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Frustration with toothless Blues mounts

By Lyndon Lloyd :  12/12/2010 :  Comments (31) :

Frustration is the theme at Goodison Park these days as Everton clocked up their seventh game without a win with a goalless draw at home to Wigan Athletic, one of those "should win, must win" fixtures that are slipping by week by week and with them the Blues' European hopes.

That David Moyes's side deserved to win this game by a wide margin is beyond debate and yet, having controlled long periods of the match and passed up a number of chances to do just that, they were rescued in the dying minutes by Tim Howard who pulled off a crucial save to deny Ronnie Stam what would have been a cruel winner.

Everton should havebeen out of sight by then but a combination of over-elaborate approach play, poor finishing, fortunate defending and good goalkeeping conspired to keep the scoresheet blank and see the players booed off at the final whistle.

More worrying was the manner in which all their impetus seemed to vanish after Steven Pienaar went off with a recurrence of the anke injury that forced him off against Chelsea last weekend. With the South African almost certain to leave and Mikel Arteta a shadow of his former self right now, it's hard to see where the creative spark is going to come from without him.

No doubt buouyed by the second-half showing at Stamford Bridge, Moyes persisted with his time-worn 4-4-1-1 formation but kept faith with Louis Saha despite many predictions that Jermaine Beckford, the scorer of the equaliser against Chelsea, might get the nod to start.

And Everton set about their task in the manner in which their expectant home faithful would expect, Tim Cahill bringing down Phil Jagielka's raking ball forward in the first minute but just failing to get a true connection to guide it past the on-rushing Ali Al Habsi.

Seamus Coleman smashed a half-volley over the bar from 25 yards and Saha came within inches of getting a toe to Steven Pienaar's cross before the first stunning miss of the game arrived in the 11th minute. Leighton Baines swung a free kick in from the left and Marouane Fellaini was left all alone to meet it. Unfortunately, he planted his free header over the bar when he really should have buried it.

20 minutes later, Jack Rodwell found the target with a header and the ball was destined for the back of the net until Ben Watson's instinctive back header diverted it over the crossbar and Fellaini's tempting low cross across the face of goal just eluded Cahill shortly afterwards.

Though the Blues had played well enough in the first half, there was still a tendency to "over-egg the pudding", and there was growing frustration emanating from the stands as move after move foundered as the players tried to play one pass to many in and around the penalty area.

Pienaar had clearly got the message early in the second half and when a chance opened up to unload from the 25 yards. the South African seized it, his arrow-like drive producing a diving, two-handed parry by Al Habsi. That sparked a 15-minute spell of incessant pressure from the home side that perfectly illustrated their inability to put the ball in the net and summed up much of their season thus far.

A flurry of corners ensued, one of which Cahill just couldn't toe past the 'keeper after it was taken short and Pienaar had whipped the ball into the near post. From another, Jagielka tried to flick home Baines' cross but it ended up in Al Habsi's arms.

A beautiful move, arguably Everton's best of the match, in the 52nd minute ended with Saha backheeling into the path of Cahill but he blasted a right-foot shot wide before Pienaar split the defence with a pass to the Frenchman and he was denied by the 'keeper with a shot with the outside of his boot.

A minute later, Cahill's towering header bounced agonisingly off the post; a minute after that, Coleman found himself in acres of space but shot straight at Al Habsi and Pienaar skied the rebound into the stand behind the goal, passing up a great opportunity to finally break the deadlock.

With an hour gone, Moyes made the expected change of removing Saha in favour of Beckford but then found himself having to make a second switch within five minutes when Pienaar pulled up lame and Victor Anichebe took the field to a chorus of boos. (The Nigerian had reportedly rejected a bumper contract extension earlier in the week.)

And from that point on, the Blues' attacking unit looked to have been badly compromised because they were visibly worse from that point on. Fellaini should have been the obvious candidate to step up and assume "playmaker" responsibilites but he didn't offer nearly as much inspiration as a player of his calibre should. Nevertheless, Beckford actually had the ball in the net within four minutes of coming on but his "goal" was disallowed for a very tight offside decision.

With 20 minutes to go and their game-plan to that point just about intact, the visitors started to come into the game more and Diame could have put them ahead when he found himself with just Tim Howard to beat but with Jagielka breathing down his neck, he scuffed his shot badly and the Blues survived. Another suicide pass by Phil Neville across the front of his own defence then let Hugo Rodellega in but his effort was saved.

