COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
No points gained from a very damp display on a very damp night. Putting out a team of such disjointed proportions to try to park the bus and nick something away to the Champions seemed at the outset both cruel to players and fans alike and so it turned out.
The first half was embarrassing to witness; five in front of four and just Saha cutting a forlorn figure up front. We invited United on and they didn’t disappoint as they patiently probed without looking to be on top form themselves but each time we broke up one of their attacks we had little other option than to give it them back and prepare to repeat the exercise over again.
With the amount of pressure being absorbed it just seemed a matter of time before we conceded yet we had got beyond the half hour mark still 0-0 and United shooting wide or high and much to the travelling faithfull’s delight Rooney sliced one horribly wide. We did have the odd breakout and from one of these Saha from one of the scraps offered to him swivelled and shot but straight at the keeper, our only shot of the half.
Then it happened, from a cross the ball cleared to the edge of the box and Fletcher hit a perfect volley into the top corner and impossible for Howard to reach so that was plan A out of the window and plan B seemed to be don’t concede again before the break. We didn’t and in another sortie forward Vidic seemed to elbow Heitinga who had to go off for treatment leaving the manager furiously remonstrating on the touchline. Half time and that first half had been as flat as I have seen us for a while.
Second half started with plan C as the manager replaced Gosling with Yak putting Cahill on the right and Fellaini on the left and going 4-4-2. (Talk about pegs and holes...)
For a while it worked well as at last the United makeshift back four had some pressure put on them and didn’t look that composed. At last we fashioned some chances, Saha twice and Heitinga had efforts gathered by the keeper and then Fellaini had the ball in the net only for the linesman to raise his flag.
The Yak was using his strength well and on the 65th minute mark he out-muscled a couple of defenders and got in a good left footer that had the keeper troubled but unfortunately for us just missed the post.
Just a few minutes later and from a corner the ball went to the far side of the area to Rooney who shot and missed by a mile but the luck was with him as it sped to the other side of the pitch and turned in to a great pass to Giggs who had just taken the corner, he looked up and fed Carrick again on the edge of the box and his drive was unerring.
Our players seemed to concede that the game was up and although Valencia scored a third via a deflection from the lunging Baines the remainder of the game was played out in lack lustre fashion. The manager made two changes on the 80 minute mark taking off Cahill and Saha and bringing on Hibbert who took the armband and Jo. The reason for these changes was not apparent and didn’t make any difference as we continued not really knowing who was playing where or who was marking who.
The final whistle was a relief both on and off the pitch. Overall I thought this game put into sharp focus how far the club has to go if it really wants CL football. United have more players than us unavailable yet put out a team with players in natural positions and played at a tempo that we just could not match whilst we had square pegs in too many round holes and unable to do anything from a ‘make up the numbers’ bench.
I accept we are hamstrung by injury and suspensions but that happens to all teams and is no real excuse for a less than adequate squad. It says a lot when our playmaker and creative central midfield player Arteta is long term injured and we haven’t got another one on the books. I just think it’s wearing a bit thin now having to wait for all our injured and suspended to get back, Fellaini misses the Hull game after his card today, because if and when they are back such is the nature of the game more injuries and suspensions will occur and without depth of squad in a balanced way position wise we will always be vulnerable.
My fear is that our failure to build on high finishes over the last few seasons will have an effect on both manager and players ambitions and the expectations of the fans will be shattered. The manager today seemed at a loss of how to play with what he has left in the squad.
Still we came on strong last season and finished well and I fervently hope we can do it again yet from my seat this season does not look to promising. Hull Wednesday night, surely three points, then the Derby and who knows in those.
Keep the glass half full lads and lasses, see you on the rollercoaster.
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 22/11/2009 at 06:37:22
Firstly, we were poor today, full stop. If our gameplan was to stifle United, then we didn’t do it properly. We gave them too much space and the defenders sat far too deep.
Second, Man Utd were good. True, we made it very easy for them, but from what I’ve seen of them this season, that was one of their better performances. They may not win the title, but they will be there or thereabouts, and as Ken rightly points out, we are nowhere near.
