The flow of a season is better appreciated on a wider scale. By zooming out you can chart your team’s progress or demise over forty games or so and see the trends, the progress, and inevitable slow death of yet another season.
Sadly, without a discarded copy of a 2022/23 Sports Almunac, it leaves you following the season in real time on a macro level, like a hysteria prone Biff. This turns the slow march of a season into a veritable smorgasbord of reactions and fears, most of which never come true, yet feel terrifying at the time. So it goes that a seven game unbeaten run turns very rapidly into a three game losing run – with all the gnashing of teeth that comes with that – and then suddenly, unexpectedly into one of them Saturday 3pms at Goodison where everything just feels right. Reminding one of why they persist spending valuable money, time and emotions on a truly ghastly football entity they sometimes call Toffees.
Cue a week of overall positivity amongst Evertonia and widespread enthusiasm over the current squad, management and even moving to a stadium built by slaves. Pah sorry, that’s the World Cup next month, isn’t it?
Of course it’s all incredibly tightrope with any air of calm you may feel right now likely be eradicated by half seven Saturday evening should a debonair, finely groomed Portuguese man do what he’s paid to do. Do you care? Or do you, instead, just use Everton as a weekend distraction in a life that somehow is inching you to the grave, beset by a general lack of direction and responsibilities you never asked for but suddenly appeared like a zit on your teenage face, and usually when you had some weekend kissing plans to look forward to. And quite frankly, fuck Everton when it comes to competing against kissing plans.
Perhaps your entire week is dependent on Everton getting that three point feel-good, your one stop high stakes shot at super serotonin. Everton as an SSRI but where each packet is as likely to contain something calming as much as it can contain a placebo or even a tablet of pure speed that has your heart and mind racing, and no hope of sleep until days later. A sort of hippocampus Russian Roulette where you, once again, turn up expectant, anxious, hopeful, forlorn, ritually, to take this weekly royal blue pill and see how it makes you feel. Many boast of being red pilled but until you’ve been blue pilled then truly you know shit. No not for me tonight that, just lash it in the bin mate I’m sound. Go on then I’ll do a half each with you, getting nothing off that, are you? Bang two on the head and see if that works. Got any more? Anyone we can phone for some? I know it’s 3.15am but someone is bound to be up, just bell them.
There’s not a lot unpack about Everton’s next game, away to Fulham this Saturday evening, which saves you another unnecessarily long preview. The West London outfit are back up in the top league of English football and have started the season well under Marco Silva, once of this parish. There’s no real animosity to try and tap into for the preview, Fulham are a decent club with parochial support, a sense of self depreciation amongst their fans and it is quite a pleasant away trip considering it’s in the foul hinterlands of the big smoke. It feels quite pleasant to preview an opposition where I’m not yearning for the complete eradication of their club, culture and fans in order to make the world a more pleasant place to dwell really, so its on that basis I hope they stick around for a while.
Although carrying the demeanour of a Pointin’s Milk Tray lookalike second place award, Marco Silva has no real harsh feelings from most Evertonian really. Perhaps it was too early in his career, maybe it was injuries, it could have been Everton being a shitshow that caused the collapse of his reign as Manager. He never came across as snide, looked down his nose at the club or fans, or stuck around too long. I don’t like his polo necks and sixth form sidebearns nor when he bites his bottom lip when placed on the spot, but we can put these aside when you consider the managers who Everton have made me hate. I’ve seen some comments of him “finding his level” but if our fans didn’t group together to drag Everton over the line at the end of last season that would have been a level above Everton. It’s nice to feel ambivalent about something or someone in a league full of strong emotions.
