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No Doubt There's Something Strikes A Balance

By Rick Tarleton :  08/11/2009 :  Comments (15) :
There's been a lot of criticism of Everton in the latest posts and articles on ToffeeWeb and nearly all of it fully justified. Everton have been dire in recent performances. During the recent home leg against Benfica, I counted in the second half how many times Everton managed to put three passes together without losing possession. It was twice.

Nevertheless, the criticism of the various individuals, particularly Cahill and the defensive pairing of Yobo and Distin strikes me as being correct, but only part of the picture.

If I may explain, Cahill is playing badly because he is being used incorrectly by Moyes. Cahill reminds me of Martin Peters or Terry McDermott in that he is essentially an excellent player when he hasn't got the ball! By that I mean his ideal role is as a supporter of the attack, ghosting into the attacking third with late runs and thus upsetting static defences.

Peters did such a job in Ramsey's World Cup winning team. Stiles won the ball, Charlton used it, Ball ran and harried and Peters ghosted. Similarly in the Liverpool team of the early 80s Souness won and used the ball, Kennedy played on the left, Lee ran and McDermott ghosted.

Cahill at the moment is being asked to be a normal mid-fielder, tackling, at which he is appalling, passing and scurrying. It's simply not his role and certainly not his strength. We have without Arteta, no creativity. Rodwell, if he doesn't get worn out and more importantly stays at Goodison, will be a great player in midfield or defence, Pienaar is a bundle of energy available for one-twos and short passes, his long passing skill is limited. Fellaini is like Cahill and Osman, not very good at tackling, passing or winning the ball and our new Russian signing is fairly similar to Pienaar.

So where is the balance? What are we asking these players to do? Or, more pertinently, what is Moyes asking them to do? We are not playing to their strengths and we are not developing a midfield with players who can complement each other. Hence Cahill, a talented player, looks poor in this set-up.

Similarly in defence. Last season we had a well-balanced central defence, an attacker of the ball and a coverer, Lescott to attack and "Jags" or Yobo to cover and intercept. Similarly at Portsmouth they had Campbell to attack the ball and Distin to cover. Now we have essentially two sweepers, who want to cover and intercept and would prefer to be playing alongside another player who attacked the ball. Think Vidic and Ferdinand at their best or Terry and Carvalho.

This lack of balance, of asking players to perform tasks which are not their natural roles is resulting in a lack of confidence and poor results.

Who's to blame, because it is a matter of blame? Moyes obviously must bear a large part of the blame, he has bought players who do not fit in with each other, in many cases they are duplicates. He likes the busy hard-running type.

It's taken him five years to realise Arteta is actually a central midfielder and not a slow right-sided player. He's signed a series of central defenders who are all sweepers, Heitinga, Neill, Jagielka, Distin and Yobo and not one who can confidently attack the ball and the opposing centre striker.

But I suggest that limited as Moyes is, he is certainly not the Moyesiah, but a defensive-minded and tactically limited, typical Premier League manager, he is not the real problem. The problem lies with the Board, and particularly with "Blue Bill". This man cannot provide the resources his managers need to compete.

No matter how much we earn (a marvellous cup run last season) our debt keeps increasing and yet, Bill, wearing his true blue heart on his expensive sleeve, laments the problem, but makes no move to move aside and see if it's just possible that someone else might take over and give this great club a chance to get off its knees and compete with some chance in the Premier League.

Reader Comments

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James Stewart
1   Posted 08/11/2009 at 15:30:35

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A well thought out piece until the end. You suggest Moyes has made mistakes by buying the wrong balance of players which is correct but then go on to say he is not to blame and is not backed by Kenwright. So he should be given more money to buy the wrong players we need?

