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Midfield General

By Mark Cassin :  25/01/2008 :  Comments (29) :
During this transfer window (after we signed Fernandes) I was thinking about who would be our next major signing (now or more likely in the summer). Looking at Wednesday night's team ,if we had the Africans in there then we would have a great first 11.

First of all I'm sure EVERYONE will agree that Pienaar and Fernandes must be signed on permanent deals in the summer (and the way it looks, they both want to stay).

I would suggest that the weakest points in our team would be at full back. However, hopefully Baines will be back to full fitness by the summer and Neville/Hibbert are solid 7/10 performers most games-with Gosling possibly being groomed to step up.

The problem I feel we have is in our midfield width. How can Pienaar and Arteta stay wide if they have no-one in the centre to ping the ball around to them other than Fernandes? (in a few weeks we should see him 'go nuclear' on teams). Carsley is a great defensive player but can't produce killer passes and Osman is a solid back up but where is the alternative to Fernandes, passing wise?

After Moyes's quote on Wednesday night about us essentially lacking the 'X-Factor' I would like to see us building to change formation to 4-4-2. This means that the player we should be looking for would be the midfield playmaker or a box to box 'general'.

If we look at our potential first 11 (including the expected signings of Manny and Pienaar) then surely with a quality addition in the centre there would be little in our team to compare with the top 3.

Howard-Baines/Lescott/Yobo/Neville-Pienaar/Fernandes/New Player/Arteta-Cahill-Yakubu.

In the summer we had the cash to buy Fernandes so that should still be there to sign him. Generally we have around £10M to spend so I would expect around that ? also after McFadden's transfer we should have around £15M ? conjecture I know, but an expectation. So...

1. Would you prefer a Fabregas-esque playmaker or a Roy Keane type general?

2. In your opinion who would that be for 15mil?

3. Do you see something that I don't and believe our next signing should be in another area?

Incidently although Moyes perhaps shouldn't strip Neville of it, I believe Lescott should be our captain next season.

Reader Comments

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Dan McKie
1   Posted 25/01/2008 at 14:15:35

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I dont particulally think it is the midfield that is lacking Mark, at full strength we would have plenty of creativity in Arteta,Pienaar,Osman and Fernandes, the goal getting ability of Cahill and the grit of Carsley (not that im saying they can all start)! You mention going for a 442 yet still include Cahill along with a mystery midfielder which suggests you would play Cahill as a striker which he is not! We need players who can effectivley nulify losing certain players and the biggest problem we have at the moment is if Yakubu isnt in the side we lose our cutting edge and so far none of our other strikers have stepped up and made a claim! If we went 442 it would have to be Yakubu/A N Other but not Cahill, so maybe he would then have to become that box to box midfielder you talk about or lose his place in the side!
Peter Clarke
2   Posted 25/01/2008 at 14:21:16

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I cannot understand why people still inclulde Cahill when they’re talking about a high quality team able to take on the top 4. It must be the goals agains the shite that are clouding peoples judgement because he brings very little to the mix if he isn’t scoring. I am hopeful that we can secure Pienaar this summer, Fernandes on the other hand will probably be lost again as Valencia has slapped a £15 million price tag on him. I would like us to spend most of our funds this summer on a quality central midfielder who can really make a difference, even if we have to spend big the investment will be worth it in the long term.
John Reed
3   Posted 25/01/2008 at 14:29:13

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I personally think a good quality centre back is essential to provide coverage for Lescott and Yobo. Jags has been good in patches, and I can?t imagine Stubbsy going on much longer so some support there would be very useful.
In terms of midfielders, getting Manny and Pienaar on permanent deals is a must.
If DM decides we need a box to box midfielder, someone like Stephen Appiah at Fenerbache would be a good get. We were linked with him last summer too. Not sure how he has gone at the ACON for Ghana but was great for them in Germany 2006.
It?s a good way to spend a Friday afternoon at work...thinking about the Everton team!
Gavin Ramejkis
4   Posted 25/01/2008 at 14:58:59

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In the ideal world we would have a depth in our squad that would allow a very strong 442 or 451 but that costs money we simply dont have, a box to box midfielder who doesnt get easily displaced by any tackle who can also hold up play and dictate a few chosen passes would be my answer but who fills that role god knows. We also desperately need a left back at least as competant as Lescott in that position.
Brian Hill
5   Posted 25/01/2008 at 15:29:35