At the other end, Rodwell flashed a left-footed effort a yard wide from 25 yards and Beckford's attempted curler was easily gathered, but Everton's best chance in the last few minutes would have fallen to the former Leeds striker had he not completely failed to control Baines' cross. That would have left him with a clear shot on goal and a chance to become the late hero again but he took his eye off the ball.

Instead, that honour looked destined to fall to Stam in stoppage time as Wigan broke quickly when a Baines free kick was blocked at the Wigan end. Though Coleman was clearly fouled in the build-up, the referee took no action and Stam was in, but Howard's reflex save tipped the ball past the far post to preserve parity.

Things are clearly not right in the Everton camp right now and the boos that accompanied the manager and players down the tunnel will have delivered the fans' verdict on a record of three paltry wins from 17 games. Sure, had one of that handful of gilt-edged chances gone, the picture would be looking a little rosier but a 1-0 win over a team in the bottom three would have merely papered over the increasingly large cracks.

Moyes will point to his side's profligacy in front of goal as a means to apportioning the bulk of the blame to his players but what is either the manager's intransigence or his lack of imagination appears to these eyes to be the biggest problem.

Faced with a striking problem from the get-go, he has shunned virtually every opportunity to try something different with his starting line-ups. None of Saha, Beckford or Yakubu have really looked comfortable leading the line as the lone striker, but the Yak has done it better than anyone so far and yet he is watching helpeless from the bench these days while Beckford struggles to adapt to the top flight and Saha continues to look well short of his best.

Beckford's running and movement would make him the ideal foil in a two-striker formation with the right partner but Anichebe, once he'd moved inside from the left, was clearly not that man. That's left Cahill to shoulder the main goalscoring burden but his upcoming absence from the team will force Moyes to mix things up because the Australian is the reason why he sticks so doggedly to the one-man-up-front strategy.

Moyes admitted in his post-match interview that the shape of the team was all wrong after Pienaar went off, and yet the man he himself dubbed his "secret weapon", Magaye Gueye, a player who looked really promising as a wide man in pre-season and in the League Cup, remains frozen out of the first-team picture, and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is similarly stagnating on the bench.

There comes a time when it becomes obvious that sticking to the same tired tactics and formations just isn't working. Moyes should have worked that out in September but the October purple patch gave the illusion that all was well again when results since have demonstrated otherwise. Whether he will respond or just plow on remains to be seen but his team is stuck in a rut right now and needs some inspiration.

Player Ratings:
Howard 7, Neville 5, Jagielka 7, Distin 7, Baines 8, Fellaini 7, Rodwell 6, Coleman 7, Pienaar 8 (Anichebe 5), Cahill 7, Saha 6 (Beckford 6)

Reader Comments

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Simon Baines
1   Posted 12/12/2010 at 22:08:37

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Everton should have been out of sight by then but a combination of over-elaborate approach play.

Exactl/... and here is a question to everyone: when we were awful to watch but winning 1-0, was that not better than the lovely passing we do now but can't score?

And as you also said,we should've been out of sight... so, if Moyes is picking a team that's all over our opponents and our strikers can't put it away, how is it his fault?
Steve Jones
2   Posted 12/12/2010 at 22:15:41

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Simon, It's Moyes's fault because:

? He's played the same formation for 9 years when just about every other team in football has moved on.
? Every other team knows exactly how we're going to play and sits deep to combat it.
? He continues to pick out of form players.
? He plays players out of position when better natural options are available.
? He picks hard working players over those with natural flair.
? He coaches strikers to track back rather than letting them play their natural attacking game.
? He watches on as Arteta plays too deep alongside another defensive midfielder.
? We only go on a good run when we?ve got so many injuries the first 11 virtually picks itself.
? We have not progressed in 9 years (He replaced Smith who was sacked for averaging a point a game in 2002 and half way through the season we?ve averaged a point a game).
Wayne Hogan
3   Posted 12/12/2010 at 22:55:16

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You actually think we haven't progressed at all during the last 9 years... ridiculous!
Simon Baines
4   Posted 12/12/2010 at 23:03:00

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Steve ? so how come, after 4 years of the same thing, we were still coming top 7? Every other manager must be stupid because they obviously knew what we were going to do but we could still beat them.

