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A dose of realism

By Sam Hoare :  27/04/2011 :  Comments (29) :
First of all, some indisputable facts:
  • Most fans want their team to do as well as they possibly can.
  • No team wins every single game.
  • Every team has bad days.
  • Every player will make individual errors.
  • Every manager will make mistakes in regard to tactics, selection and substitutions.
  • All fans will have ideas as to what team the manager should pick and how they should have played to avoid that last defeat/draw.
  • Criticism is easy in the light of retrospection.
I, like many, have been disappointed with this season's offering. Last season's late form led me to believe that we could achieve something special. But perhaps we were all just guilty of wearing blue-tinted glasses? Cup form aside (which is genuinely awful and maybe another topic of discussion) how do we compare to our rivals in the league?

Manchester United One of the best teams around in England and it would seem Europe, as they are likely to progress to Champions League final. A squad full of ability and class with the attacking talents of Rooney, Hernandez, Berbatov, Giggs, Valencia and Nani. Alex Ferguson, probably the best manager of his generation.

Chelsea Last season's champions. Have stuttered this season but have a huge reserve of top class internationals to call upon and when things got a little tough they casually splashed £70 odd million on Torres and David Luiz.

Arsenal The wait for silverware goes on but Wenger remains one of the best managers in England if not Europe. One of the few top clubs not to splash cash (though £20m on Squillaci and Koscielny show money isn't always well spent!) but a team bursting with talent bolstered by a supreme manager and the uprising of Jack Wilshere, soon to be an England Legend.

Manchester City The new billionaire's plaything. Over £200m spent on transfer fees in last year or so. Top class players like Toure, Tevez, Silva and can even afford flops like the £30m Balotelli. Endless money and squad depth and class as a result.

Tottenham While not quite Man City-esque they have continued to add to a young and talented squad. The purchase of high class players such as Van der Vaart and Gallas (on a free) and the ultimate expression of resources in comparison to us evidenced in their snaffling of our 2010 Player of the Season Steven Pienaar to mostly fight for a place on their bench. Have mixed it with the best of Europe.

Now if you compare our resources, our squads and the money spent to any of these teams, it is very hard to see how we are meant to better them over a season. We might and indeed have beaten them in individual games but over 38 long games we are sadly outgunned in my eyes. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try, we should and hopefully next season we will succeed but I find it hard to understand those who expect us to better these goliaths simply as a course of nature. If we did, it would represent a phenomenal achievement in my eyes.

Sadly the reality is that 6th would actually be a relatively impressive finish. Especially when the other teams fighting for it include Liverpool (a dwindling team maybe but one still able to get top class players in on the high wages they offer ? we would have all leapt at Joe Cole and Jovanovic on frees!), and several other teams who have spent more than us, such as Sunderland, Villa and even Stoke.

All season we have been playing with a strike force of two freebies (one from the first division) and an oversized and frankly average youngster. Yakubu as the saviour looks like it was never going to happen, i don't know if he is even starting for Leicester at the moment is he? While Villa have Bent, Young and Agbonlahor; Sunderland have Gyan and Welbeck; even Bolton have Davies, Elmander and Sturridge.

I'm not going to argue about whose fault it is that we haven't had funds to invest but my point is that, if we finish 6th, 7th or even 8th, I don't think that's quite so terrible when you realistically consider what we're up against. Of course it's not satisfying and of course we all want better; yes, we've dropped points unnecessarily but then we've also picked some up unexpectedly. Inconsistency is the marker of a mid-table team.

For me, Arsenal is the only model we currently can hope to follow. Invest in youth, train them well and hope that you find some gems. The good news is that our U-18 team looks a decent shot to win their title after hammering Liverpool 4-0 last night (that English lad from Portugal, Eric Dier scored). Hopefully the future starts here.

Reader Comments

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Tony J Williams
1   Posted 27/04/2011 at 14:50:38

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If we finish above 8th, we have bettered last year's position but this year has been a disaster.

I didn't fall for the 24-year rubbish or the "we will vie for 4th" but I didn't expect us to be as bad as we have been.

We tried the pretty passing game and usually got beat; we have of late resorted back to the horrible hoof ball and pulled off a few wins until we met the probable Champions of England.

It's everyone's fault this season, from the manager to the players, and certainly the board. Probably no actual net spend in 3 seasons. If you stand still, you go backwards ? that's the awful truth.

We need wingers and forwards but we're not going to get them without selling our better players, so it is taking one step forward and two backwards.
Sam Morrison
2   Posted 27/04/2011 at 15:00:59

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All salient points, Sam, which will now no doubt be rebutted at length and occasionally with cynical glee.

