If the majority of this Premier League season has seen the best of Marouane Fellaini, then Everton’s 1-1 draw on Saturday with Stoke City saw the worst. Not only did the Belgium midfielder enter one of his poorest displays in recent memory, but he struck out at Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross and is sure to receive a lengthy ban.
It was an undignified and unnecessary incident for which there can be no excuse made, and thankfully manager David Moyes was not slow to condemn his player in his post-match interview. If the referee had seen the headbutt Fellaini would have received a straight red card, without question, and Everton’s point could well have gone with him. To his credit, Fellaini apologised shortly after the match, to his Everton teammates and to Shawcross, but the 25-year-old has to learn to curb his temper and remove the petulance that pockmarks his game.
Fellaini’s performance against Stoke could not be described as anonymous – not with that headbutt and that hair – but the last time Fellaini struggled to effect a game in a positive way was against West Bromwich Albion, when Everton lost 2-0. On that day, with Claudio Yacob doing a sterling job of harassing Fellaini every time he had the ball Fellaini’s game was completely unsettled. He eventually wasted a good chance in spectacular fashion shortly before West Brom took the lead, and then switched off at a set-piece to let his man score the decisive second goal.
While Fellaini avoided any ugly scenes against the Baggies he still became increasingly irritated, gesticulating wildly at the referee, the opposition, his teammates – really anyone who happened to catch his eye. Shawcross was the victim of Fellaini’s frustration against Stoke. Against West Brom it was anyone and everyone, while Bryan Oviedo got an earful against Southampton for having the temerity to not be where Fellaini thought he was. And that was in a 3-1 Everton victory.
Not content with verbally lambasting Oviedo against the Saints, Fellaini spent a good 20 seconds thrashing the air, seeming to injure his neck in the process, only to spark into life when Everton turned over possession. Then, when the ball was back with Southampton Fellaini’s annoyance returned, before he ambled away holding his neck. It was a bizarre scene, one largely unnoticed but one that says a lot about the maturity of the player.
It is easy to forget that Fellaini is only 25. Having been at Everton for more than four years now, and standing as such a giant of a man, he is easily mistaken for someone a few years older. But that does not excuse such sulks either, whether it is the relatively mild kind against Southampton or the much more serious as against Stoke. Perhaps Fellaini will lose that side of his character in time, or have a crystallising moment when he gets what is likely to be a three-game ban. Then the best of the talisman can shine through again.
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