Kunal Desai
5   Posted 12/12/2010 at 23:07:00

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Lyndon - you write "fixtures that are slipping by week by week and with them the Blues' European hopes"

I'm not so sure we'll finish anywhere near 6th/7th for a Europa league spot. We are now 8 fucking points behind Bolton, fucking Bolton!!! It's a disgrace.

Next 5 games will determine how the season will shape up before the FA Cup tie.

Man City (A)
Birm (H)
West Ham (A)
Stoke (A)
Spurs (H)

I think, to have any realistic chance of challenging for 6th, we'd need to to AT LEAST win 3 of those. I can't see that happening.
Gerry Western
6   Posted 12/12/2010 at 23:24:29

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What I have real difficulty with is Moyes's persistence in playing a totally out of sorts Saha. It's clear he's hell bent on Saha riding out his goal drought. There is one major flaw in this approach. The fact that Saha rarely manages to play more than 6 to 7 consecutive games without succumbing to a period of injury. I reckon we can't be too far away from that point right now.

Even if he were to suddenly rediscover his scoring instincts some time soon, there is every possibility that, as soon as he does, he'll be out injured again, and it's groundhog day all over again. The situation is now getting too ridiculous for words.

David Hallwood
7   Posted 12/12/2010 at 23:52:49

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Steve Jones (#), if teams knew the way we play they would be shutting us out, but the frustrating thing about this season is that no team are shutting us out. We are the architects of our own downfall by not putting the hatful of chances away, in yesterday's game,and aganst West Brom, Bolton, Blackpool, Sunderland, Villa etc. It's like Lyndon says ? toothless. Great report and analysis BTW, Lyndon.
Andy Peers
8   Posted 12/12/2010 at 23:56:07

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Sell Heitinga, Pienaar, Bily, Saha, Yakubu and Howard (Mucha can do an equal job). Pool all funds and grab Carlos Tevez. Tevez is the kind of player we need up front and maybe pair him with Beckford.

As ridiculous as it sounds, a good Manager/Chairman team would make it happen. We have enough depth in average players to form a decent 11 but we need a spark. Then add Donavan and we could salvage our season. One can always

Andy Peers
9   Posted 13/12/2010 at 00:04:04

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Starting 11 = Mucha, Coleman, Baines, Jags, Distin, Fellaini, Rodwell, Donovan, Arteta, Tevez, Cahill or Beckford. Does that not sound like a team that could score some goals?
Simon Baines
10   Posted 13/12/2010 at 00:20:21

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There's no-one to play left mid, and no-one to protect Coleman as he can't defend, so it looks like a team that would let a lot of goals in.
David Edwards
11   Posted 13/12/2010 at 00:16:25

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Moyes says he's ready for another 400 games, if we are!!!! After Saturday's non-performance and recent displays, that has to be the dumbest question/comment ever!

The way we are going it'll only take another 20 or so games to get us into The Championship at this rate. If Blue Bill sticks with him after that, I reckon by the 400th game we'll be in the Blue Square hosting Grimsby Town and Darlington. I'd laugh if it wasn't so close to reality!!!!

Andy Peers
12   Posted 13/12/2010 at 00:29:06

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Simon (#10) ? There is no way in hell this team would ever be real, it was more a tongue-in-cheek wish-list to see Everton score some goals and inspire the crowd that has been miserably disappointed for this whole season. You could replace Arteta with Gueye and that should solve left midfield.
Nick Armitage
13   Posted 13/12/2010 at 00:29:44

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Lyndon, how did you give Jagielka 7/10, the same as Distin? He gave the ball away more than a Wimbledon ball boy. His distribution is as bad, if not worse than Neville / Hibbert.

Give me Heitinga anyday.
Andrew Lum
14   Posted 13/12/2010 at 01:03:38

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Why was the Yak on the bench when we were so desperate for a goal?

I knew the 3 points were gone when Anichebe came on to play on... the left flank! The guy has neither the technique nor the intelligence to play the role. In fact, he shouldn't even be on the pitch! The guy has not improved over the years. His touch is still bad and his decision-making on the pitch is awful.

Moyes can't play a more attacking system because he doesn't want to drop Tim Cahill. Where to play him when you have two strikers?

