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Into the Unknown

By Mike Oates :  22/03/2008 :  Comments (2) :
I think its fair to say that all Evertonians at the beginning of the season would have taken 5th place and an excellent run in the various Cups we were having in particularly the Uefa Cup. Where we are today after the West Ham game is mission virtually accomplished (I cant see AV or Portsmouth mounting a serious challenge for the 5th position) BUT HEY we have 7 games to go and there is a possibility of 4th!!

The problem we have as I see it is that this situation we find ourselves in is completely different to the one when we finished 4th 2-3 years ago. For the reasons below :-

(a) We have over the whole of this season built up a huge expectancy that we will go out on attack with crisp inter-passing incisive football, played at pace ? we expect to win in style. I think it's fair to say that last time we were grateful to win 1-0, with football based on primarily defending and trying to grab a goal somehow. Today?s team relies so much on Arteta, Osman and Pinnear performing well. The supporters have got themselves into a frame of mind were we believe we are unbeatable, except maybe against the top 3.

(b) I seem to remember that last time we were extremely fortunate with injuries or the lack of them. We have over the last 2-3 weeks virtually lost whole or parts of a creative midfield ? and even if they are playing I suspect they are with injuries (Arteta).

(c) Our basic style of playing at a high tempo was fine for our 38 or 40 games 2-3 years ago, but after our 48 games already with another 7 to go we are clearly knackered probably more mentally than physically. The pressure is mounting to push for that 4th spot and it's clearly now affecting both players and staff.

The last 3 games, against Sunderland, Fulham and West Ham have clearly been affected by some or all of the reasons above

- Our midfield creativity is not functioning at all at the moment. Whether it?s due to knocks, off-form or the opposition have found us out is immaterial; we need a functioning Arteta, Osman and Pinnear. The good point today was that Fernades at least showed signs of the level he played at last year. On top of all this its crucial we get a fit and eager Cahill back.

- A number of players looked tired today; I thought Neville, Jags and Lescott all looked jaded. The only plus point is that Baines got a full game and whether you agree or not we need a pair of attacking full-backs ? this is an absolute must for any team aspiring to be in the Top 4.

- Up front I?m afraid Big Vic looked completely off the pace both physically and mentally. He never got the better of their centre halves, nor showed the raw strength we saw against European opposition early in the season. We need a fit Johnson or Vaughan available ? both are better suited to play with Yakubu. When Cahill is missing Yakubu needs a partner with quick feet and mind; Big Vic doesn?t provide either.

The last point is probably more significant than any other the others mentioned. Moyes has got to overcome all these shortcomings ? and don?t forget they are only shortcomings ? in targeting that 4th place. But to target it consistently, as we will no doubt expect, then the short-comings will need addressing and I suspect some with significant monies being made available. Moyes absolutely know?s this and its probably why he keeps referring to it as part of his contractual discussions due at the end of the season.

He has got us to 5th with style, the trick is to keep us there and start to target the 4th place as an expectancy. I believe he can do it ? let us give him our support and also give him time.

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Derek Thomas
1   Posted 23/03/2008 at 04:35:54

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So in a nutshell, it’s be grateful for small 5th place mercies and wait for next season then.

We used to be Mediocre, we’ve now improved to Nearliocre

Anthony Lamb
2   Posted 23/03/2008 at 16:19:53

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Good points in the article Mike. I also think that a number of players are carrying some form of injury etc. It surely must be a reason for Arteta?s declining performances of late or Anichebe?s woeful display yesterday?

Yesterday?s game also raised for me a big problem for David Moyes, namely what does he do with Lescott? This lad is such a star in the making that this issue of where his most effective position is ? full back or centre-back ? needs to be resolved fairly definitely sooner rather than later.

I also agree that it was good to see Baines on the pitch for I have long thought that he is technically a very good footballer blessed with balance and pace and a good left foot! I personally think that he could become a very good wide left sided midfield player and bring that "left-footed" balance to the midfield that is sadly lacking at the moment.

I am afraid I also may be in a minority of one but I simply cannot see Fernandes as being worthy of swallowing up any major chunk of limited funds at this stage of Everton?s development. The last thing Everton need in the next stage of their development is a midfield player who may "turn up" one week and then "go missing" for the next two.

As you say the last three games seem to show that at the moment we do not yet have the resources (physical or mental) to mount serious challenges on anything more than two fronts.

Moyes and the team deserve a lot of credit for performing so well so consistently to the limits of their abilities and resources throughout the season so far and 5th place is the very least they deserve. What a tragedy that they reserved one of their few poor performances for that sorry night in Florence.

Moyes certainly needs to be making demands that appropriate funding is made available to him otherwise I feel he really may feel that he cannot keep treading water. But let?s still hope they could snatch fourth place and put a spanner in the works of the Premier League/Pundits/Sky TV etc obsession with their so called "big four"

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