Blues fight with pride... thanks to one man

By Paul Traill 08/12/2019 16comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 3 - 1 Chelsea
A bright and early start meant that I was picked up by Dan and his son Alfie at around 10 am before we navigated on to collect Ste and Gaz. All the talk in the car was naturally about the footballing week. We discussed our atrocious Merseyside derby defending and the severe injustice we suffered with lack of VAR use and red cards for Liverpool players in that game. We also of course discussed the after-shock of that result - the painfully slow sacking of Marco SIlva on Thursday (“Why didn’t they just ask him to stay at home?” asked Dan), and subsequent appointment of our Caretaker Manager, Duncan Ferguson.

I’ve got to admit, I was very sad and disappointed for Marco Silva. I really felt he deserved more time. We don’t need to go into specifics here as we all know them, but four factors out of his hands all played a big factor in his demise - recruitment (or lack thereof at centre-back); awful injury luck; disgusting VAR decisions; and, player errors in key moments of tight games. A lot conspired against Marco and I feel that, if not for the terrible bulk injuries we suffered and woeful official decisions with VAR, we would not have come to this decision.

I was very upset with our club on Thursday and I emailed Denise Barrett-Baxendale to let her know as much. To the club’s credit, Denise passed on my email to Scott McLeod, our Head of Communications & Engagement, who did reply in-depth explaining the clubs decisions. I like that. I’ve no experience of contacting senior figures of other clubs of course so I’ve no idea if that is the norm, but I think it’s a good thing that senior figures at the club are willing to engage with supporters. Robert Elstone used to do the same. It’s important they keep doing this.

On Saturday morning, I watched Duncan Ferguson’s press conference back and what struck me was that, when asked how the players took the news of Marco’s sacking, he said “It was pretty mixed”. That suggests to me there was more of a split in the dressing room than I thought. And, if I hadn’t come around to the notion of sacking Marco Silva before we kicked off against Chelsea, I was certainly on board afterwards. We wouldn’t have got that performance from the players if Marco was still in charge. No way.

It was fair to say that many were rather underwhelmed with the line-up when we saw it in the pub. We weren’t sure there were enough legs in midfield, and most wanted to see Moise Kean have a go in attack. I was happy enough with keeping Dominic in, and adding Theo, though I thought Tom Davies would have been handy in the middle and didn’t particularly want Alex Iwobi in the XI. No centre-back on the bench was a concern, albeit an unfounded one, and the return to the squad of Oumar Niasse raised an eyebrow or two.

Ross Barkley was on the substitutes bench for the visitors, backing up a team littered with quality both youthful and senior. For every Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham was an N’Gola Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Willian. We had our work cut out…

The atmosphere at 12:30 pm kick-offs are often quiet and sterile, though there was no danger of that this time. I think the crowd realised the importance of their role in the game, and nobody really resonates with our fanbase like Duncan Ferguson. The atmosphere was pumping, and the players responded. Our 37 tackles in the game were the most by any team in the Premier League all season, and the most by any Everton team in a decade. Everton played the game like it was a Merseyside derby… well at least the way we used to play Merseyside derbies. They were up for the fight, didn’t shirk their responsibilities, and the crowd responded brilliantly. It was a joy to be there.

Duncan surprised us by going 4-4-2. There was none of this playing the ball around at the back from goal-kicks. It was direct, it was aggressive and the players were brave.

The early goal certainly helped and it was a somewhat familiar one - a ball in from the right by Djibril Sidibé, and a header into the net by Richarlison really lifted the spirits. We continued to fight hard. Chelsea threatened in our penalty area on a few occasions but Tammy Abraham failed to hit the target with his opportunities. At the other end, Dominic had his drive at goal saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga when he might have done better. The players were very committed and deserved to go into the break a goal ahead.

At half-time, we admit to sniggering at the prospects of the lady hitting the crossbar in the half-time competition, though she came a lot closer than most have done this season.

The second half was more of the same - our players fighting like their lives depended on it, and Everton scoring again within five minutes of kick-off, Dominic Calvert-Lewin this time benefiting from some slack defending from Kurt Zouma, capitalising on a lucky bounce and slotting confidently past the onrushing Kepa Arrizabalaga. If there was a roof, it would have been lifted off and the already iconic images and videos of Duncan bearhugging the ballboy will live long in the memory. What an amazing feeling!

This is Everton. You know this means that it’s very straightforward and within seven minutes, and with about 40 minutes still to play, Everton handed Chelsea an early lifeline when Mateo Kovacic's well-placed volley from distance found its way into the net past an unsighted Jordan Pickford. We hoped for a VAR intervention with offside as Tammy Abraham was stood directly in front of Jordan, but replays showed he was clearly onside and the goal fairly stood. Everton had a big fight on their hands.

