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What could have been...

By Robin Byrne :  12/05/2008 :  Comments (16) :
At the start of the season, if you?d offered me 5th place with a record points total of 65, goal difference of +22, semi-final of a domestic cup, last 16 in teh Uefa Cup, and a top goal scorer getting 21 goals, I would?ve jumped at it ? especially when Manny jumped to Valencia and was replaced by Gravesen.

So, now that we?ve achieved it, why do I feel let down? I was bouncing around yesterday when the goals were going in, delighted at securing 5th, but I really feel like we?ve missed a huge chance this year, or rather a few huge chances.

  • If we hadn?t given Chelsea so much respect in both legs of the Carling Cup semi-final (especially at Goodison when we had to win) we could?ve reached Wembley.
  • If we hadn?t reduced the size, and quality, of our squad in January, we could?ve pushed on for 4th.
  • If we hadn?t totally frozen and listened to the hype about us meeting our first quality opposition in Europe when we went to Fiorentina, we really could?ve gone all the way (On a side note, I think it's been proven that Zenit were actually the ONLY real quality opposition we faced in the tournament).
I know we had a lot of decisions go against us this year with refs, but I?d rather focus on things that were within our control, or rather the control of Moyes and the Board.

Moyes first: I like him, I think he?s a good manager, but I really feel he bottled it on the big occasions this year. We played some great football during the season, but I think once Arsenal turned us over 4-1 when we?d played them off the park in the first half, that old negativity started to creep back in. Which is a real shame because when we put the ball down on the ground and passed it around, no-one could touch us, or at least that?s how it felt.

Shortly after that we went to Chelsea, should?ve been all over at half time, then they go down to 10 men, we equalise and instead of really pushing hard for the winner we sit back and they get a lucky goal.

Home at Goodison and there was plenty of belief in the stands, but very little on the pitch and possibly less in the dugout. And I think that?s the key with Moyes at the moment ? he doesn?t really believe that we can compete with the Sky 4 on the pitch. He said so himself, about not having what it takes to take the next step and break their hold on the top 4 places. I know he meant the team/squad, but I cant help thinking there?s something in his own mentality that needs changing if we?re to really succeed. How else are we doing to attract the quality players we need to push for 4th if they see a manager who talks big but doesn?t appear to want, or be able, to back it up when it counts?

Now the Board: we all knew the African Cup of Nations was going to deplete our small squad, and we needed cover for the 3 players going away. So what did we do? Got rid of:

  • McFadden (great deal financially, didn?t look so good a deal at Fulham with a bench of defenders),
  • Stubbs (wasn?t getting much game time but a loss to the dressing room) and Anderson da Silva (no great loss),
And we brought in:
  • Gardner on loan (who?s gone straight back without any game time, and was INJURED when we signed him); and
  • Gosling (a young lad who may make the grade and we?ll hopefully see him next season).
3 out, 2 in ? ridiculous. When Faddy was sold, I don?t think many of us were disappointed, but if we?d known he wasn?t going to be replaced, then we probably would?ve felt differently. Could the Board's lack of backing at a crucial time of the season raised doubts in Moyes?s mind about whether he could realistically achieve his goals?

There?s no doubt in my mind that not increasing the size of the squad in January damaged our chances this season, big time. The focus seemed to be on spending as little as possible, whether to ensure we have funds in the summer (possible), to reduce our debt and make us more appealing to investors (again possible, but unlikely), or to put something aside for Kirkby (we have a winner!). I guess we?ll find out over the next few months because if they don?t back Moyes with a serious amount of cash this summer, it?ll be pretty obvious where their priorities are.

As for next season, I?m looking for progress, which means top 4 (or a better try at it than the past couple of months), a cup final (or at least a couple of semis), and winning at least a couple of games against the Sky 4. The only way that can be achieved is with large financial investment in the team. Over to you Kenwright and Co ? please don?t cock it up this time.

Reader Comments

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Ajay Gopal
1   Posted 13/05/2008 at 09:16:13

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The most shocking statistic for me was to know that the Blues had the worst "come from behind" points in the entire league this season - Derby included !!

Only 2 points were salvaged by the Blues when we were a goal (or 2) down. 1 against Blackburn Rovers and 1 against Chelsea away.

