All the way to Newcastle in sunlit freezing conditions to cheer on the team that has just put in two dismal, lacklustre performances leaves me wondering if we are truly born a Blue, does it include a touch of hereditary insanity?
The teams appeared on social media and were pored over and my mate Big H dryly said, "Robles, Alcaraz, McCarthy and Kone. Hell, we have got the Wigan spine!" This did not fill him with seasonal cheer so I suggested it was probably best not to dwell on it... well not yet anyway.
The manager made seven changes, one through suspension, three through injury, two dropped to bench, one only fit enough for a half hour and Barry was captain. On paper, it didn't look too bad... but the worry was could they play the Martinez way? as understanding would surely be lacking with such an upheaval. We would get an answer in the fullness of time...
I thought we looked a lot better in white socks and the socks paid off within five minutes when a sweeping move saw Alcaraz find McCarthy who fed Coleman down the right who put in a decent cross that was swept home by Kone with some aplomb. As the goal reception was going on, I thought, aah the Wigan spine strikes. It was a good finish and Kone did what Lukaku doesn't do — he made ground to get across his man to fire home; a proper striker's goal.
We are 1-0 up away from home and you would think we would be buoyed by that and push on... but no, it was back to the old way of being fearful of conceding so go deep. It's a hard job to sit on a 1-0 lead by letting the opposition have all the ball and rely on spasmodic breakaways and on 11 minutes we had a warning when an over-hit ball went into our area and the keeper seemed mesmerised until the last second when he sprawled and got fingers to it and diverted for a corner. It looked comical but scary at the same time.
On 15 minutes we gave ourselves a clue of how we should be playing when Baines hit an early ball forward in the direction of Kone who made good ground to get in front of his man and control the ball on his chest and was about to lay it off to Eto'o when he was fouled and we got a free kick. It came to nought but that passage of play showed to me at least the type of play the players out there were comfortable with and for once the Martinez philosophy should have gone by the board to at least give us a better chance of picking up points, if only until his first choice players are fully fit and firing. But no... (sighs).
20 minutes gone, it seemed all Newcastle with us defending a little on the frantic side and our attempts to play out often stalled on a misplaced pass, much to the chagrin of many of those assembled in our corner of the ground. We were playing like a patched-up team with a one-goal advantage that seemed very fragile. We did muster one fine counter that produced some joined up footy but Coleman in his exuberance went early and was offside.
McCarthy got booked as Newcastle were going for it and they forced a couple of corners courtesy of McGeady giving the ball away in the first place that caught a few of our players up field and expecting better from the Irishman. Cisse appeared to throw a punch or elbow into Coleman's face but ref took no action (later slow-mo showed it was a red card offence).
We attacked again on 30 minutes and, would you believe it, McGeady gave the ball away again and Newcastle broke on us and forced a corner which Robles somehow got away for another corner which was sent high toward the back post. Distin seemed not to go for it or maybe misjudged it; anyhow a Newcastle player pulled it back from the by-line and Cisse netted (turns out he should not have been on the field to score that one).
We had our first corner on 35 minutes which saw a Kone header go well wide and running up to the break we did have a little spell the best of which was when McGeady was afforded the chance to cut and shoot — he did — high and handsome. Right on the death of the half we almost conceded when Distin dallied and a Newcastle man got in a shot that got blocked up into the air and Robles caught it. He got a cheer for that.
Half-time: 1-1, and the chat was how we had let ourselves down after getting the first goal and then trying to defend, thus letting Newcastle get their confidence back instead of us going looking for another. Also many were commenting on how poor Distin and McGeady were playing and McCarthy just not himself. This was borne out when the teams reappeared; Barkley replaced the out-of-sorts McCarthy.
The second half started as the first ended with Newcastle on top and attacking. They seemed to know that if they closed us down fast we would make mistakes by not being able to play the passing-out-of-defence game when under pressure and this was demonstrated after just 5 minutes of the half when a surge down the middle by Barkley only resulted in a corner. If he had got his head up he may have seen a killer pass but corner it was and Baines took but it came to nought.
Newcastle went down our end and from a diverted shot Robles had to sprawl once again and fingertip away for a corner which we managed to clear to McGeady. He started a break but with our players streaming out he carelessly gave it straight to a Newcastle man; one pass and Perez slotted through Coleman's legs. We are 2-1 down and the same player is the root cause for both so it was no surprise that on the hour mark Mirallas replaced him.
Baines, who was at least showing some form and drive in an unaccustomed position got down the left, twisted and turned his man, cut inside and from the edge of the box laid one back into the path of Eto'o who contrived to almost clear the very high stand. That was a chance. We now had a spell of attacking that was littered with basic mistakes and players who train together every day playing like strangers with no-one seeming to know what the other might do.
On 70 minutes, a ball came into our box and Barkley laid it off perfectly for Colback to score it was just a pity they were on opposite sides. 3-1 down and the faithful yet again being tested for patience.
