A final home game, an almost inevitable defeat (if you believe the hype), but not due to a lack of effort.
Right from the moment it became clear that Manchester City would need to win all their remaining games the vultures were circling the game at Goodison. Would Everton try? Don’t the fans want the team to lose? The narrative was building, and right from the off Sky’s commentary team were committed to telling a story that just didn’t exist. Polls on various websites – like this one – all pointed to Evertonians wanting their team to win, despite the fact that the Reds title challenge would be strengthened. That didn’t matter though, Tyler and Neville were sticking to the already written script, the on pitch microphones were placed strategically and mention was made of the lack of atmosphere almost every minute. Forget that Everton took the lead, forget that Romelu Lukaku pulled it back to 2-3, forget that City were on the rack and lived on their nerves for the last fifteen minutes; Everton just weren’t bothered. Rubbish, absolute rubbish.
He’s just not ready for the World Cup. Yes, Barkley is a rare talent, and one that England will cherish and pin hopes on for years to come, but he’s just not quite ready to be the saviour yet. From an Everton point of view a summer of rest will be of much more benefit to the youngster than sitting on the bench and training in intense heat for a month. But that goal shows why Roy Hodgson would be taking a risk by leaving him at home.
One of the reasons Roberto Martinez is so highly regarded is that he will take risks. He’s a forward thinker. 3-5-2 was always his favoured formation at Wigan Athletic but it just doesn’t fit the players available to him now, which is why it’s been kept under wraps. There has been the odd occasion that it’s appeared; the last twenty minutes against Norwich City in January may have been the last time. But Martinez is not afraid to change the team’s setup to fit the opposition. Bold, brave, and looking towards next season.
It might seem churlish to say this about our top scorer, someone who has scored 15 goals this season but is he worth £20m, maybe £25m? There’s a definite argument to say no. That argument is mainly based around the lack of cold hard cash that the club has to spend. But forget that and look purely at performances; are his first touch, link-up play, and awareness all good enough to make him worth the same as say, Luis Suarez? Or potentially £10m more than Daniel Sturridge? Maybe they’re unfair comparisons but they are the level of player you’re comparing to at that price. In mitigation, Lukaku is only 20 and there is definite room for improvement. Imagine a link-up of Barkley and the big Belgian in three years’ time? Now that is enough to make you want to spend the money.
A fifth thought
This season does now feel like a bit of a missed opportunity; will there ever be a better chance of getting fourth? Who knows but what we do know is that Roberto Martinez is a good fit for the club. Europe next season will be an adventure and you wouldn’t bet against us doing well with the slower paced, more patient football that Martinez has introduced. Some new players in the summer, keeping the majority of what we have, and next season is something to really be excited about.