The appointment of Roberto Martinez drew a mixed reaction from Everton fans: amongst the excitement over the supposed more expansive style lingered doubts over the defence. Three games in – and we’d all do well to remind ourselves that it has only been three games – it’s the other way round: we’ve been fine at the back but familiarly toothless up front.
All three of our opening fixtures – Norwich away, West Brom home and Cardiff away – have been winnable games, and you could make a good case for saying that we should have won all three. We controlled the game at Norwich, dominated but couldn’t break down a defensively resolute yet wholly unadventurous West Brom and another day – or, rather, another referee – would likely have seen us take three points from the trip to Cardiff.
Leighton Baines, probably Everton’s best player in Saturday’s 0-0 draw, was scythed down mid-surge by hothead Gary Medel, who looks like some sort of villain from a child’s cartoon, but the incompetent Anthony Taylor missed this blatant penalty and that was that.
It said a lot about Everton’s performance that that was probably the closest we came, for once again we were utterly blunt in attack. Whilst we’re running games and keeping the ball well, the familiar bottom line is that we lack a cutting edge. Tottenham and Liverpool, who finished directly above and below us last season, have Defoe/Soldado and Sturridge/Suarez at their respective disposals. Our first choice forward is Nikica Jelavic, who’s scored once in 25 games.
On a more positive note, the defence, although rarely threatened, coped well, and a second clean sheet in three league games will have eased doubts that Martinez would come in and somehow contrive to turn Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin into the Caldwell brothers.
Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu, having scored his first Everton goal in the midweek cup win over Stevenage, was only brought on with ten minutes to go but injected some much needed pace and end product into Everton’s attack. Fast and tricky and with a good cross on him, had he been introduced twenty minutes earlier then who knows? Social media knees might just be jerking in the opposite direction.
Of course the side could look altogether different in 48 hours, should Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini or indeed both of them head to join former manager David Moyes at Old Trafford. With so little time left to replace such key players, it’s something of a lose-lose situation for Everton.
Of the two, Fellaini looks more likely to leave. In my opinion he’s overpriced at £23-25m and if a club had offered that earlier in the summer I think most Everton supporters wouldn’t have had a problem with selling and bringing in 2/3 new players. After all, we always knew that there would come a day when he would leave for Champions League football – there’ve been rumours about him moving for at least the past 3 seasons - and so to get 5 good years out of a foreign player and then make £5m profit wouldn’t have been bad going.
It’s the timing of it all which makes it difficult. David Moyes has shown a complete lack of respect for his former club, not only in submitting a bid described by Everton as “derisory and insulting” but also in leaving it so late that, should either player go, Everton have very little time to adjust. The other problem would of course then be that any potential selling clubs know that we are a tad desperate and have a lot of money.
We’re in for a nervy couple of days.