Dec 172014

Every week, the ECHO gets the views of an Everton fan to gauge the feeling among supporters of the week that’s been and the week ahead.

Today we speak to Ed McCosh from the Everton Aren’t We? fansite about the Toffee’s victory over QPR, the Premier League clash with Ronald Koeman’s Southampton and Kevin Mirallas ‘ fitness concerns.

Everton got back to winning ways on Monday, but the atmosphere was unconvincing at Goodison Park. What did you make of the performance? Have the Blues turned a corner?

It would be incredibly naïve to believe that Monday’s victory over a QPR side that have lost every single one of their away games this season, including against League Two side Burton Albion, marked the end of all of Everton’s problems. In fact, there didn’t seem to be many differences between it and the vast majority of the Blues’ performances this season – measured and yet sometimes frustratingly pedestrian. The clearly audible boos that pierced the silence at Goodison Park on Monday were a sign that a number of fans still don’t trust the system Roberto Martinez has put in place, despite Everton being in total control of the game. In part though it was a matter of frustration, because many fans are still waiting for the swashbuckling side that took the Premier League by storm in March and early April to come sauntering back. Not keeping a clean sheet against a completely toothless QPR did not ease home fans’ fears either.

However, after a few games in which goals were few and far between, Everton resumed their duty of hitting the net with satisfying efficiency and, in Ross Barkley’s case, in spectacular style. The corner may not be well and truly turned off the back of Monday’s comfortable victory, but it could provide the starting point for a run of form that could see Everton heading in the right direction in the table.

Kevin Mirallas left the field with what looked like a serious injury, but reports suggest he could be available for Saturday’s game. How important is he to the Everton team?

Such is the importance of the Belgian winger that home fans were on the edge of their seats for the only time on Monday night as they watched and waited for him to stand and continue. Alas, it was not to be, and Mirallas was forced to give his standard ovation to the fans from a stretcher, but the man himself later claimed that the injury will not set him back for more than a few days. Despite that, it would be a shame to see Mirallas miss the Southampton game on Saturday, even if the fears of another lengthy absence have been assuaged.

Aiden McGeady did very little to suggest that he could fill in effectively for the talismanic Belgian, despite floating in the cross that Steven Naismith converted for Everton’s third against QPR. The Irishman has exasperated more than he has excited in a blue shirt this season, and with concerns over whether Steven Pienaar still has the ability to affect a game, the choice of wingers sans Mirallas does not inspire confidence.

Mirallas has been lauded for his skill, speed both on and off the ball, and ice-cool composure when put in on goal. For these attributes he is matched by few in an Everton shirt, and that is why the winger is central to any ambitions the Blues have this season.

Ross Barkley played in a deeper role alongside Mo Besic in the Everton midfield on Monday. Do these two young men have the maturity to perform in the centre of the park for the Blues?

Both certainly proved themselves on Monday night. Barkley was at his buccaneering best, providing the vital forward movement that has on too many occasions been missing from the midfield. Besic, who it must be said was also composed and positive on the ball, left as much an impression on the home fans as he did on Joey Barton’s leg with some robust yet perfectly timed tackles. Barkley had neutrals concerned with the future of English football purring, while Besic’s combative style was a welcome shot of nostalgia for those who thought the art of tackling had been consigned to the past.

However, there were times when QPR midfielders were finding it much too easy to penetrate the Everton midfield through the middle. As Barkley and Besic went to press high, gaps appeared behind them – ones which normally you would see Gareth Barry sitting in to halt the flow of any attack. Both have plenty to learn and would probably benefit from playing alongside Barry or the perfect safety blanket that is James McCarthy, but Ross Barkley and Mo Besic both proved that they could be proficient in the deep midfield position which in this system forms the crux of Everton’s play.

After a wonderful start to the season, Southampton have lost five consecutive games. What do you make of Koeman’s men? Are you confident Everton can get a result?

