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Then?.And Now

By Dave  Edwards :  02/09/2008 :  Comments (10) :

How Do We Stand After Our Summer Of Discontent?

Well, there you go?September 2nd finally dawns and after a frustratingly poor summer of club management and transfer dealings, an equally poor start to the season and finally a frantic, almost panic-driven deadline day, it?s a chance to consider where we now stand as a club — on the ptch at least. This post is as much cathartic therapy for me as much as another of my dubious post on ToffeeWeb, but I need to do it to get my head straight.

I gave up on deadline day at about 10pm as the Nash signing was announced and when it was clear that Moutinho wasn?t coming. My feelings towards our club?s leadership and future prospects were suitably muted. Yet this morning I would be lying if I didn?t admit that getting (albeit at quite a price) a midfielder like Felliani hasn?t half helped lighten up my mood. However, I feel the need to move away from the rollercoaster ride of the last few days and look (hopefully analytically) at where we were at the end of the season, and how we stand now.

At the end of the season, where we had generally performed gallantly and often played some great football, we were limping to the finishing line. I always felt that 4th might have been beyond us, especially after our brave UEFA Cup exit knocked the stuffing out of all of us for the weeks that followed, but having to scrap for 5th with Villa and Pompey showed us all that we would need to improve our squad for next season if we were to even maintain our position, let alone improve upon it and take that ?next step?.

As I saw it, our real need was in midfield, specifically a creative dynamo in an attacking midfield role, to create more of a spark and provide more service for our front line (specifically the Yak). Not only would it take some of the pressure off Arteta, but it would help broaden our play across the park (I was happy with the options a fit Peanuts was giving us on the left-hand-side) and help cover up our deficiencies when Cahill wasn?t available (which was becoming a long-term issue to our stability).

I knew Arshavin would have been perfect there for us, but after the UEFA Cup Final (even before Euro 2008) I also knew he was going to not only price himself out, and look to (dare I say) more glamorous clubs. Still, I was sure that our scouts and management would have identified other alternatives on the continent and even at home.

I felt a long-term replacement for Carsley was needed despite the sterling work he?d put in during the season. Fernandes was being mooted as a possible replacement by many of the forums in that defensive midfield role, and while I saw him as a less effective ?stopper?, I thought his creativity (which was just starting to show again) would more than make up for that. There were also domestic alternatives which need not cost the earth as well (I?d been impressed by Bullard towards the end of the season, to name just one).

Finally, I felt a new attack-minded Right Back would enhance our team as well. Hibbert was a hard grafting stopper who could ?do a job? on many a creative wide-man, but lacked attacking and distribution skills. Given Davey?s obvious admiration of his captain (I also don?t question his dressing room type sprirt), I preferred Neville to be there rather than in midfield (playing him and Carsley always gave us a solid defensive fortress in front of the back 4, but little attacking flair). However, even his attacking ability and distribution down that flank didn?t really do it for me.

I had no issues with our goalkeeper (Howard was competent enough) and our trio of Yobo, Lescott and Jags provided us with more than enough defensive options. I was actually quite happy with Lescott on the left, knowing that Baines was an option (even if we have yet to see his full potential for many reasons). In attack, whilst recognizing AJ still wasn?t the ideal foil to the Yak within a 4-4-2, or at his best on his own in 4-5-1 (when the Yak was unavailable), I was happy enough to have him there for another season. Unlike some on the forums, I have long-term doubts over Vic and Vaughan (the latter over his fitness record), but saw them as work-in-progress and alternative options in the event of injuries, cup games and fresh legs from the bench.

So, not too demanding a wish-list, although I thought it would still need at least £20M of fresh money to secure it. Despite the spectre of DK over us all, everyone seemed up-beat and with the promise of transfer funds (independent of new ground decisions, so we were told), steady, if not particularly spectacular, growth looked the order of the day. I expected Blue Bill and the board to recognize the possibilities to build on last season (avoid our Boom-Bust tendencies in previous pairs of consecutive seasons) and ?seize the day? as it were.

