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Have we Got the Bottle?

By Mike Oates :  02/05/2010 :  Comments (36) :
For a start, I do believe we have a team who are capable of playing terrific football, good interchange passing, movement off the ball, easy on the, eye etc etc. There is nothing finer for us Evertonians than watching the intricate passing between Pienaar, Arteta and Baines, often leading to an overlap creating goalscoring opportunities, the determination/power of Heitinga or Fellaini in the middle, the imperious Jags commanding the back, or the absolute terror Cahill causes defences at set pices.

But there is something missing – we haven’t got the clinical finisher (a la Torres, Defoe, Rooney, Tevez), we haven’t got the quality on the right, we can leak goals at regular intervals against teams with pace, and we also look weak in the middle against what I would call strong arm teams – Stoke, Wolves, Bolton, and Blackburn.

Do we have enough to believe we can compete next year for a CL spot? – I’m undecided.

Most of us would pick something like Howard, Coleman, Jags, Heitinga, Baines, Pienaar, Arteta, Fellaini, Bily/Donovan, Cahill, Saha/Yak as a good first 11 – I’m sure we’ll all have one or two changes to this team, but basically there are at least 9 of these which would be in all our teams. This team could well hold its own against anyone in today’s Premier League on top form, but I say that with some trepidation – I’m not sure at all whether the Jags/Hetinga partnership will work, is it tall enough to cope with the likes of Drogba, Crouch, Carew... Stoke and Bolton.

Will Coleman cut the mustard? Hibbert or Neville won't give us the attacking threat we need on the right. Will Bily actually prove to be a good player or another Krøldrup ? Will Saha and Yak continue to disappoint us with their poor support play, lack of movement? Will Howard still have the jitters when under pressure? Will the Fellaini and Arteta combination work? – they have virtually never played together for any length of time. Why should all of these concerns change next season and we suddenly become a Top 4 contender?

The positive point we can allude to is that, according to some stats I saw this week, we would be in 2nd place at the moment if the league started last November instead of August, and for the first time since time and memorial we actually beat Man U and Chelsea, but hey we didn’t beat Spurs, Villa and of course Liverpool. (The negatives wont go away !!!)

As I said above, there is something still missing. Other than possibly a good right winger and a clinical finisher, I think what we’re missing is the mental strength to actually win games you really need to win, the games when you are so far on top but you don’t score you don’t bury teams or the games when you don’t play well but you need to scrape in with a win. (West Ham, Wolves, Stoke, Sporting Lisbon, Villa, Birmingham spring to mind.)

This mental strength is not just a player thing it’s also a managerial thing – Moyes has given too much respect to teams at times (Stoke away). I’m not sure the players we have, have the mental strength to really believe in themselves when the pressure is really on – you need the type of players I listed above and the likes of Terry, Lampard, Milner, and in the past Reid, Sharpy, Gray... today we’ve got Jags and possibly Heitinga. Its an issue which Arsenal have regularly shown to be lacking in – they really are a joy to watch but they just don’t win the games they should – they don’t have the mental strength to overcome the bad games.

I really do hope that we start so well we build on the mental side and the team carry on where we have left off and there is a steely determination to win games we deserve or don’t deserve to win. The table doesn’t lie, to get into the Top 4, we are short by 20 goals from where we should be in scoring and we have conceded 15 goals more than we should have. Can we improve to that level – only time will tell...

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Chris Dawson
1   Posted 03/05/2010 at 08:07:26

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Surely the lack of goals scored and the excess of goals conceded are symptomatic of our poor start? If we hadn't have had such a 'mare up till November then those stats would have been much better.

We do need to learn how to finish teams off when we are on top, but I really don't think we are that far away. As you say, a good start might be all that is needed for a top 4 assult, we can clearly build up momentum and maintain it for a sustained period.

