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It's a Walk in the Park...

By Jamie Rowland :  13/09/2009 :  Comments (12) :

... No, it really is a WALK... because we certainly didn't get out of 2nd gear today!

As I have stated many times before, I am no footballing genius but I have written this article in response to what I witnessed today at Craven Cottage and what I heard fellow Evertonians angrily discuss as to why we can’t manage to see through 90 minutes.

After a decent first half against Fulham (stats showed a 34% - 66% possession in our favour), what did Moyes say to the lads in the dressing room…? I personally think it went something like this:

"Right lads, tuck in."
"But Boss, won't a roast dinner at half-time make us slow and bloated?"
"Shut it, Osman, and make sure you get through the lot – you’ve only got 5 mins."

Obviously this wasn’t what was said or done but I can’t understand why we go in after being energetic, lively and dominant and come out slow, slobbish and unfocused. I am not going to dwell too much on our seemingly porous defence. The back four certainly needs some attention but the midfield is where we lack a lot of qualities that other teams, including Fulham, take for granted.

We lack three fundamental qualities as a midfield:

  1. Basic football. Pass and move, pass and move, pass and move. It just doesn’t exist. When you watch a top 4 game, the full back passes, moves inside. The opposite winger moves as the ball is played inside… not at Everton. We ball-watch.
  2. Urgency. There is absolutely no urgency in our midfield. Jack Rodwell looked like Vinny Sideways against Fulham and, in the second half, so did the rest of them.
  3. Creativity. We can’t create anything. During today’s game I can only really remember one bit of football that could possibly resemble top four qualities — when Fellaini threaded the ball through two defenders.

The quality is simply not there in the midfield. The result is that, while our midfield dithers about on the half way line, the back four are left to mop up.

What happened today in the second half was disgraceful. The midfield gave up and stopped playing. Worse still, Jo (who ain't the best) was taken off. This was a dreadful decision by Moyes but not because we didn’t have a recognised striker. Rather, when he left the field, the midfield had nothing to target.

Jo provided a great target man and he held the ball up well, giving our walking pace midfield the time needed to catch up to play (I can’t believe I’ve just said that a Premier League midfield needs time to catch up to the play!). In the first half, he was constantly holding up the Fulham defence, playing balls into the onrushing Pienaar and Osman. That was lost when Moyes subbed him. A fatal error.

Now on to the lack of creativity, can someone please tell me why Steven Pienaar is so highly rated? I like Pienaar and I think he is a good player. However, while he has more than his fair share of skill and finesse, he lacks the cutting edge. His decision-making is probably his weakest attribute followed closely by his final ball. They are nothing short of woeful.

I mentioned this to a few Everton match-going buddies who at first disagreed… I then compared him to McFadden – something which was debated venomously until someone mentioned that with McFadden we got 1 world-beating game a season. ‘Whereas, with Pienaar we get….shit…one decent world-beating game a season’. A sudden silence... followed by "I see your point".

Looking at his game, I don’t rate him any higher than Osman. Osman was slated after the Arsenal game (whereas Pienaar was touted as our best player) but the stats tell a slightly different story. Osman crossed the ball more and attempted more passes than Pienaar… theoretically, Osman was the better of the two?!?

Who is the better player is not my point, though; I’ll leave that to Moyes to decide. My moan and groan is that the Everton midfield is pedestrian and it’s unacceptable. Please don’t start the "Bily will make it all better" rubbish because the lad could be another Krøldrup for all we know.

I hate being negative about Everton and their performances but it was shockingly bad today. Even Jack Rodwell – a youngster that I rate highly – was playing like Vinny Sideways. He didn’t pass a ball forward once in the second half.

Tim Cahill was excellent throughout. He was still working until the death but it’s hard to push when you are just in front of a slow, defence minded midfield.

The defence was our strongest asset last season and perhaps that’s why the midfield doesn’t mind a breather when the opposition play a long ball because, today, they came back to help out one at a time and not as a unit.

I’m rambling now but if you disagree in any way with what I’ve said, ask yourself something… how many times do Fulham come from being a goal behind, against a top 5 side, to win a game? Then ask yourself, how come it’s always us?

My answer – we are too negative, far too negative. I often wonder how our training sessions are arranged. 2½ hours defensive drills, 15 mins fitness and 15 mins knock about against the reserves...

I am a fan of Moyes and all that he does for the club. I have no doubt that without his influence we would be no better than West Ham, Wigan or indeed Fulham. My issue is that he is very defensive. You can see his face screw up when a midfielder lines up a shot (any one remember the bollockings he used to give Carsley for shooting?). He turns strikers into ‘advanced’ midfielders. He clearly makes our players scared to cross the half-way line (Hibbert bolts back as soon as the ball has left his foot – which is partly why he rushes his crosses (again my opinion)).

