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Our anonymous midfield

By Rick Tarleton :  28/04/2008 :  Comments (27) :
Those of you with photographic memories might remember that in December 2005 I posted an article with this very same title, then again as most of you have got lives to live, you've probably totally forgotten the article. However, although one or two of the personnel concerned have changed, the basic premise of that article seems to apply to the way our midfield is playing at the moment.

I cannot see the balance and structure of the players we have, providing us with a midfield that will enable us to challenge for a higher place in the Premier League. We have Arteta, a great player, with vision, scope and, until recently, great accuracy in his passing. His groin/stomach problems seem to have affected his play in the second half of the season.

Carsley does a good destructive job in man-marking and winning the ball, but his creative talents (yes, it was a marvellous pass for Yobo's goal, but name me two more such moments this season) are very limited.

Cahill is excellent at ghosting in for goals, but as a true midfielder, he contributes very little, his passing is simple, his tackling as likely to give a free kick away as not.

Osman again is capable of scoring half a dozen spectacular goals a season, but week-in, week-out he contributes little to the creative or even destructive aspects of midfield play.

Pienaar is neat in all he does. But in the whole season, I cannot recall a defence- splitting pass, a dribble past a defender and a sprint to the byeline and a centre to Yakubu or Cahill. I can't recall a great tackle or a spectacular goal. His neatness masks a minimal contribution. It must be quite difficult for the Everton strikers with this plethora of creative talent providing few chances and minimal support.

Next season, assuming Carsley goes, I'd like to see Jagielka taking over the defensive midfield role, thus allowing Lescott to return to his best position and allowing Baines to be a left back who has the ability to get forward. Arteta will hopefully have his injury problems sorted and we can then hope for him to return to his magnificent best. Cahill will support the front two (Yakubu and Vaughan would be my preferred pair, again injuries permitting) and I'd like to see us buy a player like Bullard from Fulham, a genuine box to box midfielder.

Pienaar and Osman can be part of the squad, but as week-in, week-out players they are simply not contributing enough.

It seems that strikers, having to wander all over the place in search of the ball, are going to be less effective than if they are "set up" by a creative and forceful midfield. We need David Moyes to focus on this aspect of our play in the summer transfer window.

Reader Comments

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Connor Rohrer
1   Posted 28/04/2008 at 14:25:03

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I stopped reading when you mentioned Jagieka as a defensive midfielder. He isn’t a midfielder and over 10-12 games proved he wasn’t earlier in the season. He’s a centre half and should play there. Lacks the distribution and awareness to play centre midfield.

Pienaar is a very capable wide player and very very creative. One of the most creative in the league this season. Has 15 assists in all competitions which few players can match. Fabregas, Young and Ronaldo are the only ones that spring to mind.

Osman is also a very capable centre midfielder and has proven it time and time again this season. He may not be the long term answer but I have no worries with him playing centrally. He’s had an excellent season this seaso, kept up his consistency and grabbed 7 goals. If we buy a midfielder enforcer with power to go alongside him then he’d be even better.

Our midfield competed very well yesterday against a poweful team. They only struggled when the ball was continually hoofed over there heads.

Pass it to them an they won’t go missing as much. Carsley is another reason why we don’t see the ball enough in midfield. He’s the deepest midfielder and should demand the ball but doesn’t. The sooner he’s replaced the more and more the football will improve.

Jimmy Bullard is average. He’s a tryer with a decent passing range. The only way he’s going to change a game is by taking a free kick or a set piece. Why would we want to buy a 30 year old.
John Lloyd
2   Posted 28/04/2008 at 14:35:48

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You lost my support for this article when you suggested that ’all’ Cahill does is ghost in for goals!! One of the hardesy things to get in a team is a goalscoring midfielder and we have one of the best, also, whatever Tim does works, look at our performances when he plays as opposed to when he doesnt. Its no coincedence mate.

Lastly, surely your not suggesting playing one of the worst passers of the ball at the whole club in midfield next year are you?? Nah
Connor Rohrer
3   Posted 28/04/2008 at 14:44:27

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I have no doubts that Cahill has a positive effect on our team and fits out system together but he’s not a goalscoring midfielder.

