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11 points to go

By Steve Guy :  19/03/2008 :  Comments (35) :
As the lively debate continues as to whether we have ?turned the corner?, are ?stepping up to the next level?, or have ?blown it (again)?, I thought I would offer my own perspective for comment.

I have for the m0ost part thoroughly enjoyed this season and if it ended tomorrow I would still say it has been a marked improvement on what has gone before; whether under Davie Moyes or any of his predecessors back to Kendall Mark One. Our passing still leaves something to be desired at times, whilst at others it is crisp and incisive. We still sometimes play hoofball when we come under pressure at the back, but I?ve seen other, supposedly ?class? sides do the same; so as long as the ratio of passing to said hoofball continues to move towards more passing, I?ll put up with the increasingly occasional thump upfield..

The one word that seems to encapsulate Everton this season is ?team?. I have seen contributions which rant and rail at certain individuals within the squad and I think this misses the point; in my view Everton as a team is the sum of all its parts in a way I only see elsewhere in Man Utd and Chelsea. Take Fabregas out of Arsenal or Stevie Me out of Liverpool and they are nothing like as effective; however, at various points this season we have seen supposedly key players missing for long periods and it seems to have had little effect on our overall progress in the League (African Nations Cup being one example).

So criticising Phil Neville?s regular inability to pass to another Blue shirt picks out a clear weakness in his game, but ignores the significant leadership and associated influence he brings to those around him on the pitch, as well as his tackling and crossing. Similarly Osman?s lack of stature and the negative effect this can sometimes have in certain midfield situations, ignores his goals from midfield and his ability to unlock defences with either a moment of trickery or a clever pass. The fact is you can go through the whole team on that basis and quite frankly I don?t see where it gets us, because the fact of the matter is we are currently six points clear in 5th, 3 points off 4th and 11 points off the lead.

I would like to dwell on this latter statistic. Granted it is a big ?if?, but, points lost to Man Utd. home and away (in what were both tight games), points lost to Liverpool, Spurs and Blackburn would have seen us probably third and with a tighter margin on Arsenal and United. I know you can argue such issues until the cows come home; however, my point is that, despite the sometimes glaring deficiencies of certain players, as a team Everton are a very good one. In fact, against a background of an 11-point margin with the Premier League leaders, I think we are a better team than we give ourselves credit for and results like Fulham last Sunday lead us too often into looking at many aspects of the team through the wrong end of the telescope. 11 points is 3 wins and a draw; obvious as a stat, but as a gap between Everton and the teams above us, it is not insurmountable for us over the next few seasons, especially with more judicious signings.

The only real disaster was the embarrassment in the FA Cup. The League Cup was a disappointment; we were unlucky with Lescott?s own goal at the Bridge, but Everton have proved (against Fiorentina for example) that they can turn results around and I think the return leg was wholly influenced by the players we had missing in Africa, which affected us much more than it did Chelsea. I know I said earlier that we haven?t missed players, but in a one off situation like that, these things can make a difference and I think they did that night.

I have enjoyed both the League and Uefa Cup campaigns. The League speaks for itself given our position and we have seen some great games of Footie, home and away. I agree with those who see the Uefa Cup as a learning curve for the team; if we do get into the CL next year, I expect us to be able to make a much stronger showing (at least in the Group phase) as a result of the experience gained.

I?ve always maintained that getting into the CL on a regular basis was the hard part and that once you are in it, it gets easier to compete in that environment over time; not just because you can afford better players, but because, with a few exceptions like Barcelona, a lot of the teams are beatable (just look at Liverpool and how they regularly overachieve [in my opinion] for proof of that).

We have come a long way in six years and we haven?t won anything yet, but anyone who bets against us doing so very soon underestimates both this team and its manager. As fans we will always want more and better from the team we support but that team now has us looking up, not down, and at an 11-point gap between ?nearly? men and possible future Champions.

Reader Comments

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Dan Walker
1   Posted 19/03/2008 at 21:20:17

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Well written Steve. It puts things back in a realistic perspective, after reading so many of the over-reactions from last weekend’s Fulham blip.

