Going into our fourth game with Everton this season, it stands at one a piece between the sides, and, the one draw. With all to play for – read, Fair Play Table – you can be assured to see a full-blooded passionate match. We revisited the gents at www.royalbluemersey.com – @RBMersey – and got their view on the season of both clubs, as the Premier League season draws to an end. As always, a massive thank you and shout out to them for getting involved.
After a rather disappointing season for Everton, you’re now actually only 3 points behind us now going into this game. Since we last met in the FA Cup, what have you made of Everton and West Ham’s seasons respectively?
Everton’s season has been a massive disappointment. After only just missing out on a top four place last year and strengthening the squad over the summer we began the year hopeful of competing for a Champions League and maybe a decent cup run. Frustratingly they have failed in pretty much all of their objectives. No player has really shown any consistency and that has been reflected in disjointed performances often littered with basic defensive mistakes. Just when it looked like the team had turned the corner they would suffer another disastrous result. They went out of both domestic cups at the first hurdle and even though the Europa League has proven to be a highlight, their eventual exit defeat at the hands of Dynamo Kiev was a humiliating mess.
West Ham started the season impressively, with Sam Allardyce’s signings hitting the ground running. Allardyce seemed to have hit upon the perfect combination, with his side still showing his traditional traits of organisation and physicality, but now carrying a greater attacking threat. A post-Christmas slump, however, has seen your season evaporate. Injuries have played their part but the on-going speculation about Allardyce’s future can’t have helped either. And for that you have to hold the board responsible.
Aside from your previous two games, you’ve been in decent form, winning three and drawing one of your last six (alongside those two losses) – what is the feeling like within the Everton fan base regarding the season as a whole. A success, or, a worry?
It definitely hasn’t been a success, but the recent run of form – especially the win over Man Utd – has convinced most Evertonians to give Roberto Martinez a chance to put things right over the summer. Martinez has definitely made some mistakes this season but they are not the only reason why the team has struggled. I think we are all hoping this is just a blip on the road to long-term success.
Roberto Martinez. He just has not got Everton playing well, or picking up points, for the majority of the season – what has been so different for him this season than the previous campaign?
Last year Everton looked to be the perfect blend of Martinez’s total football philosophy and David Moyes’ defensive grit. This year they have looked more and more like Wigan, especially at the back. We have given away so many sloppy goals it has put unfair pressure on the strikers. Teams have also learned to play against us, especially at Goodison. They now play very narrow and sit back, soaking up pressure and trying to hit on the break. Everton then pass the ball around the pitch but with precious little incision. To give Martinez a break, he has also been unlucky with injuries as well as a number of his key players suffering from a lack of form. Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Gareth Barry, Phil Jagielka and Tim Howard have all been too inconsistent this season, with poor results an inevitable consequence.
On managers, West Ham seem destined to part ways with Sam Allardyce this summer. What are your thoughts on his position at the club? Also, we’ve been linked with former Everton manager David Moyes. Would he be an upgrade on Sam in your eyes if he were to come back to England?
Moyes would be a fantastic manager for West Ham and a definite upgrade on Allardyce. He has earned an unfair reputation for playing dire football when in fact Everton played some brilliant stuff at times, he just became frustrated at having to sell a key player and rebuild every summer. I’ve no doubts he would make West Ham a successful top 6-8 side no problem. I do feel sorry for Allardyce though as he has never really fitted in at Upton Park. He was just the man you needed to get you back up to the Premier League but ever since then I’ve felt the board have been looking for an excuse to get rid.
Lukaku is back playing again, so what are the chances he scores against us again this season? On the whole, what have you thought of his contribution to your side considering the money you spent for him?
I think his price tag has been an unfair burden and raised expectations to unrealistic levels. There is no doubting his talent and enormous potential but he has only just turned 22 – many people forget that. The inconsistencies and weaknesses in his game are to be expected at that age but he gets treated differently because he cost so much money. Despite all that he has still scored nearly 20 goals in all competitions this season and given his record against the Hammers, he’ll probably add to it on Saturday!
From an outside perspective it has almost seemed as though you’re becoming a two-man team (no disrespect meant) – but Baines has yet again provided the majority of this seasons assists for you, and Lukaku is your highest goal scorer with 9, despite having been out for some time. Is this partially the reason you’ve struggled this season, as you hadn’t necessarily strengthened your whole squad?
I don’t think it’s a case of not strengthening the squad, I think it’s key players – particularly his attacking players – that Martinez relied upon last year have either not performed or been injured. Barkley began the season with a knee injury and has had a poor campaign since, like wise Seamus Coleman who has looked half the player he was last season. Kevin Mirallas looks to have had his head turned and is almost certainly going to leave this summer. Steven Pienaar has been injured most of the season, Christian Atsu has failed to impress while on loan while Arouna Kone just looks useless.
On a scale of 1-10 how many players will jump out of yellow-card-worthy tackles in an attempt to secure the winning of the ultimate Premier League trophy…Fair Play? (There’s no trophy, sorry)
Ha, ha, If only there was a trophy I’d probably be up for it! Who knows what is going to happen on Saturday. Given both sides are at the top of the Fair Play League it would suggest there won’t be that many dirty tackles. But I also know footballers value their summer holidays and won’t want to start next season in July – therefore I’ll go with 7/10!
If you could pick one West Ham player to play for Everton who would you pick and why – I assume you’d pick the goal-scoring penalty saving extraordinaire that is Adrian?
What a crazy night that was! We could certainly do with a goalkeeper given Tim Howard’s struggles this season. I like the look of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia though to give Lukaku a bit of support. Aaron Cresswell has also had an impressive year and would be a decent long-term replacement for Baines.
What’s your prediction for the game?
Sadly I fear it will be one of those tedious end-of-season affairs with the players simply going through the motions and counting down the days until they go on holiday. The whole Fair Play/Europa League issue may give the game a bit more of an edge but I can’t see either team pushing too hard for the win. 1-1.