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The Current Crop...

By Graham Holliday :  20/05/2008 :  Comments (28) :

At this stage of the year, I find it interesting to reflect on the current crop of players and to consider what might be the manager?s intentions for the close season... if only to help me through the boredom of the impending lack of football and to help me cope with the piffle written up in the rags. In this article, I don?t speculate about bringing in this or that player, more highlight areas of the squad that are particularly strong or weak.


Tim Howard: Number 1 goalkeeper ? his kicking is atrocious but he is still a very good keeper) ? Contracted until 2012.

Iain Turner: Possibly now the reserve goalkeeper as Wessels has left, but little experience and injury prone ? Contracted until 2011.

John Ruddy: Possible contender for reserve keeper; played well in recent loan spell at Stockport ? Contracted until 2009.

Summary: No real changes required although we possibly might see a new reserve brought in as back up to Howard.


Tony Hibbert: Quality defender, appalling going forward. Good reserve, surely can?t be considered as 1st choice ? Contracted until 2012.

Phil Neville: If playing at right back week-in, week-out, might be good enough to be 1st choice. Reserve defensive midfielder but nothing more! ? Contracted until 2010.

Leighton Baines: Suffered from injuries last season but should be 1st choice if Lescott plays more centrally ? Contracted until 2012.

Nuno Valente: Didn?t really play last season, maybe surprisingly given 1-year contract extension. Reserve left back ? Contracted until 2009.

Joleon Lescott: Player of the Season despite playing mostly at left back. Will probably revert to preferred position of centre back ? Contracted until 2010.

Phil Jagielka: Reliable centre-back and versatile in the same sense as Neville; can play in other positions... just not very well. Likes his hoofball. ? Contracted until 2012.

Joseph Yobo: Very fast, a good defender ? if a bit dodgy with the ball at his feet. Should be first choice alongside Lescott? probably ? Contracted until 2010.

John Irving: Reserve player of the Season; plays mostly at centre back. Seems he's not good enough to break into 1st team but will remain at club for now ? Contracted until 2009.

Summary: First choice would probably be Neville-Yobo-Lescott-Baines. Good strength in depth (especially if you include Rodwell and Gosling ? see midfielders), but may need improvement at right back. Not essential though as Neville and Hibbert do enough to be 1st and 2nd choice? just!


Mikel Arteta: Mostly used as wide midfielder, can be utilised in the middle. Most creative player in squad but poor form last season due to injuries ? Contracted until 2012.

Steven Pienaar: Excellent 1st season, now signed permanently. Used as a left midfielder, he is a gifted footballer. Main concern is his weight and tendency to flit in and out of games ? Contracted until 2011.

Andy van der Meyde: (Remember him? I?d prefer not to...) I can?t see him ever playing for the club again?dropped off the face of the earth! ? Contracted until 2009.

Tim Cahill: Excellent goalscoring midfielder, best used in 5-man midfield. Re-occurring foot injuries meant he didn?t play much last season ? Contracted until 2012.

Leon Osman: Another of the ?midget gems?, he is a terrific technical footballer. Best used in the middle but probably too lightweight to do so in a 4-man midfield ? Contracted until 2012.

Jack Rodwell: 17-year-old, came on as substitute a few times last year. Was known as centre back but seems now to be considered central midfielder. Could figure more this year ? Contracted until 2010

Dan Gosling: Signed in January as ?one for the future?. Previously a right back, but he and Rodwell are now both being utilised in centre mid. The new Pip Nev??!? ? Contract duration unknown.

John Paul Kissock: Tiny winger performed well on-loan at Gretna. Might be too small for Premier League; probably back out on loan this season ? Contract duration unknown.

Summary: We looked thin on numbers before the departure of Carsley and Fernandes... but now severely depleted. Only 4 senior midfielders (excluding the invisible man), but Rodwell and maybe Gosling will probably feature more this year. Also - Neville, Baines and Jagielka can all do a job in midfield (if not very well). Still, expect a defensive midfielder to replace Carsley, and at least 1 or 2 more to give us reasonable numbers to compete. Midfield is by far the weakest area in the squad, and we need to bring in some players with a real physical presence in middle of the park.


