By Dave Downie
Sometimes in life you surprise yourself on rare occasions. Yesterday was one of those instances for me following another Everton defeat to-nil.
Typically I’m foaming at the mouth and ready to unleash hell on our post match podcast, much in the same manner as after Thursday’s efforts against Atalanta – don’t worry, the fume is coming, just on something else.
But as Romelu Lukaku proved himself to be even more of an idiot than what we all first thought, my feeling was one of sympathy towards the team.
For those ready to turn away, I assure you that by no means do I regard any 4-0 defeat inflicted by any team anywhere near acceptable for Everton and it should be more than fair game for the harshest of critiques – I’m normally at the front of the queue with my pitchfork at the ready.
But if we’re honest, even the most hardened Man United supporter would surely admit the scoreline flattered them, and up until the 83rd minute, Everton were in the game and probably should have levelled had they taken one of their chances.
It’s often one of the first things mentioned when a team has been struggling like we have – missing chances is one thing, but failing to create them is as bad as it gets. Everton had one shot on target in their previous two league games against Spurs and Chelsea; against United they had three and should have scored from two of them.
Again, please don’t read this as me lauding that as any sort of achievement, but simply put it’s a start and something to work on.
One of the recurring themes of the last few weeks and something asked regularly by Blues on our podcasts is the theory that Ronald Koeman has “lost the dressing room”. Whilst this has been dismissed by some, I think the team had sunk as low as to say that argument might actually have credence taking the three games preceding yesterday.
However, I didn’t see that same level of gutlessness or cowardice at Old Trafford. I saw a team with no confidence at all, in a system and shape that clearly doesn’t work, actually show some heart that fought.
Of course, that can and does mean very little as it does nothing to address the tactical ineptitude of the manager. But fact is Ronald Koeman is going nowhere as manager, so to see players putting in the absolute bare minimum requirement of effort is at least one minuscule positive given the distinct lack of it in recent weeks.
I was ready to leave it at that ahead of four must-win home games starting on Wednesday against much lesser opposition. However, Koeman’s comments in his post match press conference left me infuriated.
“It was nice because I read the programme of United, and my colleague (Jose Mourinho) talked about Everton and spending £140million and that we need to go for the top four.
“Sorry, but if there’s anybody who sees something in here that is realistic and is possible for this Everton, please come up.
“Be realistic. Let’s talk at the end of the season. I’m not happy with how we started the season, but please be realistic about Everton.”
We’ve been here before haven’t we?
In the years I used to frequent Finch Farm, David Moyes used to regularly be stood with his dampener ready to quash any expectations that Everton might smash through the immovable ceiling.
“Most seasons we’ve tended to finish sixth, seventh or eighth and if you ask the people who know football they would say that´s about as good as Everton can do.”
Talk like this from a manager sickens me.
Mark Hughes was mouthing off ahead of the season saying how he thought Man United have a great chance of winning the Premier League.
That’s the manager of a team competing in the same league for the same trophy.
Whether it be realistic or almost certain to happen, the manager of any club should be the last person to tell you what your club can not achieve.
What’s the point?
Fans, pundits and everyone else can sit here and debate it all day long, but having the person charged with doing the absolute best he can for your club tell you that he believes they can’t achieve any particular goal is a complete and utter disgrace, regardless of how realistic it may be. What message does that send out to the players?
Say nothing on the matter and get on with the job. – there’s plenty of people, like me, who will tell you what this team can or can’t achieve.