Everton Will Crash The European Party With Anichebe Firing On All Cylinders
As of today, there is a new name to add to the pantheon of famous ‘Victors’. Sitting alongside greats such as Bulgarian hammer thrower Viktor Apostolov, Brazilian publisher Victor Civita and infamous feral French child, Victor of Aveyron, we can now add Everton’s powerful centre-forward, Victor Anichebe.
Victor has been a revelation this season. Powerful, fast and with an assured first-touch, Anichebe has rightly come to be seen as the team’s first-choice to lead the forward line. But that’s not an outcome that many Evertonian’s would have foreseen.
Victor has been knocking around Goodison for years now, making his first-team debut back in 2006. It’s fair to say that for much of that time he hasn’t exactly inspired excitement amongst the Everton faithful. Despite early promise, Anichebe gradually began to attract a reputation for being lazy and seemed to lose his confidence on the pitch. As other players were shipped out by Moyes over the years, it surprised more than a few fans that Victor remained.
When he came on as a sub early this season against Newcastle there were audible groans around Goodison, specifically as he’d replaced the then ‘crowd favourite’ Jelavic. It probably didn’t help matters that his first touch that night was appalling, the kind that a toddler would probably deem beneath them.
But, implausibly, things got better. Anichebe got himself a goal, and put in a performance against Newcastle that showed signs of genuine class. Over the following months he began to feature more in the team and following Moyes’ eventual acknowledgment that Jelavic seems more Stuart Barlow than Wayne Rooney, Victor got picked in preference to the dismal Croatian.
And he’s risen to the occasion. In recent months, Anichebe’s confidence has clearly grown and suddenly Evertonian's are seeing what Moyes must have recognised all along, that Victor has what it takes to make it at this level.
His performance in last week’s game against Spurs was outstanding, providing Everton with a genuine threat going forward and the Tottenham defence with a persistent headache. In Saturday’s tussle with QPR, it was an approach that continued. The hapless visitors, as they have officially become known, didn’t really know how to deal with Anichebe all afternoon. His physical presence seemed to diminish them and had his finishing been a little better (hopefully something that will come with time) he could have easily bagged himself a hat trick.
As it was, Victor had to make-do with just the one goal, grabbing Everton’s second, a strike that pretty much ended the match. QPR were effectively dead-in-the-water after that goal went in, you could almost detect the drop in their heads.
Despite the gulf in league positions, the visitors had actually started the game brightly. Although Everton dominated possession during the first-half, QPR remained steadfast at the back and possessed a genuine threat on the counter-attack. It was the kind of display that you would expect of a team in their predicament. The last time that I saw QPR play was their home game against Liverpool back in December; during which they put in one of the worst first-half performances I have ever seen by a Premier League side. It was a masterclass in capitulation and one that, in my mind at least, marked them down as certainties for the drop.
Saturday though, there was more spirit evident. They harried and chased and as the clock edged towards half-time, it was looking at though another disappointing draw for Everton was on the cards.
That the game turned in our favour was largely attributable to an enormous slice of good fortune. So far, this season has been one during which lady luck has been a cruel mistress for us Evertonian's. Not only have we hit the woodwork with alarming regularity but we’ve also had several legitimate goals cancelled out and been pretty unlucky with injuries. So, it’s always welcome when good fortune returns, as it did with Darron Gibson’s opening goal yesterday. With half-time approaching, Gibson let loose a ferocious 25 yard drive, which would probably have been saved by Júlio César had the shot not struck the inside of Clint Hill's leg and deflected into the opposite corner. It was a cruel way for QPR to go behind. When you’re fighting relegation you need all the luck you can get, but it seems that at the moment luck is in short supply for Harry Redknapp’s men.
QPR seemed visibly drained by the goal and despite their continued efforts, from that point on another Everton strike seemed inevitable. It came not long after the break, with Anichebe sweeping the ball into the net following a knock down from Distin from a Baines corner. After that goal the game became a formality for Everton and the home side could easily have doubled their final tally.
The result leaves us nicely positioned for the end-of-season run in. With Spurs and Liverpool struggling with form and Chelsea burdened by a fixture pile-up, Everton might just be in with a chance of Champions League qualification. But even if that doesn’t happen, we must surely be one of the favourites to nab the Europa spot.
Our ability to push for Europe has unquestionably been aided by the emergence of Victor Anichebe as a player who can make an impact. Sometimes salvation can come from the most unlikely of sources. For the much of the season the attention of Evertonian's has been focused on the plight of Jelavic. But our obsession with his deteriorating form has obscured our appreciation of an emerging talent; someone who might be the answer to Everton’s long-standing attacking deficiencies. Let the age of Victor begin.