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John Reed,

Stephen Appiah is injured and yet to play. It is likely that he will miss the whole tournament. It’s a shame as he’s a marvellous player and I agree, would be a top class addition to our squad.
Andrew Clare
6   Posted 25/01/2008 at 15:45:24

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Andrey Arshavin is the answer.
Forget all the mediocre players that we are being linked with like Davis and Sidwell who looked like a ’little boy lost’ against us in midweek.
Arshavin is the man he won’t cost much in today’s prices-get him!
Tony Waverleas
7   Posted 25/01/2008 at 15:43:59

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Firstly, given the shenanigans surrounding our first attempt to sign Manu I very much doubt David would have had him back this time if it wasn’t virtually nailed-on that we’ll sign him in the summer. But as we alll know it can be a funny old game...
What disappointed me the other night is that not for the first time we were using AJ as a get-out; someone to chase often aimless or overly ambitious balls.

You sit there and wonder whether it’s Duncan Ferguson time all over again - only this time he’s balder, shorter and a tad nippier.

We need to find the systems to get the best out of our better players, AJ, Tim et al and in some cases , well, we just need better players. And more pace which in the so-called "Top Four" is virtually a given
But stick with it, Blues, and I know we’ll get there.

Onward Evertonians.
Mike Allison
8   Posted 25/01/2008 at 16:07:47

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I disagree with most of what is being said on here. Apologies to people who’ve read my posts before but we need a genuine left winger. That means a left footed one who beats people and creates and scores goals.

Arshavin looks a very good player but would basically replace Cahill as support to the main striker. I don’t think he’s a natural wide man at all. Pienaar should play on the right and Arteta should play in the middle, providing the passes forward and to the wide positions.

Fernandes showed against Chelsea that he is the holding midfield player who may finally allow us to play a 4-4-2 effectively. Carsley was a total waste of space on Wednesday, as anything he could do Fernandes was doing quicker, better and more energetically. I’ve been saying Carsley looks knackered for a long time now and he desperately needs a rest. Fernandes is the ’midfield general’ Makalele-type player who can make all the difference.
Robbie Shields
9   Posted 25/01/2008 at 16:56:44

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I think Mike Allison has got a point! I’ve been concentrating on thinking of a midfield general/playmaker but in Fernandes and Arteta with have that. I know some people are going to quite rightly say that Arteta hasn’t played well in central midfield for Everton before BUT we’ve never had any quality wingers for him to feed and work with or 2 strikers up front. We now have Pienaar on the right and can pick any 2 quality strikers from 4, and IF we got a quality left winger then the midfield starts to look very creative and a lot stronger.

Suddenly the reports of Moyes being interested in Downing start to make a lot of sense to me. My only concern with Downing is that he isn’t particulary fast, however he is a strong left sided midfielder that can beat players, hold and pass the ball, shoot and cross very well.

Osman and Carsley have had good seasons so far but are too lightweight, too slow and too negative for me. They are great squad players but if we are to progress to the next level then we can’t be carrying these types of players as they go completely missing against the big 4.

Finally, I have to agree with a lot of the posts about Cahill. Too many people simply see when he’s scored and say how great he is, whereas I keep watching him during the game and I don’t see him contributing enough. I can’t recall ever seeing Cahill break from midfield and attack the opposition defence like Gerrard does. He basically plays as a second striker and when you start to think of him and his play in that role he starts to look poor. Give me Vaughan up front any day of the week with AJ or Yakubu.
Eric Holland
10   Posted 25/01/2008 at 17:46:24

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Must agree about Cahill I think we should sell him while we can get a very good price, I would expect to get in the region of 8-10 million maybe 15 if the barcoads enter the fray, this would leave us about 16 million for 1or 2 new additions. Midfield general and right back. It wont happen! but who knows.
Jeremy Benson
11   Posted 25/01/2008 at 18:46:47

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Crikey, there is a lot of nonsense on this thread.

Sell Cahill? Why would we want to do that? In a 4-5-1 scenario he scores more goals than our strikers do, well, Aj, at least. And he offers more in the way of tracking back, defending and midfield possession. So sell AJ.

