WHAT’S the difference between a long ball and a long pass?
It’s a question worth posing after Steven Gerrard lit the proverbial blue touchpaper by comparing Everton’s approach in last Sunday’s derby to that of renowned agriculturalists Stoke City.
Gerrard, schooled in years of dealing with the media, knew exactly what he was doing, even if he has since backtracked slightly.
He knew that by dropping the S-bomb, Everton and their supporters would react.
And as sure as Luis Suarez is attracted to controversy, so the blue half of Merseyside wound themselves up in a lather at such an outrageous comment.
Not least with Gerrard also proclaiming that ‘only one team came to play football and win the game’.
Perhaps the mischievous Anfield skipper had grown a little weary of the plaudits being bestowed upon Everton for their more expansive game this season.
Provocative, of course. But, after a few years in which poison in the stands had threatened to overshadow the derby, isn’t that really what the game should be all about?
Everton supporters were quick to find solace in the much-coveted Opta statistics, pointing to the total amount of passes (Everton had most) the attacking third passes (Everton had most) and the chances created (Everton had most).
But, unlike baseball and cricket, football actually isn’t a game that lends itself much to numbers. Other than the scoreline.
For example, the player with the highest pass-rate completion percentage last Sunday was Phil Neville – and the Everton skipper would be the first to admit his most memorable contribution was to fall over.