Everton are bringing some overdue enjoyment back to Goodison Park

Everton’s style has gone from bereft of impetus to breathless. It’s not perfect, as was evident against Palace; there’s clear progress to be made which makes it a little easier to look beyond frustrating results and at the bigger picture.

Matt Jones 09/12/2015 28comments  |  Jump to last

After a match, fans will typically formulate a final standpoint on the game in phases. The first is immediate, formulated as the match is ongoing; the second is afterwards, catching fleeting words of conversation from passers-by on the packed streets which border Goodison Park or sharing opinions with friends in the pub; then third, reflecting on highlights, social media and other external outlets.

For some, its different, as we all think about football in wonderful and unique ways. But its tough to recount a reaction quite as varied as we were witness to in the wake of Evertons 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace on Monday evening, both initially and the days following.

Some have been cynical. Plenty have had scathing opinions of Roberto Martinezs in-game management, others ruthlessly castigated the defending and many lamented the naivety of a team which has dropped two more points, thus failing to capitalise on a wide open Premier League.

But some, this writer included, were invigorated by the display, regardless of the result, what had gone before it and the potential connotations in the weeks to come. Its a feeling which still persists, days beyond those aforementioned stints of contemplation.

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This was Everton at full tilt. Against a team who have made sound progress under Alan Pardew and forged a warranted reputation as away day specialists, this effervescent Toffees team took complete control of the contest and pinned back their game opponents.

A returning Tom Cleverley helped recycle possession efficiently, Arouna Kone again facilitated space for others, while Gareth Barry continue his run of fine former. And a quartet dubbed as the Fab Four by some outlets in the build-upJohn Stones, Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukakuall excelled yet again

Puncturing the steady control Everton had on the match was sharp interplay, intelligent movement and aesthetic exchanges, all surefire signs of a side who are confident in their craft. The attacking forays were imaginative and bristling with intensity as the Toffees knocked at the door, and the woodwork, time after time after time.

It was enjoyable. And as simple as that may sound, its not something Evertonians have been able to say over the past 12 months when trudging out of Goodison. In 2014-15, in particular, nervous quips quickly became invective strewn the way of the team; this young squad were inhibited as a result and it was no surprise a stagnant style of football followed.

So it was encouraging to hear supporters roar the side on again on Monday, even after Scott Dann seemed set to make it a familiar tale of woe against the South Londoners.

Things are different at the moment. Evertons style has gone from bereft of impetus to breathless. The players move the ball quickly, scurry forward with freedom and commit to their attacking bursts.

Its not perfect, as was evident against Palace, as some fearlessness did turn into recklessness in the latter stages, with both sides happy to indulge in a blow-for-blow contest. Theres clear progress to be made, though, which makes it a little easier to look beyond frustrating results and at the bigger picture.

Of course, we all want to see this team killing off opponents, competing for the top four and winning trophies. But this is a vibrant young side playing brilliant football and giving absolutely everything. We should be enjoying it.

Because with some understanding, patience and resolve from the top in the face of potential suitors, those qualities needed to make an extra step will inevitably be forged. This group will learn as a collective not to lose focus after a last minute equaliser like they did at Bournemouth, they will know not to get too swept up in cavalier football, as was the case against Palace.

In a league which is wide open, these missed opportunities could be costly if Everton are to challenge for the top four and that is a little frustrating. But after the depths of last season and a summer of modest transfer activity, few would have expected the Toffees to have these kinds of ambitions quite so soon.

Yet, with a win against Norwich City on Saturday, Martinezs men would move up into sixth place; few would have turned their nose up at that at the beginning of the campaign, never mind a League Cup semi-final as an accompaniment. To say otherwise may be a reflection of the burgeoning quality in the squad, but is also a little revisionist.

Whats most comforting for those wanting to see this team enjoy immediate success is that the group is only going to get better and that process is likely to happen quickly.

Leighton Baines is on the brink of a full return, Phil Jagielka getting fit again will be a big boost and suddenly there is a lot more experience to complement this youthful exuberance. Naturally, Galloway, Stones, Barkley, Deulofeu and Lukaku are only going to keep adding to their skill set as the campaign rumbles on.

The players and the manager have revitalised a substantial portion of a fanbase who were slumped in a malaise during the past few weeks. Watching their inevitable progress in the months to come should make for thrilling viewing. I, for one, cant wait.

