Ask the Opposition

Ask the Opposition 3 – Everton

As Manchester City prepare to face off Everton in the Capital One Cup semi-final, Pellegrini will look to regather his players after their heroic win against Watford. The Blues were more than second best for long periods of the game and arguably deserved to come away with nothing. But a succulent Yaya Toure volley and hanging Aguero header stole all three points late in the game.

Standing in their way of a Wembley showdown with either Liverpool or Stoke are an Everton side who’ve only won once in their last seven Premier League matches. Roberto Martinez’s side have struggled for form recently and Manuel Pellegrini remains undefeated against them. City head to Goodison Park first in a month that will see them face off on a Wednesday three times.

I spoke to Everton fan Darren Rimmer to get latest from the Blue side of Merseyside.

Everton have caught a lot of the headlines this season. Your games have been true Barclays Premier League spectacles and your young players have earned all the plaudits. Yet when you look at the table, you sit at a lowly 11th place. Do you think that’s not truly indicative of where you should be?

Yes and no. We are only halfway through the season and there is already a handful of matches were we have dominated the opposition and should have been out of sight, only to end up cursing those missed chances. So on one hand, yes, we’ve played some brilliant, attacking and entertaining football, but ultimately you finish were you deserve to finish and us not being able to see out those matches is costing us at the moment.

Romelu Lukaku seems to have taken his game to another level this season. It’s barely January and he already has 18 goals in all competitions. It’s hard to believe he is still only 22 years old. Unfortunately for Everton, Romelu isn’t a player who is shy when talking about his future. Talk to me about his importance and whether you think you can keep him next summer.

It’s hard to put into words his importance really. Actually it’s not, without him we’d be absolutely f… can I swear on here? You get the idea anyway. He’s absolutely critical to everything we do, even more so considering we haven’t really got any back up for him. Can we keep him? If a Champions League team comes in with a £50/£60 million bid, probably not. Is there a team out there willing to spend that kind of money on him? I’m not so sure. By the way, I know that sounds like stupid money, but he really is *that* good. 22 years old, built like some kind of Greek God, proven record in the Premier League and slotting goals for fun, whats not to like?

Roberto Martinez is a manager I admire a lot. His set-up and tactics were phenomenal when Wigan beat us in the 2013 FA Cup final. Yet with him there always seems to be that final, little thing missing. Where do you stand on him?

If you were to ask all our fans, you’d get a very mixed response at the minute. From a personal point of view, I’m a big fan of his. The majority of my time as an Evertonian has been watching David Moyes sides, so to say Martinez has been (and still is) a breath of fresh air would be an understatement. At times he’s had us playing the best football I’ve ever seen an Everton side play all whilst putting together the most talented squad we’ve had since the 80’s. This is where the current frustration lies though, we all know what we are capable of with this squad and as you mentioned earlier, a lowly league standing of 11th isn’t it.

It’s fair to say most fingers have been pointed towards your defence this season. You probably have the worst keeper in the league and several injuries to key defenders have left the wonderful John Stones exposed bone-bare. Can you pin-point your defensive form down to Tim Howard and injuries or do you think Martinez has built a team that just doesn’t defend well from back-to-front?

In all honesty, I think it’s a mixture of all three. Tim Howard has quite rightly been criticised (to put it lightly) all season and the blind faith in selecting him has been one of the big, massive sticks to beat Martinez with. Injuries to Jagielka and Baines haven’t helped though and this has resulted in an inexperienced and unfamiliar back line being thrown together in front of a goalkeeper that inspires zero confidence in his defenders. Martinez isn’t without blame though, he’s continued his attacking football at all costs and all these factors have come together to produce some of the most terrifying defensive displays you’ll ever see this season. I’m still waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about that 4-3 defeat to Stoke. All that being said, you’re right though, John Stones is wonderful.

Prediction for both games?

It probably all us rests on the home match for us, and I think our players will know that. I’m going for a 2-1 win at Goodison, only for your quality to shine through and crush all our hopes and dreams, a 3-0 home win at the Etihad.

One City player you’d take at Everton?

I should probably say Joe Hart seeing as unlike our Tim, he’s a goalkeeper actually capable of catching a ball. I’m going for David Silva though, he’s just great isn’t he?

Thank you. No doubt we’ll be sick of the sight of each other come the end of January…

Nice one, thanks for having me.

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