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A half-baked 'tater'

By Jay Harris :  15/11/2010 :  Comments (36) :
Whether we started the season glass half-fulI or half-empty is academic right now as, barring a major miracle, we will be facing a second season out of Europe and our failure to bring in a bit of quality over the Summer is coming home to roost. IMHO, the root of the problem is in midfield where I believe we need a radical rethink.

4-5-1 may be dated now but is still very effective with the right players who can switch to 4-4-1-1 or 4-3-3 during a game. Our problem is that we have got a midfield who have certain outstanding qualities and if you put them all in a mixer and had a midfield 5 with all their best qualities, you would have a solution. But we haven't and we haven't got any balance either.

Having been brought up on Ball, Harvey and Kendall, I believe ANY good midfield player needs the following qualities:

Tackling ? needs to be able to win the ball and hopefully come away with it.

Reading the game ? needs to watch the play and not be caught out of position and not get caught in possession.

Determination ? a winning mentality that to win the ball, keep it, and create goals is their criteria of success.

Passing ? needs to be able to pass long and short with accuracy.

Fitness ? needs a good engine to be able to get up and down the pitch.

Physique ? needs to be strong and not easily knocked off the ball

Heading ? needs to be able to win more than 50% of heading duels.

Dribbling ability ? needs to be able to hold off challenges while keeping possession of the ball.

Goals ? needs to contribute around 10 goals a season.

Pace ? desirable rather than essential but we all know pace can destroy opposition defences.

Which brings me to my main point: Not one of our current midfield players with the exception of Fellaini has even half of these qualities.

Señor 75 grand a week used to be close but, since his injury and embarassing pay-rise, seems unable to produce anything like his best form. In fact Pienaar, Heitinga and Arteta couldn't hit the net if they were standing inside it.

Tim Cahill is our only hope for a goal but lacks quite a few of the other qualities needed for a good all round midfield player. We hear so much about box-to-box midfielders but Arteta and/or Heitinga get nose bleeds if they get over the halfway line.

Osman seems to have lost his scoring boots and is so lightweight in other respects he can only be placed in the "squad" category. Bily used to know where the goal was but not the pitch... now he doesn't even know where the goal is.

Rodwell is a Felli in the making but still too inexperienced... It is embarassing that the most creative players we have with the best engines are full backs ? Baines and Coleman.

So what is the solution? There are two ways forward evolution and revolution.

We could accept our shortcomings and try to consolidate around what we've got while taking the opportunity to replace Pienaar with somebody who would complement our needs more. Or we could accept that we're only treading water while waiting to sink and go for broke by selling some of the more saleable players and rebuilding our midfield around Fellaini and Rodwell.

I would pesonally like to see a diamond formation with a "Manny Fernandes" type as defensive midfielder with "Arteta's replacement", Fellaini and Rodwell playing just behind Cahill and "Yak's replacement".

I would also add that a goalkeeper and quality defender would also be desirable.

Reader Comments

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Christine Foster
1   Posted 16/11/2010 at 06:20:45

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Jay, some good points. I personally believe we have never replaced Carsley or Gravesen with the engine and determination. Sometimes what you need are people who have good technical ability, will run themselves into the floor, won't give up and can frighten the life out of the opposition!

We are a lightweight team, both physically and mentally; we don't need a Dogs of War midfield but a few terriers wouldn't go amiss.

Personally, I think someone like Olivier Dacourt would be ideal... class and steel.

I said at the end of last season that we needed to rebuild and get rid of a few players; that list has grown I think. We haven't done anything about rebuilding but I think Moyes should cash in on a number of players this January and not wait for summer. So, for sale this January:

Pienaar, sell if we can
Johnny H.

I would give the Yak and Mikel until the end of the season but show no mercy if they fail to perform.

Clearout in summer? In addition to the above, I would let Phil Neville go or move him to a coaching role;
Osman and Hibbert, time for a change guys for all concerned;
Yobo, not sure how he is going to be honest but I am not convinced of the partnership of Distin and Jags.

That leaves Fellaini and Cahill... the sort of players who play well depending on the players around them... so I guess we wait and see.

Point is there are players that can be sold to bring in fresh blood... who, I wonder???
Tony I'Anson
2   Posted 16/11/2010 at 07:23:12

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Jay, you sound as if you were describing a younger form of my good self although no talent spotter picked up on my charm, wit or personality either.

Do players with all these outstanding qualities cost a fortune beyond our current means?

I do believe Rodwell is the future, but will we be able to keep hold of him?

Plus I would also ask if anyone picked up on DM's comments about never feeling safe in his job? Is that not manager speak to say I'm off at the end of the season and I'll be looking for a new Club?

