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Season 2011-12

Anichebe Strike Illuminates a Dour Affair

By Lyndon Lloyd   ::  01/01/2012
 26 Comments (Last)

West Bromwich Albion 0 - 1 Everton

If evidence were needed of the folly of scheduling a match at 12:30pm on New Year's Day then this match provided plenty of it. As turgid a Premier League affair as they come was, thankfully, decided in Everton's favour four minutes from time by an opportunistic strike by Victor Anichebe, the Blues' forgotten man.

Having missed the first half of the season entirely through injury, Anichebe was handed his first action of the campaign when he replaced Phil Neville with a little over an hour gone and, together with fellow substitute Denis Stracqualursi and a touch of inspiration from Leon Osman, he provided the energy and a smart finish to lift the team to a fourth away victory.

Without Marouane Fellaini, Seamus Coleman and Royston Drenthe, David Moyes fielded Neville, John Heitinga and the returning Jack Rodwell across a disconcertingly one-paced and unimaginative central midfield while Louis Saha and Tim Cahill continued their wholly unproductive partnership up front. With that line-up in place, the performance that followed shouldn't have come as a surprise and for almost all of this dour encounter, a 0-0 draw looked nailed on.

The first half was a practically forgettable affair. Everton had plenty of possession but no creative force to create anything meaningful with it. One long passing move that threatened to bore West Brom into submission rather than carve open a goalscoring opportunity underscored the point about the Blues' lack of punch; presumably through frustration, it ended with Heitinga kicking an aimless ball through to Ben Foster.

West Brom, who have been struggling for goals at home, had just one chance when Shane Long headed Chris Brunt's deep cross narrowly past the angle of crossbar and post, otherwise the best openings before half time fell to Everton. First, Foster made a mess of a corner and had to save one-handed from Rodwell as the midfielder latched onto the loose ball. Then, after Saha had screwed a great chance horribly wide on his weaker right foot, Rodwell put the best chance of the half wide with a free header from a corner from the right.

It was clear by the half-time break that this game was there for the taking for the side that could raise their game in the second half and initally, that looked to more likely be West Brom. Peter Odemwingie caught the otherwise solid Phil Jagielka sleeping less than two minutes after the restart when he latched into a ball over the top but faced with just Howard to beat, he rushed the chance and side-footed over the bar.

The home side had noticeably upped the tempo in the first quarter of an hour of the second period and Brunt sailed a drive over from 25 yards before Moyes was moved to introduce Magaye Gueye and withdraw Rodwell after 56 minutes, presumably due to concerns over rushing him back from his recent hamstring injury.

Five minutes later, the manager made two more positive changes by hooking Neville and Saha, both of whom had been pretty dreadful, and giving Anichebe and Stracqualursi their chance and the Blues started to again look like the team most likely to break the tedium with a goal.

Gueye had a decent volley saved low by Foster but the game was petering out towards a goalless conclusion when Osman clipped a perfect return ball to Tony Hibbert that released the full back into space down the right flank. Hibbert swept a cross to the back post, Paul Scharner could only head it back into his own six-yard box where Anichebe showed the greatest desire of anyone else in a clutch of players to latch into it as it dropped and sweep it over Foster to send the Blues fans behind the goal into delirium.

So often maligned as a striker who can't score ? he had just one goal in his previous 43 outings ? Anichebe showed that his long spell on the sidelines has, temporarily at least, put some fire into his belly and he won three precious points to give Everton a flying start to 2012.

Based on past experience, it's unlikely that Anichebe will be the answer to Everton's lack of goals but his performance, and that of Stracqualursi who put himself about a bit and almost carved open a chance for Osman with some beat footwork by the byline, was a breath of fresh air compared to Saha's disappointingly disinterested demeanour. The Frenchman's body language betrayed a frustrated player while his partner Cahill did nothing to prove that Moyes was wrong to drop him for the Norwich game a couple of weeks ago with another poor display.

Suffering through this game, thoughts inevitably turned to Landon Donovan and the difference that he can surely make to what is a depressingly pedestrian team, albeit for just two months. Anything else that Moyes can make happen this month with no money to spend will be a bonus as well ? competition for places might be one way to inject some urgency into some of the team's under-performers.

For all the frustration over the performances, four points from two away games and a place in the top half is a pretty good place to be heading into the New Year. Of course, it's a far cry from where the Blues appeared to be heading the last time Donovan was lighting up Goodison Park but given the realities under what is a demonstrably failing Kenwright regime, we should probably be grateful for small mercies.

