Friday, 7 December 2012

Everton 3-1 Southampton: Afterthoughts

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My journey home from the recent 3-1 victory over Nigel Adkins’ struggling Southampton side was overwhelmed not with much reflection for the match itself, but with the variety of thought-provoking individuals who are lucky enough to wear that royal blue shirt.
The match itself was, to be fair, inconsistent within Everton’s consistency. Yes, I was very happy with a 3-1 home victory, as is every other Evertonian; we have been nothing short of fantastic lately as the Premier League table proves. However, only an unrivalled superior spell that stretched from Osman’s strike to the end of the first half was actually treasurable. In that spell, the movement both on and off the ball was simply incredible, as was the variety of passing, courtesy of usual suspects Fellaini, Pienaar and Osman (even Phil Neville did not really put a foot wrong).
It resulted in some simply beautiful football and left me nothing short of stunned at half time. I had much admiration for the team’s ability to manipulate their own performance from half asleep into pure dominance that justifies their current league position, yet some frustration was evident around Goodison due to the team being too leisurely in the second half.
Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly 3 deserved points that would not have been achieved this time a year ago. The lacklustre Everton from the latter half of 2011 would never have been able to motivate themselves during the course of a match; and for that change, I am incredibly grateful.
In terms of individual performances, the first player I need to mention is Seamus Coleman. On several occasions, the left side of Southampton’s defence was torn to pieces as the Irishman skilfully wriggled through any attempts to hinder him, aiding Moyes with that overlapping penetration that Tony Hibbert simply does not bring to a fixture. Despite gifting the Saints space to work with now and again, Coleman’s defensive exhibition was hard to be overly critical about; more often than not, he excelled at what was asked of him.
His movement, overall, was impressive and gave the outstanding Kevin Mirallas a helping hand on the new and improved right side. The 23 year-old’s final ball could – and should – have been better in some cases, yet he was reminiscent of his previous self, the youngster who exploded into life as an Everton player a long time ago against Tottenham in front of the Goodison Park crowd. I came away almost certain, more than anything, that Coleman should be Hibbert’s replacement.
When looking at our strike force, there was one main, striking thought (or problem) that was prominent enough to remain with me long enough that I still feel compelled to write about it here. When Lee Probert christened the match with the opening blast of his whistle, the Southampton ball was rolled to the right-back, Richardson, whose intention it was to play it long, bar one problem: Nikica Jelavić. The charging figure of the monstrous Croat selflessly lunged in the way, re-bounding the attempted ball out for an opposition throw in. Evertonians appreciate sheer hard work, and this newly moulded side is based upon that trait; Jelavić’s efforts reflect the on-field success of late.
Although, I must warn you, here comes my ‘however’, and it is a large one. Now, I am no David Moyes, of course; I am merely somebody who has thoughts and opinions to express. However (there it is), I do not feel that Victor Anichebe has a place in this Everton side which has the potential to be, and has already been, utterly fantastic. In contrast to Jelavić, the Nigerian’s work ethic is dire; he had been on the field for literally seconds on Saturday and would not challenge Saints’ defenders for the ball – he had to be told by his own team mates and the crowd to do so. I am fully aware of his recent few goals, and I thank him for them; nevertheless, the only positives I can see coming from his few goals of late is a potential bid from another club; I would much rather see Naismith and Vellios gaining valuable minutes here and there. Although, if you are reading this Victor, feel free to prove me wrong sometime soon.
If I was to be extremely clichéd, I would say it takes champions to play poorer than usual and still claim victory. And so, I am going to be extremely clichéd: with the exception of that first half spell, Everton were moderately under the weather, which, in a strange way, makes the 3 points rather satisfactory on reflection. When I say champions, I am fully aware we will not win the Premier League – however, in perspective, the admirable way David Moyes has Everton playing given the recent hurdles the club has had to overcome means, momentarily, that we are champions due to overcoming our own hindrances.

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