Doesn’t this point to a deep lack of motivational skills by Moyes ? (Don’t get me wrong; regular readers on this site will know me as a rose-tinted Moyes supported - but this was too much for me to digest).
Chris March
2   Posted 13/05/2008 at 09:17:48

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We actually brought three players in to the squad in January, you’ve forgotten Manny. We tailed away due to squad size but the lose of Cahill, Arteta, Piennar and Ossie at similar times was a big factor that you can’t budget for. Take any of the sides above us and take four of their first choice midifelders out over a period of 4 - 6 weeks and see how they cope. We do need to start picking points up against the top four though, if we’d beaten the shite home and away we’d be 4th not them so it goes to show how important these games are now becoming.
Kevin Gillen
3   Posted 13/05/2008 at 11:16:13

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Quite a good post but I do disagree on some points. I think in both games aginst Chelsea we gave it the kitchen sink and I would not take anything away from our efforts aginst them. We were desperately unlucky in the first leg, where a combination of Lescott’s rank bad luck combined with the bad luck we had with Faddy’s brilliant run and effort that came off the post/missed Cahill sunk us. They are the most expensively assembled group of players of all time remember. I’d love them to give us Belletti and Sidwell (how many right backs/midfielders can you have?). I think you are right about January and about Fiorentina. We need to learn from that. I don’t think we should have sold McFadden and I think we now know that the likes of Fiorentina and SK Brann are below us when we put out our first XI. I don’t wish to denigrate Moyes though. To me this year we have won the most difficult league of all and hopefully we can push on by beating the likes of Fulham home and away next year. I’m glad Reading are down, they got a jammy goal at home against us and then hoofed us and the ball off the park the rest of the game.
Peter Roberts
4   Posted 13/05/2008 at 12:44:57

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I think that kind of statistic only serves as fodder for the anti-Moyes brigade on here.

Turn it around and say does it not point to the excellent defensive work by Moyes in that we rarely do go behind in games. If you count those two games and our losses I can only count 14 games - just over a third of matches.

On top of that we came from behind against West Ham in the Carling Cup if I remember rightly, and against Kharkiv away.

Stats can be twisted to represent any opinion - it?s the "if my auntie had balls she?d be my uncle" philosophy
Tony Williams
5   Posted 13/05/2008 at 13:11:12

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Well written piece but a few points that are incorrect.

"We played some great football during the season, but I think once Arsenal turned us over 4-1 when we?d played them off the park in the first half, that old negativity started to creep back in"

Lets look at the results after the 4-1 defeat up until the slump after the Wafer Cup exit.
We beat Boro, Man City twice, Wigan, Reading, Sunderland and stuffed Pompey, we drew with Blackburn and the Spuds in the Wafer Cup we beat Brann twice, one was 6-1 and beat Fiorintina 2-0 and should have been a lot more.

We only lost to Chelsea twice, nothing new there, we were beat by Oldham, the less said about that the better and we lost once to Fiorintina.

So please explain how that says we went negative? 16 games, 3 defeats, two draws and 11 wins. Negative?!!

And the Fadds point, when did he become such a great player who was sorely missed. He was mediocre at best and absolutely awful at worst, so please stop painting him as a saviour that would have been if we didn’t rob Birmingham for over £5m
Tony Williams
6   Posted 13/05/2008 at 13:20:45

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Sorry 4 defeats and 10 wins

Steve Templeton
7   Posted 13/05/2008 at 13:02:54

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Just a quick reply to your three main points Robin:-

1) I’m not sure that I can subscribe to this theory that we gave Chelsea too much respect. The fact of the matter is that they have a much bigger and better quality of squad than we do and they were able to cope with their missing ACN/injured players more than we were. We had to keep it tight in the second leg and go for broke in the last 20 minutes if still 2-1 down and Anichebe was warming up when they got their clinching goal.

2) I think with hindsight Moyes will maybe rue not strengthing the squad in January but you will know that he is not a fan of doing business during this period as the quality of player that is available is not as good as during the summer months as clubs are unwilling to release their better players mid-season.

3) As for your point about Europe don’t you think you are being a bit harsh and asking for a counsel of perfection? This was our first sustained run in Europe for over 20 years and you cannot expect the players (and Manager) to automatically adjust to situations that they have not been in before. It’s called experience and the beauty is that as we have already qualified for next seaons Uefa Cup we can put that experience to good use. I am sure the players will not be as fazed as they were against Firenze if they come up against a team in the top echelons of one of the better leagues in next season cup following the experience they have gained this season.
Joe Rourke
8   Posted 13/05/2008 at 16:33:27

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We lost 9 players just after Christmas all in all...6 permanently

Da Silva...all sold

Yakubu and Yobo to the African Nations Cup.

