfway House for about 11.30am...plenty of time to relax before kick off. We got chatting to a couple of Sunderland supporters who were great company. It was fantastic to chat with some intelligent football fans from another club.
We walked onto the stadium in glorious sunshine in what was a lovely day up in the North East. We entered the ground and found our seats on the very back row of the North Stand. Prior to kick off there was a minute silence to remember the fallen in World Wars I and II before Lee Mason got the game under way. Roberto Martinez changed it a little bit from our midweek stroll against Lille. Seamus Coleman returned at right back, Ross Barkley returned on the wing and Samuel Eto'o played just off the striker. I felt Steven Naismith should have been included in the XI somehow. Jack Rodwell didn't make the XI for the Black Cats.
What followed was frustrating almost entirely from start to finish. Everton's propensity to pass, pass, pass in trying to eek out the perfect goal annoyed in a game in which the opposition were there for the taking. Ross Barkley almost finished a move which he started though his shot was blocked and Lukaku headed tamely at Pantilimon from a quickfire break in probably our two best openings of the first half. McGeady drove one just wide, Barkley curled one just over and Samuel Eto'o, who was busy throughout tried his luck on a few occasions but we couldn't find a way through in the first half.
Our rhythm was disrupted on 13 minutes when Gareth Barry left the field on a stretcher with a suspected broken leg. It's great that this isn't actually a break and hopefully he won't be out for too long...likewise for James McCarthy...we're snookered without those two. We didn't really realise at the time though apparently Gomez should have been given his marching orders as he followed up his booking for the foul on Barry with a blatant dive which the referee spotted. I'll have to check that later on Match of the Day 2 but it's not surprising that Lee Mason got it wrong. He was diabolical all game long and his performance summed up the frustration of the game.
Whilst we frustrated in the first half at least the chances were there. In the second period we still frustrated but created less. Sunderland seemed to have sussed us out and didn't afford us many opportunities. Romalu Lukaku, in one of the very, very few good things he did on the day forced a great save from Pantilimon but there was precious else happening. Sunderland were doing a good job of stopping us from playing and we resorted to quite a few long balls in the second half. The hosts were creating nothing but had stifled us completely and then on 66 minutes something out of nothing happened. Leighton Baines was adjudged to have fouled William Buckley and Sunderland had a free kick in a very dangerous position. You just knew what was coming. Sebastian Larsson eyed it up, got the ball over/through/past the wall and Howard couldn't keep it out.
You wouldn't say we exactly deserved to be winning the game at that point but we certainly didn't deserve to be losing it. It must have been a bit of a hammer blow for the players so credit to them for dusting themselves down and forcing an equaliser just 10 minutes later. Seamus Coleman latching on to a lovely ball from Samuel Eto'o and the Irishman was through on goal only to be taken down by Connor Wickham. That Lee Mason didn't send off Connor Wickham was astounding. It wasn't his first or last woeful decision of the day and it was a good thing Leighton Baines had a cool enough head to score his penalty as he had to wait a very long time to take it given the nonsense that proceeded it from Lee Mason, his linesman and the Sunderland players. Baines squeezed it home and Everton leveled though couldn't force a winner...in fact if not for our gutsy midfield general - who was nursing a hamstring injury at the time - clearing the ball off the line in the closing stages we may have had an even grumpier journey back...with or without the seemingly endless 50mph speed limit zones on the M1 and M62.
So two frustrating draws in the league when a win and a draw would have been just fine really. If we're not careful even Southampton will be out of sight soon and though the league is so wide open with few teams picking up any real form this smacks as even more of a missed opportunity to not be stealing a march on our rivals. Liverpool are below us on goal difference for example. We should be streets ahead of them and laughing at our neighbours (OK, we can still laugh at them) but instead we're right alongside them. Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and to a lesser extent Manchester City are all stuttering...somehow it always seems to be the Everton way that we don't capitalise on our rivals failures.
Plenty to ponder as we approach the international break.
