Celebrating 3 points no matter how they arrive really does some up this year's disappointing season. Three wins on the bounce does reflect a change in strategy by RM, although he might never admit it. Also reaching the mediocrity of mid-table means no longer watching the Blues with one eye looking at the results of those teams who are struggling desperately to stay in the multi-millionaires private club.

Watching the match live from 3000 miles away just reminded me, having returned from the UK, just how lucky we (those who live outside the UK) are when watching live Premier League football in North America unless you are disciple of Sky and BT Sports in the UK. But enough of those commercial issues and back to the Blues win.

Each day after a Blues match, I wait eagerly for reports from Ken, Paul et al, who actually witness the match first hand as watching TV gives you just about everything but the camaraderie of being there. But you do get to see just about everything that goes on during the 90+ minutes with umpteen replays. It is always interesting to see what others say about the Blues players' performances and match them against what I have seen on TV and then reflect on plusses and minuses of why certain players play and others watch.

Here is my assessment from the comfort of my lazyboy (no definitely not what you are thinking – my armchair!).

So let's start with trying to work out why the much maligned Gareth Barry always gets picked before anybody else.

1. Gareth Barry – I thing the reason he keeps getting selected is physicality. Along with Barry, the Blues fielded only 4 other outfield players more than 6 feet in height and one of those being Barkley who doesn't head the ball with any conviction. Often Barry plays like an extra centre back in both penalty areas. Without him, the problems that Blues face at either end of the field would be even worse. And he did put the ball in Jagielka's path to score the goal. So in my mind, despite his lack of pace, he still is one of the first names on the team sheet (yes, I know we won two without him) but Southampton looked a very tall physical side on TV. How did they look on the park???

2. John Stones – Despite his youth, age and physicality, even though he is 6-feet plus, he still looked like a middleweight when up against Pelle. Kudos to RM for sticking with Stones ... although I guess there is no-one to put there when Alcaraz and Distin (Where is Distin?) are the only alternatives. Also, Johnny boy is "one for the future in both a blue and white shirt". He got really banged up yesterday in a series of midair collisions which he never shirked from. For me, yesterday was one of his best performances based purely on guts and determination. Pelle is one of the biggest and ugliest centre-forwards in the league – something like Costa without goals. Why oh why can't we have someone like him???

3. Ross Barkley – Ross played for 60+ minutes in which he had a very mixed performance which was marginally better than some previous outings. What shook me was his inability to recover from a run downfield with the ball, followed by a 50-m run back chasing an opponent, tackling him and then looking as if he had just run a marathon. Hands on knees sucking in air. Just what does count for aerobic fitness when it comes to training football players?

Occasionally I use the "beep test" to measure the aerobic fitness of my athletes. For those of you who have not been subjected to this fitness performance test, it is basically a 20-yard shuttle run when you have to maintain a pace and reach each line on the "beep" of the machine. As the number of minutes pass by, the length of time between the beeps gets less. My really top class athlete will get to 12+ minutes. Rumour has it that Daley Thompson got to 18 in his prime. My judgement would be that Ross would struggle to get past 9.

Why did he look so tired? Maybe because someone has had a word in his expensive young ear that chasing back and tackling is part of every professional player's responsibility. Looking great going forward is not enough. To give Ross his due, he tried to do this but then found out how hard it is to do. Recently McCarthy has come in for criticism but I bet he could get close to 15 in the test.

I guess I could go on - Tim Howard - every goalkeeper lives and dies by their performance every time they play. Without his two one handed saves yesterday, I know the result and comments would be totally different.

Then there is the perennial performer, Leon Osman. Three wins in 3 matches when he has been starting. Coincidence? Or what does he bring to the team? Calmness, experience, ability to link up with Baines??? Yesterday he lost numerous tackles and gave the ball away and did not have a good game by his own high standards. But again, is he one of the first names on RM's team list. Coaching 101 says "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". (Unless of course it is Gibson's metatarsal!!!)

The re-emergence of Jags as a leader by performance? I could go on but I think I have written enough!!!! Who's for four on the bounce????

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Reader Comments (14)

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Patrick Murphy
1 Posted 06/04/2015 at 16:39:14
Dave - we do lack a bit of height and physicality throughout the team and Barry has revealed that it's only through injuries to the midfield players that he has taken part in so many games this season.

An interesting read from the Echo as Roberto says he is a tactically flexible manager - Discuss.

