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Fans Comment
Jonathan Fruin


Wasted opportunity?
5 August 2005

As a regular visitor to ToffeeWeb, I have become accustomed to reading the views of many Evertonians, and particularly enjoy the views of the ToffeeWeb columnists.  However, after Lyndon Lloyd's most recent article dated 3 August 2005, I felt it was necessary to raise a number of issues I consider to be valid.

Firstly, Lyndon claims that Everton have only made 3 noticeable signings this summer.  To my knowledge, Mikel Arteta, Simon Davies, Per Krøldrup and John Ruddy adds up to a total of four new noticeable additions to the squad (excluding the addition of Phil Neville who was purchased after the article was published).  I'm quite sure Lloyd will use the excuse that by three noticeable signings he meant three players immediately capable of challenging for a first team place, but a number of blues, me being one of them noticed the signature of Ruddy, so hopefully Lloyd will consider his use of words more in future articles. [1]

Although I'm pretty sure the excuse mentioned above is the one Lloyd will resort to, I consider it to be invalid.  My reasoning for this is to quote Lloyd 'Elsewhere in the team we have no reliable or viable back up for a 39-year-old goalkeeper.'  Further into his article, Lloyd attempts to reiterate this point when he says 'and the fact that every time Nigel Martyn dives for a ball, Evertonians will have their hearts in the mouths hoping he doesn't get injured.'  If this is the case, and as on previous occasions I can remember Lloyd and ToffeeWeb in general being overly critical of Richard Wright, then surely Ruddy has a chance of mounting a challenge for a first team place somewhere along the line, particularly if Richard Wright is as bad as ToffeeWeb seem to convey.  Although admittedly very young and inexperienced, I'm guessing that Ruddy has lots of potential/ability, considering he interested clubs such as Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United.  Surely this ability will help him, along with Iain Turner to pressure Nigel Martyn for the first team jersey, as the people at ToffeeWeb would surely say he can be no worse than Richard Wright, so therefore must be in the reckoning for League Cup games, or various other matches, considering the hectic schedule the club will have to adjourn to in the forthcoming campaign.

Admittedly Everton have hardly set the world alight this pre-season.  However, I believe it to be slightly premature to make comments suggesting that many Evertonians fear a relegation struggle, in addition to embarrassment on the European front. [2]  Lloyd says 'The painful fact of the matter is that Everton do not appear ready for the Champions League; far from it.'  I find it hard to believe that Lloyd, and other people can make this assertion from pre-season matches, as any common sense would allow us to realise that these matches are played at a slower tempo, with less than 100% effort — by this I mean players don't go into challenges etc as they would if it was an ordinary Premiership or European game.

Also, as Lloyd sees our 'underwhelming' pre-season as an indicator for the new season, I would like to point to the fact that last years pre-season was not a phenomenal success results wise.  I seem to recall a 3-1 defeat to Club America, a 2-1 loss to a very poor Crewe side who only just avoided relegation from the Championship, and a 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad.  After the immense success of last year's campaign, the point I'm attempting to make is that pre-season results matter incredibly little.  What matters is the camaraderie, team spirit and work ethic which is formed on pre-season outings.  Many people suggest that the fact these were developed in abundance last pre-season in Houston, contributed hugely, or was the catalyst for our fantastic season.

Many people are also concerned about the small nature of our squad, and how it will struggle to cope if several injuries occur at once.  Although I agree that the squad is rather fragile, I believe that credit must be given to Moyes for the reduction of injuries last season and hopefully for future seasons also.  This is because many people believe that last season we were lucky with injuries; maybe we were... but I believe that the appointment of two specialist fitness coaches has certainly helped, as well as the changes made to the team's warm-up / warm-down, along with the fact that new training methods have led to a reduction in the number of injuries sustained on the training ground. 