Howard: Not a huge amount to do really but I have to take him down a grade for being such a buffoon late in the game. He was so lucky not to have handled outside the box when he was waiting for it to land in the penalty area. I don't know what he was thinking. Just kick it for goodness sake. I haven't seen the free kick again yet so not sure how at fault he was for that. 6
Baines: Did well with the penalty. Not one of his most productive games but was doing as much as anyone else to drag us to victory at the end. 7
Distin: Did OK. Irked the entire travelling support near the end when he let the ball trickle out for a throw in rather than take possession forward but otherwise was in the way of most things. 6
Jagielka: The more composed of the two centre backs. Certainly has his tail up at the moment. 7
Coleman: Caused them a few problems down the right...one barnstorming run towards the end of the match was excellent and won us the penalty of course. Is capable of better but certainly didn't do badly. 7
Barry: Was doing well until injured. I really hope it's not a serious injury and what a relief that it isn't a break. International break may have come at a good time for him. 6
McCarthy: Easily man off the match for me. Covered every blade of grass and saved our bacon at the end despite being injured. Barry would be a big loss for us if he is injured for a long period but this can perhaps be offset by Gibson, Besic and Osman. McCarthy however can not really be replaced as his work rate and tackling ability is unrivaled by anyone else in our squad. I really hope that hamstring injury is not a serious one. Assuming he pulls out of Republic of Ireland's international commitments this next week or so it could be an ideal time to patch him up. 9
McGeady: One of our better players. Showed some great tracking back in the first half and did cause them some problems on the counter attack. One of his best performances for us yet in my opinion. 7
Barkley: At times in the first half he was outstanding but he dipped in and out of the game too much. Is surely wasted on the wing. I know it's a conundrum for Martinez with Naismith and Eto'o also vying for the position just behind Lukaku but he needs to find a better solution as Barkley on the wing isn't it. 6
Eto'o: Was excellent. Very busy, always showing for the ball and passing the ball with intelligence. A joy to watch. 8
Lukaku: I'm very disappointed in Romalu's performance today as I genuinely thought he was making progress following the Lille match...unfortunately he followed it up with today's performance which was probably his worst yet for our club. Some awful touches up front. Nothing seemed to stick up there and he just didn't offer enough at all. A real shame and lets hope it's just a blip. 4
Gibson (for Barry): Began quite well when he was introduced early but as the game progressed his influence on the match reversed. Maybe he will improve as fitness returns. 6
Naismith (for McGeady): Didn't quite impact on the game despite his best efforts. Should have started the match rather than being thrust into it. 6
Osman (for Barkley): Did OK. Was sensible with the ball the few times he had it. 6
Reader Comments (34)
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1 Posted 10/11/2014 at 07:53:36
When I watch him, it's the basic centre-forward skills that are absent. The control, the passing, the vision, the savvy, the movement. Roberto must see this too, right? He can't be pleased either, right?
We can't afford to keep picking a striker that centre-backs enjoy playing against. He needs a lesson in 'How to scare the bejesus out of defenders' from Master Scholar Duncan Ferguson.
2 Posted 10/11/2014 at 08:07:52
At the moment, we must be easy to play against as when the opposition have the ball we don't seem to want to tackle. Then, when we have the ball, everything is played in front of teams and we never have anybody running past the strikers to stretch the game.
The last two games have been very winnable but we've hardly created a chance in either. This brings me to the conclusion that were playing safety first football rather than the attacking football of the last three months of last season.
3 Posted 10/11/2014 at 08:53:02
4 Posted 10/11/2014 at 09:03:49
Don't get me wrong, I never want a return to the bad old days of Moyes but the difference in emotions for me at least are miles apart.
Under Moyes, I used to get angry and frustrated to the point where I could've committed murder. Under Martinez, I find myself watching the game with a calm, ambivalent, "don't give a shit" attitude.
My lad said to me during the Swansea game. "Dad, you look bored off your head."
Sad, I know... but that's the way I feel: pointless passing across the back with little or no penetration and no end product for the most part.
5 Posted 10/11/2014 at 09:41:44
Our problem isn't that we 'just pass' the ball around; our problem is that we don't do it quick enough at times, so the opposition get men behind the ball, massed around their box and we're not cute enough to pass through them.
