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Questions of a Glass Ceiling

By Mike Williams :  29/08/2007 :  Comments (27) :

Why is it that after virtually every home game I come away thinking the same things: ?what an appalling display of football?, ?we play like schoolboys?. Even when we do win, I caveat the performance with thoughts like ?well, at least we got the three points?, whilst really being disappointed in the quality of the performance. I look at my beloved team and am ashamed to think ?are we the worst footballing side in the Premiership??. Why is this the case? Well, here?s my take on it?

The long ball. Is there any evidence to show it works at Everton? Why do players persist with the tactic? Doesn?t Tony Hibbert even once think ?the last 300 of these haven?t achieved anything, maybe I should??? Why does the manager condone this tactic?s abundant use? How many times did we hit Samba in the Blackburn game? Compound that with the fact that AJ is not interested in challenging for these balls, unlike Vaughan. Mind you, in AJ?s defence, how demotivating must it be knowing that 80% of his opportunities must be created from long balls? In fact, never mind AJ, pick your favourite cost-no-object-striker and put them in the same place: would the result be any different? Not by much, if at all.

Woeful distribution. Why can?t we pass to our team-mates and build a play up? Why can?t we retain possession when we need to? Why, when the defence is under pressure do they just indiscriminately head the ball up field rather than to somebody in a blue jersey?

Support. Why do we not play as a unit? Why do we leave the attack to the one or two isolated strikers? Why does the midfield not move up to support the attack (and the defence move up to support the midfield)? The odd time the midfield has supported the attack, surprisingly, we actually look dangerous. So why don?t we do this as matter of course?

I don?t have any coaching qualifications (and isn?t this the appropriate caveat that enables us to expound an opinion on the subject?) but to me these things all appear to be symptoms of the same problem ? lack of movement. During a match, for some reason, all of our players who aren?t in possession of the ball don?t seem to realise it?s their responsibility to ensure ?an easy pass is on? for their team-mate with the ball: like getting themselves into some space; ensuring opposition players are not in the path of a pass; making a run; supporting the attack; etc. Should footballers naturally be aware of this? If they?re not, should they be taught?

Although there have been a few signs of late that some Everton players have been seen having a shot on goal from outside the 18-yard box we really aren?t pulling the trigger often enough at this range ? especially when all the evidence from other top Premier League, European and international football games suggests this tactic does get results. Would Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard be anything like as notorious without that aspect to their game? So why aren?t our midfielders and strikers being drilled for two hours a day on long-range shooting? Or if they are, why is it not evident in match play?

When will all these things get better? I certainly have not seen demonstrable improvement in any of the above areas in recent years. I can only assume that either the coaching staff don?t see a problem here, or they are not coaching the players in such a way as to eradicate these deficiencies. Perhaps if we go down the somewhat expensive route of acquiring a critical mass of new players that know schoolboy football is not a serious way forward, our own football, and hopefully our success, will improve.

I don?t see that as a realistic remediation strategy for a club of our limited financial means.

I don?t want to bash Moyesie ? he has definitely moved us forward ? but I am very disturbed and continually frustrated by his inability over the last five years to improve the football we play. I see this as, possibly, the club?s greatest shortcoming and our biggest barrier to being more consistently successful.

I almost feel duplicitous expressing an opinion that Moyesie is our glass ceiling when he got us into the Champions League and Uefa Cup. However, I believe there are further facts that augment the view that he is a less-than-ideal coach to secure us regular European qualification ? namely, his lack of experience in Europe/further abroad, not only from a match perspective but particularly in the (inter-)continental managerial arena. Everton do not have a consistent, recent history in Europe with which we can entice new talent to our team. In this Catch-22 neither can we fall back on Moyesie?s international reputation and connections ? unlike Spurs are able to with Martin Jol, or Man City with Sven. Surely if this was not true Fernandes would be with us now (because he would have been prepared to wait to work with such an internationally respected manager, or maybe had worked with him previously). Perhaps, more poignantly, isn't this just what did happen with Sisoko?

