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Our Much Vaunted Midfield

By David Chait :  10/08/2010 :  Comments (37) :
Over the recent few weeks, we have spoken much about our midfield, many calling it the best in the league. I have also been found to express to all around me that I believe this is the best combination around.

Arteta is as good as anyone in the EPL; Fellaini was the best DFM in the league until his injury; Rodwell the future England Capt; Cahill a club legend and consummate goal poacher; Pienaar artistry... and the enigma of Bily.

But is this just hype or can we profess to have a midfield that is the envy of all around us? Does our first five really stand out above the other 7 clubs around us in the newly crowned ?Big 8??

So I jotted down the names of the others around us and although I wanted to just pick five, it really doesn?t work that way, but I tried to keep it to the regular players.

? Everton: Arteta, Cahill, Fellaini, Rodwell, Bilyaletdinov, Pienaar, Osman, Anichebe

? Aston Villa: Young, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing, Sidwell, Milner?

? Arsenal: Fabregas, Arshavin, Nasri, Ramsay, Walcott, Song

? Chelsea: Lampard, Essien, Mikel, Ramires, Malouda, Benayoun, Zhirkov

? Man Utd: Scholes, Nani, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, JS Park, Fletcher, Anderson

? Liverpool: Gerrard, Kuyt, Lucas, Riera, Maxi, Mascherano, J Cole, Babel

? Spurs: Modric, Lennon, Jenas, Palacios, Dos Santos, Krankjar, Huddlestone

? Man City: Wright-Philips, A Johnson, Ireland, M Johnson, Barry, Vieira, De Jong, Silva, Y Toure, Milner?

This is all ?on paper? but looking at that the one that I thought would stand out as the best is Chelsea... although, based on their recent form, maybe this is just paper talk. I have Milner is question marks as who knows where he might end up.

Of these, Villa and Spurs I believe aren?t close to us. Man for man, I choose our boys almost all the way with the exception of Lennon on the right wing. Man Utd's best I feel are seriously ageing and just don?t look very threatening. But SAF does seem to bring the best out of what to me looks like an average set of players. Would I take any of Man Utd's ? only Valencia for the right wing (again).

Arsenal: Fabregas ? absolutely. Arshavin over Cahill. That?s it. That is serious quality in those two ? but the rest doesn?t worry me. Fellaini is strong enough and has shown he can dominate that bunch. So Arsenal I can tick off as one we don?t have to stand back from.

Man City: Who knows how they will gel. On paper, some great new players... but half of them won?t even make the final 25. I like Toure but Fellaini is better (I think Fellaini is the second-best DFM in the league after Essien so take that as read). I?d take Adam Johnson on the right wing (again). Barry ? no. Silva ? don?t know how he?ll do to be honest. De Jong ? no. I?m stopping them here... thought they would deserve a close look, but man for man I?m taking our boys (RW aside).

That leaves Liverpool!! Gerrard ? over Cahill. Cole ? I?m a fan so yes, although worth the debate whether he is any better than Pienaar. I feel he is to be honest. Fellaini over Mascherano for me. No, again as a unit ? nothing to fear. They do well because of their individuals pulling off miracles. Take out Gerrard and the midfield is nothing to fear.

So that leaves Chelsea as one to worry about. They do have a great side (on paper) and won the league last year despite the attempts by their captain to mess that one up.

I have tried to be objective as I can. This midfield of ours is potentially brilliant. As good as any out there. It?s important they stay fit and play to their potential. But we mustn?t delude ourselves that they are head and shoulders above those around. There is significant talent in all the top 8 midfields. And of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool ? they have individuals that are better than anything we have.

We all look to Arteta, but looking for what might make our midfield stand out this year ? to me, it's Fellaini. All the other teams have a brilliant creative force, be it Fabregas, Stevie G, Lampard or Scholes. I don?t think many have a player of the potential of Fellaini.

This season is a mouth watering prospect!!


