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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Aston Villa (A)

By Ken Buckley :  29/08/2010 :  Comments (27) :

Dominant Blues fail to capitalise in that so important last third and the lack of a striker with nous saw an outplayed Villa side win 1-0. It left most fans shaking their heads at the end in disbelief as one of the best approach play displays for some long time faltered time and time again, all for the lack of intelligent movement that would have facilitated killer passes instead of playing percentage balls in each time.

The game started with the Blues on the front foot and the Baines ? Pienaar combination down the left looked likely to undo the Villa defence, yet wouldn?t you just know it, just 7 or so mins in and after total domination, an innocuous throw-in to Villa saw Fellaini fail miserably to deal with it and let in Young who spotted the run of fullback Young with great vision and the rest they say is history as he curled a shot beyond Howard and into the net. One-nil up and being outplayed gave them something to hold on to and, for all our approach play, we did in some measure help them in their task.

We continued to dominate and Dunne had to bring down Beckford and receive a booking when the striker looked as though he would do him for pace. The Baines ? Pienaar axis was looking fruitful and from one move Baines fed Pienaar inside and after a few paces he sent in a curler that hit the intersection of bar and post with the keeper beaten that brought a fair share of groans. Although we continued in this vein for the rest of the half, their keeper was as unemployed as ours although, on a rare break, a Villa player fired just wide of Howard's post. But all-in-all the Villa would have been mightily relieved to hear the half-time whistle.

The second half was in the main to be all Everton but, time after time, we would flounder on the rocks of a determined Villa rearguard which we were unable to manoeuvre out of position and create a worthwhile opening. The Villa were looking to the quick break to further their cause and, in one of these, the giant Carew set up Ashley Young and he forced Howard into a breathtaking double save. Then straight up the other end and Friedel made a good instinct save from Fellaini.

Then came the chance of the game for the Blues as a free-kick from Arteta found the head of Rodwell who glanced just wide when much better should have been achieved. The Villa continued to counter-attack and a Jags slip almost led to a goal but for some mis-control from Reo-Coker. Then Howard had to make a quite brilliant parry from Ashley Young and, with the ball falling to a Villa man, it was some relief to see him make a hash of a great open-goal opportunity.

Rodwell got injured and was replaced by Coleman who continued his unpredictable and dangerous raiding from Thursday and, from one of his forays, he put in a cross that begged to be converted but we just don?t seem to do ?anticipation? at the moment. Saha, who had been on for the naive Beckford after just 10 mins of the second half, suddenly burst into life and fired one straight at Friedel when anything either side of him would have counted. Shortly after, Saha put in a good shot toward the far corner only for the keeper to make a good sprawling save.

As full-time loomed, we forced corner after corner, scramble after scramble but, in keeping with the whole game, no end product. At the final whistle, I just wondered how we could lose such a one-sided game and I am sure I was not alone.
Overall, I thought it was one of those games that beggar belief when our possession was so great but, at the same time, I believe a quality striker is required to capitalise on that surfeit of possession, as today I thought we made it a little too easy for the Villa rearguard in their 18-yd box. With the manager saying he expects no action in this transfer window due to lack of funds, I am of the impression that he needs to try something different in these times of goal drought.

Today, I thought we had all of our best players out there... but Rodwell ? wide right? That?s been tried before and failed, and it did again today, and did no favours to the lad himself. Arteta, in the playmaker role which he plays very well, is limited by the options given ahead of him due to lack of off-the-ball running to decoy positions, thus giving the opportunity for the killer ball.

I have no qualification to question the manager and his selections but, for a team without either a quality wide right player or a quality striker, and considering our lack of goal threat to date this season, I would put forward the idea of playing Pienaar and Arteta wide and a midfield three of Rodwell-Heitinga-Fellaini with Cahill up front. Players in natural positions... and, although without Arteta?s undoubted playmaking talents, perhaps we could have strength and drive that will get us goals rather than persevering with trying to just put bodies in the wide right and striker roles when they are not quite up to it.

Coleman?s time may well come but we need goals and points now. I suppose I am really saying what fans of all clubs say ? We are a couple of players short? but we are not going to get those couple of players so best use of what we have got is paramount. I think in looking for our Man of the Match today sums us up a bit: no-one stood out, no-one played badly... and I was left thinking that, over the whole game, Distin was probably our most consistent and assured player.