Stubborn Me!

James Stewart
2 Posted 06/04/2015 at 16:43:36
I think the main difference in our fortunes recently is due to being nearly at full strength. We have a top 6 first 11 and a bottom 6 second string. Too many of the latter in the side and results really deteriorate.
James Stewart
3 Posted 06/04/2015 at 16:43:36
I think the main difference in our fortunes recently is due to being nearly at full strength. We have a top 6 first 11 and a bottom 6 second string. Too many of the latter in the side and results really deteriorate.
Brian Harrison
4 Posted 06/04/2015 at 16:50:52
Dave
I wish I was 3000 miles away and then I probably wouldn't have to watch this dross week in week out. I thought your stat about the various height of players was interesting, but if this is relevant then how come Barcelona win so much with a team of below average height players. I think its more to do with talent than height for both players and managers, sadly we lack in both departments.
There are some who say give him till next Xmas, but I see nothing in this man to keep him a minute longer. He is widely tipped to bring Tom Cleverly here in the summer window, can you imagine what other duds we might end up with if he stays till Xmas.
Chris Feeley
6 Posted 06/04/2015 at 16:46:39
In recent weeks I've been hyper-critical of Barkley, with more than a few people disgustedly jumping on a comparison I made to an infamous Italian across the park. However, credit where it is due, there were signs of him being prepared to work hard towards getting the ball back against Southampton in the first half. I'm not surprised that he gassed out - the lad put more 'off the ball' effort into one half than he has done all season. The fitness issue can be addressed in pre-season, hopefully without the nonsense of an U21 tournament to factor in. The fact that the intent was apparent shows that, whilst one swallow doesn't make a summer, he does have the desire to improve and show some fight.
There was a Glenn Hoddle documentary on SKY recently, where he responded to speculation that he only won around 50 caps rather than 150 as he was considered a 'luxury' player by England in his era. His response was that he thought a 'luxury' player was one that continually gave the ball away without producing either goals or assists. Now whilst I think the game has moved on since Hoddle was letting Eileen Drury put her healing hands on his strained groin, I do think that the sentiment runs true today. If Barkley is to progress from precocious potential into main man, in my opinion, he needs to add goals and assists to the team. Otherwise, why drop Naismith?
This has been a season we will all be delighted to put behind us, fans and players alike. I hope that going forward Barkley is instructed to shoot more from around the edge of the box, as we don't do anywhere near enough of this as a team. The game on Saturday, against a nearly 39 year old reserve keeper, was tailor made for pot shots where he'd have to move his feet quickly. Ultimately though, next season a regular international with 2 full seasons in the top flight behind him should not still be considered just 'potential'.
Derek Thomas
7 Posted 07/04/2015 at 11:09:15
He gives me the impression of a total blert and should do one soonest.
Terence Leong
8 Posted 07/04/2015 at 12:40:25
Glenn Hoddle once said the supposed famous phrase about "10 players to carry the piano, and one player to play it", referring to how graft players support the flair player.

Players like him and Le Tissier are not well utilized at the national level, and it hasn't changed since. It's symptomatic of the English game. Gazza is slightly different because he combines a certain amount of drive, taking the game by the scruff of the neck, rather than just the sublime skills.

Think about it, even a player like Scholes was also marginalized in favour of Gerard and Lampard, who are more industrious, drive forward, but actually lacking very little craft and guile.

A player like Xavi is not known for many goals and assists too. Rather, he controls the tempo, keeps the ball pinging to someone else. He actually plays very deep.

There are many Toffees fans who also want that blood-and-thunder drive from players, and I see that as part of the larger rhetoric. Perhaps it's a legacy of Ball, who drove the team forward, scored goals, with lung bursting runs etc.

We didn't maximize players like Duncan Mackenzie and Anders Limpar too. Trevor Steven is probably the most successful example of us utilizing flair players. So, I think, if we want to maximize the talents of Barkley and Stones, we have to be mindful not to shoehorn them into "blood and thunder" type of players.

It took Ferguson about 3-4 years before Ronaldo was turned from a "Fancy Dan" who did more step overs than beat his player, to the one who scored 23 plus goals in his breakthrough season. Since then, he combined flair with end product, but he still doesn't track back!

Victor Jones
9 Posted 07/04/2015 at 14:11:05
It is no coincidence that results have been better with Osman in the team. He is by no stretch of the imagination a world beater. But he does bring something different. You will not win many matches when the team is crammed with defensive midfielders. At best you might scrape a 0-0 draw. But go a goal down and it then becomes a struggle to get back into the game.

