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Seriously, what were the options?

By Greg Murphy :  31/03/2008 :  Comments (0) :

Not offering excuses here, far from it. But I honestly believe Moyes was in a damned if he does and damned if he doesn?t scenario ahead of yesterday?s game.

Getting straight to it, the only genuinely available and useable players we had at our disposal yesterday were either on the pitch or the bench (unless you seriously think that it would have been sensible to have chucked some of the younger kids in at the deep end at Anfield).

Looking at the bench, you can immediately discard Wessels and Gravesen. The only serious options surrounded Baines, Fernandes and, at a push, Valente.

Baines first: if you regard him as a left-back (in which case that puts the Valente option even further back) then his inclusion would only have affected the Lescott-Yobo-Jagielka axis.

In my opinion that?s something Moyes has got to sort in the close season because the sooner he bites the bullet and gives Baines a serious run of games so that we can suss two things - how good he is and how injury prone he either is or isn?t — the better.

But I don?t think starting Baines yesterday in his preferred position would have made any material difference to the type of debate we?ve been having since 6pm last night. So really, the whole debate in reality surrounds the Hibbert, Neville, Carsley, Fernandes conundrum.

I agree with everybody who says that Neville and Carsley should never ever appear together in central midfield and from the moment their names showed on the team sheet I knew the most we could hope for was 0.0.

So alright, take the easy bit first: stick Hibbert on the bench and play Neville at right back and stick Fernandes in the centre (I?d have been tempted, actually as I?ve still got a huge creosote stain on my kecks regarding Manny).

But that?s the point. Loads haven?t and plenty of Blues have made their mind up about Fernandes and not even his better second half against West Ham was making any difference to their viewpoints last Saturday night and in the whole build-up to the derby.

If you have made your mind up about Manny, well what serious option did Moyes have but to name Carsley and Neville together? When I say serious option, I?m precluding going 4-4-2 with Ossie as a striker (and in any case there?s a huge portion of Blues who are now unshakeable in their view that Leon is too lightweight).

If , like me, you haven?t given up on Manny then it all boils down to Moyes having a straight choice yesterday to play 4-5-1 (call it 4-4-1-1 if you must but it?s still the same thing, effectively) featuring Manny and Carsley (with Hibbert being scapegoat for Neville) or 4-5-1 with Neville and Carsley in the centre.

Given the personnel at his disposal yesterday, I really don?t see that Moyes had any other choice but to weigh those two options.
And while I?m certain (despite how it looks) that deep down he knows how negative a Neville-Carsley centre pairing is, he had to seriously question Manny?s 90-minute aptitude at Anfield.

Something stopped him throwing Manny into the fray from the off yesterday and, I reckon that it was simply a hope against hope that we?d somehow be 0.0 after 60 minutes (let?s face it, the plan nearly came off and you can?t budget for Yakubu fartin round on the edge of their box) and then the stage might be set for Fernandes to come on (maybe with the Kop starting to get edgy) and possibly unlock the situation.

Now, I may take all this back if (assuming we only have the same players fit) he plays Neville and Carsley together at home to Derby County but somehow I doubt it.

I expect him to play Manny from the off. Let?s say he has a blinder, though: will we really be any further on in the great Fernandes debate?

Next Sunday, though, might finally put the whole Moyes-Neville love-in beyond question. Because if the same options are open to him and he chooses to ditch Hibbert then it finally will reveal a policy of playing Neville at all costs.

Meanwhile, the Baines issue can wait — for now.

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