Friday, 7 December 2012

Another Week in the Life of Everton

Originally from
Thankfully, the final whistle has just blown by referee Jon Moss and a disgruntled Everton troop from the pitch after suffering a disappointing 2-0 defeat away from home to West Bromwich Albion. As much as frustration had grasped me for the majority of the 90 minutes, I reflect on what had been an incredibly hectic yet positive few days, and, like every other Evertonian in that present moment, simply have to relinquish that irritating feeling of annoyance.
As we well know, last Wednesday exhibited quite a victory even though, on paper, Everton were most likely and therefore expected to accelerate to the win. Despite remaining confident from the trouncing of Aston Villa, my instinct was to be wary of an intentionally depleted Toffees squad opposing a Leyton Orient side, who, for some of the London club’s players, would be playing in the match of their lives and therefore incredibly fired up for the delayed kick-off at Goodison Park.
Confidently and admirably, Orient’s goal-line was breached on 5 separate occasions with instant favourite, the agile Kevin Mirallas, scoring twice in a first-class, professionally conducted manner. The opposition’s goalkeeper, Jamie Jones, an ex-Everton youth player, will undoubtedly have fantasised of dramatically defeating his former side on his return to the age-old stands. However, his dreams were evidently and subsequently shattered as the Blues took overwhelming control as instantaneous as the dawn of the 90 minutes.
Ruthlessly, the confidence which had inspired David Moyes’ men to well documented back-to-back Premier League victories remained momentous and therefore, unsurprisingly, the League One outfit never stood a chance. Kevin Mirallas’ first goal for the club came in the 16th minute after several chances had gone unrewarded, and was further involved when his delicate touch in the penalty area perfectly set up the artistically absolute Leon Osman for his 50th career goal, which the midfielder poked home fully deserved.
Further pressure from the Blues resulted in another memorable moment for the new number 11, as Magaye Gueye teed up Mirallas on the spacious left side of the 18 yard-box for his deflected shot to infiltrate the net of the Park End goal. Everton left for half time with a four goal lead after Victor Anichebe, who should have had more goals to his name, blasted a low drive past Jones in the 35th minute. The tricky, on-form Mirallas was yet again the supplier. The game’s final goal came courtesy of Gueye himself, who had been threatening to break the opposition’s will all evening, finally scored an admirable volley after the Blues’ excellent build up play accumulating in a delicious chip from Seamus Coleman presented the Frenchman with an unmissable opportunity from 8 yards out.
Leyton Orient were held captive for the majority of the 90 minutes by a young yet professional defence. Luke Garbutt made his senior debut at left-back whilst Shane Duffy replaced Leighton Baines at half time and Seamus Coleman was instrumental going forward yet solid defensively on the right side of the back four. Johnny Heitinga added valuable experience and captained the team for 15 minutes due to Phil Neville’s departure.
A performance which I was more than happy with left me optimistic for the visit to the Hawthorns, and so the week trundled on and life continued as usual until Friday – the alternative to Christmas day if you happen to be a huge football fan – sprang upon us. Of late, transfer deadline day has equated to nerves, disappointment and, generally, unsettled Evertonians.
As 11 o’ clock agonisingly passed, both the internet and I could relax as, to use the day’s biggest cliché, the window ‘slammed’ shut. Everton had kept hold of star players, whilst simultaneously welcoming the flexible, left-sided Bryan Oviedo, plus a young forward in the form of 17 year-old Matthew Kennedy from Kilmarnock and, in a last-minute, rather surprising deal, defensive Belgian midfielder Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe from Club Brugge on loan (which, at the time of writing, FIFA are still yet to approve) with a further option to buy.
Given the circumstances of which we are all increasingly familiar with, David Moyes yet again pulled off the near impossible by, firstly, moving on Jack Rodwell, who had nowhere near lived up to his rather high expectations in a £12m deal to Manchester City and almost immediately purchasing Kevin Mirallas of Olympiakos, who turned down a tempting Arsenal offer in favour of the Toffees and regular first team football. As previously mentioned, the Belgian had an exceptional home debut against Leyton Orient.
As I was still smiling from a fantastic, incomparable August, September abruptly arrived and with it, a resilient West Bromwich Albion side. Similar to Everton, the Baggies were boasting a promising, favourable start to the current Premier League season which stood them in positive stead for their meeting with the Blues at the Hawthorns.
Steve Clarke, the ex-Liverpool assistant coach, was chosen to replace Roy Hodgson and therefore had large shoes to fill, considering that West Brom were only recently nicknamed as a ‘yo-yo’ club for obvious reasons. It has been whispered that the clubs Clarke has departed have often declined; whether these two things are linked, it is unknown. However, he has certainly proven his ability as a manager for the first time in the opening three league fixtures.
In which, for us Evertonians, was a far from enjoyable football match, the Baggies scrapped and fought to a 2-0 victory after effectively marking Marouane Fellaini in to submission, allowing him little time and space. Even their fans booed and intimidated the Belgian who, unusually, had a very poor game. After being labelled as one of Everton’s main, destructive threats by pundits, journalists, many Evertonians and I, clubs up and down the country who face the Toffees will undoubtedly aim to replicate Clarke’s precise tactics, reducing the superiority and hindering the skills of Fellaini.
Darron Gibson’s untimely, early injury suggested it was not to be Everton’s day as Moyes’ side became unbalanced, less confident on the ball and ultimately, dramatically below par given the previous few exhibits of wonderful football. The second half witnessed the Baggies successfully overpowering their opposition and striking the first blow through Shane Long, who positioned himself perfectly for the goal, inflicting a depressed aurora upon Everton, who could not regain themselves despite their efforts. On 82 minutes, Gareth McAuley’s accurate header from a swerving corner proved too much, powering in to Tim Howard’s defenceless goal.
Not long afterwards, the pitch of the referee’s whistle was heard, which brings me back to where I began this article; with an initial tinge of irritation that could not last for longer than a few minutes. Affable and approachable in defeat once again, David Moyes’ expression, whilst being interviewed post-match, replicated that of his countless fans: to put it simply, it was nothing more than a bad day.
Aware that we had witnessed a Toffees side unusually hit the ground running, I firmly believe once the dreaded international break is over, when Goodison Park hosts Newcastle on Monday 17th September, duty will return to normal and the rampant, recent, attractive Everton will once again materialise before our eyes and continue on the realistic quest to return to European football.

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