The frustration, incompetence and un-truths that were the theme of this summer did a lot to shake my confidence in many people. The lack of activity, the resignation of Wyness, back-room shenanigans, the PR disasters, the saga of Davey?s contract signings, our inability to seemingly identify targets and bring them onboard in good time for the start of the season etc. did us all in.

Seeing Carsley leave was sad, but understandable but I assumed we could fill that void fairly promptly, albeit at a cost. Well we got that wrong, and like many, I pin our poor start to our lack of quality there in front of our defence (no disrespect to Jags, who shouldn?t be asked to play there).

Seeing AJ leave was a disappointment, but thought we did a bit of solid business on getting a return on a good, but not great attacker. Again I thought an alternative option would arrive shortly after — if only to provide cover or an alternative to the Yak — possibly even someone at ease in the ?hole? behind the Yak between midfield and attack (not a million miles away from Cahill?s role, perhaps). When it started to dawn on me that no such capture was on the cards and the sale of AJ was either funding our debt or providing the transfer kitty we thought we already had, I was suitably disillusioned!

Elsewhere, I had no issues with Gravesen going (unfortunately his time was up) and whilst I thought Wessels was a perfectly acceptable back-up to Howard, I assumed existing cover, or a cheap, youthful alternative was being lined-up. Gardner I can?t really comment on, other than the fact that when our squad numbers are so low, any youthful loss needs careful consideration.

I was in a quandary regarding Fernandes. Another year?s loan would have been ideal, but I also thought an outright purchase from Valencia wouldn?t have been a bad move, if the price dropped to a more realistic figure (well below £10M). I saw progress in the last few games of the season, but if Davey hadn?t seen enough to justify Fernandes at the club for another season, I wasn?t necessarily going to shed too many tears provided we had suitable alternatives in that price bracket.

So? on this sunny September 2nd morning, how do we stand. If I put aside the undignified deadline dash and panic, the sulking, the broken promises, the unrealistic offers, the wide rumours etc. what?s the end result?

Nash: I don?t know if he?s bringing more to the party than Wessels did, and leaving it till the last few hours was pretty naff, but if it?s a nod to the future and puts Howard on his toes the next year or two, then I?ll live with that one.

Jacobsen: Well, I wanted a Right Back and I got one, so I can?t complain. Whether he?s the calibre of player I think we need, only time will tell. He didn?t actually seem in demand, so the one-year deal looks a cheap stop-gap rather than one to push us on further. We shall see?

Castillo: We needed bodies in midfield and the loan-deal looks like frugal business. Another less known entity again and apparently more defensive midfield-minded, but I?m willing to be convinced given a run in the team.

Saha: Given the no-fee upfront nature of the deal, and the undoubted quality of the Frenchman, you can?t really have any issues with this. Like that no-lose £64,000 question on ?Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? — if it works out right for Moyes and he gets fully fit, it?ll be a great deal. If it goes wrong, not too much is lost (other than weekly wages!) However, even with AJ?s recent injury record, Saha can?t be considered an adequate replacement at present, and it really needs Vic and Vaughan to step up to the plate over the next few months. I dread Yak getting injured in the near future, though.

Fellaini: A big rabbit out of the bag was needed yesterday (as much for Blue Bill and the board than anyone else!) and it would be churlish not to welcome the purchase (and breaking the transfer record), even if the sum appears high and there it definitely has the aura of ?panic-buy? about it. Based on what I?ve heard and seen (even before his recent games against the RS) I think he has the making of a good Carsley replacement ? which wasn?t a must at the end of last season, but has definitely been one when he decided to move on and we saw what life without him was like.

Are we any stronger as a team as we were at the end of last season — I?d probably say just about, although there are many unknowns about the newcomers that will need answering in the months to come, including how Davey utilizes them (his tactics/selections have been questionable of late). If anything, from a defensive midfield perspective we may have too many bodies given the arrival of Castillo and Fellaini, and the presence of Neville (if or when he?s shifted from Right Back). I know labelling midfielders as defensive or attacking is not always advisable and if they show the creativity and multi-skills they hopefully have, that attacking spark to complement Arteta and the likes of Tim/Peanuts and Ossie (injuries excepted) might be there and we can give the diet that Yak desperately needs (and allow him to stay up more often rather than having to come back and pick up scraps from deep).

