Everton: Even At Half Pace We're Top Four Contenders
So, back we marched into the top four like a wary army into a proper battlefield - the money-making scrap for a Champions League spot. It was a comfortable, but far from resounding, win over Norwich on Saturday. We had most of the ball, as usual, but the visiting team had too many good chances for comfort. A better team will seize on the scraps Everton leave, like famished Rottweilers on a sausage factory tour.
Surely it’s a mark of Everton’s progress this season though, if I can’t help wanting more from them. They really should be banging in five goals or more in easy-win ties like this, but something holds them back. The killer instinct is still maturing perhaps, and maybe it’s not far off being mesmeric. Not having Barkley in the team against Norwich, had a profound effect on the game too. The lad adds knockout quality to the side, he always look to create and has the gait of someone permanently bearing down on goal.
Having said that, Kevin Mirallas looked once again a man posessed in the 2-0 win. It’s been quite a few months since he looked so hungry, the injury he’s been plagued by must be easing off. And the Pienaar/Baines partnership looked as sweet as it’s ever been at the weekend. The pair of them look twice the player they are, when they’re properly synced with each other. Exchanging passes, stroking the ball gently forward and creeping into the opposition’s box at will like a dwarfish tagteam, it’s almost as good as seeing an actual goal. Almost as good mind you, nothing sates the soul like an inflated sphere being rifled into the roof of a net and seeing it momentarily hang in mid-air as it gives the white material a spinning hug.
Any misgivings I have about our deadly intent has been bolstered by the signing of Aiden McGeady, who was introduced to the crowd in Everton shirt and designer chinos before Saturday’s game. Was I the only bloke who wondered how much those chinos cost (£59.99 at TK Maxx, or 800 Euros from a Paris shop with big windows?) For the life of me, I can’t remember if McGeady’s any good because I haven’t seen many recent Ireland games (despite being a native) and simply couldn’t place his face. It’s a proper Irish face too, not a footballer’s face. There’s no Ralph Lauren or Givenchy money in that countenance. It’s a face that would look more at home wearing a white trilby, warmly smilng as its body’s hands sliced you up a lean kilo of pork shoulder. The pundits agree however, that McGeady’s arrival from Spartak Moscow is a wise move by Martinez and evidence of his aim to develop and cement the club’s heart and attacking style.
A friend recently told me that the Spaniard is doing such a good job at Everton that it won’t be long before he’s standing cross-armed in front of a Catalan dugout, under the lights at Camp Nou. It’s a fair point, but the world’s elite clubs don’t hire managers whose only silverware came in the same year that he watched his side get relegated. It stands to reason, especially if David Moyes’ joyless stab at running Man United is anything to go by. Barca, or Real’s for that matter, money men won’t court a candidate without a list of concrete achievements.
Martinez won’t be happy leaving Everton without a major trophy to sing about either. After every match, even those ecstatic games where we’ve destroyed opponents, Martinez is so measured in appraising our performances when speaking to the media, it’s very clear he’s got a long-term strategy in mind.
It will be a small miracle if Everton are ever able to fully bankroll the man’s battle plan and give him a few hundred million quid to play with. Also, it’ll be a bittersweet day, as nothing is greater in modern football than a team equalling the class and skill of rivals in real terms, at a fraction of their expenditure.
Whatever the future holds, it’s what’s happening now that matters most, and we are in the top four. With fewer league defeats than any team already there, and the title somehow in our sights, there is so much hope. Onwards we march into 2014 - we wear blue but don’t think we’re here to keep the peace.
Follow Gareth on Twitter, @GDorean