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Season 2011-12

Fellaini Leads the Way

By Luke O'Farrell   ::  22/12/2011
 19 Comments (Last)
The game started in low-key fashion. A Seamus Coleman cross flashing across the six yard box was the only action in the first five minutes. As expected, Swansea looked at ease on the ball. The visitors moved the ball around well, but ultimately; their approach was a cautious one. The most noticeable aspect of Swansea's game was their reluctance to commit numbers forward; this may have been due to Everton's stranglehold on the midfield area.

Everton seemed wary of the visitors in the opening exchanges. The home side failed to pressurise the ball with Swansea moving the ball around their own half with ease. Once Everton started to pressurise the visitors, mistakes started to happen. Passes went astray, first touches where looser and decision-making became rushed. Royston Drenthe and Marouane Fellaini started the game well for Everton. Drenthe was full of running in search of an opening with Fellaini dominating the midfield single-handedly.

The opening was cautious with neither side willing to go for the jugular. Both sides were content to stand-off each other; especially Everton. Other than a few dangerous crosses and some poor corners, neither side had anything to show for the first 25 minutes. The first effort of note came, with almost half an hour on the clock, via the head of John Heitinga. The centre back advanced and played a ball down the right side. The Dutchman continued and got on the end of a Tony Hibbert cross, but his header went over the bar.

Everton had to make a change with 30 minutes gone. Seamus Coleman's thigh injury resurfaced and Magaye Gueye came on. The change made the team look more assured as Gueye is more technically sound than Coleman. The change meant Drenthe moving over to the right hand side; where he looks much more threatening.

The change gave Everton impetus as they started to look threatening. Leon Osman was becoming more influential and Louis Saha flashed a header wide from an Osman cross. Osman's defence splitting pass found Baines and his pull back reached Gueye inside the area. The substitute?s low effort was well saved by Vorm. The ball rebounded to Gueye but Vorm and Taylor combined to clear the danger. Another corner led to Phil Jagielka firing wildly over as Everton pressed for a breakthrough.

With five minutes to the break, Everton won a free kick outside the box. Baines' disappointing free kick went comfortably over the bar. Drenthe struck a free kick, on the stroke of half time, from a tighter angle. The winger's well struck effort shot past Vorm's right hand post. Gueye squandered another chance in first half injury time; the offside flag spared his blushes.

Swansea made two changes either side of half time. Injured left back Neil Taylor made way for Angel Rangel and Kemy Agustien came on for Mark Gower. The visitors ended the first half without a single shot. The visitors play attractive football yet are short on incision in the final third; much like Everton. Fellaini, Drenthe, Osman and Baines had been the stand out performers for the home side in the first half.

Hibbert blocked a Wayne Routledge shot and Heitinga blocked another shot as the visitors looked to loosen their shackles. Meanwhile, a tame Osman effort drew a save from Vorm. A driving run by Drenthe lead to Everton taking the lead with an hour gone. Williams blocked Drenthe's cross and Osman rose to nod in the resulting corner.

This was the second home game Everton had scored first in this season. Overall, the Toffees have scored first in just five of their 19 games this season. The next task for the home side was to secure a first home clean sheet of the season. Heitinga blocked a Joe Allen shot as Swansea pressed and Jagielka put a Drenthe corner wide at the other end.

Swansea missed a golden chance to equalise as top scorer Danny Graham headed straight at Tim Howard. Drenthe fired a free kick over the bar and Denis Stracqualursi replaced the ineffective Saha with 20 minutes remaining. Swansea introduced Leroy Lita for the industrious Leon Britton as they switched to a more attacking approach. Tim Cahill replaced the live wire Drenthe as the match entered the final ten minutes.

Stracqualursi missed a chance to put the game beyond doubt. His tame effort, from a Gueye through ball, never troubled Vorm. Jagielka made a good clearance as Everton saw out the game in relative comfort. The Toffees held on for just their 11th home point of the season.

Fellaini bossed the midfield throughout and provided Drenthe and his cohorts with the platform to attack. Heitinga and Hibbert were the pick of the defenders with Baines again tireless down the left flank. Howard and Jagielka had steady games yet their distribution remains questionable. Saha was poor throughout.

Moyes? constant desire to use Phil Neville in midfield is bizarre. The captain offers little and Everton would be better served with a natural midfielder in his place. This game seemed the perfect chance to give Ross Barkley a run out. His lack of involvement frustrates the fans and will no doubt frustrate Barkley.