Like you said Lyndon, time for fresh tactics... and give Gueye a chance. I'm sure he will inject some hunger and pace. Look at Coleman!

Besides, it's 3 points for a win. If we attack and lose 2 and win 1, we have 3 points. Draw 2 and lose 1, we have 2 points. The other teams like Bolton, Blackpool and even Newcastle are doing well this season because they play attacking football. We are looking sadder each week with our uninspiring football.

Not looking forward to Citeh...
Eric Myles
15   Posted 13/12/2010 at 01:40:54

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I had to laugh when the commentator noted that Beckford was running down the left channel to chase a hoof forward and he said something to the effect of "striker running the channels, that's not how Everton usually play"!!!

Tell Andy Johnson that!!
Dick Fearon
16   Posted 13/12/2010 at 06:40:07

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Lyndon, you have hit every nail squarely on the head, I could not add a single word.
Chris Fisher
17   Posted 13/12/2010 at 10:25:28

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What has this Mucha done to warrant a place in our starting 11 over Tim Howard then? I keep seeing this suggestion pop up on a lot of posts!! Oh yes he was in goal when we lost to Brentford, get him in.

Against City, I would love to see Howard, Coleman, Heitinga, Jagielka or Distin, Baines, Pienaar, Fellaini, Rodwell, Cahill, Beckford, Vaughan. Won't happen though!

We will go super defensive I reckon! The worrying thing is that, for quite a while, I've been thinking, "Oh well, just one win and it will shoot us right up the table and then we can build on it." But the fact is now one win will move you up about one position ? and that's only if teams around you start losing as well. We are in a bit of trouble now and it will take a consistent run of like 7-8 wins in a row for us to start being taken seriously again.

I was on a train this weekend and overheard two Birmingham fans going over their upcoming fixtures and the conversation went like this:

Newcastle at home... ummm that's a tough one but I don't think we'll lose that, lets say 1-1, they're a good team and that Carol is a natural finisher

Everton away, we should be winning against them, lets say 0-1, I know they beat us at home but we could've beaten them if we had of taken our chances and they don't really score goals at home.

Man United at home, yeah lose 0-2 I reckon.

I know it's just two fans' opinion and we all have one of them but it just worried me that they expected to drop points to a team like Newcastle at home but come to Goodison and win.

Kevin Tully
18   Posted 13/12/2010 at 11:41:53

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I cannot take any more. I have defended Moyes this season because I thought we would come good. He has gone stale, the way we played on Saturday was too predictable once again.

If I see Saha holding the ball up on the touchline once more, and win a throw, I will run on the pitch and twat him. Forget about this season, it's over, apart from reaching the fourty point mark. When you watch Bolton going for it with ten men, you have to realise it is the manager and his negative tactics.

Sorry Davey, come on in, your time is up.

Ernie Baywood
19   Posted 13/12/2010 at 12:09:20

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"The other teams like Bolton, Blackpool and even Newcastle are doing well this season because they play attacking football."

Same story trotted out every week... usually with a different team that we should be trying to emulate.

Have you watched Blackpool? They are fukin dire. They were dire against us and they were dire at the weekend. The goal was a mishit shot that bobbled to DJ Campbell and they only had about 2 players in the area. Not the team I'd be advocating. Certainly not the team full of attacking verve that the media want to portray. They are fodder.

We've got problems. That's abundantly clear. We lack pace and the bollocks to take a chance and have a pop or try a ridiculous pass that could result in a goal but will more than likely end up with the keeper. But I'm still not prepared to admit defeat and I think we've been massively unlucky at times. Moyes doesn't exactly deserve the breaks for his selections (Saha in particular) but there's no way that our points tally is a completely fair reflection of our performances in each game.
Roger Trenwith
20   Posted 13/12/2010 at 12:46:23

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Another spot-on report, Lyndon.

As for Andrew's "the other teams play attacking football" ? did you actually watch the game on Saturday? Perhaps a more accurate comment might be "the other teams play shite, but seem to know how to stick the ball in the back of the net"....

Kevin Tully
21   Posted 13/12/2010 at 12:51:08

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We are nearly halfway through the season. Bad luck does not last 17 games. There are no more excuses.