Our midfield quality is not weakened by cahill, its simply unbalanced with the players we have. Too often has moyes played two defensive-minded midfielders together (and ones who can only tackle, not pass) - carsley and neville. All of our other midfielders (gravesen aside, as hes crocked) are all lightweight, but flair/creative/forward central midfielders. Pienaar, Arteta, Osman, Fernandes - none are out and out wingers, most really would like the hole just behind the striker.

They can do a job out wide, but not perfect. Carsley is a good defensive midfielder, but cant distribute with quality. We are missing something - we are missing a "true" central midfielder - one that is as good at tackling, and defensive duties, as they are at distributing and dictating the play. A player such as Owen Hargreaves, or a gravesen on form.

Mike Gaynes
12   Posted 25/01/2008 at 18:45:26

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Can’t say I agree about Cahill... there’s tremendous value in a player who will score when it matters most, and I think he would be desperately missed.

As to a box-to-box midfielder, I’ve read the rumors that we’re in for Michael Bradley of Heerenveen and the US, and he’s a goal-line-to-goal-line midfielder. Strong, phenomenal workrate, impossible to knock off the ball, good passer, consistent goalscorer. As a bonus, a ferocious ballwinner who will track his man all the way back. Only 20, needs polishing on his first touch and tactical sense, but he’d come pretty cheap and could be a terrific investment in 12 months time.
David Barks
13   Posted 25/01/2008 at 19:47:06

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Who knows about this Bradley rumor, but what I can say is that he is a very good young talent. His father is the coach of the US national team, so he comes from a footballing family. He is very, very good and would fit in with the mentality of our team fantastically. He knows how to score goals, works his ass off, can be a bit rash with tackles but he’s young and that could be worked out. We don’t need to spend huge wages on skillful midfield players, we just need to be smart. Look at Arsenal. They find these youngsters and buy them for relatively cheep and they become fantastic players. They do spend more money than us, I’m not disagreeing with that, just saying we don’t have to just focus on players who would cost 15 million or more. How much did Arteta cost us? And Pienaar could be ours for just over 2 million.
Mike Allison
14   Posted 25/01/2008 at 20:27:38

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Fernandes isn?t a behind-the-front-two player. He?s seen as a holding player, hence his nickname ?Manalele? ? a reference to him fulfilling the same role as Claude Makalele. There were a few examples of just how good he is at this on Wednesday which no-one seems to have noticed. His pace and defensive reading are excellent and at times he dispossessed Chelsea players as if they were schoolboys. He totally nullified Carsley, who at times looked like he didn?t know where to stand as he saw this vastly superior version took up his usual space in front of the centre-backs.
Ian Tunny
15   Posted 25/01/2008 at 19:56:56

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Sell Cahill? Moyes prefers not to sell his best players in their prime, goal-scoring midfielders like Cahill are priceless, not £15 million as there is nobody to replace their goalscoring threat. Cahill has had a dip in form lately and looks a bit fatigued. But in general I think he does a lot more than people seem to realise; some on here underestimate him too much. His tenacity and in-your-face style of play does a lot to unsettle the opposition and he is better on the ball than some give him credit for.

In answer to the question, we have goals from midfield in the shape of Cahill, creativity and craft from Arteta, and Carsley to break everything up. However Carsley is getting on a bit now so someone in the mould of Keane who is more defensive minded but has a bit of everything else. This Bradey sounds like just that but can't admit to seeing him.
Kevin Mitchell
16   Posted 25/01/2008 at 22:05:59

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I agree Mark we do need a midfield general who can dominate the middle and link up with the defence and attack, but these players are hard to find at a resonable price.
I also agree with some posts above about Cahill. I love him to bits and dont think we should sell him but he just dosn’t work in a four man midfield.
Rob Wilkinson
17   Posted 25/01/2008 at 22:36:09

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I think Everton's problem is we can only play with so many midfielders, ie, we would love Fernandes (dm) Arteta (rm) Pienaar (lm) ???(cm) Cahill (am) and two strikers and four defenders... the maths don't work! So does this ultimately mean that we've got good midfielders but not good enough? I don't think this is true but I'm buggered if I know who to pick. I'm glad Davey's the one picking!
Steve Nikolovski
18   Posted 25/01/2008 at 22:41:11