The blame lies firmly at Moyes door. He has had Money.
We are painful to watch and getting worse and worse.
He must be held accountable.
Martin Mason
2   Posted 08/11/2009 at 16:49:57

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Rick a very good write up and I agree with you and with James too about the responsibility being 100% Moyes but the difference between success and failure, glory and the sack is a very fine dividing line. I believe that Moyes has some excuses, things that were outside of his control and I hate to criticise him but I’ll never rate him as a great manager. It may well be that Alex Ferguson would fail at everton though because in the end we are a debt ridden club with few resources only the players we can develop and sell.
Marc Williams
3   Posted 08/11/2009 at 18:11:29

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Rick - I’m with James Stewart on this agreeing with your analysis until right at the end.
You see I’ve always been baffled by Moyes as regards transfers & so think this lack of balance lays at his door.
Yes the board have let us down and I accept that if Moyes had big money to genuinely compete and not just ’panic buy’ he may have bought differently.
However I see little evidence that this would be case, given his personality, tactics and the type of player he seems to favour.
Fran Mitchell
4   Posted 08/11/2009 at 19:45:03

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Firstly, your description of Cahill I agree with, but then you say "Fellani is like Cahill". How is this, Fellani certainly doesnt match your previous description. The fact that they have both been deployed in the supporting forward mode doe not make them similar players.

You blame Moyes for Cahill’s below par performances. But the fact remains, Cahill is playing where he is as he is needed. Pienaar, Arteta, Osman are all out injured, and Bily is suspended.

We need Cahill to play where he is, what do you suggest Moyes do? Stick Heitinga or Rodwell at left-wing so Cahill can play in his favourite position?

At this moment we need players to do more than ghost. If he isn’t good enough then he should rightly be criticised.

Your analysis of the defense I think is plain wrong. Didtin and Yobo have played very few games together, they need to play more games to develop their partnership. Distin so far has played alongside 3 different centre backs, Yobo, Neville and Hibbert. The most important issue when replacing Lescott was getting a left-footer, which he has done. Neill is primarily a right-back, a very good right-back as well, not a ’sweeper’.

Also, it did not take Moyes years to realise Arteta was a central midfielder. This is ridiculous. Quite simply, Arteta began his Everton career in the middle but was too light-weight. He was moved out wide, and proved a great success being Evertons leading Assist maker for 3 consecutive seasons. We also had no other right midfield options, and money was needed to sign a striker more than a winger.

Arteta finally bulked up bit, adapted better to the English game and with having Pienaar available we could move Arteta into the middle, and he proved a great sucess.

However people seem to talk as if Arteta was playing shit for 3 years then Moyes moved him in the middle.

Moyes has tried to sign player, we dont have the money. We could et Fellaini on stretched out payments, Saha for next to nothing, Pienaar for 2.5 mil. Bily and Distin from the Lescott money.

We are currently playing poorly, but still only 6 points behind Villa and 7 behind Spurs, with a game in hand. We are 5 points behind City and 3 behind Liverpool.

When we get Arteta back, Pienaar back, when Yakubu gains more fitness, Bily more game time, Heitinga more game time, Neill more game time then we can assess Moyes tactics. At the moment, we have 1 midfield option to pick from, so it limits the tactical options.

Jimmy Saville
5   Posted 08/11/2009 at 20:14:12

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Anyone else watch African cup of nations. Pineaar was a revelation in the middle of the park. Anyone else fancy sticking him there?
Jonathan Ashton
6   Posted 08/11/2009 at 19:53:41

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Well done, Rick, for trying to open up a new area of discussion on this site with some carefully considered thoughts. I hadn’t really registered what you say about which defenders are attacking and which sweeping, good point, I will look out for it. Thank you.

Your post was worth it for me just for that, but your bigger point is very interesting.

In central defence, DM stated that he wanted a left footed CB to give balance and he didn’t have that long / that big a choice at the time of good Premiership-proven CBs to meet what was clearly an urgent need. (You could argue he brought that that crisis on himself! But that’s a different discussion and not one about buying identikit players.)

Heitinga might be a wierd signing in terms of balance, though. I wonder whether DM was always thinking about going 4-2-3-1? Otherwise, he does seem a poor fit (unless you think he’s mobile enough to be a CB/RB in this league and you’re worried about Distin’s age). We’ve already got two perfectly good (for the standard we are at) holding midfielders in Rodwell and Neville. However, Jonny’s passing is much better than Phil’s, so maybe that’s how they’ll complement each other.