Third, there are some players playing right now who frankly don’t deserve to be. Unfortunately, we don’t have the means to replace them. We all know that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the line up for Hull will be the Yak for the suspended Fellaini as the only change. That is not healthy for a football club.
Fourth, all of us, no matter our viewpoint, are tiring of the word ’injuries’. What I find particularly frustrating is some aspects of the club’s handling of it. If they post an article saying that x, y & z are expected to be fit for a particular game, then I feel they have a duty to proffer some form of explanation when they aren’t. If they’re unwilling to do this, then simply say nothing in the first place. Having said that, I imagine it must be frustrating for all concerned within the club. Ken says that Utd have more players than us unavailable.
There are a couple of differences - the replacements for Ferdinand, Hargreaves & Berbatov (the only 3 regulars I can think of that United were missing!) were Brown, Carrick & Owen. The 3 have more than a 100 caps for England between them. And they are spread throughout the team (position wise) as are the injuries to squad members (Evans (D), Nani (M)). We had 5 players out today who play in midfield.
There has been plenty of discussion on ToffeeWeb about all of this and I’m not about to go over it all again. But we do need to remember that we have suffered SIX serious knee injuries in the space of a year, including 3 ACLs and despite efforts to suggest otherwise, this is bad luck, plain and simple.
Fifth, should that really affect us? Yeah, it should. Because our better players are unavailable, less good players have to take their place. And because that reduces competition within the squad, those players don’t feel pressured to fight for their place in the team. However, it does not excuse basic things like workrate, effort and the ability to pass a football.
In short, I’m not gonna get too despondent about this result. I expected to lose, and I think most Everton fans did too. There are some who just don’t like to admit it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t expect big improvement on Wednesday and a result to boot.
Howard - 6; could do little for any of the 3
Neill - 5; 2 of the Utd goals came from moves down his flank. Left exposed by Gosling
Yobo - 6; did little wrong in honesty
Distin - 6; as above
Baines - 6; struggled to get forward
Gosling - 3; not ’there’ yet and may never be
Rodwell - 4; gone off form over the last 5 or 6 games, but still massive potential
Heitinga - 7; what is it about bald headed blokes with frightening eyes and Everton’s defensive midfield. Gravesen, then Carsley, and I think we may just have found a successor.
Cahill - 5; needs to find a goal from somewhere
Fellaini - 5; not very good today, although I don’t agree with the sentiment that he isn’t very good full stop. Unlucky to be booked IMO.
Saha - 6; looked better with the Yak alongside him
Yakubu - 7; his energy and ability did bring us back into the game for a short spell at the start of the second half until heads dropped after the 2nd goal.
Hibbert - 5; game was over by the time he appeared
Jo - 6; should be tried on the left cos let’s face it, we haven’t got many other options right now
Moyes - 5; I think his tactics were actually right, but he hasn’t got the commitment on the field from them at the moment and that’s down to him. He made the right substitution at the right time too. The man himself said on the OS "I’m not going there to entertain, I’m going there to win" and there was a thread on here only last week discussing modern football and how it can be, frankly, boring. Kid yourselves if you want that 19 other sets of PL fans watch entertaining flowing football every week, but you're living in dreamland. The name of the game is money, and you get more of it by winning.
And a special rating for Mr Bennett - 0; I don’t blame him for the loss, nor any of the goals, but if he can explain to anyone how the challenges of Fellaini on (I think) Fletcher & Vidic on Hetinga differ, other than one player plays in Blue and has a ridiculous haircut and the other in Red with a relatively standard haircut, then I’d be keen to hear it.
2 Posted 22/11/2009 at 07:46:54
Thanks for the report saw the game... until the 3rd goal went in. Have to say I am getting real pissed off how we get slaughtered regularly now, Benfica, Arse, Manure and they are very good but not the greatest Man U side, many verge on has-beens: Owen, Giggs... the little fella Scholes, he’s ancient and a pale shadow of his former self but with excellent goals they made Everton look terrible.
A lot of the time they couldn’t get the bloody ball and then when they got it didn’t know what to do with it. Teams are laughing at us, we who used to be so "hard to beat".