As much as it pains me to say it, I believe David Moyes has completed his job with us; he has taken Everton as far as he can. The unpleasant truth is that to progress we need a better and bigger coach.

Reader Comments

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John Welsby
1   Posted 29/08/2007 at 16:55:51

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Good article and a fair expression of opinion

I disagree - in as much as I believe Moyes has earnt the chance to see what he can achieve. Agree the football itself is eometimes lacking but on the other hand there are signs it?s improving.

I rate & respect the guy hightly (though I could be wrong) and would like to give him the chance for the next 3-5 years. If he has a glass ceiling then it?ll be exposed
Mark Stone
2   Posted 29/08/2007 at 17:53:25

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An interesting article Mike, who would you like to see come in? Who is proven as a better premiership manager i.e. has achieved more than Moyes in terms of premiership successes, take into account the financial constraints that the manager would have to deal with, and the likelihood that this manager would want to join us?
Greg Dawson
3   Posted 29/08/2007 at 17:53:13

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Mike, you ask a lot of very good questions - I’d love to hear Moyes discuss some of the answers!

Based off a few comments from players and observers, I think we probably do practice joined-up football - and I think we see the evidence of this occasionally (like one or two games a season at the current rate)and sometimes flashes of it during games. Part of the issue you describe though is that I would not be surprised at all to find that Moyes specifically sets the team up to perform in way that it does. He appears to try to ensure that we do not concede as a primary objective and so I would imagine that his management of the team is reflected in the players making sure that they have their defensive responsibilities as their first thought. The downside of this is that they are hesitant to venture forward and link up. Baines’ comments alluded to such tactics as did Stubbs’ admission last year of practicing not-to-concede defending for hours on end.

In order to pass and move when we have the ball necessitates players moving out of the space they occupy from a defensive perspective and leave it untended. That’s risky if we lose the ball and it’s obviously not a risk that the players under Moyes direction are willing to take on a consistent basis.

One thing is clear - Moyes hates to lose - he’ll go for an effective (but unimaginiative) win any day. If the game works out to be a creative masterpiece through circumstance and individual brilliance he’d probably be the most excited of everyone in the stadium - but he’s not going to put his team at risk of losing in the process.

Is Moyes the glass ceiling? Possibly, but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of what David Moyes can produce due to the lack of creative talent that he has available. Arteta aside, we need more genious to go with our established industry.
Peter Singer
4   Posted 29/08/2007 at 18:38:24

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You’re spot on regarding our game’s shortcoming, and the proof for it is that when we do play well (Spurs last year and weeks ago, RS last year), we do operate as a unit.

And it really is taught at a young age that when you pass the ball, you should instantly move into empty space.

As for Moyes’ lack of international reputation, I agree that he doesn’t have one now, but one good run in a cup competition can turn that around. Of course we could "buy" the finished article, as Man City and Spurs did but it’s not the only way. Was the Porto side that won the CL that brilliant? Not really, a combination of luck and tough defending helped them achieve it. We have the chance now, too.

steve w
5   Posted 29/08/2007 at 18:53:28

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went to an open day at bellfiled a few months back,and one 30min session was for the defenders to clear the ball from there own box to targets placed in the oposing half !!! ie long ball get rid!!
Danny Mullally
6   Posted 29/08/2007 at 18:46:16

