It's the game with the most played fixtures, pretty much in the history of football. It's the Battle of the Belgians, with Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke facing off. And this match brings Roberto Martinez, who had the gall to reject Aston Villa, to town once more. Yet somehow, we're not interested in any of that (well, we're maybe interested in the Belgians). Instead, we asked a few questions of Max, an Everton blogger over at Royal Blue Mersey. Here's what he had to say:
note: if you're interested to our responses to RBM's questions, check 'em out here.
Everton's first few matches didn't go so well. What's changed? And is it sustainable -- can Everton make a top four finish?
Over the first three games we were still bedding in the Roberto Martinez style, and he was still getting used to the Everton style, that meant we were over-passing at times and not utilizing the strengths that we have. The winner against Hull last weekend shows the compromise that we've got to, a kick from the keeper, flicked on by the big man, then nice touches and a sublime finish from the talent. Oh, and we've got a striker now which we didn't have early on.
Did you ever think that sending your manager to Manchester United would make your club better than Manchester United?
Not really. It is a strange one though, despite the view from outside the club that Moyes was Everton there have always been rumblings from certain sections of the crowd that he had reached his limit with us and was actually holding us back. That's not a view that I subscribed to but you can see the familiar Moyes tendencies rearing their head already, defending a lead, negative substitutions, making changes too late to have an effect. The flipside is that not everyone was convinced Martinez was the right man. It's still too early to tell on both counts but at the moment I'm happy with our lot.
Given the success the club has had, how would you rate the summer transfer window? Is this a case of good results through bad process?
Because of the way our finances are we're always prone to losing a big player late in the transfer window, it's what we're used to. Certainly this year we came out of it really well, our squad is much stronger and the first team has better players in midfield. Fellaini was always overrated, when he's not interested he might as well not be on the pitch, where as although Gareth Barry is a more limited player he's more functional and won't go missing when we need him. And James McCarthy, well I think he'll prove to be a terrific signing.
Is there any way to stop Romelu Lukaku?
I'm not sure there is. It's frustrating seeing how good he is and knowing he'll be off at the end of the season. From the first few games for us he's got everything, strength on the ball, pace off the ball, a great touch, an eye for a pass, and he can finish. I truly think we'll look back in ten years and see a fantastic career; he can be anything he wants to be.
Is Ross Barkley the real deal, or is he overhyped?
All English players are overhyped by the press in the UK. Barkley has had an excellent start to the season and Martinez is handling him well but he's not there just yet. He is a great talent, with two good feet, excellent ball control at pace, and he can see that killer pass. But there are raw edges. He needs to learn when to try the fancy stuff and when to keep it simple. And he fades from games at times. But that will all come, he's under the right manager to progress and is another player that can be what he wants to be, he just needs to keep listening and learning.
The January transfer window is starting to seem more and more real (I thought we could avoid it, but alas): what is Everton's biggest need?
There are three things we need, another striker (but we won't get one), another creative player to take some pressure off Barkley, Mirallas, and Pienaar, and a quality ball playing centre back. Arguably we can wait for a defender and striker until the close of season, so I'd say a creative player.
Is there anything you fear about Everton's visit to Villa Park?
Not really. We don't have a brilliant record there but as a team we have strength in all areas of the pitch. Benteke caused us massive problems at Goodison last season so that's a worry but with Barry sitting he may not get as much freedom. Oh, and Heitinga won't be playing so that's a bonus.
Predicted lineup and score?
Howard; Coleman, Baines, Jagielk, Distin, Barry, McCarthy, Mirallas, Pienaar, Barkley, Lukaku
I hate predictions but I'll sit on the fence and go for 1-