Osman's inclusion puts the team on the front foot and we normally do better when we take a lead, as do most teams. We struggle when we go behind, because Martinez doesn't know how to utilize his subs to be able to change a match. The evidence is there for all to see this season.

A player's size should have nothing to do with whether he should be selected, or not. It is all about ability... nothing else. Pick your best players at all times – can anyone honestly say that Martinez does that?

Remember the "holy trinity"? How big were they. And what size were Andy King and Peter Reid? And would the trinity have even existed, had Martinez been their manager? Kendall would have been sold. And Harvey would have been stuck on the wing. And Ball would be doing a Distin. And that team would have been crammed with DMFs.

All conjecture, I know... but I think that you all know what I think about Martinez. He would even ruin Barcelona. I wonder if Arsenal are still interested in having him as their next manager? Sorry , that was a stupid question.

Rant over. Sorry for straying off topic. FOREVER EVERTON.

Roger Helm
10 Posted 07/04/2015 at 18:16:33
Good article Dave. I think Ross looks too heavy - too much muscle as well as fat. If he was a few kilos lighter, I think he would get around the pitch better.

I would not describe John Stones as up and coming. For me, he is an established professional, the first on the team sheet. In a year or two he will be first on the England team sheet too. If I were BK, this summer I would get him on an improved extended contract PDQ.

And Martinez an Impressionist? Surely he is a Cubist – in his work everything there but in a sort of random order, with no coherence, and pretty ugly to look at.

David Cooper
11 Posted 07/04/2015 at 20:05:00
Roger – my knowledge of painting styles unfortunately stops at undercoat or top coat!

But I do think RM falls under the title of an "impressionist". He looks and sounds good – first impressions and all that. He gives the "impression" that he knows what he is talking about! Is he doing a good job giving out the "impression" of being a premier league manager?

After nearly 2 years of close scrutiny, I am sorry to say that I am still not completely sure if he is good or bad for us. I think he is much better than what has gone before and much better than at least 50% of the current premier league managers.

Basically we won against Southampton because of Tim Howard. Just as we have lost previously because of Tim Howard. How much of that is down to Martinez? Would Robles done any better or worse than TM? We will never know.

If we win on Saturday, will it be because RM has suddenly found a winning formula, the players are playing with more confidence, Osman, Barry and Howard are starting or the bounce of the ball which was against is now bouncing in our direction? Or as probably is, a combination of all 4? Still I look forward to 4 wins in the bounce!

Martin Mason
12 Posted 07/04/2015 at 22:16:16
Just note the difference that Osman makes. Yes, he makes mistakes and gives the ball away, but he is that essential link between our strong defence and essentially powerful forward. He is the piece of flare in the big picture that we struggle to function without. This is the area that we're struggling to fill just now and which has caused our decline since we lost both Osman and Pienaar and replaced neither.

We've lost both now because they are past their sell by age but replacing them is the key to our success. McGeady, Lennon, Atsu are not replacements as they are just wide players. Pienaar and Osman were link players who Moyes forced to play wide, their key role was as constructive midfield link players and we have none in their absence. Having said that, we're far better with Osman and will be until he's 40.

Philip Yensen
13 Posted 10/04/2015 at 14:10:29
The three wins mask over the inability of RM. Some selections are forced, some are personal, few are tactical. I don’t care whether a man is small in stature or a big six footer, Alan Ball tiny, Tim Cahill average, going back to Bally’s days Johnny Morrissey. Guts, heart, respect for your fans, teammates and PRIDE in wearing that Royal Blue shirt.

I watch players’ faces when conceding tackles, possession and goals; few players show true pain at that loss. If nothing else, Moyes had his team bursting with pride.

Barkley is never going to be the complete article, why? No stamina, no vision, no heart, no ball at his feet no play.

Kone, I don’t get him, or is it the instructions off RM? If he has got to play, put him as an out-and-out centre-forward, he ends up all over the place wasting energy and positional play. Lukaku wants the ball early, be it into pockets or to feet, but early.

If anyone out there can explain to me and other befuddled Blues fans what is RMs plan, vision or tactics. One last footnote why not play Garbutt and Baines down the left if we have no fit left-sided player, surely a full-flight full-back can do both jobs.


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