David Moyes faces the challenge of getting the surprise team of
the season so far back to winning ways against unpredictable
Manchester City following three successive draws and a worrying
dearth of goals.
Since the 2-1 win over Arsenal, the Blues have managed to score
more than one goal in a league game just once, that coming in the
2-1 win over Blackburn, and a lack of inspiration in the midfield
means that goals are a precious commodity for Everton these days.
Moyes may claim that his side was unfortunate not to come away
with all three points from Saturday's encounter with Bolton — with
two efforts cleared off the line and Rooney seeing a shot come back
off the crossbar. He may get some sympathy — but it is clear
that the team is not the fluid attacking unit it was earlier in the
With just three league goals since the beginning of October, the
seemingly rejuvenated Kevin Campbell is an indication of the
attacking problems currently hindering the Blues. Having to
drop deep to claim the increasing long balls from defence, he isn't
where he needs to be when it counts — the six-yard box.
Tomasz Radzinski, however, is managing to score just regularly
enough and Rooney's all-round contribution means he is the main
attacking threat — which is not surprising given his talent —
but the fact that a 17 year-old is our main hope is still worrying.
Suspensions are now starting to bite with a vengeance, and
perhaps it is the absence of the once much-maligned David Unsworth
that has contributed to a lack of vision going forward?
Although many of his long punts seem wayward, it could be that
Unsworth's desire to advance the game into the opponents territory
is one of the factors Moyes's Boys are currently missing.
Moyes will hope that losing 4th place to Newcastle and the fact
that second place in the table is just three points away will be
motivation enough for his stalled outfit to overcome Kevin Keegan's
City. They will be without Eyal Berkovic, who is out with a
groin strain. Either Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jihai Sun will
replace Berkovic, with the Chinese wing-back most likely to get the
Rooney is likely to start alongside Campbell based on his
performance against Bolton (if SuperKev's ankle allows him to play)
and Radzinski will probably have to settle for a place on the bench,
although it would be nice to see the two "R"s start
together for a change.
In fact, injuries notwithstanding, Moyes will probably field the
same team that started the Bolton game, which means Yobo at right
back and Li Tie in midfield, setting up the much anticipated Chinese
taster for the odd million or so who will be keenly watching this
encounter in the People's Republic.
We are NOT playing well
Absolute turgid dross. Abysmal performance – we didn’t
deserve anything from that. I can honestly say that we played
better football under Walter Smith than what I’ve seen from the
past five or six games. We seem to have two game plans… the
long ball and the ball over the top – neither work, especially
against three crock centre backs. There is no creativity or
We didn't really deserve anything from that so a point is a good
return from that point of view. My worry is that we are going to
struggle in the second half of the season because we lack any sense
of direction in midfield. A decent team would have sown the
game up, or at least added a second, within the first 25 minutes
after going ahead, because for that part of the game City were
dreadful. Instead, we took our foot of the gas, with not one
midfielder showing any sort of drive or commitment. The amount
of space given to the likes of Bernabia, Foe and Wright-Phillips was
You sensed that City would draw level and they did. We started
the second half a bit brighter but then stood off them and allowed
them to dominate AGAIN. If your midfield can't string a decent
set of passes together and are reluctant to make challenges, you are
asking for trouble and that's exactly what happened. Radz pops
up for the equaliser and gets us out of jail but that should not
disguise the fact that we were very poor again today.
Yes we should be happy in our league position but if we continue
to play like that we’ll be midtable by the end of the month.
- Richard Wright - made another silly mistake, yet Gary
Naysmith standing in front of him hardly helped him. A few dodgy
moments and absolutely brainless kicking – to Carsley EVERY
- Steve Watson – A few good runs and won a fair few
headers. Took his goal well. Got caught out of position though
on numerous occasions. (6)
- Davie Weir – Average game, made a few silly errors of
- Alan Stubbs – Average, passing off key at times
- Joseph Yobo – Went off injured, did little. (5)
- Gary Naysmith – Plenty of enthusiasm but just lacks
the quality to beat a man and put a decent cross in. (5)
- Thomas Gravesen – Absolutely woeful AGAIN. Couldn’t
pick a pass. Kept losing the ball. Made silly fouls. Didn’t
win one tackle. Didn’t help the attack or defence. Should be
- Mark Pembridge – Ran around, did nothing special, put
his foot in. Created little. (5)
- Li Tie – Didn’t run the midfield like he should
have. Had a better game than he did on Saturday. Made some
sloppy passes. (6)
- Kevin Campbell – Another poor display. I assume he’s
- Wayne Rooney – Looked as if he was hungover. Kept
going for water every time there was a stoppage. Wasn’t given
any service or help. (5)
- Tomasz Radzinski – The ball was constantly booted to
his head and he had to keep going out wide to pick up the ball.
Did okay. Took his goal well. (6.5)
- Scott Gemmill – The only player to keep the ball on
the deck it seemed. Never got involved enough though. (5.5)
- Lee Carsley – Needs to get down the flank more but
did as well as anyone else for us. (6)
Davie Moyes needs to sort it out and I think he will. He’ll be
disappointed and rightly so. We are not playing well and we’re
playing some of the worst football that I’ve seen in a good while.
