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The Time to Attack

By Stuart Reid :  26/01/2008 :  Comments (23) :

Whatever your personal opinion of David Moyes, it has to be admitted that he has done a remarkable job as Everton manager. We currently sit 4th in the Premier League and have progressed in the UEFA Cup, we are above Liverpool and several teams owned by billionaires and reached the Carling Cup semi-final. We also have the best Everton squad in years.

To illustrate my point I want to take you back to the Riverside Stadium in March 2002. It was a televised FA Cup 6th round tie and our line-up was as follows: Simonsen; Pistone, Stubbs, Weir, Unsworth, Clarke; Gascoigne, Gemmill, Linderoth; Radzinski, Moore. We were absolutely shocking, 3-0 down by half time and went out feebly. Walter Smith was fired less than a week later. The thing is, could anybody really have comprehended at that point, with that squad, that within three years we would qualify for the Champions? League? It was a monumental achievement, and we may even repeat it this year.

Take another look at that line-up. You?ve got to admit that for a club claiming to be one of England?s finest, it was a bit of a joke. It emphasises two things: that David Moyes has started with a dreadful team and built a very good one with virtually no money, and also that his achievements, admirable as they may be, have been given an extra sheen by the disastrous reigns of his predecessors. For me, that probably brings us to the truth about Moyes. From the position we were in, things were always going to improve under a half-decent manager. However we have advanced far beyond that. Moyes is an excellent boss, perhaps not the messiah some have made out but neither is he useless and clueless as others have suggested.

But now I?ve established that, I?ll tell you the problem as I see it. When Moyes took over and for the couple of years after, our squad was short on quality. The only option we had was to play battling football and grind out results. It was awful to watch, but at least we won fairly regularly. Before Moyes we had played awful football and lost, so it was an improvement. But this is now and we have a talented squad. Early in the season we were playing our usual hoofball, with a hopelessly isolated lone striker, and results were not all that great. Suddenly we began getting the ball down and throwing men forward, playing some great stuff. Results were brilliant. So of course, we stopped.

Against Chelsea on Wednesday we displayed our newly relocated caution. AJ up against two six-foot defenders, getting long balls, often the only player in their half. No creativity, no midfield runners. Caution and pragmatism. Caution and bloody pragmatism. Moyes has shown us that he can provide quality attacking football and that it gets results. Every time we resort to hoof and hope we get nowhere. So when are we going to dump the abysmal football for good?

In my opinion, people who call for Moyes? head are being a little ridiculous. But I understand their frustration. For as long as we can remember, Everton have not been good to watch. Suddenly this season, just when fans were beginning to get fed up with the style of play, we opened up. We passed the ball, we attacked. It was bloody marvellous. We scored seven goals in one match! Why we stopped I don?t know. I don?t want to get rid of Moyes ? I just want him to change a little. He is doing a great job, but think what we could do if we went for it a bit more. Other contributors to this site have pointed out that he has reservations about attacking the top teams and I think this is true. But look at Spurs on Tuesday, they went for it and look what happened.

I would much rather be sitting here thinking about a trouncing from Chelsea because we went for it than a limp exit in which we created nothing. So come on, Moysie, get back to the great football where we go for the win. Who dares wins.

Reader Comments

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Ronald Christopher
1   Posted 26/01/2008 at 07:57:07

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I agree fully with Stuart Reid’s comments. David Moyes has done a good job so far. However, in most of our games so far we have never showed that extra level of creativity in midfield or that extra quality finishing in attack that is required for us to breakthrough into the top three in the Premier League or to be sucesssful in European footbal.<

We definitely need a few more quality players but of course, our financial resouces prevent us from getting what is required. But despite this constraint, we should still be more adventurous in our play.
Dean Johnson
2   Posted 26/01/2008 at 08:12:55

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Guys, realistically, we are toothless up front without the Yak. It is the signing of the Yak that has given us this resurgence and when he is not there, we are rubbish.

