A Little Preamble
It’s been some time hasn’t it?
In fact such is the low key nature of the season so far, one might even be mistaken for it having started. Which it sort of has, and sort of hasn’t. The much maligned international break so early in the season, now a regular feature every year, does beg the question as to why the season starts in August, and why not replace the first two or three weeks of the season with the qualifiers scheduled for September and October? That might serve several purposes, by giving the home international sides the bonus of fit players, might help those players sharpen their match fitness levels and provide a fairly fan unifying opener to the club season. Then once the club season starts it can flow uninterrupted until Christmas. And then have a break. For which a friendly international could be arranged.
I like that idea.
Anyway, the loathsome Saturday evening fixture versus the usually dogged adversaries from the blue side of Liverpool beckoned. Now under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez it afforded the mass television audience the chance to see if he would move Everton away from their recent standards of hard fought, rough and tumble football into something more attractive to watch. For us a return to the ground where Frank Lampard broke the all-time Chelsea scoring record in a win that to all intents and purposes sealed our Champions League place this season.
Jose Mourinho shuffled the pack giving David Luiz a start at partnering John Terry in the heart of defence, and giving Juan Mata his first start of the season. Interestingly as well we were to see the ‘Marmite’ figure of Samuel Eto’o get a start as well. Renowned goal scorer that he may be, he has directly insulted both Jose and the club in the past. On the logic some of our fans used towards Benitez alleged insults this should mean instant and everlasting hatred and bile spewed towards Eto’o. Even if he rattles in 30 this season. Because had Benitez won every trophy in sight, I’m sure a vociferous element of our fan-base would have continued the hate towards him. Ergo, Eto’o should be hated, but something tells me this won’t be the case. Personally I place him alongside Rudi Voeller and El Hadji Diouf as a spitter, a trait I detest and therefore I’m not an Eto’o advocate. Unless he rattles in 30 this season and then of course under the rule of Football Fan Fickleness I will adore him, to the point where he can freely spit on me.
So, to the game, as usual I will ignore the bollocks of tactics, if you want that then read the papers. The first half was a decent affair, with Chelsea having the best of possession and arguably the chances as well. The side looked relaxed and comfortable but for me underneath there was an arrogance I’m not sure I like. The kind of arrogance that with pride comes before a fall. It didn’t seem to worry the players that the chances were being squandered, in that call it inner belief, or arrogance, they seemed cocksure we would inevitably score. This is football and things don’t quite work like that all the time. Everton, to their credit worked their way into the game refusing to be overawed by our superior possession and more frequent chances. They had a determined Barry working hard for them, and the tricky Jelavic, Naismith and potential wunderkind Barkley urging them on. In defence they had the admirable Distin and Baines doing whatever was needed to frustrate our ‘creative herberts’ (© Dr Blue Bayou). It was decent for both teams but there was also definitely the whiff of post-international break apathy about it. Fourty-four minutes in and I felt the unmistakeable sense of Chelsea paying for squandered chances and sure enough with a minute of extra time being played, 45 seconds of which had expired, Cech inexplicably cleared the ball to Eto’o who missed it, Everton counter attacked, the defence to a man was in disarray and Naismith scored. As untypical a Mourinho defence mistake as it was, it was pretty typical of the past few seasons under any of our previous coaches. Jamie Redknapp immediately blamed Luiz in a typically moronic piece of lazy punditry. You know the type where they find the easy fall guy with a reputation unfairly based on early Premier League performances and then ignore the fantastic season he had last year in order to show he still makes those mistakes. Redknapp is stealing a living as a pundit.
Anyway, the second half went even further under our control with Hazard and his creative compatriots running Everton ragged but failing to spur our strikers into getting anything close to a goal. Eto’o was playing well despite regularly getting caught in possession, but that’s the Premier League pace and he’ll get used to that. After 57 minutes, THO (The Happy One) threw the dice, and played the Shake ‘Em Up gambit by removing Mata and the hapless Schurrle (was Marin as bad as him?… Jury very much out). In their places came Lampard and Oscar. Still we were the better side, still we created chances, most of them of the ‘half’ nature. Still we tried the extra pass instead of a shot. Still we got nowhere. From this Everton continued to grow in confidence. On 69 minutes THO played the Shit or Bust gambit replacing the struggling Cole with Torres. Three at the back and two strikers? Why Mr Ambassador I think you spoil us. A bold move indeed and it showed why I enjoy THO so much as the man in charge. Only people at the top of their game have the confidence and verve to take such gambles. Sadly in this case all it did was give Everton a lift and for 10 minutes they ran us ragged and we struggled to get any worthwhile possession.