You’re right that this season we have a lot of things to be pleased about and a lot of positives to take to next season. But before we do that, we’ve still got everything to play for in securing CL qualification!
Davey Militwithc
2   Posted 19/03/2008 at 21:33:37

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Top post mate, I have to say your article sums up the way I feel about Everton.
The point I particularly agree with is the "team" that we have. I have lost count the amount of times various people slate the contributions of Mssrs Osman, Neville and Carsley. The fact is that our team is a good one. we would not have been competing in Europe and at the top end of the league all season if we were not.
Yes the players do have flaws but they also have other attributes that are not always tangible. Every time I hear Neville interviewed I can honestly see why he is valued so much by Moyes. He is almost Moyes number two the way he rallies the players and implements instructions. It is not hard to see why Moyes has not replaced Alan Irvine when he has back up like Phil Neville. The same with Ossie and Carsley, they give 110% every week what they lack in quality they more than make up for with work ethic and that gives the tam the great balance that we seem to have to creat a successful formula.
I am not advocating resting on our laurels and not adding further quality, but I think that these so called "not good enoughs" are worth their place in the TEAM, and once we add quality it may lead to them upping their game even more.
Ben Brown
3   Posted 19/03/2008 at 21:52:19

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I think you’re right. And this is exactly why we need to stay up there at the end of this season. We’re only 4/5 top quality players off having a squad as good as most of the teams in the CL. But we’ll only get those kinds of players if we’re up there at the end of the season!
Guy Hastings
4   Posted 19/03/2008 at 22:29:56

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Good point, Davey, regarding PN. Give him two/three years he?ll be cutting his teeth as a lower league player-manager - maybe even coach with us. What price he?s managing Everton within the next 10 years? I?ll have a tenner with Ladbrokes - if they?ll take it.
Brian Waring
5   Posted 19/03/2008 at 22:52:39

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It?s funny you know. Tony Marsh or Anthony Newell contribute a piece, on how they feel things are going in general, and they are both ridiculed to fuck for it. But, as soon as someone post;s a piece that is all luvey about the club, everyone is gushing. It?s sad that some off you wil not accept, that sometimes contributor?s like the those mentioned above, do make genuine observation?s on how things are going, but because it might be negative, they are ridiculed for it.
Brian Richardson
6   Posted 19/03/2008 at 23:05:46

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Brian Waring ...

People respond to Tony Marsh and Anthony Newell in the way they do because they disagree with their posts. People responded to Steve Guy in the way they did because they agreed with his post.

There are no agendas, there is no politics, it just happens that the vast majority of intelligent Evertonians recognise that, given the budget he has worked with, David Moyes has worked wonders with our club.

What do you expect? Do you want us to ignore the facts and pretend things are terrible? Do you want us to forget the last 20 years and imagine we have some divine right to top the league? Do you want us to forget the circumstances Moyes has dealt with and pretend we should have won the Champions League by now?

Look, we all know we are a work in progress. We all know we have flaws. It’s just that incessant negativity does not reflect the way that 99% of Evertonians feel right now.
Sam Morrison
7   Posted 20/03/2008 at 00:41:00

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Brian Waring - It’s funny how not every one agrees with you isn’t it? Isn’t it weird how if you slag off the manager or the team, some people will defend them. Funny old world.

Equally, if someone like Steve Guy says what he says above, there are some people who disagree. Like you. To be fair, I find this equally baffling so I know where you’re coming from.

Steve Guy, good post in general but for one thing. Three wins and a draw is only ten points. So I disagree with you about that.
Steve Williams
8   Posted 20/03/2008 at 00:43:11

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Your articile was both well written and well articulated and all credit to you for that. It also demonstrates a different perspective from the doom and gloom merchants that have invaded this site recently.

Whilst I agree with its upbeat theme, I feel that we do have to introduce some realism into our current situation.

Although we have dropped points in games in which we may have done better, so have most teams in the PL. We have also done better in some games than we probably expected to. So we can’t rack up those points as a justification of how close we may be to the top three - otherwise most teams can play that game. Essentially we have got the points that we probably should have got.

We are where we are on merit - fifth is probably about right and we are very close to fourth - no better. Where we finish entirely depends on what performances we can drag out of the (ever decreasing) squad in the remaining games (fairly obvious really).

