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The Next Step

By Simon Birdsey :  27/04/2008 :  Comments (17) :
Moyes was quoted in today's papers as saying "I don't believe in tiredness. Footballers get paid well to play a lot of games".

For me, this is part of the perennial problem we have of falling away come March/April. However willing our squad might be in spirit, there's just no way that you can expect the same 14 say to play week in week out and to maintain the same level of performance for the full 9 months or whatever. We're knackered and tired bodies are much more prone to injury. I'm not advocating that we adopt a rotation policy like the RS but, while we were playing out of our skin to get where we were, they were crusing along and, when they moved up a gear with their fresh players, they left us in their wake. Look at Chelsea too. According to the commentary yesterday, only about 3 players have played more than 20 league games and they're tearing up trees now because of it!

While there are certainly some benefits to having a smaller squad, we should have atleast 18 players seriously competing for a starting berth, as well as younger players vying for their opportunity. This is something that we need to address. I'm in agreement with some recent posts which ask why we have Van der Meyde, Gravesen and Gardner on our books if Moyes would prefer to have three left backs on the bench rather than any of those players!

Looking at the side, we're very secure with Howard and a central defensive combination of any two from Yobo, Lescott and Jagielka. I'm looking forward to seeing Baines settle in at left back, I'm sure he'll become a great asset. My biggest concern with him is that he tends to get sucked in when we're being attacked down the opposite we'll have three defenders queuing up to clear the ball without a challenge and an opposition striker can easily pull away or sneak in round the back to find some space. Maybe Gosling can be the answer at right back? Hibbert tends to dive in rashly, giving away needless freekicks and penalties and he's next to useless going forward. Whilst Pip gives us much better delivery from fullback, all too often he'll get skinned and you'll see him meandering back whilst a winger flies down the channel.

In midfield it would be interesting to see whether we can secure Fernandes and whether he can live up to the mantle of Manelele, replacing Carsley as the anchor or 'water-carrier'. For me, Carsley has looked well off the pace for a good while, hence the ill-timed shin-scrapers. It also drives me crazy how he consistently plays the ball too tight- giving it to a team mate just yards from him in a congested midfield.

Whilst we have some undoubted talent in our midfield ranks: Arteta, Cahill, Osman, Pienaar (bargain!), my concerns are our stature (we could possibly do with some African muscle in their ala Arsenal or Portsmouth) and our lack of width. Playing as such a narrow unit does have the benefit of making us compact, but I do feel that we could afford to be a touch more cavalier, even if it's just sending the fullbacks bombing on to the byeline. Ideally, I'd like to see us introduce some lighting pace in the mould of Walcott or Young to mix things up a little. It puzzles me that AJ can statistically be the quickest player in the Premiership and make nowhere near the impact of the aforementioned jet-heeled players.

Bearing in mind reports of of DM's recent scouting mission to Russia, I've got everything crossed that Arshavin is the target. A midfield quintet of Fernandes holding with Pienaar and Arteta on the flanks and Osman doing the donkeywork behind Arshavin is a mouth-watering propsect.

Upfront, I do wish that Moyes would be a little more adventurous sometimes. Following the example of Kevin Keegan at Newcastle, we could play Anichebe and Johnson as support strikers to Yakubu.

Generally though, our biggest problem is the size of our squad. We do have very few options other than the 11 that we put out and, if we're hit by injuries, we'll really be struggling. Moyes obviously has faith in Gosling and Rodwell and it seems that they will be promoted to the senior squad next term. But, will the likes of Jutkiewicz, Boyle, Vidarsson and Kissock really make the grade? Surely it's now or never for them? If our policy remains to buy the best players from the Championship, then Giles Barnes and Micheal Kightly would be sound signings.

Moyes has made some outstanding signings during his tenure and I have every confidence that he'll unearth some gems again this time. It makes sense too to invest in quality over quantity and to work with a smaller squad but, if we're serious about becoming a force in Europe, them we're going to need to bring bodies in. In particular we need 8 players competing in midfield rather than the 5 virtual ever-presents that we have currently.