We play the right way, we just don't always do it properly or effectively. Martinez needs to learn to mix it up a bit more, and we need to learn to be better without the ball Â– letting teams play a bit more can make us a more effective outfit both on the break, and in possession by them being further up the field.
The problem is that we play the ball around too slowly, and lack the pace or injection to burst through teams in the way say, Barcelona used to, or the great passing teams Arsenal have had.
Lukaku and Eto'o together just doesn't seem to work either Â– we need Naismith to play in the hole, it's clear for all to see and we need Ross bursting through the middle, not playing out on the left.
I can see why Martinez is trying to mix the team up and keep players fresh but, when it makes us impotent as an attacking force, you have to question the validity of his thinking.
6 Posted 10/11/2014 at 09:40:51
McGeady was blazing past the full back then either passing to no-one or putting it to the opposition. He did look the player most likely though.... at the expense of Coleman's forward play.
It was no surprise that, when McGeady went off, Coleman was bombing forward again and won us the penalty. (How Wickham stayed on that pitch, I will never know... along with Gomez, Mason looked liked he was going to brandish a card but then crapped out.)
7 Posted 10/11/2014 at 10:16:47
I don't accept the Europa League excuse as a reason for poor performances on a Sunday. It's not as if we travelled half-way around Europe for Thursday's game.
The chemistry up front is not right for some reason. Against Swansea, Eto'o and Naismith were either both out of the box or both in the box in each other's space.
McGeady is doing better but he seems disconnected from the team and has to improve his shooting and crossing. Lukaku is misfiring. Ross Barkley is searching for some movement in front of him.
I would want Naismith starting every game of importance, he has the best mentality of them all and is the bravest in terms of getting on the end of things. We could also do with a bit of luck on the injury front.
8 Posted 10/11/2014 at 10:21:35
We need a striker who gets in the box much more to capitalise on the likes of McGeady's crosses; we need more pace when we attack, we need to stop pissing about with the ball at the back. That's fine if we are being patient while we wait for an opportunity to break out but we are slow and predictable when we do.
How many times have we gone from an attacking situation or a corner/free kick and ended up passing it all the way back to Howard who then puts it in the stands?
Do we ever do any shooting practice? How many times are we within 20-25 yards of goal and pass it sideways? Take responsibility and have a shot on goal. Only Barkley seems to do this and his efforts were poor yesterday.
Unfortunately Lukaku has yet again come up short yet again. I have always been of the opinion that there is a player in there somewhere; if you go by the stats alone, he must be quite a player with his goals-to-game ratio. But where is he? Where is the player who terrorised defences last season?
He looked better against Lille but was so poor yesterday. I hope we kept the receipt...
9 Posted 10/11/2014 at 10:52:03
Neither ourselves, Spurs or Liverpool have been able to maintain a consistent season. When you consider that Man Utd have been very poor both last season and this season, it makes it even more frustrating.
We have the squad of players. They are as good as the Spurs or Liverpool squads.
10 Posted 10/11/2014 at 11:28:55
Yet again, we 'won' the game on possession stats Â– and he loves that Â– but, when that possession is not translated into goals, it becomes frustrating and pointless.
Yes, Lukaku had one of his 'games to forget', Barkley was wasted out on the wing, and one or two others would be pleasantly surprised at Paul's ratings of them above. But we are not functioning as a team anywhere near consistently enough to make more than a mid-table finish reality.
Europe's best players can Â– and do Â– regularly manage 60 games a season, so god knows where the perceived inability of our lads to play well twice in a week comes from. Needless to say, I'm looking in the direction of a certain well-paid Spanish football philosopher for an answer!
11 Posted 10/11/2014 at 12:03:37
It was telling watching the pundits after the game on Thursday how Strachan was saying that all of the players would be up for Sunday now after a good win... What does Bobby do? Drops the only player who is making defenders lives hell in Naismith and puts in Barkley... on the wing???
