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The Way Forward

By Tony Skidmore :  30/04/2010 :  Comments (24) :

This is my first article on ToffeeWeb, so try not to be too scathing in any criticism you may have. I will put forward my views on Everton’s options for next season which will hopefully provoke some lively (albeit friendly) debate. I am going to write six different sections on the six different areas of any successful team:


In my opinion, Tim Howard is a good but not great goalkeeper, he sometimes looked unnerved when confronted with a team that crosses the ball on a regular basis, or is confronted with a barrage of corner kicks (or Rory Delap throws); however he is a very good shot-stopper and is a solid Number 1 for Everton.

Everton have already signed another keeper for the coming season, which will surely see the back of Carlo Nash. Jan Mucha is the current Slovakian Number 1, which was comforting until you realise he is only keeping Lukasz ‘butter-fingers’ Fabianski out of the team. However, it is hoped that he will provide some much needed competition to Tim Howard, along with all Everton fans I would like to wish Jan good-luck and hope he doesn’t turn out to be Mucha do about nothing.


At left back, Leighton Baines has had a brilliant season and has thoroughly cemented himself as one of the first names on the team-sheet; his interplay with Pienaar down the left is perhaps (along with the wizardry of Arteta) our most potent force.

Reading some of the other posts on this site, I believe I am perhaps in the minority believing that Everton do not need to acquire a new left back for next season. Neville, Distin and Bilyaletdinov could all do a job at left back if needed; I believe our no doubt scant transfer budget could be better spent elsewhere.

I believe the best centre back pairing for Everton next season will be Phil Jagielka and Johnny Heitinga. Next season will hopefully see Jagielka recapture the form that got him into the England team, while Heitinga adds a bit of class to our back line. He likes to pass the ball out from the back as opposed to the ‘Yobo route’; we look an infinitely better team when we keep the ball on the deck. With all our midfielders comfortable on the ball, it is important we pass the ball from the back, rather than lumping it long and fighting for the second balls.

As back-up to this pairing, I believe Everton should snap up Senderos on a free transfer and send Yobo in the opposite direction. As Moyesie's first signing, he has been an Everton regular for a long period of time, but I feel it is time to part ways... plus, selling Yobo (29) for around £4 million and bringing in Senderos (25) on a free is a brilliant bit of business, and I do not feel it weakens our team in the slightest.

Right back is perhaps the most hotly debated position in the Everton team; do we stick with the experience of Phil Neville or do we put our faith in the young lad from Donegal, Seamus Coleman — not forgetting Everton stalwart Tony Hibbert. While I understand the critics of Neville (having been one myself, several times), I think he should just get the nod. I do not believe there is enough of a gap in ability between Coleman and Neville to sacrifice Neville’s vast amounts of experience and leadership abilities.

The leadership qualities I believe are essential as I do not think that any of our midfielders or strikers have any leadership potential. Several fans have been foolish enough to write off Tony Hibbert's Everton career in the past few years and I am not going to join them; I believe Moyes will have Hibbert and a replacement centre back and I for one would like to see Coleman make his presence felt from the bench this season, either as a more attacking right back option, or even as a flying right winger.

Left Midfield

Stephen Pienaar again has had a great season; his combination with Leighton Baines is brilliant to watch. With just the 1 year left on his contract, he is understandably trying to get the best contract he can. I don’t think many people will argue if he was the best-paid player at the club, I certainly think he deserves more money than our current top earners (The Yak and Kangaroo Tim). I think a £55k-per-week 4-year contract would represent good business for all concerned... this should ideally be done before the World Cup before the vultures start circling; however, given Everton’s recent record of acting quickly, I am not holding my breath.

Centre Midfield

In my strongest Everton team for the coming season, I will stick to the Moyes 4-5-1 formation. Marouane Fellaini will be the anchor of the midfield where he dominated games for us before his injury. I have always been in Fellaini’s camp when many Everton fans were on his back. I always took the view that he was a young lad coming to a different county, being played out of position; along with that, he had a huge amount of expectation to deal with because of the €15 million price tag. I felt he showed moments of what he was capable in his first season (very similar to Bilyaletdinov) and was always confident he would come good.

