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A seasoned perspective

By David Gallant :  14/05/2008 :  Comments (6) :
And so another long, hard Premier League season has finally run its course, and in true Evertonian fashion it has been another veritable mixed bag served up by the team of 2007-08.

Now I am no Moyes 'apologist' and see no logic in the term. Yes, Moyes has his faults and surely for even the most ardent Moyes disciple, there must be times when his decision-making baffles. I am no blind disciple of David Moyes, but judging his tenure on the tangible evidence I see before me of growth on so many fronts, not to mention where it matters (in the league table), I feel that in David Moyes's Everton have played a blinder, as he has done with us.

The more firmly has this thought been entrenched by the fare served up during the past season. Not only were we playing a better brand of football than before, but we were getting results playing that way. Some of our play has been mightily impressive. The first half against Arsenal at Goodison, Larissa and Fiorentina at home, the 7-1 mauling of Sunderland, Man City away were all a far cry from the entertainment (or lack thereof) on offer during the Mike Walker/ Walter Smith eras, and the relatively young age of our squad means this Everton team have far different prospects for the future.

Where I would like to see us improve next year is more consistency in some of the fluid, passing football we have seen tantalizing glimpses of this season. More pertinently perhaps, we need to improve our performances and results against the so-called Big 4. I have read much on this topic yet a deeper analysis of our games against them this year reveals that we are much closer to bridging the gap than many believe (ironically, this realization is perhaps what drives so much of the overly harsh, anti-Moyes sentiment on this site I?d wager).

The Clattenburg derby ? need I say more? Conceding two late, silly and ultimately avoidable goals in our matches against the Champions when we seemed destined for points ? outplaying Arsenal at their own game for a half only to capitulate inexplicably in the second ? a superb Tim Cahill (he of big-match-temperament fame LOL) equalizer against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for a share of the spoils ? Joleon's untimely own-goal in the last minute after another superb fightback and a strike that for me answered any lingering questions about the Yak?s ability ? even our recent derby debacle with a narrowly defeated, injury-ravaged team bereft of most of its first-choice midfield ? these suggest one and all that the gap between the elite and the rest is not as vast as some would have you believe.

Granted, there are things within our games against the Big 4 and others besides where Moyes may have altered things and tilted those results in our favour, but despite our frustrations and justifiable criticism of David Moyes, we do well to reflect on the fact that Moyes himself has placed us in this position to begin with. Yes there is a feeling that things may have been even better than they are (a sentiment Moyes himself subscribes to vehemently by his own recent admission) and that we missed a trick. Or few.

On sober reflection of the bigger picture, however, then surely we must agree that our Everton have improved immeasurably this season by securing 5th (topping all the big(ger) spenders hovering between 6th and 12th), giving the fans some unforgettable European nights, reaching a domestic cup semi-final and above all playing some fantastic (albeit fleeting) carpet football along the way.

If Moyes is backed by the board this summer (and I believe he will be) and manages to add the quality additions so needed (particularly in the middle of the park), then I believe that next season could well be the one we have all been patiently waiting for. I would love to see us snap up Manny (provided the fee is reasonable and not in excess of £8 mill) for a start and pursue players of the caliber of Arshavin and Kallstrom rather than getting players in purely to boost numbers.

I?d like to see more of Leighton Baines next year, with Lescott moved to centre-back. What a conundrum for Moyes between Jags and Yobo, though it makes for nicer feelings all round than having to select between David Weir and Alan Stubbs I?m sure ? with the utmost respect to those two great servants to Everton Football Club. The right-back issue brings with it the much-debated Tony Hibbert conundrum, which in my opinion is another non-starter, pun very much intended!.

The Premier League is becoming more and more ?horses for courses? and it is great to have the Hibbert option to counter pacy, skillful wingers in the mould of Ronaldo, Petrov, Joe Cole et al. Yet whilst it has worked a treat against that trio in particular, it elicits by default that other favourite debate at ToffeeWeb Towers over whether or not Moyes's mentality against the bigger teams is overly negative. Yet we love a scapegoat at Goodison: Tony Hibbert is often ?it? despite nullifying some of the Premier League's best. The price you pay for such nullification unfortunately, is the deployment of Phil Neville (bless his lil cotton socks) in central midfield, where despite his best efforts, he is simply not good enough for the role. Neville as the right-back of choice, with Hibbo an option should the scenario demand it and I?ll be a much happier lad next season.