What is great about where we are at the moment is that we are on the brink of really achieving something, and we have gone about it in the right manner. We just need to get behind the team and help to build that momentum early doors and who knows what could happen! COYB

Gavin Ramejkis
2   Posted 03/05/2010 at 08:37:20

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To be a contender I think we need at least one 20-goal-a-season guaranteed player. The big boys are regularly flying away on goal difference so even if we do get the points we may struggle on goals. Chelski smashed seven past Stoke and if we think we want to gate crash the party we are going to need to do some smashing ourselves and go for much bigger goal differences.

A lot of that is down to players but it's also down to the manager and formation, he needs to be a lot more positive in some games and the team need to be able to put teams to the sword and not just score one or two then ease off the gas.

Michael Westcott
3   Posted 03/05/2010 at 07:49:10

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There are some good points raised here.

Looking at goals scored and conceded, I think we all agree that the Blues have had another season of two halves. It took us about 10 games to get going last season and it's taken a bit longer to get going this season. Probably 13-14 league games before we started to look like playing well.

If we split the season in two equal halves (between the Arsenal and Burnley games) we can see that in our first 19 games we conceded 32 goals, in our last 18 games we have conceded 17. If we can carry that kind of defensive form over next season we'll be looking at 36 conceeded or there about.

Turning to goals scored, we scored 26 in our opening 19 games and 33 in our last 18. Carry the latter average out over a season and we're looking at 69-70 goals, which is about 10 short of something that is truly competitive with the top 4.

The point I'm getting around to is that the core squad of 18-20 players at our disposal is more than good enough to be achieving 4th next season. (In my opinion we could even be challenging for 3rd.) What we need to worry about is our consistency: for the last two seasons we've started the season too late, giving our rivals too much of a head start. If we ever want to win anything or compete at the highest level, we have to be focused. A decent close season would be a start. Which for me means no outbound transfers of players we want to keep and the capture of one or two good players (Joe Cole on a free anyone?) and a few promising youngsters.

For me the missing piece to the jigsaw is up front; I actually think that in order for us to do anything special we need a complete centre forward in the style of Drogba... big, strong, quick and who scores goals. A small pacey striker like Defoe wouldn't fit because we'd be playing him up front on his own in order to accomodate Pienaar, Rodwell, Cahill, Fellaini and Arteta.

The future is bright for us if we can keep this squad together, get them playing from the first game of the season and can get someone who can put the ball in the net consistently. Oscar Cardozo has scored 24 league goals in 27 league games this season (36 in all 45 games); if we can somehow snare him then I'd be made up.
Kieran Fitzgerald
4   Posted 03/05/2010 at 08:47:57

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I think what we are lacking is a Roy Keane type player. Someone who will drive the team forward, who will snap and snarl at our players when needed. Someone who will grab the game by the scruff of the neck and get things going.

There are goals and creativity in this team. The defense has also shown itself at times to be very mean. It's just like you said though Mike, sometimes this team's mental strength isn't great and it ends up letting itself get bullied out of a game and put off by it. Alex Ferguson had Roy Keane to take his hairdryer approach onto the pitch and it worked wonders. For me, this is the one type of player we need to buy first and foremost over the summer.
Colin Potter
5   Posted 03/05/2010 at 08:55:40

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Why mention Krøldrup? He seems to have done very well for himself playing CL in Italy, also he is going to SA for the World Cup playing for Denmark. Maybe it was Moyes who made a cock-up, eh?
Matthew Lovekin
6   Posted 03/05/2010 at 09:13:04

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I think Fellaini is this missing link. He has shown enough potential in his time here, especially when he hit form before his injury this season, to develop into a real world class player. He seems to be developing the mental strength we need as well as the extra height we need when playing teams like Stoke. I don't think height is a problem as we can also include Rodwell for these games.

Fellaini was developing the defensive side to his game and can also get forward and score goals. A fully fit season and I believe Fellaini will turn into one of the best all-round midfielders in the league.

