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COLUMNIST JIM HOURIGAN

Did Irvine make a difference?

By Jim Hourigan :  14/06/2008 :  Comments (30) :
I have to admit that when he was with us I was less than impressed by what I saw. Now I accept that I may have been influenced to a great extent, by what happened on match days and some of the bizarre substitutions and tactics on show. For me it is always a management team and even though DM makes the final decision the assistant has a massive input. I very much saw them as peas in a pod, possibly because of their Scottish backgrounds.

However, I am now beginning to wonder what role Irvine had and to what extent did he exert any influence. Equally I have to admit to being a little more than concerned at the lack of tactical nous and assistance that DM has alongside him or indeed seems to want at present. I think we will all accept that we stumbled somewhat across the finishing line at the end, and my question is: was it simply player tiredness or perhaps a more deep rooted problem? Did the influence of Irvine dissipate after his departure to only really begin to affect us a few months after his leaving?

The reason I begin to ask this question is because of the conversations I have had with Preston fans recently. After a difficult start when PNE were almost bottom of the division, Irvine has turned them around and got them playing decent football. Their supporters are positive about next season, not because of the natural optimism we all have before he season starts, but because of the style of play and the players brought in. They believe Irvine has unearthed a couple of gems from other clubs and think he has a real eye for good footballers.

Notwithstanding this is PNE and not the Premier League, it does beg the question, Did his influence gradually disappear as we came to the end of the season and our poor form was the outcome? Was it him or DM who spotted the talent?

Equally, no decent manager in the Premier League operates without an assistant and certainly none of the top clubs are run single-handed. DM is quite clearly a strong character but, however good he is, he is not good enough to operate without a decent right-hand man. Has Irvines departure demonstrated that?

Well, I'm beginning to think it has and whilst all the talk focusses on players in and players out and DK, in the very short term I think we ought to be concerned about the apparent lack of movement in this area. The present backroom staff have their strengths but do we really think they will move us on tactically to challenge the Sky4?

Perhaps his own lack of a contract is an issue but I just hope he has some plans in this area because left to his own devices I do not think DM will be good enough. Wegner, Ferguson et al realise they need assistance and DM is not better than them.

Reader Comments

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Graham Brandwood
1   Posted 14/06/2008 at 14:45:06

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Jim

I think it is a lot simpler than analysing the contribution of assistant managers. In our case we have struggled due to Cahill's injury. Despite limited passing and tackling abilities for a midfielder, he has a huge influence on our results. I new we had lost the Anfield derby when I read that we win about a third of matches when he is missing and two thirds when he is in the side. I think he is the last Everton player to score at Old Trafford, the Emirates, Anfield and Stamford Bridge. Combine this with the injury to Artetta and I think we have the answer to why we struggled at the end.
Ray Said
2   Posted 14/06/2008 at 15:30:49

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I think an assistant that actually contributes a view is an important factor in the success of most enterprises. Its useful to hear an alternative view when you are about to make a decision; substitutions, change of tactics and player selection.
I do think we need someone that can offer something extra though and not just parrot Moyes-remember the famous documentary about Graham Taylor when he was England manager, when Taylor would shout to the players and RS nob head Phil Neal would shout the same message only a lot louder. May as well have a carboard cut out as that sort of assistant .
I take Grahams point about Cahill (who i would make captain) and agree about his influence, he seems to be the one player in our squad who has no fear and sees himself as the eqaul of any player on the field. I love Cahill’s attitude and only wish that a few more of the squad had the same spirit.
Connor Rohrer
3   Posted 14/06/2008 at 16:22:00

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Watching Irvine’s interviews I was always impressed with him. He seemed a very knowledgeable well respected man who knew his football. He also seemed the more positive of the two and was always talking about attacking football.

I don’t think he was a problem at all. If anything he was an asset. The players liked him, Moyes liked him and everyone I have come across likes him. I suppose we’ll never know. It would be unfair to blame him without any facts.

Injuries, lacks of bodies and formations where the problems. Key players where struck down by injury, we didn’t have a big enough squad anyway and Cahill’s absence from the team made us revert to a formation we weren’t suited to(4-4-2).