Man Utd next and we have shown they are beatable at the Old Lady but we really will have to have goal threat and conversion to conquer. So over to you, Davey and the players; many say this is the best squad we have had for years, so I am sure you will get there before long ? even if it is by accident rather than design.

UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Richard Dawson
1   Posted 29/08/2010 at 23:59:16

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Think it's a bit harsh to say we're without a quality striker, Beckford has been starved of anything remotely resembling service to a shocking degree in his few appearances to date. On the handful of occasions when he's actually seen the ball, he's looked lively as anyone, like today when he twice went past Richard Dunne, forcing him to foul him.

He's a finisher, but in terms of goalscoring opportunties we've given him absolutely nothing so far - not a sniff - he's not a magician, not quite sure quite what some people are expecting.

The Yak is another who can feel hard done by, since coming back from injury he just hasn't had a decent crack of the whip, odds and end substitute appearances here and there, and people wonder why he's never fully regained his old sharpness.

Saha actually looked vaguely useful for the first time since around the turn of the year after coming on today, but surely the elusive goal would been a bit more likely if he'd come on to join Beckford rather than replace him.

Then with 10 minutes left, and still no goal, we bring on not Gueye or Bily, but the centre back who Moyes now seems to want to play anywhere other than at centre back.

And he wonders why we're not scoring....



Alan Kirwin
2   Posted 30/08/2010 at 00:39:25

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Already beginning to look ridiculous, as with previous seasons. Players, positions, tactics. Moyes clearly has a talent for many aspects of management, but there seem to be so many occasions when selecting team and tactics do not number amongst them.

I refer back to my earlier article about our prospects and formation for this season. To me it seems pointless bemoaning the lack natural wide men, but persevering with a formation that demands them. Who plays wide right for Barcelona? or Arsenal? or Chelsea? Each of these teams play (ostensibly) narrow formations (4-2-3-1) that move up/down and left/right in compact formation. Width is most often provided via marauding full backs who are covered by 2 deep midfielders.

Everton have zero right wingers/right midfielders in the squad. We do, however, have excellent offensive and defensive midfielders, and indeed 2 very good marauding full backs in Baines and Coleman.

My argument is quite simply that, irrespective of the arguments of any formation in theory, the players we have suit a 4-2-3-1 formation in practice and in mentality.

The biggest problem I see, again as highlighted earlier, is the 1, the lone striker/hold up player. Saha is in & out, Beckford can't be expected to do it, Anichebe is becoming more of a powerful wide attacker. So that leaves Yakubu. Not really sure what's going on there. There's clearly an overspill from a bad injury, but there was also that unfortunate incident sometime back when Moyes made some quip about Yak's true age (or that of Nigerians in general) which went down like a lead balloon.

Personally I'd take Yakubu up front every time.

I wanted to see Everton just go for it this season, right from the off. There have been enough excuses for throwing the season away in the last 8 years. This season should have been different. The signs were there against Wolfsburg and have remained. Sure, we played well today against a poor team lacking in confidence. And again we failed to score. And as for the gap that Luke Young had to run into...

We need to go on the offensive. We need to get Yakubu back in the team. We need to start shooting and moving in the last third. I want to see a formation and tactics that suit us & not lament the lack of something we don't have.

Everton should line up 4-2-3-1. The 1 should be Yakubu more often than not. There are plenty of options for the 3, and likewise for the 2. Coleman is RB, and the only issue of doubt for me is whether to persist with Jags & Distin (reservations) or get Heitinga back in defence ASAP rather than in midfield.

Seems to me that, after just 3 games, we have already blown 8 points away that we could/should have won. We lost out on CL by 9 points last year. The odds on this season following the standard Moyes pattern are shortening by the week.
David Hallwood
3   Posted 30/08/2010 at 01:42:01

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Good report as ever Ken; as you said Beckford did Dunne for pace (did Dunne?!) who was eventually booked, but none of the senior players appeared to have the nous to exploit the situation and play to Beckford's strengths.

I've posted this before but I think that the problem we have on the right is having an adverse effect on DM's selections, because everyone he puts out there unbalances the team, and it means that all the attacking options come down the left, which teams quickly suss out.