In fact I'll start: While I follow the logic above, you're basing your appraisal of our league position mainly on finance ? not unreasonably, I hasten to add. It's certainly a pivotal factor.

But team spirit, form, and momentum are all other factors, and ones that we seemed to have in abundance in the first six months of 2010. Where did they go? We began this season with pretty much a full squad, but only started getting results when players went missing, when league form had been consistently shit, when in fact the expectations of the fans were lowered; a familiar pattern under Moyes's stewardship.

I'm an admirer of Moyes ? he has done amazing stuff with the mess he inherited. But, if we get back to those heights again, I pray he can cope with raised expectations, shake off the underdog tag, and get a team with Fellaini, Arteta, Baines, Jags, Heitinga, Saha not just up for a cup tie under lights against Chelsea, but twatting the average teams in the league.

Sorry, I may have strayed off course there. In essence, I agree with your post, but the logic you spell is there to be defied, or at least attempted to be defied, rather than nodded along to.
Gareth Humphreys
3   Posted 27/04/2011 at 15:39:14

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In essence, I agree with you, Sam. David Moyes's job is to deal with the hand he has been given (financially) and to turn that into a decent XI. He has done that superbly throughout his reign; however, it is virtually impossible to expect him to surpass the clubs you mention with the funds at his disposal.

That, though, is what he is paid handsomely to do.

James Martin
4   Posted 27/04/2011 at 15:24:47

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Fans do also know though how good their team can be, and not just on a one-off, but a minimum standard of performance required of them every week. Everyone would like but no-one is expecting us to be beating Chelsea and United four- or five-nil in their back yards and going unbeaten in the league for a whole season, nice as it would be.

What annoys me is the points frittered away by not even trying. Liverpool had their worst start to a season for ages and what did we do? Went and matched them step for step into the abyss of the lower table. So many home games have passed were you thought that even just shifting into second gear would give us the points but the players seemed incapable of it.

Even more infuriating would be that they would show their talent by battering Spurs or beating Man City only then to go and day dream through another winnable home game. I can accept losing to United away if we'd even made an attempt to have a go at them. Even the relegation sides will get a shot off against them, we embarrass ourselves by defending with every man and inexplicably still conceding.

The problem with Everton is their illustrious team spirit is only borne out of desperation. Neville and Howard only start thumping the tub when our backs are rammed right up against the wall and we actually need the points. The moment we get within striking distance of a meaningful accomplishment, we invariably mess it up because the players would rather revel in another "poor Everton" hard luck story than actually chance their hand at winning.

You hear all this talk about model professionals but not one of them has a winning attitude, the whole club has a culture of losing running through it, from Moyes downwards. All this talking his players down, second best left back, not quite good enough for England, not the finished product... do you think Mourinho is saying that to his players? We haven't even had many games this season where the old "Alamo" cliché could be wheeled out.

Against Man Utd, you would think being a goal down with nothing at stake against a team playing for the Championship, perhaps a bit anxious to not concede, you would expect us to pound the door down last 5 minutes, throw some tackles in, even if it's a few fouls; instead: nothing, just grateful acceptance that it was only a narrow defeat.

Perhaps we lack the quality and investment to win as much as we would like but there is no reason why the players can't show us they want to win; if it was really their inferiority holding them back then I don't think too many reasonable fans would be unhappy. Instead, we all know that, apart from about four recent games against pathetic opposition, our team hasn't give one all season, and the fact that this bunch of losers still have found themselves in 8th place makes it even more infuriating regarding what could have been...

Sam Hoare
5   Posted 27/04/2011 at 15:49:30

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Sam, I guess what I was trying to get at, but maybe failed in retropsect, was that in the league, over the long course of the season, whilst form and morale will help and be responsible for dips and peaks, it really all boils down to the players that you have.

A good or bad manager might raise or drop you a few places but ultimately the better squads perform time and time again. This does NOT necessarily equate to money and Wenger has shown that you can potentially build a great squad without billions... but his is the only team in the league top 5 that probably isn't in the top 5 for spending.
Sam Morrison
6   Posted 27/04/2011 at 16:22:05

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Fair comment, Sam. I think we're in agreement really, just voicing our frustration in different ways...
Mark Stone
7   Posted 27/04/2011 at 16:27:21

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Agree with pretty much every word you say.

One point I will make about the myth that is Wenger and that is that there is no way a comparison can be made between Arsene taking over Arsenal in 1995 with Moyes taking over Everton in 2003.

Wenger's early success was, in no small part attributable to having players like Dennis Bergkamp ? a £7.5m signing in 1995 ? at his disposal! (TEN YEARS later, Everton signed Beattie for a club record £6m. I'm sure you will agree that football finance skyrocketed during those ten years, meaning our £6m was paltry in comparison).