Player Ratings: Howard 6, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 8, Baines 6, Neville 5 (Anichebe 7), Heitinga 4, Rodwell 5 (Gueye 6), Osman 6, Cahill 5, Saha 4 (Stracqualursi 6)

Reader Comments

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Steve Guy
1   Posted 02/01/2012 at 10:02:36

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MotD say we are 3 points ahead of where we were this time last year... hard to believe; This year has seen some of the worst football played by Everton under Moyes's tenure.
Graham Holliday
2   Posted 02/01/2012 at 10:12:38

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Thanks for the report Lyndon, but I've got to say I'm surprised by Heitinga's 4. I thought he continued his reasonbly decent form in central midfield but was let down by his partner Neville.

Jonny was positioned as the most defensive of the three central midfielders, yet seemed the most likely to create anything meaningful.

A worrying thought when a centre back is your most creative outlet in central midfield, but I thought he had a decent enough game.

To me, the problem looks to be off the ball movement when we're in possession. It's all very good noting that we need more creative players in the side (that much is clear), but surely Moyes and his team must coach his players that moving opposing defenders out of position creates space and possible scoring opportunities for your teammates... we're so static it's unbelievable.
Richard Dodd
3   Posted 02/01/2012 at 10:19:22

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Grudging praise for a most competent performance which included some inspiring substitutions by our ace manager.

For me, the stand-out performers were our three locally developed lads, Hibbo, Ossie and Big Vic. When, oh when, will they get the praise they deserve? For so many of our number, if a player doesn't cost an arm and a leg, he's destined for a career of criticism and disdain!
Paul Johnson
4   Posted 02/01/2012 at 10:32:22

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Richard, slow down a bit, we have won a game. Hardly reason enough to explode in your underpants.

Osman was MotM yesterday and is our most creative player, if he could do it consistently over a season he would not get the stick that receives, but then if he was that good we would probably sell him.

If we were playing well you would say that was a good solid win, but we are not so let's not get to carried away.
Robert Elliott
5   Posted 02/01/2012 at 10:41:03

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Must admit I feared the worst when I saw the team. Six defenders and a defensive midfielder out of ten outfield players hardly inspired confidence.

The game that followed was entirely predictable. Just glad that West Brom were as toothless as us.

Happy for Big Vic to grab the winner. Not always been an Anichebe fan, but right now I'll settle for anyone who shows the slightest desire to stick the ball in the back of the net, as Saha and Cahill have clearly lost their touch.

Four points out of six over the festive period, from two away games and from games that Man City took only a single point from, sounds great, but the reality is we are still playing extremely poorly.

Desperately need a boost from somewhere. Donovan should provide something, but that's only for nine weeks. I'd happily ship out Bily to enable us to re-sign Pienaar, but we all know we need a regular goalscorer. Answers on a postcard for that one.
James Martin
6   Posted 02/01/2012 at 10:50:57

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Who has performed more consistently than Osman this season? I dread to think were we'd be in the table of he hadn't of been playing the last few games. This is all from a wide position as well, I'd love to see Moyes play him as a creative mid rather than off the front man or on the wing. Even from those positions though he is changing games for us.

I would very much like to see the points tallies this season for the games Osman has played in and the ones he hasn't. Rodwell and Fellaini, great athletes, decent on the ball, but where's the end product that Osman has provided? The fact he is still number one target for abuse on here is disgraceful.
Tony J Williams
7   Posted 02/01/2012 at 11:12:59

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Hibbert, James, Has been more consistent but Ossie has been a big reason why we are now 4 undefeated (albeit against crap sides; however we are the only team to take points off O'Neill so far in his short rein).
Paul Gladwell
8   Posted 02/01/2012 at 11:22:15

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Hibbert Distin Jags Baines
Drenthe Fellaini Rodwell Osman
This would be my team for Wednesday baring injury, but there is no way he would drop Neville Hetinga and Cahill all at once.
Kris Boner
9   Posted 02/01/2012 at 11:38:55

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Paul, I think Saha's place should be under some major scrutiny.
Dave Richman
10   Posted 02/01/2012 at 11:54:16

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Agree Kris..... He shouldn't be anywhere near the starting 11. Not a bad side Paul, but I would have Ossie in the middle instead of Rodwell - I just don't see a 20 million pound player, I am sorry to say - with Gueye on the left and someone other than Saha up front :)
Steven Nikolovski
11   Posted 02/01/2012 at 12:12:28

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I don't think that Rodwell played too bad. Neville and Heitinga in midfield again... we were shocking. Agree when we have the injuries we did we should be playing Ossie and Rodwell in centre mid.

