The season is finally underway.
I know...I know..it was almost a week ago, but when you only have one game under your belt (and a weekly column that runs on Wednesday) it means that match gets put under the microscope.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to rehash the match with Ruzomberok minute-by-minute (I’ve actually done that), but in case you killed one too many brain cells over the weekend here is a refresher:
| Advantage #EFC heading to Slovakia! Find out how the other 28 qualifiers stand at the #UEL halfway stage ➡️ https://t.co/bCY5fAoJzO. pic.twitter.com/BqrJJLwJws— Everton (@Everton) July 31, 2017
It wasn’t the overwhelming victory that Everton fans were hoping for over their Slovakian counterparts, but it WAS a victory.
If I had to summarize how Everton fans felt after the match I would go with:
There was plenty to get fans concerned, but also a lot to get excited about.
I’m not in the panic camp by any means, but I certainly saw the same deficiencies that other fans saw (speed, width), and without a few more goals to distract us, those problem areas are highlighted even more.
Now, for all of the joking about the size of our opponents Ruzomberok, it must also be accepted that they are professional soccer players who are in the middle of their competitive season (to include an already successful European run) and Everton were a mere three weeks into their training when they laced up for the match Thursday.
The advantage,of course, is that the squad will have another week (or 33% worth) of training under their belts heading into this week and the on field improvements in synchronicity and conditioning should be noticeable.
Speaking of noticeable improvements, Everton’s otherwise lackluster attacking performance improved dramatically when this guy took the field:
Showing energy, creativeness, and a desire to get to goal, Sandro Ramirez, the former Malaga and Barcelona man, made quite the impression on the Goodison crowd on Thursday.
A week behind his already under-conditioned teammates after his summer was delayed (and effectively eradicated) by the U-21 European Championships, Ronald Koeman took no chances and instead started Dominic Calvert-Lewin on the right wing to little effect.
Calvert-Lewin, presumably expecting to be tucking in as his team attacked relentlessly, instead found himself in the unfamiliar position of being wide to the touch line.
While he showed flashes of his potential with his hold up play and distribution, DCL struggled to impact the match.
(Side note: DCL is a QUALITY #9. He needs to bulk up, but I hope to see Everton get enough depth to send him out on loan next season and lead the line for a low level Premier League squad then come back to Everton a finished product. Or he can stay and establish himself from here on out, point is DCL is going places. Be patient.)
However, heading into this week’s elimination match, let there be no doubt that Sandro will be in the starting XI, and on the score sheet, on Thursday in Slovakia.
Everton have found themselves a talisman and I can’t wait to watch his legacy unfold.
As for the rest of the squad, there were obvious problems, but with a match under their belts I expect Everton to turn in a much stronger performance and secure advancement to the next round of Europe.
Oh, and if you are still feeling nervous, have a laugh.
Meanwhile #Everton and #Swansea continue negotiations for #Sigurdsson @theesk @ALANMYERSMEDIA @EllBretland pic.twitter.com/jw86oHniWw— Peter Perfect (@TheIrishRookie) July 30, 2017
Ok...onto your questions!!
How many yellow cards can Barry wrack up from his limited role? Given his likely lack of starts, can he average 1 per every 30 minutes?— Jesse Clements (@JClem73) August 1, 2017
Gareth Barry’s history of yellow card accumulation is...well.....historic.
Barry’s total is 20%(!!!) higher than his next closest competitor Lee Bowyer, who is now in the coaching ranks.
So the perception is that Barry is the king of of yellows is justified, but if you look closer, you find out that his reputation for yellows may be more an unfortunate result of his hysterically long career, and less the results of man with an anger problem.
When you look at all of the stats though, you will find that Barry is.....
wait for it......
AT BEST AN AVERAGE YELLOW CARD ACCUMULATOR!!
I’ll prove it to you!
Let’s add some context to that chart from earlier.
Compared to the rest of the Top 10 yellow card accumulators, Barry has:
- Played the most minutes
- The fewest yellows per minute
I mean, look at Lee Cattermole! Was he in a perpetual slide tackle or what??
He averaged twice as many cards per minute than Barry!!!
Add in the fact that a hard sneeze while standing next to the right player will now earn a dive and subsequent yellow nowadays and Barry’s numbers are pretty impressive.
Heck, Barry’s newest teammate Wayne Rooney is the second-highest active player on the list, and even he is more likely than Barry to pick up a yellow!