My main concern is we are on the downward slop in terms of fitness, form and performance. I went to Florence with my lad and was bitterly disappointed with a really poor performance. This was followed with a similarly flat one at Sunderland (but managed to win) and a truly dreadful one at Fulham (which unfortunately we didn’t win). We are down to the bare bones and generally we don’t look as if we can go on a run of six wins (for CL) for four (for UEFA Cup). It looks like everything has caught up with us.

Now, I’m not criticising the team , management or anyone else, just interpreting recent performances. I really hope that we can squeeze that extra bit out of the lads, and I will certainly contribute to that in terms of support (like we all did against Fiorentina at home) but if we fall short, then it is because we are short and that is our true place in life. We should accept that this season and aim to move on next, without the need to castigate almost everyone in sight.

I love my club but I won’t disguise our true position by that love.
Jon Wright
9   Posted 20/03/2008 at 01:39:38

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Thanks for that Steve Guy. I did feel a bit down after Fulham for all the obvious reasons. Quality doesn’t vanish (maybe neglected) if it is nurtured and we have a team here who are young and full of potential. They set the bar against Fiorentina and Moyes will always want to raise it. This is our future and I’m looking forward to it.
peter bourke
10   Posted 20/03/2008 at 03:57:25

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@Brian Waring.
Brian from my observations Tony Marsh and the like ONLY ever post EXTREMELY negative articles. Most of which are based on emotion, not fact. If they have the Chips on their shoulders removed and learn to be able to communicate without resorting to Gutter language then some people might just take them seriously.
Most posters on TW get a fairly balanced critique from its contributors even when it mnay be negative, but the ones who only ever write vitriolic rubbish with no basis of fact or merit mget the response they deserve.
Steve Guy
11   Posted 20/03/2008 at 08:29:43

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My Maths was never very good, apologies for that, but I am pleased that didn’t detract from the main thrust of the article and that the majority have seen the points I made as having some validity. Whether its 10 points or 11, or 12, the difference now between being in the hunt for trophies and our current position is not insurmountable if we keep adding quality into the side.
John Murray
12   Posted 20/03/2008 at 11:16:06

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Good article Steve. Its easy to act on emotion especially after the Fulham display. I liked the way you have artculated your comments over the progression that the club has made.

I think the ?team? spirit is better at Goodison than it has been for 20 years. I think we have a few players who we could still get rid of and replace them with a bit more quality (Tony Hibbert) being the main one. But the progression made over the bast 3 years especially has been superb. There have been highs and lows to the season and when I was away at Villa at the start of the season I thought we looked flat and lacked options and inventivness on the field (simular to Sunday at Fulham). But we always seem to bounce back and with the West Ham game looming and the the inevitable visit to castle greyskull (RS) I think we have a good chance of achieving CL football.

I think Moyes has benefited by not having a No 2 this season having to be more hands on with the players and not being advised so much. Alan Irvine is a good coach; however, his judgement from time to time was questionable (Per Krøldrup for instance). I would like to see a foriegn No 2 come in, maybe an Italian or an ex-player... look at Guss Poyet at Spurs, he was the back bone of Leeds and he speaks with knowlegable, leve head and has an obvious close bond with the players at Spurs. Zola is looking to come back to England and if he can coach what he poduced on the field....... get him in.

Jeremy Buckley
13   Posted 20/03/2008 at 11:02:43

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I for one am happy with a few years of pushing the top 4 for a place after the last 10 years of relegation battling woe. This is the sort of article that puts it all in perspective. YES we want the golden eras back - what supporter of any club doesn’t? - but slow, steady progress is far more rewarding to me than wondering if we’ll be in the top flight the following season.
Simon Jones
14   Posted 20/03/2008 at 11:40:46

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Well thought out article. Remember, points from turning tight losses into draws, draws into wins takes points from the likes of Man U & Chesea and would reduce that 11 point gap still further. We are still a way off those top teams in ability throughout the team, but this season more than any (even the "4th" season) has given me hope. A few more articles like this and I might take my campaign to re-name the "Big Four" as the "Big Five" public.
Paul Lenehan
15   Posted 20/03/2008 at 12:04:37

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Brian Waring, anyone who thinks it would have been better for us to have been knocked out of the Uefa Cup by Metalist - as Tony Marsh does - deserves to be objected to, becuase that is just utter nonsense.
Damian Wilde
16   Posted 20/03/2008 at 12:59:58

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Good article. Brain Waring, the reason why most agree with this and not Tony Marsh?s articles is because this article has been written with ?balanced thinking? and the other articles are written in a distored way littered with thinking errors e.g. oh my God Everton are finished forever (after losing the first league game this year).
Andy Burke
17   Posted 20/03/2008 at 15:37:14

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Good balanced article Steve.

