What a day to be alive! This afternoon, I sat in the Royal Oak and drank my Carling pint in a plastic glass, blue shirts everywhere. Yes! I thought, the season starts now, I can finally avoid Saturday afternoons down Speke Retail Park, looking at paint in B&Q.
Then a cheer. The red lot had just lost the lead in the 94th minute against the footballing giants that are Watford. Some things never change and one of them is Liverpools defence.
Today was going to be a good day.
Anyway as always I’m digressing again. Season opener against a Stoke side, I firmly believe will get relegated this season after losing their best player and not replacing him. Their version of Kevin Mirallas – Marko Arnoutovic.
Let me say if you’re after stats and minute by minute coverage then don’t read on, Sky Sports News, BBC and a statto sat on his couch can give you that. I just say it how it is and how I think the game went, with some musings and rants in-between.
There isn’t really anything to be cheerful if your from Stoke is there? No real sense of identity, its a bit of a dive and their team are crap and ran by a guy who admittedly was a great footballer, but a hideous manager.
So Everton lined up in a 5-3-2 kind of, which when looking on the official website could easily shift to a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. The big surprise was that Calvert-Lewin was plonked on as a Right Wing Back……Cue bemused faces across the Royal Oak. Other than that, it was a side we pretty much what everyone thought.
How the Blues lined up in the first half[/caption]
Stoke lined up with a 4-3-2-1, I think. Im rubbish at analysing the opposition because well, I don’t care about them. I know that they don’t play much in terms of football and I know that when they do. They bombard the opposition more than you’d see at the 3rd Battle of Ypres. I’ve put their team in below just to be nice.
Pre kick off the guys at the Gwladys Street Boys, marked 10 years service of Leighton Baines with a huge banner. Well done boys, fair play it looked boss.
Everton kicked off and Goodison, although not really rocking had a feel about it of intrigue new boys galore. For the first half they showed it, sloppy play, nerves and not looking comfortable tactically. Everton struggled to get into any sort of rhythm. In truth Stoke come out and looked like they had just carried on from last season.Â
It took a whole 8 minutes, (that long I hear you say) before the heckling of our own started. Seriously if you sit behind me in the Paddock and just constantly whine, do one. You’re the type of gobshite that heckled Ross all season, Naismith, I could go on. You’re not a supporter of this illustrious club. You’re just a bellend who’s not got nothing else to moan about so you thought you’d take up football.
Ill say this now. It is going to take a while for this team to gel, for some it will take time to adjust to the league, the pace, the physicality it takes time. Look at Drogba for example. He was terrible in his first year, then became what we remember him for. A beast!
The first half was drab, not much to talk about really until the end of the half, Calvert-Lewin who hadn’t seen much of the ball, not his fault just the formation was wrong and he couldn’t really effect the game until he put a great ball in and non other than Wayne Rooney headed the ball into the net. Not a great header it was pretty much at the keeper high in the centre but he sent it to the opposite direction that Butland was moving 1-0 to the Blues. The ecstasy and sheer delight from Rooney’s face was there for all to see.
The referee blew the half time whistle and chants of Rooney, Rooney were echoing around the ground.
Second Half and Everton changed it up. Williams was taken off and Cuco Martina was brought on. 4-3-3 was the new formation and DCL was sent up top to be a target man. In fairness to him, he showed why Koeman believes in him and he is reaping the reward I think (more later in the ratings). Everton then looked more comfortable, we became more of the Everton we know. Rooney now having opened his second account for Everton looked assured and relaxed. He pulled all the strings and linked well with Gana. Martina looked ok going forward and put in some delightful balls into the box. His defending remains questionable and needs to close down crosses better. His foul throw was cause for some bewilderment that a full back can’t throw properly.
Tom Davies come on for Klaassen after an hour, who I think will be a really good player. He looked tired and the game seemed to pass him by towards the end of his game. Both got a good reception. Klaassen reminds me of a Naismith type of player. Great off ball runs, intelligent footballer and can score goals. I just hope that he doesn’t become the moaners latest victim.
Davies straight away was like a Terrier on heat. I really think he should of started against Stoke I dont see the need to have 2 Defensive Midfielders at home against them. Anyway Everton pressed and looked for a second and we knocked on the door a few times. Sandro looked knackered after running the lines all day. He looks like he needs to do what Rooney has, get that first league goal and get the monkey off his back. He looks like he’s trying a lot if not too much. DCL was being a real menace and beat Shawcross to everything in the air. Something a Mr Lukaku couldn’t do the previous year.
Crouch came on in the 72nd minute and immediately Stoke became as ugly as Crouch himself. High balls bombarding the Everton defence looking for crouch as the outlet. I felt a pit in my stomach as Everton’s of the past would have crumbled. But Jordan Pickford had complete control of his area and either plucked the ball out of the sky or punched clear to allay most Evertonian’s fears. Sandro came off looking like he’d been blowing balloons for a week non stop and showed some neat touches and link up play. Kevin Mirallas came on and was industrious, clearly showing that he wants to do well this season and I think he knows that he needs a big season this year or its bye bye.