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Sell Cahill?!?! I cannot believe that crap.
All he ever does is play where he is asked and that is not his usual position (up front).
He is in fact much more effective when he comes up from midfield. He rarely stuffs up a pass, gets back to defend and popps up in the box.
It wasn?t long ago when things were crap for us when he was injured but like most times when someone returns to our team and DRASTICALLY improves it (look at record with him than without him) we start bagging him. He is our box to box.
Steve Carter
19   Posted 26/01/2008 at 00:11:18

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Amen brother, Steve Niko. Cahill is our best player. Full stop. I’m stunned by the "let’s sell him" comment. Unbelievable. Those of our Blue brothers would do so have no idea of what an objective outcomes-based focus means. "Oh, let’s buy so-and-so, he’d do this and that up and down and around the pitch and hold hands with thing-ummy here and pat matey on that back there. It would all look rather nice." The objective outcome, mates, is that with Cahill we win against everyone else and at least can draw against the big 3 (have we forgotten Tim’s goal at Chelsea?) - or should have, at least - v Man U, but for Peanut’s brain explosion. While I’m on this rant, I can’t agree that Pineaar is any great shakes. I’ll never forgive him for what he did v Man U - class players just don’t do that. For mine, he is no better than McFadden - the odd fancy dribble and pass here and there. That’s all. He is too small and weak. Other sides will have worked that out by now, and in the future he’ll be beaten up into ineffectiveness. We just can’t have the luxury of having him, Osman and Arteta in the same side for that reason alone. This Bradley sounds far more like what we need.
Derek Thomas
20   Posted 26/01/2008 at 03:58:36

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Rob Wilkinson, Re the maths: We have Yobo who is an out and out CB, we have Lescott who is a CB cum LB and Jagielka, who most at Sheff U said was a CB cum RB... Manny in front of them...any 2 from 3 of Pinnear, Baines and A.N.Other out wide left and right...Arteta and Osman in the middle and any 2 from 5 of Cahill, Yakubu, Vaughan, Johnson and Anichebe.

A back 3 with wing-backs can give you a 6 man ’back 4’ if required, a 6 man midfield and an 8 man attack

ron leith
21   Posted 26/01/2008 at 14:06:36

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The balance of midfield is ok if all are fit. The main issue as I see it is getting quality cover. Once Arteta is out we struggle. I would be looking at a quality wide man. The best being Downing. Replacing Carsley could be a problem also. Neville can do that holding role job in midfield so maybe that can wait for another year.
Connor Rohrer
22   Posted 26/01/2008 at 14:33:19

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Steve Carter, comparing McFadden and Pienaar is just plain stupidity. McFadden was tricks but that was it. Pienaar has a lot more to his game. He can pass, he’s good on the ball, he has excellent awareness, a good engine and he weighs in with his fair share of goals and assists.

McFadden is an individual whereas Pienaar is a team player. Pienaar isn’t a fancy dan. He looks for the pass rather than the dribble and he always does his defensive duties. According to our head fitness coach David Billows he’s our most hardworking player ahead if the likes of Osman and Carsley. He’s also our most creative player. I’d rather have him in the final third than Arteta. His final ball is alot better. Arteta tries all the tricks, drag backs, Maradona turns before actually laying the ball off whereas Pienaar just makes the assist and creates the goals. 8 assists and two goals in 24 starts shows the impact he has had on the team and the contribution he has given to the team.

I think we’ve solved our central midfield crisis. Osman was a good stop gap in the central role but now Fernandes has come in I expect him to take over. He’s not a holding midfielder. He can play there but he has far to much talent on the ball to be playing such a restricted role.

I see him as an out and out central midfielder. Good defensively but even better going forward. He gives us more options. We can now play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1. As shown last season when we played Carsley and Fernandes in the middle of a four man midfield and it looked fine. We looked creative, solid and got the best out of a developing front two partnership in Vaughan and Johnson.