No two ways about the fact our midfield needs an drastic overhaul, but less certain is the identity of those (within the realms of possibility) who would come, and what they would cost us. As much as their being no telling who this summer's rabbit-from-a-hat will be, I would like to believe that our profile on the continent has risen considerably by virtue of our European adventure this time round, which could prove to play a huge part in the quality of player we attract. Stew on that when tuning in to watch Rangers v Zenit St Petersburg in bitterness tonight, and you?ll see the light at the end of even that dark tunnel! But I digress?

What I am trying to say is that is going to take players with more quality than the Sidwells, Huddlestones and Stephen Carrs of this world would provide (though Huddlestone may well prove me wrong). No, I am far more excited at the prospect of an Arshavin, Kallstrom, Bradley or the like along with Manny and a fully fit Cahill, Arteta and Pienaar feeding the Yak. Now add a fully fit, young, hungry and full pre-season-under-belt(ed) James Vaughan and you being to see that suddenly things no longer seem so blue....Or not.

Roll on next season ? COYB!

Reader Comments

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Michael Hunt
1   Posted 14/05/2008 at 17:10:14

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Excellent stuff and I hope you are right about Moyes getting the backing he desires...and quickly! With the current platform acheived, NOW really is a huge opportunity to add the quality we need to press on to improve further still.
Gotta smash the glass ceiling, I believe we’re much closer to the RS than the table indicates.
Stephen Kinder
2   Posted 14/05/2008 at 17:40:46

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Nice article; one signing I hope Moyes makes next season is a No 2 with an attacking mind and Euro experience.

James Mako
3   Posted 14/05/2008 at 19:36:28

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The no.2 situation is interesting. I have little doubt the addition will have a marked, if Moyes-marked impact on a change within our squad as a whole next season. I also get a feeling that we may see one, maybe two of the fringe youth players get the push from what I?ve heard. Players to bring in? Well I?ll trust moyes on that one. Miss out on the Koumas, Owens and Richardsons of this world (which will be decisions slammed by some!), leave it till late and probably just bring in a few old timers with no legs and drink problems to complement a gnome and manny fernandes’ never ending loan period. I can hear the chatter of keyboards ready to give the ginger one the abuse he seems to get derided with pre-season by a few folk. HERE COMES THE SUMMER!
Bob Parrington
4   Posted 15/05/2008 at 03:02:24

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Gees David, have you been reading my mind? You put it more eloquently than I could have but I agree with just about everything you said here. The only niggling doubt is Manny. I?m still not sure but admit this could be because he has only lately been getting a good run in the eleven.
Midfield is a big issue. I don?t think we need to look for forwards just now. in defence, I agree, man for the moment between Tony and Phil but let?s not have Phil in the midfield.
Oh, that midfield challenge. It?s probably time to let Cars go but not unless we can replace him with a younger better, hard player.... but we do need that General, don?t we? I wonder if Moyesy has something up his sleeve (like about $20m +)

Well done, David!

David Gallant
5   Posted 15/05/2008 at 08:27:02

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To Bob Parrington ...

Ta for the plaudits ... but then I knew you were going to say that :) LOL

I believe that Cars should be given another season, but more to ’groom’ whoever comes in in his position. I think this might be this seasons ’rabbit’ because to buy the finished article in that position will cost BIG money as you say :)
Bob Parrington
6   Posted 16/05/2008 at 00:36:18

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To David Gallant ... Well, credit where it?s due.
In regard to Cars....... I?m not so sure about the grooming but, to allow for injury to the new player, your point might well be sensible. The kind of player I would like to see is one who can come straight in to the role with composure! Any ideas who?s available that Chelski, Man U & the other 2 out of the FIVE top FOUR won?t offer 20 mil for but that Davey and Co might spot with some of their "vision" ?

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