His cause was also helped by the fact that the squad he inherited still contained many of the players (especially THAT defence) who had won the league just 4 years earlier, the League and FA Cup double just 2 years earlier and the UEFA Cup just 1 year earlier! Granted they had a bad season under Rioch in 94-95, but this was a stronger squad than the one that finished 4th the previous year.

Compare this with an Everton side who had finished 15th, 16th, 13th and 14th in the 4 seasons (reverse chronologically) preceeding Moyes taking over at Everton and you will see there is no similarity ? despite the commonly held myth. It would be more comparable with taking over a Liverpool side who had just dropped out of the top 4, in 2010 following many years as an established top 4 side.

I should point out that I am a big fan of Wenger's approach and philosophy of football. But to suggest he could have done the same had he taken over Everton in 2003 is very far fetched.

Chris Bannantyne
8   Posted 27/04/2011 at 17:08:52

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Good points Sam, and ones that I, and other fans surely consider.

But I too get fed up with the team not even trying to win, or putting in terrible performances. Ok, a terrible performance happens from time to time, as does a lackluster attitude. But ours are just so predictable, and common. They are not just anomalies like other teams have.

As I've said before, I can handle seeing Everyon lose to the likes of Man U, Chelsea, even the odd dud team etc. But I can't stand seeing them not TRY to win. The game against United the other day was, to me, pathetic.

But yes yes, I do understand and agree with your post in general.
Sam Hoare
9   Posted 27/04/2011 at 17:49:29

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Chris, I know exactly what you mean.

Although I always find it hard to believe that the players are actually not trying. Maybe, when you play the best teams, it just looks as though no-one is trying because it's so hard chasing all the time? I dunno...

As for the inconsistency of performances, I think that's what having an average squad is all about. Sometimes you're tremendous; sometimes you're dire. Ask our red neighbours across the park and they'll tell you the same!
Martin Mason
10   Posted 27/04/2011 at 18:56:21

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Sam, I agree, mate, and I think most agree with you now. It's a reality that we must live with and just try to be the 12th man by giving our support.
John Ford
11   Posted 27/04/2011 at 19:26:18

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A reality check. Good post, common sense. Unavoidably quite depressing in its central points, but realistic too.
Trevor Mackie
12   Posted 27/04/2011 at 20:49:35

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"Realism" ? the deathknell of football's passion. A justification of failure, a rationalisation of the reasons "why not"... a heap of shit shaped like a bar of Cadbury's ? don't be fooled: IT'S STILL SHIT!

The forefathers of this club weren't realists, when that prick Houlding put the Anfield rent up YET AGAIN, they told him to stick it. It meant nowhere to play ? about as "real" as you can get, but they got hold of an umpromising crap bit of boggy land and, according to contemporaries "set to it with spades and wheelbarrows" and made their own magnificent arena ? Goodison Park.

In the 90s, Big Joe and the lads weren't realists against media favourites Spurs in the semis, nor the bookies favourite ManU in the final.... The boys of '66 where the antithesis of realism when Sheffield Wednesday were 2-0 up in the greatest FA Cup Final of all time... When Dixie walked onto Goodison Park on that famous day, I bet the realists said he had no chance of getting to 60 goals to become the greatest goal scorer of all time. After all, it was the last game ? it was against Arsenal ? and he needed a hat-trick!

Never use other clubs as a gauge of this club; our dreams are greater and therefore so is our pain ? but only because we go back further ? we were here first; they all followed... all of 'em.

Next time you're at Goodison, as the famous drums of Z-Cars call them on, look around you and say:

I am an Evertonian;
This is My team;
This is my Club;
This is my home.

After the game, Kiss Dixie's statue put a fiver in the nearest poor box, and Brian Labone won't tell you off when it's time to recount your sins upstairs.
Mike Allison
13   Posted 27/04/2011 at 22:07:33

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Tony, I don't really understand how you can read the OP, essentially agree with its reasonable and calmly made points, yet still consider this season a disaster.

A disaster would be relegation, or Arteta, Fellaini and Jagielka sold for a fiver each. Plodding along a little boringly with neither major peaks nor major troughs is a long way from a disaster, its just a little dull and frustrating.

What word would you invent to describe a season where we did get relegated? What word did you use in 1993-94 and 1997-98?
Ciarán McGlone
14   Posted 27/04/2011 at 22:20:38

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The teams you listed are not our rivals. I'm not sure criticism of managerial tactics can be anything other than retrospective..
Sam Hoare
15   Posted 27/04/2011 at 22:25:52

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Trevor ? An eloquent and passionate post which I applaud.