I thought Fernandes showed another aspect to his game on Wednesday. His work rate and defensive game looked alot better than they did in his first spell. He’s certainly quicker than I thought he was. The situation with Malouda summed it up for me. He lost the ball to Bridge who passed to Malouda who ran a good distance with the ball. Fernandes caught up with him and and won the ball cleanly. That impressed me because it is one part of his game that we probably didn’t see enough of in his first spell and its needed in English Football. Hopefully it will continue in future games. I thought he was good in patches on Wednesday. His passing was either brilliant or sloppy but alot of the sloppy passing was probably to do with trying to make things happen and open up Chelsea. I’d certainly rather see that than someone passing backwards and sideways. He had the confidence to do this type of things in big games and that excites me.

I think its a blessing in disguise that both Cahill and Hibbert are suspended. Hibbert because it allows Neville to play right back and Cahill because in my opinion he needs a rest. I’m certainly not saying get rid of Cahill because I see what he gives to the team and for me he’s probably one of our better and most important players. 9 goals in 18 starts proves this but we need a little change of style and Cahill needs a breather because he’s been off song for a few games now.

I think we should start with Vaughan and Johnson against Spurs. Be a little more direct and put there fragile defense under pressure. Vaughan has been chomping at the bit for a while now and his recent sub appearances have impressed me. With Fernandes, Arteta and Osman behind him and an experienced striker like AJ alongside him I think he’d slot right in and we gives us more options. Aerially he’s our best striker which gets the best out of Andy Johnson and he also has the pace to stretch Spurs. Just a thought but thats what I’d go for.
Tom Campbell
23   Posted 26/01/2008 at 16:25:07

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I agree with Connor R, except I would play Anichebe up front against Surs along with Vaughan.
Nick Heady
24   Posted 26/01/2008 at 16:20:57

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Sell Cahill? You're having a laugh! Just stop playing a dwarf up front on his own when he is marked by two giants and expecting to find him by bypassing the midfield and hoofing it long. All will then be good.
Rob Hollis
25   Posted 27/01/2008 at 00:23:49

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Steve Carter

?an objective-outcomes based focus?

Dear me.You will have us leveraging our relationship capital next in order to get more investment. I expect you thought we divested of a portion of our human capital when we sold McFadden.

Delloitteitus should be a notifiable disease.
Steve Carter
26   Posted 27/01/2008 at 05:30:25

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Yeah, fair call, Rob. I’ve given myself an appropriate uppercut. What is meant was...My view on McFadden? (Applying an objective-outcomes based focus, of course), we leveraged, and Brum divested, millions more monetary capital than his performance overall with us warranted.
Peter Bourke
27   Posted 27/01/2008 at 06:22:33

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My God!!!
Sell Cahill.
People who say he goes missing and doesn?t contribute enough and only scores goals against mediocre teams are BLIND and no Jack Shit about football. How short some peoples memories are. Our season was in reverse until Timmy came back from injury and ignited the spirit back into the team. No offense to Ossie and the like but they aren?t good enough to lace up his boots.
For all the sell Cahill brigade, I can only pray for your sakes that one day you will understand what football is and how it is played.
Adam Hunter
28   Posted 27/01/2008 at 12:52:28

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Another fan here who is stunned by the "sell Cahill" , "He?s no good" lines! All he does is score goals, I think one said... oh well that's a useless quality isn't it, the ability to score goals, change games...
Gavin Grayson
29   Posted 28/01/2008 at 05:33:50

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Even though playing 4-5-1 has yielded Everton much success, to bring us to the next level we should be able to convert to 4-4-2 in a match when the 4-5-1 system is not working for us.

Which brings us to the question as to whether we should leave Cahill out and bring on a forward. I believe that Cahill can be the second striker. 2 reasons for this is that he is able to match defenders for the long balls (something which AJ and the Yak can?t) and second due to his predatory instincts.

I have watched him play on numerous occasions and always found him struggling to tread back once the ball is lost and to win balls which a good central midfielder should do.

The success of a team is on whether they control the midfield. Just look at Man Utd when they had Keane and Ince in the middle of the park, they were unstoppable. And the reason why we were so successful in the 1995 season and managed to win the FA Cup was because we were able to match them with Parky and Horne.

Fernandes is a must buy based on the last week?s performance, the question is whether a similar all rounded midfielder can be found. Why not give Anderson a shot for the time being seeing that we are not going to sign another by the end of this window?

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