Brian, the reason people have not had a go at this post is because thay have agreed with it. It?s not trying to paint a rosier picture than what we have at the club at the moment. just a considered view.

To me, the post just highlights that we are a team going in the right direction and all the people who have responded have done so ?cause they agree with the points made.

Mike Oates
18   Posted 20/03/2008 at 22:12:36

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Excellent article, I also strongly agree that he has developed a team which has actually outperformed the sum of the parts. You only have to look at all the teams around us with their numbers of players in the "major" international squads - just today - Portsmouth 3 Engalnd players today , Villa 3 , even Middlesborough 2 and we have Lescott . Whilst some Toffees will say Jags is better than ... Ossie is better than.... the man at the very TOP doesn't believe it, but following Capello?s comments the other week he clearly realises Everton are a strong TEAM.

My future concern is whether Moyes realises he cannot hope to keep the Blues up there year by year without truly "Class Players" - and therefore substantial monies please, Bill.
Matt Geraghty
19   Posted 20/03/2008 at 22:31:39

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Thanks for that Steve, what a good read.
I agree with pretty much everything you say.
Hopefully we can get some class players in the summer that can continue the DM team ethic of having players that combine skill with a good work rate. I’d prefer that and us keep the great team-work than having a few superstars who turn it on when they want to.

Here’s to a great 8 games!
Jay Mullarkey
20   Posted 21/03/2008 at 10:26:43

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The doom mongers were out again last week after the Fulham defeat so its great to read your article because it is spot on. I always say to people at the game or in the pub having a moan (which they are entitled to), remember Walter Smith. We have come a very long way. In terms of signings we don’t know who DM is looking at but can Fernandes really be as ordinary as he has shown this season. He certainly doesn’t look the same player as he did last. Still we will see. Its a pity Sky’s Super Grand Slam Sunday isn’t going to be between the top 3 and the 5th in the premiership but its close nonetheless. That would have been embarrassing for the RS.
Ciarán McGlone
21   Posted 21/03/2008 at 11:22:58

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@Peter Bourke

Interesting that you throw the word FACT around in such a sanctimonoius and erroneous way..... as if you're the moral guardian of it!

Here's some facts for you (or should that be opinion?)... we were absolutely atrocious in the games against Spurs and Man City, yet won the games... we were also unconvincing against struggling Sunderland... and again won. Hardly inspiring stuff.

While I agree that we have great team spirit, it doesn't amount to a replacement for quality football. For example: it's all good and well stating that Neville shows fantastic spirit but when will this pandering give way to the realism that we play awful when he's in midfield? And that pointing furiously doesn't win matches??

it was no conincidence that we arguably played our best football of the season against Fiorentina with Neville not in midfield... and it was also no coinicidence that we resorted to garbage midfield play once he was reinstated against Fulham!

Some people treat negativity as a curse, but I'm lost as to how we constructively analyse our performanaces and try to improve without picking out the negatives. Surely they?re the parts of our game that need attention... or is that a logical step too far?

It's not negativity, it's bloody realism...

And I can tell you this... as much as negativity may annoy the positive gang, it's not even half as aggravating as the candy floss coated, blue dreamland sycophancy that is also prevalent among our less negative fans (or maybe that should be less stupid fans - according to Brian Richardsons clumsy and somewhat idiotic wording!)

