It’s that time again, that time when you wonder to yourself – ‘why do I even bother?’. Everton are just not getting any better are they, and although we attempted to take some positivity and credibility from our efforts against West Ham and Manchester City in recent weeks, on Monday night we again had to endure another horrible evening at Goodison Park and again we could not get that crucial victory which we so much need.
I’ve not enjoyed going to Goodison very much this season – and if you go the game I’m sure you’d echo these thoughts – its just not been a nice place to be. The mood even before you enter the ground can be felt amongst our supporters; it is almost a sense of trepidation and fear, as if we are all waiting for something bad or disappointing to happen, and unfortunately this season those fears and concerns have often become a reality during the 90 or so minutes that ensue. Obviously us feeling like this as a fan base is hardly going to help matters on the pitch, but it has been too hard to remain positive throughout this tough period which has seen us only pick up one win from our last thirteen fixtures in all competitions.
On Monday night we witnessed the typical Everton woes of this season and although we bossed the game and restricted our opponents, we lacked a real cutting edge, we lacked width, creativity and flair, but most importantly there was no end product or penetration. These things have been a constant theme this season, and although we did see some decent displays from certain players – most notably from Mo Besic – overall it was the latest in a long list of poor results and we now face a fortnight before we even get the chance to attempt to put things right again. Martinez is now taking the players away for some warm weather training and although it feels a bit like ‘they’ve been crap, and now they are going on holiday’ if a break away benefits the spirit within the squad and the performances on the pitch then so be it.
There have been a number of talking points amongst the fall-out from the game last night but my main concern is yet another poor result and the fact that we are now just four points off the relegation zone. Imagine we don’t get anything at Palace and then we face Liverpool? I can’t help but worry about these things and look at our upcoming fixtures with fear and anxiety. Things have gone from bad, to worse, to woeful this season, and although there was a glimmer of hope in the two West Ham games either side of the draw with City, it has become blatantly obvious that we face a huge task if we are to turn things round this season and attempt to restore some pride. We are in a dog fight, and we are no longer looking over our shoulders, we are well and truly embroiled in a battle with a host of other sides in the bottom half of the table.
Going back to Monday night’s proceedings, the penalty incident in the first half was the main talking point from the game and in my opinion Kevin Mirallas was wrong to do what he did. Baines is the penalty taker, and he’s only ever missed one during his time at Everton, so just because Mirallas is feeling confident and did well from the bench in his last outing at West Ham doesn’t mean that he then automatically takes responsibility. Baines and his team mates obviously allowed him to take the ball and then miss the spot kick, and this is something which probably sums up Everton at the moment – we are just too nice. We need to get angry, get annoyed and stop being an easy touch. This flows throughout the team; be it a decision as to who is taking a penalty, squaring up to opponents, arguing with the referee or putting the ball out of play because someone has gone down coz he’s broken his finger nail – we are just too nice and too predictable. Baines should have stood up to Mirallas, as should the likes of Jagielka or Martinez should have got the message across, it shouldn’t have come to what it did. It’s almost like nobody wants to upset each other and we tend to take the soft, easy approach every time. I’m not saying our players should argue with each other, but at least show a bit of heart, a desire to win and stop lacking in authority and leadership. The incident was farcical, but I believe because many Evertonians see Mirallas as their golden boy who can’t do any wrong then they’ve jumped too quick to point the blame at others. For me the Belgian was in the wrong, and his decision came back to bite us. I think the fact that Mirallas didn’t come out for the second half says to me that words were said after the penalty incident. Maybe it is the beginning of the end for Kevin, maybe he will leave this month or in the summer, will he be that bothered anymore? He’s done well this season but is the penalty incident just the latest example of a lack of togetherness in this squad which has hampered us this campaign? Or am I reading too much into things?
Regardless of the penalty incident I believe we dominated the game enough to warrant a win but we couldn’t find a way through and West Brom stood firm. Us being terribly narrow and predictable hardly helped matters, and the performance of a certain Mr Barkley was another major talking point of discussion following the draw at Goodison Park. Barkley has been a passenger since his dazzling display against QPR over a month ago – ironically the last time we won – and although he does deserve criticism (all of our players have experienced it this season) some of the things you hear and see directed to Ross are just ridiculous. I’m not a Barkley apologist, but he and Lukaku are still very young – we can’t expect the world from them every time they are near the ball. I think some Blues expect Ross to bounce a thirty-yarder in off the bar every time he’s in possession, it’s ludicrous. Of course we can expect great things from our flair players, but be realistic. Grown men booing Barkley and literally screaming their heads off is a tough environment to be in, especially when you just want your players and your team to do well. It was painstaking watching Barkley last night, and without making excuses for him – some our fans just didn’t help. It’s almost like we need a scapegoat; earlier this season it was Distin, then Jagielka, then Howard, throughout it has been McGeady, then Lukaku had it, more recently Barry and now it’s Ross Barkley. What people need to realise is that we are struggling collectively, so to rip out a load of abuse towards one particular player isn’t going to instantly change things. Yes you pay your money and have a right to have your say, but there is ways and means. Barkley looked scared to receive the ball by the time we entered the final third of the game last night and this from a player who has shown signs of sheer brilliance and a confidence defying his age during his emergence at the Club. For me Barkley wasn’t the only player to have a poor game – look at Oviedo, Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku? Yet certain ‘favourites’ seem to dodge the criticism from our fans. I suppose the point I am trying to make is that overall we have not been good enough. As a team and squad and our manager, we haven’t been up to scratch. Booing your youngest, brightest talent will set his confidence back massively, and although our players are big enough and get paid enough to take on board the criticisms, we need to take a look at how we put those criticisms across at times.
Without sounding like I am completely having a go at our fans here – I’m not, the team and manager are to blame, I just think we need to be real from time to time – there was one other thing that got me annoyed last night, the half time Hollywood scenario. For months on end we’ve hoped for a decent atmosphere at Goodison, and yes obviously victories and good performances help with that, but a lot of the time even though it’s been a full house at the Old Lady it’s been like a morgue. Yet when some movie maker comes along and asks for a cheer at half time as part of a new boxing film, we hear all sorts of noise from the Goodison faithful. Maybe I’m being too picky? I just thought it was a bit ridiculous and I’d love to see our stands filled with noise on a regular basis, but that noise would be because we are supporting our team and not because the Club are being involved in some free advertising tool that Kenwright’s chronies are probably reaping the rewards from. Just a thought anyway, correct me if you think I am wrong.
Back to the game and when Mo Besic came off late on that decision rightly went down badly with our fans, but it now appears that he was injured so we can’t really argue with that, can we? Barry frustrated and obviously Ross was still lucky to be on the pitch but with the options we had on our bench then Kone was probably the only player who you’d want to come on, and he replaced the injured Besic from the bench. However there is no denying that Martinez has got certain decisions wrong this season and at times he just hasn’t helped himself. It’s been such a mixed bag of disappointments you could literally drown yourself in the issues we’ve faced throughout this campaign. Monday night was the most recent example of many of them and Roberto has now took the decision to take his squad away in an attempt to upturn our fortunes. We huffed and we puffed but overall we didn’t do enough in the final third.
It’s such a sorry state of affairs at the moment, especially when you look back to 12 months ago when we were in the Champions League places, it’s scary how things can turn sour in such a short space of time. This is certainly the most concerned I’ve been as an Evertonian in many a year and any confidence or positivity that I held has gradually disappeared in the past few months. I can only hope that when we return to action we do see a reaction and finally begin to turn the corner, but the way things are going, I’m not holding my breath.