Reader Comments

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Brian Waring
1   Posted 10/08/2010 at 15:02:11

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David, on paper it is a strong midfield, but before we can say it is one of the best in the prem, we will have to wait and see how it does this season.
Richard Reeves
2   Posted 10/08/2010 at 15:01:11

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David, looking at the midfielders you have down in each of these teams, I would have to say that Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City have a good midfield but I don't rate the others as good as ours.
Gary Creaney
3   Posted 10/08/2010 at 15:40:36

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Just a small point but Riera is gone from Liverpool. I recently posted on another thread about placing bets with mates on the strength of our midfield.

I would have to agree with just about all that has been written here. Very objective and well considered.

We are basically saying that Arteta and Fellaini would get their place in most teams and Pienaar would get into a few also.

The only problem is if the same article was written by a Spurs fan he would be making a case for Modric, Lennon etc so we are bound to be a bit biased towards our own.
Iain Love
4   Posted 10/08/2010 at 15:42:41

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I believe our midfield is as good if not better on the whole than anyones. Spurs have a good mix all the others have some better players than ours but not a better mix.
Problem is most of them have a much more prolific strike force than us. Imagine our midfield supplying a Drogba, a Torres, or a Tevez .
Phil Bellis
5   Posted 10/08/2010 at 15:50:53

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David, presumably you don't envisage the immense pleasure of seeing Gerrard and/or Cole tackled in midfield by Mr Heitinga?

Severely, but legitimately, of course
Tony I'Anson
6   Posted 10/08/2010 at 15:52:08

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Is a modern day midfield only as good as the 2 full-backs supporting their play on the overlap? How do we fare by throwing this into the mix?
Mike Gwyer
7   Posted 10/08/2010 at 15:40:49

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You can only base stats on performance and our stats for the mid to end of last season are good. In fact these stats have made a lot of folk sit up and take a long hard look (hence why many "expert" pundits are tipping EFC for good things - starting this coming Saturday).

One of the primary reasons why our stats are so good is based on our midfield. They are all fit, ready and from what Arteta and Cahill have said, "something is happening here".

As SAF said last season in his pre match chat, "Goodison - one of the hardest games of the season". Well, we know what happened next.
Mike McLean
8   Posted 10/08/2010 at 16:22:31

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Tony, if they allow Neville a scooter and a polo stick, we should be fine down both flanks.
Ed Staunton
9   Posted 10/08/2010 at 16:30:24

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David I agree with everything you have posted, good article. I was looking at this but as a whole team & I came to the conclusion that I would take a WR player from any of the other teams & a striker & RB from most, so in a nut shell, I believe we can compete with all of them, but if we are good enough to finish top only time will tell.
Ciarán McGlone
10   Posted 10/08/2010 at 16:42:10

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You left Diably and Rosicky out of Arsenal...They're the best for me..

We have decent central players..but a big hole on the right...When you have an incomplete starting midfield...then you simply cannot claim to be anywhere near the best...the frustration is that we are close....
David Chait
11   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:03:47

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thanks so far for the responses. just to update on some: Quite right about Riera.. BBC profiles let me down.. then they still had Yossi in Liverpool... and Chelsea...
Alan Kirwin
12   Posted 10/08/2010 at 16:58:11

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David, agree with your observation on Fellaini being top man. Always thought Felli will become a superstar for Everton. Despite the early knockers, he's getting there.

Two observations. First, on paper, it's harder to analyse. Games are more fluid these days, then there's other factors, strength, motivation etc. But what strikes me is that, again on paper, we have nothing to actually fear and that no team really stands out as being superior.

Second thing is that, if we play 4-5-1 (which I'm not a big fan of) then yes, width is more important and right midfield is chink in our armour that only Donovan filled successfully. But I'd hope we play something more fluid this season, loosely on the 4-2-3-1. That formation demands attacking full backs and I believe we have good ones on both flanks.