In fact, among the top 50 most carded players in Premier League history, Barry sits in 35th!
His 421 minutes between cards is well above the average of the top 50 at 399.
Now, as Barry has aged, his cards have become less fearsome, more tactical, and more frequent.
He has racked up a career-high 10 yellows in three out of the last four seasons, though in his defense he did play over 30 matches in each of those seasons.
So to your question, how many yellows can Barry accumulate?
The midfield is crowded, and if rumors are true it is only going to get deeper before the window closes.
Barry isn’t going to find starts easy to come by at all.
With his role become much more limited, serving as a closer of sorts late in matches and perhaps getting a bulk of his starts in early cup matches, Barry will have limited chances to add to his totals.
However, should his role as a closer come to fruition, Barry will be enticed to commit plenty of professional fouls to prevent breakaways he is sure not to track down, especially now that the only attacker he can chase down, the aforementioned Rooney, now plays for his team.
So with 15-20 appearances I think Barry will add 7 more yellow cards to his name, and assuming Rooney doesn’t play for another 8 seasons, put the title of most carded player in league history even further out of reach for the foreseeable future and maybe forever.
@foleysthoughts @RBMersey what wingers should EFC be trying to get? Not hearing much about potential targets.— tom (@suptom121) July 28, 2017
The lack of apparent width in Everton’s first match of the season only increased calls for the board to go hunting for a winger.
Presumably playing a 4-3-3, it is imperative that the Toffees have players who can get to the end line and cross the ball back to (insert target striker the club also needs to sign).
Ross Barkley played wide last year, but struggled when Seamus Coleman went out and Mason Holgate couldn’t offer the same overlapping threat to keep his defender honest.
The signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson would alleviate some attacking concerns, but not the ones that pertain to width like a Jonathan Viera would.
A glance at the current options shows why Toffees fans are nervous:
Kevin Mirallas is not a true winger, more prone to cut inside and disappear for a half than he is to get a decent cross off.
Sandro is a striker who can start wide and as he showed with his first assist in Blue, to Rooney against Genk, has the capability to deliver a quality ball.
He is a goal scorer though and tying him to the touchline would undercut his greatest asset.
Ademola Lookman is probably the most creative winger on the list, but even he tends to angle his runs more at the post than the corner flag. While I think he is going to develop into a dual threat scorer/provider, he can’t be counted on quite yet to provide consistent service.
Aaron Lennon is probably the truest winger not injured (Bolasie) in the squad, but Koeman probably envisioned him as more of a squad player than a starter.
Add in a missing Seamus Coleman and the ground for worry are stable.
RBM addressed this concern last week, noting a number of options the Toffees could turn to.
some wingers in this piece https://t.co/2Uz7apXhma— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) July 28, 2017
Of those options, I personally like Felipe Anderson, a consistent producer of both goals and assists, meaning opponents will have to play him face up giving him the option to go wide of come inside.
I also would have no hesitation in bringing in Jonathan Viera (see article above).
These players bring the type of unpredictability (and speed) that Everton are missing in their front line in order to push for the Top 4 spot Koeman will certainly have targeted this year.
So let’s hope that the board continues their string of successful transfers and picks up a wide player to give the team a spark and push Everton up the table.
Could you outline a buddy cop movie script starring Niasse as the wayward outcast coupled with oddball veteran... Tony Hibbert? #Gonefishing— Jesse Clements (@JClem73) August 1, 2017
Veteran detective Tony Hibbert has patrolled Gwladys Street for over a decade.
Renowned for his quiet demeanor and legendary toughness, Hibbo, as he is affectionately known, has spent his career preventing shots from getting off, and when they do, make sure they never hit their target.
He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been damn close.
Willing to put his body on the line to make sure the bad guys shots never hit what they’re aiming for, Hibbo has gained the love and affection of everyone who benefits from his natural inclination to defend first and ask questions later.
There isn’t much the grizzled vet hasn’t done in his time patrolling near Stanley Park.
Except for one thing.
Get off a successful shot himself.
All Hibbo has ever wanted is to ‘score one’ for his team, instead just trying to stop the bad guys.
So with the time in his career winding down and his opportunities dwindling by the day, it appears all that can keep Hibbo’s dream alive is Toe Blow, an outcast detective from Russia with his own unique style.
