Everton face their toughest test of the season so far today, with a visit to the unsolved anagram-sounding Etihad stadium. Man City and Joe Hart were embarrassed by Bayern Munich midweek, so here are five things I would love to see the Toffees do against the might of City:
1. Keep the motor runnin’
Under the beady eyed stewardship of David Moyes, Everton were often praised for punching above their weight, a gaudy sentiment that probably gained currency thanks to Tim Cahill’s corner flag goal celebration. But after starting this campaign with three draws, playing a strangely attractive style of football and easing tentatively into our new manager’s way of doing things, the boxing tag surely no longer applies.
Today’s game is so important because it will invariably mean the strongest test of our unbeaten run against a team that’s keen to lay its midweek German nightmare to rest
Playing well and winning, against a team still favourites for the title, would be an early rubber-stamping of the Roberto Martinez era. Let’s keep the gleeful Premier League momentum going, we have nothing to fear but Tears for Fears itself.
2. Cashback on the Barkley Card (sorry)
City may have Aguero, Yaya Toure, Lurch-like Dzeko and many others who cost more individually than Walter White could force into barrels, but I’ll have Ross Barkley over them all, eight days a week. Remember Rooney in Euro 2004, when he was so young and far ahead of the rest of that England team? In Portugal he looked like he might win the thing on his own and sometimes Barkley has that look in his eye, like the pitch is too small for him, like no team might have any pushback on what he’s going to do. There are no players, as far as I can see, in any English top flight team who can match his ineffable impression on the year thus far.
Let’s see him command this game, even if we drop the three points. Let the millionaires on Pellegrini’s subs bench be snapped with looks of awe, watching how special he can be. A brace of goals, including the winner, would be nice too.
3. No Fellaini blues
Man Utd fans have been lampooning mercurial Marouane Fellaini since he made the short trip up the M6 to Old Trafford. That can’t last, he just needs to settle into his best position in a different setup. He was so important to us, mopping up, getting goals and dominating games. He was especially effective in fixtures like these, when the opposition had much to prove to their fans. We’ve got to leave the lack of Felli behind and have the likes of McCarthy and Osman getting right into the guts of City, proving that we’re up with the best of them. McCarthy didn’t look match-fit against Newcastle, fading a little towards the end. But during the match he imposed himself a lot. If Everton are to come away with anything this time, it’s players like him who need to step up to the plate at the all-you-can-eat buffet of victory (cc Accidental Partridge).
Fellaini’s muscle and aerial dominance will be missed, but we play a different way now anyway.
4. Defend like we mean it
Phil Jagielka is finally getting the recognition he deserves with regular inclusions in the England team. But in these early days of Martinez, he has often looked uncomfortable playing the ball out to feet. It’s never a problem when he has to hoof it - but being closed down by a wily forward has sometimes unsettled the guy. I have no doubt Jags has it in him to lead the current Everton squad to some sort of glory by example, but let’s play it calm Phil. Sylvain Distin, a much-travelled centre half, looks positively suited to the Martinez way on the other hand. He glides out of defence with the ball stuck to his left foot, like a goody from CGI swordfest 300. He has so much knowledge of the game, if he appeared on Mastermind his specialist subject might possibly be “how to stop forwards scoring”.
As for Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman… I just hope they grasp the nettle where they can. This is all you can ask of two players I consider to be the best in their positions in this division.
5. One or two from Lukaku
Let’s see, eh?
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