Sorry Jay, your post has raised more questions in my mind than comments. I also believe that if big changes are to be made on and off the field, they should be completed at the right time, respecting all concerned and giving us sufficient time to move on and thank all those for their efforts.
Michael Brien
3   Posted 16/11/2010 at 07:19:07

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Jay ? some interesting points. You mention 4-5-1 and I would agree that is at times very effective. My only criticism of this formation as far as Everton are concerned is that Moyes seems to play this formation 95% of the time ? there seems to be little variation. You referred to variations of 4-5-1 and the "flexibility factor" in switching ? for me our variation seems to allow for little flexiblity.

I have to disagree with the view that Arteta should be discarded. Yes he is not playing well at the moment ? or is not at his best ? however, I am not sure that he is 100% fit, I think with others missing he has played in games which he may have in usual circumstances missed.

Personally, I have to admit I am a bit disappointed with Fellaini ? he has all the talent and ability and I wouldn't argue with that. However, he must sort out his temper ? I know that some of the cards he gets are totally undeserved, but quite a lot are for rash stupid actions and he needs to start showing maturity in his play. If he does that, he has all the attributes of becoming a world class player.

I am pleased at the progress of Coleman and hopefully that is a sign that there are some "gems" to be found at "bargain" prices. At the "higher" end of the market a Scott Parker type of midfielder would do a lot for our midfield. Even the man himself ? though I think West Ham wouldn't want to part with him!!! It would be a very brave West Ham manager/chairman who sanctioned that sale!!!

What do you think of the rumours re David Bentley and an exchange deal involving Pienaar in January? Personally I am not sure... on a footballing level Bentley is a fine player... but is he the type of player we need? Also, I am a bit concerned that off-the-field distractions might get in the way.

Mike Gwyer
4   Posted 16/11/2010 at 08:48:57

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You mention "sell players and build around Rodwell and Felli" ? who can we sell that would raise sufficient funds? Pienaar is going to go free? Jags and Baines are important to us and the rest of the players like the Yak, Saha, Osman or whoever, will raise little cash.

I can see Moyes wanting a new striker and I imagine that any funds he gets will come from the sale of Heitinga and/or Bily.

To be honest, this season has become a total disappointment with the Arteta issue looking a real problem, I cannot recall him being replaced in a game before (other than getting a standing ovation with 5 mins to go).
Alan Clarke
5   Posted 16/11/2010 at 09:25:43

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I was delighted when Arteta signed in the summer and I defended him on this site to those who just labelled him a greedy bastard. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I think the club sold it's soul offering Arteta all that money. If you take Arsenal as an example ? they are never held to ransom by a player and I admire them for it. As soon as a player starts thinking they're the big "I am", the club gets rid. Henry, Overmars and Gallas are good examples. Wenger relies on his scouting network to trust that suitable replacements can be found for a fraction of the cost.

No player is indispensible and Everton should not have pandered to Arteta's demands. They should have stuck to what they believed in and not joined in this embarrassing process of offering players ridiculous amounts of money. Arteta has proven he is not a god, he is an above average player who is playing poorly at the moment and has played poorly since his return form injury. Saha is another example having not scored since signing his new contract. If these players don't want to play for Everton for what is still a king's ransom then fuck off and play for City and we'll buy a replacement. Because everything's rosey amongst the playing staff at City at the moment.

From now on Everton should stick to their guns and only offer what they can afford where the top players have parity with each other. Don't offer Pienaar any more than what's been offered ? if he thinks he's worth more then let him go and find more. We need to improve our squad and offering these lazy players more money hasn't worked so Moyes should freshen it up.
Sam Hoare
6   Posted 16/11/2010 at 09:53:59

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Interesting to think that, if Moyes had sold Arteta in the Summer there would have been a full scale rebellion. If he now sold him in January, I suspect there would be some mild protests at best... some might even pack his bags for him.

At the moment our two highest paid players, Arteta and Heitinga, are passengers, and we will never rise up the table till our central midefielders play a hell of a lot better than they did on Sunday.
Kevin Tully
7   Posted 16/11/2010 at 10:12:29

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Our midfield is suffering badly because of poor form. Fellaini is the only player who ticks all the above when he is playing well. We cannot rely on Arteta or Heitinga as playmakers, they both need dropping because it's like playing with 10 men at the moment. Pienaar is all perspiration but no penetration. I really don't know what you can do when your midfield is as unproductive as ours. I don't blame the manger either.
Jimmy Hacking
8   Posted 16/11/2010 at 11:10:28

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I'll tell you who we need to buy: Gylfi Sigurðsson.

he'd cost about £12 million in January. In a couple of years he'd cost about £30 million, awesome young player, and unlike Pienaar, Arteta and Cahill, can actually score consistently from long range.

