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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Fulham (A)

By Ken Buckley :  14/09/2009 :  Comments (19) :

Another loss at the Cottage – It just doesn’t seem to be our ground. The starting line up didn’t surprise many as the manager went with the tried and trusted with our two new men on the bench plus Yak on his way back for a second time.

In a first half that saw a Fulham team with not much to offer offensively, the Blues without ever reaching the heights had the better of. In the first quarter of an hour we put some dangerous attacks together with Osman prominent and on the quarter hour mark after more good play down the right saw the ball fall to Rodwell near the edge of the box and his shot although not struck sweetly got a deflection but the keeper managed to parry with his legs.

Although having most of the play we were creating little from open play due mainly to Neville and Rodwell playing similar games of square passes, back passes but no creative forward balls to turn the Fulham defence. Then on the half hour mark Neville received yet another square ball but Murphy reverting to his Liverpool days, crunched him, got booked and we had a free kick from a position that just suited the left boot of Baines and the predatory head of Cahill. Baines delivered and the ball hit the net, peeling away to spar with the corner flag was Cahill, considering the height of the Fulham players in that box it is remarkable how Cahill can profit.

The half continues with us edging it as Fulham only had Dempsey who had quite a few efforts at goal but thankfully not on goal. Before the break I think it was Pienaar who found Osman who had made a great run toward the box unseen and his quick feet got him in on goal only to have a defender prod it for a corner in a last ditch slide. The half ended with us one up, the crowed in the open end in good voice and the Yak chant had been heard again as he had a jog. Without playing that well, the way we had easily snuffed out anything Fulham offered going forward then the thought of three points and never mind the performance was on most lips.

Oh how that was to change in a dreadful second half for the Blues. From the kick-off Fulham had upped the tempo and soon had us pressed back. Instead of upping our game, we seemed content to try to just defend in numbers which meant that almost every clearance was coming back straight at us.

With just about ten minutes gone in the second half, Fulham were level after a free kick rebounded from our wall but was driven toward goal and the ball took a wicked deflection and left Howard stranded. Some blamed Neville for a rash tackle that caused the free kick but in my book we brought it on ourselves by not having the fighting spirit to match the Fulham work rate and try to win the second half battle in the midfield.

Things got worse when Neville went down in another last-ditch tackle, came off worse and had to be stretchered off and replaced immediately by Heitinga. I did wonder, with the manager considering him not integrated enough to start, why Fellaini was not given the chance to have a go in the position he was apparently bought for... As it transpired, the manager was right to deem Heitinga not integrated enough, as he found it hard to fit into unfamiliar surroundings and join a team not on the top of its game.

Still, Fulham were dominating in midfield and we were getting even more ragged and it got hard to tell who was playing where. Jo was anonymous and must be one of the few Brazilians who can’t trap a ball and move it on. The manager warmed up Fellaini and replaced the Brazilian. Now we had a back four and six midfielders so the most the fans could hope for was a point away from home.

With ten minutes to go, we were caught out again when Distin missed a straightforward defensive header in battle with Zamora leaving us short at the back. Blues old boy AJ moved the ball to Duff who cut in on goal with Baines in attendance but not putting any pressure on him; he curled one beyond Howard, the travelling faithful were less than pleased and let all know.

The manager’s response was to change Osman for Yakubu and change the tactics to "hoof it up field and see if we get lucky"... we didn’t and it became farcical as players ran in to no particular space at all and in the main got in each other’s way. Howard came careering into midfield to make a tackle got dispossessed luckily the Fulham player's lob for goal found an Everton defender had got back and cleared. I felt sad watching us ending the game in such disarray. I feel it is best not to nominate an MotM for this one...

Overall, I thought the manager's words some weeks ago when he said ‘we are not prepared for the season’ shone through today. His major signings having to warm the bench when really we should have been seeing what they have to offer and how the manager sees the team lining up with their inclusion.

The injuries we have certainly aren’t helping our cause but these injuries have been assessed as long-term and serious so the manager and the club knew the position well before the transfer window, yet were unable to rectify the situation until the last knockings of the window... And with no creative midfielder added, the ones we did sign may suffer from this in terms of getting the best out of them.

We will have to accept that the club was not in a position to sanction the money for the players the manager requires and hope he can get what we have got into a cohesive unit quite quickly and make our season better. We started slow last season and did well, the question now is — can we do it again?