The crowd played their part and roared the team on, while the defence, and goalkeeper when required, held firm to keep out the Londoners. Our team got in the way of everything and never stopped fighting. It was splendid to see as its been a long time since we’ve seen that from our team.

We’d already had other opportunities, mainly from Theo Walcott’s running, to make the game safe on the break but we couldn’t quite get the goal. We eventually did so however, making the most of poor goalkeeping from Kepa Arrizabalaga, first in going all Manuel Neuer and running out with the ball and playing a very stray pass out to Kurt Zouma. This was intercepted by Theo Walcott who played in Dominic. He back-heeled to substitute Tom Davies who wriggled past a few challenges (a bit Leon Osman-like) but was disrupted by a last-ditch tackle from N’Gola Kante. The ball fell to Dominic who jabbed quickly at goal, the ball squirming through the legs of the beleaguered goalkeeper and into the net. The game was effectively sealed and it was a joy to see the team, Dominic and Tom particularly, celebrating with the man they clearly think so highly of. Amazing!

All eyes were on Duncan Ferguson at full time and he calmly walked across the Goodison Park turf in the direction of referee Craig Pawson, as “Duncan, Duncan Ferguson” boomed out over the tannoy… and from the mouths of the supporters. Having shook hands with the officials, he then embraced his players before pumping his fists at the adoring supporters in the Bullens Road and Gwladys Street. It was an emotional moment, and you had to be delighted for Duncan, as you can see how much it means to him.

Last time we walked away from Goodison Park, we had supporters arguing with each other after the Goodison Park crowd had just sung “You're getting sacked in the morning” at Marco Silva. This time, it was great to walk out with smiles on our faces.

In his press conference, Duncan alluded to the great thing about football being that there’s always another game around the corner. This was never more apparent than with this fixture. It’s funny how football can change quickly.

Regardless of what manager comes in next, the day belonged to Duncan, and nobody can take it away from him.

Onwards and upwards Blues.

Players ratings

Pickford: I’d give him the benefit of the doubt with the goal as he seemed unsighted and he made one or two key saves to keep us ahead. He distributed well mostly, though ironically his biggest distribution blip - a long kick upfield which bounced straight through to Kepa Arrizabagala, indirectly resulted in our third goal. 7

Digne: Did well. Solid until forced off with injury. 7

Holgate: I thought Mason was excellent. Brave, committed and up for the fight. 8

Keane: He made a big error in the first half which nearly let Chelsea in but thankfully got away with it. Second half, he was very good. He was brave, won a lot of headers, and made a lot of clearances. Basically, our defence was everything that it wasn’t on Wednesday evening. 7

Sidibé: When he’s focused, I think Djibril is a great player. He’s calm on the ball, uses it intelligently and has a good delivery. He can defend well also and he seems to be a pretty good team player. He excelled in this game in my opinion both in attack and defence. 8

Schneiderlin: Morgan is much-maligned when things go wrong, though not very appreciated when we play well. Well, he was immense yesterday, perhaps his best performance for us to date. Sharp in his many countless tackles, and he benefited from having a motivated Gylfi alongside him who also covered a lot of ground and used the ball intelligently. Brilliant, Morgan! 8

Sigurdsson: Also very good. He covered a lot of ground and got the ball forward well into attacking areas. 7

Iwobi: He had quite a bright first half but lost his way after the break and, if not for injuries, surely wouldn’t have survived the game. He’s still finding his feet so I’ll reserve judgement, but I feel his best role currently, particularly with the return to fitness of Bernard, would be as impact substitute as he seems to make things happen in little spells of games. 6

Walcott: Theo always shows a good attitude and has a willingness to work for the team. His pace stretched them in the second half and, with a bit more composure in the final third, he could have contributed to another goal. 7

Richarlison: Certainly our player of the season so far, and he chipped in with another important goal. You have to assume the opposition will switch on to this routine we currently have which results in a full-back crossing the ball in for our late arriving Brazilian in the box - it’s hardly rocket science. Though let’s not under-estimate the quality of the build-up play, accuracy of delivery, and bravery of Richarlison to get himself into the position to power the ball into the net. If you get the run on your marker, it’s difficult to stop if the delivery is right. Nevertheless, let’s make hay while the sun shines with this. Other than that, Richarlison was his busy and productive self, and ran himself ragged before substituted on 71 minutes. 7