Danny ONeill
4   Posted 14/06/2008 at 18:12:19

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Simple fact is no-one can do it alone. You have to have someone to confide in and bounce ideas off.
Gavin Ramejkis
5   Posted 14/06/2008 at 18:19:37

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It makes sense to have a different perspective to give you another viewpoint, maybe an attacking minded assistant to counter DM’s defensive traits, I’d love European experience too as the euros are showing some fantastic pass and move stuff in the Dutch, Croatians and Portugese sides instead of the miserable percentage football of the Howard Wilkinson school of tedium.
Brendan McLaughlin
6   Posted 14/06/2008 at 19:33:35

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It doesn?t take the wheel long to turn full circle, does it? Irvine?s departure coincided with an upturn in form & immediately some people were labelling him as the villian of the piece all along! Of course our subsequent dip in form has to be explained by something other than injuries to key personnel & suddenly it?s PISS ? Post Irvine Stress Syndrome!!!
Colin Morgan
7   Posted 14/06/2008 at 20:44:19

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It sickens me to see how many Evertonians firmly believe we are nothing without bloody Cahill. Of course he has an influence but he is a serial sick-note and to hold that we are a one-man team is arrant nonsence. Moyes is a loner and dictator in the mould of his hero Ferguson. He will bring in his own (yes-)man when he is good and ready to pledge his future to our club.
Connor Rohrer
8   Posted 14/06/2008 at 21:50:49

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Cahill getting injured was definatly a factor. Not because he is a fantastic player, more to do with the fact that we have become so accustomed to him playing in that role behind Yakubu,Cahill getting injured was definatly a factor. Not because he is a fantastic player, more to do with the fact that we have become so accustomed to him playing in that role behind Yakubu. We struggle in a 4-4-2 which has been shown so many times.

I?ve said it before though if we buy two mobile centre midfielders Cahill won?t be key. We?ll end up reverting to 4-4-2 and he will struggle for a place due to his one dimensional style of play. Don?t get me wrong he?s a decent central midfielder but there are alot of better ones out there. I don?t think Moyes fancies him an out and out centre midfielder anyway.

I do think people go over the top with his contribution to the team. If the likes of Arteta, Pienaar and Osman weren?t behind him he wouldn?t have anything to feed off and he?d be very infective. So really he needs them more than they need him. He fits our system together but he isn?t our best midfielder nor is he irreplaceable.
Steve Nikolovski
9   Posted 14/06/2008 at 23:22:58

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We are forgetting that DM took PNE up a few divisions to the verge of the premierleague before he joined us. I think DM is fantastic, he has us in the right direction and every year we add something. I think that as always with a thread-bare squad you are going to struggle later in the season. We had Arteta, Cahill, Osman, Fernandes out for various periods. Cahill is the X factor though....
Cheers
Niko
Steve Ryan
10   Posted 15/06/2008 at 11:10:55

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Connor, can you please explain what you mean when you say that Cahill is a one dimentional player? Also, what do mean when you say that if Cahill didn?t have Arteta, Pienaar and Osman behind him he wouldn?t have anything to feed off? Forgive me mate but I thought a four-man midfield consisted of four players and that they were actually coached and paid to pass the ball to their colleagues.

In your posts you continually favour those players who have a few fancy tricks up their sleeve. The point is however, that Cahill with Lampard is the top goalscoring midfield player in the country and goals win matches. Furthermore, he invariably produces the goods against the big teams home and away whereas Arteta, Osman have disappeared in these games for years.

As you know, to win trophies you have to be CONSISTENT and that?s why Arteta and Osman would never be in my first 11. The jury is still out on Pienaar who like Arteta and Osman has great technically ability but who also lacks consistency and strength on the ball. I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on this one. However, it is actually possible for midfielders to have great technique and still be consistent as Steven, Sheedy, Reid, Bracewell, Ball, Harvey, Kendall, and King proved.