Mikel Arteta is unsurprisingly another of the three central midfielders. Having not been old enough to watch the great team of the 80s, for me, Arteta is unquestionably the best player I have ever seen in an Everton shirt (Rooney was certainly a class act, but produced his best for United and England). Since he came back from injury, Everton look so much more incisive... I can't help wondering whether we would have already had 4th place in the bag. If he can continue his current goal-scoring form into next season, we could make yet another bold bid for 4th, aided by the fact we will almost certainly not have to deal with European football next season.

Jack Rodwell is my (perhaps surprising) choice for the third central midfield berth. Leon Osman and Tim Cahill fans will certainly have plenty to say on this matter but I believe that recent substitute performances against Man Utd and Hull show he has the ability to do a job that Gerrard has fulfilled for Liverpool over the past decade as the marauding midfielder able to score goals. He is certainly a more technically gifted player than Cahill and has more presence and power than Osman.

Right Midfield

I, like the vast majority of Everton fans, believe we are crying out for a right midfielder. When Donovan joined us for 10 weeks, we looked a much more dangerous team with a bit of pace down the right; perhaps just as important, if we have a quality right winger, the opposition's left back will not want to get forward as much, which will protect Neville.

As I have stated before, I believe Bilyaletdinov will have a really good season; however, at the moment, my first choice right midfielder is Victor Anichebe. This idea first took hold when he played several games in a row down the right just before his injury (even in the play before his injury, he would take on two players driving towards the box). He is quick and strong, good in the air, and has an eye for goal. I also really like the idea of him getting into the box from the right when Baines and Pienaar are crossing balls from the left.

His recent substitute contributions have showed he has been really effective on the right wing; he deserves a starting place to shrug off the ‘impact player’ tag. After all, how can he be classed as anything but an impact player if he never starts? On that point, I think he will start the remaining two games on the right of Everton’s midfield.


The Yak gets the nod up-front for me; I just think that we look more likely to score while he is up there... Louis has had a fantastic season and I am sure he will make another big contribution this season (if mainly from the bench). It looks as though we have signed Joao Silva, which may signal the end of Vaughan’s Everton career; that will be a shame as I think the lad has something to offer. But would even a fully fit Vaughan get ahead of the Yak and Saha for our one striking slot? I don’t think we need another striker  — Anichebe could do a job up front, and also I believe we could get Donovan from January till the end of the season.

Substitutes – 1. Mucha; 2. Distin; 3. Coleman; 4. Osman; 5. Bilyaletdinov; 6. Cahill; 7. Saha.

Tim Cahill could be crucial to Everton’s season, even if he is only on the bench. I would like to think he could carve out a ‘super-sub’ reputation for himself, similar to what Duncan Ferguson done when we finished 4th; no defense would like to see Cahill coming off the bench with 20 minutes to go.

Finally, I think Everton should try and capture the services of Jamie O’Hara who has had a fantastic season for Pompey. He may well be going on the cheap having stated he wanted Pompey to beat his parent club Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final. Also, his missus is a scouser.

I look forward to reading all your comments.

Reader Comments

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Mike McLean
1   Posted 01/05/2010 at 06:20:14

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I guess it won't be too long before your comments about Tim C are ripped up by the groupies. Good luck with that! As to the other Tim, today will see him experience the kind of pressure he normally wilts under. I hope he copes but I have my doubts.
Lynn Thorne
2   Posted 01/05/2010 at 07:39:43

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There is far too much to comment on individual points and a lot of them have been mentioned before. But just a couple of points.

Victor is not and I don't think ever will be a right-sided midfielder. His strength is in the middle as a traditional striker.

Also Pienaar, although excellent on the wing, is a better central midfielder. I know this makes us 'heavy' in that department, but shows that we do need proper wide players.

Hopefully we can keep all our best players and bring in 2-3 really good players — I don't know who and don't have any answers. Hope Moyes does!

Ross Keeley
3   Posted 01/05/2010 at 08:24:32

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Isn't Fabianski the Polish keeper? I don't think he is Slovakian?
Mike Gwyer
4   Posted 01/05/2010 at 08:21:23

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Tony; Regarding Pienaar.