Calvert-Lewin: An immense effort from Dominic, and one which Duncan would have been proud of in his heyday. He was colossal in attack, got up for every header, hassled their defenders all game, and most importantly, scored two vital goals to win us the game. Outstanding, Dominic. Undoubtedly his best performance yet for Everton. That’s your marker Dominic, now go get it. My Man of the Match. 9

Davies (for Richarlison): A few wayward passes but his energy was a timely contribution to the game and he had a big hand in the third goal of course. Great to see him celebrating with Dominic and Duncan when we scored our third goal. 7

Baines (for Digne): With not a single minute of action all season, I was a touch concerned that 35-year-old Leighton Baines had to come in to a game which was on a knife-edge. Well, what was I worried about? Leighton is as fit as a fiddle and as cool as a cucumber and it was nice to see him make a contribution to the win. 7

Bernard (for Walcott): Just after our third goal, Theo had to come off injured. Bernard proved an able deputy in his short time on the pitch, getting involved and contributing. 6

Reader Comments (16)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 08/12/2019 at 16:44:10
Your usual fine report, Paul, and spot-on with the player ratings, but I'm even more interested in your interaction with club management. Had you had previous contact with DBB that made you feel comfortable in emailing her? And would you feel comfortable posting, or at least summarizing, McLeod's response? We'd be most interested to hear his explanation.

And you are absolutely right... no way we'd have seen a remotely similar performance under Silva. He simply wasn't capable of generating this kind of passion from the players.

Kieran Kinsella
2 Posted 08/12/2019 at 16:53:49
Being pragmatic, Ferguson has shown he can inspire. We need 7 wins from 22 games to avoid relegation which is the fear driving the Moyes return. Surely this negates the need for an interim firefighter appointment as I imagine Dunc can at least get us seven more wins. So if we can’t get a long term coach we really want right now I’d stick with Dunc
Brian Harrison
3 Posted 08/12/2019 at 17:12:07
For the last few years all we hear from people in the media is asking what do Evertonians want. Well they got their answer in spades yesterday, a manager who showed as much passion as the supporters, I don't think I have ever seen an Everton manager show so much passion as Ferguson did yesterday. When he ran down the touchline and lifted the ballboys in the air it oozed a man who new how much this meant to the fans. I have to be honest I didnt think it was the right move to appoint Duncan Ferguson as temporary manager. But I am glad to admit I was totally wrong.

Duncan has admitted himself at the moment he isn't the long term answer, but a few more results like yesterday and whose to say he wont be the long term answer. But if they do appoint someone else lets make sure they have the same attributes that Ferguson displayed yesterday. Many like me have questioned what Duncan did at Finch Farm, and how did he survive when he was part of the coaching team which has lost managers. Well I didnt see any of our previous managers brave enough to play 4-4-2. So maybe he has been stifled in what input he has been allowed to have. Lets also hope that Ferguson is allowed more involvement with the first team than he has over the last 3 or 4 years.

Derek Knox
4 Posted 08/12/2019 at 20:45:35
Good and candid report, Paul, I enjoy reading your regular contributions for a home match and can almost experience it with you.

Although you must have had many disappointments recently, after making the effort as many do to travel to every home or away match. Probably questioning, is all this time, effort and money being rewarded with entertainment and seeing a decent game of Football?

Your loyalty and patience were rewarded yesterday, in buckets, not a brilliant display but a brilliant result, a blood and gutsy performance that completely took the wind out of Chelsea's sails.

I can only endorse what Mike G @1, requested, regarding your email to the Club, and more importantly the response you received. We as fans get fed little enough information as it is, which leads to speculation and conjecture.

More often or not based on whispers, via a mate of a mate, who works at the Club, said this or that. While the story most probably does have credibility, like Chinese Whispers at a party, by the time the message has reached its final destination, it bears little or no resemblance to its original form.

Like the old story which I think happened in the First World War where the technology was almost non-existent, field telephones which had to be wound up to produce some power to transmit or receive and was often garbled and difficult to decipher, if it had worked.

"Send reinforcements, we are going to advance."

Interpreted as "Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance"!

Arthur Westhead
5 Posted 08/12/2019 at 20:51:09
Great report as always, Paul. I agree with most of your ratings, although would give a bit higher to Richarlison and one lower for Morgan.

But I'm amazed you were so upset at Silva's departure that you emailed the club. I don't know a single blue who wanted him to stay. Even his few supporters caved in last week.

You make some good excuses for him, but what about his complete inability to change tactics (until last week!!) playing the same ineffective way every single week? What about not being able to motivate players? What about playing poor performers every week? What about total lack of real organization throughout the entire team?

