I was going to post an article a few days ago, along the lines of how pivotal the City game could be. I went drinking instead and never got chance.
One of my favourite things about ToffeeWeb is the passion shown by all contributors, not only for our club, but also for their opinion, defending it sometimes defiantly. One of my least favourite is what I would delicately call childishness. I'm sure Tony Marsh doesn't need to be asked where he is now, does he? (as he has been, twice I think since last night...) He'll be in bed, sleeping off a hangover, after watching his Everton play how he wanted them to, and win doing it. He'll be in dreamland.
You see, despite an undoubtedly good performance and result, we will all view it in a different light. Some will say we should have won by 3 or 4 — can anybody argue with that? Only perhaps to the extent of saying don't be greedy. Others will mention that in Toure, Lescott, Bridge, Ireland & Adebayor, City had half their best team missing. It's a fair point.
And it's always like that. Some will point to injuries as a reason for our awful campaign up to the start of December. Others to poor preparation for the season. Everyone thinks their opinion is the correct one, and some even call upon FACTS to back this up, even capitalising the word to truly highlight how important their FACT is.
Well here's some facts for you all to consider:
- Osman & Hibbert were nowhere to be seen yesterday.
- Neither was Yobo.
- Everton have now kept 8 clean sheets this season, 4 in the league
- Distin has played in 6 of those 8.
- Neill played in just 1.
- Saha now has 13 goals from 17 starts.
- The remainder of yesterday's attacking sextet have 16 from 93 starts.
- Everton were without 10 first team players yesterday, through a variety of reasons.
- 6 of those 10 are internationals, 4 of them at senior level.
- At any given point since the season began, we have had anywhere between 6 and 14 players missing.
- After 21 league games last season, we had 35 points.
- The same fixtures last season (substituting relegated teams for promoted teams in same order) heralded 30 points.
- City lost for only the third time this season yesterday, in 26 games.
- They also failed to score in a game for only the third time.
No specific point to those, other than to point out that all sorts of opinions are contradicted or vindicated by some of the above. At the end of the day, proper facts can't be debated 'cos they are just that — facts.
Opinions however, can be debated to death, so I'm gonna give you some of those too:
- Fellaini is, slowly but surely, starting to look a bit of a snip at 15 million whatevers (won't the economic crash make the pounds or euros debate practically irrelevant?). Can't believe he's only 22, and can't wait to see him alongside Arteta.
- Ditto Heitinga, at, I believe £6 million. Can't wait to see him alongside Jags.
- Donovan has made a good start to his Everton career. Already, I am not looking forward to mid-March too much.
- Our wait for a win over 'top 4 opposition' cannot be far off.
- My perception, and I have seen a couple of other comments alluding to this, is that Moyes has finally thought 'fuck it, let's just go for it'. He has been, IMO, justifiably criticised over his negativity — well, it was conspicuous in its absence yesterday.
- This season is not over, not by a long way.
As you might guess, given the article's title, this is one I will expand upon ever so slightly. I don't wanna go getting too excited, so I'm gonna try to be as objective as I can.
Given our recent run of form, I would think three wins from our remaining three January fixtures are not wild fantasies. We then enter February.
February can be looked on as two things: A month of death perhaps? Or a month of potential. Neither of the 4 teams we face in league matches in that month should hold any fear for us. Not unless injuries wreak more havoc upon us. I would happily take 7 points, leaving us on 39 for the season as we enter March. For comparison, we were on 44 last time around, and 39 from the same games.
Progression in the FA Cup and Europa League are genuine hopes too. "Hang on a minute," I hear some say, "we don't have the squad to compete on three fronts." Fair point, you might say... However, the injury front is easing. Of the 10 unavailable yesterday, three were not through injury (Yobo, Yak, Jo), whilst three of those injured are short term (Osman, Rodwell & Gosling) and the other four should all be available by March. Giving a bench of Jags, Yobo/Hibbert/Coleman, Arteta, Osman/Rodwell/Gosling, Yakubu, Anichebe/Jo/Vaughan if you kept the first 11 as per yesterday. Surely we are due some good luck on the injury front?