You quote £55k per week should do the trick... unfortunately, I think he will be looking at getting a stack more cash than that. Additionally, I think he will not mind seeing out his last year at EFC then moving on for real big bucks (this would obviously not be Moyes's or BK's choice) — either way, the guy's onto a good thing and it will be a lot more than £55k per week.
Sam Hoare
5   Posted 01/05/2010 at 08:31:15

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I actually agree with almost everything you have said... apart from possibly Jamie O'Hara, who (whilst I rate) is not the pacey right winger I think we need.

I also think that it is Bily who may get the third central midfield slot. I think that he should operate behind the striker. He's too slow to play out wide.

Much as I love Timmy, I agree that his role over next season and after should be as an impact sub.

Andy Crooks
6   Posted 01/05/2010 at 09:37:28

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Tony, the thought of Bily at left back playing against, say, Aaron Lennon is quite frightening.
Mike Elbey
7   Posted 01/05/2010 at 09:47:44

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Good post.

I think we are all filled with optiism for next season. The frustration is how tantalising close we are to being a very good side.

We all will have our opinions on what is needed to take us forward. I believe we need keep hold of our existing players need to sign a pacy right sided player, preferably Donavan, and a young, hungry, 20-goal-a-season striker — I would suggest someone like Huntelaar as he has obvious ability but has fallen away recently — a typical Moyes signing and he is probably available.

However, our problem as ever is finance and we probably will not have enough money to do the above. This I believe is the crossroads summer for this squad as players are reaching their late 20s — this is their time. As such, we need to decide whether we go with what we have and accept we are one of 5 sides below a top 3 who could finish anywhere between 4 and 8.? Or do we raise some cash by selling one of our players to enable the necessary purchases to maybe take us forward?

Dave Wilson has posted many times stating that Jags should be the one to go in this instance. I accept his reasons (hoofball) but personally I feel he is still our best defender. Personally, I would sacrafice Rodwell, someone who would not start in a full strength team, if it resulted in us being able to make the necessary signings.
David Hallwood
8   Posted 01/05/2010 at 10:31:37

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I think all Evertonians think that right-side midfield is our number 1 priority. Donovan opened our eyes to the potential of the team with a pacy right-sided player, and the team looked more balanced. He would get my vote of target No 1 in the summer, because his work ethic is first class, so he would help out defensively, and of course his favoured position is the Cahill role so there would be scope for a bit of fluidity in our play. And the $64k question, can we afford him, well let's do a Ronaldo, he cost £73M and Real got that back on the shirts. FFS, I now our merchandising isn't the best, but if we can't recoup the price tag in the USA they all need sacking.
Dick Fearon
9   Posted 01/05/2010 at 09:50:02

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Judging by earlier comments, most of you want a team to play 'joined-up' football with no place for the bustling in-your-face non-stop box-to-box excellent attacking and defensive ability of Tim Cahill. Perhaps the anti-Tim mob would prefer 10 minutes per game input from Bily and Ossie with their oh so wonderful skills... I can see those two plus a few others get stuck in when the going gets tough.

Name one Premier League winning team who did not have at least one Cahill aggressive niggling type of player. I suggest the 'joined-up' fans take a look at Barcelona's game vs IC Milan. The world's greatest exponents of 'joined-up' football playing in front of a passionate home crowd having overwhelming posession of the ball against 10 men could not create a single shot on goal.

Without goal mouth action, all their intricate passing made for a totally dull spectacle.

What that game cried out for was a Cahill type, fearless in the box, with exraordinary heading ability and a sheer bloody determination to make things happen.
Andy Morden
10   Posted 01/05/2010 at 10:38:10

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Thought provoking article Tony.

I think — as someone else has mentioned before about our best paid player — that honour goes to Johnny Heitinga (well, so it is rumoured).

Personally, I think we need more options down the wings; we have a lot of players for the centre mid-berths. It also gives us more options, different styles of play. Certain teams you may need to use pace on the break against; other teams, a more intricate passing game suited to Pienaar or Arteta. I think we have enough players capable of playing the 'destroyer' or holding role in the middle of the park (Felli, Heitinga and Neville when desperate).