I think SAF was right on two counts, first that thos season's EPL will be at least as open as last season's, and secondly that Everton could easily be in the mix. It's not mind games, I believe he genuinely has much time for Moyes and our club. Some think it's also one reason why he held back from bidding for Arteta, who ManU could seriously do with.

4 days and counting...
David Price
13   Posted 10/08/2010 at 16:34:53

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It's a long awaited prospect of Piennar, Arteta, Fellaini, Cahill and Osman for instance actually on the pitch at the same time. (Any stato's with that info please let us know), In that respect it's not a tried and tested formation. However, what these guys achieve in their own individual way during injury enforced changes does give me the confidence in this engine room operating at full speed throughout the season.
Mentally, our lads are ready for the challenge, Chelsea, i get the feeling they have a "oh here we go again, do we have to?" attitude. Man Utd, look to be driven by Giggs and Scholes so therefore up for it. This attitude will see them gain points against sides below the top 8 where we could only get single point s as per the run in last year.
Man City, who knows what their midfield is, no doubt it will be quality but will it gel and get the points on offer from mid table sides and below.
Arsenal, all depends on Cesc having his head right, can't help thinking on a cold winters away game in the North, will he long for home a little more, if not then they are the complete footballing midfield. Spurs, very good but feel they will focus on the glamour ties in Europe should they progress and not fancy Stoke/Blackburn away in between. Villa are a write off and are open to be picked off at the start, especially the third game of the season !
Lastly and leastly the RS, Gerrard plays well then it's a threat but with Cole in there then the work rate they could fall back on before is now at risk. 7th place at best for them.
So for me the midfield rating is Man Utd shading it, Everton 2nd, Arsenal 3rd, Man City 4th, Spurs 5th, Chelsea 6th, Then it's the best of the rest.
Chris James
14   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:05:06

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Interesting exercise, obv Mascherano won't be there and Milner is en route to City.

In terms of midfield quality and ability to gel I'd put us third behind Arsenal and Chelsea and just above Spurs.

It may sound ridiculous but despite the result at the weekend I actually think Man U could struggle a bit this season, the replacements for the old guard are weaker than their forbears in every position unless they make some signings. It'll be the experience and Fergie that keep them playing.

Spurs midfield is very quick and not to be under-rated, but they'll definitely have a tougher year this than last.

I think Villa will really struggle post-O'Neill and Milner, we know for ourselves how damaging these ructions can be at the start of the season.

Real ManCity can hardly fail to be inconsistent as as they all get to know one another and there'll be plenty of disgruntled 'stars' before it all sorts out (next year I think they'll be a real force though).

I actually think Liverpool will be a force towards the end of the season once the dross has been weeded out and the Hodgson-effect works through (damn, after their fabulous track record of absolute dicks, why did they have to get a good manager and a nice bloke), but I'm not worried about them at all early doors.

Chelsea are interesting, because it looks like there's a few world cup headaches there and the performance against Utd wasn't top notch (nor has friendlies been).

All of which means that for me it's Arsenal as the one's to catch this year. They still lack a bit of steel, but with Fabregas wanting to go out on a high, Wenger potentially the same, and a more potent strike force to add point to their skill it just feels like their year.

As for us, well I think we have to hit top 4 this season. With the players signed up (pienaar will follow I think) and some pace FINALLY added in Beckford and Gueye then we've got pretty much all the pieces. All we need now is the belief and to get a good start...

Ray Robinson
15   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:17:08

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Not trying to pour cold water on things but how would our defence and attack fare in a similar comparison?

To genuinely challenge we need Donovan (or like player wide right), a ball-playing but effective right full back (Coleman, maybe?) an additional centre back and a lethal front man (Beckford?).

Then the dream would be attainable. On their own, midfields don't win trophies, although they help considerably!
Ciarán McGlone
16   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:26:27

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"It may sound ridiculous but despite the result at the weekend I actually think Man U could struggle a bit this season"

Snap. I have them down to flirt with 4th....If they don't buy they midfielders they've needed for some time then they'll struggle..

