VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Aston Villa 1-1 Everton
It's fair to say that prior to the turn of the year, few Evertonians would have picked Victor Anichebe as the goalscoring saviour on two trips to the Midlands this month. Prone to injury ? indeed, he was sidelined for all of the first half of the current campaign ? his frustrating the-world's-against-me demeanour and goals return of just one goal in 43 matches had him more or less written off as less than Premier League material.
With a brace of well-taken goals, Goodison's forgotten man has now scored twice as many in the League as his supposedly superior teammate, Louis Saha, has this season, two more than Tim Cahill has managed in 13 months, and earned the Blues four points from the trips to West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa.
If his first was all down to a striker's instincts and quick reactions, his goal at Villa Park owed much to the vision of Landon Donovan to spring the offside trap but it still needed a confident finish past Shay Given to cancel out Darren Bent's 56th opener.
The result was probably a fair reflection of a tight affair between two teams struggling for form, goals and confidence. A tense home crowd had been kept silent by Everton's territiorial superiority in the first half but the Villains managed to reach halftime goalless thanks to the quick reactions of Shay Given.
The Irishman was playing his first game back from injury and though he was spared having to make a save when Tim Cahill failed to make contact with Darron Gibson's enterprising ball over the top, Given denied Saha after 16 minutes with an impressive one-handed save as the Frenchman tried to head Leighton Baines' free kick into the far corner.
Six minutes later, after Saha, looking odds on to bury Donovan's delicious cross into an empty net, appeared to be pulled back illegally by Alan Hutton, Baines whipped another dangerous ball across the face of Villa's goal and Given had to make a reflex save to prevent Neil Warnock from heading into his own net.
The first period was bookended, though, by saves from Tim Howard: the first after six minutes denied Stilyan Petrov from a direct free kick following John Heitinga's poor tackle on Bent; the second saw the American push Gaby Agbonlahor's attempted curler behind for a corner that, thankfully, came to nothing.
So far, so fair for the Blues who were in an all-too familiar mode in the first 45 minutes. Lots of possession against a nervy defence but without the incisiveness to create enough chances to opening the scoring. Gibson was quietly effective in central midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini and made an encouraging debut overall with some confident tackles, intelligent passing and regular availablity for the ball.
But the Blues as a whole were still giving the ball away too much, relying too much on the long ball at times from the back and generally failing to make regular inroads into the Villa defence. The home side topped Everton 4-1 in shots on goal in the first half but while they began the second the stronger team, it was David Moyes's team who almost broke the deadlock.
Royston Drenthe was awarded a dubious free kick in the 50th minute for a "foul" by James Collins and when Baines swung the ball in, Fellaini powered a header that was destined to creep inside the far post before it hit Given's outstretched forearm and ricocheted to safety from Villa's perspective.
A spell of pressure from Alex McLeish's side in which Howard twice had to punch the ball behind in a goalmouth melee bore fruit six minutes later, though. Fellaini and Heitinga got in each other's way as they went for a cross from Mark Albrighton and the unsighted Shane Duffy could only head it back to Stephen Ireland on the right side of the six-yard box. With the Blues defence now at sizes and sevens, he returned it square to Bent who converted from close range to make it 1-0.
Two minutes later, full League debutant Duffy's sole error of the game almost let Bent in for a second off Ireland's dangerous cross when the young Irishman reacted too slowly but the striker powered his header over Howard's crossbar.
With an hour gone, Drenthe's somewhat disappointing afternoon came to an end and Anichebe was introduced and within six minutes of his introduction had scored the equaliser. Donovan broke quickly down the Everton left before coming inside and, spotting Anichebe's run, he split the defence with a perfectly-weighted pass that the striker slotted home with aplomb.
It looked initially as though Anichebe had crocked himself just three minutes later when his leg buckled underneath him as he tried to keep the ball in play on the touchline but he recovered sufficiently to collect Donovan's ball down the right flank in the 86th minute and drive into the box before forcing a save from Given with a drive from the angle.
Overall, though, neither side really looked likely to win it in the last quarter of an hour and things petered out a little. Moyes threw Diniyar Bilyaletdinov on for the tiring Gibson with seven minutes left and it was Denis Stracqualursi and not Apostolos Vellios who got a late cameo but the final chance to set up a dramatic late winner fell to Cahill. Sadly he let fly with a poor shot from miles out and referee Mark Clattenburg called time on proceedings.
One swallow doesn't make a summer where Anichebe is concerned as he has a long way to go to convince his manager and the supporters that he is any solution to the goal drought afflicting the regular starting strikers. What he did, though, in making the run and executing the finish that secured this point for Everton was demonstrate the kind of movement, anticipation and self-confidence that none of Cahill, Saha or Stracqualursi have showed with any regularity this season.