Yakubu (Looked lazy in his first few games but finished the season on 21 goals. Strong as an ox and a beastly finish) ? Contracted until 2011

Andrew Johnson (Excellent workrate, very fast but simply doesn?t score enough goals. Also, if he is attacked with an axe in the penalty area, refereess still seem dubious) ? Contracted until 2010.

James Vaughan: Bright prospect expected to challenge Johnson as Yakubu?s partner in a 4-4-2; fast and direct player. Unfortunately, though, seems to be made of glass ? Contracted until 2011

Victor Anichebe: Once dubbed the new Drogba, but doesn?t seem to have the skill or finishing ability of the Ivorian. Good back-up and scored some important goals in Uefa Cup ? Contracted until 2011. Lukas Jutkiewicz: Spent last season on loan at Plymouth. Will probably spend another year out on loan this time around ? Contracted until 2011.

Summary: If Vaughan is fit, we have the 4 decent strikers you look for in a strong Premier League side; and considering Moyes often deploys a 4-5-1 with Cahill as midfielder/support striker we should be strong enough in this area. Personally, I?d like to see Johnson traded in for an improved model but that probably depends on money being available after strengthening midfield.

Reader Comments

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Adam Hunter
1   Posted 25/05/2008 at 16:21:06

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Excellent analysis, can?t really argue with any of it. As you highlighted, Midfield has to be(and will) the main priority, I expect at least 3 to come in.
Paul Lockhart
2   Posted 25/05/2008 at 16:21:22

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I think that Tim Howard is one of the most reliable kickers in the PL. Also must face the fact that Iain Turner will never make the grade. I also wonder why on earth we felt the need to offer Hibbert a long-term contract! Hopefully it is to make sure we get some sort of a transfer fee for him.
Matthew Lovekin
3   Posted 25/05/2008 at 16:38:31

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Hopefully Moyes will being doing a similar analysis - but only to see who of the current crop are good enough to play in a top 4 / champions league team.

We now need players who are CL material - no less, any of the current crop not up to standard, need to be replaced.
Michael Hunt
4   Posted 25/05/2008 at 17:07:18

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Pretty accurate in my opinion, except Vaughan is certainly not made of glass (rather he is very physical and throws himself 100 mph into challenges he has no right to win, but often does).
Neal Farrelly
5   Posted 25/05/2008 at 18:12:29

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Your summary of the existing players is accurate except for one thing, you have not compared them against thier opposite numbers in the rest of the PL to see where we stand. Simple fact is that we are definitely lacking in the attacking RB and LB positions, and I don?t think Yobo is strong enough to lead the back line, so we need somebody of a stronger leadership type. Whether this can be Lescott or Jags I don?t know. Maybe Nev from a RB position as he is captain.

Similarly, compare our strikers with other PL teams. Apart from Yakubu scoring a bagfull, we don?t have another out-and-out striker to rely on. Cahill, Johnson and Lescott scored the rest of the goals but all around 10 each. If Cahill had a full season then maybe he would have scored around the 15 mark; maybe he can get that number next season, but we have to rely on his dodgy foot. Therefore we need another goalscoring midfielder such as Lamps or Ronaldo.

John Andrews
6   Posted 25/05/2008 at 18:36:04

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I too long to see a back four of Neville, Yobo, Lescott and Baines!

I also note that you would like an improved model of AJ. Any suggestions? To repeat, as long as we have our defence, Jagielka in particular, lumping the ball all over the place then AJ will not thrive. End of.

Michael Hunt
7   Posted 25/05/2008 at 18:46:18

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The Improved model of AJ is JV, already here, we?ve just got to get him fit (and keep him that way!) Due to his injury nightmare, he?s lacked the game time, but he is lethal already and he just needs games. His finish to finish of Brum at GP was top draw, and he was not even match fit! Other than this season (where his goals to minutes on pitch record was still good) there are a multitude examples of his class, eg, when he had a run toward end of season before last. He?s a relatively ?secret weapon? ? I can?t wait to see him unleashed properly alongside the Yak. If we?ve a class midfield behind them too we?ll take some stopping next season! :-)
Neal Farrelly
8   Posted 25/05/2008 at 18:25:27

