Post by empresstouch on Sept 12, 2021 20:31:31 GMT
If nothing else, what’s been going on at Everton has been very, very interesting to discuss and analyse over the past 18-or-so months.
There have been many unexpected highs. There have been some brutal lows.
There’s also been quite a few mysteries too.
The odd soap opera. The occasional surprise. Many new experiences in very unique times.
Whether or not a quick-fix lockdown #4 happens, and how it may affect Premier League football, the opening six League fixtures and that mouth-watering return to Old Trafford on October 2nd that immediately follows all makes a significant start to this season feel as though a threshold is going to approach us – with a pivotal outcome for the foreseeable future, if we do enough to secure a brighter vision further on – or otherwise.
We all look forward to seeing those fixture lists released, just for the fun of asking ourselves: “If we can win that – and that – things could really happen for us this time...”, more often than not in hope, rather than expectation, but in recent seasons with more justification than many would give our club credit for.
And indeed: two seasons running, our players have decided to make the most of promising opportunities.
But I’d like to use this pause in the domestic footballing calendar to focus on one very specific player who has provided a lot to discuss. Not always for the better, but very much in interest – when looked at all angles.
His transfer fee – and how frustratingly we could so much have used some of it in the 2021 Summer window – leaves many to conclude in many ways.
His qualities and weaknesses likewise.
The fact that we haven’t had a realistic offer from another club for his services, coupled with the impracticalities upon those horrible three letters (more than one of which being an ‘F’) have meant our managers have had no choice but to tailor 90+minute game-plans for 11-14 players with this quick, hard-working, if frustrating wide-midfielder.
Going back to the lifting of lockdown #1: following the third consecutive 0-0 Goodison derby stale-mate, we had to travel to Norfolk in late June 2020 and face a Norwich City team themselves on the wrong end of a 0-3 home defeat to Southampton, staring relegation in the face.
Carlo decided on 5-3-2 wing-backs, Coleman on the right of a three-man central defence.
He was brilliant – as we’d have expected, in defence and going forward in possession (as he does better than any full-back in the Premier League). The intriguing part of this formation adaption of Ancelotti was that playing Coleman as a centre-half – in Kenny’s absence(Schalke), was that despite the brilliant Lucas Digne being a perfectly straight-forward choice for left-wing-back, playing a midfielder in a somewhat defensive role was a gamble. Yet part of Coleman’s success in earning us the corner-kick set-piece Michael Keane’s glancing header would secure three crucial points was his own wing-man opening up play for the Irish international to take the game to a tiring Norwich team.
Then: the 2-3 win at Craven Cottage – again, a live BBC TV broadcast, albeit a Sunday lunchtime fixture. Best remembered for a late-run Doucoure header a la Tim Cahill and a very unfortunately taken penalty by a Fulham player; we’ll say no more.
But now using the 4-3-3 and with NO Seamus Coleman or JonJoe Kenny, someone else had to step up and play right-back in the most demanding formation this role can entail. He looked good, to say the least, on this evidence.
That was then. Fast-forward to late 2020-21 on a non-eventful and almost forgotten Monday night in Brighton, where asides one superb Coleman cross and two flashes of individual improvisation from Yves Bissouma, a 0-0 stale-mate of much definition resulted – in part due to the best – and ONLY chance of the entire game falling to one of our players countering Brighton and cutting inside on his weaker left foot, before his shot was saved. Right decision, but without sufficient force to secure those two extra League points.
It’s been much discussion how best to extract not only the best application Alex Iwobi can offer our first team, but turning talented dribbling with pace and conviction into tangible end product of Premier League standards.
It’s what just about any football player would want to be told by their manager: “Play your own game. Be your own player. Just don’t take the [you-know-what].”
This has been the philosophy Rafael Benitez has offered far more to our players than any other manager for some time. Given how inferior match durability has been a factor in failing to close out so many matches for the past 30-odd seasons, it was a big gamble of Rafa to play very few preseason friendlies; favouring extensive time spent on training pitches to quite literally learn every individual’s strengths, weaknesses, before coaching them skills, attributes and pass on game-knowledge there and then.
Despite that very concerning mauling in Manchester rain, the kind early fixtures offered our players the chance to grow as athletes and as a team.
How easily it could’ve gone so horribly wrong after the Southampton opening concession.
It was the right substitution to twist the knife into a tiring Saints defence before Ralph Hasenhuttl deployed fresh legs on his own bench. Better still, subbing an impressive Andros Townsend debut may have seemed tinkering, but it was Iwobi who went after his opposing full-back, before cutting in on his left: and PASSING to Doucoure. We all know the rest...
In short: the past 18 months have been evolution, not revolution, in players accepting responsibilities as professional athletes in the ever-demanding 21st century world of football.
As far as I’m concerned, difficult decisions for hiring and moulding players into a team, on balance with Premier League AND foreign competition, have been made to a very high standard.
The decision not to build two 65+k stadiums in Liverpool is a terribly missed opportunity that may owe much to both local AND national politicians failing to put old-school party squabbles firmly aside for city and country’s best interests. But there is still much to look forward to, and good decisions are being backed up with quality performances, in tandem with results. Using Iwobi as a substitute for Townsend is a strategy opposing defenders will not only respect – but fear.
Imagine Alex Iwobi doing this in the next Anfield derby...
"Don't you turn too - if I ever change..."
Mark Reynolds, one half of Liverpool's second-finest band ever: Red Flag.
(The band name purely a reference to the motor racing signal that stops F1/IndyCar races, not our neighbours.)
I think Rafa has more tactical nouse than Carlo. He appears to have more motivational skills and seems to have more connection with the players. Time will tell over the season , but things seem to be again moving in the right direction , although I still think our squad behind the first 12/13 players is still very weak.