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On the Brink or In the Blocks?

By John Holmes :  22/11/2009 :  Comments (17) :

Saturday’s match saw yet another ineffectual performance by an Everton side that look adrift in a sea of apathy. Yet, what still remains unclear after three months of the season is one question? Are Moyes’ Everton a spent force or a storm in waiting?

The frustration of the fans at another tepid surrender to big bucks opposition is understandable. A quick glance across the Everton starting midfield told you all you needed to know about the resources available to the manager and his decision about how best to utilise them. Gosling, Heitinga, Fellaini, Rodwell and Cahill. Two teenagers, three players who started life as defenders, four players woefully out of form, no pace, no guile, plenty of strength and no obvious pattern for deployment.

The template for the game was set from the first few minutes. United pulsating, sharp, accurate and incisive in possession. Everton pressed back and neutered. When Fellaini made a couple of promising drives forward the problems became manifest. As the hairpiece lifted, he saw no support. His frustration was evident as he threw his arms wide in the direction of the bench. Worst still, in contrast to Everton’s previous attempts to defend their way past quality opposition, the backline looked porous and semi-committed. Ferguson’s tactics are less acknowledged than Wenger’s or Rafa’s, but here he saw Everton’s weakness. The glaring lack of a Carsley or Neville meant what had once been an impenetrable 4-1-4-1 became a too flat 4-4-1-1. United exploited the gap between defence and midfield remorselessly. Slick passing from that area created a succession of chances. The first two goals came from cut backs to players on the edge of the area — in Carrick’s case, his only company was a queue of team-mates.

A resurgence in the second half was pleasing and gave strong promise again that Yakubu and Saha could be a fearsome partnership with the right support. Both Cahill and Fellaini came to life a little and for 15 minutes it looked like the first half could be forgotten and we were there to win. One substitution from United and Carrick’s goal put pay to that. Valencia’s third, although unlucky for Baines, was not undeserved.

So, once more, the questions arise. Was it the injuries, the money or Moyes? Did he have any options? He could have played Yakubu from the start and pacified at least those who argue that we should go down fighting. The second half suggested that there was no danger for United in that approach. Ferguson saw our 4-4-2, threw Scholes into the newly vacated midfield space and United’s superiority was quickly re-established. Had we started with Gosling on the bench there would have been no recourse for Moyes when things went wrong. Yak makes an impact, Gosling barely touched the ball. It would have made the first half less painful but the result would almost certainly have been the same.

The tactics were a bigger problem. With that midfield the only the qualities in abundance were all physical. The three in the centre all stand comfortably over six foot tall and none lacks physique. Gosling is lightweight but Cahill’s a terrier. Yet there was no impetus, no pressure on the ball. When we had possession, we were sat so far back that isolation was inevitable in the United half. Never before has Baines crossed the half-way line so rarely. There was a clear order to let United play into us. As it was, they played into and straight through. For me, that was Moyes’ failing. The team selection was a 50-50 and would have come down the same either way. To come out for a defensive battle is acceptable in the circumstances, to come out hoping for the best is surrender.

And yet, on a more positive note. Another draw for City. A draw for Villa. Another draw for Liverpool. A win at Hull on Wednesday could leave us four points from fourth place and playing to go above the opposition next Saturday. We aren’t the only team stuttering and with our best players to return, we can still easily end the season in a position many will argue we haven’t yet deserved. The Uefa road is similarly blessing us with continue potential. Moyes has not covered himself in glory during this phase of our year-long injury crisis (this time in 2008 we were playing Cahill and Fellaini up front and it hasn’t improved much since), but those who suggest its irrelevancy join those spouting off about relegation in regurgitating the most pitiful drivel.

The manager has proved time and again over the last seven years that when he hits a groove, Everton can soar. He definitely needs to prove himself again because a club like ours should carry no passengers, but his achievements dictate that three months of mediocrity should not outweigh seven years of generally steady progress against the odds. We’ve been lucky not to lose touch over the last couple of months, now we must seize our chance and, with returning personnel, a Merseyside derby could be the time to do it.

Reader Comments

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Micheal Hunt
1   Posted 22/11/2009 at 15:28:25

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Interesting article John, the problem is, will we have players back for Hull and decent players back and in form for the derby to enable us to start to turn the corner? So many injuries that seem to be taking forever to get over... Pienaar, Neville, Osman et al.