David Jones
11   Posted 15/06/2008 at 11:34:47

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I always held Irvine in the highest regard and there is no doubt in my mind that we missed his influence towards the season end. I have to also agree with those ridiculing the ’Cahill theory’. I see the player week in, week out and quite simply his ability isn’t of a level that makes THAT much difference. There is such a thing as coincidence and this is one such case. Results are impacted by many factors, form of other players, standard of opposition, time of year etc etc. Cahill is a good player but if we are suggesting he is crucial to us then I would suggest we are in a very bad way because, technically, he is very limited.
Steve Ryan
12   Posted 15/06/2008 at 11:41:52

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Jesus David, you must have a short memory bearing in mind the number of games Cahill has single-handedly won for us. Football is not all about technique; its also about character, bottle, enthusiasm, scoring goals and so on. Anyway David, getting back to Osman and Arteta; what’s the point in having great technique if, over a number of years, you tend to play one good game in three?
Andy Burke
13   Posted 15/06/2008 at 12:28:00

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Cahill is a massive player and I can’t believe that any Everton fan would think any differently.

Our run of great form last season started because of:

1. The return of Cahill.
2. Being robbed in the Derby.

I too watch Cahill week in week out and I see a player having a massive influence on our games and scoring some very important goals.

I can’t really comment on the Irvine thing ’cause I don’t have any idea how much influence he really had.
Connor Rohrer
14   Posted 15/06/2008 at 16:18:39

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Steve Ryan, Cahill is one dimensional because he only really revels in one position: As a second striker behind Yakubu. Yes he can do a job as an out and out centre midfielder but there are a lot of better centre midfielders out there and we actually have better centre midfielders on out books. Anyone who?s seen Cahill playing in the centre of a 4-4-2 would agree he?s nothing special there nor does he show any consistency. When we reverted to 4-4-2 in the 05/06 season he was very very average. Moyes has now found a role in the team that accommodates him and plays to his strengths.

I don?t favour the likes of Osman, Arteta and Pienaar because there skilful at all. I favour them because I feel they bring more to the plate than Cahill. They cover more ground, they have defensive duties to attend to, they have to get on the ball and create and they have to chip in with goals. Cahill plays in a luxury role so he doesn?t need to do any of the things mentioned. All he basically does is drop back into midfield occasionally, act as a target man and try and cause havoc in the box.

People always talk about Cahill being the main man and its bollocks. We need the likes of Arteta before Cahill. If we didn?t have the likes of Pienaar, Arteta and Osman Cahill would be worthless. That?s my point really. Without his goals he offers nothing but aggression and a decent work rate. Cahill defiantly fits the 4-5-1 system together but without the likes of our creative midfielders he wouldn?t be worth having in the team.

Comparing Lampard to Cahill is also very wrong. Lampard is a goal scoring midfielder whereas Cahill is a goal scoring second striker. The likes of Lampard and Gerrard get on the ball, dictate games, create goals and do a lot of midfield donkey work. Lampard usually plays in a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 as a box to box midfielder whereas Cahill basically plays as a second striker in a 4-4-1-1 system. Completely different in my opinion. Lampard brings a lot more to Chelsea than goals. He gets a lot of assists and his pass completion is always high. Cahill sadly doesn?t. His pass completion last season was 66% which is poor and he only mad two goals himself.

The big game theory again comes down to the difference in contribution. It?s very unfair to compare someone like Cahill?s contribution against Man utd to someone like Arteta, Osman or Pienaar. Cahill can score a goal, give the ball away for the majority of the game and rarely touch the ball and that is considered a good game. Someone like Arteta for example has to do his defensive duties, get on the ball and create and try and make the team tick. He?s got a lot harder job on his hands. He doesn?t have the luxury of playing in such a limited role like Cahill. It would be very interesting to put Cahill as a centre midfielder in a 4-4-2 in a big game and see how he copes. He didn?t do too much against Chelsea in the Semi final at A Stamford Bridge. Infact he did fuck all. For me Cahill?s goals mask some very average performances.

Osman and Pienaar where without doubt our best midfielders last season. Osman had his best season so far, scored 8 goals and we tended to play better football when he was playing centre midfield. Pienaar give us another dimension down the left hand side, scored 2 goals and created 15. They also cover the most ground in our team week in week out. The only midfielder who was inconsistent was Arteta and he suffered from injury for 5/6 months of the season.