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Why doesn’t Gordon Brown go and sit our troops along the Zimbabwe border and put the shits up Mugabe and his tyrranous regime, why doesn’t the chief of programmes on the BBC start spending license payers money more responsibly on winners like Only Fools and Horses insteasd of Dance X, Why doesn’t Jeremy Paxman wear crushed velvet briefs to break the Ice when interviewing.
Mike although your points are good ones in some cases, at the end of the day it is one opinion of thousands that I hear every Saturday in the pub or at the game, and it is tiresome for me personally. Firstly I don’t even know what caveat means and you said it twice and I felt a bit stupid. Secondly and my serious point here, you go on about woeful distribution, pushing up and supporting the attack/midfield, and the fact that Moyes has "failed to improve the quality of our play in his 5 years here"
or something along those lines. Well aren’t the players actually proffessional footballers who are paid to at least string a number of passes together? Support their colleagues when attacking or defending? And in Moyes’s tenure here has he not brought European football back to this proud team? Teams don’t get into the Champions League or Uefa by playing the worst football in the premier league-I personally think we are being very harsh on ourselves when it comes to this. We are evolving and with people like Arteta, I have seen some of our best football in years. The pre-season agaisnt Werder shown flashes of brilliance, and I think there will be more of this to come when the frantic early season settles down.
Mike Allison
7   Posted 29/08/2007 at 19:08:11

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These are the exact same questions I asked myself every fortnight between 1998-2002 when I was a season ticket holder. Some things never change hey?
8   Posted 29/08/2007 at 19:01:17

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Fair point, well made. Much of it I would struggle to argue with.

However, in my opinion getting rid of the manager would be more stupid than Hibbert’s 300th long ball to nowhere. There is no doubt that we play ugly football most of the time. I do see improvement though, steadily.

Moyes needs to keep winning so that we keep competing. That’s how you keep quality players and that’s how you attract them. We’re not Real Madrid, who win the league and still sack their manager just cos they don’t like the style of football. We can’t wipe the slate clean every year and start again.

Being 31, and having supported EFC since 1983, most of the good times are a faded childhood memory and I have been subjected to mostly scrappy, ugly football since. I still go to watch and I still love the team.

I just hope that Moyes can gradually introduce the flair so that the football improves without losing the strength and battle. He is trying to improve the team and right now I’m backing him.
steve b
9   Posted 29/08/2007 at 18:30:27

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Defend first is the tactic DM installs. The problem is the quality of players on this current team and lack of being able to sign quality players. It is clear that we need 1 or 2 creative midfielders. Clearly Arteta can waiver with his play, but imagine if he could create a give and go with a player who can make the other 2 yard pass.
Every game you can look back and say that was an winning oppotunity, I believe team selection is key, giving the creative players a chance. Why Pinnear was left out baffles me. Hibbo has gone backwards.
A home game against Blackburn or any team: With Cars and Nev in the Middle. 1-0 to the blues is all we can hope for.
Brian Waring
10   Posted 29/08/2007 at 19:37:05

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Thing is,we don’t have the players(apart from Arteta)to play attractive football.I really thought that after some of the most dire football I had seen at Goodison for a long time last season,that this season would see us with a different approach to games (actually try and play some decent footy)but,it’s more of the same old shite.Also,I think The Yak is a great signing,but I just worry that because he is a big target man,we will resort to twating it forward at every given chance.
11   Posted 29/08/2007 at 19:55:58

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Just want to point out that Martin Jol has no more pedigree in Europe than David Moyes (barring Spurs’ run in the UEFA last year).

His achievements before becoming Spurs’ head coach were to win the Dutch Cup with Roda JC and to lead RKC Waalwijk from the nether regions of the Dutch Eredivisie (the equivalent of the Premiership) to the UEFA spots. While this is a great achievement in a country where the football is dominated by the triumvirate of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord, one should not belittle the achievements of our Ginger maestro. He has taken a club with a 10 year legacy of lower half finishes and relegation battles and in the course of 5 years taken us to Europe on the back of league placings.

Believe it or not, I’m not a Moyes apologist. The football we have to put up with is not always great and we’ve had both ups and downs during his tenure. However the man has, in my eyes, earnt enough goodwill to have a decent crack at the job.

What we’ve seen so far IMHO is consolidation work, this season is when he won’t be able to hide behind any excuses. His players, his team, his tactics, his glory (I hope!)