Scholes may have played well on Sunday..but he was given loads of time on the ball. Gill says there's money, the Glazer's say there's money and Fergie says theres money...Yet he's too arrogant to realise he needs a significant investment to challenge..
Peter Warren
17   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:34:11

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Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal superior for me. I just don't think we can rely on Billy as yet, but certainly potential I just hope he comes good. If he realises his potential, we would be awesome.
John Lloyd
18   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:52:25

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I think individually your doing a massive dis-service to a few players such as Modric, Valencia, Krancjar. But I do agree that as a 'unit' our midfield has massive potential, especially with the likes of Rodwell, Osman and even Anichebe pushing what I believe to be the starting 5 on saturday.

2 more points, Man Utd may struggle???? I think only them and Chelsea stand out as proven, consistent performers so will be the top 2 again IMO. Beneath that its bloody anyones! 3rd to 7th and maybe lower!!

In my heart & dreams we could challenge and hopefully finish around the top 3.

Realistically we could get 4th, or 5th and a trophy.

My biggest fear, we fizzle. The players we have built up, have bad seasons. We languish in 8th again or worse and the nucleus of this squad starts to break up!

P.S - EPL sounds dead gay!
John McLoughlin
19   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:57:12

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Well we need to show it on the pitch, No excuses next season, everybody is more or less fit.
My concern is our teams attitude away at these sides as often we go and let the opposition boss us, If our midfield is as good as we beleive we need to be going and getting wins against these teams away from Goodison park.
Wayne Smyth
20   Posted 10/08/2010 at 17:44:20

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If I were being critical I'd say the main problem we have is a lack of pace and too many centre midfielders being played out wide, pretending to be wingers. We actually have no proper wingers. Pienaar plays in the middle at international level, as I think does bily. This is why I think bily often looks completely lost during games. We all see the magic he can pull off when he gets anywhere central.

We may also struggle if DM decides he's going to play neville or ossie in there which will dilute our quality and ability to hold the ball.

If we had a quality right winger with some pace, then I'd say would be a good match for any team. Without it, a lot depends on whether the lads are really up for it on the day and the 11 that DM puts out.
Dennis Stevens
21   Posted 10/08/2010 at 20:12:14

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You're right, John - no excuses next season! Moyes has had a long time to build this squad & now's the time to deliver ? if he breaks the 24-year rule it's all over for him!
Brian Waring
22   Posted 10/08/2010 at 20:39:44

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If there is one thing to come out of the run-up to the new season, it's that the usual suspects can't come on here with every excuse under the sun, after a defeat etc.

We have now been told on here that we have one of the best (and pointed out by some, the best ) midfields in the league, and also one of the strongest squads in the prem. So, apart from maybe dodgy decisions, pens etc, there can be no lame excuses.

Jay Harris
23   Posted 10/08/2010 at 20:20:43

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I have to say man for man I dont think our MF comes close to the majority technically but our team spirit and character make up the difference.

All for one and one for all.

However I know it's off thread but 11 players make a team and we dont have a Drogba, Anelka,Torres or Rooney and defensively we look good on paper but in practice we are dire compared to the top teams.

I jusy hope our enthusiasm, will to win and new found confidence will be enough to see us through.
Brendan O'Doherty
24   Posted 10/08/2010 at 21:23:46

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Alan (#12)

I don't think Ferguson has ever let sentimentality about Moyes, or anyone else for that matter, get in the way if he wants a player (or wants rid of one). He is the most ruthless manager in the PL era, and has a tunnel vision about what is right for ManU.

I agree with you that he has much time for Moyes and us, but if he'd wanted Mikky he would have come in for him.
Unless of course he's going soft in his old age. I don't think so.
Afzan Yusuf
25   Posted 11/08/2010 at 01:26:30

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Arse, Man U and Chelsea definitely a bit above us. RS on the day shall be on par with us... We definitely above the rest and that include Citeh... well... we'll see...
Liu Weixian
26   Posted 11/08/2010 at 05:43:41

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I don't think ManUre will struggle in midfield as it has balance. For the same reason I worry for ours because of the glaring weakness on our right.