Despite all our best efforts it was becoming increasingly obvious this was not to be our day. When the final whistle went you couldn’t help feel we’d just been given a bloody nose, and in some ways deservedly so. In his post-match interview THO was as ever box office, and also spot on. He criticized our inability to score from easy chances, and in one sentence said we didn’t deserve to lose because we were the better team but that because we didn’t score and they did we did deserve to lose. A rather clever way of saying only one statistic really counts. We all know which one. As did Barcelona in 2012 when they outplayed us in defeat. You can have all the possession you want, all the shots you want, all the corners etc… but in the end the points only go the side that scores a bloody goal.
At this point I’d say well done Everton. They played hard and never gave in or crumbled under relentless pressure at times. They don’t appear to be missing Fellaini. And the securing of the experienced Barry was a wise move indeed. In Barkley they have a fantastic talent on their hands. The boy played with all the verve and confidence one might get from getting called up for England. They have our own Lukaku on loan and he will surely get them some goals and gain useful development under Martinez. I didn’t agree that Barry was Man of the Match, for me it was Barkley or Naismith, but either way it was Everton’s night and well deserved in my view.
Summing up, Cole was poor, Mata was way too over eager to prove some points (what exactly is a mystery) and Schurrle looks like he could be our next Sutton. Loads of promise, but very little delivery. On the plus side, Luiz looked close to being fully fit. Mata is patently just off the pace but that will come in time. JT looked his usual committed self and Eto’o lasted the full game and will have learned loads about the furious pace of the Premier League, surely very different from anything he’s experienced before. However, despite Schurrle being the key duffer yesterday it’s hard to pick any other poor performances out.
I would just also point out that for me, the Chelsea Man of the Match was the imperious John Obi Mikel, who did everything Makelele used to do. He broke Everton attacks with aplomb, tackled well, passed well and on that evidence it will be hard to see how he doesn’t feature for a lot of this season. Wonderful stuff and great to see.
Finally, this was a bloody nose that’s all. No poor refereeing to blame, just very poor finishing and something Mourinho acknowledged and will surely be prioritizing going forward. Despite the undoubted presence of bedwetters and gloom mongers on Twitter, great teams sometimes lose games. We’ll play worse and win, we’ll play better and lose. But with this squad, and THO in charge I think a top two finish is still comfortably achievable as we march on to future seasons of near invincibility.
The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Everton gained their first win of the season at the expense of Chelsea, unexpectedly inflicting a first league defeat since José Mourinho’s return to London in a manner that must have had the coach pining for the direct attacking football he once used to advocate. Mourinho for one would not have been expecting to lose here, and the sheer number of talented midfielders at his disposal meant Everton were second best in many areas of the pitch and never exactly comfortably in front. Yet playing with pride and a sense of purpose that supporters were pleased to see has survived from the David Moyes era, Roberto Martínez’s side refused to be overawed and simply made more of their chances. Chelsea created more than enough opportunities without managing to match the home side’s attacking conviction, which by the end, with Goodison rocking noisily as of old, was considerable.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Jason Burt: “Jose Mourinho has accused Chelsea of lacking a “killer instinct”. For such an accusation to come from a manager for whom that quality is a given, it was damning – and one that will reverberate. This could turn out to be a watershed moment for some Chelsea players. “Artistic football without goals is not good,” Mourinho continued after this 1-0 defeat, the first he has ever suffered at Goodison Park. On six previous visits he has gained four wins and two draws but the Happy One was understandably unhappy. He demands efficiency, not fluffiness.”
The Independent on Sunday, Tim Rich: “Mourinho is the ultimate managerial celebrity and he would argue that this was both a game Chelsea should have won and that, once they were behind, he tried everything in his power to drag them level – an early double substitution and then the gamble of replacing Ashley Cole with Fernando Torres. He moaned: “If they don’t have a killer instinct, then they will have to get one. When you have an easy match in which to score goals, then you have to score them. Before they scored, we had easy chances.””
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Everton’s Steven Naismith scored the only goal of the game as we suffered a first Premier League defeat of the season at Goodison Park. On a disappointing evening on Merseyside, we were unable to recover from falling behind right on the stroke of half-time, and though we began the second half brightly, we struggled to find a route back into the game.”