Don’t bet on beating Hull either unless they lie down which they won’t, they have decent players Bullard, Hunt etc — at least they can play and pass! Better than our lot in midfield.
I can only see half-empty at the moment I am afriad the omens are not good; it’s become a friggin joke, and I am sick as dog of being humiliated. We can’t even give teams a game!
Many of the players seems to have disappeared — where the hell’s Jo ? (Not tonight Jo Josephine!). Our best player Bolshivik Bily goes and gets himself suspended, nice! When half the team are missing. Jack (and you thought I was the new Rooney) Rodwell and Carry on Cahill, oh give me a break.
Maybe I will support my local team now Bristol City and end my childhood idolatry still it’s a habit I can’t give up easy! I am mega pissed off...
3 Posted 22/11/2009 at 09:01:11
I didn’t go to this match – I knew it was going to be a walkover. However, I thought at least we might show some fight, but no, nothing! As soon as the game started it felt like we were beat.
I also agree with you about having no other playmaker on the books – for years we have been crying out for a central midfield playmaker. Instead we got Fellaini, who is best when he is playing in the position that Cahill wants to play. Admittedly the injuries are partly an excuse, but we have a squad that contains too many defenders, a reasonable quality in the forward line & currently absolutely nothing in midfield. We also don’t know whether Arteta will ever be the same player as he was before the injury.
As a team we don’t even close the opposition down -again mainly down to the midfield. The defence isn’t playing great, but it’s got absolutely no chance with that midfield in front of it. We are conceding too many goals with plenty of players in defensive positions, but they are mainly marking the 6 yd box with the area around the edge of the penalty area virtually unopposed ie some of the midfielders are too deep.
Our main goal scoring threat, other than corners, is hoping that Saha comes up with a bit of magic from one of the balls lumped in his general direction. It’s just too depressing for words!
4 Posted 22/11/2009 at 09:15:21
With this I’m not saying that we would get much more points, and maybe we would loose big on more of the match-ups than we are used to, but come on... To instill the belief in the players and squad that we can beat the best is what is lacking under Moyes.
Yesterday we did what we know best. The 0-0 on Anfield a couple of years back is the prime example on us giving it a go, and almost snatch all three points (AJ). Sadly, there is little to be done about moments of quality such as the scottish captain delivered.
The second half was a-typical. Gosling had gotten the runaround by Evra, and no-one can blame him for beeing outplayed really. But with two of the most prolific goalscorers in the league the last decade, we looked more dangerous.
Man U is a team that when pressured is vulnerable as the rest of us. Their back four HAS seen better days, and without a coherent midfield, and no creative outlet from the middle of the park, the best way to go about scoring goals on the Champions is by giving the high ball to Yak, Saha or Fellaini and trust on their natural ability.
I wonder if Yak and Saha should play up top together, until we get back Pienaar and Arteta? Those two can hold the ball, Fellaini and Bily will be able to come in from behind. Scrap Heitinga, who I think has a horrendous first touch. At least if you consider the fact that he is Dutch... ;)
5 Posted 22/11/2009 at 09:28:14
I’m not one of these ’just have a go at the top 4’ types. My argument is pragmatic. With the players we have available at the moment, 4-5-1 isn’t working. In the first half, we were completly unbalanced. Cahill cannot play on the left as he can’t hold the ball up. Gosling looks completely out of depth on the right. Neither gave any effective support to the full backs who did their best against accomplished flank players.
In the middle we don’t have a playmaker who can keep his foot on the ball. I thought Heitinga did pretty well and Fellaini had his moments. Rodwell looked lost and needs a rest. Whatveer their individual merits, they are not a good balance in the middle and, as frequently remarked, we lack pace.
The result of an unbalanced 4-5-1 — the ball keeps coming back to put more pressure on the defence, who are doing their best in these circumstances. 4-4-2 creates more problems for opponents up the field and allows the forwards to hold and bring more players into the game. Moyes says we lost two goals playing this way. But does anyone seriously think the result would have been any different if he’d kept it 4-5-1?