The manager tried swopping Kone for Lukaku and with 20 minutes to go some fans had enough and left their perches. Newcastle seemed happy with 3-1 and had men behind the ball and challenged us to find a way through whilst always looking for a quick break themselves. On 84 minutes, a free-kick in our half was booted up to Lukaku who controlled well and laid it back to Baines who fed a peach of a through pass for Mirallas to take in his stride and go on a one-on-one with the keeper and coolly curl it past him and into the net. Suddenly we are back in with a shout.
From now until the end, with 5 minutes added, it was frantic and Mirallas had a curling free-kick go just wide and Coleman had two good runs down the right but wasted them both due to bad decision-making. We were giving it a right go but each time we went for it we seemed to make a mistake and hand the ball back to Newcastle and then had to charge back to defend and we nearly paid a price twice. The whistle went and although a bit of grumbling from the fans quiet disappointment seemed to reign.
MotM — Baines
That defeat makes it four out of the last five which for fans is just not good enough, certainly not for a top-four finish! But the only people who can turn it around are the management team and the players. I wish them the wisdom of Solomon. If I was in any position to have a say in what should be done I would have to recognise all the injuries we have had plus extra Europa games and suspensions and urge the manager to suspend the close passing in the box and play with a system that the players are more comfortable with, thus letting them make us hard to beat. Especially since I saw the stat that says we have shipped more goals than all the other teams in the Premier League except QPR.
That must tell him something is wrong in the defending department as most goals are from mistakes while players are in the box. It has to be said we don't have Barca world-class players so let's not try to play like them but instead play like Everton. Tough and hard to beat yet silky enough to create goal chances and take our share... in fact, that was our style when the School of Science first opened in the sixties and it was good enough to see us through the golden years in the 80s. It was indeed joined-up footy.
Roberto, perhaps a word with Joe Royle could pay dividends as I am sure he could help you mould the players you have at your disposal into a pattern of play to suit them rather than a philosophy and gain the results that players of their calibre deserve.
Still, Hull next and I am sure many of us will be going there with no more than an open mind — here's hoping.
Happy New Year to you all.
UP THE BLUES
Reader Comments (27)
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1 Posted 29/12/2014 at 17:47:46
I do admire your persistence and I also admire your continuing positive attitude despite the poor performances! Keep the great reports coming for us "foreigners", Ken.
I share your misery, and wish you a much better New Year than you are currently believing that you will have.
Evertonians are born, not manufactured...
2 Posted 29/12/2014 at 17:48:18
Last season so many of these traits were on display but this season they have been completely missing. Tackling, closing down, pressing and chasing are part of the Everton DNA and go hand in hand with the carpet football our proud club have been famous for.
3 Posted 29/12/2014 at 17:57:33
I did see this game on TV and I was as disappointed as IÃ‚ve been since starting to watch Everton in the late 50Ã‚s. My only hope is that the early 80Ã‚s were also dreadful and HK was lucky to still be manager when the success came. The difference was that the 70Ã‚s had been pretty awful but this time expectations had been raised.
I thought Robles was OK and that Alcaraz is a very nice footballer. LBÃ‚s had a good game as you say but he looks unhappy?
4 Posted 29/12/2014 at 18:07:08
IÃ‚m so disappointed right now I can barely keep my eyes open watching this team play. The fight, the ferocity, the never-say-die attitude that is traditionally the core of Everton is simply nowhere to be found. Down through the years, whether we were good or not, nobody looked forward to playing us. Now the confidence of the opposition is almost palpable -- Newcastle was virtually strutting at times yesterday.
The concerns about our style are valid, but secondary in my opinion. What I miss is the substance, the steel, the Cahill-esque swagger we used to have even when our talent didnÃ‚t warrant it. Last year we had the skill AND the swagger -- the excitement of Coleman storming the wing, the crash of BarkleyÃ‚s shots, the pure joy of Oviedo at the back post at OT.... and what weÃ‚re seeing now is that talent without confidence is worse to watch than no talent at all.
I wonder where itÃ‚s gone. I wonder how you get it back.
5 Posted 29/12/2014 at 18:21:15
I worry about Barkley and Lukaku. They both have talent but they are both far from being complete players. Barkley looks like a kid in terms of his understanding of the game and his casual and strolling style will win few friends in a struggling side. McGeady is a liability and should be used only as a late impact player at best and maybe Besic could replace an out of sorts Barry and have a run alongside McCarthy.
Although many want to stay loyal to Martinez, he has to realise he has so far mismanaged a stronger squad than last year and his positive spin on poor performances feels very patronising to fans who know their football and know that this style of football might seek control of the football but lacks the passion demanded at Everton and the intensity to worry very capable Premier League sides.
6 Posted 29/12/2014 at 19:08:08
He would lift the whole place! In fact bring him back as captain!