Stop changing teams to appease players, it didn't work last season against Palace and I thought he had learned his lesson but he did the exact same this season against the same team and lost and he's doing it again after Europa League games, of which we have only won one after a Thursday game.
12 Posted 10/11/2014 at 12:10:34
Will the real Lukaku please stand up.
I also spent most of those 5 years wishing OFM would just let the team play: now I find myself wishing Martinez would let them play slightly less... especially across our own box... and back again... and then back again, etc.
13 Posted 10/11/2014 at 12:33:08
Alternatively, we are doing fine, but we are very inconsistent Â– 4 points off a Champions League spot and top of our Europa League group.
I know what I want to focus on, but that may be down to me believing we can only get better. I don't think we have strung two good performances together yet.
14 Posted 10/11/2014 at 12:48:03
15 Posted 10/11/2014 at 13:12:16
Also injuries have hit us in the worst places so far.
I just wish that posters would stop mentioning the 㿈m price tag for Lukaku. he didn't negotiate that amount and just because you pay 㿈m doesn't mean that you will get a 㿈m player....ermm, if you known what I mean!
16 Posted 10/11/2014 at 13:12:30
We are not happy with the situation but it has been seen previously and some of the 'outrage' shown by some people is a little over the top. It's becoming clear that the fans don't like the style of play at the moment but many disliked the more adventurous football in the opening weeks as it resulted in too many goals conceded. Somebody has to find the right blend to be adventurous and stingy simultaneously but that I suppose is what every club in the world is looking for.
17 Posted 10/11/2014 at 13:20:00
I don't think people are having a go at Lukaku re the price tag. More to the fact that Martinez paid that price for him.
No way on this planet is he worth that amount of money. He just doesn't have what it takes to be a world class forward; his attitude and work rate are atrocious at times.
18 Posted 10/11/2014 at 13:23:55
If that's the case, then 㿀M seems fair to me, considering his potential. He also nearly scored a cracker yesterday, which hit the outside of the post. He'll come good, along with Barkley.
19 Posted 10/11/2014 at 13:27:38
Look at the results after Europe for all the teams (except Chelsea), they have all suffered European hangovers.
Man City 2-2 with QPR, seriously??
Spurs getting beat... again
Arsenal get beat by Swansea
We draw with Sunderland and the Redshite get beat by Chelski, the only team who played midweek to win.
20 Posted 10/11/2014 at 13:24:37
The bottom line is consistency all over the park which is still lacking despite pockets of brilliance from several players. A prime example was Baines chasing a player across the middle and giving away the free-kick in a perfect position. That was foolhardy.
Lukaku's ball control continually lets him down and is a concern because, under the RM system of 4-2-3-1, if he doesn't hold the ball up, then the attack breaks down. Having said that maybe RM should abandon that formation and attack more with that second line of three instead of that long ball to Lukaku.
Against two second rate central defenders I was amazed Everton couldn't create more chances. Maybe the return of Mirallas and the introduction of Oviedo will help as what we have seen against Swansea and Sunderland is very poor.
21 Posted 10/11/2014 at 13:53:48
Using the columns headline Â– Why? Why did the manager leave out our leading goalscorer (Naismith) whose energy will not allow the defenders to settle on the ball?
Why was Barkley played out of position on the left wing?
Why was Eto'o played behind the attack as a midfielder when his major asset is in and around the box?
And this may be perceived as hindsight: Why was Barry not rested after limping off with an ankle injury on Thursday? I think he has played in every game this season.
22 Posted 10/11/2014 at 14:48:58
It's no coincidence that all the teams who played midweek had off days against what would be considered lesser teams.
However, it's not helped when your manager drops players and then puts other players in wrong positions.
It seems that the more things change the more they stay the same.
23 Posted 10/11/2014 at 15:28:34
I read last week that SAF had said that players would not think they were tired if you didn't tell them that all the time and that they would have plenty of energy if you kept telling them how fit they were.
Modern players should be able to manage playing midweek and at the weekend, and they generally prefer to play than train. The only problem is trips to the far side of Europe and then playing early Sunday like we had to do, otherwise....