Overall it was a good, if unspectacular, performance and resulted in a much-needed home win. Its Martin O'Neill's revitalised Sunderland next, on Boxing Day. Everton will travel there with confidence as they are unbeaten in their last 14 meetings with Sunderland. The Mackems last win over Everton came on 22nd Dec 2001.

I hope you've all enjoyed my writing this year, Merry Christmas to all and hopefully Everton give us a happy New Year.


Howard 6 Hibbert 7 Jagielka 6 Heitinga 7 Baines 7 Coleman 5 Fellaini 8 Neville 6 Drenthe 8 Osman 7 Saha 5

Subs: Gueye 6 Stracqualursi 6 Cahill 6

MOTM: Marouane Fellaini

Reader Comments

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Nick Entwistle
1   Posted 22/12/2011 at 10:16:32

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Fallaini was imperious. But he's one of those players who reflects the team, if they're not up to much, which we we aren't right now, then he'll follow suit.
What he could do in a team dominating football would be something to see and if his contract was renewed for a full transfer fee then we need big money for this guy... B I G M O N E Y !
Bob Parrington
2   Posted 22/12/2011 at 10:08:22

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Luke, Thanks for your postings over the year. I am certain that those of us who read and comment all through the year fully appreciate your input that develops our thinking and comments.

vs Swansea I believe that Fellaini was MotM with drenthe a close second and these for different attributes. Fellaini hardly put a foot wrong, was cool, controlled, distributed well and tried to get to goal as well. Drenthe put in that usual flair that we miss so badly. As with many others, the 3 points is the most important issue. We still looked dull in front of goal. let's hope that the caoching crew somewow gets a flash of brilliance during the festive season. Personally, I believe this squad of players is capable of far more than the manager allows.

Have a great Christmas and New Year.

Ian Kearney
3   Posted 22/12/2011 at 11:38:00

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I find that a little odd, Nick, especially based on last night when Fellaini was head and shoulders above everyone else, Drenthe aside the rest werent really on it, Osman in patches aswell mind.

But Felli did the job of two men, as he had to deal with Moyes joke of a selection, playing alongside Neville.
Ian Tunstead
4   Posted 22/12/2011 at 12:10:26

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Hopefully Coleman going off with a re-occurance of his injury will put to bed all those arguments saying Drenthe should have started the last game and that if players are on the bench they cant be injured...The injury is probably what was affecting Colemans performance.

Our squad is that small and short of quality that we are forced to have injured players on the bench and risk other players who probably shouldnt be playing. But what does Moyes know, he only watches them everyday in training and speaks to them to find out if they are carrying any knocks.
Tony J Williams
5   Posted 22/12/2011 at 13:05:06

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Ian, it reminds me of two seasons ago when for the first time in my life I saw a player limp onto the pitch to play. Yobo.
James Stewart
6   Posted 22/12/2011 at 15:56:26

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A 6 for Neville is very generous he had a mare. Gave the ball away virtually everytime it came to him. Once right on the edge of his own box for the 2nd match in a row. Thin ice. Agreed with most of the rest.

I thought Howard's distribution was much better and quicker for once.

Howard 7
Hibbert 7
Jagielka 6
Heitinga 6
Baines 7
Coleman 5
Fellaini 8
Neville 4
Drenthe 9
Osman 7
Saha 6

Gueye 7
Stracqualursi 5
Cahill 6
Luke O'Farrell
7   Posted 22/12/2011 at 18:31:33

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#6 James

Thought I'd check the stats out in relation to your point about Neville; I was shocked.

Passes: 39 Successful Passes: 33 Pass Completion: 85% (only Fellaini with 86% bettered that for us)

Howard was accurate with just 43% of his passes. Some of his kicks out of hand were terrible. They just went straight up.

Jagielka confirmed what we all know; he can't pass. A very poor completion of just 59%.

Agree with what everyone else said; I thought Fellaini was class last night. I've posted his match stats on another report on here; very impressive. Drenthe was a close second.

Bob, spot on with your final point. I have been saying for months, despite our finances etc, we should still be doing better with the players we have.
Ian Smitham
8   Posted 22/12/2011 at 19:29:26

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Luke, a really well balanced appraisal of the game, very much how I saw it.