Don?t get me wrong I like Tim but I do feel people overdue his contribution to the team. I?ll as you this if Moyes decides to revert to 4-4-2 and buys two good centre midfielders will Cahill get into the team? I don?t think he would. So really he isn?t undropable nor is he as important as people think. On formation change and his position is in doubt. If we continue with 4-5-1 then he?s got a place in the team.
Graham Brandwood
15   Posted 15/06/2008 at 17:51:37

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Jim

Sorry for moving the debate away from Irvine and on to Cahill. I just think that Cahill has a huge influence on the team. He is a modern day David Platt neither were good enough players to play in a 4 4 2 but were very good at arriving in the box and scoring goals.In 1990 England had to change to 3 5 2 to get the best out of Platt (and the other attacking midfielders) and Moyes has to play 4 5 1 to accomodate Cahill. The task for moyes is to find the players and system that takes away our dependence on Cahill because at the moment the stats point to a real overeliance on him.
Phil Bellis
16   Posted 15/06/2008 at 18:04:27

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There’s a stat doing the rounds which projects a final points tally based on last season as

With Cahill - 84 points

Sans Cahill - 48 points

Case rested, yer ’onour
Ed Fitzgerald
17   Posted 15/06/2008 at 20:26:14

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Jim

Good to see you recognising the influence and importance that an astute, intelligent and diligent No2 can have upon a team.
I am sure David Moyes is simply being careful before appointing someone who will help move the club and his own thinking forward.

Cahill we could debate him all day and his shortcomings when compared to other players, fact is the guy has been huge for us. The data backs it up. Perhaps he is too important?
Brendan McLaughlin
18   Posted 15/06/2008 at 21:26:36

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Conor, I read your assessment of players & normally don?t disagree. But I think Cahill was starting to evovle into the more complete midfielder that we all want to see but then he was struck down by injury. Now he has bounced back perhaps not completey but I for one feel (and hope) that he may yet prove his doubters wrong.
Steve Ryan
19   Posted 16/06/2008 at 01:15:28

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Connor, I disagree with virtually everything you have said in your email but as I said earlier, it’s all about opinions.
Steve Carter
20   Posted 16/06/2008 at 04:34:35

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Amen to those getting off track and singing Cahill?s praises. To those who underestimate his value - turn it up. Like Phil Bellis says - the bloke wins, or at least salvages, games for us time and again. "Osman and Pienaar where without doubt our best midfielders last season". Connor please. Neither could knock the head off a beer. They flit about here and there not doing a lot when it comes to actually making the difference in do or die games against quality oppo. Man U at OT sums it up: Tim pops up out of nowhere, and out jumps Ferdinand, Vidic and VdS et al to set us for a point against the eventual EPL and ECL champs at home, then little Stevie does his leg thing... David Jones, he?s crucial to us even if "technically, he is very limited."
Dan Johnson
21   Posted 16/06/2008 at 10:38:05

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I thin Alan Irvine is a future Everton manager.

Hes plying his trade with Preston and gaining more experience and learning to become his own man.

When Moyes moves on I bet Irvine throws his hat in for the job.
Andy Fletcher
22   Posted 16/06/2008 at 11:53:14

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Some good points but ask yourself?

Maybe Moyes has helped Irvine at Preston with player recommendations? Possibly, more likely probably.

One worrying thing about no assistant is if Moyes is sick or not able to attend a game for some reason then who steps in for that training session/ match?
Jack Burton
23   Posted 16/06/2008 at 12:08:10

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I can’t believe anybody could compare Osman’s or Pienaar’s contributions to Cahill’s. You must be looking at different games to me.
Pienaar would start for me with Osman as bck up and neither of them ever let in the middle of the park as they are far too lightweight.
Cahill on the other hand would be first on my team sheet and with the captaincy.
Connor Rohrer
24   Posted 16/06/2008 at 12:36:24

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Steve Carter, what I said was simple really. I do not doubt Cahill’s contribution in a 4-5-1 but if we reverted to 4-4-2 I don?t see where he fits in. That?s my point. For someone so important one formation change could cost him a place in the team. And I think we can all agree that whilst he?s a decent central midfielder he?s not the best.

I think Pienaar and Osman where easily our best midfielders last season. If we are talking about consistency over a season and who showed the most it would be them two. I?m not talking about who scored a goal in a big game, just because Cahill did that doesn?t mean he?s was consistent. You forget to mention that Pienaar is the one who assisted Cahill?s goal. His excellent cross picked out Cahill for the goal. Is he not contributing in a big game?