Amidst the hype of a team unexpectedly roaring out the blocks, many seemed to forget the tried-and-tested formula that is endemic through every English division. Every team at certain times will hit peaks and troughs. For instance, Burnley are currently on a hot streak, but to claim in mid-December that their relegation fears are fading in any way would be premature to say the least. Southampton peaked early, and are now in the period of the season that will truly define their ambition. Every side must go through a poor run, but it is the speed with which they redeem themselves that show the measure of the team.

Ronald Koeman’s Saints would have been content with defeats to Man City, Arsenal and Man Utd, had it meant bouncing straight back against Burnley and League One outfit Sheffield United in the Capital One Cup. Unfortunately for them, it was not meant to be, and the fifth straight defeat saw Southampton relinquish a serious chance of silverware.

Despite their poor form of late, Southampton have not given up on the positive style of play which saw them keep up with Chelsea at the Premier League summit in the embryonic league table. Their play still utilises dangerous wingers Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mané, while Nat Clyne and Ryan Bertrand providing support on forays into the opposition half. Graziano Pelle is still more than capable of scoring important goals, while Shane Long is hungry for more goals after opening his Saints account against Leicester.

It is still worth being wary of the fact that this side put eight goals past Sunderland earlier this season and have the firepower to put the Everton defence under serious pressure – something QPR were never able to do despite being given plenty of opportunities. What could be the decisive blow for Southampton is the absence through suspension of midfield anchors Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin, when conversely Gareth Barry will return to add another option to the Everton midfield.

Without Wanyama and Schneiderlin providing a fulcrum it is hard to see the Saints keeping Everton at bay with the same success as in the 2-0 win at St Mary’s in April.

The Blues were straight out of the hat on Monday in the Europa League draw. What do you make of opponents Young Boys?

Naturally, every side in the knockout phase of the Europa League will provide a challenge, and Young Boys are capable of more than making lazy pun-makers giggle. The Swiss side defeated Rafa Benitez’s highly-rated Napoli side 2-0 at home in a performance identical to compatriots Basel’s wins when hosting Chelsea and Liverpool in the Champions League.

Evidently, Switzerland provides more of a battle for tourists than its neutral nature would suggest. Ex-PSG striker Guillaume Hoarau provides the main goal threat in the side that scored five goals in two Europa League ties against Liverpool two years ago and beat Tottenham 3-2 in the Wankdorf Stadium two years before that. What is telling, though, is that both Liverpool and Spurs both overcome the Swiss outfit with 5-3 and 4-0 victories respectively.

Despite their ability, Young Boys were still one of the more favourable opponents in the unseeded pot. Holders Sevilla were avoided, as were Roma and Ajax as well as potential trips to Ukraine and Turkey to take on Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Trabzonspor. Long-awaited revenge on Villarreal will also have to wait until a later round.

It is true that Everton, seen by many outsiders as one of the clear favourites to lift the trophy in May, could have taken on and beaten any side in the pot. No matter how tough the away tie could be in Switzerland, Young Boys may have a serious fight on their hands not to go the way of Wolfsburg or Lille in what will hopefully be an electric atmosphere at Goodison on February 26.

It isn’t an easy tie that could see complacency seep in, nor is it the sort of fixture that brings Everton’s progression in the competition into serious doubt. For that reason it is the perfect tie at this stage.

Any other business?

To see how different the Everton of 2014 is to its predecessors, take a look at Monday night. The most lethal full back partnership in the league at the back, and Ross Barkley not even causing fans to bat an eyelid as he started and starred. Throw in Mo Besic, Arouna Kone and Champions League winner Samuel Eto’o all featuring alongside each other at the end of the game, with Roberto Martinez having the opportunity to take off a £28 million striker before the final whistle, and you can see how much the club has changed even in a short space of time. I can’t help but be excited at what 2015 could bring.

Want something else to read? How about ‘Grievous Censorship’ By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed’s Blog

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