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Reader Comments (28)

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William Colman
1 Posted 09/12/2015 at 20:55:56
I thought we were brilliant. If Rom’s effort that hit the post in the first half had gone in we would have battered them. Cleverley had a blinder and was unlucky not to score.

Okay, we should be 4 points better off (2 at Bournemouth) but we just have to keep fighting, playing like we did against Palace the future is very bright.

We really do have to have a great Xmas period and we could take off.... Onward, Evertonians.
Si Mar
2 Posted 09/12/2015 at 21:36:32
Great piece and I enjoy the positivity of it and I love reading the opinions of fellow Evertonians.

I would say overall that I wasn’t as ’invigorated’ as yourself.

I enjoyed a lot of the teams plus points, an ever improving Lukaku, a winger in Deulofeu who opposing managers and defenders fear and other young players who, if we can keep them, could lead to a bright future.

Despite hitting the woodwork 3 times Palace still made Tim Howard pull off 3 very good saves, should have had 2 pens and we conceded another goal from a corner!

We did great to get back into the game straight away but I still want to know why Mirallas can't get a game to provide some much needed balance to the team.

Not until we can start winning back to back games on a regular basis will I be as ’invigorated’ as yourself but I admit the future ’could’ be bright.

Colin Glassar
3 Posted 09/12/2015 at 21:47:41
To be absolutely honest, I'm still gutted we didn't win that game and angry with our poor defending. Funes Mori and Barry were debating on the edge of the box who was going to mark who and at the end both lost sight of Dann and he scored!!!

We don't seem to have trouble scoring (unlike in previous years) our problem is defending. Get the defensive side sorted and there could be no stopping us. December will be crucial if we are to stay with the leading pack going into the new year.

Tony Hill
4 Posted 09/12/2015 at 21:56:03
Absolutely, Colin, but my word it's good to see an Everton team playing with flair. We are well regarded by other supporters which is pleasing too.

I want wins and top 4 but at least we're starting to play like an Everton side should play and, in truth, I'm not sure even our 1980s sides had the instinct to take some risks and attack entertainingly. Last time I saw it was 1970.

I know we have defensive issues and there is a long way to go, and that things could unravel, but I'll take what I'm seeing just now and I also like the high quality young players we have waiting to come through.

Paul Andrews
5 Posted 09/12/2015 at 22:00:05
Monday night was the best I have seen us play for a long time. Despite dropping two points I thought, defensive mistake apart, we were outstanding.

We look like a very good side in the making. The potential of this team is obvious.
Julian Wait
6 Posted 09/12/2015 at 22:48:11
Gutted but now thinking we can beat absolutely anyone, and win a cup or two. I’d settle for a cup and a Champions League spot. :-)
Michael Penley
7 Posted 09/12/2015 at 22:56:38
I agree with the article, and it’s a significant landmark. Previously during Roberto’s tenure we’ve been entertaining, but only in open games.

This was exciting football against a team that parked a bus, which was unthinkable last season when used to we set records for the most sideways and backwards passes. Disappointed not to win but it’s progress at least.

Steve Jenkins
8 Posted 09/12/2015 at 23:10:32
Agreed, Michael, definite progress attacking, some wonderful, high-tempo, breathtaking stuff against a side that parked the bus.

Last season, we’d have been clueless – back, sideways, repeat.

If we can just get the bloody defence sorted....

Harold Matthews
9 Posted 10/12/2015 at 03:03:21
Yes Colin. You summed it up very nicely indeed. Unfortunately, I have no idea how we will sort out the defence. Is it the players or the tactics?

Going back 3 or four years, I remember us keeping a clean sheet against a mighty City team with Silva, Tevez and Dzeko up front. What's more, Pienaar was sent off for two reckless yellows and we played the last half hour with ten men.

The starting line-up that great day was,
Mucha
Coleman Heitinga Distin Baines
Gibson Fellaini
Mirallis Osman Pienaar
Anichebe.

A pacy, clever side with plenty of height and muscle. Result 2-0. (Coleman Jelavic, late sub.)

How does this present side compare, especially middle and back? I think we finished over our neighbours that year.

Peter Mills
10 Posted 10/12/2015 at 07:58:36
On the way home I was amazed to hear Ronnie Goodlass on the radio saying that the first half was a non-event. I thought some of our play was fabulous, with flicks and turns and a growing understanding between the players. It was worth going to the game for one slalom run by Deulofeu alone.

