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Half a Season

By Glen Strachan :  27/12/2007 :  Comments (18) :
So, 6th place after half of the 38 Premier games have been played.

I posted at the beginning of September with an opinion that by then we had assembled — at admittedly high wage and transfer cost — the best squad at Goodison for twenty years.

Put mildly, not everybody agreed with that but it was telling that my request for any alternative suggestions was met with silence.

You could forgive people for wondering what was going on at Everton between our dreadful form in the away defeat at Reading and our 'frightened men' tactics in the derby match.

I will always believe that Liverpool were there for the taking that day but we could not find the bottle to take the Hyypia gift and bury the Reds.

So that was game 10 and we sat on 13 points with 4 wins , a draw and 5 defeats.

Two things seemed to happen then.

David Moyes seemed to change his tactics , finally taking the advice that many posters on this site had been offering for months and we started to play the ball on the ground.

The other vital piece in the jigsaw was the return to fitness of Tim Cahill who 'hit the ground running' and has not stopped running or scoring since that time.

Some of the comments that were made about Yakubu on this site and others were quite unbelievable but the big guy has always been able to ignore his critics and win them over by sticking the ball in the net with a regularity that we have not seen since Gary Lineker and Bob Latchford.

Now after 19 games we sit on the 33 point mark from 10 wins and 3 draws to go along with our 6 defeats.

While three came at the hands of two of the Big Four , the other three (at Reading , Villa and Newcastle) were all quite avoidable.

Since that derby debacle we have scored 15 goals for the loss of 2 in the 4 home Premier matches and the five aways have brought 6 goals for us for the loss of 3.

I believe the belief that the squad has in Yakubu and Cahill scoring goals in every game has led to a confidence that has changed the whole 'watching Everton matches ' from something close to a chore into high spectacle.

Before sitting down to write this, I took a look at the fixtures ahead and between the visit of Arsenal on Saturday and the away game at Anfield in the last week of March. I do not see a Premier game out of the eleven on offer that we cannot expect to win.

Add to that the Oldham FA Cup Tie , Brann in the UEFA , three FA Cup ties that could be anything and two more in Europe we have a fixture list that is a long way from impossible.

I hope for something in the Carling but I suspect that Chelsea will find enough to edge us out but make no mistake if they play poorly or take us lightly we could make that final.

I offer no forecasts but I like that list of fixtures and while we will miss Yobo and Yakubu badly there are signs that the fringe players so far in the season could come into their own given a decent run in the side.

My mates in Sheffield were insistent that Jagielka is a centre back and not much more and he is busy proving them right in great style.

Stubbs should soon be fit to back him up from the bench and when Leighton Baines comes back in a month or so , he might find himself playing a bit further forward.

It is often hard to judge young players but I believe James Vaughan could be a major player in the future of our club and that just might begin to become clear to the world outside Merseyside when the Yak goes to Africa in January.

You have to feel so sorry for Leon Osman who picked up his long term injury at a time when his form was close to the best that he has ever produced but the transfer window should bring much needed cover in the mid field and if Tommy Graveson can settle into the side , we should be fine , even without the rapidly emerging Pienaar.

James McFadden remains the enigma but we look set to be offered real money for his transfer so we should soon find out what David Moyes really thinks of Faddy.

If Celtic is so keen to have James, maybe we should ask for Aidan McGeady in a straight swap.

Aidan would be a good fit on the left side of our midfield.

We reach late December with a familiar look to the Premier , as the Big Four take the places that the pundits predicted — even in the order that was forecast.

I fully expect them to stay there and our pair of matches against Man City could go some way to deciding who will finish in 5th place.

Top Six is by no means easy this season but I still harbour hopes that we can achieve that although I do not believe we are ready yet to take another fourth place unless Liverpool takes its eye off the Premier as they did a couple of seasons ago and just as they did then they can go very close to winning a sixth European Cup.

On the Blue side we will continue to call them 'bad names' but when all is said and done, it is not easy to share a city with one of the biggest, strongest football clubs in the world and David Moyes is to be commended for making a huge effort to shed his inferiority complex and stop coaching 'scared hoofball' to a squad that is showing itself to be capable of better.

I like the balance we have these days and having seen Arsenal struggle at Boro and Portsmouth recently, we need not feel any inferiority facing them at Goodison at the weekend.

There have been a few wild rumours about outward transfers but they do sound far fetched even if Cahill , Yakubu and Arteta might be targets for the BIg Four and sides abroad in the Summer.

For now they are Everton players and let's enjoy them while they are with us.

Final thought for now is that by some distance the favourites to win the UEFA Cup seem to be Bayern Munich - a side who recently drew 2-2 at home to Bolton.

Now that doesn't sound too scary, does it ?

City of Manchester Stadium in May anybody ?

Reader Comments

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Roy Masey
1   Posted 28/12/2007 at 08:05:44

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Thanks Glen, I can’t remember the last time I read an article that perfectly summed up how I feel about our season so far!

Let’s keep our feet on the ground and just see how far we can go and take one game at a time.