It's all conjecture obviously. Yesterday could be a one-off. It just doesn't feel like it. I feel if we get to the end of February in the kind of shape I've just talked about, we are more than capable of taking 25+ points from our remaining 11 fixtures (only Villa, City & Brum away, & Fulham at home are teams in the top half we face in our last 11). Arsenal scored 72 last season finishing 4th. At the halfway point, City lead the way with 35 this season. Am I saying we can finish 4th? I suppose I am. If we can score 65 points for the season, I fail to see why it isn't a definite possibility.
And that's why, for me, the City game was pivotal. If that performance and result hasn't sent a ripple of confidence through the entire club, I don't know what will. Anything is possible now.
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1 Posted 17/01/2010 at 18:18:18
Saha is always one stretch for the ball away from a two or three games out, Vaughan’s injury curse needs no further comment, and Joseph Yobo has just suffered a recurrence of his hamstring strain playing for Nigeria.
So replacing Neill is going to be important seeing as we don’t know how long it’ll take Jags to get back to full fitness and sharpness. And I think Moyes needs to plan for Donovan’s departure before it becomes an issue.
4th is probably unrealistic but it’s certainly possible while the teams in the European places continue to give points away at unexpected junctures. Keep winning and that gap will close, but consistency, as ever, will be the key.
2 Posted 17/01/2010 at 18:14:18
I too have been dreaming of the imposible, so much I might add that my head is about to explode. I've been going over all remaining fixtures for all the genuine challengers for the coveted fourth spot. The Shite, the Mancs, Spurs, and Villa, and if we win our games against these four (I know, it's "if"), we would be effectively 9 points behind Spurs and City, 7 behind Villa and 5 away from the Shite.
Now I know this is dreamland, but after yesterday, who cares? To gain ground on say, City first, they would have to drop 9 points. They have games against, Villa, Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs — six games were I believe they will drop at least 9 points.
Anyway back to dreamland... it's pretty similar for Spurs (Liverpool, Fulham Man Utd, Arsenal, Villa, Chelsea, Man City); 7 games to drop 9 points. Villa (City, Birmingham, Arsenal, Spurs, Man Utd, Chelsea); 6 games to drop 7 points. Liverpool (Spurs, Chelsea Arsenal Man City Man Utd); 5 games to drop 5 points.
So, Stewart, no I'm not going to write it off, the fat lady hasn't sung yet. Yes, it's a dream, and we have to keep winning... but, after yesterday, you could see us beating anyone, what a dream.
Anyway have to go now they don't normally let us use the computer here, only the matrons hid my crayons!
3 Posted 17/01/2010 at 18:53:55
Perhaps Evertonians feel defeat more than victory, either way, belief in the team goes right out the window for many when three points are not taken.
4 Posted 17/01/2010 at 18:44:21
I suppose the only real area where my opinion would differ is in the area of the criticism of David Moyes perceived negativity.
Some of it has been harsh in my opinion...don’t get me wrong, I agree at times there has been hoofball at times but we have played good football at other times this season and indeed throughout Moyes tenure IMO. For what it’s worth, I see him as more pragmatic than negative.
He said in his interview prior to yesterday’s game that he wanted to cause them problems but he was also aware of their threat. Fair enough and I think this sort of sums it up and it would seem that he’s trying to find the balance between the two.
I don’t think he’s suddenly had a Eureka moment and thought "fuck it" to be honest... I think it’s more a case of we’ve gradually been playing better, got a little unbeaten run going, confidence has returned together with a couple more able bodies and he’s taken it from there.
No doubt there’ll be bad football in the future and if there is, let’s try and show patience again as Moyes and the players have shown what they can do.
Can we play like that in every game? I don’t think so... just because it’s difficult for each player to be on top of their game in each and every game.
