Happy match day!
Very rarely have those three words struck such fear into the fan base of one club. Following losses by 3, 3 and 4 to Tottenham Hotspur, Atalanta, and Manchester United, respectively, Everton and their fans find themselves on what already feel likes a run of matches that could determine the season.
It’s not as though sub-par performances over the next few weeks will cast Everton into a League 1-bound spiral, but if the Toffees are to get the momentum necessary to win (or even compete) for silverware this season the squad needs an injection of confidence.
Run off four straight wins at home and the early season ‘struggles’ will be (mostly) forgotten, and rightfully seen as a newly formed side navigating a BRUTAL schedule.
Fail to secure full points against the likes of Burnley and AFC Bournemouth and the wrath of the Evertonians may be so loud and ferocious it could run Ronald Koeman right out of town.
Do I think that will happen?
Do I think it is a plausible scenario?
However, if you have read this column you know I tend to fall on the optimistic side of things, and this case is no different. (YET)
I have faith that Koeman, the players, and the supporters are going to come together for a inspiring, winning performance today against Sunderland and then repeat that same feat this weekend when Bournemouth come to town.
By the time
Apollo Llama Apollon Limassol enters Goodison Park next Thursday for the second Europa League group stage match, Everton will have recaptured the Toffees spirit and will be licking their chops at the opportunity to make up for the Atalanta disaster last week.
Nil Satis Nil Optimum
Now to your questions!!
Is there some magical formation that will make everything click, or do these lads need a full season to work out where they want to be?— James Ezell (@Ezell_JamesP) September 19, 2017
This question may best synthesize the mix of emotions Everton fans have been feeling since the season kicked off.
For most fans the journey from optimism, to patience, and eventually to the edge of panic, has gone something like this:
WE ARE GOING TO BE BETTER THAN EVER!!
WE ARE GOING TO BE BETTER!!
WE ARE GOING TO GET BETTER!
WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GET BETTER??
ARE WE GOING TO GET BETTER?
ARE WE BETTER?
However, the circumstances of Everton’s rise were complicated by the seemingly endless gauntlet of matches the Toffees were tasked with to open the season.
Between starting the season 3 weeks early (and only halfway to peak condition), traveling to Slovakia and Croatia in high pressure matches, and having to play:
v Stoke, @ City, @Chelsea, v Spurs, and @ Manchester United
there are a plethora of reasons why Everton have failed to live up to the preseason hype thus far.
However, NOTHING is more important (or fleeting) than confidence.
If we were able to time travel and go back to the 60th minute of the City match when the Toffees led 1-0 and remember how we felt as fans, it would seem like a different decade, not just mere weeks ago.
After shutting out an apparently impressive Stoke squad, Everton had gone to-to-toe with City and had taken the lead BEFORE the Cityzens went down to 10 men.
As of the 60th minute of that match, Everton had played 150 minutes of Premier League soccer, without being scored on, as well as having only given up 1 (amazing) goal across 4 competitive European matches.
We seemed nearly invincible.
Then Mason Holgate announced his presence and settled a ball for Raheem Sterling to easily finish off thus piercing the defensive invincibility the team had built until that point.
This left Toffees fans, and players, leaving the Etihad DISAPPOINTED with a point, a result any Toffee would have chewed your hand off for before kick off.
Since then, the Toffees have been unable to recapture the swagger they had in the first two hours plus of the league season, which is understandable when you you look at the run of matches that followed.
Without a history together the team is still figuring out it’s own personality, and without a match like this week’s with Sunderland to play on the front foot, the Toffees have been trying to gain momentum while seemingly swimming up river.
Yes, there are NUMEROUS tactical and personnel decisions that deserve critique and criticism, but the time to show progress is upon us (plus that’s why you read Adam Braun’s columns).
The Toffees have had to fight through adversity together on and off the field, situations that will only make the team stronger and tighter as the season ticks on.
However, now that the Toffees have a run of matches in which they will EXPECT to create (and finish) opportunities, it’s time to put up or shut up.
While tactics and player selection will certainly help (as will the return of Seamus Coleman and Yannick Bolasie), the change will come when the team gets their swagger back.
On another team this may take a bit longer, but with the litany of experience at Ronald Koeman’s disposal, I believe that Everton will come roaring out of their lackluster beginning and retake their position at the bottom of the Top 7.
The team will come out the other side of their brutal opening with a team unity forged from the fires of the first few weeks of hell and will be the side we all hoped we would see before the season kicked off.
Oh, and it really hasn’t been THAT bad.