Also, since Moyes took the helm, the diet of the players has been adapted, as well as now being monitored more strictly.  Credit Moyes for this; it is no coincidence that we sustain fewer injuries, and tend to be strong late on in games, as a result of these adaptations. [3]  I will also point to the stringent medical induced by Moyes: so far, none of his signings have sustained consistent prolonged injury absences.  Those players who failed the medical have not been so fortunate — Moyes refused to gamble on the knee of Sean Davis; Tottenham did... and, sure enough, just a hatful of appearances later, Davis sustained a knee injury and missed almost the entire campaign last season.  Could this also be the case with Mikael Forssell?

I would like to speak about the Transfer activity at Goodison so far this summer.  First of all, despite what many people say about the efforts in the transfer market by Moyes, I believe the additions he has made to be of great quality.  Although yet to see Ruddy, I have heard rave reviews of his past performances, plus he is still young and therefore filled with potential.  Krøldrup seems to be an excellent signing; he appears to be big, strong, quick, aerially dominant, as well as being very composed in possession.  An even bigger positive is that he seems to have already begun to develop an understanding with Joseph Yobo, and therefore the two have the making of a formidable defensive pairing for the foreseeable future. 

Moving on to Mikel Arteta, I see him as a fantastic addition to the squad, and at an incredibly low price.  He is similar to Gravesen in terms of, if he plays well, Everton as a team tend to play well — the difference being he plays well a lot more often than Gravesen did — and I see him being superior to Gravesen in terms of passing ability and set piece delivery.  Simon Davies is a player who can provide us with natural width on the right side for the first time in a long time, and he fits nicely into the work ethic employed by David Moyes, which is why I see him as another great signing and a genuine improvement to the squad. 

Moving swiftly on to our newest recruit, how many people would gladly sign a 28-year-old who has been capped 52 times for England as well as playing 386 times for the club most dominant in English football in recent years?  Regardless of the name Phil Neville, he his a player of far superior ability than he is given credit for; you don't accomplish what he has without being anything but a very good player.

Finally, I would like to move on to the transfer targets posted by Lyndon Lloyd in his article.  He uses the names Parker, Sissoko, Emre and Moretti.  Also in his article he states the need for a 'top-class midfield playmaker to complement Mikel Arteta' (yes, Mr Lloyd, that's complement, not compliment, as you often state out of context).  Assuming this player is a central midfielder as you imply he is to be paired with Mikel Arteta, does this mean you wished to sign a central midfielder in addition to Parker and Sissoko, as neither of these qualify as playmakers?  Lloyd also states the requirement for a flair player.  The point I'm trying to convey is that it would be interesting to see Lloyd's preferred line up had these players signed, given the fact that it seems he wished for the signing of four central midfielders, in addition to Cahill, Carsley and Osman amongst others.

I agree with Lloyd's viewpoint that Beattie is not effective as a lone striker, and would therefore assume he wishes 4-4-2 to be the prominent formation next season — in which case, if he had his way, Moyes would have to choose two central midfielders out of Parker, Sissoko, Arteta, Cahill, Carsley, Osman, and the mystery midfield playmaker (not to mention the other central midfield options with Phil Neville now amongst them).  In my opinion, surely some of these signings would have been a waste of money, particularly as none of the arrivals would have been cheap, besides maybe Arteta, who I feel has to play quite simply due to his ball distribution and ability to dictate the play. [4]

I do agree, however, that another striker is necessary to bolster the attack and provide an effective partner for Beattie, who I feel will score goals if given the opportunity.  The starting line-up I believe is much stronger than given credit for, as I don't see many stronger line-ups in the league. [5]  A 4-4-2 formation consisting of:

Martyn
Pistone, Krøldrup, Yobo, Hibbert
Davies, Cahill, Arteta, Kilbane
Beattie + new striker

... looks pretty impressive to me, as it appears balanced, hardworking, and with doses of quality.  However, the addition of Phil Neville suggests to me that we will be playing 4-5-1 (in Europe at least) with Phil Neville playing the holding role, and Beattie upfront as the lone striker.  I cannot be sure of this until further additions are made to the squad, if any are made at all, but I do expect another striker to be purchased.