The good thing for us is that we have numerous big hitters to come back so there’s no reason to think that the first few months of the season was our blip and the second half is where we come on strong. If the last few seasons are anything to go by then when we get into our stride, we generally take some stopping.
With regards to Lucas Neill, I like him and thought he was a great addition (I actually hoped he might sign in the summer regardless of the Heitinga signing but better late than never) – versatile, tough, aggressive and can play football. Now he’s gone it may leave a slight gap so I’d also like to see someone come in.
I also believe our squad is stronger with Hibbert & Osman in it than not in it. And I’m trying not to be rash but Donovan is already making me wish we could sign him permanently! He’s made a great start.
Anyway the future’s bright... the future is blue!!
5 Posted 17/01/2010 at 19:04:16
My main concern is up front. Cahill hasn’t been prolific this season which has been papered over thanks to Saha. But, as Lyndon points out, he is not a consistently reliable solution. Therefore, the form of Yakubu when he returns is key. If he can be anything like he was in his first season, especially in the Winter months, then we should finish fifth. I am afraid we left it too late to get into fourth.
6 Posted 17/01/2010 at 19:13:18
7 Posted 17/01/2010 at 19:04:40
The desire and commitment was what won the game yesterday, not so much silky passing and killer instinct. Both goals were not scored in open play, which is a concern given the chances. Yes, we were unlucky to hit the woodwork twice, but we really MUST do better in front of goal in open play.
My biggest annoyance is that we still have people saying we should be out in the transfer market throwing money around that we haven’t got, and getting into debt that is unmanageable. If BK went throwing money around, that would certainly be a dereliction of duty on his part. Portsmouth are a living example of what happens when you get taken over, and spend far beyond your means. Strengthening the squad and weakening the club in the process is not the answer.
What we need more than anything is to get our squad fit and playing! We were playing reasonably well before Phil Neville came back, yet now we have moved up yet another gear. They are playing like giants again, and not scared little boys.
8 Posted 17/01/2010 at 19:31:04
I think we are going to have a BELTING (fact?) 2nd half of the season, don't think we’ll go too far in the Europa but if we can avoid Chelsea and Arsenal for much of the competition we could have another cracking run in FA Cup.
When all's said and done though in the league I can see us ending up rueing our disatrous start — I can see us using the ’if...’ word quite a lot come May.
But I really think we’ve had a watershed moment, you can see the manager and players are hurt by their position (and all of a sudden we have gone from "the best of the rest etc etc" to the forgotten team — its the top 4, then Villa, Spurs and City and we’ve dropped off the football map and I really think our lads are out to prove a big point now).
So... we may have left it too late for this season. But what about next season? I think 2010-11 could be a big one for us.
Also, Donovan’s played two games for us and done well, but in my opinion not lit up the sky. Great to have him, let's see what he can do over next two months, he’s definitely going back but the most valuable thing he can do for us is persuade DM to invest in a proper right winger for once. He could be the icing on the cake, but he’s not the cake itself.
God — drunk already!
Great post though - seems we’ve all got our tails up for the first time this season. Roll on Feb 6th! COYB.
9 Posted 17/01/2010 at 19:39:34
City: I’m sure that they will continue to pick up points (and players) but will draw at lot — the reason Hughes got sacked.
Spurs: Lennon and Defoe... take them away they're shite, plus Harry Boy has other things on his mind and has spent heavily on players and I’m sure he will have to lose some before any more money is available.
Villa: Martin O’Neill ain't no great shakes as a manager and expect them to fuck up a la last year.
Liverpool: Reading deserved to win the other night, then got beat yesterday to put them 1 point above the relegation battle in the Championship... ie, they are shite and still beat Liverpool.
So it’s a tall order but yes, possible with wins, not draws wins. 4 wins off 4th or 12 draws.