The point I’m trying to make is that the grass is always greener on the other side. I’d have Moyes over Jol any day.
steve b
12   Posted 29/08/2007 at 20:28:31

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In Moyes we trust.. I Would love a 2-0 win. 3-1 shows a dominat performance. The test is who can he bring in at midfield.
Appiah IMO would soften the blow of Manny, if not is there a championship player or a pacey- take a man on type player available? (on the cheap). Cahill type bargin. Dm has to try.
Anthony Newell
13   Posted 29/08/2007 at 20:31:01

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Mike, you can’t go and say things like this about Moyes!!! People will be shortly saying ’what do you know?’ and ’what experience as a football manager do you have?’. You know, all the usual crap like that which I’ve had chucked at me and shows they haven’t really got an answer to what you have said

A few seasons ago I was firmly in the pro-Moyes camp and then I heard a mate of my Dad’s question how Moyes sends out his sides and his lack of tactical ability. My immediate thought was to brush this to one side and think you can’t go and criticise Moyes, how dare you, he’s improved the side no end, got us away from relegation battles blah blahdey blah. Having had much time to digest his opinion, and many demoralising results and dour performances later I have come to realise that he stated was bang on the money, he just saw it a lot earlier than I did

I’m not foolish enough to believe for one minute that this current board would consider changing Moyes. It would only happen with a change of custodians, like when Abramovich installed Mourinho. Up until the day that happens (and I hope it does for many reasons) we will just have to suffer in silence (or not as the case maybe by coming here!) and hope that Moyes can improve as a manager, become more dynamic and adventurous in his decisions and tactics, really go for it. Unless that happens we’ll have the same old same old - the occasional highlight amongst a pretty dour and average season punctuated by a couple of surprise results against the big sides and a couple of embarrasments and humiliating cup exits to boot. I was hoping this season would mark a sea-change in the way Moyes goes about doing things but I’m sadly disappointed, I was just kidding myself really. I want to see Moyes succeed but his stubborness and lack of dynamism seem to be deeply embedded traits. To me we should have had maximum points out of the last two games and we have wasted the opportunity to pick up points which over the course of a season decide whether your banging on the door of CL qualification. The Wigan game should have had the alarm bells ringing straight away but the Spurs result made everyone forget. Reading and Blackburn were evidence that Moyes is still doing the same old crap and that is worrying. No excuses, as Phil Neville says, we must change the mentality about the place regarding settling for crap and try amd push on. I still hold out some hope that against Bolton Moyes starts from the off with Jagielka, Pienaar, Baines, Lescott, Yakubu. I’ve just read the EFC website regarding Stubbs and Carsley so maybe not! In summary, I agree with what you say but for the short tem were gonna have to like it or lump it. Or maybe that should be re-phrased, learn to like the lumping of it
Michael Kidd
14   Posted 29/08/2007 at 21:17:37

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Several writers have wondered why Moyes hasn’t changed his way of doing things. Why would Moyes change after what has been a pretty successful few seasons? I say pretty successful in that Everton has performed best (other than perhaps Spurs) of all the teams outside of the Big Four. But I do agree that on the evidence of the Blackburn game the number of long balls to short strikers did seem to me a bit pointless. To be fair, though, this was interspersed with some decent football!
Dave Wilson
15   Posted 29/08/2007 at 21:19:59

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Some very good points raised there Mike

not sure we play the worst football in the Prem but we’re right in the midlle of that group - I think theres 18 or so clubs in there - take away Arsenal + Man U and there isnt a decent side to watch in the entire league -
Teams like Spurs n Rs like to think they play neither are adverse to launching it high and often
Its not just us though Mike, up and down the country people are short changed watching " the most exciting league in the world "

Trouble is we dont care about the rest, we just focus on the players we have who seem incapable of entertaining us,

indeed, we all think, if we had their level of athletism most of us could do just as well if not better, your spot on in your main observation though Mike
we will work harder than any of team when we havent got the ball, but we have too many players who think when we regain possesion they can switch off, nowhere is the man in possesion more isolated than at GP
Mike Watkins
16   Posted 29/08/2007 at 23:48:38

