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A Simple Matter of Keeping the Ball

By Graham Holliday :  18/04/2008 :  Comments (6) :

Like us all, I watched last night?s game and am thoroughly dejected by our fall from grace. We have gone from a run of form where we were not only winning regularly but playing attractive and, at times, expansive football - to a run of 6 games where we have won only one (against Derby), scored only three and played poorly.

This recent loss of form has meant our challenge for a Champions League spot has collapsed and we are now clinging on to fifth spot in the league, essentially hoping the games run out before Portsmouth and the like overtake us. Undoubtedly injuries to key players have hit us hard ? any team missing the goals of Cahill, the pace and direct running of Vaughan and the ingenuity of Arteta (who has been missing most of the season even when on the pitch) is going to suffer. And the board just don?t have the money to back Moyes to strengthen our squad to cope with such injuries in the way that other clubs around us seem to be able to.

So, it is clear that there is little that David Moyes can do but wait for the season to end, see how much money is found for him to bring in new faces and then launch another assault on the top 4. In terms of personnel, there seems to be a consensus on this site that it is the midfield that needs strengthening, and there will be endless debate as to whether this and that player can cut it at the highest level.

But there seems to be less debate about our manager reverting back to some of his old form in his team selection. I know he has very few options at his disposal (hence me going into this at reasonable length earlier in the article) but I still feel as though some of his decisions are unnecessarily negative. I am not talking about formation per say; 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 - if you play well enough in the right areas you stand a good chance of winning football games.

So his decision to start once again with Neville and Carsley in the centre of midfield - at home - against a top quality opposition baffles me. The only reasoning for it that I can think of (other than a lack of other options) is that he wanted to stifle Chelsea from playing by using two defensive-minded central midfielders. But there is a simple flaw in this and it is one that seemingly frustrates a large number of us ? Carsley and Neville, for all they might bring to the side, are two of our worst players in terms of finding a team-mate with a pass. One of the things you have to do when playing quality opposition, especially at home, is retain the ball and in-so-doing restrict the number of opportunities your opponents will have to hurt you. So why not play Fernandes in the middle and Baines on the wing? Better ?footballers? and more likely to keep the ball when we get it. It seems simple yet Moyes doesn?t quite seem to get it.

In saying this, I do think David Moyes is the right man to be in charge at Everton ? he has taken us from perennial relegation fodder to perennial challengers for Europe, and deserves his chance to take us to the next level. But I do have my concerns. We were at our best this season when we kept the ball, playing simple football with short, sharp passing in the midfield. We struggle when we fail to keep hold of the ball and give away possession too easily. I hope Moyes recognises this, and works to rectify it in future.

Reader Comments

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Darren Gough
1   Posted 18/04/2008 at 18:27:31

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I could not agree with you more Graham, and before anyone starts shooting you down and calling us doom-mongers and that we shouldn?t be so negative about the season we have had, I say this: Moyes is a great manager and has taken us from mediocre to a genuine top six side, but his attitude towards playing the top 4 sides is questionable.

It's as if he does not carry the belief that we are worthy to challenge these sides when we play them as his sides are always too defensive and it's as if we always play to frustrate and if we are lucky get the draw and not actually try and match these sides with our passing, which when we are in the mood is equally as good this season as any of the top teams and we have shown this.

What frustrates me is Moyes's attitude which he summed up really before the chelsea game which was "well we are not really gonna get anything out of this game, but if we do well then thats great!!!!!"....... to me that attitude is not good enough and I think it translates to the players way of thinking and they don't seem to carry the belief that we can actually match these sides and beat them and to me that mentality is not good enough. If he believes we are capable of genuinly being a top 4 side one day then his attitude and way of dealing with these sides really needs to change.........

Gavin Ramejkis
2   Posted 18/04/2008 at 20:17:48

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Darren I second you mate, just look at the Portsmouth v Man U FA Cup match to see a team who didn’t care they were playing Man U and went for it or the unlucky Wigan playing against Chelsea who could easily have won that match. We seldom appear anything other than rabbits in headlights when the top sides turn up, giving them far too much respect and letting them play their game rather than getting stuck in and giving them a hotly contested hard game. I’m not talking about thuggery but sides that tackle hard and go for every first, second and third ball will get more out of the game.
Ste Kenny
3   Posted 19/04/2008 at 10:12:54

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In the past few months we have played Chelsea three times, in each game they have been a world apart from us. You can have all the belief in the world but unless they have a bad day you?re going to get played off the park and that's exactly what has happened to us, to be a top four team you need top four players.

It is constantly in the media how Arteta needs to leave to get into the Spainish national team. But the fact is Fabregas has only recently become a regular starter in that team and if we compare those two there is surely only one winner and it?s the best little Spaniard Arsenal know.

To get to the " next level " we need much much better players than we?ve got. If we put most of our teeam up for sale possibly only Lescott, Cahill, Pienaar and the Yak would attract interest from top sides.

Malcolm Murphy
4   Posted 19/04/2008 at 13:51:36

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One thing you are all missing boys...teams who don?t have the money and are maybe missing ?quality? players must go out with a ?Dogs of War? attitude towards the opposition. I was raging on Thursday night seeing Everton players laughing and joking with the ?Cockney Crew? before the ko...then we had the ?Yak? apologising to one of them for smudging their make up!
If ?The Dunc? was Dead he?d turn in his grave! More ?bottle? please or it?s into the Intertoto we go go!
Peter Brown
5   Posted 19/04/2008 at 15:31:46

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Good point Graham! Fernandes is wasted out wide and when he is switched to the middle he makes things happen with his runs, passing and shooting! Baines playing wide left is worth a go becasue of his pace and crossing ability, but why Moyes can?t see this I don?t know!
Colin Grierson
6   Posted 20/04/2008 at 13:06:14

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A very reasoned argument. The fundamental part of football is possession and recently we have squandered it due to the fact that we have some ’athletes’ rather than footballers in our ranks.
At all levels of football, the team who has the ball has more chance of winning. In my opinion as soon as the ball is launched from the back we are doomed. I have played football all of my life and every decent team I have played in passed the ball about and awaited an opening.
All of the top sides pass the ball rather than launch it and the teams chasing us at the moment pass the ball around and that’s where their success has come from.
Earlier in the season we were building from the back and causing the opposition problems. At present it is either a dip in form resulting in a lack of confidence that has seen the midfield being bypassed or more worryingly a tactical decision that means we have no ambition and will NEVER challenge for honours with this mindset. I hope, for all our sakes, it is a confidence issue!

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