Still four days is a long time in football. Come Thursday night it might be like watching Brazil.
See you there
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Dick Anderson
1   Posted 14/09/2009 at 14:32:03

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Jo has played for Brazil.

Even they get it wrong sometimes.
James Morgan
2   Posted 14/09/2009 at 14:36:58

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Moyes must take the flak on this one. Why start with the team that has done poorly far this season and think things are going to change? I saw nothing but a negative line up against Fulham. Neville and Rodwell in a 5-man midfield says it all. We only need one midfielder protecting the back four.

Then we start with a sub-standard right back when we have a Dutch international on the bench, and Osman who is no wide midfielder and severley lacks pace when we have a Russian international wide man with speed and creativity, who cost us £10 million.

Not to mention we start with Jo who in my opinion is not good enough to start for us, particularly in a one-man strike force. Where is the logic in this? Moyes needs to stop picking his favourites and pick the best team for the job.

We really missed the boat on a creative midfielder in the transfer window, what happens if Pienaar gets injured? The starting 11 truly needs a shake up or we face tough times ahead.

The only positive is we played worse at the start of last season than this. Oh and with the breaking news of Neville facing a lengthy lay-off, maybe it's time for Rodwell to be our lynchpin in front of defence, and bring in Bily to see what he can do.

Gerry Quinn
3   Posted 14/09/2009 at 14:41:23

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Another excellent piece from your seat, Ken! Of course, I writhed around on and behind my couch here in the US watching the most frustrating play from Everton against a team that were no better at passing — I found the whole play of the match embarrassing. How the hell thousands of paying Evertonians in the away end can suffer that week-in, week-out, is beyond me (I once did it, though, but in more successful times).

I was still angry this morning, but then I just finished reading this article and am fully back down to earth — it reminded me of how fans can be so generous at times... I know its off track somewhat, but still think its a great show by a set of visiting fans....

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulfletcher/2009/09/carl_baker_and_stockport_an_ex.html#138740

James Thomas
4   Posted 14/09/2009 at 14:45:39

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James and Ken, totally agree with both of you. That second half was so dispiriting and the mood amongst the fans at the game was one of palpable fury directed at Moyes’s dithering and the inability of the players to pass the fucking ball (Jo and Hibbert were particularly poor).

Surely Thursday night is the time to "experiment" with the new lads or a change of system? This cup will bring us hardly any money and can be used as a training ground for bedding in newcomers and youngsters. We know Moyes is stubborn but I’m pretty sure even he will take note of how angry the fans are getting and more importantly almost how ineffective and predictable the team is at the moment.

Stop playing people out of position where it can be helped, stop playing two defensive midfielders (especially against opposition that isn’t top four) and take a chance, one fucking chance in a match for once!

James Inglis
5   Posted 14/09/2009 at 16:12:50

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This was the first game I had seen either live or on TV since the corresponding Fulham away game last year, and what a game to see.

Overall, I thought we were fairly comfortable in the first half and then utter rubbish in the second. I’m not going to try and dissect the game and offer reasons for it, but a couple of observations:

1: Being a striker in a team under Moyes must be a nigh on impossible task. Lumping long balls all game must do nothing for Jo or any other strikers confidence.

2: Can we try a central midfield of Fellaini and Pienaar? Can’t be any worse than anyone and Neville. I hope Neville is not out for long, but his injury may force Moyes’s hand on this one. As an added bonus, if we play Pienaar and Fellaini in the middle we might even play a couple of players in their natural positions, including Bily who might get a chance.

3: I’m a bit sick of this "punching above our weight" rubbish served up every other week. Ignoring being skint, if you look at our first choice team, we should be finishing in the top 5 or 6 in the table. To that end we have decent footballers, so Moysie, can we start playing football?

Mike McLean
6   Posted 14/09/2009 at 16:25:45

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Mmm. Not sure I buy the "bed them in slowly" Moyes line.

Lescott and many others seem to be doing reasonably well at other clubs with almost as little time to make sure their favourite teddy is in the right locker.

