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From my seat: WBA (H)

By Ken Buckley :  28/02/2009 :  Comments (21) :
Another three points that sees us safe from a game that was more to be endured than enjoyed yet had a fascination of the beleagured versus the desperate.

The visitors started brightly against a team that at first glance seemed to have been thrown together, with Hibbert and Cahill back from suspension and Pienaar and Fellaini back from injury trying to gel in the absence of Arteta and Rodwell... plus Lescott on the bench due to avoiding another yellow card or a whim of the manager to give Yobo a game (Neville was risked).

For the first 20 minutes it was WBA causing the problems with Fortune having a shot fielded by Howard and one passing the far post, as well as quite a few set pieces that came to nought.

Fellaini made a cats in midfield and allowed a shot on goal that Howard saved and after the twenty minute mark things got worse for the Blues when Hibbert was taken off with what was deemed to be a thigh strain. Cue Osman to midfield and Neville to right back.

WBA still pressed and Howard had to parry a forward run and shot for a corner; and from the resultant corner a shot found the side netting.

Just when we were thinking, "Could this be a game to far for an injury ridden team without adequate resources?", Pienaar was fouled, Baines delivered a cross of Arteta proportions, and Cahill powered home.

We looked a bit livelier after the fillip of a goal and Pienaar, after a great one-two with Jo, unfortunately scuffed his shot when better was expected. Half-time and the chat centred mainly on the deficiencies of adequate squad numbers and the relience of senior pro's to play when not really fit.

Second half and the visitors continued to play football that had us defending and causing disquiet among the faithful as shots went skidding just wide. They gained a corner that was headed goalwards and, after someone cleared from the line, Howard grabbed the ball, much to the relief of all assembled.

Just before this action Fellaini had picked up his regulation yellow card for a clumsy barge, this in a way was a blessing in disguise as, with about half hour to go, the manager swapped him for Saha who at first flattered to decieve.

The visitors sent on Moore and he caused a few flutters with some enthusiastic efforts. Then, with 20 mins to go, Saha benefitted from a Pienaar trademark flick that for once came off, he brought it down and in one movement turned and found the bottom corner... Oh! if only we could keep this guy fit.

You just knew it was all over and the manager took off the ineffectual Jo for the added insurance of Castillo but fair play to Albion, they plugged away and, with us willing to soak up, allowed Moore to fire against the bar plus a few shots wide as they tried to salvage something.

We saw it out but no-one seemed to be leaving the ground with anything other than a good three points from an injury-ravaged squad and how the manager might reorganise for the cup-tie next Sunday that means so much to all Blues fans. Overall, I thought it was a most strange situation when one injury, although to a top and influential player, can have disrupted the whole outlook of both players and manager. For the run-in and the cup competition, I feel we must put the Arteta thing to bed and use who is fit and available to best use.

On today's performance, I have to say that when the chips are down both Jo and Fellaini leave something to be desired. A sign of the times might also be determined when I counted FIVE different midfield combinations in the space of one match, which means to me the manager and his staff have a job and a half to do to steer us through not only next week's cup game but the remainder of the season.

This is the now, and manager and players must respond, but I wonder if the club can cope financially to rectify the shortage of squad that seems to blight us at the business end of not only this but recent seasons.

Still a win today and as always I like to look for my man of the match, well anyone across the back four would get a shout as would Pienaar for his industry and Cahill, well, for being Cahill a true competitor but today I am going for Saha who gave me my highlight of the day with his quite exquisite finish and a warm glow of 'what if' he could stay fit.

The cup next ? we always beat Boro at home... Don't we? See you there. UP THE BLUES!

Reader Comments

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Peter Hall
1   Posted 28/02/2009 at 23:56:41

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Thanks Ken, but haven’t you forgotten Blackburn on Wednesday - another huge match for us, especially if Villa don’t win tomorrow, and considering the way Arsenal are playing.

Then it IS the cup!
Nick Entwistle
2   Posted 28/02/2009 at 23:52:58

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Like MOTD you missed out Cahill’s perfectly acceptable but disallowed goal... a case of the referee taking the decision of least resistance as usual.

I’d have gone for Jagielka for MOTM as his imperious display gave us the edge in defence... and he should be up for PL player of the year award me thinks.

Solid display, and Jo looks potentially great but do we play to his strengths?
John Callan
3   Posted 01/03/2009 at 00:31:11

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Nick - have to take issue with your last statement. Jo looked awful, he couldn't control the ball, it generally went away from him, his passes had no pace and were easily picked off and he looks very short on confidence. A couple of times he had an opportunity to head straight to goal (you give the same opportunities to Vic or James V and see the difference), which he preferred to turn back. I am glad he is only on loan unless he picks up his game and attitude.

Ken, pretty straight down the line as usual and never far from the mark. Thanks.