Yes, there are many frustrations, not least the seeming intransigence of our manager over things which are clearly wrong. But there is also some highly entertaining football, and the game on Monday was one of the best I've seen for a long time.

Paul Commons
11 Posted 10/12/2015 at 09:39:28
I have to say that I enjoyed the game as much as any I have seen this season including the goalfests against Sunderland and the Villa.

However, I am one of those cynical supporters who have become able to accept that we will always do well to finish 6th/8th and that this season will be no different.

We are currently blessed with some most exciting players but damned by the fact that the same manager who provides that excitement is as naive as any in the game when it comes to drilling his defence and making game changing substitutions.

But then, not too many of us were around when someone was there 'to put it all together' so we should be thankful for what we are seeing now – in spite of the frustration we all feel that only five games have been won.


Michael Polley
12 Posted 10/12/2015 at 11:47:58
Excellent piece, Matt. Thought we played well, but luck wasn’t on our side – we hit the woodwork three times!

We have some great young talent, and we are playing much more attack-minded football, and with pace. Compared to last season, we have vastly improved. COYB!!!

Dave Ganley
13 Posted 10/12/2015 at 12:52:37
Nice post and to be honest it was kind of what I was thinking myself coming away from the game. It was probably the most entertaining game I have seen for a good while. We played for the full 90 minutes (mostly) and showed intensity and not a little skill too. Very unlucky with hitting the post/bar three times and really should have won.

Michael (#12), quite right, it is vastly improved from last season but the cynic in me would like to see this carrying on for quite a few games before I get too excited.

If I am going to be critical, the defence issue notwithstanding, we still look unbalanced as the left side is extremely lightweight. Most good things are now going down the right and it was evident on Monday night that the Palace defence all gravitated to the right, nullifying Deulofeu in the 2nd half for most part. Kone has done well this season but we could really do with a real threat on the left. He would make such a difference.

Taken in isolation, it was a positive night as Palace are a decent team and really, we dominated the game for the most part. If only our manager would sort the defence out then we could actually do something as sloppy defending is killing us. If we don’t sort it out, then we can kiss goodbye to any kind of top 6 finish.

Mike Doyle
14 Posted 10/12/2015 at 13:06:16
Great article, Matt. Mentioned on another thread that I too thought it was one of the best performances I’ve seen for quite some time.

Roberto was castigated post-Bournemouth for stressing the importance of "performance" – but, one defensive lapse-aside, this performance was great against a team that are no mugs and have strengthened since their last two wins at Goodison Park.

Stones waltzing past 4/5 Palace players was worth the entrance fee and Deulofeu’s slalom run brought back memories of Duncan McKenzie’s cross-field run in a cup match vs Stoke in the 70s (its on YouTube somewhere). Sometimes, three good strikes hit the back of the net – but sometimes they hit the woodwork. The difference is fine margins.

Strong grounds for optimism, I thought.

David Graves
15 Posted 10/12/2015 at 13:25:31
Good to read such a positive thread. This was my daughter’s first game and she was enthralled. Her considered opinion – Palace were a strong team but Everton had some players with "brilliant skills". Gerry and Coleman stood out to her!

On the way home (in between multiple text messages to her friends about her new favourite hobby) she said "I wish I could play football like Everton".

Mike Oates
16 Posted 10/12/2015 at 14:34:43
I was out (on South Coast) last night on a Xmas Curry NIght for an over 50s five-a-side team, with over 20 of us there, all supporters of Southampton, West Ham, Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea, Pompey and Brighton.

As you would expect, the main discussion was around football and virtually all (Liverpool fan aside) were drooling over Everton’s football. It was one of those nights where you were proud to be an Everton fan.

Plaudits abounded for Lukaku, Deulofeu, Stones and particularly Coleman as the best right back around. Only obstacle for us NOT reaching a Top 4 place was thought to be a lack of a 6ft-4in in monster at centre-half. Though, all-in-all, the major view was that, if we don’t reach a Top 4 place this season, we never will as a few will go.

The Southampton lads actually thought our 3-0 win at their place in August was more of a rout than Liverpool’s recent 6-1 win.

We have just got to sort out our inability to defend set pieces and crosses.