We can play 4-5-1 when we have a full and better balanced squad to pick from, with Arteta, Pienaar and Bily on the pitch it is not a defensive formation. But until then 4-4-2 is the way to go and I hope, for Christ’s sake, that it’s what Moyes goes for at Hull.
6 Posted 22/11/2009 at 10:28:54
However, that said what is the excuse for the pathetic football this year, Wolves, Stoke, Burnley, Bolton — all games were we started slowly and failed to have any idea how to take a game to a team and try to score. That is leaving aside the Benfica, Arsenal, Man Utd games were we have been humiliated.
Imagine if Saha had been injured at the start of the season? Christ he’s been the only player worthy of a shirt this year, and Pienaar, and half of his goals he has created himself.
I would love to know what the tactics are before the game starts? Play for free kicks, corners and throw-ins maybe? Fuck me it has been poor.
Worst of all I watch these games at the minute and feel no connection to the players, manager or owner; I feel they have all let us down. Unfortunately, the players on the pitch are being shown up as very average when the likes of Arteta, Pienaar, Jags are not there taking responsibility for them and the team.
Always had faith in Moyes that he would get 100% out of every player, regardless of ability; not anymore... I'm feeling like he is afraid to have a go at the players because he was the one that bought them all. He doesn’t have the excuse anymore that the players were inherited or he has had no money.
It is his team, his tactics, his fucking depressing face every week that we have to look at when after every piss poor performance he states "I don’t want to talk about injuries but then goes on about how hard done by he is and how the world should feel sorry for him.
7 Posted 22/11/2009 at 10:39:24
Not for the first time (in fact, possibly for the 139th time) Moyes sent out a team designed to contain & stifle. You had to feel for Saha yesterday. The more I see of him the more I see what an exceptionally talented footballer this guy is. But stick anybody on his own 40 yards from nearest team mate (for the most part) and he has no chance.
Moyes now has a big case to answer. We most certainly do not play as a team. There appears almost zero cohesion or plan to most of our possession and "movement". It is tedious & rather embarrassing to watch and utterly fruitless as a strategy.
It was also embarrassing to look at our line-up before the game and know exactly how it will pan out. Man U will have almost all the ball. We will sit back and invite it. We will offer almost nothing in response. If we do win the ball back deep then we will be incapable of breaking out on to a counter attack because there is no plan to do so, no understanding of such an approach, no pace and a big thing caled FEAR.
All the pundits called it spot on. So did I. So did everybody who watched I expect. We expected to go behind and eventualy bring on a second forward. This, despite other teams, Sunderland most recently, showing how to get something at Old Trafford, especially when Man U are themselves off the pace.
When everyone is fit there is often a momentum and confidence that runs through the Everton first team. But that is not the case now, nor will it be for several months. Moyes is showing himself utterly incapable of marshalling what resources he has and getting them to go out and play. I think we all remember playing 4-5-1 at home to Wolves!!
The ancient parable about it being Better to Live 1 day as a Tiger than 100 years as a Sheep seems lost on Moyes. I am usually patient with such things and always wiling to accept the strong mitigation on injuries etc. But it’s not about going to Old Trafford and playing them off the park with our reserves. It’s about showing your mettle as a manager.
Even Moyes’s public musings of late have looked defeatist and dejected. Maybe he simply has run out of ideas. It just seems to run against his grain to go out and play as tigers. Rather lose 5-2 as a tiger than 3-0 as fucking sheep.
I’m increasingly minded that Moyes has hit his ceiling. His strategy increasingly looks like it only consists of waiting for Arteta, Pienaar, Jagielka et al to return. In the meantime we just stick fingers in ears and hope.
I’m close to having had enough of this meek attitude. Even without our best we are better than this. Moyes has done a lot for this club, but everything has a lifespan. I would not miss him if he were to go soon. He won’t, of course. And that, for the first time in a long time, now seems like such a pity.
8 Posted 22/11/2009 at 11:10:50
What I expected and got with a double dose was the totally pathetic attempt at holding the ball, total in-a-fucking-bility at passing to a blue shirt; and the lack-lustre attempts at winning the ball back.