As you can see with Nigeria, if you don?t play to your strikers strengths then he won?t score. This is why we have been playing good football, because if we don?t, we cannot feed the Yak and then he cannot score. He is strong skillful and clinical, he occupies both centre backs so the midfield runners can all join in and creat havoc. With these being the skilful Pienaar, Arteta and Osman, and the goal getting of Cahill, we have an excellent blend. Unfortunately I see more hoofball until our African stars come back.

Nigerian P2 D1 L1 so hopefully they will be back before we know it!
Lue Glover
3   Posted 26/01/2008 at 08:08:01

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I think he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesnt. If we had got a 3 nil stuffing on Wednesday I doubt many people would have thought ’at least we got at them’.
I too am curious as to why we’ve gone from those heady ’fab footy’ days of just a few months ago to the much more cautious approach. One answer is the influence of Pienaar. He has made a huge difference to our team not just with his own skills and determination but by the fact that he does take some pressure off Arteta. We have struggled to play any decent football since he left for Africa. Having said that we havent had THAT many games but for me, he is the missing ingredient to the skill mix in the team.

I’ve watched the goals from the Sunderland game a few times (sad but true) and Pienaar somehow manages to link so well, pass so well, tackle and indeed finish the move with great skill. It’s remarkable how he shrugs defenders off and it takes a fairly hefty whack to knock him off his feet.
Pienaar is the man that makes the difference regardless of DM’s tactical instructions, you never see HIM hoof a long ball up for our miniscule AJ or Cahill to chase. He plays the ball on the ground or a foot or two above it, defenders just can’t defend that sort of pass and Aj’s pace gets him past the defender and into space.
I can’t wait to see him, Manny and Arteta playing together. Piennar and Manny are both capable of that killer pass that can slice a defence in two and Arteta can deliver the rest. There’s a fair way to go yet but Wednesday will be interesting. Come on you Blues.
James Jones
4   Posted 26/01/2008 at 08:36:06

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How can you slate David Moyes at all? before he arrived you only have to look at the squad he inherited as shown above, to be where we are at this moment in time is a miracle, and the players he has bought, bargains such as Joleon, Tim and Mikel, and many others. Also the average age of the team and the spanking new training facilities at Halewood, people want to get their head out of the sand and just remember the bad times. Currently 4th in the league still in the UEFA Cup and beaten by a world class team in the SEMIFINAL of the Carling Cup. Grow up Eh?
Michael Hunt
5   Posted 26/01/2008 at 08:39:04

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FYI Here’s what Neil Warnock thought of Davie Moyes’ tactics Vs Chelsea in the semi final (from the Independent online):

"I was out on Wednesday and tuned in to the Everton-Chelsea match on the radio. Graham Taylor was co-commentator. I love listening to him. He and David Pleat know what they are talking about, they tell you things the ordinary viewer, or listener, would not notice.

In the second half Graham was talking about how disappointed he was in Joe Cole’s contribution. In the space of a few minutes it was, "Ball from Malouda ... oh what a fantastic finish! That’s sent Chelsea to Wembley." Normally it’s the other way, commentators praise someone and they give a goal away.

The actual commentators were saying they couldn’t believe David Moyes’ tactics in playing just Andy Johnson up front. They ought to manage a team which has to play these top clubs. If you play 4-4-2 and have a go, nine out of 10 times you’ll concede on the break and the game’s over. By the sound of it Davie got it right. If Peter Cech had not been in goal Everton would have scored.

I remember when we beat Arsenal 1-0 at Bramall Lane last year. It was a fantastic night. I listened to a phone-in the next night and someone said: "I can’t understand Warnock’s tactics. I know we won, but he was so negative."

(I don’t think rant prone Warnock is a great manager or anything, but he has been there and done it i.e. mangaged in the prem. Perhaps his view merits some recognition by us amateurs.)
Ajamu Mutumwa
6   Posted 26/01/2008 at 09:05:55

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NIce article, but its a shame that you don’t offer any explanation as to why we have reverted to hoofball.

Its quite simple really. We don’t have the depth or quality in our squad that we need.