Missing out on Obinna was unfortunate (were we hard done by or were we naïve?), and I do think M?Bia would have been an asset (did we push that deal enough?). However, despite my more positive demeanor, I can?t help but think my expectations of this summer have not been fulfilled. If we had got someone of the likes of Moutinho to light up our midfield, I would be so much more positive about the forthcoming season. In the end, if the manager and board have tabled realistic bids and offered attractive enough personal terms and he still didn?t come — then sadly it just highlights that Everton are perceived as relative also-rans by the top European players/agents.

In the light of the transformation of Man City over the last few days (incidentally I?d have loved SWP to have joined us) and the obvious penny-pinching still being shown by the club (let?s face it, Fellaini was bought by the proceeds of AJ and McFadden ? so let?s not get too taken in by the transfer record and our board?s generosity), we still remain in the chasing group behind the Sky 4, and with Villa, Spurs and Portsmouth looking like having fuller coffers come January, we are likely to remain the over-achieving but relatively poor club of recent years. It?s a cliché to state that if our injury list clears up it?ll be like having a lot of new signings, but I think Tiny and Peanuts can help us out as much as the new boys in kick-starting the season.

This summer has been a dreadful one, and while I acknowledge the silver lining of the last few days (including the hope that Davey might just have gained enough to sign his contract), we have enough clouds over us to question the ability of Bill and the existing leadership to lead us into the future competently and financially. I won?t add Kirkby to this already excessive post, but starting with the EGM tomorrow, a fresh approach to ground options, new investment opportunities (don?t tell me you wouldn?t like to have a Royal Arab family behind us righty now!) and how we conduct business, both on and off the field is needed if our club is to continue in the EPL in the decades to come.

Reader Comments

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1   Posted 02/09/2008 at 21:09:31

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Dave, Your thoughtful article completely mirrors my own opinion. I am usually in the "glass half full" camp, but I stayed up until midnight last night at my PC, then gave up with a feeling of despondency. I left the PC on. Woke up at about 3.00am (SAD!) and looked again, hoping against hope. Nearly fell off my chair. Went back to sleep and had continual nightmares that we fucked up getting the FAX through to the FA before midnight to register Fellaini’s move. Well, after the dust has settled, I am still in the "glass half full" camp. I SUSPECT we still have a transfer reserve for January ("Lies , Lies, and more Lies" brigade, any comments?) I agree that BK has taken us as far as he can. (He admitted it, and I happen to believe his sincerity, if not his ability to deliver), so, with "Citeh" getting the Arab "gold rush", lets gear up for fighting for 6th. "Betrayal" of Nil Satis Nisi Optimum? No. Realism. But let’s dig in, and prepare to fight another day. AND let’s pray Davey Moyes is in their fighting with us.
Graham Brandwood
2   Posted 02/09/2008 at 21:26:40

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Dave, I think what most of us did not realise is that DM is saying that he see’s Castillo as the Carsley replacement and that Fellaini is more of a box to box player. Jacobson seems to have a good pedigree with his Champions league experience at Gothenburg, I don’t understand bringing in Nash as shorly if the two young keepers are not ready now they will never be. The gap in the squad seems to be a fast winger and for this reason the failure to pick up Obi is a big disapointment. As far as replacing AJ is concerned Vaughan is that player, I dont have a lot of faith in Saha getting back to his best with his age and injury record. On the whole I think we will be better off but its a pitty we have not used pre season to get them all to bed in.
Mark Scarratt
3   Posted 02/09/2008 at 21:35:57

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Good article, Dave.
Like you I prefer to be optimistic.
In Howard we have a good goalkeeper who should be with us for years to come.
Last season we had a sound defence, and it is only the fact that Jagielka has been moved from centre half that has affected us.
Put him back to his best position asap. He attacks the ball into the box, wheras lescott and Yobo like to stand off.
Move Lescott to left back where he has been outstanding for the last 2 years. Harsh on Baines, who has real promise, but our best back 4 combination is Neville, Yobo, Jagielka and Lescott.
Why sign Jacobsen, unless Moyes was going to move Neville to midfield.