OK we hammered Villa today, but I was disapointed with our midfielders' movement in the final third.
Chris Parkin
4   Posted 30/08/2010 at 04:05:09

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Could not agree more on 4-2-3-1. Coleman looks an exciting game-changing attacking threat down the right. If we are worried about the defensive aspect of his game, a two of either Neville; Heitinga Rodwell; Fellaini can cover as he bombs forward.
Dermot Ryan
5   Posted 30/08/2010 at 05:41:38

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We didn't hammer Villa today. We lost to them, 1-0. That is what the history books will say and that is 3 potential points toward the Champions League that they have gained and we have lost. Whether we put pressure on them or not, I think the significant statistic is that we have 1 point out of a potential 9.
John Maxwell
6   Posted 30/08/2010 at 05:58:06

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How about playing 4-6-0, I seem to remember us winning games without a recognised striker.

I hope Beckford doesn't turn into another AJ who just chases aimless balls, he obviously needs time to adjust to the quality and speed of the EPL, give him time for Christ's sake.
George McKane
7   Posted 30/08/2010 at 07:51:30

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On Wednesday, everyone I spoke to after the Huddersfield game said Coleman in against Villa from the start ? but we all agreed that Moyes would not play him. Villa had conceded 9 goals in their last 2 games and surely were suffering from shell shock ? "go at them", score and break their confidence. No, yet again a feeling of going for a draw ? why not 2 up front to start?

Moyes's mentality is to hold what you have ? ie 0-0, and then chase... sadly he does not know how to change things. Already for me it's a disappointing season after all the pre-season promise; we cannot play Blackburn, Wolves and Villa again, we've missed those opportunities. 8 points just thrown away by bad team selection and tactics.

Moyes said something on TV about "another milestone" ? yes David, you're right; we have good players playing bad tactics, in wrong positions but the serious lack of any "killer ball, tackle, goal" is worrying.

I think Moyes is too comfortable ? there is no pressure to change things. I like the fact that we are a "family club", that we have not been bought out, that we will not sack Moyes... but please wake up, David ? excite us, thrill us ? be brave and decisive! We seem to talk a great game until we kick off... time to be decisive and courageous, Everton.

Andy Roberts
8   Posted 30/08/2010 at 08:49:59

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A striker is only as good as the service he gets. Latchford had Dave Thomas, Sharpie had Steven and Sheedy.

Roy of the Rovers would struggle to score at Everton at the moment.

Beckford will score goals he has good movement off the ball. He could just do with some quality service, his goal against CD Everton shows that.
Mike McLean
9   Posted 30/08/2010 at 09:46:43

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I agree with Andy Roberts.

I'd add that if so many of us can see the glaringly obvious, then it makes me slightly nervous that the Saviour / Messiah or whatever fanciful title is being given him, can't.

By the way, have they noticed on the training pitch that Arteta is fucking useless at dead ball kicks?
Brian Donnelly
10   Posted 30/08/2010 at 10:46:22

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Great report, Ken, and you are right about the percentage football we play. Friedel had a good game, but he didn?t have that many shots to save ? the football in the last third is all so predictable.

Yesterday, anyone could see that nothing was coming from our right hand side. Coleman should have replaced Hibbert 10 mins earlier than when he came on. If Rodwell hadn?t got injured, Coleman would probably have sat on the bench for another 10-15 mins.

I like Hibbert, but when we are chasing the game he gives us very little. Considering that nothing whatsoever is coming down the right, it?s worth taking the risk (much earlier) of Coleman?s perceived defensive weaknesses when we are already losing.

Also why does Arteta have to take every corner ? particularly that one where he went to the wrong corner flag and then wasted another minute or so ambling to the other side of the pitch. The odd bit of variation from Baines or Pienaar might give the opposition something different to think about.

Ian Kearney
11   Posted 30/08/2010 at 10:39:42

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Arteta put in quite a few dangerous free kicks and corners, it's become quite popular to say he's useless at them, which isnt true. Having said that, I don't like having one player monopolise them, as a bit of variety might make us more dangerous.

Beckford isn't making any impact; on curent performance I'd have him behind Yak, Saha, Vaughan and even Cahill in that role, we need someone to link the play better, our formation in fact depends on having a striker who can link the play.