Snap him up from Hoffenheim before bloody Spurs do.
Peter Warren
9   Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:27:16

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Alan, post #5? you cite Arsenal, what about Fabregas? Is he not a "big I am"? Every club has their problems with Bigtime Charlies and we're no different ? although I actually think Arteta is not one.
Joseph Strumm
10   Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:25:42

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Considering we wasted £9million on Bilygetmeoff, would you trust DM to shake it up? I think Noble at West Ham is a great young player, we should offload Bily, Saha and Heitinga and throw the cash at Noble, it's a matter of time before he's off to Chelski to replace Lampard.
Ian McDowell
11   Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:33:43

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Before we starting criticising the club about giving Arteta a new contract, refer to the posts made on this site when he signed his new deal in the summer.

I was made up when he signed, but I am really worried about his performances since August. He has looked very slow, and players have been waltzing past him as he sticks out a leg at a half-hearted tackle.
Alex Houghton
12   Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:27:34

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I know Mikel didn't have the greatest game against Arsenal but has he really sunk to the depths that you're talking about?

I think he's struggling a little for fitness and maybe the last couple of games have been poor by his standards but to talk about shipping him out are a bit premature. A little r & r and then a run of games in the centre with Fellaini will hopefully show us again the quality we know he has.

Heitinga is a centre half and should only be used thus (or RB if desperate).

Bily had a shocker v Bolton, confidence looks shot. Reckon Moyes would happily let him go for a half-decent offer.

Pienaar is a busy player but his end product is frighteningly poor. How many assists/goals this season?

I still think Euro qualification is in our hands thanks to the unpredictable nature of the league this season and I'm optimistic...... I think.

Jay Harris
13   Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:35:08

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Peter, I agree I don't think Arteta is a Bigtime Charlie.

I think he has never recovered physically and psychologically from his injury and the weight of expectation of 75 grand a week is weighing him down.

Maybe also his new wife is pressurising him to return to Spain.

Whatever it is, we need to cash in now while his kudos within the game is still high.
Sam Hoare
14   Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:45:39

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Tell you what is really unfair. Barcelona have signed Ibrahim Affellay. For only ?3M apparently.

He is exactly the sort of player we need. As it is, I'm not sure who out there would really help us. Not that I imagine Moyes will change much.

Bet on him to stick with the same formation, the same players and tactics. With the exception of perhaps bringing in Donovan on loan in January to replace Coleman.

Or perhaps he sells the increasingly poor Arteta and Heitinga for a small fortune, shifts money-grabbing Pienaar, and replaces them with the younger and cheaper Charlie Adam and Matt Jarvis. Leaving a small fortune to spend on a quick, phyisical striker who will actually score goals. A young Drogba. Maybe that Romelu Lukaku chap.
Peter Warren
15   Posted 16/11/2010 at 13:26:34

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I just don't see Moyes being radical ? be it in team formations, selection or transfer policy. What I would say is that, if you want to sell Arteta (which I don't) and Heitinga (which I believe would be a good idea), January is probably the optimum time as he's not cup tied for Champions League and I suspect Man City are very interested in both.
Tony J Williams
16   Posted 16/11/2010 at 12:49:56

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Bloody Hell, Christine, you have just sold off 11 of our 27-man squad. It's all great getting shut but the ones you don't like will not get us any money apart from perhaps Johhny.

However, even though we want to sell them, who is going to want to buy them? Our whole transfer dealing this summer said it all, not one publicised offer for any player at all... except the joke of a comment about the Yak from the wet spammers.

Alan (5), I will see your Arsenal and raise you a Chelsea and a Man Utd. Terry, Lampard and Rooney have pissed over their clubs to get a sooper dooper mega pay rise from them. Player power and all that. The players you have mentioned were coming to the arse end of their career when dumped.

The problem with Arteta is that he probably can get more money elsewhere... in England but never in Spain. Pienaar's final ball and lack of goals/assists piss me off but I would certainly try my hardest to keep him, only because he makes us play better but if he is unreasonable in his demands then ta ra, Steven!
Tony J Williams
17   Posted 16/11/2010 at 13:53:18

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Sounds good Sam but why would they want to come to us? If they were that good the "big" teams would already be sniffing around and we woudn't have a chance to get them.
Alasdair Mackay
18   Posted 16/11/2010 at 14:00:41

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Arteta is off-form, but he was brilliant towards the end of last season when he first came back to full fitness. I think that proves that he has not lost it entirely.