We have the players with subtly different qualities to play the creative or attacking role (Cahill as the predatory midfielder, Arteta as the conductor, Pienaar as the pass-and-move man, and Osman with his ability to trick players with his quick feet on top form). But we lack options down the wings.

Someone on the thread about cheating said the other day that a good manager / team has the ability to play in different ways according to need. So getting the balance in our squad is essential.

As for left back — we need cover. I have never seen Distin play full back and I am not sure I have to desire to do so. Neville could cover there at a push, but it is far more sensible to have a natural left footed specialist player there. Elokobi at Wolves looks to have come on leaps and bounds this season, pacey, direct and he's an absolute beast of a man too. Cover and an alternative to Baines in terms of physical attributes.

Lastly, on Rodwell — the lad is still developing. We need to nurture him. I think only over the next few couple of season will we realise where he will be best deployed. His ability to drive forward and cause havoc certainly excites me.

Another issue is bringing through the 'next generation'. Some under-the-radar signings with potential and products from the youth academy are needed; our current team will need replacing at some point. Slow evolution on that score I think.

Still, I'm not the boss. And for good reason probably. Let us see what happens...

James Stewart
11   Posted 01/05/2010 at 10:44:16

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I agree with hardly any of this sorry.

Signing Senderos is madness. He looked truly woeful in his brief appearances for the first team. Duffy would be a far better option we don't need to waste wages on anyone. Also Yobo is far superior to Senderos.

Hibbert should be the first choice right back at the start of the season. He has been excellent in the last few games. Coleman used from the bench. No place for Neville.

Vic is not the answer on the right. Nor would I play Yakubu over Saha. The gulf in class between those two is massive. Both cannot be relied on though so a new striker is essential. As is right winger.
Trevor Lynes
12   Posted 01/05/2010 at 11:24:35

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I also do not see Senderos as a good player to keep... I also think that Yobo is much better... Unfortunately Duffy is playing in a very poor reserve team that is shipping goals and that is not a good habit.

I agree that Tim and Ossie should be impact subs as both tend to struggle over 90 minutes. Anichebe is also strong but seems a bit limited on stamina. Nowadays, most top sides have decent subs to come on at strategic points to bring 'fresh' legs or change strategy when things are not going too well.

I don't have a clue what is going on behind the scenes because Coleman looked good to me, but I don't see him in training?? Our two boys out on loan at Motherwell seem to be worth keeping according to reports and they could save us some money.

I agree with most writers that a wide player who can cross the ball especially from the right is needed. Unfortunately, very few wingers seem capable of good crosses even at top sides... pace is required but also accuracy of cross.

Bily could well be the answer next season but he does seem to lack pace and stamina over 90 minutes. I just wish we had a right sided Gareth Bale.....!!

Mike Elbey
13   Posted 01/05/2010 at 12:00:13

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Agree with a lot you say. I was only advocating the sale of Rodwell as an option worth considering should it enable us to strengthen in other areas — ie, the wings and up front. I am not convinced myself it is the right thing to do but I think it is worth some thought.

Regarding the left back position, I would not be surprised to see Luke Garbutt promoted to the senior squad next season along with Duffy. Moyes seems to like introducing a couple of youngsters to the squad each year — the likes of Vaughan, Anichebe, Rodwell, Gosling, Baxter, Wallace and Coleman have all been gradually introduced over the past few years and I see that trend continuing.

Isn't it great though that we are going into a summer thinking we need maybe 1 or 2 additions and the retention of our current players whereas the FSW over the park is saying they need 5 big-money signings! How on earth they have taken 6 points of us this season still baffles me...
Phil Bellis
14   Posted 01/05/2010 at 12:12:41

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Mike; "...ripped up by the groupies..." sounds as painful as swung round by the goolies!
Ian McDowell
15   Posted 01/05/2010 at 12:42:51

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I fear that we will lose Pienaar this summer and this will lead to the inevitable slow start to the season as we are scrambling around the last week of the transfer window trying to replace him.
Callum Wilson
16   Posted 01/05/2010 at 14:07:50

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First a nice cliché. Long time reader first time poster. I was just thinking about the next season and what came to mind was the anticipated return of Mo the Fro (the Big Fella). I'm hoping that when he returns he will pick up where he left off and do the same job he did on Bellamy... ah, how sweet that was...

