Now that we?ve all dried our tears, I?m going to propound an unusual theory ? that all those devasting injuries not only didn?t hurt the club, but were in fact helpful, a relentlessly positive influence.
Am I crazy? Maybe. Or maybe it?s just that I picked up a concussion playing with my team last weekend. I say some strange things when that happens.
But I think a case can certainly be made that no harm was done, that Top 5 and Wembley were at the very apex of our expectations and that we could hardly have done any better even with a full and healthy side. And I would argue that the adversity has tempered and matured David Moyes as a manager. His extraordinary motivational skills have been on full display, and the occasional dodgy substitutions and other strategic errors we?ve sometimes seen in the past have pretty much disappeared. He?s in full and confident command of the most united, committed team in England.
But I?ll go even farther than that. I think those injuries actually made Everton better on the field, especially in the long run. Here?s why:
The early-season absence of both recognized right backs was ably covered by Captain Phil, and the vacancy he left in midfield presented an earlier-than-expected opportunity to unveil the dazzling potential of Jack Rodwell. All that unexpected playing time helped him grow from a precocious teenager into a budding star. I can?t wait to watch him next year.
We watched Yak?s career-threatening injury with distress, and the subsequent disasters for Vaughan, Vic and Saha with disbelief. But it was a transformational moment for the team when Talisman Tim stepped in up top and began tucking away one big goal after another. And Fellaini was able to transform himself from an awkward holding midfielder into an oddly effective offensive force, a development that would have been unlikely otherwise. Now he?s viewed as a genuine threat. As for Cahill... well, the word legend is overused, but...
YOBO LIMPS OFF
Lescott back into the center from left back. Baines off the far end of the bench and into an England shirt. Enough said.
ARTETA SITS DOWN
No question, the team lost its direction for a few weeks when our midfield maestro parked himself on the grass and grabbed that knee. But then, slowly, a star was born. A few months ago, Steven Pienaar was all about work rate and hustle ? win the ball, lose it, win it back again, give it off. He had value, but he neither created goals nor scored them.
With Arteta gone, however, Pienaar gradually began demanding the ball, time after time. And getting it. And beating defenders, first to set up his teammates and finally to begin scoring himself. The Pocket Rocket we saw in May was twice the player he was in February, and the prospect of the brilliant new Pienaar beside the brilliant old Arteta and Cahill, plus Rodwell and Fellaini and Gosling and our new speedy winger (whoever he may be), gives us good reason to look forward to next year?s midfield.
OH NO, NOT JAGS
Sorry, here?s where the reasoning runs dry. Except for giving good soldier Joe a place at Wembley ? where he was outstanding ? there was absolutely no upside to Jags going down.
Hey, no theory is 100% perfect!
Overall, however, I think I?ve successfully defended my sanity here. The injuries unquestionably brought the team together and gave Baines, Pienaar, Fellaini and Rodwell ? none considered prime beef when the season began ? the chance to blossom into players capable of helping us into the top four and the Champions League. And with the return of the injured and the addition of enough talent to add about a dozen goals to our season total, I think that?s exactly where we will be headed.
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1 Posted 03/06/2009 at 15:24:58
Now that we have Baines where he belongs and hopefully Rodders in the middle full time next year with Neville at RB, we can have Arteta and Pienaar operating in prime form at the same time ? then God help all comers!
Still leaves that pesky right wing area.....
2 Posted 03/06/2009 at 15:31:19
But I still would rather none of those injuries had happened and wonder what might have been - 4th/CL (we could and should have beaten both Chelsea (A) and Arsenal (H) for example, as well as other games we lost or drew such as Newcastle (A) etc)?
Play a fit Jagielka or Neville at RB at Wembley and be FAC Winners now instead?
What if what if, but I never want to see one of our best players get injured, never mind the three best players (at the time, each time, they were the in form player) in a single season.
3 Posted 03/06/2009 at 16:45:00
Villa is already a weakened side and the silly season has barely started.
4 Posted 03/06/2009 at 16:57:28
5 Posted 03/06/2009 at 17:26:13
But you’re right, he is keenly missed.
6 Posted 03/06/2009 at 21:36:05
Just one nag - Julian, correct for 2 of 3, but the Yak was having a shit season until his injury, save for the first 5 games, when he scored 4 goals. In fact, following the game where the Yak got injured, I was called by Radio Merseyside to go on their phone in. Alan Jackson broke the news to me that he was out for the season, and asked my opinion. I told him that I thought he had been poor so far, and that I thought we could cope without him. He actually laughed at me, told me to not be so pathetic, and proceeded to tell me that what I had said was an insult to the Yak, who had been the first in god knows how long to score 20+ the previous season. Well, Alan, if you’re reading, I think an apology might be in order???
Having said all that, Moyes needs to make it clear to our injured quartet (if Vic stays) that they will have to force their way back into the side, else all that hard work will have been for nothing.
7 Posted 03/06/2009 at 21:44:49
8 Posted 03/06/2009 at 22:03:22
But does anyone know when Arteta will be ready?
9 Posted 03/06/2009 at 22:45:04
10 Posted 04/06/2009 at 01:22:18
11 Posted 04/06/2009 at 01:19:02
Yes, we coped admirably without him - Tim and Felliani stepped up when it mattered. However, imagine what could have been if we had got 40 games out of the man who is, to be brutally honest, the only decent striker at the club.