There is a faint whiff of rugby crowd at Craven Cottage but I don’t think it’s insurmountable to look past the brogues with jeans and oversized Cotton Traders top as it’s much more preferable to try hard scruffs proudly adorned in jarg Stone Island and CP Company. It may be eleven quid for a vine tomato and pesto panini but there’s a Pret-A-Manger not too far away for those who plan smartly. Sure, it might seem the type of place you’d clock Rees-Mogg clapping the lads off the pitch with a sweater over his shoulders and knitted black and white scarf but Lampard probably voted for him. We may have to endure a ruddy faced ol’ shanty from the home fans with a widespread disengagement that makes one wonder are they really there for the footie, or because they think they should be there? Travelling to the game on shire horses and whereas we have half time cross bar challenge they have half time volley the fox cub. The smell of old leather, four generations going the game hand in hand and stopping for a selfie with the local bobby who ruffles the youngest’s hair. Absolutely no dog shit to ruin your brand new trabs in. You want a takeaway? Pret is just around the corner, chum. Want me to call you an Uber to get here? Passive aggressive faux amicability all over the show. Beep beep whose alarm is that? Oh it’s fucking yours mate as you can’t wait to swing the Bentley key rings round your finger until someone comments. Absolutely no one having you off. Autumn wreaths on doors. Trick or treat! Oh chortle you’re dressed as Peter Sellers’ dracula! Want me to get you an Uber, pal? Oh that chestnut latte looks so delish! Is it from Pret? The kids are playing fucking conkers. These dark nights don’t agree with me let’s get to Dubai for a cheeky pick me up! Anyone need an Uber? I can’t smell any skunk anywhere. What the fuck is this place? I’ve been beamed up to Formby’s mothership the sneaky fucking twats. A guy with mustard chinos walked past and gives you a wave. Absolutely no one is vaping. Some tattered bunting from last year Queen’s jubilee flickers in a south westerly wind. Someone’s just turned up to the match in a fucking rowing boat. No one blinks an eye. When’s the last train out of here? The guy in the mustard chinos politely introduces himself to say you look lost and offers to get you an Uber. There’s a blue plaque above someone’s house for winning the inaugural boat race. Placid dogs with quilted jackets walking their owners. Bagel in the air. Probably from Pret. I mistakenly make eye contact and they choose to smile at me. Hopscotch is chalked on the pavement. I suddenly realise no one has called me lad for at least one hour. The guy is mustard chinos is on his phone. “It’s on it’s way right now buddy” he says. What mate? “The Uber buddy, have a beautiful day.”
No fuck that, they’re fucking aliens, get me off this planet I want to go home and someone to try have me right off. Get me a chippy that sells Chinese food as standard. The foulest Staffy eggs popped all over my brand new strides. Aggressive orange skinned women going about their chores dressed in pyjamas. Vape shops all over the show. More sodium than Salt Lake City in any of the food from an extensive range of takeaways. And that’s just all in one block. Range Rovers on tick. Or on the back of beak. Kids with less variation of outfits than Pyongyang’s rural west. Tellies so big they illuminate the pavement outside. Everyone vaping. Uber doesn’t come here and if you want one just fuck off I’m not your concierge.
Silva has signed shrewdly in the windows since taking the role and this looks to have continued into the Premier League. Most of the attention will focus around their big striker Mitrovic – who looks fresh out of GTA 4 and really into conspiracy theories – but that would demean the other players like Willian, Pereira, Joao Paulinho and Kebano that fit around him and operate efficiently in a high energy system. Those that dismiss Fulham are likely to drop points to Fulham, this won’t be an easy game.
For Everton it’s highly unlikely that Lampard will mess with the system too much so you can guess the line up with just perhaps one or two positions only likely to have any flux. One of them is on the wings where the 3 into 2 wingers thing rolls on, albeit with a late goal from O’Neill last week giving the Manager something to chew over. Another thing that may play into that is the crossing ability of the former Burnley man, now that Calvert-Lewin is back in the team. Suppose that comes under the nice-problem-to-have cliche category. Speaking of which it was really nice to see DCL back on the scoresheet and beyond that working well as part of a front press. His first goal against Palace was a direct a bounty from that particular strategy. This is the type of high octane soccer your fans like to see.
Midfield looks more like it’s previous self in the last game, so again I can’t see much change. Gueye’s making nervous by being dispossessed in dangerous positions virtually every game, but I can’t work out if that’s a readjustment to the English league or part of a take more risks strategy from the Manager in order to play through the lines. Onana seemed more confident and composed in a deeper position along Gueye last week and Iwobi is just fucking Iwobi isn’t he? As far as metamorphosis goes it’s right up there with Lidl, Terminator 2 and olives when you turn about 30 years old. Iwobi is a joy to watch through his endeavour, forward thinking, flare and creativity – and this Everton team is built around him at present. Garner, Doucoure and Davies getting minutes is useful both for depth and letting the three currently in the hot seat know there’s options should they let up.
The only other possible change is in the right back position where Nathan Patterson, or “Pafu” as he’s about to be widely known, is back from four weeks out. The flying Scotsman has been missed marauding down the right so I can’t see him being kept out when ready, yet it’s no slight on Coleman who at 34 years of age absolutely pocketed Zaha last week. Coady and Tarkowski will be interesting to watch against the confidence and physicality of Mitrovic. Mykolenko will play left back amid calls to see him develop up the top end of the pitch, which is handy when you have Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman training you most days. Give him time you bozos. Pickford shall be Everton’s keeper.
Good teams tend to transform wins into runs and runs into form. I don’t think Everton are yet a good team but it will be telling to see how they roll last week’s platform into something more tangible for this tricky away fixture. And without building Fulham too much as if Everton perform like they can then it will be just as tough a game for the men in white. A fit Everton first XI hasn’t got too much to fear outside of the usual top six teams so it would be remiss to invoke any sort of inferiority complex really. Anyone fancy a Pret?
Anyway what I’m really trying to say is just fucking get into them.