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Fans Comment
Rick Tarleton

Those Anonymous Men!
28 December 2005


As we approach the Derby game and the transfer window, I fear for the future. It may well be that our lads will pull together and that fortune will go our way and we will survive the match with Liverpool without being disgraced.

The transfer window! "We need a striker" they say, "A hard central defender" they say, "Alan Stubbs even!" they say. I'd like to suggest that the essential problem with the current Everton team isn't the defence, or even our much maligned attack. The real problem is our anonymous mid-field.

Last season, or rather in the first half of last season, we had a midfield that protected the defence, harried the other team's midfield and even created chances and supported the attack. Carsley and Gravesen provided a duo who worked in tandem: Carsley covering the defence and winning the ball, Gravesen, at last being used as he needed to be as a playmaker as even Moyes had noticed he had been used by Denmark in Portugal.(We had wasted him for the previous couple of seasons!) This left Cahill to be a support for the striker, arriving late in the box and actually scoring goals. Osman and Kilbane managed to use their limited talents in ways that supported the team ethic.

Then Gravesen left in terms of Everton's needs in the short term, a bigger loss even than Rooney. Carsley was injured and the midfield disappeared. Now Cahill whinges and commits silly, petulant fouls; Arteta plays wide because no-one else can; Davies is peripheral to the play; Neville, who really could and should be doing the Carsley or just possibly the Gravesen job, is being played at full back; and there's no-one in the mid-field dictating play. No-one who looks as if they even want the ball.

If you were an Everton defender, full back or central defender, you couldn't look to any of the current midfield to help, cover or support you. If you were Beattie, or whoever, upfront, how long would you need to hold the ball before you were supported by the attacking midfielders? Who'd win the ball? Who'd make a decisive pass? And above all who can shoot from twenty yards or more?

John Terry and Co would be exposed with our midfield in front of them. Samuel Eto would have trouble scoring on the diet our midfield would provide. When fans start saying, "We need Robbie Keane", ask yourself who'd provide him with the ball? At Spurs with their plethora of quality midfielders: Carrick, Davids etc he has people who can give him chances. If Arteta, who's wasted on the right, doesn't provide a chance in our team who else will? This midfield, rather than our attack or our defence, is the root of our problem.

Let's get it sorted. Neville needs to be in the centre of our midfield, partnered by Arteta. Then make the best of the rest: Davies, Osman, Kilbane, even Bent will have to play in two wide roles. If Carsley comes back, then and only then can Arteta be put out on the right. The mid-field has to compete, it has to be creative and it has to defend. Reid and Bracewell; King and Dobson; Ball, Kendall and Harvey; Gabriel, Stevens, Harris; and Kay and Bobby Collins all wanted the ball. They wanted to dictate the pace and to be in charge of the game. Our present midfield looks as though it wants to hide from the responsibility.

Whoever the manager is, Moyes or whoever, this needs to be sorted now. Otherwise the defence will consist only of the back four, the attack will be Beattie and McFadden, and the rest will continue to play without touching the ball. When I watch Everton, I'm amazed at how little possession our midfield has, and I've given up expecting them to score with a decent shot. Lampard and Gerrard are great players because they have the ability and confidence to run a midfield. Their managers have built balanced midfields in which defensive responsibilities and attacking runs are co-ordinated.

The tragedy is that, twelve months ago, we had a midfield; now all we've got is four or five characters in search of a meaningful role.

Rick Tarleton


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