So as I sit here at 8am on a Monday morning waiting for my colleagues to arrive at work to have our weekly discussion about the weekends football I can’t help but smile. Whilst we were unbeaten in the league this year before Saturday evening we still only had three points and no wins. Even the most optimistic of Blues (me) were hoping for, whilst not expecting a win against an unbeaten Chelsea side that were looking to go back to the top of the Premier League. What we got was well beyond our wildest dreams.
It had been said on many of the blogs and websites that I read in the lead up to the game that this game was a better judge of where we are under Martinez than the games so far. Yes we would have been expected possibly to have been on nine points in the lead up to the game, but none of the sides we have played so far have come out and attacked us. We have been the main force, expected to break down two banks of 5 players and a goalkeeper. A short unimaginative passing team that is still growing and adapting to the formation and philosophy whilst also struggling to decide when to pass short and when to hoof it is always going to struggle to play tika-taka football, and thus breakdown the opposition. The game against Chelsea offered something different in that we knew for large parts of the game they would dominate possession and would certainly come out and attack us. This would then leave the space required for the attacking players with the quality of Mirallas and Barkley (and somehow for this game Naismith) to express themselves and create chances.
Steven Naismith enjoyed unquestionably his best game for Everton, and would have been a stick on for man of the match had it not been for the almost superhuman performance of debutant Gareth Barry. Barry has an understanding and a reading of the game that I don’t think we’ve seen at Goodison since the days of Richard Gough. Gough and Barry are similar in the fact that neither have any sort of pace to speak of but make up about ten yards of pace just by reading the game. When they get it right performances like Saturday occur however at times they can be caught out (I am sure Barry still has nightmares about Ozil). Saturday almost everything went perfect and it was all summed up by his lunging block on Eto’o saving a certain goal after a calamitous mistake by Tim Howard. The moment had the same feel at the Neville tackle on Ronaldo all them years ago. A pivotal moment for a player, team and season. Of course only time will tell if that is true but we have an awesome player running things from midfield now.
Getting back to Naismith, as his performance deserves some note. I still don’t believe he is a midfield player, let alone a winger but on Saturday he was full of running, full of bluster and had the goal to his name too. Yes his passing is at times atrocious and he has little to no pace but he is improving under Martinez and is always willing to receive the ball and attack. That he outshone Barkley and Mirallas should be testament enough to this performance and long may it continue.
All in all a great all round performance with promising signs all over the pitch, and we still have McCarthy and Lukaku to come in. The season starts here! COYB