I’d sooner go for the "we fucked up on the pre-season preparation again because I’m fixated with the States and Second Division teams" line. Still, both are inexcusable from a man being paid £67,000 a week for such aimless, brainless crap.
John Brennan
7   Posted 14/09/2009 at 16:47:46

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Moyes should sit down with the players and ask for their opinions on what they think isn't working to get another perspective on things so far. How many of them are becoming disillusioned with being asked to play in positions that they are not normally familiar with. I have never understood this penchant that so many managers seem to have with playing players out of their natural preference.

I wont mention Thursday, because I don't think Heitinga is eligible and I am not sure about Bily, so for our next league game, could we try Heitinga at right back and Bily at left midfield. Play Fellaini as our defensive midfielder and switch Pienaar to the right of midfield.

Should we try dropping Yobo and play Rodwell with Distin? Lets see if Baines (who is pretty poor at the moment) can forge something with Bily. As far as up front is concerned, Yakubu isnt yet ready for a full 90 minutes, and I don't know if Saha will be available. I dont like the idea of playing Cahill as an out-and-out striker but its also unfair on Jo to play him on his own. It's all a bit untidy ref up front because of the above but isnt that what Moyes is there for?

CRAP, CRAP, CRAP in the second half yesterday and no enlightened thinking from Moyes. The man lacks imagination and decisiveness at critical moments in games and reacts too slowly and sluggishly to events that change the game. As many posters have already stated, even with the benefit of hindsight we could see it coming even before we knew the team selection — too predictable David, must try harder!!!

Mike Green
8   Posted 14/09/2009 at 17:14:07

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I bumped into a fellow Blue in the Co-Op on Saturday morning and we spent 15 mins debating whether Moyes’d play Bily on the left or the right and all the various permutations thereon.

We’ll what a waste of time that was then. And, if I’m honest, as soon as I saw the team sheet, I was stunned. I can only think he’s either saving Bily for Europe on Thursday or was resting him after international duty (I should know this but did he play for Russia over the break....?)

So.... Very disappointing. I don’t mind watching uninventive dross when we’ve got no other option but £15m of new International blood on the bench in my eyes is inexcusable — what an opportunity lost to get the away fans' interest / support up than watching a new lad running at the opposition. Instead, they must have been looking at their watches at kick-off thinking how long till home-time?

I’m rarely critical of the team and management selection but only have one word for what we saw on Saturday.

Rubbish.
Mike Green
9   Posted 14/09/2009 at 17:20:28

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For Saturday above read Sunday.

I must have lost a day after drowngin my sorrows in all that ale last night.

Booooo....
David Holroyd
10   Posted 14/09/2009 at 17:15:34

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Not ready for the season...?!?! — this is the 3rd season in a row that has happened. Moyes should take the blame for that, but the board yet again have failed us all. Let's all hope that in November the Kirkby thing is sorted one way or another. BILL KENWRIGHT — YOUR TIME IS UP!
Mike Green
11   Posted 14/09/2009 at 17:30:05

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I’m also a little fed up with the "we’re always slow starters" line.

Arsenal - one of those things
Burnley - are you sure?
Wigan - lucky boys
Fulham - oh, for fucks sake!

Blackburn, Hull and Pompey next - only 9 points will do. Sorry Dave and the boys, you got yourself into this mess now you’ve got to get yourself out of it.
Darren Robinson-Cooke
12   Posted 14/09/2009 at 19:43:51

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Watching yesterday's game unfold in the manner that it did (in particular the second half capitulation from us) just highlighted DM’s naivety and general tactical nous as a manager in the EPL. Before all the die-hards come on and start with "BUT MOYES HAS WON THE MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD THREE TIMES" argument, I say only this: more often than not his biggest successes have been more through luck than being a master tactician when winning games.

The man is so stubborn and set in his ways with such a defensive minded team that it shows in the way that we play and you can see the team lacks confidence which obviously filters through to them by the talks he gives in the dressing room and on the training pitch. When is the last time you saw a DM side really go at a team and go for the jugular?

Moyes needs to change his tactics and his way of thinking as 4-5-1 is only effective for so long these days and Everton under Moyes need to learn how to kill a game off and put it to bed, playing constant hoofball and continuingly giving the opposition the ball and inviting them to attack will more often than not go against you unless, like Villa, you have pace in your side (which, to my amazement, as of god knows how many years under Moyes, we still dont) and you can break away and counter-attack quickly which is something you rarely see in an Everton side these days.

