Everton FanZoner Warren Doyle looks at "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" over the last 10 days.
The good, the bad and the ugly. The last 10 days as an Evertonian summed up in one sentence. A testing period if ever there was one and all the mood swings that come with being a football supporter.
So, the reference in the opening line was to the classic Spaghetti Western movie, therefore, in Everton terms, let's start with the bad. Oh the bad. What a low it was. There is no hiding from it. A crushing, embarrassing and unacceptable 4-0 defeat to Liverpool. It doesn't matter who you support, a defeat in a derby are always the worst ones to take. I cannot make a claim or argument against it, and how can you with that scoreline? On the night, Liverpool wanted it more, they out-fought and out-thought Everton. Brendan Rogers' tactics of pressing high up the pitch mixed with a ferocious intensity meant Everton could not live with them on the night. It is scary to think the scoreline could of been worse. Was it worse than losing to them in the semi-final at Wembley though? Of course not. No defeat to Liverpool is great but the result has not defined our season and has not dictated that with it our season is over, which brings me onto the 'ugly'.
Aston Villa came to Goodison this past weekend, looking to push up the table, while Everton looked to gain their first double over Villa in a season since 1987. The first half was ugly. It seemed that the derby hangover had not yet been lifted. Everton posed about as much threat as Justin Bieber in a drag car race. Barring an effort from new signing Aiden McGeady, who hit the post early on, Everton looked flat. It was Aston Villa, fresh from a victory over their own rivals West Brom who took the lead through Bacuna. It was precisely the scenario we didn't want. You had to wonder at half-time where the players where at psychologically. After the magnitude of the defeat to Liverpool, supporters rightly questioned whether the players had enough in them to get back in the game. Now to the good.
Everton came roaring out the blocks in the second half. The lack of tempo that was lacking in the first half was there in there. The Everton we were used to were back. Roberto Martinez, who had probably his first questions ask of him as Everton manager tactically against Liverpool, responded with a brilliant tactical change. Replacing Steven Naismith with John Stones and putting James McCarthy at right-back allowed Naismith to play further forward. The change was reward soon after when the Scottish international coolly slotted home after he was put through by a great Steven Pienaar touch.
Villa were unable to live with Everton and pressure mounted. When it seemed liked a draw was on the cards, Kevin Mirallas' free-kick in front of a wild Gwladys Street ensured the three points went to the Blues. Mirallas has been Everton's star man over the last few games and looks set to be a threat for the rest of the season. His free-kick showed true technical quality and could prove vital at the end of the season.
With our rivals in and around us all dropping points, Everton are right back in the hunt for European places. Just a point off the coveted fourth position gives the Toffees hope even though it seemed bleak after Tuesday's defeat. Of course it will be a huge ask, but Everton have injured players in the form of Gerard Deulofeu and Seamus Coleman returning. Ross Barkley is also nearing full fitness and Romelu Lukaku is not far off and has competition now in the form of another loan striker, 6'8'' Ivorian, Lacina Traore.
With a home draw against Swansea to look forward to in the FA Cup, a good chance to progress exists and the squad looks strong for the run-in. There were a few murmurs of discontent that Everton did not buy one or two more players on deadline day, but Martinez was adamant that he would only sign the right player and not bring someone in for the sake of it. There will be additions in the summer and clearly he has saved his spend for then. He has arguably strengthened already with the additions of the aforementioned McGeady and Traore. Adding those to the returning injured players and maybe it isn't all doom and gloom after all.
A week is a long time in football. I, as probably all Evertonians, were deflated Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning, but it is amazing what a good win can do. The rest of the season is going to be one almighty test to achieve what we want to, but we can try from a great position of strength.
Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.