We haven’t scored more than two goals in a Premiership game so far
and we’re creating very few chances....
Tired and wearisome
Originally I thought that the annual Marland family trip to
Dublin would put paid to my attendance at this game. But,
having to travel back on New Year's Day, I discovered that there was
a boat out of Dun Laoghaire (apologies to Colm if I've spelt that
wrong) at 11:10, arriving in Holyhead at 12:50. With Liverpool
a tantalising 2 hour-ish drive away, the game was suddenly back on
I was actually close to the ground at about 2:30 but I had to
return home to unpack a car laden with Chrissie presents and to get
my ticket which had been loaned to a mate. So it was that I
was running down Gwladys Street at about 3:05, listening to the
match on my mini-radio (guess what I got for Christmas) when, as I
passed the first turnstyles, Steve Watson scored!!
Bastard!!! Couldn't he have waited just two more minutes?
I took my seat as the hub-bub died down — I even missed all the
replays on the big screen — to be told I'd missed a cracking
goal. Oh well, with an early goal surely we'd settle down and
play a bit. Not at all, it soon became apparent that that was
as good as it was going to get, and I'd missed it.
What I got to see was a struggling side that looked tired and
flat, and who gradually lost control of the game. The City
equaliser didn't come as any great surprise, even if it was another
of those "avoidable" goals we seem so prone to giving
away. Initially we were caught off guard by a short corner
routine (real schoolboy stuff) before Wright dropped the subsequent
cross at Anelka's feet.
By half time we looked a little ragged. Yobo was limping
badly, not that he'd looked too secure up to that point anyway, and
City seemed to have been able to out manoeuvre us in midfield and
down the flanks with surprising ease.
Half time brought two changes — Carsley for Yobo and Radzinski
for Campbell (I assume Campbell was injured, there was nothing
noticeable but he did get clattered). This all meant that
Steve Watson was shunted back to right back.
The changes did nothing for our level of performance. In fact we
were worse. Defensively we were doing all right, but right
across the middle we were struggling. Li Tie gave the ball
away more than he has all year, and Pembo had his worst game in
After 15 minutes Gravesen was taken off and replaced by Gemmill;
it could have been any one of the midfield four. Gravesen
didn't seem to be injured so it was a bit of a surprise to see us
use our last substitute with half an hour still to play.
City continued to dominate and should really have scored after Li
Tie gave the ball away just outside our box, Wright did well to come
out smartly to deny the initial chance but Foe put the subsequent
shot over when really he should have scored.
It came as no great surprise when City did finally go
ahead. We were opened up down our left and Foe converted the
subsequent cross. With time running out that looked like
The beauty of Everton now is that they never give up. We
were given 4 minutes of injury time; in all honesty we didn't look
like doing anything and despite a few chances hadn't exerted any
significant pressure. Two minutes into injury time though
Steve Watson punted a ball into the box and a speeding Tomasz
Radzinski nipped in between Schmeichel and the centre back to nod
the ball in.
There was still time left for City to be given a very fortuitous
free kick on the edge of our box, fortunately they blazed it over,
before the ref blew for time and we could celebrate a very fortunate
- Wright 6 He does keep on making those gaffe's.
Everything else he did he was secure in but it was a bad mistake
for the first goal.
- Yobo 5 Seeing him at right back makes you appreciate
what an excellent job Tony Hibbert was doing there. Yobo
did OK but looked like a centre back playing right back.
- Naysmith 6 Did OK.
- Stubbs 7 Continuing his run of good form.
- Weir 7 Another who seems to be back after a little dip.
- Watson 7 Took his goal well, apparently, and gave a
decent, whole hearted performance. I seem to recall many
sniping at Watson's weight and fitness — the suggestion being
that he, like Unsworth, wouldn't fit into the new Moyes
philosophy. But, like, Unsworth, he's a good, honest pro
who I reckon would do anything asked of him, and that despite
their footballing limitations Watson and Unsworth still have a
big part to play at Everton.
- Li Tie 6 Some good stuff, but never seen him give it
away as often.
- Gravesen 6 Typical Gravesen. Some good stuff but
never got to grips with things.
- Pembridge 6 Just didn't seem to be at the races.
He always seemed to be getting caught out of position which is
most unlike him, on numerous occasions he left Naysmith exposed.
- Campbell 6 Was always going to struggle in front of
today's midfield, his injury and a good clattering didn't help.
- Rooney 6 His quietest performance yet, but still
supplied the killer pass for the first goal, apparently.
He looks a tired player, in the long term his four-match ban may
be a blessing in disguise.
- Carsley 6 Did OK but isn't the kind of player to turn a
poor team performance round.
- Radzinski 7 Looked as sharp and energetic as ever and
deserves credit for having the speed and awareness to nip in for
- Gemmill 6 Did OK.
Team 6 This suddenly looks like a tired team.
Comprehensively out passed but hung in there.
Man of the match — in a lacklustre performance only
Stubbs, Weir and Watson rose above the ordinary. In the end
though Watson gets it for a typically whole-hearted performance.