Like the New Year's Day win at the Hawthorns, this draw provides another potential platform on which Everton can build with a home game against a team struggling against relegation in the form of Blackburn Rovers. The onus is on the manager and players to follow through now with a more confident display than the one that condemned them to consecutive defeats against Bolton and Spurs.
Player Ratings: Howard 7, Neville 6, Duffy 6, Heitinga 6, Baines 6, Gibson 6 (Bilyaletdinov -), Fellaini 6, Drenthe 6 (Anichebe 7), Donovan 7*, Cahill 5, Saha 5 (Stracqualursi -)
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043 Posted 15/01/2012 at 09:03:57
044 Posted 15/01/2012 at 09:13:47
So at Villa, the first time we play it forward on the ground, in front of the striker to run on to, and lo and behold we score.
But no, moronic summarisers on local radio are still going to be telling us next week to "get it wide and get your crosses in".
046 Posted 15/01/2012 at 09:22:31
There were many times that their left winger was in acres of space because Phil had moved towards the middle.
At least Hibbert actually stays on the right side.
049 Posted 15/01/2012 at 09:31:45
Donovan had a good game as did Baines other than their goal which saw at least four Everton players just ball watching. Anichebe took his goal really well from a great pass from Donovan to save our collective blushes but why weren't we already well ahead in a game after seeing Villa so poor in the first half?
We need goals and fast, the upcoming games dont fill me with confidence of getting them from watching the majority of that game.
050 Posted 15/01/2012 at 08:42:53
As you say Lyndon single digits on the swallow front.
Time for Moyes to phase out the oldies?? but I won't hold my breath
We have too many who are, or seem to be impact subs at best. But they can't all fill the 'impact sub' spot(s)
IMO Moyes seemed never know what his best 11 was or how to play them, maybe after 10 yrs he can get it right...and other factors not withstanding stick with it. For again, IMO his best 11 will be better to watch than the dross of recent times.
Time for Neville, Bily and Saha to be moved out and / or on, for what they actually offer and contribute there must be much younger players ( and cheaper ) here or elsewhere to do better...A change is as good as a rest.
Drenthe?? Fancy Dan luxury player who flatters to decieve, shit for brains or being fucked up by having to track back...probably all of the above.
054 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:00:13
From reading the opinions posted on this site I was beginning to think he was some kind of Sloth from "The Goonies" type.
He can clearly score goals, so are any of his detractors going to acknowledge that maybe he isn't complete shit?
PS. Saha and Cahill should be dropped if they aren't playing well, but the anger towards them is distasteful. Moyes plays them. They aren't exactly going to tell Moyes to drop them before kick off.
055 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:17:20
2005/6 1 goal
2006/7 4 goals
2007/8 5 goals (his most prolific season to date
2008/9 1 goal
2009/10 1 goal
2010/11 0 goals
2011/12 4 goals (1 in League Cup)
The goals this season are proving extremely useful but it's a long way from calling him prolific, he needs to do it every week and, in comparison to Saha, that's not hard at the minute,
056 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:26:52
057 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:28:09
059 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:35:45
I can't remember Vic ever getting a run of more than 2 or 3 starts in the strikers positions.
Not saying that he should have a run necessarily as personally i think he's a pretty limited player but i don't think his goalscoring record is that relevant given the time he's had and positions he has been played in.
061 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:26:29
I think Fellaini actually had a decent game. He broke up a lot of their play and I don't recall too many passes of his going to the opposition.
From what I can remember, he worked hard all game to break up their play, saving us a goal by tracking back 40 or 50 yards late in the game, lazy fucker that he is. I thought his passing was generally accurate and I'd be interested if anyone has a link to some objective stats about pass completion or work-rate from yesterday's game so we can see.
064 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:57:07
I think his attitude is often not right ? mentally he seems frail and often disinterested ? but Moyes obviously thinks there is enough to work with to have offered him a new contract. Would be good to see him get an injury-free run in the side and see what he can do. He certainly causes problems to the opposition with his strength.
067 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:52:12
Gavin's stats also ignore the fact that many of Vic's appearances were "run down the clock" substitutions lasting only a few minutes; he also forgets that Vic has battled his way back from injuries that could very easily have ended his career.
Lyndon is right of course, He has a long way to go. Most of Vic's battles are going to take place in his own head. I know he has had rotten luck with injuries, but the sheer panic on his face every time he gets a knock worries me.
Still, he has played around the equivalent of three full games this season and he has three goals, I`m sure we will all be delighted if he can take that sort of form forward.
070 Posted 15/01/2012 at 10:49:41
I must add that I can't believe how quick people are to attack Drenthe. He is probably our most gifted player, he didn't have run of 3 games together, yet many of you are jumping on him because he had unsuccessful game. I think he was trying hard yesterday and he lost possessions by trying to make something good for his team. He needs time and he needs support.