If there’s one thing the Yak can do, it’s bang the goals in, and I can’t believe you’re belittling the fact he scored 20+ last season when not a single player reached double figures this year.
Every top team needs at least one reliable, top class finisher. We’ve got through this season without one, but I’m willing to bet we won’t get away with it again. The incredible, against-the-odds performance from the lads this year shouldn’t disguise how important it is to have a fully-fit Yakubu raring to go come August.
12 Posted 04/06/2009 at 01:57:14
I’m not downgrading Yak at all -- I hope like hell he comes back at something close to his old performance level, because it will make us much better, and you’re right that a pure striker is a necessity. But there was an obvious dropoff in our performance when Arteta was hurt and an obvious heartbreak when Jags went down, and we just didn’t see any of that with Yak’s injury.
13 Posted 04/06/2009 at 06:19:08
You are also damning Moyes with faint praise, sort of, but we will never know if He was going to go with the 4-6 formation if he wasn’t forced to and would he have brought in Baines anyway.
For me the joint best silver lining is that lo and behold there is some one to take free kicks and corners other than Arteta and most times not hitting the 1st defender as well, take note Arteta, super nanny says you must learn to share.
Maybe this will encourage Moyes to be more flexable. True Champions can Box and fight AND know when to do either.
Again top teams can afford to carry an out and out striker, or, in old money a gaol hanger and the Yak is that sort, horses for courses, no running the channels, tracking back to defend, (how many goals are given away by forwards trying to defend and basically having no idea) just give it to his feet in the last fifth of the pitch and let him do what he does best, shoot and score. Thats his job, he does his, the Goalie at the back and everybody else in between does theirs. Sorted
14 Posted 04/06/2009 at 06:37:16
If you cast your mind back to the season before when he scored 20+ he was in many fans minds crap then too with many sub-standard and lazy performances.
I think I could cope with that if he scores 20+ each season. Come back Bob Latchford.
15 Posted 04/06/2009 at 07:40:04
The point of the article to me is that the good is it gave people opportunity to develop they otherwise would not have had.. not that we did better than we could of. Arteta was a killer blow that yes - did affect results. I remember a handful of games thinkin we wouldn’t have drawn those if Arteta was on the pitch. He was injured some time before Pienaar rocked up for the party.
16 Posted 04/06/2009 at 09:58:03
The loss of Arteta was massive. Why did losing Arteta mean Pienaar’s form improved? Perhaps he’d have been even better had Arteta been fit. The loss of Arteta also meant Cahill was pushed deeper into midfield where we all know he is a lot less effective.
The loss of our best cntre hallf, our most creative midfielder and our 20+ goal a season striker was in no way a good thing and has cost us silverwear. Mike you’ve obviously been taking the same pills as our old friend Richard Dodd.
17 Posted 04/06/2009 at 10:39:43
18 Posted 04/06/2009 at 10:54:18
Having said that, like Mike, I think he may have been suffering with the injury before it went, and I desperately want him fit again and banging in the goals. I was not belittling the fact he scored 20+ the season before - simply stating that he wouldn’t have scored that many this season for my money.
Alan - whilst having all 3 in the final WOULD undoubtedly have had an impact, I think I’m right in saying that the point of the article was that we might not have got there in the first place had the injuries not happened - and whilst I still wish they hadn’t, I have to agree.
19 Posted 04/06/2009 at 12:58:07
The fact is Yak’s form was improving when his achilles went. Ok he’d scored 5 in 17 but it was also 4 in 5. That’s not bad form and he would have easily equalled his 20 goals again.
20 Posted 04/06/2009 at 13:16:09
We definitely need at least one ’big name’ player (BUT NOT OWEN) and a few premier class squad members to give us a realistic chance of progress next season.
We must get rid of our aging and injury prone players and introduce youth and new enthusiasm to boost our team.
I cannot believe that we are not attracting investment and even Stan Collymore has mentioned that mystery in his column.
We badly need an influx of realistic ambition and a sizeable chunk of investment....then EFC will emerge from the pack and really challenge the leaders.
21 Posted 05/06/2009 at 10:51:24
I accept that the argument sounds strange, and I am in no way saying that I’m glad we got the injuries... but I agree with the author that they had a galvanising effect on the whole club (including the fans) and we might not have had as good a season had they not happened. Then again, we might have won all our remaining games and took a league and cup double - who knows. Hope this has given you an insight into my head!!
22 Posted 05/06/2009 at 16:31:49
23 Posted 05/06/2009 at 16:29:08
Although necessity was the mother of invention, let’s hope that the lessons of this extraordinary period won’t be forgotten.
24 Posted 06/06/2009 at 08:37:18
25 Posted 06/06/2009 at 12:44:16
When I put a column on here after Moyes re-signed saying we would finish sixth I got abuse from some of you who said avoiding relegation would be an achievement with this bunch of shitl OK I was wrong - we didn’t finish sixth . . .
I haven’t looked forward to a season for decades as much as the coming one. Hopefully with the injured guys back and the way the others have grown we will hit the ground running and earn a top-four place now and for the coming years.
One deep regret is not having Mikky and Jags for the Cup Final when they had done so much to get us there, and could have made such a difference.
26 Posted 07/06/2009 at 10:49:38