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Onwards and Upwards

By Ajay Gopal :  21/09/2009 :  Comments (20) :
The game was shown live here in India on Start Sports. Although the Blues dominated proceedings throughout, we looked very vulnerable against their set pieces with Samba, Roberts and Diouf always looking like they might score. Even at half time, I was worried that if Blackburn would sneak in a goal, it could be Fulham all over again.

Fortunately, we got a second after the break, and then I stopped biting my nails. It was a stroll afterwards.

Player Ratings:

Howard - 7 - made some crucial saves, and looked very solid.

Heitinga - 6 - apart from the bad tackle on Dunn, his presence on the ball looked assured.
Yobo - 7 - very commanding, and seems to be enjoying the Captain’s role, plus the nice goal
Distin - 7- good partnership developing with Yobo, and seems to be enjoying playing for the Mighty Blues
Baines -7 - two fantastic set-pieces leading to goals. Defensively, he did get caught out by Diouf a couple of occasions, but he is an invaluable member of the squad right now. I am most worried about our lack of options on the left side (God forbid if something happens to Leighton)
Pienaar - 8 - my MotM, superb work-rate and fantastic skills on the ball. Would have scored against a slightly lesser goalkeeper than Robinson
Rodwell - 7 - another display to set all fans’ heart beating faster. For me, the one thing that gets me a little worried is his "too cool" attitude — like Rio Ferdinand — for my liking. I would like to see a bit more passion from the lad. But, what a prospect! The commentators are also starting to see his potential greatness — very worrying !
Fellaini - 6 - an average game by his standards — the cross for the second goal not withstanding. He wasted too many opportunities to pass the ball to strikers in good positions. But his workrate and enthusiasm was unquestionable. When both Rodwell and Fella develop further, they could form the most fearsome central mid-field partnership in the the Premier League.
Osman - 7 - had a good game today, and was unlucky not to score. Good to see the confidence back in Ossie. Excellent option against teams like Blackburn, and other lower league teams.
Cahill - 5 - was surprisingly anonymous in the game, but his attitude was top-notch as usual. "The Best Header in World Football" did not get much opportunities to put his head to the ball today — that was taken over by Saha!
Saha - 8 - two fine goals, showing that he is one of the best strikers in the league when fit. I liked it when Moyes subbed him early — keeping him nice and ready for the next battle.
Jo: - 6 - did not do much when he came on, but did keep the defenders busy.
Hibbo - 6 - actually looked comfortable on the ball when he came on, but by that time, the contest was truly over, so was under no real pressure.
Gosling - 6 - see "Hibbo" above, but he did put in a couple of decent crosses in. An excellent prospect as a right winger/full back against less physical teams.

Moyes - his team selection and substitutions were quite positive, of course, afforded by the comfortable 3-goal cushion. The crucial question is: When the crunch comes, can he display ability to turn games around? The long season ahead will offer ample opportunities to answer that one.

Positives from the game:
3 more points - up into 13th with a game in hand
Our 1st clean sheet in the League
2 more goals to Saha
Yobo and Distin’s burgeoning partnership in the heart of the defense + Yobo’s goal scoring contributions (Lescott who ?)
The continued development of Rodwell
Osman back in form - he gives us options from the bench or against less skillful opposition.

All-in-all, an enjoyable game from my living room, and lots of reasons for optimism. Onwards and upwards, you Mighty Blues!

Reader Comments

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David Chait
1   Posted 21/09/2009 at 07:49:14

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Ajay, I don’t think Rodwell is suffering any form of "too cool" ... we’re just not used to a young player with all the physical attributes that mixes speed, strength with vision, skill and composure. The way he turns away form players creating so much space is only matched by Arteta.

What really pleased me yesterday was how we now have so many players who can keep a ball when they have opposition players on their back... too often in the recent past they would be dispossessed: Fella, Rodders, Saha — hardly ever lose out.
Paul Gladwell
2   Posted 21/09/2009 at 08:04:17

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I am wondering was I watching a different game?

Cahill 5!

I have made a point of watching him closely of late after all this stick he cannot play in a basic midfield position and the last two games he has been superb, his workrate in chasing and closing down has been top draw, his passing has too.

In the first half I thought Pienaar aside, he was the only midfield player playing anywhere near the level they showed against Athens, Rodwell was quiet and Fellaini had his lazy head on again, things changed with these in the second half but it is about time people started watching the work Cahill does instead of thinking he is no good unless he scores.

Dick Anderson
3   Posted 21/09/2009 at 08:57:51

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Problem with Cahill is that he’s a one-trick pony. World-class scoring headed goals from corners. But not particulary quick, not particulary good at tackling, not particulary good at passing and not particulary good at shooting.