Rodwell will be an awesome midfielder.

Fellaini is already there.

Heitinga is clearly out of position playing centre-mid, but can't get a game at centre back.

I think the assumption that we are not going to challenge for Europe this season is very glass-half-empty. We are a side that comes into form around this time of the season, normally, and we are four points off 5th! There is a long way to go and I still harbour hopes of a CL finish (although maybe that is too glass-half-full)!
Michael Kenrick
19   Posted 16/11/2010 at 14:18:47

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Tony, bids were received for Jagielka and Saha, as well as Yakubu.
Joey Brown
20   Posted 16/11/2010 at 14:24:38

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Not that I thought we'd actually snag him but I see Barca have signed up Afellay. I remember a couple years ago I actually believed we were in contention for any of the daily rumors that would surface. Mostly I assume they're all false now as Everton seem to have less money every season.

Does anyone know why Barca can "sign" someone outside the window? I see this happening from time to time but it only ever seems to be the big clubs that do it. Just curious, not that Everton would ever think to do that.

Matthew Tait
21   Posted 16/11/2010 at 15:38:20

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Oh here we go again. Sell the whole squad, they're all rubbish.

We were hearing this about Cahill a couple of months ago, now he's flavour of the month again. First half of last year Fellaini was an ungainly waster of space, then he became a star. Now Arteta has a few mediocre games, so clearly he's got to go. And round we go.

Last season ,Arteta was our star and talisman that was receiving just reward. Now he's a greedy waster that we've sold our soul to placate.

And we football fans have the gall to demand 'loyalty' from our players? Flippin' heck!
David Thomas
22   Posted 16/11/2010 at 15:44:21

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Bloody hell that is some clear out your talking about.
Stephen Kenny
23   Posted 16/11/2010 at 17:41:10

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If you can find even one midfielder with those qualities you're talking about on anything near our budget, then you should also consider trying to feed 5000 people with a bit of haddock and a couple of loaves.
Steve Edwards
24   Posted 16/11/2010 at 17:18:22

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I'd swop any of our midfield for Charlie Adam. This guy is absolute class and he's a genuine dead ball specialist. He is very likely to be on the move in January. His manager is already talking about life without him and David Moyes's brother is his agent.

In my humble opinion, Everton should move hell and high water to land him. He made Arteta look like a mug when we played them recently. This guy has got the lot and I do think he is getable if we sell Heitinga.

We would also need to bring in a good young centre-back, someone like Taylor from Newcastle but that needs to be done anyway as Distin won't last forever.

Joe McMahon
25   Posted 16/11/2010 at 19:30:38

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When will you all learn, everyone? We won't buy anyone worth having in January. Loans etc only. Steve (24), I agree Taylor should have been here in the summer, with Jags going to Arse. IMO, Taylor is much the better player.
Colin Malone
26   Posted 16/11/2010 at 20:15:17

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Talk about kicking people when they are down. Mikel has been our most consistent midfielder for years, ok he's going through a bad patch, is he missing Osman? Let's get behind the best little Spaniard we know.

We are a one dimensional team, other teams are told to block Arteta. We need a John Carew or a Santa Cruz for a Plan B option.

Some of the above say we need a clear-out and new blood, maybe the new blood we need is Martin O'Neill.

Aiden Jones
27   Posted 16/11/2010 at 20:38:44

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Taylor better than Jags???

I give up.
David Price
28   Posted 16/11/2010 at 20:41:12

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Christine, if free could you start on my garage and shed next please.
Karl Masters
29   Posted 16/11/2010 at 21:24:43

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Jay. You usually talk a lot of sense, but this is an over-reaction.

So anybody having a few bad games must be sold. On that basis I suppose Man Utd should sell Rooney, Chelsea should send John Terry and Ashley Cole packing, and Liverpool should have got rid of Torres a month ago before he started scoring again. They are all overpaid prima donnas after all aren't they?

Football is a simple game and its usually won and lost in the head.

Attitude, confidence, momentum of thought is what 90% of it is about. It's why Sunderland can go and win at Chelsea when removing a few mental shackles and why teams like Blackpool, Hull and Burnley can make an impact with seemingly impossible odds stacked against them.

Moyes needs to sort himself out, get out on that training ground and get that team understanding what they should be doing. A bit of shooting practice would not go amiss. There are still 24 matches and 72 points left to go for and we need around 50 points for a place in Europe, maybe top 4. 15 wins, 5 draws,4 defeats would be enough and it's still more than do-able.
Matt Compton
30   Posted 16/11/2010 at 21:36:13

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To me, the problem is not Arteta as such, it's the position he's being asked to play. Surely he's not deciding he has to play as a defensive midfielder?

