What a cracking match this promises to be. The self-declared brilliance of Newcastle United travelling to Everton, home of some of the best players in Europe, fasten your seat-belts and sit back for the game of the season.
Newcastle manager Steve McClaren was boisterous after our last outing, a 2-1 defeat at Watford, though from what Steve said you’d think it was at the Nou Camp:
“I thought we were tremendous, great attitude, effort and we controlled the game.”
The Tremendous 11 are coming to town.
Alternatively, recently Everton boss Martinez waxed lyrically about his team, John Stones, the best defender in Europe…:
“He’s an out-and-out defender and then for me he’s the best footballing centre-half in Europe, so he’s allowed to make his own decision and I like to back him up.”
And Gareth Barry, one of England’s greatest:
“For me, he is one of the best English players ever. He could reach 600 Premier League appearances this season. The way he behaves and the way he plays, you can build a team around him.”
And in general, the next generation of stars:
“We’ve got players, who at 21, 22 – like Stones, Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu, who if you wanted to buy them with experience at 26, then you’re talking about probably £260m of expenditure.”
While McClaren himself said:
“It’s a very, very good squad now, this window was important. I am very pleased with it.”
The reality is that tonight we won’t be watching El Clasico, we’ll be watching a team that needs to win to move away from the relegation zone, play a team that needs to win to try and make sure they stay out of the bottom three. A team that has won one league game in the last ten and only three at home all season, against a team with only five league wins this time out. So are they both really that brilliant, or where has it all gone wrong?
While both managers are hanging on to fan support for different reasons, undoubtedly both managers are painfully short of the results that were expected this season.
For Everton, Roberto Martinez has brought a more possession based and attractive style of football to Goodison Park than under David Moyes, Everton have had some decent cup runs this year and have a talented squad. On the negative side, that squad should be winning a lot more games than they are if they are as good as Martinez makes out and a losing cup semi-final can’t be an adequate substitute for a lower half finish in the league.
At Newcastle, sympathy for the man who inherited the mess left by Alan Pardew is always tainted by the realisation of big money spent on a squad which still lacks strength at the back and goals up front. We’re alright in midfield though.
At the back for Newcastle, while individual performances and commitment has generally improved as a unit, all of our players have at worst a horrible mistake in them, at best moments of hesitation or lack of concentration which is crucial.
Magpies captain Fabricio Coloccini, believes he and his team-mates are being “too nice” on the pitch – and their lack of nastiness is costing them. I’m not sure what he means by that, nice enough to let the opposition score more goals than us perhaps? The return of Paul Dummett at left back should at least mean that McClaren doesn’t attempt to change our entire playing formation because one of our least effective players is injured, he should also provide some cover for the central players who went missing against Watford. Fair enough, Ighalo’s goal was marginally offside, that still doesn’t explain why we had three centre halfs on the pitch and none of them were marking our opposition’s main striker.
For Everton, the return to fitness of experienced Phil Jagielka is a double bonus, as it probably means that liability Funes Mori won’t play, best defender in Europe John Stones should partner Jagielka at centre back. Stones came in from criticism from Everton fans, including Jamie Carragher, for a Cruyff turn in his own penalty area late in the 1-1 draw with Spurs but it is unlikely he’ll have to do anything like that against us. It’s not that our forwards don’t pressure the opposition defence, it’s more that they can’t pressure the opposition defence.
Everton: The club that represents the true Liverpudlian. According to their scarves anyway.
At full back, Coleman and Baines provide defensive cover, attacking threat and excellent distribution, even if Leighton Baines currently looks like 31 year old Leighton Baines after he’s eaten 29 year old Leighton Baines whole. A sort of Leighton Baines Russian Doll.
Both teams undoubtedly have talent in midfield and have the players to play a more defensive ‘2’ behind an attacking ‘3’. The main difference between the teams since our 0-1 defeat at home to the Blues is that we now have a player who can pass the ball in our ‘2’, as he showed against West Ham, even more perplexing that having played 4-2-3-1 all season despite it not suiting our players, now that it does, the manager changed to a 3-4-3 against Watford.
If Andros Townsend gets a run out, both him and Shelvey should bring more goals to a team that desperately needs them, Sissoko isn’t going to get many and neither are our strikers or defenders. They should also take some of the scoring pressure off Wijnaldum who doesn’t seem to want to get involved away from home, maybe now he won’t get so tightly marked as we have other threats in the team.
United’s only potential selection issues are whether to play Perez or Townsend from the start and whether Tiote, back from his mid-season holiday, or the 50/50 Colback comes into the team for Saivet, looking well out of his depth at the minute.
For Everton, serial hacker Gareth Barry doesn’t get forward much but the talented Barclay and Deulofeu (Caption for image at the top of the article ‘Deulofeu: Let me play or the dog gets it’) do and with Mirallas and Besic injured, it is likely that Aaron Lennon, too good for Carlisle at the weekend, and Tom Cleverley will make up the numbers for the Toffees.
Up front, both sides have new signings, though whether either are eligible to play is another matter. Everton have deadline day signing Oumar Niasse, bought from Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow in a £13.5m deal and Martinez has been impressed with him:
“He had a real desire to join us and we moved quickly to do it. He has been successful in two European leagues and he is going to bring something different. He has incredible hunger and he will fit into our dressing room.”
Duncan Ferguson: Are You Looking At Me?
While NUFC have Roma and Ivory Coast forward Seydou Doumbia (ED: Late Wednesday afternoon – confirmed visa in place and Doumbia can play if selected) on loan for the rest of the season, Steve McClaren saying:
“Well I know nothing about him but we couldn’t be bothered to do any proper scouting abroad or be out-bid by Southampton and Boro for a genuine goalscorer with a proven track record in England, so we took the cheapest option. He’s good on FIFA 15, so he’s better than Shefki Kuqi.”
Well ok, he didn’t say that, but if either of the strikers are in contention then they won’t displace regular frontmen Romelu Lukaku and Aleksander Mitrovic. Both are rising young stars but at the moment Lukaku is both way ahead in terms of both goals and threat.
Mitrovic will be another player who will look forward to Shelvey and Townsend making us a better attacking unit. Both teams have similar attacks, not enough goals from a number of midfielders placing too much pressure on the strikers, a pressure which Lukaku has handled, pressure with which Mitrovic grapples. He likes a good grapple does the Serb.
And so we go to Everton in with a shout of victory. Roberto Martinez said after the last home game, a defeat to Swansea where the Toffees looked ponderous:
“We were very slow in our performance – pedestrian – but two aspects affected our momentum which was the two injuries. The first half and second half performance were very contrasting. The fearful aspect of our performance was a real shame.”
Fear? You don’t know the meaning of the word, here come the tremendous 11. Howay The Lads.