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Sub-par

By Stan Sheppard :  23/03/2008 :  Comments (8) :
I recall a match I witnessed at Goodison during the 90s when Howard Kendal was back for his umpteenth rescue mission and we boasted the likes of Oster, Madar and Spencer in our starting eleven. We played a good Villa side and were god awful. We ended up being stuffed 4-1 and that was a god-send. We played the same sort of stuff against West Ham and I hope I never witness the likes again.

Playing an average Hammers side ravaged by injuries and short of form, I could hardly wait to watch us set about them. However, bar the first 5 minutes we were terrible. The style and standard of play was beyond belief. Out-numbered and outclassed in midfield we resorted to a sub-standard level of hoofball which served only to starve our attack and hand possession right back to West Ham. The amount of times they pinged the ball about and had us chasing shadows was embarrassing. I could not believe what I was seeing. Surely even with the injuries we had we were better than this?

What happened? Was it a failing of the manager to play the proper system? Perhaps shifting Phil Nev to midfield (I know!) and Hibbert to right back for Anichibe would have given us more structure? Was it a failing of the players to properly apply themselves to the game? There is no doubt Neville, Jags and Arteta were not at their best today. Was it the fact that West Ham were too good on the day and we could not cope? Ashton lead the line superbly and their passing was a joy to behold, yet they had a kid at the back and a severely under strength team.

Was it the fact that we were suffering from injuries and lacked options to change the game? Pienaar, Cahill, Yobo and Johnston are huge players for the club. Then again, hindsight is great.

Maybe it?s not that big of a deal? Sure we ended up drawing and after all a point is a point. Nevertheless the performance and the balance of clear cut chances left me feeling that we had committed robbery.

After so many positives this season I am more expectant, so when I witness two awful performances in a row the reality of the run begins to kick in hard. Injuries and loss of form at the worst possible time means we really need a result next week or we accept that 5th place will be good enough this time around. Let's be honest, 5th would still be a good achievement. After the consistency of recent months I wanted so much more but if offered our current position at the start of the season I may have taken it.

Can we make the next step up? Only time will tell. There is no doubt the midfield will have to improve, as will the style of play. Indeed the distribution from some has been scandalous, given that these men are professional athletes there is no excuse for what we see. Chipped aimless passes, crosses continually hitting the first man, launching the ball from back to front ASAP. This has to change.

As we continue to take steps in the right direction the team develops, learning lessons such as those dealt in recent matches against Fiorentina and Fulham. I hope that the players will come back stronger, shrewder and more confident for their experiences.

David Moyes and the players have given me cause for optimism and I don?t feel guilty for wanting more, yet when the going gets tough we continue to fall back on to our baser instincts. I am proud of the team and proud of the manager, yet I know we are capable of more than we have given recently. Come on lads! Onwards and upwards.

Reader Comments

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John Addama
1   Posted 23/03/2008 at 08:23:07

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I think it was just one of those days where it just was not happening and in all honesty. With 10 min too go, I was more than happy with a point. iIf we finish 5th its still progress.
Brian Waring
2   Posted 23/03/2008 at 10:24:41

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A touch of de ja vu, there John. I remember after last week’s defeat someone saying it was " just one of those thing’s "
Dave Nelson
3   Posted 23/03/2008 at 11:04:13

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We looked knackered and lacked inspiration. It's not good when you?re relieved to get a home draw against West Ham... Dean Ashton, dirty bastard but some player..
Steve Ryan
4   Posted 23/03/2008 at 12:06:16

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I have lost count of the number of times various people on this site have have made excuses for Arteta by stating that, "he had an off day today". How many off days does it take for these people to admit that he is inconsistent and overrated. Inconsistent players do not win trophies..... fact.
VIictor Fleming
5   Posted 23/03/2008 at 13:35:11

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We went to another level yesterday. Have we been that bad this season?
Sean Condon
6   Posted 23/03/2008 at 22:26:26

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I know that we?re all grasping for excuses at the moment, so here?s mine.
That goddamn manager of the month award is the kiss of fucking death. I wish they?d do away with it. Or at least give it to the Fat Waiter every month.
Chris Jones (Wakefield)
7   Posted 24/03/2008 at 02:30:57

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John Spencer. Didn’t he undergo an exploratory heart operation (to address a murmur) in order to join our club? I know there was salary in the offing but please respect his commitment (not that Agent Johnson did!)
Kevin Batters
8   Posted 24/03/2008 at 19:25:02

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I agree with all the comments. To get up so early here in Hawaii and watch the boys play such an ugly game. Reading all the flack about Neville and his inability to pass the ball I really took notice of how true this was. At least this game anyway... Still, hanging on for a point still gained us an increased lead over Villa and Pompey and the right result this weekend and we are back in 4th, COYB!

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