Well written and as far as I saw, accurate.
Nick Entwistle
9   Posted 22/12/2011 at 20:26:53

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Erm, Ian, I said he was imperious. Some of his close control when surrounded and still found the pass is what you expect from a Barca player. But there's a lot more to this man than we've seen and its sue to our level of play. When we're (if we're) going to go on a post Christmas run we'll see his best.
Gavin Ramejkis
10   Posted 22/12/2011 at 20:44:26

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Ian #4 care to explain Cahill playing injured even after it was admitted on Pravda and by the player himself or if you think back to Gosling trying to come off injured and staying on the pitch with a bad injury but hey what the fuck does Moyes know that 30 odd thousand people cant see with their own eyes at the ground or for the armchair supporters out there on a nice big flat screen tv??
Ian Tunstead
11   Posted 23/12/2011 at 00:03:51

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Gavin, Cahill has always been a very important player to Everton so if his injury is not too painfull then he will be asked to play. Jaggs is playing with a broken toe and having injections. Some injuries you can play on, others need to be rested. I dont really no what point you are making.

My point was that people on here were complaining that Drenthe didnt start when he was just coming back from injury. We have to respect the decision made by Moyes and the player and the physio, as they know more than us.
Ian Kearney
12   Posted 23/12/2011 at 00:08:02

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I realise you said he was superb last night, Nick, but I'm not sure I'd agree that if the team isnt playing well he doesnt play well, playing alongside the awful Neville last night being an example that he doesnt need the team to be in full flow to influence the game.

Of course, if the team are flying it will make his job easier and he will look even better, but I still think he stands out regardless. I agree I think he will get even better though, and could finish as the best Belgium midfielder since Scifo, if he fulfills his potential.
James Stewart
13   Posted 23/12/2011 at 19:15:33

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Luke, Where are you getting those stats from!?

I watched the whole game and there is no way in hell's chance neville had an 85% pass completion rate. Absolute rubbish.
Wayne Smyth
14   Posted 23/12/2011 at 19:31:54

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Ian(4), I don't believe for 1 second that Drenthe was carrying any sort of injury when he was benched vs Norwich. He looked an order of magnitude faster and better than anyone else on the park when he came on and not at all like he was playing gingerly to avoid aggravating something.

Moyes does have a history of playing injured players and it is to his discredit. I'd much rather see players like Gueye, Vellios, and Barkley getting solid premier league experience rather than play players who are unfit.

As for felli, he usually plays magnificently. Why Moyes puts that waste of space Neville beside him is anyone's guess, especially at home against Swansea playing a 4-4-2 ffs.

James, I think Nevilles pass completion rate must include passes to the opposition.

Wayne Smyth
15   Posted 23/12/2011 at 19:44:52

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In all seriousness regarding neville, if you watch some of his passing it is a complete joke.

Neville will receive the ball from a teammate and immediately pass it to the closest blue shirt, usually sideways or backwards. This is irrespective of how much pressure he is under from the opposition.

These are 6 yard passes which just succeed in slowing down our play and letting the opposition regroup. Very, very occasionally he'll play a forward pass or something over 10 yards, but it is very rare.

So, I'm honestly not surprised to see an 85% pass completion for him, but as per usual, stats only tell part of the story.
Luke O'Farrell
16   Posted 23/12/2011 at 22:44:48

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I was at the match and I get my stats from Opta. Therefore they are not 'absolute rubbish'. However, I'm not for one minute advocating him being in midfield. I think it's scandalous that Moyes uses him in there.
James Stewart
17   Posted 23/12/2011 at 22:46:06

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There were a couple of suicide balls to swansea players right on the edge of his own box. These worried me the most. Yobo esque. I agree with your point though wayne he does slow the play up terribly. We had no chance of counter attacking with that midfield. Even the muppets who were commentating picked up on it.
James Stewart
18   Posted 23/12/2011 at 22:49:31

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very strange stat then Luke. I can remember a long spell where he didn't hit a blue shirt or anywhere near. There is simply no need for him in the side. Offers nothing in midfield what so ever and Hibbert is the better Rb so he should rightly start.
Luke O'Farrell
19   Posted 23/12/2011 at 23:17:55

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As Wayne said, he plays so many short 'easy' passes. They boost his stats, he just seems to get in the way; to me.

As you said, James, he offers nothing in midfield. Either going forward or backwards. Hibbert is also the better RB, I agree. Neville should be limited to cup games, injury crisis. He is a good captain but now, he's nothing more than an average player.

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