PS - I think Boro will be a tough one considering they are hitting some form. Please, no more injuries!!
Pete Clark
4   Posted 01/03/2009 at 00:51:17

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Amazing that we are still picking up points with the resources available. I think the game is too quick for Fellaini and he is the reason a lot of pressure was put onto the defence yesterday. Jo is very un-Brazilian with his touch and would have been lucky to have gotten into a beach volley team over there which is their daily exercise. Apart from that the the team are working hard and at times playing some nice stuff. Come on the toffees.....
Shaun Tighe
5   Posted 01/03/2009 at 01:38:09

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I feel I have realised Fellaini's problem, his timing is awful, it isn´t his size or his hair as I have heard suggested ,that highlights him to referees but his inability to read the game.

To me he appears clumsy, look at today's performance , when confronted with an opponent his first reaction is to play the man not the ball thus gifting free kicks. Todays referee, Steve Bennet I feel deserves praise for the manner in which he let the game be playedbut even with his level headed approach a card for Fellaini was justified. Get him some dancing lessons, it would at least improve his timing.

Jo looked lost, is it that he is not receiving the service or did his debut flatter to deceive?

There were some stalwart performances today, Tim Howard looking safe as well as the defence, with Leighton Baines crossing with accuracy. Cahill is the buy of the decade but my man of the match goes to Phil Neville, a real captain's performance and showed his adaptability when Hibbert went off.

Anyway 3 points and roll on Wednesday

Bob Parrington
6   Posted 01/03/2009 at 02:01:15

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As usual Ken, a good sound report. I watched it on Fox Sports here in Adelaide. It was Jags who tapped the ball off the line up to TH’s safe hands. How he seemed so controlled in doing it we’ll never know.
I agree with John Callan that Jo looked awful. his close control wasn’t there. I was screeming at the TV hoping DM could hear me "take him off, he’s having a lousy game" from about the 20th minute.
I agree 100% with your comment about Saha "Oh, if only we could keep this guy fit". The goal was brilliant.
Chris Jones (Wakefield)
7   Posted 01/03/2009 at 01:35:07

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Both the commentator and Nigel Winterburn, who I had to endure while watching the game on the net, were non plussed at Tim’s disallowed goal. Had that stood, rather than chalked-off, things might’ve been different. However, we somehow kept a clean sheet and that’s always satisfying.

Jags was immense today and I thought Baines and Pienaar gelled together nicely.

After we’ve seen-off Blackburn we’ll have the Cup in which we have to face a team that has today vanquished the Red Shite, but then again, everyone beats them these days, except Real Madrid (who are they?).

Derek Thomas
8   Posted 01/03/2009 at 02:50:13

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After all the threads on who will replace Arteta, we found out...NO ONE, even though plenty had a go at various stages. The only one who looked any good was Pinnear who, it seems, had been told, it won’t be you son, you stick out on the wing with Bainesy.

We recently had another flowery piece from JJ re Manny. I know there were wheels within wheels and the stars just didn’t align etc etc cue minder song...BUT If we would have had Fellaini’s cash then, much the better value for money.
Will Leaf
9   Posted 01/03/2009 at 05:25:14

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If Saha could stay fit he would still be with Man. Utd.
Ray Humphreys
10   Posted 01/03/2009 at 06:21:41

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I must have been watching a different game to most of you, as I thought Pinnear was awful. I think if you look at the statistics you will see that he had the highest number of incomplete passes and I believe that a stiff breeze could knock him off the ball.
Dominic Duerden
11   Posted 01/03/2009 at 09:29:58

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Got to agree, thought Piennar had a poor game, perhaps due to injury?

Thought Jags, Yobo and Neville had good games... Jags my man of the match overall.
Danny ONeill
12   Posted 01/03/2009 at 09:38:34

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Pretty much as I saw it - job done. Worry is we will probably have to do this for the remainder of the season. Apparently Neville wouldn’t have been risked had Rodwell passed a fitness test in the morning.
Peter Hall
13   Posted 01/03/2009 at 10:00:32

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For me the truth about Pienaar is in between ’great’ and ’awful’.

Terrific energy and stamina, ready to take on players and beat them.

Woeful decisions in or near the box. If there’s a wrong pass he finds it. What a contrast with Arteta, who finds a wrong pass maybe once a match.

Oh well, he won’t make any more passes this season/
Colin Malone
14   Posted 01/03/2009 at 09:38:07

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I agree Ken, we have got to get the right combination in midfield. Felliani is a waste of space, all i see is a center half in midfield.

We were much better when he went off. No way can we move Timmy back, he has got to stay as our attacking midfielder behind the one up front. Only option is Ossie in place of Arteta or even Gosling, with he,s forward runs and also has shots on goal from out side the box.