You have failed to mention that Osman has been out of the side for six weeks or more due to a broken toe.

You have failed to mention that the Yak and Yobo are with Nigeria on Africa Cup of Nations duty.

You fail to mention that Pienaar is on duty with South Africa at the same tournament.

Many people might disagree with me, but in my view Pienaar represented the piece in the puzzle which enabled Ossie to up his game, which fed the Yak, and took a lot of the creative responsibility off of Arteta, while alllowing Cahill more freedom to score.

You could say that our temporary demise is down to Pienaar being away. I would.

Also, we need to remember that Moyes has, in the face of these obvious deficit, tried to name an attacking team and bench.

Finally, its my view that on Wednesday, Vaughan should start against Spurs, even if its at the expense of AJ. I rate him that much.

Once our contingent returns, we’ll start to play sexy football once again I am sure.
Steve Ryan
7   Posted 26/01/2008 at 09:21:33

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The answer to your question Stuart is Peinnar. His intelligence, vision and abilitiy to knit the team together via his short incisive passing and running off the ball has been sorely missed. Having said that, if we are to progress to the next level, we still require a powerful central midfielder and sadly, a replacement for Osman who unfortunately hasn’t the temperament to perform against the top clubs.
Stephen Burton
8   Posted 26/01/2008 at 11:09:37

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To be fair, Chelsea were very good the other night. We simply couldn’t break their defence down and when we did open up in the 2nd half we were lucky to only lose by one goal. Effectively, they beat us at our own game - solid defence, pressing midfield and the quick counter-attack. I’m disappointed to lose but I can admit they were just too good and deserved to win. Clearly our squad isn’t strong enough yet but we are improving year on year and are a world away from Walter Smith’s team of 2002.
Laurie Hartley
9   Posted 26/01/2008 at 10:29:36

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Ajamu wrote above - "Many people might disagree with me, but in my view Pienaar represented the piece in the puzzle which enabled Ossie to up his game, which fed the Yak, and took a lot of the creative responsibility off of Arteta, while alllowing Cahill more freedom to score."

I think he has got it exactly right. And as for Ossie, I think it is over the top knocking him on the strength of the last two games. He was playing great at the beginning of the season. Against West Ham in the first game he was central to what was the best display of passing football (as opposed to hoofball) I have seen from an Everton team since the 80’s. Then he broke his toe was out for 5 or 6 weeks and came straight back into the team and played 90 minutes on an absolute quagmire of a pitch - and then 4 days later he is thrown back into the mixer against Chelsea. The lad has got a good engine and an even bigger heart.

Ajamu is also right about Vaughan against Spurs but I would play him with AJ. And when Vaughan has run himself into the ground I would throw on Anichebe. That will rattle them! He will never have a better chance to do it - Tim Cahill is banned.

And let us not forget Fernandes. He is going to give us an extra dimension - make no mistake about it. When the boys come back from Africa we are going to be a real handful capable of competing with any squad.

Which brings me to the question of David Moyes and Stuart Reid’s closing comment. DM has done a terrific job but if he wants to make Everton great again I also believe he will have to start taking a few chances. As Stuart says "he who dares wins" - or as Billy Jean King told the girl who won the Australian Tennis Open just before the final today "champions take chances".

Come on the Blues!!!!
Louis Huglin
10   Posted 26/01/2008 at 11:32:58

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Stuart, I agree that sometimes DM?s tactics can be frustrating.

However, I think your summation of Wednesday night's performance is a little harsh. I was sat in the main stand pretty near to being over the half way line (thank you Anthony for the tickets!) and had an excellent viewpoint of the game.

We had a depleted squad. Our strength, nevertheless, was in midfield, especially with the return of Manny. Would it have been right to leave out one of Cahill, Carsley, Arteta, even Osman, in favour of risking Vaughan or Anichebe? The 5 man midfield was inevitable, I thought, and to be honest before the game I supported that because I believe (relying on Cahill being on form) it is our best formation.

