By Ian Mills
Looking back on the 0-0 result in the Merseyside derby, was that a good result for Everton?
I think you’d have to say yes. If you strip the colours away and forget about it being a Merseyside derby then a point at home against a top side, who could have gone top
with a win, is a good result for any side who are trying to finish ‘best of the rest’ (in 7th) if you will. In terms of our season, it was also huge that we didn’t get beat last week as any noises about the 17 day break and the win at Cardiff being the start of a turning point would have been squashed in an instant, which would have been not only damaging for the players & manager but also the atmosphere amongst the fans as well. Of course, the elephant in the room is that the result also stopped our neighbours going top and takes the title chase out of their hands for the time being, which for any rival can only be seen as a positive!
And in terms of the performance, lots of praise from the media for how they contained Liverpool. A good performance for you?
Again, yes. Liverpool were coming off the back of a fantastic result beating Watford 5-0 and the pre match build up was dominated with confidence on their part, that they could come and do similar to us. We all know Liverpool can score in 3’s, 4’s and even 5’s when they turn up so for us to limit them to 2 real chances in 90 mins (I refuse to count the Fabinho scramble as a chance) deserves real praise. Marco Silva had set us up to contain any creativity from the centre of the park and they were, at times, limited to long balls such was the effectiveness of our set up. Away from the defensive side we were also a threat going forward and on another day could have nicked it. The 3 substitutes all had impacts and it was apparent that each one was made with the intent of winning the game. Richarlison & Gomes in particular helped us get forward and up the pitch quicker. If Bernard was an inch taller then we’d be talking about the super sub Richarlison setting up the winner!
Looking ahead now to Newcastle, is this the sort of game Everton need to be taking 3 points in?
If you asked me 3 months ago, yes. Is it fair to say the perception of the current team has changed in that time? For me; yes. 3 months ago we were looking at how high we could finish and turning up on a Saturday playing with swagger and beating teams. Since then, defensively we have struggled and our ‘favourable run’ from December until now has seen us take less points than expected, so it would be foolish to be looking at Newcastle as a team we could brush aside. On paper there is no doubt we should be going there and winning this but games aren’t played on paper as we have found out. Coupled with Newcastle’s turn in form, this makes it a difficult game. What I will say is that if we are a team that gets has the potential to go where we want to be, then this is exactly the sort of game we should be winning, at the minute I am not so sure. If we win, it will be down to us getting it tactically right and outworking our opposition, 2 things we haven’t seen enough of (despite recent results).
Finally, Morgan Schneiderlin has returned to the side after seemingly being cast aside for the most of the season, can he be an important player from now until May?
The fact Morgan is continually given more chances by the number of coaches he has come across during his time at Everton show’s there is a very good footballer in there. The fact that Morgan is given numerous chances by the fan base, who once booed his arrival onto the pitch, further highlights that very sentiment. There is no doubt he has made a difference in the past 2 games, not only with his positioning and defensive shield but also with his presence giving Seamus Coleman more confidence to get forward, which has certainly gave out forward play more imputice. For me personally, and I don’t speak for the other blues on the show, I have seen this all before. I have seen the ‘renaissance’, if you will, of Schneiderlin, only for him to revert to type and lose the hunger, discipline and work rate that any successful premiership midfielder needs. I am however absolutely desperate to be proved wrong and if the penny has finally dropped with Schneiderlin, then we will benefit massively as a team.