On another note, no Macheda as he has signed on loan with QPR.
James Stewart
12   Posted 02/01/2012 at 12:25:03

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I thought Strac was the pick of the subs. Changed the game with his work ethic. Should be higher than a six. Victor was wasteful and pretty much of no use apart from his goal.
Colin Malone
13   Posted 02/01/2012 at 12:42:06

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Lyndon, it's not Saha's game to be up top on his own. What's happened to the King Louie, when we had an attacking midfield of Arteta, Pienaar, Osman and Cahill instead of the centre-halves and fullbacks who are in midfield?

Any world class forward WILL suffer in this side. It's the same with Cahill; how can he ghost in, when there is only him and Saha in the box?

I get frustrated with Saha but if he played for an attacking team, eg, Spurs, he would score a bag full. Too harsh, Lyndon.

Bobby Thomas
14   Posted 02/01/2012 at 13:15:21

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On Saha, I agree the way the team is set up now, playing up front is not to be relished. However, on many occasions this season Saha hasnt been playing up top on his own, Cahill has been playing extremely advanced verging on a 4-4-2.

First thing i would say is that Saha & Cahill cant play together. There is just nothing between them, never any link, combination play. I would bet money they dislike playing together and Saha certainly doesnt enjoy.

However, the main issue is that the injuries and age have now left Saha at about 20% of the player he was or could have been. Its a shame his career worked out as it did as Saha had pretty much everything you need to be a top class striker AND had everything you need to make the loan striker system work. Players like this are gold dust and that why they cost so much. Bear in mind he went for 12.5 mil about a decade ago. He certainly wouldnt have been anywhere ear us if things had worked out!!

Saha had pace, strength, great touch, could hold the ball up, link and bags of pace to worry defences in behind. He could shoot with either foot and was also very good in the air. His body has never let him show how good he could have been.

Hes 33 now. You cannot do what you could when you were 25. This plus the incredible amount of injuries have taken their toll. It seems to me he struggles to do 90 minutes and has to play in bursts to get through matches.

He is now a centre halves dream who plays virtually exclusively with his back to goal, is zero threat in behind and goals are going out of his game. He also, understandably looks shot for confidence.

Basically, we arent good enough to indulge this. We are desperate for someone who is a threat in behind and is going to get defences turning. We need someone who is going to run channels, work and defend from the front and close defenders down. You saw the difference yesterday when the change was made.

I think Louis Saha was a class striker.

However, I honestly think hes finished.
Matthew Shaw
15   Posted 02/01/2012 at 14:00:11

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One thing I would say about Saha is that he has had chances in yesterdays game and previous games which in past seasons he would have put away. I agree he has a hard job by himself up front but I think Hibbert would have made a better job of finishing than he has.

Stracqualursi I think would be a first choice if he had that amount of energy for 90 min but is it me or does he still look a little on the heavy side. Like everyone when I saw the starting line-up yesterday I thought 0 - 0 all the way but as poor a game it was, in the end top tactics and 3 points are all that count in the end.
Jim Hourigan
16   Posted 02/01/2012 at 15:56:44

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Who am I?

Down side

One paced, without a turn of speed or second gear.
Little strength, easily brushed off the ball.
Weak in the tackle, easily robbed.
No stamina, fades and becomes less mobile after 70mins.
No crossing ability, regularly under hits longer passes.
Rarely actually creates chances directly.
Weak at shooting rarely hits anything from beyond 18yds

Plus points
Quick feet ????
Local boy
Seems a nice, genuine sort of guy.
Evertonian and committed
Brave with headers (but not actually good in the air)

Mediocrity dressed up as ability - unless you can point out some other attributes.

Colin Malone
17   Posted 02/01/2012 at 17:09:31

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Bobby # 14. Not too long ago most were saying Arteta is not the player he was, Well as you said in the right set up, Arsenal are reaping the benefits.
I still say Saha and Cahill woud be at least 70% better in the right set up.
Paul Ferry
18   Posted 02/01/2012 at 17:12:02

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Check facts before commenting Tony Williams. We are not the only side to take points off O'Neill's Sunderland. Spurs so far, are the only team to have beaten O'Neill's Sunderland.

Inspiring subs Richard Dodd? What about the team he put out. Good grief, even you must have been fretting and wondering where something, anything, would come from? Do you think that that 1st half was down to great tactics and selection by our 'ace' manager?

Please answer these questions. Do you think that we should start with the Saha/Cahill pairing? Do you believe that Neville should start in centre mid? Do you think that Heitinga should start in centre mid? And, one last one, is there anything that you think our 'ace' manager has got wrong since the start of this season. Answer these questions please, rather than just serving up your oh so predictable and usual Moysesiah in Wonderland simple stuff.
Bobby Thomas
19   Posted 02/01/2012 at 17:20:50

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Colin, regarding Arteta he probably isnt physically what he was before the injury. Id say hes lost half a yard or so.