But on the contrary to your suggestion I actually thought we played some decent stuff, particularly in the first half. I enjoyed some periods of great one or two touch passing football, even if it didn?t actually get us very far against one of the best defences in the world. The team DID try to play the passing game that we enjoyed success with earlier in the season, but it got them nowhere, Chelsea dealt with it without really breaking sweat (except for the Lescott header that Cahill almost steered in).

So Moyes did revert to a bit of hoofball, and this set the trend in the second half. We were frustrated, we were nervous, and we panicked a bit. To be honest, against a team like Chelsea, we only ever had an outside chance, and we gave it our all. Don?t pick on Moyes every time we lose; he has his faults, but his success in bringing our beloved Everton so far in six years merits patience from the fans and some belief that he can take us still further; every manager has a slip up every so often. If we fail to get any further in the Uefa Cup, and if we fail to come in the top six, and if by this time next year we are out of the cups and out of the top half of the Premier League, then it may be time to look at the manager. But for now, David Moyes is continuing to prove himself as one of the best British managers around, and Everton Football Club is making strides as a result. He is not the Moyessiah. But he?s pretty much the next best thing.
Steve Rewth
11   Posted 26/01/2008 at 11:32:00

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I freely confess to being one of those slagging off Moyes believing he couldn’t take us above mere mid table mediocrity with dross footy. Stuart’s reminder of that shameful day 5yrs ago at Boro’ is timely. After that thought we were about to do a Man City and go into free fall. That was what Moyes inherited, plus a Board at war with itself and with no money. Its all too easy to forget that. Our progress during the last 5yrs with meagre funds compares well with any not least overblown and overhyped Newcastle. I agree with Stephen Burton, Chelsea played a gagey game very well and one we will do well do learn from to make an impact in Europe. Disappointed to see a reversion to the safe and pragmatic but at least could see some sense in playing it that way while still strongly disagreeing with it. But this was nothing like as bad as what seemed to have become Moyes’s default tactics no more so than the notorious game vs Spurs when the whole of Goodison rightly let him know he’d got it seriously wrong. Yes we have come a long way with likes of Arteta, Peinaar, Fernandes, Cahill, the Yak, Ossie and youngsters like Vaughan , Anichebe and more waiting in the wings. A long way from the squad and how they played that dreadful day at Boro’.
Lewis Barclay
12   Posted 26/01/2008 at 18:19:07

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Anyone see DM on the BBC today? You have to hand it to him, Shearer and Hansen seemed to be in awe of the man.

DM was gratious yet dignified and really showed the look of a man that is at the helm of a club that will are steadily becoming one of the most respected teams in the Premier League.
Richard Grisdale
13   Posted 26/01/2008 at 19:58:48

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Osman is a far better player when we see him in CM. He hasn't got the pace to get away from players when he is out wide. When he plays in CM, he has the touch and skill to create half a yard for himself which is all he needs to lay it off...once you see Pienaar return and Osman moves back inside you will see him return to form....
Mark Grayston
14   Posted 26/01/2008 at 20:21:09

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I agree with some of the points made. On Wednesday we were too one-dimensional in hoofing the ball upto to AJ for so long. In hindisght, Moyes should have changed the tactics a bit sooner. Against Wigan we got away with this type of football but against a solid Chelsea team it was never going to be enough. However, saying that we were missing 3 of our best players this season who have all contributed to the better quality of football seen this season.

I would also add that against Arsenal in December we played them off the park with some excellent football but ended up getting beaten by a couple of long balls so there?s a time and a place for the quality football and a time to keep it tight with one up front.

Getting the balance right is another thing. I am a Moyes supporter in terms of the progress the club has made in the last 6 years. Unless he is regularly winning things, there will always be criticisms and after all you can?t keep everyone happy all of the time. Without some serious investment behind him he is always going to be limited in terms of what he can achieve in this day and age.

Stuart Reid
15   Posted 26/01/2008 at 23:49:04

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Thanks for the comments guys. I agree that Pienaar is key, especially when playing alongside Arteta. When just one of them plays they can be marked out of the game but not both.