Pickford showed his class and concentration after a fine one handed save to his left worthy of a replay or 6. Â Stoke bombarded the Everton goal and we attempted a few break aways but just lacked the final ball to put the game to bed.
1-0 it finished and blues went away generally happy. A win, but an ugly win. All good sides need to do this at times. 1-0 to the Arsenal was a chant we all know and it is true. If we are to do well this season, the draws need to be converted to wins and I think that a few years ago this would of been a draw. So 3 points, and a game against some crazy Croats to come next.
Jordan Pickford: 8
Nothing to do first half but showed excellent command of his area and vocal to the defence in organisation. Second half commanded the area picking up cross after cross. Excellent save late on and looks to fully justify the fee paid for him. If we can keep this guy I believe we may have the next great Everton Goalkeeper on our hands. We will need to support him when he inevitably makes a mistake. But he looks assured and his kicking is that of a cultured midfielder.
Phil Jagielka: 6
Not a great opening day for the usually reliable skipper. His distribution was sloppy at best and terrible at worst. Solid at the back though and did well when called upon in defence. I don’t think Jags will get much game time once we have another Centre Half. Maybe his swan song season with the Blues.
Michael Keane: 8
Excellent first league game for the Blues. Cool, calm and can play from the back. Apparently lost a tooth towards the end of the game too. He will be a great asset for us and you can see him as a possible future Skipper. Won everything that came his way in the air and ground.
Ashley Williams: 5
Looked rusty and also looks like he’s over indulged in the summer. Only notable thing was when he misjudge the ball flight and it hit him in the face. He then blamed the sun in his eyes. Taken off at half time for Martina.
Leighton Baines: 7
Mr Reliable had a good solid game. Didn’t get up much in the first half, mainly due to bad formation and terrible passing from Jagielka. Second half much better at bombing on and looked a threat as the game went on. My only worry is his
pace has pretty much gone and tracking back is becoming difficult for him.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin: 8
Poor first half but that was down to tactics rather than his ability. Great cross to pick out Rooney for the goal. Second half really played well, gave everything he had in the tank for the team. He was a contender for PotM for me, Deserved a goal for his efforts today and proved his doubters wrong. He has given Koeman food for thought once again. Composure and awareness will improve in time with playing regular with his team mates.
Davvy Klaassen: 7
This league I feel is going to take some time for Davvy boy to get used to, that and some beefing up in the gym. The guy is technically sound and is intelligent on the ball as I said. Was a bit lost in the game after an hour but you could see he was tired. Stoke was always going to be a battle but equipped himself well. I can see him being targeted by so called fans though. He needs time and hopefully the fans will give him it.
Gana Guaye: 8
This fella is beyond words, looked rusty in the Europa games but come back to his usual dynamic self. Won more tackles than anyone and literally covers every blade of grass on the pitch. I think he has been told to try and add goals to his game too as he is clearly shooting more. I can’t decide yet if that it’s good thing or not. Linked up really well with Rooney second half and had some neat passing thrown in for good measure too.
Morgan Schneiderlin: 6
Industrious as always, but seemed off the boil today. Last season he ran the show in the midfield but today wasn’t on song. Needs to improve in his form if he is to keep his place in the starting 11.
Wayne Rooney: 9
The prodigal son returns and get the dream start for the Blues. Was quiet in the first half but once he got his goal he ran the proceedings for the rest of the game. Pin point passing and a deft touch show why he is still a class player. Was ahead of everyone today on the pitch and deserves PotM
Plenty of running from the young Spaniard, tired out in his first game and got a taste of what the Premier League is about. Some neat touches show he has ability too, needs to register a goal early I feel or he will frustrate himself and the fans easily. But like Klaassen, he needs time to adapt to the league.
Cuco Martina: 6
Not as useless as I first thought but better at going forwards than actually defending. Kind of like a poor mans Kyle Walker. Put some tasty balls into the oppositions area and looked to be positive when on the ball. This guy needs time and never had a pre-season after being released by Southampton. However that said he looks shaky at the back and I don’t know what the foul throw was all about. I hope the boo boys leave him alone too because its not warranted this early into the campaign.
Tom Davies: 7
Immediately showed Koeman he should of started, looked good when he come on. A starter for Thursday I think.
Kevin Mirallas: 6
Lots of energy and looked sharp but never really effected the game especially at the end with some decision making in the final third.
Everton needed 3 points today with the run of fixtures heading our way so in that sense it was good. Tactically wrong in the first half and Koeman himself even admitting to the fact. Re-shuffle proved to be right and we didn’t really look like conceding never mind losing.
A great second league debut for Rooney and was the stuff of fairy tails.
This team needs time and the fans need to keep the pitch forks away whilst they gel. Plenty to be happy with and laugh at Liverpool’s defence which is as dodgy as OJ Simpson’s.