The missing link is a really top all-round striker. Unfortunately, these are sparse and cost a lot of money which we can't afford. Yakubu was expensive enough but one of these luxury strikers like Berbatov or Ibrahimovich, that only seem to do well when the team is performing. Saha has the quality but often goes missing in games, probably due to his mental ability of not wanting to get injured. Anything we get out of Saha is a bonus. Ditto for Vaughan and I don't believe Anichebe or Baxter are good enough.

A top quality striker is often the difference between a good team and a great team, a win or defeat. How we can afford a striker like that, I'm not sure.
Richard Dodd
7   Posted 03/05/2010 at 10:29:10

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What is absolutely vital is that we avoid those summer/early season traumas which have become part and parcel of `the Everton Way`! The manager`s contract talks, uncertainty over availability of funding and prolonged disputes about granting transfers have all mitigated against getting off to a flying start in recent years.

Clearly little can be done to amelierate the kind of injury crisis we suffered last time but all at the top should have learned the lesson about going into the season with all guns firing. I know we, as humble fans, have!

David McKee
8   Posted 03/05/2010 at 10:24:33

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Mike, I think you have a good point but I am not sure it's "bottle" — more mental strength. RS have it in Gerrard and Carragher, those two alone won the mental section of the last derby. No way they outplayed us or deserved to win. But when Carragher deliberately and, which was evidently preplanned, hit Peanut in the firtst few minutes, it unnerved everyone. Look at Pip and Tim H pissing about with Kyuntt... Kytte.. (whatever his name is) at the corner — one of them should have taken him out.

I should say all except Fellaini, who forgot about his footballing progress this season and reverted back to running around headless, trying to kick, elbow and mistime tackles, and who would have been sent off anyway before that Greek whatsisname did him.

No, it's not lack of bottle, it's mental strength you know, street wise, which is different than Bottle. Besides, you only have to look at Tiny Tim, he is scared of no-one, totally fearless; he takes all the knocks without complaint.

But you are definitely right that Moyes needs to lead on this. He has to preach or bully this into their game. Look at Inter against Barca, nowhere near the skill level but defending is as much as a skill as attacking and the mental strength they showed was fantastic.
Anyway, roll on next season with a fully fit squad — I can't wait.

Tony J Williams
9   Posted 03/05/2010 at 11:25:40

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Chris, we have scored more goals this season than last, unfortunately we have shipped a lot more too.

I mentioned on another thread that if we beat Portsmouth, we will be only 2 points behind our total of last year, so whilst this has been a frustrating season it has not been nearly as bad as most of us perceive it to be. The biggest problem now is that the teams around us are now all starting to hit the 60 point mark, so we are standing still, which means, in this league, we are starting to go backwards.
Jon Cox
10   Posted 03/05/2010 at 11:42:05

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Agree with all of the above. I also think that Moyes has to get a settled back four in the pre season.

He did this well in the beginning of his tenure but through poor judgment or just plain bad luck couldn't keep that back door shut. He needs to sort this as a priority.

I hear SWP could be up for grabs. The thought of him and Coleman down the right flank makes my hair stand on end.
David Hallwood
11   Posted 03/05/2010 at 12:01:50

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The priorities are there for all to see, and unusual for TW everyone's in agreement. My first transfer target would be Donovan, pace down the right great work ethic can play in the Cahill role. Solve the riddle of Saha, on his day unplayable, on other days, has he sent his twin brother in his place? and cover for Baines. Oh and Moyes not to treat Wolves at home and Stoke away, akin to playing Barcelona and put a team out that can get the 3 points.
Shane Corcoran
12   Posted 03/05/2010 at 12:39:29

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Mike, I couldn't agree more with your article but I think some of the responses are missing the point, or at least the point I think you're trying to make. If, for example, we made a really good start this season it's not necessarily the case that we'd have been better off. Mental strength is needed when you're in a strong position and need to see it through, just as Newcastle didn't do under Keegan.