Pienaar is a particularly strange one to me... such a crucial player in Mikel’s absence yet he seems to have gone AWOL. Maybe he fell down the back of the treatment table and twatted his head and has been forgotten about... I mean since well has a ’bruise’ needed 2 months out??

I hope you are right that we are about to turn the corner, but sadly I lack confidence due to the fricking injuries galore. Hopefully we’ll have enough to see off Hull on Wednesday night...

For the derby, IF we can have Pienaar, Bilyaletdinov (deffo back from suspension :-), Felliani (deffo back from suspension :-), Neville, Cahill, Heitinga and Osman all fit and firing to give options (and choice to put round pegs in round holes) in midfield, then I’m confident we can turn over the shite...

I just watched the Mikel Arteta interviews on EvertonTV and he says that we’ll struggle until we get ALL the players back... if that is the attitude and expectation of all the players then we may as well write this season off due to so many fricking players being out for so long.

I am not so downbeat if we have an on-form Pienaar, Bilyaletdinov, Fellaini, Cahill, Rodwell, Heitinga, Osman and Neville though... as they can give us enough options in midfield to be good enough for a European finish... problem is having them fit and on form which at this time seems remote!
John Holmes
2   Posted 22/11/2009 at 15:55:14

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I agree the Pienaar injury has been a weird one but I seem to remember Baz saying at the time that they wouldn’t know the full extent of the injury until the bruising stopped swelling. We didn’t hear anything after that so I assume what they found wasn’t promising.
Mike McLean
3   Posted 22/11/2009 at 15:59:24

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"Soar"? With the very occasional exception, I’d argue that the Manager has shown, when he isn’t sulking, that we can be bigger pitbulls than all but four of the rest.

Well worth the money to watch, if you’ve got an IQ of six, I guess.
Richard Dodd
4   Posted 22/11/2009 at 16:20:21

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No Evertonian (apart from Marshy) can possibly doubt Davey’s ability, surely? He has taken us to heights we could only dream about in the Premier days before his arrival. Micky Arteta is right. When we get our six best players back in action it will be a different story altogether. Even just the return of Captain Neville will put us on a higher level.

Just show a little patience,will you?

Kevy Quinn
5   Posted 22/11/2009 at 16:39:45

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Wake up Richard.

Even with a fully fit squad we would have employed the exact same tactics. It's fucking depressing watching Everton at the minute... so predictable.
Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 22/11/2009 at 17:20:27

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Give us all a laugh and tell us who YOU think are our best six players.

I could do with cheering up...
Ian Tunstead
7   Posted 22/11/2009 at 17:46:12

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Gavin Ramejkis
8   Posted 22/11/2009 at 18:04:55

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Ciaran, this is the same clown who thinks the blue-rinsed anti-Christ selling us down the shitter to Kirkby is the Messiah, can he name six Everton players?
David Hallwood
9   Posted 22/11/2009 at 18:34:11

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There’s a poster that regularly asked the question You Are David Moyes, ie, What would be your team and how would you set it out? Let’s ask the question: YADM 2001-02; The game’s at Old Trafford against an awesome Man U side with one of the finest midfields ever to grace the modern game and you’re the new manager (I know he didn’t get the job ‘til much later in the season) and you look around the dressing room, who have you got to go against this midfield? Pembridge, Gemmill, Alexandersson... and don’t forget this is a team that have been the whipping boys of the Premier League since its inception.

Let’s face it, it’s Plan A or Plan A. It’s a giant killing job; can’t match them for class, then match them in endeavour; destroy not create, park the bus, get out there boys and sweat blood for the cause, be like plucky Gillingham and this is your cup final etc,. It’s interesting to read the ToffeeWeb match report of the game.

Fast forward to 2009-10 and things have changed dramatically, instead of being the whipping boys we’re now considered ‘the best of the rest’ and we are playing Man U, so now YADM only this DM has stated on numerous occasions that he wants to break into the Sky 4, so how do you approach the game? Why with exactly the same game plan as 01-02 with exactly the same margin of defeat (it was 4-1 back them) an identical, but predictable outcome with reports saying that, like then, we were played off the park, the plucky underdogs beaten again.

Now I know we have horrendous injuries but, even so, all of the players that played yesterday are fundamentally better players than were at the club in 01-02, while it would difficult to imagine any of Man U‘s midfield players would have got on the bench let alone the team in the 01-02 team; only Rooney & Vidic would’ve got a start in that era.