Pace, there is absolutely none. I believe I am faster. Is it a requirement to run the 100 metres in about 4 fucking hours that gets you into the EFC team?
Moral and confidence have FUCKING gone, IMO give it a few more games and Heitinga and Neill will be playing at the EFC level of shite.
It beggars belief that some people defend EFC and Moyes after each match. Do they watch the games? Go to GP and soak up the atmosphere... NOT. Feel the players transmit their persona to the fans as they enter the field... NOT. We are EFC; we supposedly had one of the most hostile arenas in the UK. NOT anymore.
On the whole we have been viewing shite defensive footy for what seems like ever. Change, well we know it always comes in the end. Either the defensive hoof ball goes or the manager fucks off.
9 Posted 22/11/2009 at 11:10:34
I also agree with Alan Kirwin in that it must be time to move on but, as he rightly said, this will not happen and Moyes will remain here ad infinitum.
Manure were looking for a win and they duly got it but it was made considerably easier than it should have been.
10 Posted 22/11/2009 at 11:49:22
l had been saying at work we may as well save the diesel of the team bus! When our players come out with statements like "it’s time to kick on!" we always fall flat on our arse. Just shut up and do it on the pitch!
l was taken to Goodison by my uncle when l was 7, 51 years ago. l will always be a Blue but you have to be realistic and see when we finish 5th it’s probably because the teams around us are shite, not that we are good!
As for Rodwell — get used to not having him around because when clubs wave money at us the Board bends over! Sorry to be so negative but we are a mediocre mid-table side who can’t even beat the teams around us never mind the good ones! Well at least that prick Rooney didn’t score!
11 Posted 22/11/2009 at 12:28:48
12 Posted 22/11/2009 at 12:45:52
The moment we saw the team news we all said "defensive, trying to not even keep 0-0 but keep the score down — not a thought about winning."
I am fed up with talk about money, injuries... what about some passion, fight and (if Mr Moyes know what it means) some serious tactical nouse? For me, the whole of Moyes last year or so was translated in his substitutions — why take off Saha who can snatch a goal? We’re losing so I know let's bring on a defender, Hibbert (not blaming anything on Hibbert)...
What is Moyes doing??? Our play is dull, predictable, boring, lacking in any vision. Too many players bought and played because they are able to play in several positions. Where is the general, the dynamo, the inspiration, the passion?I also question the players; who is questioning the tactics? The game yesterday was; inevitable we sat back (again) just waiting for them to score.
I believe that Moyes should be thanked for his contribution over many years for taking us out of relegation issues, for steadying the club, for making us a reasonable mid-table team, although at some cost — mainly mediocre, predictable, defensive football.
I don’t think he should be "sacked" or booed — just asked to leave; his time with us is gone. He has little to offer now... maybe wait for summer but let's have someone who wants to at least play some attractive attacking football — even if we can’t break into the Big 4, whatever. Let's play some decent football!!!
Players look terrified, I have never seen so many players who look frightened of the ball. We do not look comfortable on the pitch but it's no good blaming the Goslings or Rodwells and Yobo is a nightmare... Ahhh, I don’t want to slag off individuals but we need serious change — Aristotle said, "For extreme illness we need extreme medicine".
13 Posted 22/11/2009 at 13:06:25
Now if I can predict this what about Sir Alex?? Does my fucking head in... Grow a set of balls Moysie!!
It's obvious your 'stiffle them' tactics don't work. Please see previous results against top 4 for evidence. Have a fucking go! Sunderland did it and showed it can be done. Instead we're treated to that shite! Where's the Stella?
14 Posted 22/11/2009 at 15:18:30
If we had played the same way the 1st half, probably it would have been better viewing, and the comments here would not have been so angry.
But I am a little bit disappointed by Moyes’s post match comments - something like : "Managers who come here to CONTAIN Man U at Old Trafford know the problems", "There was no guarantee that playing two up front from the beginning would have had a better result, after all we conceded 2 goals in the second half" — it speaks volumes about the way he is thinking at the moment: containing, not conceding — no mention of attack at all !