I must say that I don't rate Gerrand over Cahill. Gerrand seems better because he has more support from his teammates and is given the license to break forward and create chances. Cahill, on the other hand, is an old fashioned centre midfielder who tackles and creates in equal measure. It is unfair to rate that ugly bastard over Cahill just because he scores more goals and the way the media lauds him.
Chelski's midfield look strong, but Ballack is gone and Lampard may not have the legs for it anymore. The loss of Carvalho the lousy form of John Terry will force their midfield to put in more defensive work and this will restrict them from venturing forward too much.

Spurs and the Arse's midfields are the same: nice to look at but not much steel. As for Villa, forget it. They rely too much on the flanks and Milner is no longer with them.

The Shite's midfield is not that frightening. Mascherano is unsettled, Maxi is no big deal, Lucas is well, Lucas, and Gerrand is overrated. Man Shitty, for all their billions, has a squad but not a team.
Martin Mason
27   Posted 11/08/2010 at 06:16:23

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We have a very good midfield with Rodwell looking imperious and likely to fulfil his massive potential. I also believe that Osman is a strength not a weakness but not out of position and here is what will kill Everton. We are weak on the right side and that will only be cured when we get a specialist wide player of the likes of Gary Steven. Our other weakness is lack of a second strong central defender. Lescott for all the criticism supplemented Jagielka very well and we've been brittle since he left. We miss his speed and his left footedness (as well as his goals). When I think of it I don't think that we can do as well as many think until we can sort out these weaknesses. Could Duffy be the answer? I haven't seen him so can't make an opinion.
James Mullarkey
28   Posted 11/08/2010 at 08:27:48

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I too believe Fellani is one of if not the best DM in the prem. We also have Johnny who can play there. Billy needs to step up and we need Pieaar to stay because he and Baines bring balance. Arteta enough said. midfield looks very good.
I am concerned about Distin and also up front. Saha is not consistent. I hope we keep the Yak and maybe Beckford can be another shrewd one.

I agree with Ciaran that Manure look fairly average but SAF is not a fool and knows he will get close on 25-30 goals from Rooney and that they will beat the majority of bottom 10 sides.

RS don't look anything special but something will go their way this season as it usually does. Just a word about the Derbies. We bottled it at Goodison & Anfield last season and have done that too often. We need 6 points off them this season. It's about time we put them in their place.
Fran Mitchell
29   Posted 11/08/2010 at 08:42:22

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Nasri - going to be a class act.
Ashavin - not been his best, but he can be very very good indeed.
Fabregas - best in the country
Diaby - very good player
Song - arguably as goood as Fellaini
Rosicky - injuries have prevented being the player he could have been, but a top talent in reserve.
Walcott - has pace Everton could only dream of, has potential to be class. talented most definately, inconsistent also.
Wilshire - looks a real talent.
Ramsey - very very good playter. unfortunate about his injury.

Modric - class act, similar level to Arteta and could improve.
Palacios - Great player, little inconsistent maybe, picks up too many cards, but still young.
Huddlestone - got class, needs to improve but has great potential
Krankjaer - very good player, versatile and isnt even in first 11
Lennon - great on his day, lacks the final ball to be considered top-class, but his pace is an asset we would dream of having.
Sandro - heard very good things, Spurs after him for a long time, may take time to settle, but he will probably be a very good player.

Malouda - after a very slow start to his career in England, has become the best and most effective winger in the country.
Lampard - shit for England, shit hot for Chelsea. Yes, lots of his goals come from defelections, but the key word there is 'lots'. He scores, its what he does. Class.
Essien - Fellaini should watch videos of Essien. A brilliant player.
Benayoun - very good player. will create chances all day long, criminally underused by Benitez.
Ramires - know little of this guy, but 20million + Brazilian + bought by Ancelotti = very good player
Mikel - not lived up to expectations, but they were very high. he's still a very good player and not half bad back-up to Essien.