072 Posted 15/01/2012 at 11:24:05
There are many on here who have slagged off Moyes for not starting Drenthe and yesterday were slagging off Drenthe for losing posession and saying he shouldn't play. The moaners should at least be consistent!
085 Posted 15/01/2012 at 13:02:26
But that is the trade-off for having one of the best attacking full backs in Europe.
088 Posted 15/01/2012 at 13:32:10
Can't believe the number of people slagging off Fellaini both here and yesterday's matchday thread. He didn't have a great game, but nowhere near as bad as some are making out.
089 Posted 15/01/2012 at 13:33:28
093 Posted 15/01/2012 at 13:54:06
Duffy looked good at the back which is nice to see and I actually think Gibson had a decent game, the lad likes a tackle and has a good pass. However, we still need that elusive goal scorer.
100 Posted 15/01/2012 at 14:26:29
Unlike many of our players he often tries difficult forward passes and most of them come off. He also gets us playing football on the deck by trapping difficult high balls and passing to feet, unlike most of our players who're happy to hoof it, or continue head-tennis.
I'd also like to echo what Howard and Milos said, I think Gibson will prove to be a very astute signing and we now have two proper midfielders who can both play and give as good as they get. Hopefully this will be the end of Moyes insistence of playing defenders there.
101 Posted 15/01/2012 at 14:58:06
I thought Gibson did well yesterday, a natural midfielder in his best position. He was comfortable on the ball, always available, and usually looking to play forward ? his pass to Cahill was fantastic, and every bit as good as Donovan's for the goal. The only difference was that Cahill botched up the great chance.
My take on Drenthe is that he seems a liability in his own half. He tries to do too much, and losing possession there is dangerous. I think other posters have mentioned this, but Moyes should therefore look to playing him much further up the pitch, as the second striker off a big lad. He will chase lost causes, run the channels, and so scare defenders to death. In his brief cameo against Spurs, he could easily have "won" two penalties, which other forwards (ahem, Saha) seem unable to do. In the short term, this could be the answer to our goal-scoring issues, as he can clearly finish too, if he is allowed to do his work in an attacking position.
103 Posted 15/01/2012 at 15:22:36
105 Posted 15/01/2012 at 15:41:34
Before you criticise a player who throws tackles in and motivates his team mates by example, how about picking on the left side, where Baines had one of his worst games for us and Drenthe and Fellaini were absolute shite.
Pick on the likes of Cahilll and Saha but don't hand out stick to someone who has improved the position and works well with Donovan. Mind you, as soon as Hibbert's fit, he'll be straight back in the side
106 Posted 15/01/2012 at 15:47:36
Overall, the midfield looked far better yesterday than for a very long time simply because every player in it was playing in his natural position. Amazing what can happen when round pegs are put into round holes....
Gibson is not a world beater but looks good because, unlike some of our players, he is comfortable on the ball and not afraid to call for it and get stuck in. He'll only get better with more matches under his belt. I just hope he carries on in that spirit and ignores whatever our 'coaches' try to drill into him!
116 Posted 15/01/2012 at 17:17:15
117 Posted 15/01/2012 at 17:12:43
118 Posted 15/01/2012 at 17:18:06
So, Swansea are below us and might well end up where they were last season. It must be be great to be a Swan fan watching this. Exactly the sort of commitment and passion that so many have asked for on these boards, even if it means losing a game now and then (or 10). Hang on, though, Henry has just come on and yet another disappointing Ruski has been subbed.
120 Posted 15/01/2012 at 17:29:28
127 Posted 15/01/2012 at 19:15:13
142 Posted 15/01/2012 at 21:33:39
147 Posted 15/01/2012 at 22:04:58
192 Posted 16/01/2012 at 06:03:55
194 Posted 16/01/2012 at 06:18:29
The he's played on the wing etc, well Tim Howard plays in goal and he's fucking scored more than Saha - so what? Our defence have a good few goals - so what? If you are a goal scorer by trade and given our set piece goal ratio whether you are a winger or centre half I expect you to score if you can, more so a striker whose job it is to score goals.
I hope Anichebe gets a bagload this season, doesn't look like anyone else will but I'm not holding out for a sudden 20 a season pheonix from the flames out of him.
197 Posted 16/01/2012 at 07:05:14
200 Posted 16/01/2012 at 07:06:31
448 Posted 17/01/2012 at 07:26:30
And as regards Tim Howard - that was a fluke goal so if you are going to use players records as a comparison at least try and be realistic.
And a striker haowever good he is needs to have decent service. Dixie Dean himself was quick to acknowledge the number of goals created for him by wingers such as Troup. Indeed he was quoted as saying that if he had played alongside Callaghan and Thompson - the Liverpool wingers of the 1960's - he reckoned he would have scored 100 goals in that season.
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