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The Arse End

By Alan Kirwin :  18/04/2008 :  Comments (11) :

This depressing phenomenon wasn't apparent in David Moyes' first season. He took over 9 games from the end of 01-02 and we posted 13 points from those 9 games. Just about digestible, as we were, lest we forget, in a spot of bother.

I think it was the tail end of the 03-04 season that I started to wonder and become despondent about a blue phenomenon. That season we grabbed 11pts from the last 10 games, losing 5 of them. But you kind of forget and a brief early or mid season run of form puts the thought to bed.

The run in to the 03-04 season proved to be the absolute nadir. We were a disgrace for the large part, culminating in that buttock-clenching 1-5 embarassment to the great Man City. The last 10 games yielded 7 pts and just 1 win. But who to blame?

Season 04-05 was broadly one of absolute wonderment. Until January. That was when we sold The Grav to Real Madrid. He was my personal favourite. We'd finally found the role for him and he was sublime. I knew as such because of the gushing praise coming from fans of Man U, Newcastle, West Ham, Chelsea and even the occasionally objective kopite. But Thomas departed and we duly imploded. We lost 6 of the last 10 games that season, and yet it was (rightly) considered an achievement.

Season 05-06 was bizarre. We BEGAN that season with the worst run in premiership history. Losing 7 of the first 8 and scoring just 1 goal (in our only attack at Bolton). We grabbed our first point against the eventual champions and duly recovered. The final quarter ranked as modest, with 13 pts from the final 10 games.

However it was at that season's end that I almost posted this article here on TW. The business end of the season is, be definition, when things are sorted out. Far better to hit form in Feb/Mar than Aug/Sept. But we just coudn't do it, and by some way. Someone or something had to be responsible.

I mused that, given DM's penchant and reputation for fitness and condition, it couldn't be fatigue. Also in just about every season, we've had something to play for, either avoiding relegation or qualifying for Europe. So it surely couldn't be motivation?

By this stage all the players were his and, yes we had to acknowledge our (very) limited financial clout, but they were the same players who put decent runs together early or mid season more than once. I decided it had to be either a) lack of tactical acumen (somewhat implausible), b) man management problems, or c) that DM actually suffers some form of depression himself that transfers to the players.

Strong evidence for this last point is blindingly obvious since the Fiorentina game. We battered them (more than they battered us), we deserved it and we lost out. But the fall-out has been terrible and Davie's body language and manner (watch the interviews) shows a man either broken or heavily depressed by events. One could argue that it's understandable, with a season that promised so much, so many plaudits from so many quarters, so many players operating a the top of their game, and then...

I held my pen back (or rather, keyboard) on the subject and, last season, felt vindicated as we turned in our best ever final quarter under DM, losing only 2 and gathering 16 pts. Not earth shattering but, by comparison, very respectable.

And then there's this season. As just noted, it promised so much. We looked strong, young, fit, fast, eager and (fuck me) stylish. I was at the West Ham (a) Carling QF and it was reminiscent of the 80's. We just looked in complete control whole game. Being Everton we just did enough, rather than taking them to the cleaners as ManU would always try to. It could have ended up being not just a good season, but a great one.

First the other scourge of Davie Moyes (lower league cup opposition) left us shocked and disappointed. But here we are again in the last quarter, the business end of the season, when the Geordies are on a roll, when Villa have returned 10 - 0 in 2 games, and we're at it again. 3 games left, but in the 7 that count we've picked up 8 pts.

Now this season there's been the added issue of injuries and absence, usually to our best players, and the impact this has had on our season. Arteta's long struggle with his stomach problem (ask Alan Curbishley about that), Cahill, Baines, Fernandez, Yakubu, Pienaar et al. So there is mitigation, perhaps lots of it, but we're back where we always have been with David Moyes, sleepwalking towards the end of the season and throwing points away at every turn.

Oh yes, we have also been robbed this season (a fair description) by pathetic decisions by referees and linesmen. We all know the games. As much as 10 or 12 pts could have been attained had we had the luck of the devil worshipping Beneathus.

So what's my conclusion? For this season we have most definitely suffered shit luck and misfortune. No two ways about it. This season also has seen us play with a swagger and a style we haven't seen for 20 years. To counter that, as many of you have in excelsis, we've played shite and hoofed the ball on far too many occasions. Who's to blame for that?

Conclusion no. 1. There is an inescapable problem under Davie Moyes when it comes to the last quarter of the season (i.e. the most important part of the season). Our record is abysmal. In only one season (last season) did we deliver anything even approaching acceptable.

