Tottenham Hotspur have won three consecutive matches over the holiday period, the only club in the league to do so, but they will find that form severely tested this weekend as they travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. In advance of that match-up, I sat down with Calvin from Royal Blue Mersey to get some very important questions answered.
Cartilage Free Captain: So, Stoke City are pretty good, huh?
Royal Blue Mersey: It was like Leicester City all over again, in terms of trying to defend quick counter attacks. And it was like the Foxes again, in how terribly we defended. I maintain Xherdan Shaqiri's goal was an attempted cross, but it was a pretty special goal though.
CFC: Everton's defense is bad. Like...really bad. I know there have been injuries and new faces, but what's going on? Is there a plan to fix it?
RBM: If there is a plan to fix it then it's about 18 months overdue. Club captain Phil Jagielka has been injured for a couple of months now, but at the same time it's not like the defensive issues have started in his absence. Our best backline is Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Jagielka and Leighton Baines, as individuals. But the collective has been underwhelmingly poor. A big part of the issue comes from the lack of leadership from the goalkeeping position - Everton are bottom of the charts for conceding from setpieces and in aerial challenges, and a lot of that is due to Tim Howard's reluctance to come out and confidently claim crosses.
Rumor has it that Roberto Martinez doesn't necessarily practice setpieces in training, and this has the fanbase foaming at the mouth. It's no surprise at all that the Toffees have the fewest goals scored from dead-ball situations, and it looks like the London Blitz when we're defending.
CFC: Speaking of some of those new faces, is Ramiro Funes Mori learning and improving or is he just bad?
RMB: I'll give him the rest of the season before I definitively say he's learning and improving. You can't forget he's a South American defender, and stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. You guys have Federico Fazio, so I'm sure you will relate. Clearances are hoofed upwards and outwards. Tackles are often made with little intent to play the ball. He is half decent at the aerial ball, but still needs to get better at positioning himself, especially in Martinez's system where teams look to hit us on the counterattack.
CFC: We talked a little last time about Muhamed Besic's bad body art, but why isn't he getting more chances? Between Gareth Barry being old and injuries, you'd think Besic would play more.
RBM: Couple of points there. Gareth Barry has actually been very good this season. The difference between once-a-week Barry and twice-a-week Barry is immense. In his first season at Everton when we didn't play in Europe, he was just as good as he is this season. He is playing that Pirlo-esque regista role where he dictates play from right in front of defence and is doing it very well. Where he struggles is when he has to backtrack at speed (trundling, in his case) because the opposition is flying the other way in counterattack.
Besic recently got his first game in forever, and it was good to see. He plays like he heard someone in the opposing team has been seen behind the stadium with his sister, and he wants to find out who it was, now. In games where we're trying to preserve the lead, that is exactly the kind of player we want on the pitch. Martinez however, disagrees. He wants to maintain playing within the system with the mindset that the XI on the pitch will get the job done, whether they're chasing a game, playing for a draw or trying to stay ahead. Which is also why his substitutions seem ill-timed, and often it's the wrong player (in our eyes) going off and coming on.
CFC: Now for a less serious, but equally important question, Tim Howard and Joel Robles are tied to explosives in two separate parts of town. You can only save one. Who do you save?
RBM: Walk away, hands in your pockets, whistling 'Z Cars'. If you can catch the bus to Stoke and land up at Jack Butland's door, even better.
CFC: Everton are 11th right now, a position that can't sit well with many of the fans. How bad would things have to get for Roberto Martinez to get fired before May?
RBM: We finished 11th last season too. I don't see Bill Kenwright firing him mid-season, so he'll get to the end of this season for sure. However, if Everton do get bought in January like we've heard, and by the end of the transfer window we're still playing like this, who knows, he could be gone.
CFC: How long will it take for Everton to concede in this weekend's match and will it be from a set piece. In case you haven't watched Spurs much this year, they're going to make a bunch of near post runs. You should try to defend those.
RBM: Spurs score twice in the first twenty minutes. Once from a set piece, and once from a counter attack. I was dismayed to hear that you guys are the stingiest defence in the League. Which means we can't lose 4-3. So Spurs can sit back and laugh as Gerard Deulofeu attempts twenty-seven stepovers and then fizzes a cross right into Hugo Lloris' hands.
CFC: Finally, how about a prediction? Preferably one for this match, please.
RBM: Everton to lose 3-0, in a game strangely reminiscent of how Manchester United (back when they hadn't lost their goalpost GPS) came to Goodison and controlled the game while the Blues chased shadows all game long.
Thanks again to Calvin for tolerating my idiotic questions. I answered some questions for him, which you can find here. You can follow Calvin on Twitter here, and if you're not already following our Everton loving friends, then follow Royal Blue Mersey here.