10 Posted 17/01/2010 at 21:27:20
1 Arsenal ,2 Chelsea, 3 Man Utd, 4 Spurs, 5 Man City, 6 Everton, 7 Aston Villa, 8 Liverpool
11 Posted 17/01/2010 at 23:19:04
Yesterday was absoutely stunning. Every player on the pitch fitted into the plan perfectly, in a display of proper football.
I haven’t witnessed a game of that calibre from us in a hell of a lot of years.
I can’t say anymore than that.
12 Posted 17/01/2010 at 23:41:54
Fellaini and Heitinga were unbelievable and I hope it continues for the rest of the season — there is no reason why it can't.
Bring on the top four... bring them on now!
13 Posted 18/01/2010 at 00:21:13
There is only Chelsea who would beat us the majority of the time, the way we are performing right now...
Jags and Mikel returning is MASSIVE.
Top 3/4 next year? — I think so
14 Posted 18/01/2010 at 01:17:31
15 Posted 18/01/2010 at 01:35:56
Have to agree with Frank Mc Gregor’s prediction: I would bite your hand off now for top six and winnning the FA Cup or Europa League. I think the team will be really up for it against Birmingham on Saturday after yesterday’s performance. And let’s face it , it is the performance more than the result that has got people in dreamland today (see above).
Enough of this "fact" business; it is beginning to sound like someone not too far away...
16 Posted 18/01/2010 at 10:37:03
As a (generally) Moyes fan I think the last couple of weeks shows how critical a motivated, focussed Moyes is to this club — he absolutely sets the tone and currently you get the feeling that he is really up for the remainder of the season - I’m quietly excited about it.
However, the last couple of seasons I think he has been the key factor behind the team underachieving — because I believe that we have a top 4 squad. His attitude in the early stages of the last two seasons has been dreadful and I think has contributed directly to poor performances and results — much like your title Stewart I feel that Moyes has been prepared to write this season off.
The reasons for his attitude have been understandable (lack of money, broken promises, injuries, headache from banging the glass ceiling etc) but his reaction hasn't been justifiable given the salary he is paid.
I don't see the limiting factors at Everton changing any time soon. Moyes either has to decide he can motivate himself (and therefore his team) for the whole season or he needs to take a new challenge. Everything that has been good about the last few weeks makes what has gone before more damning — but when I see Moyes like he is now, I don't think there is anyone better for this club.
17 Posted 18/01/2010 at 11:22:43
18 Posted 18/01/2010 at 12:32:04
This season and last have started under the cloud that is known as pre-season - otherwise known as the time we arse around pretending we can buy players and not have to wait for the Sky money, or that of player sales.
If you compare Moyes’ demeanour -both pitchside and in front of the media - now to the first few months of the season, there is a massive difference. He tends to sulk at the start of the campaign (no prizes for guessing why) and this is reflected in the players performance.
Since the derby, the standard of football and commitment has risen dramatically, and credit should be given to both the manager and his team. If we could start the season with the positivity around the club that there is now, in my opinion we could comfortably qualify for the cash cow that is the Champions League. Alas, I feel that this term and last, we have missed the opportunity to do that.
Blame Moyes, blame Kenwright, blame injuries or whatever you want. With the right attitude for 90% of the season instead of 50%, Everton would be right up there dining at the top table, and that was perfectly illustrated on Saturday - a side that lacked our best defender, our best midfielder, and arguably our best striker
19 Posted 18/01/2010 at 15:03:46
I must admit I’m biased as I went to the same school as him.
20 Posted 18/01/2010 at 19:06:03
21 Posted 18/01/2010 at 19:28:08
However, I have to say that some of us would NEVER be ’about to write off’ a season at the halfway point in the season with us still very much in 2 Cup competitions as well.
In some respects, after our dodgy start, it could only get better, and that is what is now happening. Glad to see some positivity has now returned to what has been at times a thoroughly miserable website this season.
Some of that was just frustration, but you will always get your ups and downs in football and just as some of the tepid displays earlier this season were inexplicable, you could also say you never saw the last two games coming after only just scraping by Carlisle and Burnley.