It’s just too defensive. We can’t get a grip of a game and we can’t pull ourselves out of a hole.

Fulham?!? Please…

Sorry for the rant, I’m not normally this dismayed and I can usually see a way out of it. I’m struggling at the moment. My rankings are as follows (not including the keeper – I never rank the keeper):

Hibbert 7
Yobo 5
Distin 7
Baines 5
Pienaar 5
Neville 6
Cahill 7
Osman 6
Rodwell 6
Jo 7
(Heitinga 6, Fellaini 6, Yak – N/A)

Have I got it right? Have I misjudged Pienaar and overrated Osman?
Will the midfield get better when Bily finally arrives?
Will we stop the goals when the Jags is back?

Answers on a postcard...

Reader Comments

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Marcus Choo
1   Posted 14/09/2009 at 04:00:33

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Hi Jamie,

I have some disagreement with some of your ratings.

Howard (7) - Covered pretty well. Not at fault for the deflected first goal. Second goal was quite brilliant. Can’t fault him either...

Hibbert (6) - Offered himself going forward, but effectiveness not there. Defensively, I felt nervous everytime Dempsey got the ball. Also his inability to jump for headers was almost caught out twice at least with crosses from Fulham’s right to the far post...

Yobo (6) - Didn’t endear himself to Zamora with some good defensive attention. But! As one of the earlier threads mentioned, there was a "Yobo" moment when he tried to acrobatically volley a clearance away, only succeeded in blasting the ball into orbit and closer back to our goal!!!...

Distin (7) - Did ok I thought. 2 moments when instead of whacking a clearance away, he feinted the attacker and brought the ball into midfield... nice

Baines (7) - I thought did ok defensively. Offered much more than Hibbert going forward. Can’t agree he’s lower than Hibbert in your ratings! His assist for our goal...

Pienaar (7) - Our only creative player. Kept the ball well and encouraged the team to be more mobile. Drew the foul that led to our goal.

Neville (6) - His clumsy tackle cost us the first goal. His only contribution was his bodily presence on the field to check Fulham’s attacks. Was one moment when he tried to check Murphy bringing the ball forward with a sliding tackle and Murphy just skipped past him. Sigh.....Hope he gets better from the studs-up challenge. Terrible...

Rodwell (7) - He and Pienaar alone seem comfortable on the ball. Great turn of the body to show the opposition the wrong way and make space. Had a first-half shot from outside the box that with better luck might have taken a heavier deflection and got a goal...

Cahill (7) - Scored our goal

Osman (6) - Oh dear... I’ve decided to call him the 50% man. Not for his effort or skills, but it seems he does something wonderfully unexpected but then lets himself down with a poor followup. Examples: his nice turn off Konchesky that gave him space to cross... culminated in nothing. Nice run from deep and taking the ball down well into the danger area, but no pace to beat the defender to shoot. Many other times he’s able to pick the ball out from the air with a nice piece of technique, gets past one defender... and then stalls(!) or just gets tackled by a second defender.

Jo (6) - Not effective enough. Gets the ball, holds up play and passes to another team-mate... then disappears! In his defense, maybe the midfield is not providing quality passes or crosses for him to attack.

Heitinga (5) - Tackled someone at some point... that’s all I could remember.
Peter McHugh
2   Posted 14/09/2009 at 10:33:05

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Quote - "Jo provided a great target man and he held the ball up well, giving our walking pace midfield the time needed to catch up to play"

Jo is absolutely garbage, anybody who thinks otherwise watches a different game to me. Why Moyes pairs Rodwell and Neville in midfield is beyond me — and before everybody goes on, "he’s got no-one else", he did something similar for years pairing Carsley and Neville. Fellaini should either play in middle or if not good enough (which sadly may well be the case) play Pienaar in middle. Very sad that we rely on Arteta so much.
Rob Sawyer
3   Posted 14/09/2009 at 11:06:52

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Jo seems to have the Heskey syndrome. He is big and has some skills but lacks the "bite" needed to be top class. I thought he looked lightweight which, for someone well over 6ft, should not be the case. Also falls over too much - buy the man longer studs please......

The substitutions baffled me (and I normally stick up for Moyes).

Stephen Sullivan
4   Posted 14/09/2009 at 11:02:12

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Jamie, I have to agree with Peter McHugh regarding Jo. He is an embarrassment to Everton. He gives the impression that he avoids physical contact at all costs. He is so lightweight that Moyes puts lead weights into his boots to prevent him blowing away and right out of the stadium.