As for the midfield we now have Arteta, Fellaini, Osman, Castillo, Pienaar and Cahill.

Our formation will probably be 4-5-1 with Cahill fit and 4-4-2 without him.

The easier answer would have been to give Carsley a 2 year deal. It would have saved all this messing about.

Having spent all that money on Fellaini he will obviously play the holding midfied role. I would play Arteta in the middle alongside him. He is our most creative player and needs to be in the thick of the action. However when we play away matches against the top teams I can see Moyes opting for Castillo and Fellaini in centre mid as a more defensive line up.

On the left Pienaar is a cert when fit, otherwise Baines would make a good left midfielder.
I would play Osman on the right, most of the time and only play Arteta wide when we line up more defensively.

When fit Cahill will play his usual role of supporting the lone striker, Yakubu.

When 4-4-2 expect Saha when fit to partner the Yak.

In reserve we have Anichebe and Vaughan for the back up strikers, with Baxter sure to come through in the next 2 seasons.

We also have the very promising Rodwell and other good youngsters such as Kissock and Irving.

Add Valente, Hibbert, Baines and co into the mix and our squad doesn’t look that bad.

I also would have kept Manny Fernandes as he plays well with Arteta. He has a real good football brain and was just lacking a bit of fitness when with us last.

Gravesen had to go, he was a busted flush.

I hear rumours Wagner Love will sign in January. From what I’ve seen he;s not that bad.

Glad we didn’t sign Alan Smith.

Looking forward to the Stoke game..

I would line up as follows

Saha or Anichebe ,
Alan Kirwin
4   Posted 02/09/2008 at 21:50:10

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Dave you’ve also summed up much of my own views & emotions. Been demoralised & depressed these ast 3 months. The fact that this mood has also permeated our manager and our team is unfortunate if not scary.

Based on last season’s performances, I;d have expected 9 points by now and yes, top of the league. Losing both home games to mid-table opponents & shipping 6 goals has scared the shit out of me. The defence has looked non-existent and fuck only knows what might happen when the big 3 turn up.

However, in trying to cheer myself up I’ve been looking at our line up in about 3 - 4 weeks’ time. I think it’s fair to say that things could be a lot worse, e.g.

Pip (Jacobsen, Hibbert), Jags, Jobo, Jolean (Valente)
Castillo (Rodwell), Fellaini
Pienaar (Gosling), Arteta, Osman (Cahill, Kissock,)
Yakubu (Saha, Vaughan, Anichebe, Jutkiewicz, Baxter, Agard)

There are 2 things that I hope for to get the most from all of this.

Firstly that Moyes signs his contract. If he doesn’t then on a matter of principle he will have to go. What message, other than uncertainty & lack of confidence, does it send to the players.

The other thing I hope for is more adventure & innovation in our playing style & formation. One example from right now, given the importance of the engine room & creative infuence to the outcome of a game, what in sweet Jesus is Mikel Arteta doing playing out wide while we have an inexperienced kid and a central defender in the middle. I am stupefied by this. Even more so when you consider the current flavour of the month in 4-2-3-1. Not only can we not afford the luxury of our best player out wide in a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 when there’s no-one of any substance in the middle, but we don’t even fucking need it. The Yak is more effective linking in narrow parts of the pitch and our main man on the end of crosses (Cahill) isn’t even in the fucking team.

So yes, we’ve all had shit summer but it really is now time to get to work. By Oct 1 we should have a first 11 and bench that has the ability to cane most of the EPL. But don;t put square pegs in round holes,take the shackles off and give the poor bastards the tools to do the job. I’m now a big DM fan (wasn’t always), but as well as a marked improvement in body language we could all benefit from a marked improvement in tactics. Failure to do so and we could be like Spurs last season, i.e. league season finished by Oct and hoping for lucky breaks in one of the cups.

