While the winds of disappointment swept in to L4 last night to ensure Everton’s Premier League game with Crystal Palace did not go ahead, the postponement may well signal winds of change at Goodison Park.
It may seem as though the only party to benefit from last night’s cancellation was social media star Richard Wee. Yes, the man who flew all the way from his native Malaysia for his first ever game, only to see it postponed was lucky enough to meet Roberto Martinez and Leighton Baines, and you weren’t. He got to meet them, and you didn’t. Life’s unfair, get over it.
But rest assured Everton look set to come out on top.
Club officials will speak with the Premier League today to thrash out a rescheduled date for the fixture and while until then it’s a matter of guesswork as to when the game will be rescheduled for, the postponement will undoubtedly work in Everton’s favour.
For a start the apocalyptic weather that has plagued parts of Britain for the last couple of weeks is likely to ease the longer the game is postponed. Social media was alive with accusations of ‘the players don’t fancy it’ and if the majority of fans were being honest too, they probably didn’t quite fancy it either. Watching Everton is great, and we’re all prepared to ‘take one for the team’ but I’d hate for that ‘one’ to be a chimney stack to the head.
But more importantly the postponement will give our recently depleted squad a chance to return to full strength. The likes of Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu have all featured since their respective injuries but the trio need more time to reach peak fitness and as we saw in the case of Barkley against Aston Villa, the 20 year-old was admittedly not ready.
Our lack of fire-power has been the topic hot on Evertonians’ lips in recent weeks, and not just since Romelu Lukaku’s derby injury. The Belgian has been Everton’s main source of goals this campaign, but even these started to dry up well before Christmas. Lacina Traore has been brought in to help bear the goal scoring cross borne by Lukaku but a hamstring strain has prevented Blues getting a glimpse of the towering Ivorian (although he wasn’t difficult to spot on the bench at Spurs).
As such our options in attack have been limited to Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith and while I don’t think any Blues can say the pair have let anyone down, we’re all aware of the limitations involved. Mirallas cannot lead the line in the way an Everton striker in Roberto Martinez’s set-up is expected to: to be strong and powerful, with a predatory, first-touch instinct in front of goal.
Naismith has shown glimpses of a neat and intelligent forward and has scored some important goals in Lukaku’s absence but the Scot looks far more suited to playing just off a centre-forward of some stature, making a nuisance of himself and taking up positions between the lines. And as the Spurs display showed us, he cannot last 90 minutes in that furthest-forward role.
There were murmurs that Traore would be involved against Crystal Palace, but Martinez stated upon his arrival that he sees the Ivorian ‘ready to help the team’ in the final 9/10 games of the season. Lukaku on the other hand is expected to be back for the visit of West Ham on 1st March and with Traore likely to play some part against Swansea and Chelsea before then, just two games separate an Everton still licking their wounds and an Everton ready to go ‘eye-to-eye’ with anyone in the Premier League (yes, it is one of my favourite Martinez-isms).
The only argument against the postponement would be Aiden McGeady who was due to start in place of Mirallas last night. As opposed to returning from injury, the Irishman’s banishment from Spartak Moscow at the end of his time in Russia meant he arrived at Everton ‘carrying’ a bit if you catch my drift (or midriff?) and as such he would have been one of the few beneficiaries of a full ninety minutes.
Moving away from injuries, the postponement removes the need for recuperation time between now and Sunday’s FA Cup showdown with Swansea. While the importance of the FA Cup to Evertonians needs no justification, it’s obvious how seriously Martinez is taking the competition.
Not only would the Catalan make history as the first manager to retain the cup with a different team should he go all the way with Everton, but with Liverpool occupying 4th place in the league with an eight point advantage, and Spurs now standing in our way, that first day promise of Champions League qualification looks more and more unlikely. The top four is now Liverpool’s to throw away, whereas FA Cup success is firmly in our own hands.
And with Swansea travelling some 165 miles to challenge for a place in the quarter finals following one of those infamous ‘wet and windy Wednesday nights in Stoke’, it will be the fresh legs of home vs the weary feet of South Wales.
While Britain has been battered by hurricane-like storms, Everton’s injury crisis looks set to find calmer waters and the winds that brought play to a stop yesterday may well give the Blues the lift they so desperately need.