Fellaini absence will help Luiz mop up
Pat Nevin reckons that without their big-haired talisman Everton will struggle to beat Chelsea and their own mane man
It used to be standing joke at BBC Radio that when erstwhile summariser Denis Law was asked for a prediction on a Manchester derby, standing with a foot in both camps led him to answer every time: "Draw!" When Everton play Chelsea at home today, the temptation for a current Radio 5 Live regular, Pat Nevin, must be to do the same but, as we shall see later, it is one he resists.
Nevin's deep affection for both his former clubs is warmly reciprocated, so much so that within the past month he has done a lap of honour, with characteristic embarrassment, at Goodison and Stamford Bridge. Each set of fans appreciated the little Scot's endeavour and trickery on the wing; most were happy to welcome someone who defied the stereotype of the thick footballer.
The decade in which he dribbled his way to prominence with Chelsea (1983-88) and Everton (1988-92) might be a grim one in the English game – a time when, in his own words, "not one [creative] No 10 was generally allowed in the team because that was thought to be a bit flighty". Now Chelsea often field three in Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, one of the reasons he enjoys watching them.
It has been a rewarding experience since the team began to trust Rafa Benitez, winning six games out of seven and scoring 26 goals. A turning point may have already been reached just before the departure for the Club World Cup in Japan, but Nevin believes that trip was ideal for the latest new manager: "Like any tour, it can go both ways. It can be dreadful and destroy the spirit, but mid-season, when it's difficult to get to know people with so many games, that's just what he needed, the opportunity to really get to know them as people."
Nevin can be provocative, for instance predicting pre-season that Fernando Torres would score 20 goals; David Luiz could be the best central midfielder in the world; oh, and Everton would finish fourth in the Premier League.
Of Torres, Nevin insists: "He's a top-class goalscorer. He lacked confidence a bit but I've not gone along with the line that he's past it. He will need help up front and I suspect Chelsea will be signing somebody in January. There are games playing up front on his own where he's been knackered, because it's by far the hardest position. Yet people think because you cost £50 million you shouldn't get tired."
Nevin has always had even more faith in Luiz, which has earned him more than a little ridicule. "He's got everything," he says. "I did a bit of research and found his original position was centre-forward, which explains why he maybe doesn't defend that well. But instead of sitting there saying [in an Alan Hansen accent] 'He can't defend', look at his strengths, which are quite extraordinary. You don't get to become captain of Brazil for nothing."
He is equally forthright on Frank Lampard: "I just don't think his time's come yet. I'd be really disappointed if he left. When the legs go, he can sit back and read the play really well."
As for Everton, if affection stems from his four seasons there, including the emotional Merseyside FA Cup final of 1989, his admiration owes much to David Moyes, a team-mate with Celtic Boys Club further back. "It's unbelievable to me that the Chelseas, Man Citys, Tottenhams have changed managers so often and not got David Moyes. Silly.
"I've been asked probably the last five times Chelsea have sacked their manager who I'd take, and every time I've said David Moyes. I'd be gutted for Everton if he left, but if Man United have got any sense he will be the replacement for Fergie."
Traditionally Everton have started the season badly, yet reaching the halfway point this time with only two defeats – at West Bromwich and Reading – suggests Nevin's August prediction of fourth place (he had Chelsea third) may be more than wishful thinking. "It's the first time I've said that and I've seen nothing to change my mind. They need to keep [Marouane] Fellaini, [Nikolai] Jelavic and [Leighton] Baines all fit, but they've got a bit of back-up and now the squad is good enough.
"You could hardly have two clubs more opposite in terms of organisation and style. Everton have the same manager for ever and don't have a lot of money, Chelsea have loads of money and change the manager every two minutes. Style-wise, quite different as well but both effective – Everton's effectiveness has been fantastic."
A draw today, then? No. Nevin believes the absence of a key player may mean that on Match of the Day 2 tonight he will be analysing an away victory: "I was so excited looking forward to Fellaini against Luiz, I thought that would be joyous. I'm gutted by Fellaini's suspension, but purely because of that I'm probably slightly edging towards Chelsea."
Nevin the Double Blue
Signed from Clyde for £95,000
241 appearances, 46 goals
Honours: Second Division winners 1983-84; Club player of the year: 1984, 1987
Signed from Chelsea for £925,000
151 appearances, 21 goals
Honours: FA Cup runners-up 1989
Everton v Chelsea is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm
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