24 Posted 10/11/2014 at 15:49:10
Also, that was then and this is now, and the namby pamby players nowadays are so pampered that they struggle after European ties.
25 Posted 10/11/2014 at 15:47:55
I think that's one of the major problems with today's football the players are picked firstly for their fitness levels and their abilities on the ball are secondary. I'm not sure why Everton seem to buy players who have difficulty staying fit and controlling the ball to a decent level.
I'm also not fond of all this statistical nonsense that has crept in to the coaching side of the game; a good athlete is not the same thing as a good footballer. Perhaps it is this aspect of the PL that makes most PL games more than a tad boring to watch and it's only the special players like Aguero et al that lift the spirits of the watching public.
26 Posted 10/11/2014 at 17:52:16
Other teams sometimes have to play an injured player who passes a fitness test but may not yet be ready to start a complete game.
Maybe Barry should have been on the bench against Sunderland? Barry has been playing well but Everton have Besic and Gibson who could have started.
I know everything is great in hindsight but RM gets a fat paycheck to figure these things out and in my honest opinion I think he is still somewhat lacking as a PL manager.
27 Posted 10/11/2014 at 17:45:53
Look at the teams mentioned who played in Europe.
Man City lost and have been playing off form for their last few matches. Arsenal have been criticized for their poor defence that was shown up in their game. Chelsea won.
Liverpool 0 look at team selection and have struggled the last couple of weeks. Tottenham nearly gave it away and are struggling to find form in the League.
Everton played outstanding. There were 48 teams that played on Thursday night and I am sure quite a few won. So that is why I will not accept the excuse that playing on Thursday will ruin your performance on the weekend.
28 Posted 10/11/2014 at 17:44:17
29 Posted 10/11/2014 at 17:32:23
If any TWer's are going to this "audience with Roberto" on Thursday evening, maybe you could ask him?
30 Posted 10/11/2014 at 20:15:07
Only Everton suffer the physical demands of playing two games in four days and, in any case, we've had worse starts than this and managed to finish seventhish.
So what's to worry about? We've got the most philosophical manager in the land and we're nailed on for a 10th place finish. And there's always the FA Cup if we don't opt out by playing the ressies!
Brighten up, wilyus!
31 Posted 10/11/2014 at 20:49:07
I said in the Summer that I preferred other strikers as I didn't think that this lad has the skill-set to lead the line and because of the way that RM sets his team out, that is what we needed Â– someone to lead the line. Now we have him we have little alternative but to support him and he could well turn everything around and become the player we would all like him to be.
The problem being it may take another 12 months or more for him to reach the level of consistency that we need. I still think if you are going to spend a good deal of the budget on a single player then you have to build the team around him and supply him the ball in his favoured positions.
I wish I could get Roberto Martinez and Phil Walling in the same room to discuss football, it would be an interesting debate!!
32 Posted 11/11/2014 at 17:01:34
Near the end the big sub Buckley was tearing us apart. We needed someone to keep him quiet so we brought on Ossie.
33 Posted 12/11/2014 at 18:12:48
I agree with the comments above about the passing game that RM wants is the only way that the modern game can be played. You can't dribble or pass forward through modern defensive lines only lose the ball which is really dangerous against teams that counter attack like most do against Everton. Patience and possession are everything. The game has changed massively even in recent seasons and we have to change with it or die.
Midfield play in soccer now is more and more like the breakdown area in Rugby Union, it's ugly and you have to have players who can make very quick decisions under chaotic conditions and with limited opportunities and a very high risk of bookings. McCarthy is magnificent in this area as was Barry at his best when we couldn't afford him.
We have a resource problem still but we are playing great football at times and I'm more excited about our prospects than I have been for ages but we have injuries and we will for sure find RMs decisions at times frustrating but it's a good time to be an Evertonian. We are as good as the Liverpools who outspend us and we're Sergio Aguera away from Citeh that is all.
Keep the faith everybody, things are at last beginning to look up. I believe that we have a great set up from Board down to players all with Blue in their hearts. I'll reserve judgement on Lukaku but I believe that RM sees him 2 years from now not the rough diamond that he is now.
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