He was in the 04/05 season. He actually played as a third midfielder then breaking from midfield. Now he is a second striker who plays a target man role.

Goalscoring midfielders are players like Lampard and Gerrard who compete in midfield, get on the ball and score the goals. Cahill doesn’t do that.
Jay Harris
4   Posted 28/04/2008 at 14:41:14

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Rick, you?re so wide of the mark I was almost tempted not to reply.
Jagielka in MF? As Connor said, you must be joking. He is fairly good as a do-or-die man-marking central defender but is also the worst culprit for hoofball.

Our MF has been decimated by injury recently but has still got us to 5th by 3 points with 2 games to go. I also agree with Connor that we need to find a "younger" Lee Carsley for 4-5-1 and or a Sober and reliable VDM type winger for 4-4-2.

Alex Jones
5   Posted 28/04/2008 at 15:17:34

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Total tripe! Take out Pienar and Osman and replace them with Bullard and Jags! Either your a windup or a total moron; either way your way off the mark. Carsley needs replacing with someone who can take the ball off the back four and then distribute in a positive way. I think of all the players in our team, Jags is least suited to this role. I also think we should have a bit more ambition than Bullard. Id rather see a revised bid for Lucho
Ben Brown
6   Posted 28/04/2008 at 15:44:19

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Pretty much agree with Connor. Having someone better than Carsley to play around with Fernandes would completely change our style of play. One-twos between centre-mids start off pretty much every spell of possession in good teams.
Tom Owen
7   Posted 28/04/2008 at 15:49:20

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I think we need to invest in a good defensive midfielder. Maybe a winger as well if we have the cash. I would also like to see more of Gosling and Rodwell. Also, Pienaar and Osman have been two of our best players this season. Cahill as been fantastic as well. Pity he is injured a lot. As for Arteta, I'm fed up with him. He can?t cross the ball from a dead ball. I would take £10mil for him now. Maybe not. We have to build on our progress and bring in better quality players. COYB
Ciarán McGlone
8   Posted 28/04/2008 at 16:22:48

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Hold on a minute,

Have we already not discovered that Jagielka is the worst midfielder on the planet?

Even Moyes who usually doesn?t see the obvious 'til quite late has already accepted this!
Tony Williams
9   Posted 28/04/2008 at 16:43:56

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Carsley’s two more moments.

1) Great lofted pass for Lescott to score against Birmingham.

2) Absolute stormer of a goal against, once again, Birmingham.

Lue Glover
10   Posted 28/04/2008 at 15:59:32

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Have to disagree very strongly re Pienaar. You suggest he’s not made many defence splitting passes, well perhaps he doesnt have to because he’s usually in such a good position himself that the simplest of touches sets things up. Osman V Larissa, his goal v Sunderland, great passing between him and Valente,
I could go on but for me at least Pienaar has been excellent. Not played quite so well lately but still one of our most creative players by a long way.
Lee Aitch
11   Posted 28/04/2008 at 17:49:26

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Not to mention Pienaar’s cross for Cahill’s soaring header at Old Trafford. Recall that!!
Steve Hogan
12   Posted 28/04/2008 at 19:13:25

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Like many other posters, I nearly gagged when I read the suggestion of playing Jagielka in ANY kind of midfield role!

Apart from the obvious and often repeated request for a central mid-fielder with real presence and ability, the back four apart, we lack players with real physical strength and tenacity.

This is probably the reason Moyes left out Baines on Sunday when he realised Villa’s front two would simply dominate in the air against him should the opportunity have arisen.

How many times during games have we seen Osman and Piennar chasing like schoolkids trying to throw a tackle in from midfield and simply being shrugged off?

One of my main criticism’s of the manager has been that he has never seemed to realise that physical strength as well as ability is what is needed to be force in the Premiership these days.