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Continuing my above comment... if we look at our players individually we can see that there are better individual players in the PL, Bentley, Pennant, Agbonlahor etc that would definately improve our squad. Of course where would that leave TC, MA, LO and SP? Well it?s a long season with a lot of injuries, and different teams to play against. As already stated, maybe we need one or two mids with a more physical presence and a bit more height (Huddlestone at Spurs, maybe (without the pies!!)). What seems certain is that we lack a bit of height for corners and free kicks, except for JL and JY going up into the box. I am not trying to suggest players that we should go for, just looking at those we have where we could improve or add to.
Gareth Humphreys
9   Posted 25/05/2008 at 20:14:34

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Neal, can?t see where you are coming from with regards to the LB spot. I think we are probably covered here better than any club in the league??
Andy Crooks
10   Posted 26/05/2008 at 00:05:28

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John Andrews, agree with you totally. If AJ goes (to West Ham?) he?ll be in a team who won?t have him playing in an entirely unsuitable system. To sell a committed, pacey, English striker would be a serious mistake.
Jimmy Crack
11   Posted 26/05/2008 at 01:21:04

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Spot on.

I think it would be interesting to see Jags-Yobo-Lescott as center defenders with Baines / Neville as wing backs....but it?s unlikely.

I guess my only problem with the article is the VdM part...surely Moyes has a plan for him?? He?s not the kind of guy to hold on to someone who contributes nothing to the team. I?d like to see Andy on the right wing where he belongs.
Mark Cassin
12   Posted 26/05/2008 at 04:31:31

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Lescott signed an extension until 2012.
Andy White
13   Posted 26/05/2008 at 07:46:19

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To continue a chain of thought... wtf is going on with VDM??

I assume that Moysey is being vindictive and ruining his career to punish him for being a waste of space. Maybe I?m wrong but I can?t see any other reason for not taking the 3 cornflakes and a signed picture of Pele we could probably get for him...?

Even with half our squad injured, Moyes wouldn?t play him last season. Surely we have to get rid???
Neal Farrelly
14   Posted 26/05/2008 at 08:19:01

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Gareth, do you really think so? At LB we have Baines, with Valente as cover and JL as possibly the better out of those 3 but he wants to play CB. So let?s look at LB at LB (lol). He is 5?7" and supposedly weighs 11st 10lbs, which is 4 lbs lighter than JL but he is 7" shorter. I think the weight is wrong on the squad profiles or he is built like a tank!! Simple fact is that his lack of height can cause us problems at set pieces etc.

Could he be improved upon? If we are going to be CL challengers then we need to be ruthless and review our strengths and weaknesses. Height in defence is a definite weakness in my opinion. Say through injury we have to play TH-JL-PJ-LB then we have only one defender of 6? and no midfielders over 6? and one striker over 6?. That can cause us a lot of problems against big physical sides.

If LB was the only small player we had then it would not be such a problem, as it is DM seems to be recruiting a team of midgets and he has now realised this (I hope!!). All in my opinion and just offered up for some banter and debate during the boredom period!!

Jimmy Fazackerley
15   Posted 26/05/2008 at 09:07:45

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I agree with Jimmy Crack about playing 3 centre backs, but it may be a step too far for DM. On the VdM front, maybe DM has him serving the oranges at half time? Also DM may have opened a dog-walking service?
Connor Rohrer
16   Posted 26/05/2008 at 10:25:12

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Has a team ever been successful using 3-5-2 in the Premiership? I don?t think they have. Pretty much explains why it isn?t used a lot.

David Jones
17   Posted 26/05/2008 at 10:42:25

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Agree with all of that apart from your central defence solution. I have no clue what this love affair with Yobo is all about. Jagielka has just been called up to the full England squad FFS, and with good reason. For me it is Jagielka and one other based on form and merit. Yobo is capable of barnstorming performances but he is still unreliable, he doesn?t communicate at all hardly and he is far worse on the ball than either of the other two.

In big games when we are under pressure, European aways for example (Fiorentina springs to mind) Yobo is the one who starts hacking and kung-fu kicking at everything when put under no pressure. In short, he loses his composure and that, in turn, unsettles the rest of the defence. It?s very poor for such an experienced player. For all his good qualities he will never be quite the player we need IMO, Jags and Lescott has huge potential as a partnership though.