I hope you don't begrudge me the chance to defend myself against your accusation of blue sin!!

I never intended to deter or dampen anyone's dreams or passions. However, to me, the former is the providence of the future and the latter is best utilised in the present. My piece of retrospection is only meant to inform our reflection on the past.

Clearly you know your tradition but whilst a proud history is something glorious and happy to reflect in, it can be something very dangerous and unproductive to live in. Time has moved on, so has football and so must we. Our history belongs where it is, in the past and we must now concern ourselves mainly with the present and most importantly the future.

Your account of cup exploits makes nostalgic reading and I would hope that such exploits should and will be repeated but my post pertained only to the league; whilst romance and upsets is the magic of the cup, we live in an age where the league is determined by the quality and depth of squad and often the breadth of bank balance.

Of course I hope for more and next close-season I will no doubt be predicting an against-the-odds top 4 finish; but my post was designed to point out to those unhappy or angry with our efforts in the league, that, on the balance of things, I think our team and manager couldn't reasonably be expected to do a whole lot better. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I'm sinning.
Martin Faulkner
16   Posted 27/04/2011 at 23:17:11

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Sam, an eloquently put version of the financial realism of what the league has become over the last decade.

However, I feel this is even more reason to look at some of Moyes's more recent expensive signings at a time when we did have some money to spend. I for one have been disappointed with this over the last 5 years; I feel we got our eyes pulled out with the Fellaini signing, admittedly he's grown into a quality player but I think we paid far too much for him to be someone who needed a couple of years getting used to the league. Bily and Heitinga have turned out to be a complete waste of the Lescott money, we only sold a centre back so if he couldn't get a genuine winger in then why did he buy Bily? why not wait till the next window? We've been crying out for a winger with pace for ages now. Fellaini wasn't the player we needed at the time and neither were Billy & Johnny.

I think the worst thing about Moyes though is not the players that he has signed, it's the ones he hasn't. In the last few years there have been some good buys available that he hasn't gone near. I remember when Valencia first went to wigan, when Bent left Ipswich, Rodallega to Wigan more recently, there are I'm sure quite a few more that we've missed (just finished a 14-hr nightshift so starting to shut down my brain) but a couple of years ago Davey boy got stubborn, insisting we needed quality that only came at a higher price and started wasting time courting the likes of Moutinho.

In order for us to challenge the top teams we need to buy smarter than we do currently, we also need to sell better as well. We definitely need to use the loan system better as well.

Wellbeck and Sturridge are a couple of good examples. Also that Odemwinge looks a decent buy for 1m. We need to get back to signing players for smaller fees and generating money on them that way.

Incoherent Rant over... I'm off to bed.

Roman Sidey
17   Posted 27/04/2011 at 23:28:50

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Sambo, well written. The finance thing is everyone's knowledge and business, but at the end of the day it is only one facet as someone else has already said. I liked your undisputed facts, and no, I can't dispute them, and here's what I think a decent response based on this season could be:
    Most fans want their team to do as well as they possibly can ? it is obvious that some fans either have lower levels of acceptance, or think our team isn?t capable of doing very well.
  • No team wins every single game ? but, fuck me, if they don?t try to win every game they don?t deserve to be on the field.
  • Every team has bad days ? more bad than good for some, I?m afraid.
  • Every player will make individual errors ? constantly and repetitively if they are let get away with it without repercussions.
  • Every manager will make mistakes in regard to tactics, selection and substitutions ? some more than others. The sad thing is Moyes didn?t seem to learn from his until it was way too late.
  • All fans will have ideas as to what team the manager should pick and how they should have played to avoid that last defeat/draw ? and those ideas are different to other fans? ideas because we all have our favourites, just like the manager, and see different sides to the players we choose.
  • Criticism is easy in the light of retrospection ? sometimes it?s easy in advance too though. In our case, it was pretty obvious all year (Spurs at Goodison aside) who was going to be picked where, who would come on for them, and when, and what the result would be (more often than not a draw would occur).

    For me, this season was over when we played WBA at home. We?ve proved that we can beat the top teams, as in the last 15 months we?ve beaten the everyone in the top 6 bar Arsenal, yet we struggle against shit teams. This is why 7th/8th shouldn?t be classed as an acceptable season.
Dick Fearon
18   Posted 28/04/2011 at 00:03:14

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Money, or lack of it, has nothing to do with the fact that the squad was so physically under prepared for the new season.
Roman Sidey
19   Posted 28/04/2011 at 00:29:21

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Good call, Dick. As well as mental, the numbers were decent, the players were tried and tested and had shown they'd done well, but our off-season needs looking at in a big way. Maybe don't stray too far from Europe for a change.
Mark Stone
20   Posted 28/04/2011 at 08:13:51

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Dick, I saw no lack of running or effort at the start of the season to suggested to me that the squad was physically underprepared. What makes you say that?
Tony J Williams
21   Posted 28/04/2011 at 09:00:50

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Mike #13, the word I would use for relegation is 'devastating'.