We could have been top at Christmas but lacked the bottle to push on. Of course a clean bill of health, no European hindrance etc will help but if we get these positives it's down to Moyes to instill the mindset in his players that they can push themselves further than they have so far.

Jay Harris
13   Posted 03/05/2010 at 13:04:23

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Mike; your post raises a few questions but IMO we have the mental strength but not the quality in certain departments:

1. We still struggle to keep clean sheets because our back 4 (Jags and Howard included) is not up to top 4 standard (or even top 6).

2. As rightly pointed out by others, we totally lack pace and therefore our buildups are slow.

3. We lack a clinical finisher although, if and when the Yak gets fit, he could resolve this. Saha does not cut it for me. He is too inconsistent and injury prone.

So for me we need a top quality CB, a less nervy keeper, a pacy winger and an additional clinical finisher.

I believe we have the mental strength and team spirit to get there but need a bigger quality squad.
Trevor Lynes
14   Posted 03/05/2010 at 13:57:51

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Last season, we started poorly because we were not prepared and our squad was obviously too small to bear the long-term injuries. DM and Round both tend to go on the pre-season trips and no one is left to BUY the players we need or at least supervise... Every season, we start badly and it's catch-up from then on. It's a miracle we always seem to finish fast but too late to make real challenges.

Unless we have ambition at Board level, I cannot see us doing well in the future. BK always talks about investment but it's like 'the never ending story'... Let's face it — we will sell to buy and hope that DM continues to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

John McLoughlin
15   Posted 03/05/2010 at 14:27:17

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Pre-season is vital if we are to push on next season. A good pre-season and no European distractions means if we have a fully fit squad with a couple of additions we can challenge for top 4. I do agree we lack the mental strength as was shown in both derbies. Torres apart, Liverpool are no longer better than us but we bottled both occasions. If we got a clinical finisher or a fully fit Yak & Saha with a pacey right winger, I am confident we'd get top 4 next season. Moyes must learn from the mistakes of the previous two summers.
Martin Mason
16   Posted 03/05/2010 at 14:37:31

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4-5-1 only works when you have very good LHS and RHS midfielders. Everton are a bloody top class side as our 2nd half of the season shows but we will never make the breakthrough until we get that top class right-side player. Osman isn't it and it is unfair to expect him to be.

The importance of the good attacking RHS player is also better defensively as the opposing RB can't become an attacker. If you want to see how a perfect 4-5-1 is played watch Everton in the late 60s with Johny Morrisey (what a player) and Husband with Joe Royle (the best 4-5-1 forward ever). Marcus Bent was also very good for me but in an otherwise weak Everton team.

There also has to be a plan B which we never seem to have. We are far, far too good to draw at Stoke and Wolves (and at Anfield nowadays) and that is the problem that we have. I believe that a good RHS player will solve most of the problems but are Yak and Saha top 4 players? I say no, Saha has been a shadow of the player we know he can be.

Denis Byrne
17   Posted 03/05/2010 at 17:01:49

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In order to arrange (late) holidays and sort out where I should be for xmas, when exactly does next season start and what date do the fixtures come out? (Can't see any info on the PL official website and Google not helpful either.)
Eugene Ruane
18   Posted 03/05/2010 at 17:56:42

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We have the bottle.

Unfortunately, we don't have the money.

And because we don't, we can't afford the talent.

So no we won't, in my view, be challenging for a CL spot.
Andy Crooks
19   Posted 03/05/2010 at 19:19:38

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No, Mike, we haven't. Neither the players or the coach. I will be going to the Portsmouth game. I don't get to many games because it costs more than I can afford to travel over. I picked the last game of the season as one of the matches I could go to, firstly because there is usually a great atmosphere and secondly because I hoped there might be something at stake.

Well, the abysmal showing against Stoke made it certain there would be nothing at stake. We could actually have been looking forward to a special day. I think that Hull will turn over Liverpool but it doesn't matter. Next Sunday is irrelevant because of the tactical ineptitude of our coach.