Special mention for our away support - it’s been ab fab - Man Ure was sensational, my voice has only just come back - even my Man Ure colleagues at work commented on it.

So Arsenal tomorrow and then up to one of the footballing graveyards in the North East on Tuesday - how about a cheeky little treble that "big" Sam, Southgate and Keno are the next 3 Managers to lose their jobs? - still it could be 6 points but realistically, I’d be more than happy with 4 points.

I rang Boro yesterday and asked what time the game kicks off - they asked me what time I could get there! - the old ones are always the best.

COYB & IMWT
Santosh Benjamin
2   Posted 28/12/2007 at 08:38:14

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Wonderful article,Glen.Summed up our season so far very well.Hope we can strengthen the midfield and defence in Jan to further our strong position.
Finishing in the top 6 would be realistic although a top 4 finish would be an amazing achievement...lets keep up the great support for Moyes and the team both home and away so they can continue to do us proud..COYB
Chris Masey
3   Posted 28/12/2007 at 09:24:06

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Ridiculous positivity. What makes you think you can behave so positively on this site?? Ha! A beautiful read. Level-headed, realistic, optimistic and an excellent summary of the season so far.

One thing I know for sure is that we really are a good side and it is refreshing to go into each game knowing we are capable of creating chances, defending a lead, and controlling a game. I wrote a thread on the mailbag recently just before the zenit game claiming we were close to becoming unbeatable. Barring a "moment of madness" we still are, and I stand by that claim. We will beat Arsenal this weekend, and then people will begin to notice.
Last comment, Jagielka had Anelka in his pocket on saturday, and Lescott as usual was immense. Some might say our defence is better than our attack?
Danny Mullally
4   Posted 28/12/2007 at 10:27:07

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Glen,

A good article but I disagree with a couple of points you make. I do not believe that David Moyes changing tactics has led to our recent good run. Davey has always drilled his sides well and had them disciplined, although some will disagree. But when I see people suggesting that he instructs his team to hoofball earlier this season it makes me laugh. Does hoofing it up aimlessly have nothing to do with the players actually launching the fucking ball up the pitch? In my opinion, the change started when the personnel in the middle of the park changed. We began to get our midfield maestro’s back in like Carsley and Cahill and all of a sudden the ball stuck a bit more to the deck and we played simple effective footy. Add the emergence of a good footballing brain- Pienaar - to that equation and all of a sudden we are fulfilling our potential at last as a footballing side. The rest just flowed as we have genuine quality up front.
Just to clarify Glen, I totally agree with your post, just a couple of minor points I felt I needed to give my thoughts on.
I also think that Chelsea are looking as beatable as they have looked for a long time. I would not be surprised if we slip past them over two legs. Although that will obviously rely heavily on us being at the top of our game.
Lue Glover
5   Posted 28/12/2007 at 11:01:33

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Glen, great, great post but I have to agree with Danny re hoofball. Piennar ’s growing confidence and Cahill’s return have done wonders for the midfield. Add to that Osman playing some of his best football (I think we’re going to miss him) and we had a group of players in midfield that had no option but to play the ball on the ground due to their stature. Once Osman and Pienaar started picking the ball up from the defence the whole thing started to tick.
If you take Osman’s goal against Larissa, surely one of the best team goals I’ve seen, - Cahill, Baines, Pienaar and bang. Goal.
Anyone can add their own example of team goals played through defence and midfield. It’s all happening, the football is excellent and I for one am loving every second of it.
The difference now is that we can still play route 1 - AJ, Cahill v Sunderland, Vaughan v Brum for example - but we now have so much more variety in our game plan that opposition defenders are not as able to predict our pattern of play. Advantage THE BLUES!
John Maxwell
6   Posted 28/12/2007 at 10:29:15

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Great to see some positivity on the web for a change..

Indeed this is the best its been since the 80s.. So much to look forward to next year..

Chelsea will be tricky in the Carling Cup.. but I would imagine the defeat of Brann in the UEFA will leave us a plum tie with one of the big teams in the name of Florentina.. Could be a classic and a night out at goodison to remember..

Havent felt ths good about Everton in a long long time..

Oh Everton, we love Everton..
Ste Horrocks
7   Posted 28/12/2007 at 11:09:52

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Article spot on. Good summary of season so far. I think we?re at the stage where you cant wait for the next game. And how long has it been since thats been the case?

Even the 4th place a couple of years ago was lots of one nils and nail biting during the last five mins of each game. This season Carsley has been immense yet again and links superbly with the rest of the attack. Yobo & Lescott looking superb and Jagielka was my motm against Bolton.

Chelsea - with all their injuries etc, this could be the best time to play them. Terry, Drogba and Lampard all injured. (Will Cole or Carvalho miss the first leg with suspension??). By the second leg, Obi Mikel, Drogba and Essien in the African Nations. Keep it tight down there and bring em back to a packed, floodlit (probably boozed up!) Goodison and who knows?