Reader Comments

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Stephen Stuart
1   Posted 27/04/2008 at 20:25:21

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Everton are a joke and there’s none bigger than Moyes! End of!
Mick Gillian
2   Posted 28/04/2008 at 01:03:44

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Fernandes as the holding midfielder, now that’s the joke
Peter Bourke
3   Posted 28/04/2008 at 04:03:28

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I think you have just about summed it up correctly Simon. We just need more quality players competing for positions rather than the threadbare squad which is vulnerable when injuries hit.
Stephen Stuart, I think your response is in the wrong post. I?m glad you didn?t elaborate on your comments as I find them offensive.
Ferdie Neale
4   Posted 28/04/2008 at 09:14:00

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A check on our ?roster?shows that, in fact, we have TWENTY-FIVE senior players plus half-a-dozen youngsters to call on. Of course the trouble is that only about 16 are up to Premier quality and hell will freeze over before Moyes risks a kid in the woeful midfield!
Joe Ludden
5   Posted 28/04/2008 at 09:54:54

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Tiredness can be overcome with the correct use of substitutions. Again yesterday Moyes reacted after the damage was done, and still didn't feel the need to use all 3 subs. 78 mins, score 1-0, villa make 2 attacking subs. 1-1 2 mins later and then Moyes makes a change. If we are knackered, why then after 80 mins had only Fernades been replaced? Moyes cannot react to a game once it is underway, and never has been able to in my opinion. Thank God for the InterToto - and even more games on top our schedule next term.
Arthur Jones
6   Posted 28/04/2008 at 09:56:41

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OK, there is definite room for improvement especially in midfield but try not to forget , yesterday was our 52nd game of the season and as Ferdie has said with only 16 players up to Premier League standard and an injury record that?s not been helpful alongside the AFCON, but despite this with 2 games to go we have broken our Premiership points record. A player such as Arshavin would improve us no end plus Moyes?s customary "rabbit out of the hat" ? anyone along the lines of Cahill, Arteta, Lescott or Pienaar will do!! In my eyes this has been another season of improvement and progression .
Vic Nisbett
7   Posted 28/04/2008 at 11:53:18

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I have little confidence in the prospect of us continuing to improve. The financial resources are just not there and Moyes has reached the peak of his powers as a manager. That is not to say he has not done a good job but he is no man of vision and seems hell-bent on ruining every striker he gets to work with. I?m definitely in the half-empty lobby!
Tony Williams
8   Posted 28/04/2008 at 12:10:17

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Some good points there Simon, however, I have to disagree with you in regards to Neville and Hibbert.

You have accused Hibbert of diving in giving away free kicks and penalties, he has given one "dubious" penalty away this season when Stevie Me Laaa started to fall outside the box and dived into it getting the pen.

You also state that Neville gives better delivery!!! Have you not been watching the games, or shall I say seasons, of late. This is not just my personal view about 90% of the posters on here say it too, Nevilles passing and distribution is appauling.

Hibbert, with all his faults will always look for the simple ball and usually finds it, he goes to pot with his crosses and only hoofs the ball out of play when passed a ball under pressure from the forward.

Hibbert is limited but still a better defender than Neville, although Neville is now a proven goalscorer ;-)
Rob Hollis
9   Posted 28/04/2008 at 13:42:39

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Fernandes....Great passer, looks classy, can?t bloody tackle to save his life. Too much of a luxury for the premier league.

Forget him.
Stuart Atherton
10   Posted 28/04/2008 at 18:15:26

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Stephen Stuart -

That was well thought out!
Andy Crooks
11   Posted 28/04/2008 at 18:25:39

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Agree with Rob. Fernandes isn?t good enough, not for Portsmouth, so definitely not for us. Jimmy Bullard would be a terrific signing,perhaps for half the price Fernandes would cost. If Arshavin is any good we won?t get him. I suspect that the signings this summer will have versatility rather than flair.
Bob Turner
12   Posted 28/04/2008 at 18:34:12

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Come on now, Stuart, that probably took a lot of effort on Stephen?s part to string two sentences together. I don?t think we should denigrate the efforts of our mentally-challenged fans, and I think Stephen should be applauded for making the effort to control the drooling and jabbering for long enough (probably an hour or two) to offer us his opinion - and even if it?s not one which anyone with half a brain would agree with, it?s his right to say it. So here?s to Stephen - long may his valued contributions continue....
Simon Birdsey
13   Posted 28/04/2008 at 18:53:23

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I?ll go from the bottom up here.