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Whoever Moyes signs in this window ,we will still look 3 or 4 players ’away from a good side’.The shape he insists on and the tactics he employs makes it inevitable that most games will reemble the Alamo even when we win.I have a bad feeling about this season because I am convinced Moyes’shortcomings will come home to roost-and after spending all that money!
Brendan McLaughlin
17   Posted 30/08/2007 at 00:08:46

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Great article Steve. You raise many of the doubts that a lot of Evertonians feel about Moyes but without the rancour & pettiness that fuels many other posts.
Lets be realistic however. When Moyes came here at first, he had an enormous task on his hands - turn annual relegation candidates into top six 6 contenders. Oh & by the way, play attractive football as well.
OK we have nearly accomplished the first requirement but we are still some distance from the second. I would argue, however, that this is all part of the building process. Moyes has concentrated on building a side that is very solid defensively. We had the best defensive record outside of the top four last season & yet we still strenghtened at the back this summer. His signing of Yakubu illustates that he is still minded to bypass midfield & go "route one" if necessary.
It is in midfield however that he has spent least and that is because he recogises that "school of science" football is not essential to ensure survival or indeed achieve a fairly credible league finish. But midfield is the one area that Moyes has not yet fully turned his focus on. Our most accomplished midfielder (indeed player) cost a paltry few million.
I for one am of the belief that if Moyes can build a midfield of the same quality as our defence or indeed our stikeforce, given the signing of Yakubu, then we will be knocking on the door of the champions league in the very near future.
I may be totally wrong about Moyes but I feel that he at least deserves that little bit more time to show Tony Marsh/Richard Dodd (Delete as appropriate) how wrong they have been about him.
Bob P
18   Posted 30/08/2007 at 02:00:44

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Some good points being made in these messages. I’d like to inject just one thought in to this discussion, which comes from my involvement in state international ice hockey (yes, surprisingly it is played in Australia). The coaches and Managers use the phrase - ’forwards win games, defences win tournaments’. I suppose this is allied to ’start with a firm foundation’. This appears to be Davey’s strategy.
justin m
19   Posted 30/08/2007 at 03:40:23

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didn’t Walter smith have an international reputation having took ranger to europe in seven consecutive seasons, and getting them to the champions league semi’s? The only decent player I can remember walter bring in was materazzi, who didn’t hang around long. Can you honestly say walters team play any better football than Moyesie?

Leave the man to do the job whilst he’s taking us in the right direction. Could we even attract a top european manager like phil scolari? Let alone afford him!

Moyes is bringing top quality players in all the time, slowly but surely. Fernandes was alucky escape, any one remember Alex Nyarko!
Bob P
20   Posted 30/08/2007 at 06:00:39

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Good point Justin M. makes about Nyarko. I was lucky to be at the Arsenal game when fernades played for us. He did some crackin’ stuff but--------------. I agree, Moyes has done more good for Everton on a limited budget than most premier league managers have with heaps of quids. Now he seems to have some cash to spend, let’s give him the time to prove how much more he can achieve.
Derek Thomas
21   Posted 30/08/2007 at 06:42:01

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Good fair points well put: Moyes may indeed be the glass in the ceiling that is holding us back. But there may be other culprits ’in the frame’ as it were, holding him in place, the putty if you will.

The,up till now, lack of big money. The terms of his employment, He and We just can’t substitute the motto for his mission statement and say off you go then, live up to it. He has clearly got to live with in the some what constricted means at his disposal. It is no surprise that his 1st aim, less oft quoted now it has to be said, is to avoid the drop. Then to improve consistantly, then to kick on to the CL.

Until most or all of the restrictions are removed from him and I count ALAN IRVINE as one of these, we will not see if he can actually cut the mustard.
22   Posted 30/08/2007 at 07:04:42

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Derek, do you not rate Irvine? I always believed he was well respected within the game. Although I don’t much about him myself ... you may know otherwise
John Welsby
23   Posted 30/08/2007 at 10:52:56

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By the way, this idea of a ?glass celing? implied that we?re constntly knocking on the door of the top 4 just straining to get in.