Dan McKie
5   Posted 02/09/2008 at 22:12:00

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Hopefully Moyes will be able to cast an eye on the new boys over the next 2 weeks (when they arent away), and ease them in. He may have no choice but to throw them in, especially Castillo and Fellaini as we have been poor in that area so far, and I mean no disrespect to Jags or Rodwell for that, the former cant play there and the latter just isnt ready! Also, heres hoping that Cahill and Pienaar are close to a return by the time we travel to Stoke! COYB!!
Kevin Gillen
6   Posted 02/09/2008 at 22:56:10

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A good post. Most Evertonians agree with your observations on the field, certainly I do. I do think though that these new players are being put in a difficult position. They should have had a good long pre-season behind them in Austria and the USA. They are coming in to must win games. Stoke away and Hull away, we?ve already lost six points. We?re seriously undercooked and I just hope we can get a few morale boosting wins under our belt and commit the manager to a new contract, that might give the fans the confidence to forgive this awful Summer and get behind the new team. I stll think we are two midfielders light though although goodness ony knows what role Van der Meyde plays at the club. In any other form of employment he would surely be removed via some form of capability process, he must have someone good as his union rep.
Dave Edwards
7   Posted 03/09/2008 at 00:01:19

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I appreciate the feedback - some very good points being made (with better brevity than me!) Good to see a bit of a ’let’s wait and see at least’ optimistic consensus starting to develop - for team-related matters at least. If Davey is seeing Fellaini as a box-to-box midfielder, I’m more encouraged. Didn’t realise Nash wasn’t a spring chicken, though!

Let’s hope Davey can work his new assets (and any returnees from injury) into some order in the next month - it’s all a touch late, but I still have some hope we can turn the corner at some point. COYBs!
Joe McMahon
8   Posted 02/09/2008 at 17:57:32

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Yes we got some players in, why is it always the last minute?, it's cost us 6 points. We already have Vaughan, so why did we have to go for another injury prone striker. Carlo Nash recently had a spell at Rossendale Utd. The Irony is that he was at City when they weren't even in the Premiership.

The reality of Man City is just too hard to swallow, now attracting their 2nd Billionaire. Why can we not get anyone interested? Manchester is a brand thanks to the Man U/Beckham effect ? just look at Twaty Deansgate.

If we were called Liverpool Utd it possibly may help our cause., as someone else in another post mentioned. City have the stadium we don't. I feel they are the 2 biggest stumbling blocks. The other stumbling block is our Chairman, tell me one think what has he done for our club in the past 10 years?

City will march on now, being a good manager is no longer a requirement, you just buy who you want. Mark Hughes finished something like 10th last season, maybe Moyes deserves more, and one day soon, a Arab, Yank, Russian owned club will give him the chance.

We must somehow attract a new owner, I fucking hate the present one.
David Moffitt
9   Posted 02/09/2008 at 19:41:26

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As the door slams shut on this years mad dash to improve the squad most of us are relieved, still a bit confused annd some I'm certain still unhappy.

I accept that we did not perform as expected during the transfer window, but before we continue belly aching about the state of our fine club, we should take a glance in the direction of Newcastle United. A club with great support, plenty of money, but NO STABILITY.

We might not have the cash or quite as big a fan base, but whatever went on behind the scenes during the last transfer window, you can bet that David Moyes was kept fully informed. I would also bet that Moyes himself had some part to play in perhaps aiming to high and perhaps dithering a bit, which as we are led to believe he is partial to.

Bill Kenwright may be many things, but he has brought stability to our club and no, we may not be the richest club, we might not pay the biggest wages, but even in spite of our recent transfer transfer dealings, we are moving forward. Evertonians only need to remember the dark days of Agent Johnson and then think about a certain team who play in black and white.

Now is the time to get behind the team again and support our team, the season can now start from here for us.

Jason Lam
10   Posted 03/09/2008 at 02:59:52

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close the BOLD font mate

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