?I can?t believe anybody could compare Osman?s or Pienaar?s contributions to Cahill?s. You must be looking at different games to me.?

Jack Burton, what is wrong with that? Pienaar made 15 assists last season and scored 2 goals whereas Osman scored 8 goals and assisted 4. I think they both made very good contributions to our season and are easily comparable to Cahill in terms of contribution over a season. Cahill scored 10 goals last season in 28 games. That?s a good record but then you look at Johnson?s record last season. 10 goals in 29 games, not a big difference at all and Johnson supposedly had a bad season. Even Lescott a defender chipped in with 10 goals.

Cahill?s individual performances for me haven?t been as good as people have made out. He is a key man more to with the fact that he fits the 4-5-1 system together. Without him we have to play 4-4-2 and that doesn?t suit us.

As I?ve said I like Tim, I?m not saying sell him at all and I do feel he can be a key player if he ups his all round performance. Tidies up his passing, works a little harder like he did in the 04/05 season and contribute more on the ball instead of playing as a striker with his back to goal. He?s one of my favourite players but no one is above criticism. That?s my opinion anyway.
Lewis Barclay
25   Posted 16/06/2008 at 13:55:05

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What worries me more right, than a lack of a new Assistant Manager, is that Moyes has still not signed another Everton contract. I can only think that maybe there is:

A. the possiblity of a big move in the next year or two North of the border or maybe to one of the Sky 4. Him and Ferguson are pretty good chums, right?

B. He?s waiting for transfer news before signing on the dotted line

C. He?s waiting to sign an assistant before commiting

D. There is the possibility of a takeover at Everton.

I suspect that B is the most likely of these reasons.

I recently totalled up all the points accrued by the current Premier League clubs for the last few seasons, and Everton were 4th highest scoring, which I believe is down to the progress made by Moyes. A good assistant will hopefully add to this.

Ste Kenny
26   Posted 16/06/2008 at 19:44:47

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Is timing a run to perfection to arrive in the box at exactly the right time and outjumping a defender (usually) much bigger than you not classed as a technique.

Is always delivering the goods time and time again when it matters not a more important quality than workrate (although how anyone can question his workrate God only knows).

And finally because you consistently score goals from midfield are you a one trick pony.

We all have our opinions on players but Tim Cahill would be the first name on my teamsheet every week. To say he relies on arteta, pienaar etc is bollocks he was scoring goals and influencing matches for us long before they played for us , and when osman never looked like making the grade. (still has?nt IMO)

If a few of the other players had his will to win we?d do a lot better than we are now!!!
Jim Hourigan
27   Posted 16/06/2008 at 22:14:13

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Ed, as you know we all need a good man behind us. With reference to DM’s appointment the balance is between appointing in haste and repenting at leisure or delaying the appointment and missing the right opportunity.
Ed Fitzgerald
28   Posted 17/06/2008 at 18:34:40

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Jim

I would rephrase your first sentence, people may infer the wrong idea. I am sure your judgement is sound and that you would show the appropriate prudence if you were faced with a similar dilemma.
Ray Said
29   Posted 17/06/2008 at 19:09:13

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Ed Fitzgerald-
A killer response to Jim!
David Jones
30   Posted 22/06/2008 at 23:27:09

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Cahill is so amazing and is worth so many pint per season, single handedly, I am astounded that none of the biggest clubs in europe have come in with £20m plus or him. I mean, he’s THAT good obviously. It’s amazing how naive some people are. Stats can be manipulated in all ways but they are no substitute for a pair of human eyes and a good judgement of the game. Tim Cahill is a good and effective player but crucial to us?? No way. Like I said there are a whole host of other factors impacting results that can come through sheer coincidence but maybe more to the point the one thing that is consistent when Tim Cahill plays is the formation, it’s 4-5-1. Without him it’s 4-4-2. Could it not just as easily be down to the tactics employed that our results are better with him in the team as opposed to this ridiculous muthical ability, which he clearly doesn’t possess?? Tim’s a great lad and a good player but some people don’t half talk some rubbish when discussing his actual footballing ability.

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