Come on you toffees.
Ian Tunny
8   Posted 28/12/2007 at 14:45:52

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Good read but I wish people would get it out of their head that Moyes woke up one day and had a ureka moment and suddenly thought, I know, let's play football! If you've got a team of Hibberts Stubbses or Phills, their strength is not going to be to keep the ball and pass it round. Moyes has carefully been trying to build a squd that can do this but early on in the season we did not have it, especially in the midfield which is the most inportant area and the key to controling any game. There's only so many players like Hibbert you can carry before there is a constant break down of the possesion. Now our whole midfield are quite confortable on the ball and the rest of the team aren't bad as long as Neville only has to pass backwards or put the odd cross in.
James Elworthy
9   Posted 28/12/2007 at 14:52:51

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The club to move forward now needs to bring in the midfield depth it hasnt got at the moment.
I have heard of the Alonso rumours talk of Manny, Abelda, Hunt, Dowing, and Vogel. Appiah is injured and going to miss the ANC so that is a non starter.
The back four has depth if we consider Neville and Jags defenders only and even with the rumoured sale of McFadden we still have 4 strikers. I know Yak will be missing but we are only playing one up front anyway.
I can see McFadden going and 3 midfielders coming in. A young defender may get recruited for the future to strengthen the depth with Stubbs pending retirement.
Steve Templeton
10   Posted 28/12/2007 at 17:17:01

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Glen,
A good post overall and I agree with your realistic assessment of our chances in the league.

I have to take you to task however over your comments that Moyes has suddenly started to listen to his critics on here and has stopped ’coaching hoofball’.

As some of the other respondents on here have pointed out, the improvement in the quality of our football has been directly linked to the return of our first choice midfielders and the emergence of Piennar as a genuine rival to Arteta’s quality on the flanks.

I have never doubted that Moyes wanted his team to play football as he has always stated otherwise but it was clear to see that he was handicapped in fashioning a team in his own image by the way he has been forced to build his team piecemeal.

Now that he has managed to put quality into the team through his astute purchases of Arteta, Cahill etc and his big name buys, we are starting to see what he has been striving for since he took over.

I for one am grateful for this and I honestly believe that if he is provided with further funding and we manage to retain our best players in the summer that we can possible challenge for that coveted top four spot next season.

Roll on Arsenal!
Steve Templeton
11   Posted 28/12/2007 at 17:37:47

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Sorry, that paragraph should have said "
I have never doubted that Moyes wanted his team to play football as he has always stated this".

No idea where the ’otherwise’ came from.
Karl Masters
12   Posted 28/12/2007 at 17:37:23

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Praise for Davie Moyes and his patient work over the last 5 years or so is well deserved.

But Moyesie will be the first to tell you that all we have for now is a ’potentially’ good season. Lots of hard work is going to be required, especially if we continue to spin the 4 plates of Premiership and 3 Cup competitions. I only hope we don’t end up with a near miss in all 4.

With that in mind, we must add a couple more of the right players, not just anybody, to cover the massive amount of games we could play ( to win the UEFA Cup you actually have to play 15 matches ) this season. I think we’ll beat Chelsea over the 2 legs by the way.

I have got that ’1984’ feeling again.... something big is on the cards! Bring on the Gunners!

Brendan McLaughlin
13   Posted 28/12/2007 at 20:08:58

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It really does my head in that some people persist that Moyes suddenly woke up some morning & thought "football on the deck! Revolutionary idea - I’m having some of that"

As many have posted above Moyes has at last acquired the personnel he needs to play the type of football, he believes in.

Other than that I would’t have any great issue with this article. I actually was less optimistic way back in September as I thought our failure to add to the midfield would cost us but at the half-way point of the season I am delighted to say my pessimism was unfounded.
Liam Pender
14   Posted 29/12/2007 at 02:00:34

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Excellent article.

Other than the moyes comment i totally agree with everything you have highlighted.

now all we have to do is hope that Cahill stays fit.
James Martin
15   Posted 29/12/2007 at 01:57:06

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I have to say I suspect there was a touch of irony inthe idea that Moyes took notice of the fans and changed tactics. Like everyone else, enjoying the buzz with the Blues flying.
However, given that we’ve got a long way to go, the transfer window could be vital to how this season ends. I repeat ’this season’, because I think, whatever happens, we’ve got a great foundation for the next few years. Even in a worst case scenario where, due to injuries, suspensions, tiredness and Clattenburg clones in vital games, we fall short of our raised expectations, I will still feel optimistic.
James McWhorter
16   Posted 29/12/2007 at 03:17:36

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Aiden McGeady will never leave Celtic.
Certainly not to take a step down.
Karl Masters
17   Posted 29/12/2007 at 09:58:25

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James: I?m sure that Aidan will be thinking that when he runs out against Gretna this afternoon! :)

Celtic are a great Club, unfortunately for them they are stuck in a cul-de-sac and no way out.
D OBrien
18   Posted 29/12/2007 at 14:48:52

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Wow, so D Moyes ’finally’ accepted the advice being offered on this site? Do you really think he reads sites to gain an insight into something he is vastly more qualified than any of the readers to do? Or do you think that the change was due to ’playing it on the floor? If it is that simple perhaps Big Sam should read this site and tell his players to play it on the floor. What complete and utter shite!

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