I honestly believe there is an issue of depression here with David himself. But it must go deeper than that. I don't honestly know. These 10 games are when things get decided, the tough get going and the big games come thick and fast. If a manager and team can;t get motivated now then I do wonder.

Conclusion no. 2. DM just needs to "go for it" sometimes. I'm reminded of a performance that some might recall. Early October 2002, I was in Antibes, having just got married there and we watched Everton at Old Trafford in la Gaffe. For 87 minsit remained 0-0, but we played fucking fantastic. By that I mean we asked as many questions as they did, if not more. Our whole philosphy was get it, carry the ball forward, move it, make space, attack. I was so proud. This was a team that contained such world class players as Unsworth, Li Tie and Lee Carsley. The star and the engine was Thomas Gravesen, Rooney came on as sub and almost won it for us. The fact that ManU scored 3 fortuitous goals in the last 3 mins didn't alter the general perception of the match. We took the game to them and they didn't know how to deal with it. YESSS! I thought, this is it. We finally have a manager who a) believes in attacking football, on the floor and, he actually means it when he says he wants to win EVERY game, and b) he's convinced a team of average players that they can actually do it, whoever they're playing.

Sadly, that brazen philosophy isn't on display much these days. We give the fat 4 far too much respect every time and it sucks. Even when we play mediocre teams, DM will often shuffle experienced players out of position than give some of our young bucks a chance (Vidarsson a prime example). And now even when we do "go for it" a la Fiorentina, it almost seems churlish to say it, but I actually think we made it much harder for ourselves by playing so many long balls, 50/50 balls etc , rather than just keeping the fucking thing and biding our time. If players move intelligently (and that's a BIG assumption) then, amazingly, holes do appear. Just watch the first 30 mins of Arsenal giving the RS a lesson at Anfield 2 weeks ago. A bit more luck and it would have been over by half time.

I guess I'm rambling slightly so let's close. There is a massive issue with our motivation, fitness, focus or whatever it is that reduces our final quarter every year (but 1) to dross. Then there is a 2nd issue of attitude when we play the fat 4 in particular, and occasionally against lesser lights.

This season's misfortunes from shit referees and injuries/absences have skewed the stats. But they don't make good reading. In David Moyes' 6 full seasons we have won 16 out of 57 games in the final quarter, amassing 65 points in 6 seasons out of a possible 171.

Is it luck? (this season, maybe). Is it management? (to some degree, it has to be). You can almost set your watch by it,and that's the worrying thing for me. Doesn;t seem to matter where we are and what we're doing, because from March onwards were just not at the races.

And then there's the thing of attitude. Why not go out and believe you can win every game? Look at Villarreal, remember Bayer Leverkusen a few seasons ago, even Celtic. It can be done. We actually did it a few years ago with this manager. We've lost the spunk.

Spunk and motivation. Is this the route to greater things?

Reader Comments

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Harry Meek
1   Posted 19/04/2008 at 09:11:36

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Great summary,Alan.As someone says elsewhere it’s Curbishley Syndrome-failure to last the course.Could it be that Moyes demands so much from them in physical effort both in training and on the pitch that they are knackered comes March.And if you haven’t exactly got a surfeit of skill the long ball is the easy option.
It’s no good calling for a change so I guess we’ll just have to enjoy the half of each season things go well and accept that you can’t have everything you pray for.It’s called ’being an Evertonian’.
Adam Cunliffe
2   Posted 19/04/2008 at 10:14:16

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You?ve hit the nail on the head Alan. When push comes to shove, we haven?t got the composure or the bottle required to be challenging for honours at the end of the season. Very good article.
Arnold Jones
3   Posted 19/04/2008 at 10:11:53

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As you have mentioned them, let's take a quick look back to Man Utd in the early days of the Champions League where they got served a good hammering for a few seasons before the team AND the manager got to grips with how to play on those evenings and how to remain focused and confident even if things didnt go their way.

It's a matter of experience.

Regards Moyes and attitude, I don't remember any other manager taking a tape to Keith Hackett to point out numerous glaring mistakes that cost us. And this season we see the fall out, the referees have closed ranks, so far as not punishing Moyes to the usual full extent in light of the Clattenburg corruption case.

If it rankles with Moyes, you can bet it gets to the players as well, and such a spectre eventually gets very heavy.

Finally, we look at the position Moyes has tried to strengthen, center midfield, Essien, Sissoko, Parker, Gonzales. He knows its the position that needs addressing but has so far been let down in one way or another. It is the final piece of the jigsaw that will see him having assembled his spine of the team.