It really is plain to see for all the failings of recent Everton teams under Moyes these past couple of years that we need pace and width and to pass the ball about to be effective but obviously our manager of late seems to think otherwise... and it shows in the performances of late hence the results.

I'm not anti-Moyes, I love the guy for the way he has turned our fortunes around and turned us back into a decent side, but we need to move on and that means a rethink on the tactical side of things for me and less negativity in our play.

Kevy Quinn
13   Posted 14/09/2009 at 21:20:43

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Mike, No — Bily didn't play for Russia mid-week.

I usually hate having a go a Moyes but I could not believe the subs he made yesterday. Ok, one was forced but the others were odd — why take Jo off and not put on a striker?

Neville out long term and Heitinga cup-tied so we're stuck with Hibbo when he's not suspended. I don't know what Moyes said at half-time but it must have been the worst team-talk in history... we didn't come out for the second half. Shocking display.

David Hallwood
14   Posted 14/09/2009 at 21:32:24

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I wish everyone would stop slaggin Jo; he’s no Drogba (who incidentally is another player that was considered not good enough in his first 2 seasons) and he’s certainly not John Fashanue, so why does DM continually keep lobbing balls from defence that isn’t his game, and like all forwards he’s a confidence player and playing him like this is doing nothing for his confidence.

My main concern is the lack of any pattern to the play in what is a settled side, and the total negativity (TWO holding midfield players FFS). To quote Ferderick The Great, "He who defends everything, defends nothing". Oh and David Holroyd, Bill Kenwright didn’t pick the team.

Si Mar
15   Posted 14/09/2009 at 21:42:04

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He may of scored 2 very good goals at the Cottage last season but I would rather play with 10 men than have Leon Osman in an Everton starting 11.

He has got to be one of the weakest, most fragile, slowest players that I have ever seen in a blue shirt.

I appreciate my opinion is not that of the majority but he is utter rubbish!
Dick Fearon
16   Posted 14/09/2009 at 23:18:02

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Blind Freddie can see that our fitness level is far and away below that of opponents. To date, the second half of each game sees the opposition warming to the task while many of our lot seem buggered.

That begs the questions, do we have a specialised fitness coach? Is the annual trip to USA a bit too much of a comfort zone and not a spartan enough preparation for the toughest fastest league in the world?

An example of what I say was Duffs goal. Pienaar was knackered and could not track back. Baines was left out to dry in the same way as happens to Hibbert in almost every game.

Battle hardness that comes with more league games will pull us back from the brink. It is sad and shameful that poor physical conditioning results in the surrender of so many early points.

Dick Fearon
17   Posted 15/09/2009 at 00:08:02

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Si Mar, three or four years ago on this page, I said exactly the same things about Osman. In those days I was bitterly condemned by the majority but lately it seems the majority agree with me.

My main criticism was directed not at Leon but at those who steered him through the ranks when he was so completely unsuitable.

Ajay Gopal
18   Posted 15/09/2009 at 06:42:40

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I have to agree with almost everything that has been posted above.

We are in trouble in the league, and the most worrying part is that Moyes does not seem to give a damn.
I would like to see Moyes making some radical changes in team to signal intent (we ARE short on numbers, but we do have options, if Moyes cares to experiment).

Against AEK Athens, I would like to see:

Howard, Gosling (RB), Distin, Yobo, Baines, Pienaar, Fellaini, Osman, Billy, Yakubu, Saha SUBS: Cahill, Jo, Vaughan, Rodwell, Nash, etc

Against Blackburn next Sunday, I would like to see:

Howard, Heitinga, Distin, Yobo, Baines, Pienaar, Fellaini, Cahill, Billy, Yakubu, Saha SUBS: Jo, Vaughan, Osman, Rodwell, Hibbert, Gosling, Nash.

Time to be bold, Moyes !
Ross Keeley
19   Posted 15/09/2009 at 08:06:49

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Although I agree that the standard of football has not been great and players like Yobo and Hibbert should not be first choices, I have not lost faith in Moysie yet. I think we will see a better side on paper put out against Blackburn especially as Neville is now injured for a while. If we can beat Rovers and then Pompey at Fratton Park, I think we will have 2 more points than we had after 6 games last year... fingers crossed!

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