It's about time evertonians grew up and learnt to accept that passion flows in different ways.
Ciarán McGlone
22   Posted 21/03/2008 at 11:53:46

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Before anyone goes off on one I meant Portsmouth and not Spurs... some moron beside me is still bleating on about that match the other night...
Andy MacFarlane
23   Posted 21/03/2008 at 13:08:59

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Ciaran. You know what I cannot understand? Contributers to this site who post positive or encouraging comments about our Team / players / Management etc tend to do so with calm and balanced reasoning. The Tony Marshes of this world (of which you seem to be in the same "club") cannot seem to present a single negative perspective without lacing it with abuse for any one with an opposite view, or foul language. I can almost feel the heat being generated as you hammer the keyboards to expel your angst. I certainly wouldn?t like to be sitting next to any of you at a game, as heaven knows how you react if a pass goes astray. Maybe a little anger management wouldn?t go amiss (although you are certainly entirled to your opinions).
Michael Kenrick
24   Posted 21/03/2008 at 13:36:47

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Nice post, Ciarán. I think you sum the issues up superbly. Unfortunaly, Andy is doing his best to ignore the points you made and drag the discussion back down into the gutter, which is a pity, but is unfortunately par for this particular course.

I?m trying to think of ways to limit the back and forth between the Positivists and the Neagtivists on here because in many ways I think it has outlived its value in terms of overall discussion, and it descends into the usual predictable inevitable slugfest (especially after every poor display by the team). The intolerance shown is very annoying to both sides, but it always always comes as a reaction to post-match analysis, which has always been the Number One function of this website since its very earliest days.

I don?t understand why people react so emotionally to post-match analysis. There are many good points and bad point raised, but why can?t we all at least agree to read and digest them without attacking eachother so vehemently?
Ciarán McGlone
25   Posted 21/03/2008 at 13:32:47

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Andy, for a start, I'm not in anybody's club... and I'd love to know what purpose you serve by making such divisive distinctions..

I watch the team and I highlight the things that I don't like ...interestingly enough because those are the things that need highlighting and addressing for us to improve...

What I see on this site and the numerous other fan sites is a constant demonising of those who point out the negatives (and on this thread it has even gone so far to suggest that they are below intelligence compared to those in the opposite camp... Please,spare me!)

Not only do you choose to ignore the fact that passion for Everton manifests itself in strange and different ways (with your puerile ?I dont wanna sit beside you? comment), you also seem to be implying that if you point out the negatives that that is somehow not ?fair and balanced?...

What definition of balanced are you using? Certainly not one that I'm familiar with!

Being balanced is not about producing a positive comment for every negative comment, because that assumes that they exist in an equilibrium ? and is utter rubbish.

Being balanced is about cementing your points with logic and reason.... a point you obviously miss ?perjorative sarcasm or not.

If the likes of yourself spent less time putting Evertonians into categorical "clubs", maybe you'd actually have time to analyse our performances with a degree of objectivism and realise that this so called negative ?club? have some fair and well thought out points.

OUR team is getting were I want it to be, and I've cringed less this season than any other recent season... but that doesn't mean everything is rosey in the garden of Goodison, and people have the right to make their points free from mindless platitudes and finger-pointing....

Put it this way: I've never seen anyone moaning about ?positive morons? in the way that negativity is hounded. Maybe we should start...
Simon Jones
26   Posted 21/03/2008 at 14:46:44

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I comment on various articles, sometimes with my tongue in cheek, other times bemoaning the fact that many of you are happy to be challenging for 4th, as if that is the best we can hope for and should accept. I am an unashamed "Positivist." Even in the dark days we could turn on the odd performance and look like we should have been further up the table. I would cling to that little piece of hope.

We have got to learn how to be comfortable with success. Man U fans ram their team?s success down everyone?s throats. RS fans phone 5 Live and bemoan their lack of it and look to blame everyone else. If we improve as a team and consistently inhabit the top end of the table then we have to learn that people like me will actually be pleased and might have a positive outlook on how the team performs, despite some obvious shortcomings. We got used to being shite after so many relegation battles. Now we have to get used to better and it might take some of us longer to accept that.
Shaun Cook
27   Posted 21/03/2008 at 20:35:15

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Constructive post. I feel that we have come a long way this season ? I mean the performance against the italians had me beaming with pride. We are close, very close but as always are a couple of players short ? just look at our bench at Fulham! Somehow we need to bring in a couple of real quality players tto push us to the next level. I mean look at the impact the Yak has had ? we paid proper money money and got the real deal. I really do think we are a world-class defensive mid, world-class winger and a world-class right back away from being a top, top team who could beat just about anyone. COME ON BILL GET US THAT £25 million!
Peter Bourke
28   Posted 21/03/2008 at 21:40:41