Big summer on the horizon, I hope he gets the money to match his ambition, because the idea of us looking for more players, and fending off bids for our current stars without him, is a very worrying possibility.
Colin Mates
4   Posted 19/04/2008 at 11:08:40

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Perhaps we should wait to judge Moyes over a full ten years. By then I?ll be over 80 and past caring!
All this anaysis is bollox, you judge each season on your final position/and or how many trophies you?ve won. I?ve forgotten what success is like but then I do have distant memories of when we were top of the pile. Most Evertonians can only dream about it.
Tony Williams
5   Posted 19/04/2008 at 11:26:14

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Cracking post Arnold, Moyes is evidently aware of the position that he needs to strengthen and has gone after some excellent players but unfortunately they are offered silly money by other clubs abd we can?t compete.

Imagine if he would have got Essien? what a catch that would have been.

Our midfield when at full strength is good, not fantastic but good however we do not have the resources, ie money, to have good back ups on the bench.
Jack Yarnold
6   Posted 19/04/2008 at 11:35:12

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I can’t see us winning anything without money and if we had money Moyes wouldn’t be the manager you’d give it to.Let’s just enjoy being free of relegation worries and a little dabble with Europe.How the hell can you expect anything more with the likes of Kenwright in charge?
Paul Simmonds
7   Posted 19/04/2008 at 11:40:19

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Don?t be so bloody negative. Once we get to Kirkby we?ll have oceans of extra cash to throw at the team and Moyes will be able to fulfill all that potential we?ve been hearing about for the last six years!
Alan Kirwin
8   Posted 19/04/2008 at 11:47:47

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Colin Mates: Didn’t you know, this forum is for analysis, debate & discussion about Everton Football Club.

What the fuck are you doing here? So "all this analysis is bollox"? The illiterate musings of a simpleton. Get back to "The Sun" where such drivel belongs.

You have to work for success. It doesn’t just come to you by right. The more intelligent Evertonian (& there are loads) can see a team that’s about to finish top 6 for 3rd time in 4 years (rather good, no?), but that has turned in relegation form in the final 10 games almost every season. Anyone with half-a-brain can see this is food for thought.

Although to some unfortunates I’m sure it sounds a bit too complicated or, to give it it’s proper term for Sun readers, "bollox".

And on we go.
Alan Kirwin
9   Posted 19/04/2008 at 12:21:23

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Harry: You make a good point. Perhaps we do work SO hard to maintain it from Aug - Feb that we just run out of team. Personally, given that record,I think blooding some of our best youngsters, with all their energy & ability, can only help us. I think this is DM’s biggest failing.
Gavin Ramejkis
10   Posted 19/04/2008 at 14:03:45

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Alan, not a bad summary but the thing about this second half season tiredness thanks gets to me is that other clubs have injuries and fatigue but Everton always seem to play such dreadful passionless football over their last few games. The phrase you yourself used is relegation candidate football, just remember the match against Derby at home and you would be hard pushed to realise which team was already relegated. The fortune of having a good first half of the season means this fall away doesn’t condemn us to the lower leagues but surely the size of the squad which has never been addressed in all of the years DM has been here thanks to BK and KW means it’s likely to happen over and over. God help Everton if they got a pile up of injuries early in the season rather than the end of it, imagine Cahill out for the season after the start of August? Imagine Yakubu out for six months from August or September? We need to give the youngsters a chance or we could easily see this small squad bite us right on the arse.
Steve Alderson
11   Posted 19/04/2008 at 21:17:44

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Our end-of-season demise is not a huge shock; a lot of us half expect it now. If we are good enough to get ourselves into 4th, 5th or at least 6th spot why do we now strugglle against sides we left behind months ago?

In my opinion the type of play and players David Moyes prefers can?t possibly see out a Premier League season.

Take Joseph Yobo for example: he is an athlete first, and a footballer second. Last-gasp tackles and clearences are spectacular and impressive but later in the season when most of Everton's side look shagged he?s still hoofing the ball vaguely forward only to see it collected by the opposition.

That wastefulness costs us dear in the (excuse the pun) long run. We can?t hope to chase and chase after the ball all season long.

Moyes has to start bringing in people, at the back especially, who can hold onto the ball long enough to give them and the players in front of them time to build an attacking move.

This may be an over simplified judgement of our problems but I cringe every time I see one of our defenders refuse to trap the ball and just swing a leg at it instead.

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