In fact it?s Spurs that have finished 5th 2 seasons in a row after spending shed loads.

We need to maintain our 5-8th placing regularly before we can accuse Moyes of being our glass celing. Look at Liverpool - they?ve spent £50 this summer justto stand still (do you really believe they?ll win the title???)

Fact is the football was shite under Smith & Walker & Kendall III and most teams our level play rubbish football: Boro, Villa, Barcodes.......even Chelsea. Do you hear Chelsea fans complaining.

Football is a results game first - we?ve all heard of winning ugly. Who wants to be known as a team with a soft centre?

Can we back our manager now he has money to spend and see what happens in the next 2/3 years before deciding he?s boring?
Chris Williams
24   Posted 30/08/2007 at 12:16:34

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Some very interesting points in the original article and in the subsequent messages. And for a change, no personal insults or abuse.
I think I feel pretty much the same way about DM as the general view expressed here. - he?s stabilised the team and gradually upgraded the members, so that relegation should become a thing of the past. But we?re no nearer challenging consistently for at least fourth place.
One of the reasons I think is our failure to put teams away at home. Mainly I suppose because we lack the craft to break down teams who play at Goodison the way we play away. In effect we play like an away team at Goodison.
We ended up about 10 points behind fourth place last season which had we done better at home could easily been achieved. This home shortfall was made up not just of lacking the skill to break down tight defences but also of some dubious tactical and personnel decisions. In addition you can add to this the relatively small proportion of goals we score from open play as opposed to set pieces.
Never has all this been demonstrated more clearly than last Saturday against Blackburn, when we really did have a game of 2 halves.
In the second half with Lescott in for Stubbs, the defence moved further up the field, effectively closer to the midfield. Jagielka consistently collected the ball from the back 4 and played simple balls on the floor to blue shirts, moved and got it back, played it short etc. etc. Suddenly the team looked more cohesive and Arteta came into it more. It improved further when Neville moved to full back. Effectively we mixed it up more and played it both short, wide and long and looked better for it.
I came away on Saturday with a few thoughts - typical lousy football and a point won - Baines and Jagielka are both better than we already had - and if we?d started withe team we finished with we might have won.
The messages were obvious to my unsophistocated eye - don?t pick Stubbs and Hibbert if we don?t have to - don?t pick Neville and Carsley together, especially in home games - and we need more skill in midfield, because had Dixie Dean, Latchford and Sharp been up front on Saturday they would have struggled.
I?m no coach or manager - that?s DM?s job. The question is whether he stops being effectively a ?one club golfer? and pushes us forward, especially at home.
That?s the acid test
Anthony Newell
25   Posted 30/08/2007 at 12:56:25

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Chris, just on your last few sentences, how long would you give him to add some clubs to the trolley? For the last few years we’ve heard "this is the defining season for Moyes", Isn’t it this one? Surely if we go out of all cups early again and finish anywhere less than sixth then it will be time to say he hasn’t passed that acid test
Chris Williams
26   Posted 30/08/2007 at 13:30:34

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Anthony, given the money he?s now spent, especially with another midfielder,hopefully, this is the year. This should be make or break for him. He?s now got a collection of players he?s put his name on and it remains to be seen if he can change his style of play and get the best out of them.
This is now a good quality group of players but he?s got first to pick them and then organise them to win - particularly at home
Baz Owen
27   Posted 30/08/2007 at 20:06:30

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Good comment in parts, but its what we all know already, As a fan of everton and football in general its pretty hard watching a very defensive team put three passes together before humping it to anybody or nobody, yes we have seen flashes of brilliance from arteta but thats about it. I really hope the few good signings weve made will make the team want to fight for their places and hopefully have a good competative season.

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