These 3 teams have midfields better than our due to squad depth and pace. Each team has lightening pace somewhere, and back-up to each key player. Our first choice midfield is good, yet an injury to Fellaini/Arteta/Pienaar could be disasterous.
Ciarán McGlone
30   Posted 11/08/2010 at 08:58:30

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Cahill better than Gerard?

John Whelan
31   Posted 11/08/2010 at 11:06:28

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I think all Evertonians are glad that we now have the depth a Premier League midfield requires to compete at the top.

The great thing is that most of them can play in more than one position. Chelsea on have maybe Benayoun who can play in more than one position, the RS have maybe Maxi and Man U have JS Park. But we have Billy, Pienaar, Arteta and Osman who can play anywhere in the midfield Attacking wise. So if one of the get's injured some can come right in. Even Rodwell can play Defensive or Attacking midfield.

The Moyes Era has always been tainted with a lack of midfield options in my opinion, and this has hampered our development. I can remember when our midfield used to pick itself; Carsley, Osman, Arteta, Pienaar and Cahill, with Nevile to come in if one got injured. With a mixture of investing in the future and shrewd signings he has changed this around. (and not just quit like Martin "I'm the best manager in the world alongside Fergie and Mourinho" O'Neill when things got tight financially)

Our greatest weapon though is something that money can't buy. Team Spirit. The boys are so visably happy with being at the Club. They respect each other. And will fight for each other.

And I almost forgot. Our bond as fans with the players. The RS rave about Stevie-Me, Chelsea about Fat Frank. But is there really a bond as strong between Ourselves and Mikel Arteta. He could not only get in to, but walk straight into any team in the Prem. Yet he stays. He could have gone, but some things are better than money.

Give me these players ahead of Man City's Oil Money big ego players any day!
Mike Allison
32   Posted 11/08/2010 at 11:28:22

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Diaby and Rosicky push the Arsenal midfield ahead of ours, Chelsea's is better, so I put us as third in the list.

I agree that Man United's isn't so strong on paper, but they have a mental habit of winning and getting things done that goes beyond any logic or sense of combined attributes. Those players expect to win and someone from somewhere finds a way to do it. That's what we're competing against when it comes to Man United.
Gareth Humphreys
33   Posted 11/08/2010 at 11:46:46

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Midfields don't win things. Teams win things.
Guy Rogers
34   Posted 11/08/2010 at 13:00:25

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Listen, guys, the elephant in the room is Pip Squeak will be starting as the holding midfielder as Fellaini is not back to match fitness yet and Rodwell will be on the bench and the lightning quick Ossie will be on the right. If you now do a refresh, our midfield 4 comes out bottom of the list!
David Chait
35   Posted 11/08/2010 at 13:12:14

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Yeah Ciaran... those are some seriosuly tinted blue specs... not worth a debate really..

Fran I like your analysis. I think Spurs have bags of talent... maybe of all the teams I am underestimating them a touch... but I feel we're stronger in Fellaini and Rodwell (even Arteta is a tough tackling player). They have pace and creativity... but none more so than us and we have the upperhand in power (my opinion).

Gareth.. you'll note we're not talking about whether this means we can win ? just whether man for man in midfield we're as good as we think we are...
Phil Bellis
36   Posted 11/08/2010 at 14:49:11

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Gareth (#33)
reminds me of Labby's famous whinge "Everton, the only 3 man team to ever win the League"
Phil Roberts
37   Posted 12/08/2010 at 18:04:41

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To David Price #13

1/11/08 Fulham (h) 1-0 then 8 of 10 matches 30/11/08 to 31/1/09 which was 2 defeats (Villa h, Utd a) 2 draws (Arsenal, Chelsea h) and 4 wins ( S'Land, Hull h and City, Spurs a)

Never played in the same team since then.

The only matches when all 5 played all 90 minutes were Villa, City, Chelsea.

I do have better things to do in my life ? honest!

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