I hope he rectifies it in the summer.
Simon Mumby
13   Posted 28/04/2008 at 21:03:09

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I was torn by this article, Itotally disagree with you as regards to Jags in midfield, he is a defender. Remember when we tried Yobo in midfield? Absolute disaster.... Pienaar has been quality this season, so has Ossy. But..... we do need a really quality midfielder, someone who can dictate play, a Scholes, a Lampard, a Gerrard. I would like to see us spend on a top drawer centre midfielder and a right back ready for next season... Each year Moyes has built on the previous year so I trust him to do the same again.....
Kevin Mitchell
14   Posted 28/04/2008 at 22:10:21

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What about giving jags a go at right back with Yobo Lesscot and Baines. It’s a bit late in the season now but he couldn’t do any worse than what we’ve seen there all season.
Central midfield has been a black hole for as long as I can remember, even games we have won easily is down to the fact that we have had more options up front this season.
This is my main gripe with Moyes, he can’t set the team up to play football through the middle. Most other decent teams seem to have three midfielders who can pass to each other and set up attacking play.
Thinking back to the last decent central midfielder we had, I would say Don
John Andrews
15   Posted 28/04/2008 at 23:17:54

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Jagielka at right back! Heaven forbid. He is the main culprit in the so called hoofball that we have been playing in recent weeks. I would get Jagielka out and get Baines in and the sooner the better.
Jason Lam
16   Posted 29/04/2008 at 04:03:19

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I don’t have photographic memory but it appears I didn’t miss much. Tis interesting how other supporters analyse our midfield, describing it anonymous.

We play 5 across the middle, it cannot be anonymous. It may appear missing when we’ve been hoofing the ball from the back lately, but in defence (yes, football is about attacking AND defending), the 5 is there to crowd the midfield. Ask any opposition that DOESN’T hoof the ball in return whether Everton’s midfield is vacant. Yes, we field midgets but those pesky little muggers that run all day can drive you up the wall.

The issue (which I also posted not too long ago, and still stand by) is our 5-man-midfield. It’s good. It’s effective when our players are on form. But not good enough to break the glass ceiling. The regular 5 players are incomplete in themselves that they need all 5 of them to complement each other - to do a proper job of a quality 4-man midfield. We sacrifice a striker in the process. Maybe if we had a decent mid with wingers then Yak and AJ would have to find room in the box, instead of the corners.
Derek Thomas
17   Posted 29/04/2008 at 05:56:06

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The only place for Jagielka is in the back 4, OR maybe as the righthand side of a BACKTHREE with Lescott as the leftie and Yobo in the middle.

Baines will be the LH wingback and A. N. Other as the RH wingback...( NOT Neville or Hibbo, ever, never. ).

Jason Lam has the right of it, we only play 5 in the middle coz we haven’t got 4 good enough to carry the load.

It will be cheaper to find a decent RH wing back in the short term than it will be to pay for the 2 TOP CLASS midfielders that that we need.

Davie’s defensive mind set will not be too affronted by the wingback concept, nor Bill’s pocket.

I see this as a stepping stone away from 451 (ok in it’s place ) which will allow us to slowly accumulate, as if we had any other choice!! the more expensive top class players, which seems to be Davie’s Plan A ( and no plan B, so no change there then) to get right into the top 3 places and start to play the more fluid 433 / total football that is required to win stuff.
Gareth Humphreys
18   Posted 29/04/2008 at 10:04:18

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Got to agree Rick - I tihnk you?re on crack.

Regarding the defence I think its a shame that Baines is on the bench but Yobo, Jag, Lescott are basiaclly picking themselves. It's a sign of the prgress we are making that we have someone of his ilk not getting a sniff - he will though.

Right back is an issue - Neville is probably the best option going forward and Hibbert defensively but overall we need someone new in there. I?d go for Corluka from CIty but he?d probably be too costly.

Carsley looks like he?ll stcik around for anoither season (been great this year) but we need someone with more stature around him who can dictate the play. Agree with Kevin Mitchell that we probably haven?t someone of that ilk since Don Hutchison or Olivier Dacourt.

