After moaning for the best part of 76 days, I truly wanted this to be a positive writeup on Everton’s first home game of the season against newly promoted Watford.
Everton 2 – 2 Watford: New Season, Old Problems
The sun was shining and despite the fume, I give the ire a day off and returned to youthful optimism in the hope we’d see a rousing Blues performance to start the new campaign with.
Not to be. Watford played like you would expect a newly promoted side would, full of zest and vigour. Everton played like a team who were sick of the sight of each other. With a lack of transfer activity startling, hardly conducive to getting an increasingly frustrated fan base up for the challenge.
The first half we were slow and predictable, looking like a husband and wife who still have to live together until the house is sold after a divorce. We looked stale and lethargic – everything you don’t expect on the opening day of the season.
A day when realism should in all honesty make way for a bit of optimism, but Everton were on hand to ram home the fact that not much had changed all summer. So why should we expect a change on the pitch?
Same as the old one
With Gerard Deulofeu out injured, Tom Cleverley was the only new signing on show. A squad badly in need of a massive swill to the face in the summer simply haven’t had one, and the same old issues cropped up in a first half that made last season so forgettable.
On the surface it appears not much has been learned from Martinez and his coaching staff. The sluggishness and lethargic attempts to attack were back, we can only hope this result will serve as the urgent wake up call our season looks like it already needs.
Pre-match there was the usual optimism that things could be different. With 37 games yet to play, maybe they will be?
Starting at home against a newly promoted side is never easy but I thought with Lukaku and Mirallas in the side we would have enough to get the job done.
It took 14 minutes to dampen that optimism and replace it with realism. Watford, unforgivably looking hungrier than us took the lead. Layun taking advantage of confusion in the Everton box following Jurado’s cross, smashing home past Howard to put the visitors in front.
Everton responded and went close to equalising five minutes later. Gareth Barry seeing his goal-bound header tipped over by Gomes following a corner. A comfortable save in all honesty for Gomes.
I’m truly not trying to be negative here but the response was laboured with a worrying lack of urgency or any pace to our play.
Again, we’ve been here before with this complaint, it was frustrating to say the least and but for Barkley drawing a great fingertip save from Gomes on the half hour, the blues mustered very little by way of a goal threat.
A very disappointing half came to a halt soon after. We can all accept going a goal down at home, it happens, but to turn up as half-baked as we did on the opening day of the season after a pre-season bursting with frustration, was awful to be honest.
In fairness, whatever Roberto said at half time worked as Everton came out full of purpose and intent. Where was this in the first half?
The blues almost drawing level when Lukaku, on the stretch, failed to make a quality connection to Barkley’s devilish ball in. The Belgian heading wide with Gomes in no-mans-land.
Soon after Lukaku came close to connecting to McCarthy’s cut back following a great move but Watford managed to clear their lines. The blues were finally showing genuine urgency to get back into the game at this point, as you’d expect. However, Lukaku spent more time offside than on, doing nothing for the fast receding hairlines around Goodison Park.
The fans, now getting behind the team, certainly helped. But the booing for Kone when he came on was unnecessary in the extreme.
Yes, we know he’s been poor, he hasn’t done it for us, he’s barely looked a footballer at times and I get the frustration, truly I do. But on what planet does booing a player as he comes on help things?
Thankfully Kone, in a surprising cameo, showed his skin to be thicker than most. Putting in a performance of drive and intensity to make more of an impact in 28 minutes than Lukaku in 90.
I’m not being fickle here, I’ve slated Kone in the past,who hasn’t? But credit where its due here, Kone made the difference for us at a time when we badly needed some spark upfront.
That said, Kone ought to have scored shortly after coming on, finding himself in a position that reminded me of Mikael Madar’s crucial goal against Blackburn Rovers. Kone headed over when well placed following a Mirallas pin point cross.
The blues continued to press and finally got their reward for a much more spirited second half showing. And it came in the most spectacular fashion.
Ross Barkley scoring an absolute belter, smashing home right-footed at the Gwladys Street from Kone’s lay off to the delight of the home support.
Let’s hope the boo boys get off his back the season – Barkley might feel comforted by the fact that we seem to be booing everyone at the moment – except the board (sorry couldn’t resist) – and allow the lad to build on this.
With one hit we saw the potential of Barkley. Supporters have to allow him to build his confidence and he will show his talent consistently. In my opinion, when he plays without thinking such as in this moment, he’s at his best.
With Everton looking to push on and seal a much better second half showing with a win, we were struck with the vomit inducing sucker punch.
Watford broke and exploited the Grand Canyon-esq chasm between our defence and midfield. Ighalo holding off Stones to fire home clinically on 83 minutes to send the visiting support into limbs and the home support into despair.
Thankfully the Hornets elation was short-lived as the blues rallied again. Lukaku, looking much happier with company upfront, held the ball up and fed in his strike partner Kone. With expectations lower than a snakes belly, it was with huge relief to see Kone finish so clinically. Expertly slotting home into the bottom corner from a wide-angle across Gomes to restore parity. Great finish.
Disappointingly, the expected onslaught with five minutes of added time providing hope, didn’t really materialise.
The blues huffed and puffed but time had ran out and for the third straight season Everton had drawn 2-2 on the opening day. Just like Leicester away this time last season, the feeling was of two points dropped rather than one gained.
Standout for me was clearly Arouna Kone. One assist and one goal in a display full of intent and desire, Kone was a real plus point. I’m not for one minute suggesting he is the answer to our problems upfront, just giving credit where it is due.
I thought Tom Cleverley did OK. Not spectacular but you can see he wont take long to settle at Goodison. And a mention for Ross Barkley who looked more like his old self. Not at his best, but signs his confidence is returning are there. No clearer sign than the Exocet he sent past Gomes to draw the blues level.
So what next for Everton? In league terms we face a tough trip to Southampton, let’s hope we can get Deulofeu back to add some much need dynamism upfront, but before then the true dynamism needs to be shown from the boardroom.
I’m not going to go into another full blown rant. We all know my views and the sooner the club rids itself of this joke of a board the better. We are lacking ambition and intent from the top and a transfer window yielding just 2 signings for the first team to try to improve on an 11th finish last season has been poor in the extreme.
We badly need a signing to get the fans and the team going. It’s far from ideal, given the season has already started, but my hope is we make a few statements in the transfer market and give the fans something back.
Everton were quick enough to give supporters the hurry up with that embarrassing sticker campaign to get the fans renewing again, now its time for the board to match the supporters unwavering commitment and commit to some ambition for the forthcoming season. Not much to ask surely?
I’m fed up of moaning on twitter, I’d sooner be positive. So for the love of god Everton, get your arses into gear this week and make a few signings to galvanise this team. We currently resemble a stale piece of bread. From the board to the ground to the manager, right down to the team. The whole place needs a boost!
Fingers crossed we have a good week ahead of tough trip to Southampton in front of the sky cameras next weekend.
“We had many more chances and overall there is disappointment that we couldn’t get more from that second half.” Roberto Martinez
If only we had realised there are two halves of football – the blues intent from the second rather than the snooze-fest in the first, is surely the order of the day from now on.