22 Posted 18/01/2010 at 20:28:18
Some day soon there is going to be a thread asking us to choose DM’s greatest signing. It is a tough one; there are quite a few contenders (Jags, Cahill, Pienaar, Fellaini, Saha, Howard, Mikel) but I’m going to nominate Phil Neville. This guy is worth his weight in gold, a fantastic and inspirational leader on and off the pitch. His commitment to Everton is total and some day, coaching badges in hand, he will take over the reins and our future will be assured.
23 Posted 18/01/2010 at 20:55:07
Couple this with the return of Neville at right back and we most certainly look like a team to be reckoned with. I honestly feel that now is a good time to be an Evertonian and we can all play our part at Goodison in the weeks ahead.
24 Posted 18/01/2010 at 22:45:17
But we’ve been here before, vibrant performances against the Arse last season, only to be done by a superb Van Persie goal, even the season before (or was it the season before that) against the Arse 1st 45 minutes we battered them and was 1-0 up only for them to revert to hoofball and we get done 1-4.
And that’s what's missing from our game, at our best we are a match for any team, but we lack the match winner like Rooney or Torres or Gerrard (god forbid) that can turn a dross performance into points, not only against the lower teams but the Sky 4 and the wannabes. It’s when we get the knack of winning whether ugly or lovely, or we will never challenge the Sky 4.
25 Posted 19/01/2010 at 12:43:37
We played absolute shit at the start of the season and Moyes's tactical changes were too timid or too late when we were in trouble during games.
26 Posted 19/01/2010 at 15:36:21
Sorry, but we have been here before and I for one am saving the champagne for when we actually win something. It should be a bloody good vintage by then.
Don’t take this the wrong way. But we are far from being top 3/4 unless we get big investment. Just being a realist lads.
ps: Wish the derby was this weekend though.
27 Posted 19/01/2010 at 22:57:42
I tend to think that each time we have a decent run of games, our management use this as a reason NOT to spend money on strengthening our squad and I reckon that each season we start without the required investment so get left in the stalls...The players we have deserve all the praise in the world for keeping us competitive and DM must feel he is fighting with one arm tied behind his back.
Like one or two others writing in this column, I prefer to reserve judgement and try not to build up my hopes too much.We do have our injured players almost ready to play again but it is not yet certain that they will recover the form that they displayed before they were injured. I sincerely hope that we can maintain our current form and improve still further so that we can rescue the bad start we have had to the season.
Our fans deserve the best and its not just a coincidence that our new players have stated that the team spirit and attitude at the club is second to none... COYB.
28 Posted 20/01/2010 at 12:42:45
Moyes had to deal with a tsunami of problems for the club first thing, then Pienaar and Neville out. Well guess what the waters have gone as we always knew they would.
Moyes could have walked - if he’d have done as Tony Marsh and others had asked. He didn’t he showed commitment to Everton Football Club and its supporters when things were at their most difficult. All this "never mind about the injuries", merely used as a cover to have a pop. When your main men are all out whats a manager to do? - Do his best which is all Evertonians can ask.
We may be hit by a tsunami again in future, or other problems. What is needed then is to show even more commitment then.
Moyes said Fellaini was possibly the best midfielder in the league a week ago. Many looked at each other as if to say - what? Then they saw the Arsenal and Man City performances.
The reasons being the managers been working hard for months and months. Due to commitment to the club.
Maybe one or two would learn to be alittle more understanding, rather than being silly in realtion to the manager.
I look at Aston Villa who can’t score right now. Fulham who’ve got their own injury crisis now. Other clubs will start dropping like flies.
Makes me see the strong fundamentals we have in our team, put in place year on year.
I watched the 2001 Merseyside Derby the other week. The quality of the football was in stark contrast, as were the players we now have.
And I don’t subscribe there to being any limit on success Moyes can achieve with Everton.
And he’s shown commitment we’ve needed and will continue to need.
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