7 Posted 29/12/2014 at 19:44:16
8 Posted 29/12/2014 at 19:50:15
9 Posted 29/12/2014 at 20:51:00
We have a small, ageing squad and during the last window the club did not bring in the 6 or 7 new recruits we were promised that would have enabled us to fulfil our extra fixtures without the slide we are going through. Injuries are always a problem but if we do not have adequate cover then lapses like we are experiencing are inevitable.
We should have increased the numbers of the squad and also addressed lowering the age as also promised. Unfortunately our youngsters apart from Stones and Garbutt are not good enough. I see far better youngsters than we have regularly playing in other teamÃ‚s squads and I honestly think that our coaches are not doing a good enough job.
Basic needs of a pro footballer are ball control, accurate passing ability, closing down on opponents and running off the ball when in possession. These are basic minimum requirements and we are not doing this well enough. I have watched our under 21Ã‚s and they are a pretty average bunch IMO. Newcastle are not a good side and we should be able to at least compete with them.
Last season we played pacy football and closed down all over the pitch but nowadays we are allowing the opposition too much time on the ball. I reckon we need some new blood in January and the older players in the team need to be benched. Barry is in need of a rest and EtÃ‚oo is an impact sub at best. Perhaps Kone and Lukaku should be tried together in home games.
10 Posted 29/12/2014 at 20:40:24
Martinez does not seam to have understood English football. We play with power,veurve and pace, as mentioned above about the SoS. What is happening now is that the passing is so slow that everyone ends up standing still ther by not creating space and being very easily marked. We are now easy to defend against. We give the ball away because everyone is marked,left flat-footed and concede. Compare this with last season. Watch the highlights on our tv channel. See how we scored our goals. Lukaku should not play with his back to goal.
Sure he must learn this aspect but not base his game around it. Barry has done his shift and should not be a regular starter. Besic must be played besides McCarthy. Barry to play when Besic is banned!
There is, unfortunately, more to put right. I rest here for now and hope that RM sees the light. On wards and upwards blues. Oh yeh. Stop whining and barracking. It doesn't help.
11 Posted 29/12/2014 at 21:08:49
However, I wouldn't mind having Timmy back as an assistant manager someday. Or Carsley, for that matter. Somebody who knows how to deliver an ass-kicking with some attitude.
12 Posted 29/12/2014 at 21:19:18
13 Posted 29/12/2014 at 22:57:33
14 Posted 30/12/2014 at 04:16:12
Agree with most of your post Trevor but, despite his age, I'm a big Eto'o fan.
15 Posted 30/12/2014 at 08:59:29
16 Posted 30/12/2014 at 09:12:45
He must send a team out against Hull that has a "we won't be beaten today" attitude. That would be a start.
Ken, I have to question one part of your report. For our first goal I thought it was Eto'o who got clear of two markers and switched the play to McGeady who put Coleman through with a perfectly waited and directed pass. It was a beautiful goal.
I thought it only fair to mention this as McGeady has been clobbered for giving the ball away for their second goal and rightly so. And like Harold I am an Eto'o fan Ã‚â€“ play him as a striker consistently and he will score goals.
Up the Blues
17 Posted 30/12/2014 at 09:39:01
18 Posted 30/12/2014 at 11:28:03
19 Posted 30/12/2014 at 11:27:14
20 Posted 30/12/2014 at 11:50:25
22 Posted 30/12/2014 at 12:42:04
A Happy New Year to you and all fellow sufferers.
23 Posted 30/12/2014 at 17:28:29
In the game at Newcastle this was even more apparent and it makes me wonder whether Roberto is encouraging him to do this or whether he does it himself. Either way, he's just not the player he was five years ago and, for me, he's best used nowadays as a sub coming on with 20-25 minutes left when opponents are beginning to tire and he might find the extra seconds on the ball that he now needs in order to be effective.
24 Posted 30/12/2014 at 17:44:52
25 Posted 30/12/2014 at 19:15:11
The amount of changes made especially when playing away and not enforced made me think that the manager is grasping at straws. Ken and many others on this forum realise that it's not just the players but the way we are playing is the problem. Souness was spot on when he said we are easy to play against, press us high and wait for the mistake.
Back to the players that I think should have been dropped.
1/ Barry- when he hasn't got a fit Mcarthy alongside him his pace leaves us exposed and he has started dwelling on the ball.
2/ Mcgeady- Gives the ball away.
3/ Eto- Unbalances the team.
Due to the high number of goals we concede we need to make ourselves hard to beat as the 1st step on our recovery.
27 Posted 02/01/2015 at 19:30:49
So much for this being a pivotal match. Something needs to change and quickly. Out of the teams below us Burnley and Leicester are playing well with a passion despite their position. West Brom and Crystal Palace now have new managers and will be going flat out to turn things around. QPR have a good home record and are picking up points despite their away record.
Unless there is a rapid improvement Everton will find themselves in a relegation battle and on current form will not survive.
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