I thought Pienaar, Arteta and Fellaini all played well, Cahill struggled, and as much as I love the little warrior, I'd play either Rodwell or Bily there against Man Utd. Out right I'd have Big Vic if fit, as his directness and muscle would give us something different, if he's fit.

Also, I wouldn't leave our best CH on the bench for two hoofball merchants.
Mike McLean
12   Posted 30/08/2010 at 11:07:45

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Ian, I guess it depends on what you mean by dangerous. He could have done some damage to defenders heads, true. Perhaps given them a stomach brusing issue.

His % of good kicks? What, 10 - 15%?
Just not good enough.

This, by the way, has nothing to do with popular opinion; more to do with adequate long distance glasses.
Ian Kearney
13   Posted 30/08/2010 at 11:16:19

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Mike, had Jagielka and Rodwell done what they should have with exceptional crosses we'd be talking about two assists from dead balls, there were a fair few others that went right into the mixer with plenty of pace as well.

Like you, I'd like to see others take some as well, and he hit more poor ones than good ones yesterday, but to say Arteta is useless from dead ball situations is nonsense.
Richard Dawson
14   Posted 30/08/2010 at 11:25:07

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Agree all day long we should be lining up 4-2-3-1, and playing to our considerable strengths, rather than shunting people out wide who completely lose their effectiveness there.

Baines and Coleman are very very capable of supplying all the width we need.

Fellaini and Rodwell have to be the first choice two deep midfielders, with Neville another good option. (I'd never consider Heitinga here, for me Heitinga in midfield = Jagielka in midfield ? a disastor for the team as results show whenever we do it, and total waste of a quality centre back.)

The three advanced attacking midfielders should on most occasions be Pienaar, Cahill, and Arteta, but if you play like this, Osman & Bilyaletdinov can slot in for any of them and actually look the part, rather than when we stick them out wide, which just aren't their games, and they have no impact, and the crowd get on their backs, thinking they're not good players. Plus there's Gueye to hopefully thow in the mix.

As for the striker, well any of them would flourish if we played like this.

It's over to Moyes, he's built this fine squad ? let's now please see him utilise it!
Trevor Lynes
15   Posted 30/08/2010 at 12:04:22

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I noticed that Arteta seemed to be playing a bit deeper than usual... perhaps that was the tactic?? He only really came forward for dead ball situations and I think that we suffered because of that... he was missed further forward.

Normally Pienaar chases back but for once he was missing for their goal, but that was an unusual error for him.

We are open to counter attacks when we lose possession and that fault must be addressed as we do lose stupid goals when we are on top. I reckon the speed of our passing must be increased and running off the ball to make space was lacking against Villa in the final third.

Dennis Stevens
16   Posted 30/08/2010 at 11:57:07

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I can't claim to have the expertise to know the answer... but, if I were a highly paid professional coach who had been in situ for over 8 years, I'd be embarrassed if it looked as though I didn't have the ability to get the best out of the top quality squad I've steadily assembled.

Is this the limit of Moyes's ability? He seemed capable of putting out teams capable of achieving more on the field of play than they seemed capable of on paper; but, now Moyes has largely replaced those players with better quality signings, the reverse seems to happen.

I'm not sure if he will get a better chance to win some silverware than with the current squad... and, for me, if the season continues to be one of disappointment & under-achievement it will raise doubts as to whether Moyes himself is already operating at a level technically beyond his abilities.

Mark Browne
17   Posted 30/08/2010 at 12:52:03

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I am more concerned with our defending. We cannot win any game unless our defence is watertight. Every goal this season ? yes, all 4 goals ? have been down to our errors, not fantastic football from the opposition. We can all accept a fabulous goal, whether an individual or team effort, but we are making it too easy by giving goals away. Tighten up in defence and we will start scoring and winning games.
Kunal Desai
18   Posted 30/08/2010 at 13:37:39

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It's really annoying and disappointing to see that a Villa side which were destroyed by Newcastle and dumped out of the Europa League still have enough to beat us. We always seem to be a team which is a good omen for clubs on loosing streaks and to pick up an easy 3 points.

We played some pretty football in parts but at the end of the day the one thing Villa have and we don't is PACE. Just when is Moyes going to address this situation?

As for Jermaine Beckford, well he's not the sort of striker you look to have in your side if you're aiming to finish in the top four. Simply not good enough in my opinion.