Is there any who can say that the performance of David Moyes last week was anything other than negative, second rate, safety first, terrified (by Stoke, for fuck's sake)... unacceptable crap. I understand that inept and Moyes are words that upset some Evertonians. I can't think of anything better, however.

Pat Finegan
20   Posted 03/05/2010 at 19:29:12

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"We would be in 2nd place at the moment if the league started last November instead of August"

If you read that and don't think we have a chance, let me explain what it means. We have outplayed everyone except Man U (either them or Chelski, I'm pretty sure it's Man U). We have outplayed Arsenal, Chelski, Redshite, Citteh, all those teams that we 'just can't compete with' for the past 6 months.

We have a definite shot next year, there's no disputing that. You can say that luck probably won't be on our side or whatever you want to diminish that chance but the chance exists.

Colin Wainwright
21   Posted 03/05/2010 at 19:39:42

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Can we not give the daily Moyes bashing a fuckin rest for a while Andy.
Yer like a stuck record lad.
Phil Bellis
22   Posted 03/05/2010 at 21:13:53

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Spot on Martin re Morrissey... the unsung warrior. Every player from that team I've had the privilege to meet; when asked about that midfield, has referred to Moggsy as the 4th man in the Holy Trinity
Brendan McLaughlin
23   Posted 03/05/2010 at 22:56:59

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Have we got the bottle? We beat Manure, Chelski & Citee and you still have to ask the question. It's not bottle that's in short supply, it's quality — at least in depth.
Mark Harrison
24   Posted 03/05/2010 at 23:11:20

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A decent article, and I have to agree that we are in need of a top draw striker that can get us 20 plus goals!! As for the bottle, I think we have it; as some have already said we have beaten the top sides and I think its unrealistic for people to think we can go out and win every single game, whether it is Stoke or Wolves, both are tough places to go.

We have been beaten something like twice in the last twenty, which is not bad at all!! Fact is our poor start with injuries etc, cost us big time! We deffo have a chance of competeing for the top 4 next season!!

Alex Whitney
25   Posted 03/05/2010 at 23:45:57

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Huntelaar can be that striker, imo.
Derek Thomas
26   Posted 04/05/2010 at 00:12:45

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The bottle will come with confidence, which will come when the inconsistency goes and round and round it goes, that said...

I fully endorse the team as set out at the top, feed the Yak etc., Coleman - unproven in the Scottish sense of neither yes or no, Cahill is the ultimate not quite a forward needed for that role.

But after that we / I start to get into FM land and you need big money to do that.

Worries about Johnny H ?? Vs Drogba etc, he had him and Rooney in his pocket at home or did they just have off / quiet days, chicken and egg. I prefer to think he had them in his pocket.

We got a £15mill player for £5mill, armband or no he seems to boss the team a la Keane.

Davy Moyes sometimes goes into his shell / reverts to what some say is his type, cautious...Back up quality and the money to buy them, pay them and keep them when we unearth gems.

Those 3 or 4 issues are what worry me.

Oh, and a decent pre-season wouldn't hurt.
Eric Myles
27   Posted 04/05/2010 at 02:24:52

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The problems with some of the names mentioned as needed to improve us next season (J. Cole, SWP, Huntelaar) will be the salary. Although Cole will be a free he must be on good pay at big spenders Chelsea, same with SWP. dunno about Huntelaar.
Kevin Tully
28   Posted 04/05/2010 at 11:03:06

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Err, could half of our first team being out injured have some bearing on results in the first half of the season?
Eugene Ruane
29   Posted 04/05/2010 at 10:03:12

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Pat Finegan, you say...

"We have a definite shot next year, there's no disputing that".

Er....yes there is.

Shot at....WHAT?

The League?

Top four?

Improving on this year (ie: 7th)

You talk about the teams we 'outplayed'.

Talk about exaggeration.