I don’t think you’re right about the left wing. Bily is a Left Winger who can play through the middle. I think Pienaar has played on Left Wing simply because he’s been our best option on the Left, but I don;t see him as "a proper" Left Winger, more a Joe Cole-type figure who can play well there cutting inside. He plays extremely well through the middle (his role for South Africa) and given that he’s right footed why shouldn’t he be effective on the Right Wing now that he’s no longer the obvious option on the Left? I recall he played on RW well on the rare occasion we actually got to play both him and Bily, maybe that’s what will haopen when everyone’s fit.

This comes onto one thing about Moyes that you do need to take into account in your argument. As I think he’s stated, he often signs good players [usually cheaply] who can play very well in one role and pretty well in at least one other, reflecting our small squad - Jagielka, Mikel, Peanuts, Phil, maybe Neill, Lescott, Heitinga and you could maybe argue Fellaini, who was originally touted as more of a box to box midfielder. He signs less out-and-out specialists.

At the moment, our injury problems mean that people are playing in the positions that suit them less. Rather than playing a "ghosting in" role (good spot, there! Not sure that anyone else has actually said that) Cahill’s currently having to fill in on the wing, he’s filled in well (IMO) in a more withdrawn central midfield role and he’s previously been an out-and-out forward.

As regards range of passing, we do have a couple of better long ball options now, to cover for the fact that Arteta has been out for so long, i.e., Heitinga and Bily.

If you accept that talented, multidimensional players are usually DM’s priority then given the small budget it’s not surprising he hasn’t always got what we wanted - the Right Wing being one obvious example. Maybe it would be too much to also expect him to come up with a highly balanced squad where people’s best roles complement each other well.

This all sounds like I completely disagree. I don’t know if I completely do, I’m more just thinking aloud.

Good article, though!
Steve Ashcroft
7   Posted 09/11/2009 at 03:23:13

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Sorry Jimmy Lad, I couldn’t resist! With a name like yours, maybe you could ’Fix It’ for us to not only have Peanuts playing in the centre of midfield but also have all our players back from injury. Oh, and while you’re granting wishes, pleased find us a billionaire investor! If this is too much of a wish, I ’ll take a team that shows it is up for a fight and knocks the ball around on the deck. I love the Club and it pains me that we stick with Sunday League tactics and our players show little passion and no heart..
Ste Traverse
8   Posted 09/11/2009 at 06:23:13

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With our injuries, Cahill is playing completly out of position which is affecting his contribution, but he doesn’t complain and just gets his head down and does a job for our side. Yet you still get predictable moaners on his case. Unbelievable.
Dan Brierley
9   Posted 09/11/2009 at 05:27:27

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Well written article, but seems to not take into account the mitigating factors for the teams performances this season. I don't think it is Moyes's tactics that is the main factor in our current league position. In my opinion, the injuries to key players has surely been the biggest influence, coupled with the acrimonious departure of a coveted and highly effective first team player that chipped in with several crucial goals that turned draws into wins.

Criticising Moyes when he hasn't got a full hand to play is harsh to say the least. And regarding the point about not backing the squad up, I think it's stating the obvious that a club that is not in the CL is not going to have Pienaars and Artetas sitting on the bench as cover. Firstly, you won't attract them to the club, and secondly, we couldn't afford the wages anyway.

I still believe Moyes is the one who could take us to glory provided he had access to the funds available to the CL clubs. However, we all know that simply isn't going to happen unless somebody comes in who will pump in around £100 million interest free and with no guarantee of return.

That said though, I think it is right to question Moyes, and weigh up if someone else could do a better job. But at this moment in time, no other manager (who would actually come to us) strikes me as being someone who could do any better with his most influential players lying on the treatment table.

When you are conceding the types of goals we are, it's not the best idea to further expose them by playing more attacking football. I am confident that once our midfield is back and playing together we are good enough to challenge for the top 4 again.

The people that say the likes of Spurs and Villa have passed us, obviously haven't watched those teams play very much this season. I don't think they are anything special at all. In fact, I don't think they would cope any better if they had so many players out. How would Villa fare with Sidwell, Young, Petrov and Reo-Coker missing for a considerable length of time? Or Spurs without Lennon, Huddlestone, Palacios & Jenas?