Just over 24 hrs to go, I very much doubt we'll get anyone in; another striker and right winger is desperately needed.

Here's to another 8th place finish!

Gareth Hughes
19   Posted 30/08/2010 at 13:58:36

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Ken, I think most of us respect your mainly sensible thoughts but the suggestion that we play Fellaini, Heitinga, Rodwell in centre mid who are ALL holding players, with Arteta shunted out wide where he has often been marginalised in the past, and Cahill (who was invisible yesterday and has no pace whatsoever) up front on his own is an absolute shocker! That is not playing players in their natural positions which you say we need to do. Perhaps the frustrations of Sunday have muddled your thoughts, Ken....?
Terry Hayes
20   Posted 30/08/2010 at 14:35:51

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Don't worry, lads... Phil Neville will sort it out again when he gets fit ? just like he did last season. Crap start, Pip comes back and alls rosy again....

Come on, Phil, where the fuck are you??

I did really write that didn't I?

Richard Dawson
21   Posted 30/08/2010 at 14:35:02

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Dennis Stevens, I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's starting to look ominously like he's great at getting a team featuring the likes of Kevin Kilbane and Marcus Bent to massively overachieve, but now that he's built (and all credit to him for that) a quality squad, he's sadly just not looking like he knows what to do with it.

I want him to suceed, I want it to be Moyes who takes us to the next level, but the worrying thing for me this season is that at the Wolves game, nothing seemed to have been learned from Blackburn, and again yesterday, very litte learned or taken on board from Wolves.

Some people are talking about wanting new signings ? it's not that 1 the pieces are all there with this squad, they just need to be put together properly.
Ken Buckley
22   Posted 30/08/2010 at 15:17:14

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Gareth #19. It was just a thought as we seem unable to fashion goals at this present time. Fellaini and Rodwell can get up and down and they have shown they can score. Heitinga seems adept at sitting and starting attacks with intelligent balls. Both Arteta and Pienaar are adept at playing in from out and Cahill has a knack for finding space.

It is just a thought as as I am sure the manager and the fans are looking for the best posible mode of play from our present squad make up. Who knows, as I say later, it might come about by accident.

Nick Entwistle
23   Posted 30/08/2010 at 16:17:53

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Is it time for another 'drop Cahill' debate because his inclusion when playing badly is just a pointless exercise.

Howard
Neville Jagielka Heitinga Baines
Rodwell Fellaini
Coleman Arteta Pienaar
Saha
Michael Evans
24   Posted 30/08/2010 at 19:11:14

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Nick - I think DM would be prepared to listen if Coleman, Arteta and Pienaar would track back and support the flat back six.

Saha could then play the holding role in front of the flat back nine.

Peter Laing
25   Posted 30/08/2010 at 20:45:47

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Why cant we play with Coleman and Baines operating as wing-backs with a defensive 3 of Heitinga - Jagielka - Distin, Fellaini in the holding role, Arteta - Rodwell - Pienaar and Saha up front. That obviously excludes Cahill, but as things stand he may make more of an impact from the bench.
Dick Fearon
26   Posted 30/08/2010 at 22:15:10

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Nick # 24.
Your joking of course about a flat back 6 but talk about flat back anything requires exceptionally quick players.
We were succesful with Mountford and Ratcliffe but they probably were the fastest players in the league.
Brendan O'Doherty
27   Posted 31/08/2010 at 01:37:41

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Excellent and accurate report Ken.

Re Gareth (#19) and Ken (#22)

Although it pains me to say it, I think we may have to bite the bullet, if no-one comes in before the transfer deadline, and adopt Ken's suggestion of Arteta playing on the right. I know he's 'wasted' a bit there, but when he was there before we worked the ball out to him and his crossing was excellent. It could be a case of 'needs must' because we have to do something about that position.

I can't agree Gareth that Fellaini, Rodwell, and Heitinga are all 'holding' midfielders. Rodwell especially is great at getting forward, and as Ken says this arrangement would accomodate all 3 of them.

We have to a) get Rodwell in the side, and b) sort out this perennial right midfield problem. This arrangement would do both, and it wouldn't have to be permanent. Also, if Heitinga dropped back into defence, Cahill and a striker could be played.

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