Andy, I like Bullard a lot too, even if he looks like a Klingon! He?s got great character and I?m not sure if it?s a disservice or a compliment to him to call him a poor man?s Steven Gerrard. He has that rare ability to pick a team up by the scruff of the neck and throw them over the finish line. He?d probably be fairly cheap and could be worth a punt, given our financial constraints. The only thing counting against him is that he?s 29.

I would take Fernandes if the price was right. He demonstrated his class last season. Ok, so he hasn?t done it this time round, but he?s had injuries, little appearance time and he?s bound to feel usettled by being at his third club in two years. His nickname on the continent is Manelele, because he was seen as the natural successor to Claude Makelele. I have to admit that I see him as more of an offensive player myself, but you never know.

The old Hibbert/Neville debate. I?m sorry, but I have no confidence in Hibbert, fullstop. I do actually tend to agree with your comments Tony, Neville isn?t the greatest passer in the world. I was basing my argument on stats that I remember seeing a while back where Neville was high up on the assists conjured up memories of him bombing down the wing at the Lane and whipping the ball in for AJ to finish. He is an important character for the team though, which is why I?d accommodate him at fullback.

Vic, we were in a perilous state when Moyes first arrived and progress was bound to be rapid at first and then to become more gradual. That?s natural. Whatever you put together starts with foundations/breeze blocks/base colours etc, with the work becoming more detailed, as it gets closer to completion. If we can add one really high quality player (eg. Yakubu), one diamond in the rough (eg. Arteta) and one youth prospect (eg. Vaughan) each season, then we will undoubtedly progress. Say we did add Arshavin, Bullard and Rodwell to our pool of players this close season, that would represent real progress. I am confident that we?re developing in the same way that Arsenal did under Wenger- transforming from the efficient team that they had under Graham to a side with more attacking flair, fluidity and confidence.

Yes Joe, I tend to agree with you on substitutions too. It seems to me that Moyes would probably only have two players on the bench if it was up to him, because that?s all the changes he would plan on making atmost. For the sake of competition for places and for freshness, I would like to see him use more players. Saying that, Villa have a smaller squad than us and look how well they?ve done.
Rob Hollis
14   Posted 28/04/2008 at 23:40:44

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Taking all cups into account and current league position Villa have done er... not quite as well as us. Your point?
Dan McKie
15   Posted 29/04/2008 at 10:06:26

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I would love to see us sign Fernandes but all the talk is of weather hes a defensive or attacking midfielder when he is actually neither, hes an out and out centre midfielder and would be best in a 5 man midfield with someone ahead of him and someone behind, I think then we would start to see him call the shots like Fabregas does at Arsenal!
Peter Corcoran
16   Posted 29/04/2008 at 12:40:17

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Tony Williams - I think you have missed the point re Hibbert/Neville.

We all know how poor Neville’s passing is but Hibbert’s is worse. Hibbert has NEVER scored for us and I am fairly sure he has no assists to his name. Hibbert cannot jump and there si a long list of him being outjumped when we concede a goal. If you also take account of the attitude and influence of Neville it is quite apparent why he should be ahead of Hibbert in the team.
Tony Williams
17   Posted 29/04/2008 at 13:41:12

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Peter we will have to agree to disagree on this then, as I honestly don’t believe Hibbert’s passing is worse than Nevilles.

The reason being is that Hibbert always looks to pass it short to the midfielder, usually Arteta when he is playing. He knows his limitations and if you watch him closely in a game, he will only hoof it, usually out of play, when he is put under pressure from a poor pass.

His crosses are cack but gets a few corners as they usually ping off the defender.

Someone mentioned Nevilles cross to Johnson against the Spuds, well all I can say is that even sometimes the sun shines on a dog’s arse.

You have mentioned that there is a long list of him being outjumped and conceeding a goal, this season all I can remember is Vidic for ManUre.

I am not trying to be Hibbert’s greatest fan here but I feel that he is unfairly criticised when he is a far better defender than Neville.

There is also a mention of a higher percentage of completed passes from Neville but do these include the hopeless punts into the corner that Johnson chases and amazingly catches and gets under control?

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