Everton only two points worse off from same PL games last season. Plus we didn't have fixtures fall how they have. Perspective needed #efc— Nick Grounds (@nicogrounds) September 18, 2017
#efc claim new stadium would add more than £900m to local economy before it's even completed, creating 12,000 jobs +£94m annually once built— Paul Brown (@pbsportswriter) September 19, 2017
I’ll be honest, I am a stadium nerd.
I stalk Dan Meis.
When he throws out stuff like this:
Amazing how much noise 60,000 fans can make ; )#vikings #mnf #nfl #usbankstadium https://t.co/3omQP65BRt— danmeis (@Meisarch) September 12, 2017
I get all........
I can’t wait to see what is eventually built, and judging my the social media comments I am not alone!
Why are we the way we are?— duda (@partyypat) September 19, 2017
Do you mean.........
why are we so shite?— Paul Seddon (@paulseddon9) September 19, 2017
(Sung to the tune of L.O.V.E. by Nat King Cole)
S is for the shots we never take
H is for the handballs and mistakes we make
I is the investments made we aren’t sure if they’ll ever be repaid
T the Toffees are a bore
E is the Everton I adore
OFFICIAL: The Golden Boy 2017 award nominees. pic.twitter.com/Tq0QWE0QoU— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 19, 2017
Was Dave Lister a Everton fan or Liverpool fan?— Frankie Stillwaters (@Otis_271) September 19, 2017
- Simultaneously being from/living in the past
- Wears stupid outfits/colors
- Poor oral hygiene
- Inflated self worth
- Delusions of grandeur
Must be a red.
whats the best way to put myself out of my misery?— Verón, Derrick, Sal. (@hcsvd) September 19, 2017
I know she does....
If you want to avoid the current iteration though??
Now you can’t get out of bed to attend or watch the matches!!
Why haven't we won away in the league since January?— Shaun Gosney (@ShaunGosney) September 19, 2017
THAT is a great question...let’s see who we have failed to beat since Everton’s last AWAY victory, a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.
STOKE: DRAW (1-1)
MIDDLESBROUGH: DRAW (0-0)
TOTTENHAM: LOSS (3-2)
LIVERPOOL: LOSS (3-1)
MANCHESTER UNITED: DRAW (1-1)
WEST HAM: DRAW (0-0)
SWANSEA: LOSS (1-0)
ARSENAL: LOSS (3-1)
MANCHESTER CITY: DRAW (1-1)
CHELSEA: LOSS (2-0)
MANCHESTER UNITED: LOSS (4-0)
RECORD: 0 WINS, 5 DRAWS, 6 LOSSES
However, a quick analysis also reveals it may not be as BAD as it seems either.
A few notes:
- 6 of those matches were against Champions League sides
- The loss to Swansea was against a side fighting (successfully) against relegation.
- We played Arsenal at the end of last season?
- The 4-0 Man U loss came as Everton went for points in the last 15 minutes
Look, I am not saying that Koeman should be let off the hook for his ghastly away performances over the last 8 months, but when you look at each game individually the record makes some sense.
There is certainly room for argument that Everton should have won at least one, if not more, of those matches, but considering the Toffees had secured Europe and a large percentage of the players were on their way out the door it’s not surprising the team came up lame late last season on the road.
As for this season, while I addressed most of it above, I will reiterate the confidence it takes to go on the road against a top 4 team (much less 3 of them), and confidence is only derived from experience, something the new look Everton side is slowly building up.
As for when they can break the streak?
I think the Toffees grab some confidence in their next four matches (all at home), and then get their first road win since January when the head to Bright and Hove Albion October 15th.
@EvertonArentWe seen niasee wasnt in the u23 squad yesterday. Wednesday ??— @lex (@AlexHampo) September 18, 2017
I’m going to be short and sweet here.
Oumar Niasse has proven himself to be a hardworking, humble player who has not been deterred by being given a seemingly permanent spot in Ronald Koeman’s dog house.
He went on loan to a terrible Hull side where he immediately proved himself as a Premier League goal scorer.
Including against THAT team.
Now that Everton are light at the striker position until at least January, it is irrefutably obtuse for Koeman to keep the Senegalese striker out of the 18.
Wednesday is a perfect opportunity for Koeman to give Niasse a run.
Do I expect him to start against Sunderland?
However, if Everton find themselves in a tight match late in the 90, I can find no good reason why Niasse wouldn’t be a perfect player to come in and do what he does best: scrape out a goal.
Everton fans have trusted Koeman’s judgement, but now that he and them have all seen Niasse do what Everton have struggled to so far, score in the Premier League, it’s time to see if Niasse can continue to prove everyone (mostly Koeman) wrong and earn his way into a regular spot in the 18.
I know I will be rooting for him.
As always if you have a question for next week’s mailbag you can leave it in the comments or send it to me via twitter. @foleysthoughts @rbmersey
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