On another day, we might have scored a goal and conceded at least 1 less, so the game could have been tighter, if we had a bit of luck during the game.
Big week coming up - if we win at Hull and Liverpool, many of the recent results/performances will be forgotten and forgiven. So sitting with my fingers crossed here...
15 Posted 22/11/2009 at 16:16:06
1) The opposition looked notably fitter than us. United were faster to every ball and instantly challenged an Everton player in possession instantly.
2) We simply cannot pass to another blue shirt. This is not excusable, see (5) below.
3) Despite there being five in midfield, there is no shield for the back four. United’s second goal saw a clutch of Everton defenders lined-up outside the six year box, then a huge gap of several yards to an equally large clutch of United players waiting for a clearance at the edge of the area. They got it and scored.
4) Most of the goals we have conceded in the games where we have been soundly beaten — most recently by Benfica twice and United — have come from dreadful defending: runners not picked up, space left at edge of area. We are giving goals away as opposed to conceding them through the superior technique of our opponents.
5) No-one moves. This has been a characteristic of Everton teams for many years now — and long before Moyes arrived, before any of you start... When an opposition team has the ball, players move, support and create space. When Everton have the ball, particularly down the wing, everyone just abandons the player in possession and ball watches.
Get back to basics on all these and we will become the wonderfully resilient unit we were last season again. Failure to do so will see us remain a bunch of random individuals with no collective fight or threat.
Player for player, United had no real advantage over us yesterday — but boy were they a better TEAM.
16 Posted 22/11/2009 at 16:41:36
The sale of Lescott made it obvious to the world that our owners lack ambition. We are not a club like Spurs who can buy about 7 players in January. Also reading reports about some of our transfer targets, it's depressing.
Our midfield players are worse than useless. I was never a Fellaini wig-wearer.... funny no-one seems to wear them anymore.
Also I believe it's the players' and manager's mental strength that lets us down in big games. The derby game two seasons ago at Anfield the 1-0 — probably one of our biggest games in my opinion as a draw or a win would've put us on the verge on Champions League qualification. The players went out looking to not lose by too many goals rather than getting the points.
Also, last season's Prem derby at home. We just dropped back and let Liverpool run the show. Did Liverpool last year go to Old Trafford and think, "Oh we don’t want to lose by too much"? No, they went looking for a win and got it.
In my opnion, if we lose the next two games, we’re in trouble. The speculation on Rodwell before the game really died after last night's performance. The problem is that we cannot change anything as we do not have the finances or the manager in my opnion. The Europa League hasn’t helped and I think we need to concede that we’re in the shit if Saha or the Yak get injured.
17 Posted 22/11/2009 at 23:11:07
The current back 4 are fragile, the centre midfield give no cover and the total midfield loose the ball after 2-3 passes and hey the back 4 are under pressure again, and against a team like Utd or to be fair any team from the top half of the table your dead.
Moyes spent the first half in his technical area screaming at his back 4 to push up but they wouldn’t as they were frightened to death are Utd getting round them, through them as the midfield lost possession at every opportunity. Gosling and Cahill were completely outplayed by Evra and Rafael and Rodwell and Heitinga shown how to play football by Carrick and Fletcher. Fellaini didn't have a clue how to help but at least put a shift in.
Saha did have the beating of Brown and Vidic but never ever had support.
Moyes got it right in the 2nd half but the defensive and midfield frailties couldn’t be overcome and 2 further goals and it could have been more.
Moyes is right that the balance isn’t there and wont be until Arteta, Pienaar, and Neville are back and playing well — probably about Feb/Mar. The current available players have lost any confidence they had and I cannot see a change over the next 3-4 weeks with the fixtures we have. We will almost certainly not qualify for the knock-out stages in the Europa Cup and will be in the bottom 4-5 places in the Premier League by Christmas.
Moyes cannot do anything with the current available squad. And it's his and Kenwright’s/The Board's fault. We have been relying on Arteta alone now for 2-3 years without any adequate replacement.
One last question which totally baffles me — Where the hell is Pienaar?
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