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Running on Empty?

By Steve Guy :  25/03/2009 :  Comments (6) :
The International break could not have come at a better time for the Blues. I agree with the many who were unhappy with the performance against a poor Portsmouth side. I think what annoyed me most was that, since the early part of the season, we have been almost impossible to dislodge once we have gone ahead in a game and my anger was as much about a reversion to older habits as it was about losing ground on Villa and Arsenal.

However, whilst not an excuse, I think it was noticeable that a number of players were ?running on empty? having played in pretty much every game, whilst a number are carrying injuries which, in a larger squad would have meant their being rested. The two-week break can only be a good thing in this regard. So what for the rest of the season once hostilities re-commence with a visit from Wigan?

The FA Cup now consists of (hopefully) two games. I have no doubt we will give Man Utd a game on the 19th. Win or lose, I think the surroundings and atmosphere will mean that the players rise to the occasion and this might just see us through to the Final. From thereon in it would be again be up to the players to perform on the day, as I would fancy our chances against Arsenal in particular.

I am more concerned about how we perform in the League games. On paper, the majority of games are very winnable. With Villa in freefall, the only fixture you would have said looked dodgy is the Chelsea game. However, that view is based on the Everton team?s performances pre-Portsmouth and the key seems to be Cahill. It was no coincidence that when he went off against Stoke, the latter got back in the game and ditto for the Pompey game; no Cahill, no bite in midfield. Keeping the guy fit until the end of May will be critical to ensuring we retain 6th and push on for a potential 5th spot. (I think our chance to push for 4th came and went when we failed to capitalise on poor Arsenal and Villa results in February).

Saha?s performance last Saturday was turgid and has led me to the conclusion that he is an impact player at best; so let?s keep him as that, safely on the bench with a view to mixing it up in the last half hour of games, when he has proved he can have a real influence for us. I also think that his inclusion on Saturday from the start upset what I see as a growing understanding between Jo and Fellaini. The latter was not comfortable playing behind the front pairing of Jo and Saha; whereas in previous weeks when Jo played a solitary striking role, it was a lot clearer for the midfielders as to what to do. Moreover, I think Jo takes more responsibility when alone; last week he hid behind Saha and Fellaini too much.

Having said all that, neither striker exactly got the kind of service which would allow them to shine. This comes back again to Cahill. Osman (love him or hate him) and Pienaar are the only playmakers we have left in the side and I appreciate that even saying this I am using that term very loosely. Nevertheless they can only go forward with confidence and try to be creative if the midfield is robust behind them; without Cahill, it leaks like the proverbial sieve.

Defensively we are still very solid. I think the marking was poor for Crouch?s goals but I believe it was a one-off; another referee would have given a foul against Kanu for blocking Howard from reaching the ball for their second. I don?t agree with the criticism Howard has had in recent weeks; I think he has improved significantly this season; from being a shot-stopper, he now generally commands his box and catches the ball with much more confidence. Still with some room for improvement, he is one of the best in the Premier League and I for one am delighted he plays for us as, at his age, his best years should still be ahead of him.

So in conclusion, I am praying to any God who will listen that Moyes uses the next two weeks well; resting players, giving old Mick Rathbone the freedom of the treatment room to work on the injuries to Osman, Hibbert et al, working on the errors which crept in at the back last Saturday and (above all else) keeping Cahill wrapped in cotton wool. Sod his national side, Moyes needs to keep him here to rest that calf muscle. All of which will hopefully see us back in Europe AGAIN.

Reader Comments

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Tony Williams
1   Posted 26/03/2009 at 12:06:14

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The exact same thing is happening with Villa, and it does with us every season. The simple facts are that our numbers are too low. It was brought to my attention a few weeks ago that O’Neill has only used 19 players this season, hence why they haven’t won in 6 and strangley enough O’Neil has never won a game in March with Villa.

Only solution is more numbers but they need to be an asset to the team not the usual journeymen to bulk up numbers in case of injuries........and unfortuately the numbers will only come with..............wait for it..................more money, which we don’t have.
Matthew Mackey
2   Posted 26/03/2009 at 12:12:32

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Steve, ? a good article. Nice one!
I agree with pretty much everything you say, especially about Cahill. He is pivotal to any success we gain between now and the end of the season. Not so sure that he (Cahill) will agree with your view about his national team though! The very thing we love about Tim is his attitude and willingness to always do his best for the club. We have to accept though that the same attitude in Tim exists towards his beloved national side and so he will do everything he can to play for them even when perhaps he shouldn?t due to niggling injuries. Unfortunately, from an Everton point of view, it comes with the territory.

A couple of things I am curious about though and you touch upon them in your article are these.

1)?Osman ? love him or hate him? Why is there dissatisfaction with Ossie within some Evertonian ranks? I must have missed something here as I think Ossie represents everything good about our club and I don?t recall any specific incident/problem that may cause some dissatisfaction with him. He knows his limitations, but give credit where credit is due, the lad always gives his all for the good of the team.

2)Tim Howard. Same comments as above. Why has he been singled out for criticism over the last few weeks? OK, he could have done a tad better with the Stoke goal, but apart from that I think Howard has been an absolute revelation this season.

Brian Waring
3   Posted 26/03/2009 at 14:51:39

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Mathew, even though Osman might give his all for the team, that's not enough. He is just too lightweight, and is knocked off the ball to easily. His distribution is poor, and 9 times out of 10 the ball ends up at the feet of an opposing player.

For me, the free-kick he took against Pompey just summed up how shite he acctually is.
rob graves
4   Posted 26/03/2009 at 18:23:01

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i have to disagree with howard comments, he doesn’t command his box both goals were scored from 6 to 10 yrds out and he didn’t come for either.
when was the last time an opposing forward felt the full force of our goalie.
i think he’s improved this season but he still has a long way to go
Steve Ryan
5   Posted 26/03/2009 at 22:23:43

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Brian Waring ? your comments also apply to Pienaar.
Trevor Lynes
6   Posted 27/03/2009 at 06:26:37

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I dont agree that Villa are spent...I reckon they played really well against Liverpool until the 2nd goal and Reina made some fabulous saves to keep Liverpool ahead...Carew played really well and bothered them all the game.
I just hope that we are not the spent force as against Pompey we were dreadful and lots of players looked ’leggy’.

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