Jay Harris
17 Posted 10/12/2015 at 16:07:21
I don't think there are many that didnt enjoy the game as one of the best in recent years but at the end of the day it is 2 more points dropped.

I think we were unlucky but so were they.

They could have had 2 pens with another ref and Howard pulled off a few good saves.

This "open" style is great to watch but will not get us top 4 and will not retain Lukaku and Stones without better defending.

IMO the weakest t link is the manager's intransigence with regard to Defending set pieces and crosses and making timely substitutions.

John Daley
18 Posted 10/12/2015 at 16:20:15
"...with some understanding, patience and resolve from the top in the face of potential suitors, those qualities needed to make an extra step will inevitably be forged. This group will learn as a collective not to lose focus after a last minute equaliser like they did at Bournemouth, they will know not to get too swept up in cavalier football, as was the case against Palace."

On what basis (beyond the fact that some of them are relatively young) can you state with such authority that this particular group of players....this particular manager...will "inevitably" learn from such lapses. They're suffered eerily similar setbacks at regular intervals over the past two years and have shown very little to suggest such 'lessons' have even begun to sink in.

Eugene Ruane
19 Posted 10/12/2015 at 17:05:34
John (18) - agree re things/lessons (not) sinking in.

Proof?

Simply think of the times you've (anyone) frustratedly said - 'how many fucking times is he (whoever) going to do that?'

And for the 'thats' see..

Not release a ball quick enough.

Fail to find a man.

Pass the ball across the face of goal when being pressed.

Pointlessly over-pass.

Pass balls in at pace to a forward (one of ours) when he has his back to goal and a centre-half 'stuck right up him.'

Consistently lose concentration and/or do dumb sloppy stuff like hit balls in behind players who have made a run but now have to come back a couple of yards to retrieve it.

Be seemingly magnetised backwards towards your own goal when a goal up, encouraging the opposition to swarm forward.

Be seemingly hypnotised and consequently not close down some big prick known to have a shot like a mule as he barrels toward with just one thing on his mind

Not come for a cross and stay rooted to the goal-line even though you're a fucking big grock who is allowed to jump and use your fucking hands.

Etc etc.

Re 'enjoyment at Goodison' this is well worth a look if only to hear Clement Freud's pronunciation of Labone.

Link

Eddie Dunn
20 Posted 10/12/2015 at 17:36:40
To the gents above who mentioned hitting the woodwork.

That is not a goal, it simply means a miss. it isn’t unlucky, it’s a lack of accuracy.

Barkley was played in with a lovely one-two with Lukaku, and then with just the keeper to beat, went for a right foot curler that whizzed wide of the far post. A poor choice of shot, as he had the option of either side of the keeper, and could have rolled it in either corner or blasted it hard and low.

These poor decisions are why these games are slipping away.

The defence is prone to error. Whether it is down to the boss or not, I don’t know, but I feel like we have to score three to get a win, and even that wasn’t enough at Bournemouth.

Peter McHugh
21 Posted 10/12/2015 at 17:52:48
Pity we could not get Dann in the summer. I win we had a good stopper who was great in the air. Saying that I think a good goalie and having Lukaku defend near post edge of 6-yard box would help.
Les Martin
22 Posted 10/12/2015 at 19:17:28
We played some great stuff, the best football I have seen anywhere in the Premier League this season.

Things did not quite drop for us to allow the goals we deserved from the play but when it does, some team is going to get a right tonking again!

When you look at the strength of the bench, you realise how far we have come, and what we can dream may be around the corner and within our future grasp.
Steve Hogan
23 Posted 10/12/2015 at 20:32:00
Pretty accurate report Matt, I watched the game and thought we were desperately unlucky not to have taken three points from a well organised team who won't concede many this season.

I like the new name given to the 'fab four', cue t-shirts bearing the same name being sold from St Lukes the next home game! Ultimately the lure of the Champions League will lead to all four leaving us I fear in the next three years or so, so let's enjoy them whilst we can.

i thought in the second half we suffocated the life out of Palace, but not particularly in a 'dogs of war' way, there seemed to be an uncanny belief in the majority of players that we would score without reverting to 'route one', even after we conceded a late goal, I've berated the manager in the past, but I have to give him credit on this aspect of our play.

