Everton Preview: When A Win Is Worth More Than Three Points


Perhaps the depth of the low before the high is why the memory is so clear. The end of an already waning title challenge in 1987 came on a damp March afternoon when Wayne Clarke delivered the terminal blow from thirty-five yards or more. It was his first goal for the club, I think and punctured the atmosphere the week before euphoria lifted the roof from the terracing at the old Wembley stadium. Everton went on to claim the title, perhaps this was the first real chip away at Liverpool’s dominance of the English game; Arsenal bulldozed it down in quick succession in 1989 and 1991.

Clarke was the youngest and last of a footballing dynasty of sorts. Allan was the best known of the brothers to play the sport professionally – Frank, Kelvin and Derek the others from memory – and most successful although Wayne didn’t come out of the game too badly either; a League champion, a couple of other promotions with some of the West Midlands sides around which his family seemed to congregate.

Football is heading back toward that time. Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton are in the top five, if only Manchester City and Chelsea would make more of an effort to finish in 21st and 14th as they did in 1986-87. All credit is due to Manchester United, who by contrast are desperate to plummet to the 11th place they so comfortably occupied for any number of years before the Premier League came into existence. The top flight was very different in those days, almost half of the members then are in the lower leagues, some have endured spells of non-league football; Luton still do. A quick flick through the record books shows The Hatters were third at the final whistle following Clarke’s goal. It brings into perspective their fall.

It was another world. A time when huddling around a small transistor brought news of the FA Cup Third Round draw, a day that was once pivotal in the season is now relegated to an afterthought and today takes place ten minutes after kick-off at The Emirates. Little wonder the Football Association struggles with its crown jewel’s reputation; they cannot even make the third round exciting any more.

All that is an aside from today’s main course but you can’t let it pass either. Where do you start? We might have hoped for City to drop points at St Mary’s – they won’t be the first nor the last of the top five or six to do so – but combine that with Chelsea and United losing? Did your lottery numbers come up as well? United stand closer to the bottom three than they do the top of the table. The top four is seven points away; that is beginning to look a tall order with five teams needing to accumulate fewer points over the rest of the season. United won’t retain their title, no matter how much they spend in January but they will feel better about themselves come New Year’s Day; the fixture list is quite kind between then and now.

Arsène is unhappy about televisions influence on the fixtures but has that any merit this week? What is the difference between kicking off at midday next Saturday than 3pm? Surely he is not complaining about a nine-day rest between City and Chelsea? He is laying the foundations for deflecting criticism of the squad in the worst case scenario. The media have been teed up for how much hard work his players have put in but the cycle of football in England is an impediment to success. He has used this tactic before, notably with The Invincibles when Manchester United and Chelsea had ended aspirations of a treble and Liverpool loomed.

A lot has been said recently by Arsenal players about traditions, how they respect the club’s history. Arsène came up with the most traditional of English solutions to his perceived problem; a committee. Very Establishment Club. Nothing will change, traditionalists argue it was not an impediment before, perhaps the quality of players has dropped. Perhaps indeed. Maybe there is a problem and I have long advocated a winter break with a reduction in the top flight to 18 clubs. Fifa wants that, hinted they may enforce the notion but as with everything Blatter, long on words, short on action. 

With City and Chelsea their next opponents, a win today will see Arsenal remain top of the Premier League once the final whistle even if they lose both of those fixtures. It isn’t that defeat does not matter, of course it does and it will hurt with a seven point lead reduced to the flimsiest of margins. But the pack will not have overhauled them if they take three points from the next nine; there seems something significant in that end result. We have seen in recent weeks how quickly gaps can open as soon as they have been closed. If indeed they are closed. Imagine a win, seven points ahead and then taking four from the next six. Imagine, dare to dream.

Let’s win this match first.

Roberto Martinez has taken the obduracy of Moyes Everton and added a more ready disposition to attack, the combination of strong defence and attack more reminiscent of the School of Science than before. The rewards have been reaped; Chelsea and United have fallen at Goodison whilst their only defeat came at the Eastlands. Winning at Old Trafford for the first time in two decades was probably the best preparation as they seek to repeat that at Arsenal for the first time in Arsène’s reign. The problem they face is an Arsenal side which is itself in scintillating form; Theo Walcott referred to it as the strongest squad during his seven years at the club to put this season into context.

Whilst Everton put United to the sword, Hull were falling to the same fate at The Emirates. It was a much-changed side that took three points for Arsenal and it will be surprising if today’s starting line-up is not more in step with that which won in South Wales last weekend. Carl Jenkinson retains his place but that would be the only change I imagine for kick-off. Oh, for another early Arsenal goal to settle this game down. If Wenger were to tinker around the edges, respite may come to Aaron Ramsey with Flamini dropping in or Wilshere sitting deeper to allow Theo Walcott to start. I am not sure the latter will happen, with the midweek trip to Naples offering a better opportunity for Walcott’s pace to be exploited on the counter-attack.

It leaves the line-up as:

Szczesny; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey; Wilshere, Özil, Cazorla; Giroud

And that XI is good enough to beat anyone in the Premier League; a focussed Arsenal will deliver that win.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

223 thoughts on “Everton Preview: When A Win Is Worth More Than Three Points

  1. Not the result I wanted but considering how Everton played, one I will gladly take. I agree Gibbs could have done more to block the goal but seems harsh to single him out like that.