If you cannot motivate your players, it is time to pack your bags.
Tom Winek
22   Posted 13/12/2010 at 13:11:00

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Kevin ? bad luck does last that many games and more. Remember a few seasons ago we didn't get a penalty until the last game of the season. That was unlucky.

I'm really clinging to this bad luck idea...
Kevin Tully
23   Posted 13/12/2010 at 13:27:09

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Nice one, Tom; I take it we will be lucky then if we start winning?
Andrew Lum
24   Posted 13/12/2010 at 13:33:08

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Hi Roger, yes, I did watch the match on Saturday. Would you bring on Anichebe to play on the left, and stick to 4-5-1 when Pienaar had to go off? If the "lesser" teams can approach each game in a positive manner, why can't we? Well, they certainly have more points than us at the moment.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is, Moyes has to change the way he sets his team up, be more positive. I'm with Kevin, bad luck doesn't last 17 games.

Trevor Lynes
25   Posted 13/12/2010 at 13:51:34

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If you take off the blue tinted glasses you will see that we don't miss anymore chances than most teams... we don't CREATE enough from open play.... only the left flank provide decent ammo... we are so predictable it's untrue.

Wolves are creating more and missing more, so are Blackpool and Bolton. We are in the same position as Fulham and Birmingham for lack of creativity with only West Ham worse.

Don't just blame our strike force... the engine room is really lacking a decent schemer. Arteta must be pushed forward as he is totally wasted playing deep.

When did we last win a game by three clear goals???

Tom Winek
26   Posted 13/12/2010 at 13:56:18

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Kevin I don't believe in good luck. Just bad luck.
Charles King
27   Posted 13/12/2010 at 13:04:15

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It's clear from the season start, Moyes is aware of the "hoofball" and "hard working" tags and is having a go playing it on the deck... but it's all a bit half-arsed. Only Baines, Pienaar, and Coleman seem to be having a go with cameos from Beckford and loyal Cahill doing what he's always done ? score.

Incredibly, the players you'd expect to be the standard bearers: Arteta, Saha and the Yak, are shadows of themselves (admittedly the Yak ? a massive shadow). It's guesswork why this is so, but it's the manager's job to resolve it, and he isn't.

Gueye, given the epithet of "secret weapon" presumably is a bit useful, Bily has ability but has downed tools, and Heitinga is our best passing centre back. With the excuberance of Rodwell it may be we have a real footballing side in our midst.

We've all worked at places where you do your job in spite of the management rather than aided by it. Perhaps when Jags or Distin lump it after side-to-side impotence, the forward players look at Moyes and feel the same.

Michael Coffey
28   Posted 13/12/2010 at 14:32:21

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I don't want someone to take us to the next level ? I just want to be as good as we were three years ago. And even that was a mile short of breathtaking.
Michael Brien
29   Posted 13/12/2010 at 17:02:08

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The fact that we are struggling to score goals might just have something to do with the tactics used by David Moyes - he has for the last few seasons favoured a defensive 4-5-1 formation. Perhaps he might come up with the tactic of playing 2 strikers from the start - wouldn't that be a radical change !!!

In the course of his time at Goodison, David Moyes has not exactly been mega successful with quite a few of the strikers that he has signed. Have all of these players been bad ? Personally I think that his big weakness is that he doesn't know how to effectively use the strikers that he has, and get the best out of them. He resorted to using Andy Johnson as virtually a wide attcking midfielder !! Can you imagine how Lineker would have fared if Moyes had been in charge at that time ? He would have stuck him out on the right and he would have scored about 15 goals. Face the facts - Moyes hasn't got a clue how to get the best out of the strikers that we have in our squad.

I wouldn't be surprised to see that if Yak was sold to West Ham, he started scoring goals. Moyes is the guy that buys the players and decides on the tactics and the style of play - it's time he took responsibility for our poor form.
Karl Masters
30   Posted 14/12/2010 at 13:10:21

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I would have expected him to bring Osman on for Pienaar. The blatantly obvious replacement as both similar in style of play. Or why not Gueye? Anichebe on the left of midfield, Yak, Heitinga and Bily glued to the bench.

I don't get it anymore.
Trevor Lynes
31   Posted 14/12/2010 at 16:24:20

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Please do not compare Johnson with Linekar...AJ has scored very few goals since he went to Fulham..just look at his goals to outings record !!
Linekar was different class and he would walk into almost every top side today when he was in his prime.

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