Interestingly I was watching the Chelsea game with my dad who is not an Everton fan and he commented on how Fernandes looked a class above everyone else. Perhaps we will improve with him back.

Osman had a poor game but he is still a valuable player and a good goalscorer. Everyone has an off day, particularly after injury.
Stewart Joynson
16   Posted 27/01/2008 at 11:42:05

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Fernandes looks the business to me and when he is really fit and sharp he will be great.With Arteta, Pienaar and a fit Osman we will be ready for the Uefa Cup and 4th spot. Neville was disappointing and his place is in jeopardy, particularly with Hibbert looking solid.
John Andrews
17   Posted 28/01/2008 at 07:39:15

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I have to agree with the majority of you and say that Pienaar has made a real difference.
Have we signed him yet ? Of course we bloody haven’t. We will wait until the last possible moment and then probably lose him to somebody else.
Dale Forbes
18   Posted 28/01/2008 at 09:52:53

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I agree with Stuart - there’s a negative mindset that’s hard to break and it’s epitomised by Carsley. The guy just can’t pass the ball. I don’t buy this screening role that he’s supposed to play: we have other more skillful midfielders who are supposed to be tackling and the defenders should do their jobs. That’s a similar problem with Neville too. Now that Fernandes is there there could be a great midfield with him, Arteta, Pienaar and Cahill.
Peter Roberts
19   Posted 28/01/2008 at 12:42:00

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Stuart, good article, and like many said, Pienaar is the key to the midfield at the moment. It was painful to see how last Wednesday all our creative play went through Mikel Arteta. You can?t do that against Chelsea because their world class players will spot it a mile away and negate him.

FWIW I thought Moyes did get the tactics spot on. We couldn?t go 4-4-2 as we couldn?t afford to lose an early goal. Vic was coming on just as Chelsea scored which was a real kick in the teeth, but for me the hoofball was explained by the fact we tried to knock it around and couldn?t get anywhere.

For me at the moment I?m more concerned with how we do against the other 15 rather than the Big Four - that?s the standard benchmark for the moment - Greg Murphy in his article the other day pointed out Moyes is possibly the best manager out of the other 16 in the league (with the exception of maybe Martin O?Neill) because his record this season against the other clubs is comparable. It?s against the Sky Four though where the problem lies and at the moment we can?t regularly compete with them due to largely inferior finances and calibre of player. But if we continue moving in the right direction, there?s no reason why we can?t.
Dave Dawson
20   Posted 28/01/2008 at 12:51:22

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Moyes has spent circa £78million at Everton, more money than most people seem to remember! £62million of which has been spent over the last three years - it may not be as much as some clubs but I don?t think its"virtually no money" as stated above. Net spending is a lot lower becasue of Rooney, but £78m is a fair whack of cash.

He wasted a load of maoney in 2005, spending £17.5 million on Beattie, Davies, Krøldrup and Van der Meyde - none of which made an impact.

I rate Moyes but to say he?s spent virtually no money is wrong in my opinion.
Paul Hennessey
21   Posted 29/01/2008 at 02:10:34

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We can't play 4-4-2 with Cahill or Carsley. Simple as that.
Harj Badial
22   Posted 29/01/2008 at 13:46:52

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Cahill is available for spurs far as I know - his ban starts at weekend. so Cahill and AJ it is upfront. I would play the same team as we did against Chelsea...we will play better, I think the players felt the pressure v Chelsea. COYB
Ken Murphy
23   Posted 30/01/2008 at 06:09:16

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Agree with most of the post here, DM has been patient and careful, on Wednesday we could have played two up front after half time, this is what I was a bit miffed about, as were a few people around me, a pity really, but we don’t know if this would just have made us too bare in the middle.
Yak was the missing link on Wednesday, we are so used to him being there that he is sorely missed when he is not.
Just a point on the spending, all managers make duff choices, some regret it as they pick up their P45, but we have recouped some money, DM has in overall terms been a wiley buyer, what are his aquisitions worth vis a vis what he paid?

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