Still he’s a top bloke and always gives 100%. Just wish he had more to his game then headed goals.
Paul Gladwell
4   Posted 21/09/2009 at 09:37:22

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Dick, there was more to his game yesterday and Thursday, his tackling was spot-on, his passing was spot-on and he always found a blue shirt and passed with pace, his workrate was superb and he winds opponents up with his non-stop hassling when they are in possession.

People just jump on the bandwagon that he is no good in a deeper midfield role because he is so good in an advanced role but the last two games he has been superb in my eyes.

I noticed a few times him and Fellaini swapping places and with more games together maybe it will work out them two in the same midfield.

Ciarán McGlone
5   Posted 21/09/2009 at 09:46:22

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Again, close to our best staring line up... Can’t wait to see that team with Osman and Cahill out and Billy and Arteta in.

Great result without really moving up a gear or two... Fella and Rodwell bossing it in the middle and Saha always looking dangerous with his ability to use the ball at his feet. Yobo and Distin again looking superb. And Pienaar working well with Baines when he wasn’t on the other side. Osman was reasonable but as usual kept running into trouble.

I was dissapointed that Gosling didn’t get a start at right back... because he clearly deserved to stake a place for that position given last Thursday’s mammoth display. But then again, if not starting Golsing in right back means keeping Heitinga out of midfield... then so be it. Because to be quite frank, I’m worried that Moyes has intentions of pissing about with midfield to accomodate him.

Anyway, role on next Saturday... and hopefully Billy will get a start and we’ll be in for another footballing display!
Alasdair Mackay
6   Posted 21/09/2009 at 11:01:13

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Cahill is playing deeper this season (because we have fit strikers) so he is going to attract criticism because his goalscoring rate will inevitably drop.

I tend to think that he is probably our 4th best central midfielder, but he is far and away our best player in the supporting role of a 4-5-1. It will be interesting to see whether he gets in the side if and when Moyes employs a 4-4-2 with Yak and Saha/Jo and Yak/Jo and Saha.

In other news, I think it was really clever of Moyes to loan Vaughan out now. Saha is flying, Yak is nearly back and Jo will get a few goals as well. Come January we will lose Yobo, Yak and (possibly) Anichebe. By that time Jags will be back with Neill or Heitinga as cover and Vaughan will return from Derby with some games under his belt and hopefully some goals and confidence. Start scoring off the bench and maybe start a few for Saha, who we cannot risk playing 2 full games a week at any stage of the season.
Ciarán McGlone
7   Posted 21/09/2009 at 11:28:09

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I would disagree Alasdair,

The way Fellaini has turned his game around is superb; he’s is playing the advanced role while still battling in the centre, he is able to link up the wing play from both sides — something which Cahill isn’t great at.

Timmy’s an Evertonian and all credit to him... But Fellaini simply offers a hell of a lot more playing in that role.
David Ellis
8   Posted 21/09/2009 at 15:51:54

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Fellaini vs Cahill
Thought Cahill had the better game of the pair. Hard to tell from the TV who was playing the more advanced role, they seemed to switch it around. I thought Cahill showed some lovely touches today and seems be more incisive on the ball. Fellaini held the ball up well, but in the more advanced positions we need a bit more than that. And he still has the look of Gravesen when tracking back (i.e. why bother as he is always 5 yrds behind the action - he’d be better off staying further upfield and make himself available for the clearance.

Heitinger is a decent ball player and appears to be two footed - quite happy to switch to the left foot - and in terms of shooting appears equally inaccurate with both feet. Early days of course, he will need to up his game to keep he right back position now that we have Lucas Neill in the squad for a year at least

Odd no posting from T Marsh to say that he hates being right (or wrong) or whatever......
David Chait
9   Posted 21/09/2009 at 17:28:40

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I just don’t get the abuse Felliani got gor yesterdays game.. he was in effect the man behind the striker but was often popping up in our box making tackles.... kept the ball very well and passed accurately... WTF did he do wrong?!?! IMO Fellaini is playing bloody well at the moment and getting better game after game... he was out on the left wing to get the ball that he crossed for Saha FFS!!!
Alan Kirwin
10   Posted 21/09/2009 at 18:17:03

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Fellaini is the real thing. By the end of this season he will be a star, I’ve had no doubt from when I first saw him. That’s assuming he’s allowed to do what he does best, which is almost what he’s doing now.

In fact, if he could master the art of late arrival in the box from the man who wrote the book (TC) then, with his height & strength, Fellaini could be a god.
Ryan Woods
11   Posted 21/09/2009 at 19:30:29

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Fellaini will never play in a 4-man midfield. Why? He lacks pace, strength, desire.