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@Ciaran Mcglone
We were shit against City? What game were you watching. That was one of the most dominant wins of the season. 9 out of 10. We played them off the park, FACT.
As usual the you have blinkers on. I have agreed with many posts that point out areas that we need to improve in in fact i agreed to some points Tony Marsh made the other day and i said so. The difference is some people can only ever see the negative side and go over the top with their critique.
As soon as someone disagrees with a negative post they are accused of being deluded sympathisers and the like.
Can we be a little less precious please.
Doesn?t that say something about your attitude??
Steve Guy
29   Posted 21/03/2008 at 23:59:52

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Whenever I have posted an article (and items in the mailbox) I always feel as if I am lighting the blue (scuse the pun !) touchpaper. I imagine that many others feel the same; iincluding Tony Marsh !

I don?t feel my article was one for the Moyes Luvvies as was hinted at above. I am prepared to accept that a number of our players are not the complete player. Of course we haven?t played well a few times this season and some players have not been at their best at times.

Without wishing to set off another firework I absolutely agree that Phil Neville is a poor midfielder (his one strength in that position is filled much better by Cars). However, he is very much a decent hardworking full back and I?d argue with anyone who says otherwise.

So I lay down a me one player in the current Premiership (or the past for that matter) who is a complete player and without fault. You can?t. That?s the nature of the beast. It?s why I say Everton is the sum of it?s parts and a bloody good team as a result of it.
Simon Jones
30   Posted 22/03/2008 at 10:34:12

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Er, that Henry lad who was at Arsenal wasn?t bad. Apparently ManU have someone called Ron Aldo (might be short for Aldridge, maybe its his son, the hair looks similar) who can play a bit too.
Steve Guy
31   Posted 22/03/2008 at 11:10:28

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Simon Jones, I said complete player. Neither Henri or Ronaldo can tackle for toffee. Ronaldo still falls over too often and over elaborates at times. It?s generally recognised (by Arsenal fans as well as elsewhere) that the Arse are a better TEAM without Henri and that others have developed as a result. See what I mean?
Simon Jones
32   Posted 23/03/2008 at 10:24:26

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I take your point, but you would have those players in your team, just for their ability to unlock a defence when needed. Fulham for example? I’m not trying to start an argument, I agree with much of what you say. Its still great being a blue, especially this season, whatever our own points of view are?
Paul Martinez
33   Posted 23/03/2008 at 13:15:06

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"So criticising Phil Neville?s regular inability to pass to another Blue shirt picks out a clear weakness in his game, but ignores the significant leadership and associated influence he brings to those around him on the pitch, as well as his tackling and crossing."

I?ll give you the crossing, he has put some awesome crosses in when he gets forward as a right back. But tackling? Does he? And if you can't pass a football you really shouldn?t be getting paid to play.

What's the point in gaining possession if you are just going to give it away again.

As for his leadership ability, what's this based on? Is he a better Captain than say Cahilll, Arteta or Yobo would be?

How does Neville influence a game when we are looking for inspiration? He?s not the sort of player that can take a game by the scruff of the neck and dominate.

I'm happy for him to play at right back, he?s had a few good games for us in this position. But right back is a position we are going to have to look at adding to.

Apart from that I agree with everything else you have written.
Eddie Douglas
34   Posted 23/03/2008 at 18:03:27

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Good article mate!

Having just seen the Reds capitulate against Man Utd, I would agree whole heartedly that we are more of a team than they are.

Were still in a strong position for that 4th CL spot and next week should prove that.

Bring on the Reds!
Ciarán McGlone
35   Posted 26/03/2008 at 12:52:27

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"@Ciaran Mcglone
We were shit against City? What game were you watching. That was one of the most dominant wins of the season. 9 out of 10. We played them off the park, FACT."

again, you're playing loose and fast with the word ?fact?... can I suggest a dictionary?

We had 35% possession and played on the counter. We were defensively brilliant; in the rest of the pitch we were severely lacking and couldn't string two passes together. However, that's an opinion (possession stat aside) and not a fact...

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