Connor Rohrer
18   Posted 26/05/2008 at 12:01:03

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David Jones, Its hard to seperate Yobo and Jagielka in my opinion. Both have different qualities and are suited to different games. Yobo has pace and aerial ability and is excellent up agains the likes of Drogba, Torres, Adebayor etc. Physical power house strikers so to speak rarely get the better of Joe.

Jagielka is smaller and more sweeper like. He’s excellent up against smaller more technical strikers like Rooney and Tevez. He has a low centre of gravity for a centre defender and wins crucial last ditch tackles.

The problem I have with the Lescott-Jagielka combination is the lack of aerial ability. Joleon is a big lad but his leap his poor and I wouldn’t call him commanding. Probably the only thing he needs to work on. Jagielka is good in the air but up against bigger strikers there’s only so much he can win. He is also prone to the ball over the top. Yobo for all his flaws is excellent in the air. He times his leap to perfection and 9 times out of 10 clears the danger. I feel you need atleast one dominant centre half in defensive and aerially Yobo is dominant.

Yobo has been called unreliable but this season he has rarely made mistakes. I’d actually say he’s made less than Jagielka and Lescott. Can you think of many mistakes he’s made? I can’t and certainly not this season. People base his unreliability down to his dribbling out of defensive. Yes he looks like a tit when he does it I agree but he is rarely caught out because of it. Either his pace recovers the situation or he’s helped out by a defender.

In some ways I respect him for it. It shows he’s not always looking for the hoof. When there aren’t any options from the midfield which is the case alot of the time he’s willing to bring it out.

Distribution wise its hard to seperate them. Neither are paticualry good in that area. Both can either look excellent distribution wise or awful. Yobo has banana feet occasionly and Jags is prone to booting the ball out of play. I think both have shown though that if there given options they keep it simple. Like the Newscastle game. Both of there distribution was immaculate. Carsley, Osman, Fernandes and Pienaar where all showing for the defensive and the defensive where kepping it simple but very effectively. I seem to remember Yobo making a 40 yard pass right up to the wing to Lescott which was very suprising.

I agree though Jagielka is more suited to European games. Yobo hasn’t quite hacked away games yet as Metalist and Fiorentian proved although he did improve towards the end.

All in all its the least of our problems. Whoever plays alongside Lescott next season will do a good job. We have three excellent centre halves in my opinion and they have proved that with the amount of clean sheets we’ve racked up this season. You never know it might be the Jagielka/Yobo combo again with Lescott at left back again next season. As much as I’d like to see Baines in there he hasn’t proved himself yet.
David Jones
19   Posted 26/05/2008 at 12:31:01

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Connor I think you’re a bit off on your appraisal of Yobo’s qualities. IMO Yobo’s biggest quality is his pace, it so often gets him out of the trouble that his lack of concentration and poor positional sense get him into. I have never doubted his leap when it comes to heading but to suggest he is aerially dominant is just a nonsense. Yobo gets stuck to the back of players and lets them outmanouver him quite easily. He is great at winning free headers but I have rarely seen him dominate anyone in the air, very rarely. I agree that Joleon isn’t the best for a big lad but contrary to your opinion I think jags is by far our best aerial defender too, the lad is like a magnet to the ball. Yobo will always have his fans but, similarly to Carsely(although obviously more talented), the love is based on very little IMO. Defending is all about clean sheets for me. Jagielka is the man I most triust when it comes to helping us get clean sheets. he is a natural defender, he is quick, he can head, he can sniff danger and he knows when he’s got time and when to get rid. Yobo has tenfold more natural athletic ability but then so does Michael Johnson. That don’t make him a good footballer though!!
Connor Rohrer
20   Posted 26/05/2008 at 12:42:03

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David Jones, the same could be said of Jagielka?s last ditch tackling. It makes up for his lack of positioning.

I disagree Jagielka is the best out of the three aerially. He?s better than Lescott in that department yes but not Yobo. I probably did go a bit far calling Yobo dominant but he does win the majoirty of his headers. I alaways feel Yobo gets alot more distance on his headers than Lescott and Jags. Jags and Lescott seemed to bobble and hit the ground alot of the time without getting a full contact on the ball.

As I?ve said its not really worth discussing. For me I don?t have any favoirtes. Out of the three there all different and bring different qualities to the plate. Whoever makes the partnership will do a good job in my opinion.