Up top we need another striker as if the Yak isn?t doing it then no one else is. If a good offer comes in for AJ then I?d cash in as his first touch doesn?t warrant £8.5m no matter how much running he does.
Dan McKie
19   Posted 29/04/2008 at 10:39:36

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Carsley also set up Lescott?s goal at Man City!
Peter Roberts
20   Posted 29/04/2008 at 13:07:46

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Half-agree with you on Pienaar. He seems incapable of having a go from 25 yards and instead tries to play someone else in. It does get infuriating and a return of 2 goals says it all.

Maybe next season Moyes can coax him into having a pop every now and again.
Dominic Duerden
21   Posted 29/04/2008 at 13:41:35

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The reason for our success this season has been the back five. Howard , Neville , Yobo , Jagielka and Lescott have been brilliant. This should not be changed - it works !!

A midield of Arteta, Carsley , Fernandes and Cahill/Osman isn’t too bad.

Yakubu and either Yaughan or Anichebe up front and thats a top 4 team.
Jay Harris
22   Posted 29/04/2008 at 14:07:25

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It wasnt a top 4 team this year and what about Pienaar.

Our biggest problem is the way we play.

When we attack with force we look really good (apart from recently) but when it comes to getting the ball back we have to wait for the defence or Carsley because we haven't got a ball winner between the back five and the opposition.

This is something Vaughan is good at he will chase and win the ball which Yak won't and AJ can't.

Osman is probably the best of the rest but is too easily shrugged off on many occasions.
John Lloyd
23   Posted 29/04/2008 at 14:43:41

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Connor how can you say Tim Cahill is not a goalscoring midfielder??
Bit daft isnt it?
Connor Rohrer
24   Posted 29/04/2008 at 14:52:38

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John Lloyd, is it daft?

He doesn’t play in midfield he plays as a second striker. For the majority of the game he has his back to goal almost striker like. He is almost playing as a target man in our set up.

Goalscoring midfielders are players like Gerrard and Lampard. They do the dirty work, they get on the ball and they score goals. There capable of doing alot more jobs aswell as bagging the goals.

They also actually play in midfield. Lampard plays in the middle of a 4-3-3 and Gerrard either plays as an attacking midfielder in a 4-5-1 or as a centre midfielder in a 4-4-2.

I’m not saying Cahill isn’t capable of being a goalscoring midfielder but the position he has played this season isn’t in midfield. He’s playing as a second striker.
Lee Heath
25   Posted 30/04/2008 at 12:45:10

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We should have bust the bank to get Diarra.
Dan Barton
26   Posted 01/05/2008 at 08:40:09

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Rick - I agree Baines needs to play more at left back to provide more attacking options down the left, and hopefully Neville at right back or perhaps Gosling to provide options down the right.

But Jagielka in midfield is definately not the answer. We need someone like Sidwell in holding position who can actually tackle, add presence and distribute / link play from defence to attack.

To take Everton to the next level Davey has to get the team playing more attacking football with greater ball retention. We need our midfielders to demand the ball and give simple options and we need our defenders to have the balls to pass the ball to another blue shirt rather than smashing the ball down field aimlessly bypassing the midfield. We need our full backs to be adding to our attacking play, overlapping and whipping in crosses. I’ve seen this in flashes this season, and everytime we do it we play the oppo of the park. When we play hoofball we struggle.

One or two personnell changes will assist (left midfield, centre midfield and possibly right back) but I reckon a culture change is what is really needed. Stop the hoofball and start the football and I reckon Everton can kick on to the next level.

But this will require some hard work on the training ground over the summer....
John Lloyd
27   Posted 02/05/2008 at 13:46:03

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Connor, he?s a goalscoring midfielder.

Even when he plays in a more advanced role he is playing in exactly the same position that the scumbag Gerrard is when Liverpool play Torres up top alone yet you say he?s a goalscoring midfielder but Cahill isn't??

Infact what the fuck am I doing even debating it, me, most Evertoninans, the media, the club & the player himself say he is a goalscoring midfielder so WTF are you going on about???

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