Boyle... all on loan

AvDM and Gravesen were passengers in the sqaud bus only...

3 came in


I think we shot ourselves in the foot here...the numbers speak for themselves...

Tony Williams
9   Posted 13/05/2008 at 17:41:40

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Yup the numbers do speak for themselves, 65 and 5

They’ll do for me this season
Joe Rourke
10   Posted 13/05/2008 at 18:56:54

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@ Tony

That general dismissive media comment about 4th being the new 1st in Liverpool seems to ring through here...and in case you didn’t notice we came 2nd in that it ’nil satis nisi optimum’ or ’nil satis nisi diapente’? ( diapente is 5th by the way ).

I don’t think Everton did badly but the squad size, particularly after xmas was a pretty obvious failing. That and a meagre 3 from 36 possible points ( 12 games) with the top 7 finishers. Imagine if we had got a few more results in those games? would you be celebrating Uefa cup qualification?
Jay Harris
11   Posted 13/05/2008 at 23:00:04

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Joe Rourke you forgot to mention Pienaar also on AFCON duty and the injury to Osman which put himout for a few weeks at the time.
Tony Williams
12   Posted 13/05/2008 at 23:16:12

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Joe I couldn’t give a monkeys about the "new 1st" shite tagline, I am happy that we limped into yet another Wafer Cup qualification.

So what if we only managed 3 from 36 with the top 7 teams, I am more concerned with the 65 points after the 38 games, you know the whole season.

Imagine if my auntie had a dick she would be my uncle. I don’t wish my life away on what could have beens I go with the blows and see where that takes me.

Yes I would have loved the players not to have gone through their psychological breakdown after Fiorintina but there you go, also interesting usuage of the top 7 stats, however as stated above until our meltdown after the Wafer Cup exit, our record this year was excellent.
Neil Pearse
13   Posted 14/05/2008 at 00:00:15

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I get a bit tired of all this angst about why we don’t do better against the so-called Big Four (especially against the Super Big Two). Here’s a wild idea. They spend masses more money than us, and consequently have much better players and much bigger squads. Worth thinking about.
Joe Rourke
14   Posted 14/05/2008 at 09:18:37

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Tony, I have a philosophical question for you ( and remember I’m a blue too and I’m taking this as a lively debate ) ...

Why not support Man City or Leeds or some random League 1/2 if you want only to go where the wind will take you? there would be more ups and downs in this - more excitement in short.

Everton are a team normally at the top end of English football overall - why support such a historically consistent team...after all they are probably the most historically consistent club in England - with all but 4 seasons spent at the very top level, loads and loads of top 8 finishes, normally having some of the best players in the country and generally winning something every 15 years minimum across our history...if you want, or are content with, something as random as the wind why support Everton?

My point about ’nil satis nisi optimum’ and the squad situation is that the loss/non-usage of so many players was this a very obvious failing, not bad luck, and as such was self uinflicted damage. For me it goes against ’nil satis nisi optimum’ and against the recent grain too of things Everton over the last few years. I’m not an ’absolutist’ about ’nil satis nisi optimum’ I don’t think for instance we such borrow stupidly to try to match Chelski or the Manure but I would like to to see things done to the best degree within our means - which in fairness are not inconsiderable. For me basically self inflicted damage like the weakened squad that we had from Christmas is not on...philosophically speaking of course!

PS Thanks Jay - I knew there was someone I forgot in Pienaar.
Tony Williams
15   Posted 14/05/2008 at 11:44:27

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Ermmm Joe, no offence mate but what on earth are you going on about?

Who said anything about the wind? I said I go with the blows, ie the bad results and see where that takes me, I don’t sit there an ponder on what could have been if a penalty would have bounced in off the post instead of away from goal.

I have been accused of flatulence sometimes but I just don’t see where you are going with your Leeds or Man City points.
Ciaran Byrne
16   Posted 15/05/2008 at 18:08:57

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Nicely written Robin, a lot of very good pionts, especially when we consider how we ran out of steam with the finish line in sight on so many fronts. Can I just ask, is there appropriate funds available to DM from the board to bring in quality for a big push this summer or are we just dreaming? If so, where is BK getting it from?

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