In one respect, the forthcoming massive injection of new media money next season, has meant the board have an unexpected credit line, and can abandon (for the time being at least), the necessity of having to sell at least one of our crown jewels each year to balance the books.

Paradoxically, whilst we can now see our younger players develop each week, and get better and better, it's even more likely that we will lose them to a 'bigger' club offering bigger contracts and the holy grail of the CL?

No doubt John Stones and his agent will insist on a buy out clause in his next contract allowing him to move on, if a CL club comes in and offers £50m.

Failing that he just sits tight, and waits until the last 18 months of his contract rolls down and forces Everton to sell, or we risk watching him walk away for nothing, a situation we couldn't allow to happen.

The same will go for the other three as well. Until we change the current business model, I don't believe we could realistically sustain CL football on a regular basis anyway.

I'm simply going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

'She loves you yeah yeah yeah'

Harold Matthews
24 Posted 10/12/2015 at 23:04:03
JD, Eugene. 2 cracking posts. Sobering thoughts indeed. The exact reasons why I'm struggling to get excited.
Peter Mills
25 Posted 10/12/2015 at 23:59:31
Eugene, I’m sure I recall during my youth there being two very different schools of thought and pronunciation, Lay-bone and La-bone, with the latter becoming the accepted version in the late 60s.

I was niggled by our manager not finding Palace "pleasing on the eye". I’ve worked in property for a long time, the foundations are rarely pleasing on the eye but I’m always delighted to find they exist.

Kevin Ratcliffe and Dave Watson were not always aesthetically alluring, but I loved it when they kicked a Koegl or hacked a Huckerby.

And Labone, clean player though he was, also ensured opposing forwards took no liberties.

We could do with a tough guy.

Darren Hind
26 Posted 11/12/2015 at 05:30:25
A very entertaining game, no doubt, but "The best I’ve seen us play in a long time"? I think some need to get a grip.

Palace could quite conceivably have scored four and that’s without going into the Barry shirt pulling incident (nailed-on penalty). The fact that our much-maligned goalkeeper was one of our stars on the night will tell you everything you need to know.

Ask any Evertonian if we are a better team than Palace and are we making more progress and the answer will probably be yes. The fact that we are better in just about every position (goalie aside) would support that argument... but ask a Palace supporter the same question.

Palace are above us in the league. They finished above us last season. You have to ask the question: If our players are so superior (and they are), how have they been above us for the best part of 18 months? Why, in that time, have they played much better football and been involved in so many more entertaining games than us? How has Alan fucking Pardew managed to get them above us? And, although most of us will expect to finish above them this time around, how many of us think it’s a certainty?

Counter-punch footy is in fashion; when done properly, it can be both thrilling and devastating. It will trump tippy-fucking-tappy all day long.

Yes, we were unlucky, you don’t hit the inside of the woodwork three times often in a game, but Palace consider themselves more than unlucky. They think they were robbed.

I’m not a great believer in "Decisions even themselves out, throughout the season". We’re Evertonians and know better, so I’ll take the decisions favouring us for a change.

Anyway, back to OP. A good read and I’m largely in agreement with it. We are building a great team... but, at the risk of sounding like some bearded twat from "Lord of the Rings", I would say look to the South and Middle Earth, other army’s are being built.

The Premier League is awash with money right now. Even the so-called "poor" clubs can afford superstars, the playing field (for the moment) is as level as it's been for a long time. Only Arsenal look convincing out of the traditional "sky four". Are we seeing the start of a new order?

No room for Patience here, we need to improve at a quicker rate than the others, we have to be beating the likes of Pardew... Luck should have nothing to do with it.

Trevor Peers
29 Posted 11/12/2015 at 22:33:25
Overall the question has to be, are we getting back that old feeling, pulsating through our viens, that we are building something special here?

I hate false dawns, but it does look pretty good, if Roberto can sort out the left flank as effectively as the right flank, we have a chance,.

OK there are other areas that need improving, especially in defence, that can happen in the summer. Sort out the left flank for now in January, and maybe we can finish in the top six this season.

If that means selling a few to add better players it makes sense.
Andrew Clare
30 Posted 11/12/2015 at 22:57:21
In any other era I would say that we are building something special but in this one I am afraid that the team will be ’broken up’ before it can happen.

I hope I am wrong because I believe that with two top class signings next summer we will be ready to challenge and the future will be great.


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