Anyway, I will be interested to see what Lyndon Lloyd has to say in response to my comments, and would like to apologise to you all for subjecting you to this piece.  I feel the new season is about consolidation, and confirming our place in the upper echelons of the Premiership.  I will be highly satisfied with a top-8 finish [6] as this would represent good progress.  In accordance with others, I also believe we have had a great opportunity this summer but, contrary to the views of numerous people, I believe it is an opportunity we have taken, without doubt, the blues are back on the rise, and the sleeping giant has finally awoken.

Jonathan Fruin


Responses:

To answer some of your points in the order they were made:

  1. I did indeed mean to infer that before the acquisition of Phil Neville, the club had only managed to sign "three players immediately capable of challenging for a first team place."  John Ruddy is clearly one for the future (confirmed by the fact that the club is looking to farm him out on loan this season) so, in an article focused on Everton's readiness for the new season and the Champions League qualifier in particular, I feel vindicated in omitting him from consideration.

    Where Richard Wright is concerned, the fact that David Moyes has publicly stated he is happy with his goalkeeping situation means that he has confidence in and will continue to use Wright as back-up to Nigel Martyn and this means that neither Iain Turner nor Ruddy will be getting near the first team any time soon.  Am I concerned by this?  Yes, but it's one man's opinion, although I will say that it is one shared by other contributors to this site as well as many other Evertonians.

  2. My suggestion that Everton are far from ready for the Champions League was not based on our pre-season performance but on my assessment of the first-team squad.  We struggled badly for goals last season and were badly exposed by teams who excel at the passing game.  With few additions to the midfield and no new attacking firepower, I see no reason to be confident that those issues have been addressed.  And, yes, it has to be said that the general lack of cutting edge displayed in the recent friendlies does add more weight to my argument.

  3. I am pleased that a new fitness and diet regime as been put in place at Everton and Moyes and his team deserve full credit for that.  Similarly, the more stringent medicals and the refusal to purchase players when there is any doubt over their long-term fitness is to be applauded.  But none of that can prevent players getting injured by bad tackles or awkward falls and the like.  It would only take a few long-term injuries (say a ligament damage, a broken bone or muscle tear) to our key players to happen at the same time to decimate the squad and have serious implications for our ability to mount a sustained challenge in the top six.  Teams playing in Europe need strength in depth; Everton do not have that.

  4. By your argument regarding central midfield, we should have two top-class midfielders and that's it.  Again, you're not taking into account injuries and the need to have strength in depth for a squad rotation system. I regard Scott Parker as a play-maker and a flair player and, had we signed him, I imagine he would have been rotated in the attacking midfield role along with Mikel Arteta, Mohamed Sissoko (who, given the comparisons to Vieira, would also qualify as a playmaker) and Tim Cahill. Osman, Carsley and Li Tie would merely be back-up players in the rotation to cover for injuries.  As we stand, we have Arteta and Cahill as the only attacking central midfield players (with Simon Davies also capable of fulfilling that role, but that leaves us weak in the right midfield). Phil Neville could play the Carsley role in a 4-5-1 but in a 4-4-2 I can only see him replacing Pistone at left back.

  5. The starting line-up may be strong (striking options aside) but, again, I go back to the issue of strength in depth which was one of the main thrusts of my article.

  6. Speaking personally, top 8 would be a disappointment, but maybe I'm more ambitious than most.  Given what we achieved with pitiful resources last season, we should have been able to strengthen the team more than we have and aimed for nothing less than top 6.  If the management team can draft in someone who can score goals and add another decent central midfielder before the transfer deadline, I would think that viewpoint would be vindicated.

Lyndon Lloyd

"Fans Comment" articles are submitted by outside contributors to ToffeeWeb. The views contained therein may not correspond with those of the site owners. Editorial policy

©2005 ToffeeWeb

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