I don’t really want to talk about this game. I was up for it, but it left a bad taste in my mouth after watching it. Like I had licked a damp labrador. Now that is to be expected to some degree in any game involving Phil Neville, but not to this degree. I’m not a huge fan of Everton (or Citeh for that matter) but I don’t make it my mission not to enjoy the Toffee’s games. Unfortunately it appears not to swing both ways.
Just like the nurse said to me during medication time, “you can take that two ways”: Everton don’t allow me to enjoy their games and Everton don’t enjoy their own games.
In my younger, naiver days I didn’t like Tim Cahill, I didn’t appreciate his incredible instinct, movement and heading accuracy. I, on occasion, would fantasise about him suffering. Based on that, my younger self would have enjoyed the game today.
Analysing a game requires looking at two main factors: match events and match tactics. The tactics inspire the events, and in turn the events inspire tactics. Let’s start with Everton’s tactics, and this week it’s easier than ever. Because I planted a mic.
Oh yes, I was there. Or rather my micro-mic was! I was at a Jimmy Hendrix convention (as anyone with ears and a concept of appreciation would be) when who should I run into working as an impersonator? None other than the ‘fro-meister himself, Marouane Fellaini! Always looking for an edge on the football journalism world I subtly slipped my James Bond-esque microphone in his mighty afro. What follows is an unheard insight into the Toffee’s dressing room.
12:35pm. Away changing room, Etihad Stadium:
[Lots of chatter dies down]
Moyes: Right, I want you to remain responsible at the back today. Except for you Leighton. You just go for it son, that definitely won’t bring the whole thing down.
Baines: Alright gaffer, who am I aiming for in the box?
Moyes: The strikers of course… Jesus Leighton, use your head son. You’ll be aiming for… Lemme see here… Christ! Printer’s on the blink again, I cannae see any forwards on the sheet!
Cahill: Well, we don’t really have any boss. Me and Leon have been trying, but ever since we sold Yakubu our attack has gone down the dunny.
Moyes: Aha! Leon. Of course! You’re a bit on the wee side but you’re a good striker son.
Osman: You know I’m a right winger, right?
Moyes: Winger?! What do I need that for? We already got Leighton. Tony hits them from wide as well. Jesus, you want to flood the box with long balls Leon?
Baines: So apart from literally our shortest player bar me, who am I aiming for gaffer?
Moyes: Hmm, 5’10″… 5’11″… 6’4″! Bloody hell Maro! All that barnet aye?
Fellaini: [itching his head] I… uh…
Moyes: He’s your man Leighton. Look for Richard Pryor on stilts.
Fellaini: I’m a defensive mid, I uh…break up le play, win le ball. It would be… uh…unfortunate if our only chance of le game fell to me…
Moyes: Nonsense son. We don’t need you in the middle, young Jack is genna be man-marking Silva all game.
Rodwell: All game?!
Moyes: Listen lads. It’s all about frustrating your opponent, giving the ball away in their box, not ours. About tracking runs, not creating them. No high risk balls, only long ones to unsupported midfielders up front. Got it?
Cahill: What about Royston? He’s got pace, skill, can take people on…
Moyes: But can he clear a ball? Look, alright he can come on if we concede, help us salvage something. Just, for god’s sake, be careful with the ball. You hear that Roy?
Moyes: Good, you can attack if need be. Just don’t give the ball away to Silva in space while you’re doing it. Lets go!
3:17pm. Away changing room, Etihad Stadium:
[Sound of a boot hitting a wall]
Insightful, I’m sure you’ll agree. Apparently that transcript has made the idea of reviewing the events kind of redundant. So I’ll just add a few observations about the Citizens.
David Silva (man of the match) proved his quality again, with just under a quarter of his (usually risky) passes going astray. Although City were struggling to create golden opportunities in front of goal, Silva managed a post hit. Despite his fairly consistent marker he rarely experience huge pressure on the ball unless around the box; perhaps a sign that managers are wising up to his mercurial dribbling skills in close quarters (Rodwell only made three tackles, preferring to jockey the playmaker). In one of the rare moments Silva became free he dodged two challenges and threaded a perfect through ball for City’s second, demonstrating his deadliness.
Vincent Kompany proved he is capable of dealing with long, high balls for 90 minutes. We knew that already though.
Joe Hart still needs a lot of work if he is to become England’s man between the sticks. He had an exceptionally small amount to do but was found wanting during the build up to Fellaini’s chance. His distribution is in dire need of improvement too; completing just one of the eight passes into the opposition’s half.
All in all, Premier League champions pick up wins in situations where Premier League runners-up get draws. City did just that today with quality off the bench, piling pressure on Man United after their draw at the Britannia in an engrossing battle.