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The infamous pieces of the puzzle

By Richard Parker :  28/01/2008 :  Comments (8) :

Following the home defeat to Chelsea, Moyes spoke of finding the missing ingredient which will move us from the also-rans to the ranks of elite. I am glad that he has made that statement.

To me, it appears that he is a loyal manager and stands by his players in general, but that statement of intent, I hope, will give the players a kick up the arse in the final straight of the season, if they don?t want to be replaced in the summer. We need every last drop of effort from every member of the squad in the next 3 months.

My current verdict on the season is a B. A semi-final too easily surrendered, but a semi-final all-the-same. 4th spot in the league after a crazy Xmas schedule. Unbeaten and into the last 32 of the Uefa Cup. The above have all exceeded my expectations.

At the start of the season, I figured that re-qualification for Europe and a good run in the UEFA would be a relatively good season and a sign of progress (that wonderful word again). I never expected to win all 4 group games. Truth be told, after our last European ?experience? I expected us to scrape through behind AZ and Nuremberg and get knocked out to a big side in the first knockout round, such is the pessimism of this Evertonian.

Also, I think, in the grand scheme of things, realistic expectations would be for 5th or 6th in the league. I hate to do this, but money has to be considered. I think that if we were to finish in the top 4 this season, it would be a massive achievement. Please note the use of ?achievement? instead of ?success.?

OK, there was a very poor patch, just after the start of the season, but that was turned, well and truly, around. Then there was the highly disappointing loss to Oldham in the FA Cup, the only really serious failure this season, in terms of progress in competitions, in my opinion. I also dislike the fashion in which we surrendered to Chelsea in the semi-final, but I would lay equal blame at the feet of the players as Moyes for that. I?m not sure that it would have been possible to find a better XI with the players available for that game.

I would say that, so far, this season we are achieving a level in 3 of 4 competitions that even the most die hard Evertonian, with ?Nil Satis Nisi Optimum? tattooed across their heart, would consider at least satisfactory in today?s footballing world. I don?t agree that there is a big-4 and that the rest of us should be happy with a Uefa Cup place. I don?t think that Moyes would agree with that either.

I?m not going to go into the ?no-one else has done this or that? set of statistics or talk about the infamous glass ceiling. I have also read a lot about players who aren?t good enough, who should be sold. AJ, Hibbert, Neville, Ossie, etc. What I?m interested in is a serious discussion of what you think needs to be done to improve Everton to a level where the top 3 and then the top 2 is a possibility. I want to know, within the realms of reason, how you would change our squad and I don?t mean I would buy this player or the other? What is it that could be done within the boundaries of right here and right now, with Everton?s current resources, to give us that bit extra.

My opinion, to get the ball rolling is this:

I don?t agree with the talk about AJ not being up to it. I think he suffers from the style of play that we employ and I truly believe that in a front-2, he would be a huge player for us.

I think the key is the fact that we are limited, with the players available, to the 4-5-1 formation. We have great options in AJ, Arteta, Cahill, Pienaar, Yakubu, now Fernandes, but we seem to lack the ability to play the best XI together. If we pick Cahill, we can?t pick AJ. If we pick Arteta and Pienaar, we absolutely must pick Carsley and we maybe can?t pick Fernandes.

I think we are missing some ingredients and I think the way we need to break into the top 3 is by signing one or 2 players who will allow AJ to play in a front 2 with Yakubu, with Cahill in midfield. That attacking trio would give all teams something to think about. I think the balance needs to be found alongside Cahill. A player who will fill-in when Cahill bursts forward and is mobile enough to go from box-to-box, who can win and play the ball.

I think that, potentially, our best defence is Neville ? Yobo ? Lescott ? Baines. Along with Timmy, I don?t think that is particularly worse than Liverpool or Arsenal?s defence. I think that AJ and Yakubu up-front is a good enough partnership, with Vaughan and Victor coming through. I truly believe that our downfall is the balance of the midfield. I think that we?re only a couple of players short of a first XI which is capable of troubling the top 3, but that they are going to be very difficult to find.

Anyway, all of this is my humble opinion and I hope against hope that a nice shiny piece of silverware is not too far away. I hope that we keep our performance up for the Brann games and that we get past Fiorentina. After that who knows what can happen?

Reader Comments

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Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
1   Posted 29/01/2008 at 06:22:36

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Richard, you say:

" I want to know how you would change our squad and I don?t mean I would buy this player or the other? What is it that could be done within the boundaries of right here and right now, with Everton?s current resources, to give us that bit extra,"

but then go on to say:

"I think we are missing some ingredients and I think the way we need to break into the top 3 is by signing one or 2 players."

It?s contradictory but I agree with you.

As I?ve said in other threads on this topic, I don?t believe that top 3 or top 2 is possible with the current squad. That?s not to say that I don?t think there are improvements that can be made with the current personnel in terms of playing more effectively but we?re short on squad depth and lacking a really explosive forward player of the Kanchelskis ilk.