We were at serious risk of a relegation battle with him in charge. It was such a clear decision to make.

Danny O'Neill
6 Posted 08/12/2019 at 21:48:12
You know something, Paul, I have nothing to add.

Let's be honest, we rode our luck yesterday but in this age where a tendency to over-analyse football exists, you capture the moment & sentiment.

It was just great to walk away feeling good that the team gave 100% effort and won the game. Passion, desire, commitment.

Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 08/12/2019 at 22:21:18
Danny #6, I'd say whatever luck we "rode" was luck we made ourselves -- made with, in your words, Passion, desire, commitment.

It's amazing how lucky you can get when you bring those elements to bear.

Danny O'Neill
8 Posted 08/12/2019 at 22:25:23
Agree Mike. You make your own luck in any walk of life. But sometimes fine margins right? We were great yesterday and I was absolutely proud of the reaction. But (and sorry to be negative, Dan), I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen a 2-2 draw. Fine margins.
Dan Murphy
9 Posted 09/12/2019 at 00:36:37
Well written and fair Paul, especially in regards Schneiderlin who has actually been okay this season but has become a whipping boy so some will never give him credit for anything.

I would draw attention to Duncan's subbing on Davies for Richarlison. It was an effective tactical sub at a time when Chelsea had a bit of momentum, and it swung things back our way.

Regarding 'mixed' reactions among the players to Silva's sacking, the post-match interview onfield with Calvert-Lewin and especially Theo Walcott was quite revealing. No mention of Marco and lots of 'This is how we want to play, keep it simple, get out and have a go' talk. Suggests they were over him and hadn't bought in to whatever it was he was trying to do.

Andy McNabb
10 Posted 09/12/2019 at 06:18:44
Thanks Paul - always enjoy your posts and it's good to be able to share a bit of positivity. Agree 100% with your Iwobi analysis. Lots of energy and the ability to get into good positions but also a frustrating knack of consistently losing the ball.

I never really 'got' Ferguson as a player. I may be way wide of the mark but it appeared to me that he turned up for the big games and then often seemed disinterested when we played the so-called smaller clubs.

But on Saturday he was exactly what we needed. Passion and drive won't always get you the whole distance but it will take you a fair way down the road.

Danny O'Neill
11 Posted 09/12/2019 at 07:19:36
Exactly Andy; you can't win games without passion & desire. But you also can't win without ability. You can have all the ability in the world, but without passion & desire, you're into the type of territory we've witnessed most of this season. You can have all the passion & desire in the world, but without ability you're into (eventual) "huff & puff" territory. Winning teams have all of those attributes plus the key ingredient; consistency.

Regarding Ferguson the player. that's an interesting point. I seem to recall reading that he was a reluctant player; that he'd rather have not been a footballer. Whilst I appreciate the injury problems, maybe that was also a contributing factor to why he never lived up to his potential if true. Arguably the character was bigger than the footballer; as Joe Royle coined it: there was a danger that Duncan would become a legend before he became a footballer.

Kevin O'Regan
12 Posted 09/12/2019 at 12:33:04
I have to say I was very impressed by Richarlison's tracking back and at one stage he seemed to be covering every blade of grass like a madman. Just hope this performance rubs off on everyone – it was really the EFC we love and deserve.

Well done, Dunc.

Mike Gaynes
13 Posted 09/12/2019 at 12:58:36
Kevin #12, actually he's been doing that all season. He's our leading tackler, ahead of our fullbacks.
Steve Ferns
14 Posted 09/12/2019 at 14:12:14
Great article as ever Paul.

I am not sure about the word “mixed” as used by Duncan. It's implied everywhere that mixed means the players were for and against Marco Silva. But, if that was the case, why would he have to pick them up off the floor? Could the ambiguous word also mean a conflict of emotions such as upset, anger, frustration determination to put things right. Who knows?

Steve Ferns
15 Posted 09/12/2019 at 16:16:01
Just seen this amazing stat:

Richarlison has more tackles (41) in the Premier League this season than Van Dijk, Matip and Gomez combined (29).

Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 13/12/2019 at 09:44:20
I think your headline should have read “ Blues fight with
pride thanks to to one man backed by 39,000 fans’ don’t under estimate what we fans did on Saturday, let’s see how the team performs without that tremendous support on Sunday. That is in no way taking anything from the magnificent support Everton have at every away game, it just doesn’t get the performances from the team that it warrants.

By the way I always appreciate your take on the game Paul, carry on, your reports are always welcome.

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