It's the least of our problems. Our defense has proven its reliability time and time again. I?m more worried about the centre of midfield and right back.
Robbie Carew
21   Posted 26/05/2008 at 12:57:24

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10 goals this season says Lescott is good in the air, especially seeing as how most of them were headers, apart from the ones vs Newcastle and Wigan
John Joe
22   Posted 26/05/2008 at 13:22:16

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One area I feel we need to strengthen is not actually a position... we need a few leaders in the team.

Who do we really have who shows true spirit and goes around encouraging his teammates? A genuine captain. Not Baines, Lescott, Yobo, Hibbert, Arteta, Osman, AJ, Yakubu.

Cahill, Jagielka and Vaughan have potential (as in they seem a bit passionate) but all are prone to un-captain-like brain freezes.

Maybe that’s the answer as to why P.Neville still gets a game.
David Jones
23   Posted 26/05/2008 at 13:33:30

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Connor, regards the ?last ditch tackling?, that all depends whether you consider it his fault that he has to make ?last ditch? tackles or whether he is saving someone elses backside by making them!! I know which i?m pretty sure it is. Jagielka?s ratings since he has moved to centre back, with the very odd exception, have all been 8, 9, 8, 8, 9 etc. Like I said, Yobo will always have his fans but some people just don?t know what they are watching. Jagielka is in the England squad and, IMO Yobo would get nowhere near it if he were English. I know he isn?t surrounded by greats but his performances at the AFCON were laughable. It?s steady players like Jags and Lescott who we rely on to make Yobo the player that he is, not vice versa. I?m not saying he?s not a good player but if you go back over his Everton career he has been very poor in terms of reliability for longs spells and in the centre of defence reliability is key. I just think he?s vastly overrated, well, he is.
24   Posted 26/05/2008 at 14:41:06

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We’re very well covered at left back. Baines, Lescott, Valente and even Phil Neville if need be.

Not sure how being 5’7 rules Baines out as a quality left back. How tall is Ashley Cole, or Roberto Carlos for that matter?

I think we need a big bruiser in midfield, a right back, a striker, and two wingers.

If West Ham really want Johnson for £12m+, bite their hands off, I think if you paid the right wages you could get an experienced, established striker to score goals for half that price. Leaving £20m or so for the rest, I’d agree with getting Fernandes loaned in for one more season if possible. Gera on a free is worth taking as well.
Scott Milne
25   Posted 26/05/2008 at 16:33:08

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Moyes is doing the right thing signing Hibbert on long-term and would be wise to keep hold of AJ...

Blatter seems determined to push through his "6+5 ?Homegrown? Rule", meaning that top (or nearly) class English players costs will skyrocket in the next couple of years...

We?re sitting pretty right now with AJ, Baines, Jagielka, Vaughan, Hibbert, Neville, Osman as well as the likes of Gosling & Rodwell... Think Man Utd are the only other club that could cope adequetly whilst the rest will have to start breaking the bank to meet requirements...
Chris McCartney
26   Posted 26/05/2008 at 19:22:09

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I think that you have hit the nail on the head there mate. The only thing I would argue with you with is that Jags should be partnering Lescott.
Peter Hall
27   Posted 26/05/2008 at 19:30:57

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OK when you put your thoughts forward you are ready to be shot down, and on the whole your assessment seems fair to me.

But I wouldn’t like you to be in charge of Jagielka’s future - you’d sell him for a few bob (like Keown!!) just because he isn’t Alex Young. But Jagielka is proving a superb ’take responsibilty’ defender (ahead of Yobo and Lescott in that respect) and very like John Terry - whose passing is Jagielka standard, by the way. But who would you want when somebody has to prevent a goal? One of those two for sure. As I’ve said in another thread, Jagielka is a potential Everton captain and quite soon.
Steve Ashton
28   Posted 27/05/2008 at 13:49:08

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Connor - you say that Joey plays well against the likes of Drogba, Adebeyor and Torres. Could I remind you that all scored against us last season.

If we are going to sell anyone from the current squad in this window it should be Yobo - still has 2 years on his contract and is well regarded. Far to error prone for my liking.

Will never forget Bucharest!

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