Dick, we were actually ruling the roost with possesion and dribbling rings around teams at the start of the season, no sign of tiredness... until we got to the opposing team's box ? then pretty much stopped.
Mike Allison
22   Posted 28/04/2011 at 11:25:10

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Tony, I wasn't really checking whether or not you own a thesaurus. (Is there such a big difference between disaster and devastating?) My point is that to use the word 'disaster' for a slightly dull, frustrating season where we finish comfortably in the top half and with five games to go had tenuous hopes of a European place is ridiculous hyperbole.
Daniel A Johnson
23   Posted 28/04/2011 at 12:11:33

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This season has magnified Moyes's good points but also magnified his bad points.

When the chips are down, his grit and determination and hard work pays off.

With a fully fit talented squad, he doesn't know what to do with it.

I said at the start of this season Moyes finally had his chess set only to find out he can't fucking play chess.

The safety-first approach at all costs neutered our season from the get go. For me, 2010-11 will be remembered for the home WBA 4-1 demolition and the meek disgusting white-flag FA Cup surrender.

Moyes out (nearly 10 years now) and give some other fucker a try.
Tony J Williams
24   Posted 28/04/2011 at 12:25:15

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Mike, I wasn't meaning to be sarcastic or show my knowledge of the English language.

I just think we could have done so much more this season, so I DO believe it has been a disastrous season. I hoped we could get into Europe, granted at the start of the season most probably believed that 7th would be sufficient, who would have thought not one of the then Sky 4 wouldn't make it to the FA Cup Final.

I thought we were good enough for Europe, not the Champions League but to not make Europe, in my eyes, is a disaster. More reasons for our better players to do one... and less coefficient points should we get back in again.
Scott Goin
25   Posted 28/04/2011 at 13:49:40

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Great post, Sam. It's unfortunate that there isn't a level playing field but that's what the game has become. Past success means nothing in today's world. How much success have Man City had in the past?

It's easy to get frustrated with Everton. We show just enough to tease but never enough to reach a climax (please excuse the vaguely sexual inuendos). It remains to be seen what could happen if we actually started a season strongly AND finished strong. That's my perpetual hope anyway.

There's always next year?
Eugene Ruane
26   Posted 28/04/2011 at 14:13:42

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Scott Goin (25) ? there USED to be 'always next year', I really don't believe there is anymore.

Last July I wrote a piece ('Mugs Away') and finished with...

"In 1970, when I was 11, we won the title; then nothing for 14 years. It was frustrating but I was always sure winning another was possible. Now I KNOW (the way things are set up) winning a title is impossible. Consequently, the idea of another season where 'really good' would more than likely mean us finishing 5th or 6th, doesn't have me (as I used to be at the start of a season) excited or expectant. I just feel ? 'sigh' ? here we fucking go again."

Well with the end of another season in sight, nothing has changed at all and there's absolutely nothing to suggest it will.

(Yet no doubt come the start of August, there'll be posts along the lines of "I don't know what it is, but I've just got a feeling we could really....")
Martin Mason
27   Posted 28/04/2011 at 18:08:06

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You've got it, Eugene, welcome to the Premier League and the end of Everton as a trophy-winning team. We were also very keen to get it up and running thinking that we'd be beneficiaries.

We still have our mountains to climb which are a decent cup run and at the extreme a place in Europe. Most important of all though is effort and skill sufficient for us to be proud at times. That is what we have to look forward to.
Roman Sidey
28   Posted 28/04/2011 at 22:55:22

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With our League Cup exit coupled with no Europe this season, we had nothing but League games to focus on until mid-January. The money issue aside, we should have been able to play good enough football to be deeply entrenched in the top 6/7 by December.

If we are lucky enough not to play Europa League next season, I'd say that, if we aren't in and around 4/5/6 by December, we could be disappointed, knowing that a very gettable 4th spot would get us a bit of money to maybe start the improve.

Tony J Williams
29   Posted 29/04/2011 at 01:51:17

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"We should have been able to play good enough football to be deeply entrenched in the top 6/7 by December" Why?

A "very gettable 4th spot", really? So Citteh, Spuds and dare I say it, the Shite aren't going to splash the cash again and buy the better players, whilst our squad once again diminishes.

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