I cringe when a ball is played to him cos’ I just know it will (a) bobble off his shin (b) result in a hospital pass for a teammate or (c) He will fall over as an opponent puts just a bit of pressure on him. He really is up there with some of Everton’s worst ever strikers ie Rod Belfitt, Jim Pearson etc.

I can find an argument for most of our poor performers ie Osman can do a tricky turn now and again and wriggle out of a tight spot, Hibbert sends in the occasional crunching tackle, Yobo runs really fast and Neville works hard for charities but Jo? Sorry, he was not a "good target man" yesterday, nor did he "hold the ball up well".

Mike Gwyer
5   Posted 14/09/2009 at 12:34:00

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Sorry mate, but a lot of words about a great big pile of poo.

The team sheet was enough for me. Moyes needs to seriously look at himself, maybe talk to Round just to see if defensive footy for 90 mins is the way forward.
Dick Fearon
6   Posted 14/09/2009 at 12:02:31

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I know you can’t beat being there yet via TV it is quite clear to me that in each of our four league games we have physically been second best. As in previous years I expect more game-time to improve that situation.

Meanwhile, we concede valuable points to sides with little to offer other than sheer physical effort. In the second half at Craven Cottage once Fulham began to get ‘stuck in’ and our lot were extremely vulnerable.

Perhaps our annual jaunt to the USA is not ideal preparation. Whatever the cause, there is no doubt that when it comes to fitness our lot are definitely second best.

Another thing that frustrated the hell out of me at Fulham was Moyes's stubbornness that stopped him from making timely game-changing substitutions. When changes were made they came as a result of injury and after we went behind. I am not quibbling about the actual replacements only that they should have been made long before Neville’s injury.

Ciarán McGlone
7   Posted 14/09/2009 at 14:03:59

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Osman has been consistently shit for nearly two seasons now... Pienaar had his problems last year but turned it around about half way through the season and put some fantastic perfromances in.

For me, there’s no comparison.
Ciarán McGlone
8   Posted 14/09/2009 at 14:18:53

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Oh aye, and it was obvious to anyone with eyes last season, that Jo was a poor footballer...

Nothing's changed.
Tony Williams
9   Posted 14/09/2009 at 16:57:00

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I’m with the majority on this one about Jo. I mentioned in another post that someone should check his passport, as there is no way that man in a Brazillian footballer, his first touch is as poor as Hibbert's.

Baines’s crosses were as poor as Hibbert's yesterday, if not all the games so far this season.

I hate the fact that we are usually dire in the first half then play a lot better in the second or we play good in the first half then forget to come out for the second. If we could get some 90-minute men, that would be nice.
Gareth Hughes
10   Posted 14/09/2009 at 19:25:21

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Jamie Rowland - your comments re; Jo’s ability as a striker and Osman v Piennaar are just plain ridiculous. Have a word with yourself.....
James Boden
11   Posted 14/09/2009 at 20:40:40

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Jo is fucking woeful end of discussion!
Jamie Rowland
12   Posted 15/09/2009 at 10:04:31

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While I can understand that Jo isn’t a favourite because generally he is shite, against Fulham, at least we had someone to target until he came off.

On the Pienaar subject — I love this arguement and can go all day on it: WHAT EXACTLY DOES HE BRING TO THE TEAM??????

Last season (well last half season) he did very well with Baines. But now he isn’t tracking back, he does all the dancing and skill but it never leads to anything.

When you look at a player like Aaron Lennon, you can only see a massive difference. Lennon has the same skill but knows what to do with it. Pienaar has one too many touches, can’t cross a ball (for a winger that is poor) and gives in once we go down.

At least Osman is still working hard and his output is no worse than Pienaar's — only difference is that Osman doesn’t produce the ’wow’ factor before he tries to cross a ball.

For a team that finished 5th last year, the basics of our football worries me. We never throw a ball in to feet, whereas other teams do. We never get a decent cross in and we hardly ever beat the first man with our crosses.

Regardless of who takes our corners, we never beat the front post. Direct free kicks are lack lustre and rarely are they on target or trouble the keeper. Our midfield play is slow and sideways. I can’t stand this ’Pienaar to Baines, Baines to Neville, Neville to Rodwell, back to Neville, Neville to Osman, Osman to Rodwell...' it goes on and on and on and on.

Cutting edge we don't have. If you lot honestly believe Pienaar is good and skillful and full of finesse, how come he can't beat a man when it matters?

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