Can Toe Blow teach Hibbo to shoot in his unorthodox way?
Can Hibbo show Toe Blow how to be beloved by those around him?
Or will this partnership be sent-off in shame?
Starring Tony Hibbert as “Hibbo”
and Oumar Niasse as “Toe Blow”
The duo will go through trials and tribulations, build an unbreakable bond, and maybe, just maybe, help Hibbo reach his life long goal.
They may be odd, but they are all they’ve got, can they make their dreams come true?
Find out in...
How come we aren't in for VVD?— jon hein (@jdhein13) August 1, 2017
There is no doubt that Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk is one of (if not the) most sought after center back prospect in the league.
Following a stellar season cut short by injury, the former Celtic man looked assured of a move away from his home the past two seasons, Southampton.
When prospective clubs were assessed, Everton had one major advantage over all of the others in the Ronald Koeman was the man who brought VVD to the league in the first place.
It would be ludicrous to think that the discussion WASN’T had among the Everton decision-makers to pursue Koeman’s former player.
I assure you that no one in Evertons front office dismissed Van Dijk for anything that has to do with his on field performance. The thought of pairing of him with Michael Keane is enough to get any Toffees fans excited.
In fact, I would go as far as to say some type of (legal i.e not tapping up) feelers were put out to see what VVD thought of a potential move to Goodison.
So why no rumors (beyond wishful thinking) of a reunion between the former player and coach?
Well, while we do have something no other club can offer, we also lack the one thing that appears to be driving the imposing center bacl’s desire to move in the first place:
Much like Lukaku before him, it appears Everton’s version of Europe won’t be enough to satisfy the Dutch internationals lofty aspirations.
In the mean time keep your eye out for the Toffees to add another left sided centerback, and probably one that plays some left back too. There are a ton of talented players out there who would relish to chance to learn under one of the best centerbacks in history.
As for VVD, With the likes of Chelsea surely circling it is hard to imagine a set of circumstances in which he doesn’t end up playing on a team in Champions League.
I just hope it’s not.........that red team.
What is Tom Davies role this season? Is he bringing his high energy style to wreck opponents in midweek matches, or starting on weekends?— Norman R Groves (@NormanGroves) August 1, 2017
Tom Davies emergence last year could not have come at a better time for the club.
With Ross Barkley heading towards the exits, the Goodison faithful were desperate to have another one of their own rise up and claim a regular spot in the Everton side.
By the time he scored THAT goal against Manchester City it was evident that Davies was here to stay, or at least fight for his place.
Of course, Morgan Schneiderlin joined the side, then Davy Klaassen, and the midfield spots got tighter.
Assuming Mo Besic goes out on loan, and James McCarthy’s imminent departure comes to fruition, Davies will certainly find himself in the mix.
However, should Everton add another central midfielder, Davies spot in the side become a bit more tenuous.
In fact, I would so far as to say that if another true CM or DCM is added Davies might (THOUGH VERY UNLIKELY) be looking at a loan so as not to stunt his growth with diminished minutes.
As it stands, however, I have Davies slotted as Idrissa Gueye’s backup in a 4-3-3, but since you don’t have 22 players in the match day squad, Davies will need to continue to assert himself as a player at both ends of the pitch.
Being flexible in what he brings to the side will make Davies that much more likely to stick around and be a regular in the 18. With players like Gareth Barry serving a special purpose, Davies must be a jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-them-all as well.
As to the question of how to best utilize the youngster in the lineup?
I think Davies is exactly the type of player who you can bring in to start midweek fro Cup matches. He’s confident enough to get the job done but brings his “high-energy style”, as you described it, to the table for every minute of every match.
After last seasons abysmal performance in the cups,I would venture to guess Koeman will rely on the engine of players like Davies to push the team through the early rounds, where they were caught last year by the likes of a sluggish Leicester and unimpressive Norwich.
Add in a hopefully busier schedule with Europa League in addition to the cups and I see Davies getting a handful of starts in the Premier League as Koeman rotates his side to stay fresh.
If all goes well Everton have 38 more competitive matches before the end of the calendar year. Davies is set to play a huge role in that, and while it may be not be as an every match starter, I have no doubt his presence will ever go unnoticed.
My lineup for Thursday’s win:
Have a question for the mailbag? Send it to us anytime on Twitter @RBMersey and @foleysthoughts....remember....anything goes!!