Andy Fearns
2   Posted 29/01/2008 at 09:54:11

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I think what we need are a top quality right back (with neville and hibbert as cover - in that order), a midfielder akin to owen hargreaves (without the glass knees), another centre half (surely stubbs will retire at the end of this season) and a top drawer goalie (or to convince howard that he can come to the edge of his area to collect through balls).

So thats about 35 mill we need to spend.
Connor Rohrer
3   Posted 29/01/2008 at 10:37:43

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The keeper position fine for me. Howard has proved over the last two seasons that he is one of the best in the league. A few mistakes and everyone claims he’s not good enough and that is sadly not the case. Every keeper goes through a little spell. He kept the most clean sheets bar Pepe Reina last season which shows his quality and he’s also kept a fair amount this season.

What people have to remember is he hasn’t really had a consistent back four in front of him. He started off with Yobo and Stubbs, then it was Yobo and Lescott, then Yobo and Jagielka and now Jagielka and Lescott. The full back position have also been mixed. Lescott, Baines and Valente have all mixed and matched at left back and Hibbert, Neville and Jagielka have all performed at right back.

There hasn’t really been any continuity and that is needed in a back 5. Keepers and defenders need to build partnerships. Howard is still a quality keeper in my eyes.
Kevin Tully
4   Posted 29/01/2008 at 12:21:06

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Richard, Imagine winning the Premiership, then in the summer still spending another 50m, some of it on unproven youngsters. That’s what Manure did before the start of this season. We can make it into the top four, but winning the title is way, way beyond us unless Roman has got a richer brother.
Lee Spargo
5   Posted 29/01/2008 at 12:50:05

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Kind of long-winded to just basically say you think we should go 4-4-2.
Peter Grealey
6   Posted 29/01/2008 at 12:11:42

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Richard I agree to a certain extent, I too would like us to play a 4-4-2 formation but we simply haven?t got the players to do that. Cahill has proved in the past that he?s nowhere near as effective as an orthodox midfielder which means we would be taking the main part of his game away which is geting into goalscoring positions at every given chance. Also there?s Lee Carsley who is great at what he does which is sitting in front of the back four and winning possesion.

I feel by playing 4-4-2 we would also be taking something away from his game by asking him to do something he just isn?t capable of doing and thats asking him to play a bit further up the pitch and to play a bit more football. There?s no doubting the fact 4-5-1 is our best formation and if that means only 1 spot for the Yak an AJ to fight over then so be it. You also say having pienaar and arteta in the side that maybe there?s no place for fernandes, well that?s another reason why the 4-5-1 suits us so well becuse it allows us to have the extra man in midfield.

Now we have Fernandes i feel we have a perfect balance to the midfield with Arteta and Pienaar out wide, Carsley breaking everything up, Cahill getting forward and finally someone like Fernandes who can dictate the play from the middle of the park, the kind of player we?ve needed for years.

Andy Ellams
7   Posted 30/01/2008 at 11:45:46

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I really believe Lee Carsley is the man to be sacrificed if we are to progress. He does a great job for us at the moment but his footballing ability is a bit limited. We need somebody with a bit of bite and passing abilty, like Owen Hargreaves as was mentioned earlier in this thread. There must be somebody out there who can do the job and not cost 10 million.
John Hughes
8   Posted 30/01/2008 at 13:19:50

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Richard, you make some interesting points and I think you were also trying to be "fair" and "loyal" to the players we have at Everton already. If we want to have a squad capable of imposing itself on the top four then we need to get better players.

We need a right back....being a good defender is no longer all you need to do...you have to be an athlete and a footballer and a good defender...so in that respect Tony Hibbert is out. Neville would be a reserve.... Justin Hoyte would be a fantastic replcement.

Midfield....this is going to hurt but Cahill is a one trick pony....when the team plays to his strength he is peerless....when the team struggles Cahill is useless as he is in a 4-4-2 formation. Carsely, again quite simply not good enough. I don?t want to hear any bullshit about this. He isn?t good enough. He?s done a good job for us.... granted and he?s been a loyal and hardworking player to Everton too, but you don?t win cups on sentimentality. You win through quality so sorry Cars.... your gone. short term answer, Gilberto at Arsenal, quality footballer and leader. We missed out on my first choice in Lassana Diarra who went to Pompey.

To be honest the rest of the squad would suit me down to the ground... those players I mentioned are who I would change out and try to bring in... I would have a little go for a winger and although I didn?t see him personally Arshavin sounds like a belter??

All ifs and buts obviously, but if we want to break into the "elite" we need better than we already have. These better players coming in would also show us how good the rest of the squad is.... Maybe having a top quality squad will then show a few of the better performers that they have to raise the bar too?

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