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The Daniel Mckeown Column
Columnist: Daniel Mckeown


Better than last year
11 January 2006

 

Well, its over.  The pantomime that the FA call the Christmas period and that ever-so-nervous Third Round cup-tie are both behind us now... and yet the rollercoaster that is Evertons season continues.  And I believe the team we have now is actually better than last year, although the results obviously aren't

The embarrassment of Bolton and Aston Villa, the inevitability of the derby, we had our slice of luck at Sunderland, a performance to be proud of against Charlton, and then a performance that sums up our season against Millwall (bags of chances; cant score... and then concede).  Three games undefeated and yet we still have more questions than we do answers.

Some people would say six points and still in the FA Cup after all this is a good result and I suppose in a narrow-minded way it is.  But the fact remains, despite scoring three goals against Charlton and the apparent return to form of Tim Cahill, we still lack firepower.  It is clear for all to see and yet, a third of the way into the most important month of the season, we are told, I dont think their will be any movement at all.

Moyes has us believe there will be no signings due to nobody being available but this is an old excuse we have heard before, it just takes some spotlight off himself, having us believe he wont sign anyone he doesnt think good enough for the club.  Some people would have you believe it is because there is no money to spend where its all gone remains to be seen... but we would be here all day discussing that issue!  The fact remains there is nothing we can do about this situation other than have opinions on it.

What we can do is look at the team we have at our disposal at the moment.  Despite having one of the smallest squads in the Premiership, you will be surprised to hear we have a fair bit if competition for places at the moment.  As I have said before, we are moving in the right direction I just like to think of this year as a transitional period.

We all might be concerned about Martyns age but, if Wright was more commanding in and around his area and became more confident, he could be a great keeper and who is to say Ruddy or Turner may not save us some money?  Moyes hasnt made many bad signings so you never know.  Defensively, our strength in-depth continues to grow: despite the continued reliance on Weir, we now have competition for the centre-back slots, left-back and  although we may not have an out-and-out right-back, there are plenty who can play there Neville and Ferrari to name two.

Midfield is where we have looked weakest this season and yet, if we have a fully fit squad, we are spoilt for choice in this area Moyes already has a selection dilemma for the Portsmouth game: Mikel Arteta has been outstanding all season on the right flank; his best game for us was against Charlton.  He played in the centre in the game and was able to control it and free up space of Cahill.  I dont think it was a coincidence Cahill had his best game this season the first time he played next to Arteta again.

It was an easy decision for Moyes to push Arteta inside that week with Phil Neville being suspended.  Then, when Neville returned, he pushed Arteta back out wide.  It would be as simple as that if it wasnt for the next headache Moyes has: Leon Osman may be lightweight and lack pace but he has one of the best first touches in our team; he is constantly looking for the ball and loves to get forward.  He should really start more game than he does.

It is already getting difficult to choose the central midfield two and a right winger.  Then, you have Simon Davies who is close to returning; Lee Carsley is starting to train again; and, if needs be, we also have an international superstar waiting in the wings in Li Tie (the standard isnt very high in China apparently)!  The left flank sees a battle between Kilbane and the ever-injured Van der Meyde but I also believe McFadden still has the potential to be a great left-winger.  I will never forget one of his first games: we played Leeds at home the season they went down, and we won 4-0.  Watson got a hat-trick but McFadden was the star of the show; he tore Gary Kelly, and who ever else tried to tackle him, to pieces.  I see no reason why he cant re-discover his touch and make a great winger.

So I do believe that, in goal, defence and midfield, Everton continue to improve; they have a best XI that is very capable... there is just the problem of the attacking options where we are limited.  In James Beattie we have a striker who is quiet capable of getting 20 goals a season and he is already on his way to breaking double figures we havent had many strikers who could do that for a while!  Beattie should be given the Number 9 next season once Ferguson retires; he has already proved all his doubters wrong with his work rate and it wont be long before he starts connecting properly with those audacious/optimistic 40-yard shots he tries.  The only problem we have is: Who goes next to him?

Marcus Bent was amazing for us last year: he ran his heart out and made a huge contribution to us finishing fourth; for that alone he deserves credit.  Yet for some reason he hasnt performed this season, he doesnt seem to have the same energy any more and too many times has he been seen walking around the pitch rather than running.  He was a great signing for us, but he isnt the answer.  James McFadden wants to be a striker and he scores for fun in internationals but he is still young and learning.  He needs to learn when to release the ball and when to shoot, although it is a refreshing change to see somebody wanting to shoot from anywhere, even if too many of them are scuffed.

The legend that is Duncan Ferguson will continue to do a job for us this season although I wouldnt play him until games like Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea all the big games that we dont expect anything from.  Their superstars wont know whats hit them when they come up against the big man.  Nick Armitage said it best in his article on Duncan: Even if he has to take to the pitch on walking sticks, opposing centre-halves will still be shit-scared of him.  He isnt the long term answer, though, and as much as I wanted us to sign somebody like Nugent or Ashton the funds apparently arent available.

Who's to say the answer isnt already at out club, though?  He may have only made four appearances but he looked good when he came on.  I am talking about James Vaughan the man who wiped Wayne Rooneys name from our record books forever.  He may be young but he will be hungry and if youre good enough youre old enough.

As much as I disagree with us not signing anyone, I dont believe this team suddenly became bad because we lost Alan Stubbs.  We will continue to grow, finish mid-table this season, and hopefully go on a good cup run to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup; but cant expect too much against Chelsea..

 

Daniel Mckeown


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