Last month, Sunderland went to OT and took the game to them, and were unlucky not to come away with all 3pts, with Rio’s brother obliging in extra time, and Man U looked decidedly shaky.

IMO DM seems to have an inferiority complex when it comes to playing the Sky 4, and until not only can we match them on the field but THINK we can match them, we will never take the next step.

Charles King
10   Posted 22/11/2009 at 18:37:37

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David Moyes has benefited from the terror of relegation that hung around this club prior to his appointment. Expectations of trophy winning, title challenges, style of play all abandoned by supporters in the struggle for stability which, without question, he’s achieved. But 7 years... 7 feckin years of mostly garbage for any club — let alone the greatest club on the planet — should surely result in better than what's presently being offered.

And the no money, injury problems, small squad bollocks is par for the course, if we were loaded with a massive squad Gus Hiddink or Mourinho or some other world name would be at the helm — not Moyes. So, Mr Moyes, if you read this — get a grip, you’re in charge of Everton Football Club,the best supported club around — real supporters, not toe rag tourists... we will raise the roof if you dare send out a team to have a go.

And when the derby match comes round, if Benitez starts his bollocks again, don’t do the classy gentlemanly thing and treat him with disdain; wait until the cameras are on you and, slowly but very clearly, call him a fat twat and threaten to kick his head in.

Ken Buckley
11   Posted 22/11/2009 at 19:16:44

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Richard, I think both you and Arteta are correct to state that with our injured six back things will be much better. However, I think the injured six being out is not the main problem as many clubs have such number of injuries and it can happen again to us at anytime.

My observation is that clubs who have the ambition to win leagues and be in Europe season on season have the squads to cope and the money to make it happen rather than get left behind whilst injured players recover.

I am sure the manager knows the types of player he needs and how many. The burning question is: When will the club be in a position to allow this squad building to take place? Until that time, our success will yo-yo dependent on luck with injuries to the players who we have no squad replacement for. I don't want to see my club operate like this it just takes us to the edge and then throws us off.

John Andrews
12   Posted 22/11/2009 at 23:05:46

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For fear of upsetting anybody I will repeat what I said on a different thread.
We are now below, yes below, Birmingham City in the Premier league! We are 14th in the league. This is shameful as far as I am concerned.

I believe that we should have gone 4-4-2 and had a go at them. What was there to lose? As it is we go 4-5-1 yet again and we get gubbed again.

I tend to agree with Ken and would argue that clubs who do not replace players with like for like players will NEVER be successful.

Gavin Ramejkis
13   Posted 23/11/2009 at 00:55:00

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John its not just a case of replacing like for like. The manager has all season to see where his team’s weaknesses are and the majority of teams he will be playing against the next season and with a bit of common sense what he needs to do to beat them. Unfortunately, Everton are up the creek without a paddle having to sell to buy anyone in and then at the last second giving any replacement players no time to blend in and unfortunately replacing players with utility players that tend to be jacks of all trades (defensive) and masters of none (attacking).
Peter Bradshaw
14   Posted 23/11/2009 at 01:29:15

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I cannot get over we still have these people saying that we are still okay for Europa League next year.

We will be lucky to finish above 14th the way we are playing and until we get some new ideas into the club we will continue to be shyte to the eye.

All other teams have sussed how to play us and we cannot change our pattern of play.

Stop living in this when we get all our players back dreamworld we have a serious problem this year and our luck is begining to run out.

The only thing on our side at the moment is that Wolves and Portsmouth are worse than us, sorry cant pick any others out at the moment
John Holmes
15   Posted 23/11/2009 at 15:14:39

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So who’s next on the list for the Moyes Out!! brigade after their latest poster boy, Roberto Martinez, seems to have lost his lustre a little?
Charles King
16   Posted 23/11/2009 at 18:54:27

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Ref Martinez comments, still like him.The Swansea side he built from piss all, very good.

Not clever to put the boot in when he’s been at Wigan 5 mins, could understand if he’d had 7 years and was getting stuffed by large scores.

Bryan Douglas
17   Posted 24/11/2009 at 19:18:54

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I think you just like being nice

You used to be far more analytical and critical of Moyes, the team and the set up. Now, you appear to just want people to like you

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