Yes he is looking very good for Arsenal. Hes playing that deepish possession role, which he played the beginning of last season for us. He's playing with much better players, with greater movement and many more options ahead of him. He also probably needed the move. But ultimately, Arteta is a Champions League footballer and should have seasons of it under his belt. (As is Leighton Baines for example).

I agree that in a more flexible/attractive/footballing side Saha would stand a better chance. Our main footballers have gone and we are turgid, in transition and also horribly unbalanced as a squad.

However I honestly dont think if Saha played for, lets say Spurs, he would keeping Adebayor out, taking the division by storm and banging in 20 league.This is a player who has to pick and choose when to do it to just get through matches!! I dont think Wenger will be considering Saha as a signing!!!

The Saha that turned up here was nowhere near the player he was anyway and i was happy with it on the basis he was a 3rd/4th striker. We gave him time to get his body going again and treated him with care.

This culminated in some decent form, we all remember the Saha that gave Chelsea a hard time, one of the few 90 minute perfomances he has put in since arriving. And yes, on the night he was excellent. He got a new deal and had interest(Besiktas?).

I was dubious about giving him the deal as i though that was the best it was going to get for him here. Even that player is a distant memory. At his age and with his injury record he should not be playing every week, but we have had little option.

Saha is basically a knackered Rolls Royce. It doesnt matter who Saha played for or what system they played, he cannot play for 90 minutes. Its actually unfair to ask him to do it.

When he was 34 and the injuries had stacked up on Fergie, we didnt ask him to play every week. We let him do what he could, impact sub. The situation we are in at the minute, with Saha I just think its a bad fit all round. We need to go in a different direction. The fact that we took him at all in the first place says a great deal about the club.
Keith Glazzard
20   Posted 02/01/2012 at 17:53:40

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Heitinga is quite simply one of our best players. Playing in a world cup final is, of course, no guarantee of that but being played out of position alongside an out of position Neville would give any player a bit to do. He's our only (?) man who can hit an accurate long pass and very few carry the ball from back to front. He did a very decent job for us yesterday.

Rodwell does - what? Can cotrol a ball. Can pass a ball (sideways). Then?

Osman controls, passes (usually short), turns in possession, runs with the ball, beats defenders, lays off, gets into the box, finishes. Decent player.

Saha might well do better in a better set-up. Any forward will struggle because of the pace of our forward movement which gives any defence the time to set itself, but as striker he is hiding. He spends most of his time near the half-way line. Game after game with no shots on target. Things have to change.
John Ford
21   Posted 02/01/2012 at 19:07:53

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Harsh on Jonny. Other than a missed pass to Baines his distribution, unusually for an evertonian, was very good. I still prefer him to Distan at CH, though I understand why Moyes is persevering with him in the Carsley role. Its an ideal spot for someone with decent vision.
Andy Corrie
22   Posted 02/01/2012 at 21:59:48

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Heitinga one of our best players?
Looks like you've got an extended hang over Keith.
Bobby Thomas
23   Posted 02/01/2012 at 22:12:56

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Johnny Heitinga will move onto much better things. Anyone know how long he has on his deal? We could be blowing yet another good few million quid if we aint careful.
Keith Glazzard
24   Posted 02/01/2012 at 23:57:21

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Andy - leave my hangover out of this. Sometimes I wake up and think oh shit. And sometimes I wake up and think Oh shit, I'm an Evertonian.

But I think we have a few reasons to be cheerful at this time of the year. And our Dutch international is definitely one of them. Alongside Jags they make as good a CB pairing as there is in the league. When asked to go forward he works his socks off, and can create - which is not really his job. But look at how many stopping tackles he puts in.

You don't have to shine to be a star.
Phil Rodgers
25   Posted 03/01/2012 at 09:58:49

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I have been impressed with Heitenga in midfield to be honest. Particularly against Blunderland, I thought he was MOM.
Tommy Coleman
26   Posted 03/01/2012 at 10:10:20

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I don't agree with some of this report Lyndon.
Cahill was not up front, he was the left side of a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3, with Osman on the right.

Heitenga played well (7/10), he won his tackles and made some very good passes, I thought he was our best player along with Distin.
Neville (6/10) did the job he was told to do, defensive midfield breaking up play etc.
Saha (5/10) struggled because there were times when there was no other Everton player within 50yrds of him, what could he do with rubbish balls played to him ?

All boring stuff from Moyes in the 1st half (2/10), took a rare gamble in the 2nd that payed off (8/10).

Also Lyndon, maybe you can give Moyes a rating for every game ?

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