Actually, want to now how far we've fallen?

These days any top team we're able to compete with (ON THE DAY!) becomes 'we outplayed them'.

Do you know who we 'outplayed' in the PL this season? home

Here is something many (seem to) fail to grasp (or more likely) simply don't want to.

Of COURSE we can get a result against anyone - 'on our day', but titles are won over 38 days.

(nb: I've seen a few non-league sides perform 'giant-killings' in the FA cup over the years, but none of them have ever gone on to win the trophy).

Us talking about titles is loony tunes as far as I'm concerned.

We drew at home with Stoke, Birmingham, West Ham and Wolves.

We lost away to Hull, Burnley, Bolton.

We threw 6 points points away against West Ham, Arsenal and Villa.

('if'? - if the Queen had balls she'd be the King)

Plus if you're honest, we could just of easily have lost some of the games we won (Portsmouth away, Fulham at home etc).

We also lost twice to maybe the worst Liverpool side I've ever seen (and I'm 50)

We finished in a CL spot a few years back.

In the seasons after, we missed out on CL but we qualified for Europa.

Now we've qualified for nothing.

If this was represented on a graph, what direction do you think the arrow would be going in?

Does anyone REALLY think that Chelsea and United's near monopoly on trophies has nothing to do with the fact that they've been the two wealthiest clubs?

Does anyone think City would be competing for fourth if Sheikh Yerplums hadn't bought them?

Of COURSE you'll get the occasional blip, but over time, those with shed-loads of money will generally be successful and those without a pot to piss in, won't.

Either that or all these billionaires are going to feel SO silly when we win the title and they realize they could have saved their money and done it the Everton way.

(rolls eyes so far back, looking at own eye-sockets)

Tony J Williams
30   Posted 04/05/2010 at 10:34:58

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"I think that Hull will turn over Liverpool but it doesn't matter" Seriously? You think a team that has been relegated will beat Liverpool? You suggest this on what basis?

If you were pinning your hopes on that happening, I would suggest that you are either a) very optimistic or b) deluded.
Andy Crooks
31   Posted 04/05/2010 at 12:49:53

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Tony, Liverpool are a poor side who seem to be totally demoralized. Hull are a very poor side but I think they'll really be up for it. They will want to leave the Premier League on a high and I will be having a small bet in them.
Tony J Williams
32   Posted 04/05/2010 at 13:30:26

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So you don't think being relegated will demoralise a side then?
Kevin Tully
33   Posted 04/05/2010 at 13:22:40

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Sorry EJ, it's not all about the money.

Viera, Barry, S.W.P. De Jong. I wouldn't swap any of these for our first choice midfield. We now have our best first 11 since we won the Title. The Europa League cost us points this season, because we couldn't even field 11 fit first team players for the start of the season.

I think we were third in form for the last 22 games, so if we avoid the catastrophic injuries we endured last season, why can't we have a go for 4th spot?
Martin Mason
34   Posted 04/05/2010 at 13:34:35

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Yes, Moyes was overcome by negativity at Stoke but what if we'd lost 1-0 to panic from a Delap throw? Moyes's remit isn't to throw games away but I must admit he does my fucking head in at times.

I hate to say it but the perfect fit for Everton is Bellamy from City if we can't get Donovan. I believe that Moyes could manage him too.
Andy Crooks
35   Posted 04/05/2010 at 17:30:41

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Kevin, unfortunately, catastrophic injuries seem to haunt us.
Christopher Kelly
36   Posted 08/05/2010 at 08:37:39

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I was hoping we could get our hands on Chamakh... we need someone who can turn the tide of the game on a dime... someone who can nick a goal against the run of play and be a talisman. We don't have that up front.

I think we should be looking to replace Cahill. We're playing a more flowing game and need a player like Lisandro or a Pedro (someone young who we could pickup for £8 mil: someone who can really play) to step in behind the front line and provide 10-15 goals a season. That would make a big difference.

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