Neil Pearse
15   Posted 01/03/2009 at 11:17:11

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Yes, we were mostly mediocre and even outplayed by West Brom for portions of the match. But here’s why we are near the top and they are near the bottom - true quality players. In Jags and Saha we had two players of high quality who ultimately made the difference (shown dramatically by Jags’ astonishing goal line clearance, and Saha’s goal). If they had been transplanted into their team we would have lost. So we rode our luck a bit - but it wasn’t only luck. Quality counts in the end.
Alex Jones
16   Posted 01/03/2009 at 12:20:28

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Ray, i must disagree. Statistically you can find positive and negative points about most everton players. I think that Piennar when he plays, puts 100% and plays for the cause. He may make the odd bad pass or wrong decision, but his work rate and class (yes i did say class, as i beleive he has the abilty to take it past players, treaten opponents and deliver a fine cross) are vital. If you focused entirely on the little guy he covers more ground than most on the pitch, which shows something.
As for the game yesterday, i was dissapointed. If Everton truly have the desire for european football then they can’t allow teams like west brom to controll the game for 20 minutes at a time and have numerous shots at our goal. I was worried, but what we have in Saha is a goalscorer and if moyesey keeps him fit, he can help us pick up points towards the end of the season, and hopefully an FA cup final at Wembley.
Ben Jones
17   Posted 01/03/2009 at 12:37:48

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Great post, and I also noticed the five different midfield combinations, though this to me is positive. As I have said, Moyes said in an interview afterwards that he was experimenting and now he knows what to do to cope without Arteta. It will be interesting to see what the team is, at the next game.
Kevy Quinn
18   Posted 01/03/2009 at 13:10:13

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Brilliant result! Rubbish performance in general but the result was the main thing. Baines was immense great to see him bomb forward at every chance. The lad is playing well at the min and great goal from Saha surely hes due a run of fitness but with our luck with injuries something will fuck up!
Mike Oates
19   Posted 01/03/2009 at 13:39:37

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I was hoping that we would still have too much class, post Arteta to see off the clubs below us and allow us to guarrantee 6th place. Our problem would be to beat a Top 4 team in the FA Semi’s .

Well after yesterday I’m worried that we will have some enormous battles coming us this week with what looks like a rejuvenated Blackburn (2-0 nil at half time vs Hull as a write) and also a rejuvenated Middlesborough - (as a side we always seem to catch teams just after they have come out of their bad spells , or is it just me ?).

Fellaini - who I have supported all season is struggling big time at the moment - clumsy bookings, true lack of pace and poor first touch. I truly believe that Moyes wants him to sit in the middle , just in front of the back 4 - but there is no way he can at the moment due to his poor tackling, we’d be giving away free kicks every minute.

Pinnear and Ossie haven’t got the physical strength to play in the middle as the playmaker.

Who’s left - god knows but it looks as though Rodwell might be called on to do a senior pro’s job when he is only 17 - can he do it?

Finally , Jo looked well off pace, I was hoping for more.

Finally again - why didn’t Moyes put Jacobsen on for Hibbert injury instead of changing the midfield shape again.
Alasdair MacKay
20   Posted 01/03/2009 at 13:29:44

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Baines and Cahill were my Men of the match.

Piennar worked hard, but lacked match sharpness. Neville without Arteta next to him looks half the midfielder, but he was excellent at right back after Hibbert went off.

We need Hibbert back for the weekend, as Downing is the key to all Boro’s good play at the moment. Hibbert has the ability to keep him quiet for the whole game. I would not risk him at Blackburn if there is any chance it could affect his chances of making the Cup game.

I’ve said before that I feel Osman has the type of game to take on the Arteta role. He may not be as good a passer, but he is committed and has an ability to turn and find space. Castillo was rubbish again and Fellaini continues to frustrate me - I just don’t see the £15million potential!
Paul Connell
21   Posted 01/03/2009 at 13:57:49

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I think yesterday was the perfect fixture for Everton after such a blow last week. It gave Moyes the opportunity to to experiment in centre mid and still get 3 points. Against a better side, Neville would've stayed in the centre and jags would've been pushed out to right back for Lescott.

As it was, a half-fit Ossie got some much-needed footy in his best position. He may not've set the world alight but I expect him to get better and take a centre stage with Neville sitting behind him for the rest of the season. I take the point that he doesn?t have great presence but he did produce his best form for Everton leading up to Xmas 2007 with Carsley behind him and Cahill in front. That formation saw us beat Sunderland 7-1 and no one questioned Ossie's ability then. In fact, he was prefered there to Arteta such was his form.

If Neville can do the enforcing job that Cars done I don't see any reason why it can?t work again. We have the added bonus of Rodwell to come in when needed. Screech for me will only play when we are short upfront. He looks woefully off-pace in the middle and his aerial threat is negated.

Lastly for those criticising Pienaar, I think you need to imagine our team without him yesterday. Without Arteta, he is our most gifted technician. If a few passes went astray, it was because 1) he wanted and got the ball more than other blue shirt; 2) he was the one player trying to make things happen; and 3) he was returning from an injury lay off. To critisise him, especially taking his workrate into account, suggests a lack of knowledge imo.

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