  2. Koscielny rightly getting a lot of praise but I thought Mertesacker was absolutely brilliant too – in the first half we had periods where we looked all at sea but those two at the back looked in control of everything, the fact Szczesny had to do so little despite 35 minutes of Everton dominating the game was in no small part down to the two of them, great partnership.

  3. A game that proves just how tough the league is.

    I thought Martinez got his tactics spot on , especially first half. Theo for Santi at HT for me. Cazorla is strangely out of sorts right now. Here`s the news – almost continuous football & travelling does that to players.

    The disappointing thing was obviously to concede after taking the lead. Gibbs at fault there IMO.

    Stand outs were the centre backs & Ozil. He must shit class, that boy.

  4. I think that’s a bit harsh on Gibbs. The entire team was at fault for the build up that led to the goal. Barkley weaved through the defense fat too easily to spray the ball out wide for the cross that preceded the goal. Sure gibbs could have done more, but sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a player that scored a great goal.

  5. Gibbs had two players to cover with no-one helping him on the overlap, in hindsight I would have loved him to have been tighter but that may have put Barkley in.

  6. From up in the Gods where I was sat it was a fair result.
    Seen games like that many times in past successful campaigns.
    Can’t win them all.

    Next game please.

  7. Great game, we met a team today at the top of their arc. I would say that this is probably the toughest game we’ve had all year, tougher than the defeats to Dortmund and Utd imo. Everton were excellent as were we, started the day 4 points clear, now 5 COYG. Still much more to come from this team hopefully the pressure of the fixtures over the next two weeks can bring the best out of us.

  8. Two points dropped. Feels a bit like a chance wasted, similar to the ManU loss.

    A title winning side gets all 3 points at home against Everton, just ask ManU in April 2012 after their 3:3 draw.

    So this makes the next two more tricky.

    Normally we can match City. We taught them a lesson in the preseason, and had a draw last season. But it will be difficult physically after Napoli, so I expect no points over there.

    Chelsea? I fear another tactical contest which we are likely to lose due to an odd defensive mistake.

    Sounds a bit like dooming, but here we are. Hope Arsene and th team prove me wrong.

    Is it me or does Arsene alway prioritize CL?

  9. That final attempt by Giroud deserved more for the work. Still, fair result and on to the next one.

  10. Great preview Yogi. Thanks

    Draw was a fair result. I thought that our defense was superb in the first half when they were playing so well. The CB pairing is truly awesome right now. Made Lukaku look pedestrian. Disappointed that we conceded the late goal but that was a really well taken shot and surprised Wojo that it came so fast. I thought he would drop it out wide rather then shoot.

    I still think we need more scoring from our CF to really take us to the next level. We have threats all over the park now but when you play a single striker that person should be getting tons of chances and scoring a lot given the quality of our midfield. Add a high scoring striker to this team would make us really special. IMO.

  11. Nice comment that (Moe 7.07) by Martinez – always liked the man, and good luck to him.
    Think Santi needs a couple more goals. He’s not smiling when he plays like he did last season; and shame for Giroud at the end.
    Hindsight etc., but Nacho instead of Mozart, with Rambo to come good? No matter.

  12. Kos and BFG were absolutely brilliant today I thought. Best pair of CB’s in the league by some ways IMO. The defense as a whole was excellent and they almost saved us again. I was quite frankly surprised that we conceded that goal but it was a well taken shot. Gibbs perhaps could have been a bit closer and prevented him from getting such a clean strike from that close to goal. No chance for Wojo when its coming that fast from close range.

  13. I think because there is such a small time period to prepare for the City game we will struggle. More realistically we have a better chance of beating Chelsea because there is alot of time for preparation.

  14. that was a tough game..
    nearly showed champion form and knicked all 3 points we didnt deserve….

    still think we need to add a quick and skillful finisher to the ranks..put these kind of games to bed..

    everton were excellent but we had a few one on ones and couldnt put it away..not enough shooting from outside the box either..too much trying to walk it in..made things hard for ourselves for all evertons possession and passes we could have been 3-4 up before they scored..

    dissapointed in their goal as well…i know it was a thunderbolt but if chezzer stands still he saves it..too busy diving for the cameras it went straight through him..dont need to fall over when its straight at you ive no idea what he was doing – other than diving for the cameras..

    but other than that..good point..good weekend really..settle for 2 draws from next 2 fixtures to keep the big teams at arms length then we take saurez off liverpool in january and pull away totally with nobody stopping us..

  15. Ponyboy, it was Lil Mozart’s well weighted pass over the defence to Walcott that caused our goal. I think all 3 subs proved right.

    the positive is that it was perhaps a very small error on Gibbs’ part by not coming tighter or covering slightly further to his left with Rosicky positioned on his right. That was in hindsight maybe just a slight error that gave a moment of space for what was a piece of brilliant play for their goal. Slight errors will happen in real time… We are cutting out the big mistakes in defence which provide the opportunity for easier goals (touch wood!). The defence overall were excellent.

    Some rotation for Napoli please. Ramsey needs a rest and Walcott to start as Napoli will certainly need to attack from the off.

  16. Good Morning,

    There was a sense of disappointment when Everton equalised which is only natural, but it has to be admitted that Everton deserved a point.

    I was impressed with their ‘closing down’ which really disrupted our passing game and frustrated our playmakers. It also highlighted our own rather poor closing down which has been so good in recent times.

    But football is not played by robots, at least it is still played by human beings in the Premier League (mostly) and we are all capable of not quite getting things slightly wrong on occasion, that’s just the way it is.

    Roll on the next big game on Wednesday! 🙂

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