Last season he was playing as a more attacking midfielder which is what got him some goals. It was the same position Fabregas plays. That is why Arsenal were contemplating using Arteta as Fabregas's replacement.

To me, Arteta seems unfit and low on confidence. Is he carrying an injury? I think he's over the psychological aspects of his injury as proved last season but perhaps the burden of an underperforming team is getting too much for him. Luckily the £75k he receives will help in that regard!

For me, I wouldn't drop him but I'd take him off all corners and set-pieces. When he first came back, he didn't take them initially (I guess to protect against injury). I'd like this burden taken off him, to allow him to concentrate on football in free play, on creating and scoring goals.
Christine Foster
31   Posted 16/11/2010 at 21:55:43

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Sorry guys, but I have been cleaning the house for the past week so I guess my brain is in clean-out mode... but having said that, I think last season I would have got rid of a few and brought some in; we didn't, so this year it's a few more... they start to stack up.

Am I wrong in my selection?

Probably right in that it's not going to happen in one hit, but it should start.

I should have added Big Vic to the list as well... never going to make it.

Fresh blood required.. call in the builders!

Jay Harris
32   Posted 16/11/2010 at 21:51:49

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Karl, your point is well made but IMO Arteta has not been the same player since coming back from injury. For example, he used to hold onto the ball and or go past people with regularity; now he is ponderous on the ball. However, he has always been inconsistent with corners and free kicks and never been much of a goal threat.

He always looked class to me in other respects but not since his injury and I do feel the 75 grand a week is weighing heavily on his shoulders. In his heart, he may well have wanted to return to Spain but the money was too much to refuse.

Who knows... but all I can say is he is a poor shadow of the player he was before the injury.
David Thomas
33   Posted 16/11/2010 at 22:39:16

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Having read your article do you not think you're going a bit OTT? "Barring a major miracle, we will be facing a second season out of Europe" ? We are only 4 points off the team in 5th place with about 25 games still to play. Before anyone says we are only a couple points off the bottom three, I had noticed. However, in my opinion, to suggest at this stage of the season we need a "major miracle" to finish in a position we are currenly only 4 points off is a bit of a silly statement.

Also, the list you have put up about what a good midfielder needs ? how many midfield players in world football have all of those attributes? I could maybe think of one... maybe two at a push ? and they are up there with the best footballers in the world. Kendall, Ball or Harvey did not individually have all of these attributes ? does that mean by themselves they were not "good" midfield players?

Also, what is wrong with having a full back having the best engine in the team? Chelsea won the double last year and arguably the player with the best engine in their team is Ashley Cole. What position does he play in again?

Also, if ever a player's reputation grew in his absence it has to be Manny Fernandes. I always wonder, if he is as good as people make out, why is he not a regular for his current team?

Jamie Sweet
34   Posted 16/11/2010 at 23:46:21

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"Pienaar, Heitinga and Arteta couldn't hit the net if they were standing inside it."

As far as I remember, Arteta was a resonable distance out when he found the net against Man Utd and Liverpool. Short / selective memory syndrome. Form is temporary etc etc.

I agree there's a bit of dead wood that needs chopping. A couple of games on the bench for Arteta to wake him up a bit may be in order but no more. Getting rid? Hell no!
Peter Bourke
35   Posted 17/11/2010 at 01:55:13

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Mathew Tait @21.
You are spot on. Some Blues supporters would have to be the most impatient short-sighted people on the planet. If Tim Cahill doesn't score next week, he will be next to go.
Michael Brien
36   Posted 19/11/2010 at 07:16:52

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Whilst I will concede that certain players are not playing as well as we know they can, I think some of the solutions suggested are a bit like a Kevin Nolan tackle ? i.e., over the top!! The Evertonian solution seems to be if somebody is off-form then sell them even, if they have a bad game sometimes ? that is the cry from some fans.

Funnily enough, all these so called "poor" signings or poor decisions in the offering of new contracts and David Moyes gets very little criticism. I would think that he has some say in who is signed and who is offered a new contract.

Having been an Evertonian since 1964, I have yet to see an Everton player who has been brilliant in every game. Come to think of it, I have yet to see a player for ANY team club or international side that has played well every game. Howard Kendall is an Everton legend as both a player and a manager. I recall him making one of the worst mistakes I have ever seen in a match v Derby County in Sept 1971 ? playing a pass without looking and giving the ball away resulting in a goal. A true "schoolboy error". Had they had the mass TV coverage of today at that time I am sure it would have been replayed time and time again as one of the gaffs of the season. Mistakes and bad form are part of football... NO player is immune from these ? get real.

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