When the ball is coming to him in the air, he will look where the oppisition player is first, and then try to put them off instead of trying to win the ball, which he could easily do.

I am yet to see him really attack the ball in the air; ok, he scores a few headers but on none of them has he attacked the ball. By playing him, the threat of Cahill is reduced by 50%.

David Hallwood
12   Posted 21/09/2009 at 19:49:44

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IMHO there has never been a doubt about Fellaini’s ability, but like Jo needs time to settle down learn the language etc, AND be played in his right positon which is just about where he is now. Don’t forget that he started the season suffering from a virus and is probably only just getting back to full fitness.

At the risk of being the kiss of death, our next 5 league games are all winnable and then Ajay it will be onwards & upwards.
Alasdair Mackay
13   Posted 21/09/2009 at 20:13:51

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I have to say I am still not convinced by Fellaini. He does have obvious talents and his cross for the second goal was superb, I just don’t see the effort from him. This is where Timmy gets my nod.

If Tim loses the ball he fights to get it back. He wins as many headers as Fellaini and scores as many goals. I think Fellaini is a better passer than Cahill, but Cahill has better vision. If you’d could give Cahill Fellaini’s passing ability and age you’d have a heck of a player. As you can’t, Cahill gets the edge for me.
Gerry Western
14   Posted 21/09/2009 at 23:25:13

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Since the enforced layoff of Neville we haven’t looked back. Largely because Fellaini has been restored to the middle of the park. He has all the attributes one looks for in a central midfielder. He’s calm and composed, can hold up the play, great distribution and a deft touch. Added to that he is a real physical presence, works at closing down the opposition and most importantly he can control games.

I really don’t understand this debate involving Cahill, they’re totally different types of player. Cahill’s best position is just behind the striker. Fellaini is much better deployed running things in the centre of the park. As for comments about his lack of pace. What on earth has his pace got to do with it? Franz Beckenbauer was one of the greatest players ever to grace the turf. He often played the game at walking speed, indeed that was his trade mark. As a result, he made the game look effortless, yet nonetheless, he controlled games like no one else I’ve ever seen. I’m not suggesting for one minute that he’s a new Beckenbauer, merely that a player doesn’t have to sprint around the park in order to dictate play.

In Rodwell and Fellaini we just might have possibly the best midfield partnership in the premier league for years to come provided we can hold on to them that is.
David Hallwood
15   Posted 22/09/2009 at 00:43:25

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Gerry Western, if anyone remebers the Standard Leige v RS games Fellani was the outstanding midfielder on show and where I might agree with Alasdair Mackay, I think we put too much store in running round like a 2-year-old and less emphasis on letting the ball do the work, and if anyone says that Beckenbauer was in a different era and you need pace, just look at Beckham: no pace to talk about but how many players do you see closing him down?
David Hallwood
16   Posted 22/09/2009 at 00:49:03

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Sorry, I meant to say Alasdair Mackay may have a point.
Sreekumar Raman
17   Posted 22/09/2009 at 01:16:55

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Fellaini is a steal for €15 million in current market. If we can keep Fella and Rodwell away from predators, we will be a regular top 4 side.
Stewart Littler
18   Posted 22/09/2009 at 01:29:41

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I was another who watched Cahill closely. Problem for Ajay and anyone else watching on TV is that you only see what the cameras allow you to — Cahill worked his socks off, and rotated well with Fellaini in who was going and who was sitting — I agreed that he had had a rather slow start to the season, but he has been back to his old self over the last week or so.

Just hope Moyes learns the art of rest and rotation now, we have the squad to do so, and the Carling Cup should be placed into its correct standing — 4th in order of importance, i.e. 1 step above the reserve league. Multiple changes requested please DM.
Geoff Edwards
19   Posted 22/09/2009 at 12:26:48

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Can’t believe people are slating Fellaini, him and Rodwell bossed the midfield on Sunday, esp in the 1st half. They were quieter in the 2nd but probably because the match got so easy that they took their feet off the pedal.

I don’t think anybody had a bad on Sunday, the whole team played well - even Osman.

I do wonder whether it was really down to us though or whether it was because Blackburn were piss poor.
Martin Mason
20   Posted 22/09/2009 at 19:19:26

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Very pleased to see them do so well Sunday. It was a great win given the circumstances and with a little panache at last. My positometer has gone up a step.

I’ve never rated Timmie believing him to be an average player who can score great goals. I do accept though that he’s invisible especially on TV and could be a very key part or the team. Moyes obviously thinks so... but never a transfer target? I’m surprised.

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