Andy Crooks
10   Posted 09/11/2009 at 13:01:26

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The Everton transfer policy seems to be to buy what we can — not what we need. Fellaini is an example of this. I’m undecided on whether he is any good but he was most certainly not what we needed.
Richard Tarleton
11   Posted 09/11/2009 at 17:53:18

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Thanks for the feedback. I felt that in some ways I left too much ambiguity in my ideas, but I think Andy Crooks is right: our transfer policy seems to be buy what we can and what is available without consideration of the balance or the specific needs of the team.

Moyes is not a bad manager, but he’s very negative in his tactics and distrusts the more skilful players who do not dash about with blind enthusiasm. He’d never have given Alex Young a look-in!

If I’d have thought about it I’d have pointed out how well balanced the great Everton teams I’ve watched since 1955 were.

The 62-63 team had a marvellous midfield, Stevens grafting and covering, Gabriel and Harris(Kay) providing flare and power, with Johnny Morrissey adding width and crossing ability.

Similarly with the Holy Trinity, Ball’s energy and drive, Harvey’s sublime passing skills and Kendall sheer enthusiasm and again with the important skills of Morrissey.

And the mid 80s team, brilliantly balanced with Reid and Bracewell anchoring so effectively and the passing of Sheedy and the dribbling skils of Steven.

Derek Thomas
12   Posted 09/11/2009 at 21:24:36

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Andy and Richard, pretty much spot re transfers and ghosting. The Marsh in me thinks that only 3 decent teams in 47 yrs is a bit of a worry.

Heitinga?? I actually think that he is better than Neville in the holder role, better tackler and, if we are to play the boot it out method a better passer.

Yobo and Distin? still can’t decide who is going for the ball that comes between them, so it might be a case of too many sweepers.

Hibbert?? Mr Marmite, for the 1st 20 mins looked poor as did JY and SD. Due mainly to Hines and his mate sticking to the spaces infront and in between them, thus being able to, with out being close to a defender, able to receive the ball and then give and go into more spaces behind and between them. Hines and the Hammers got more impatient and pushed up, due to the lack of a West ham goal and us scoring, result... Hibbo had a man to mark and Hines had less and less time to turn and run at and into space past defenders.

Right Mid; Gosling looked more mobile than Osman and until Bily or Pienaar or some one else get there, looks the best of a bad bunch.

Yak and Saha? can they play together, will they be asked ( allowed) to play together? Yak leftish sided and Saha Rightish sided, when one is out wider the other comes in the middle. Triangles galore. A Baines, Pienaar, Yak axis; Saha middle, Gosling or whoever on the right. Mirrored on the otherside.

Or is that a bit to pure football for one dimensional Davy.

Jamie Crowley
13   Posted 10/11/2009 at 05:47:26

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Steve Ashcroft - spot on mate.
Chris Butler
14   Posted 10/11/2009 at 22:04:36

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Well ultimately Moyes chooses who to buy in what position, not Kenwright.
Iain Love
15   Posted 10/11/2009 at 20:39:23

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Going back to last season's posts, the right hand side was where the problems lay. So, until we got the Lescott money (which was a great bit of business by Moyes) we couldn’t buy. Then we bought a left-footed midfielder so we could put a right-footed midfielder on the right. Fair do.

Then an international right-back came in. Fair do. Then cover for Lescott at a quarter of the price. Neville got injured, Neill came in as right back cover so Johnny could cover in the middle. We also brought Jo back in as the Yak , Big Vic and Saha where all injured.

Our transfers where late in the day, but I doubt if they where last-minute deals and really they covered what we wanted and needed, the only one we didn’t get was that Banegea lad and that was only because of injuries in his current team prevented them letting him go.

As for balance, we just have to wait for the injured players to come back to see what it will be like. I for one think ,
Neill Jags Distin Baines

Pienaar Rodwell Heitinga Bily

Bily and Pienaar can switch wings as is favoured by a lot of teams nowdays, and I’ve not even slotted in Arteta yet.

The balance will come when the important players are back, our best performances this season have being Bily left Pienar right.

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