I think given the return of Arteta and how he has hit the ground running that there's a good chance he could come back just as a good as he left. Plus at least his bloody father isn't calling for him to go to Chelsea now.

ps: Downloaded the Man Utd game and watching it back again (took nearly 6 days to finish but worth it); wouldn't it be great if next year we could have a few more games like that and include the scum across the park? Here's hoping...

pps: Did anyone hear in the Liverpool game on the PA system calling for a "Norwegian woman" you can't make it up. As Mastercard say, priceless! Haha... made me chuckle anyway.

Martin Mason
17   Posted 01/05/2010 at 13:58:24

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We were once in the position that nearly any buy was improvement. We're now in the great position that improving the present squad is very difficult with the money that we have. On this basis, we have reached our limit. To get better, we need brilliant youngsters coming through or the ability to pay £25mil for a player, neither of which is possible.

For my 2p's worth, Bily will never be a Premier League player although he does have some skill. Our priority is a young striker and a right-side midfielder as good as Donovan. We are embarrassed by good midfielders so a couple of good squad utility players to fill the gaps when we have injuries is the need.

We can't get rid of Jagielka, he is just too good as a defender. Moyes just has to manage his limitations which means playing Heitinga with him although his best position is probably midfield.

I don't believe that Senderos is an Everton standard defender as he was not Arsenal standard. Not even a substitute.

Tim Cahill will always limit Everton, he is a brilliant sub top 4 player who can fill in in midfield and chip in with important goals but he wouldn't get into any top 4 side (and nobody has tried to buy him?) and that is the acid test. He will be a good sub but if Everton are to move on, it has to be post-TC for me at least.

I'm worried now that whilst we have a very good but small squad we don't have the wherewithal to move on from being a top 6 club (which is an amazing achievement) to being top 3; the buys that are being mooted won't see us there.

Liam Reilly
18   Posted 01/05/2010 at 18:33:55

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"Tim Cahill will always limit Everton, he wouldn't get into any top 4 side (and nobody has tried to buy him?)"

How do you know that? It is possible he has been approached but decided against a move. The guy loves the club and he'd be in my team everytime for the effort he puts in and his awareness in the box.
Dan Brierley
19   Posted 01/05/2010 at 18:00:31

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I don't think we need £25 million pound players to be honest.

I think Pienaar is going to go for around £10-15 million, and Moyes will use the money to fund the replacement and a right-sided player.
Peter Griffin
20   Posted 01/05/2010 at 19:19:01

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Landon Donovan signed a new 4-year contract the other day with a clause for a loan move in the winter. So there seems little chance of signing him permanently. I'd go for N'Zogbia: pace, direct, young... and Wigan would sell if the price was right.
Gavin Ramejkis
21   Posted 01/05/2010 at 22:11:23

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I think we would all love a £25m striker but we won't see any in the near future in a blue shirt.
John Vanderwerff
22   Posted 01/05/2010 at 22:19:59

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Senderos for Yobo — I think you're insane! If Yobo does go, I'm hoping Duffy starts to get a few more games.

I would like to see Anichibe up front. Power, a degree of guile, strength and a greater willingness to work than Saha and Yakubu — I know, not hard!

We need cover for Baines at left back.

I think Bily will come to the fore next season. Large number of assists this term and a few goals when he obviously isn't match fit.

We also need pace in midfield from a wideman — Donovan showed what an outlet of that kind can do for us.

Onwards and upwards.

Peter Warren
23   Posted 01/05/2010 at 23:03:55

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Good Article. Areas we need improving are clear to me — simply areas where we are weakest — right back, right midfield, forward, centre back and goalie and in that order. Finding people whether within club or outside is more tricky to answer.

If we have or make any cash, I think right midfield and strikers are absolute priorities and for this, outside recruitment required.
Adolf Ng
24   Posted 02/05/2010 at 20:22:00

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Tony, according to Wikipedia, Mucha was actually second fiddle to Fabianski when playing for Legia Warzawa ... so, even more discomfort...

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