COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Liverpool (H)

By Ken Buckley :  29/11/2009 :  Comments (24) :

No points again from a game that we dominated but without that crucial cutting edge and a modicum of luck we were always susceptible to the odd bit of mischance going against us and it duly did — twice.

Early kick-off and with rain pouring down there was a distinct lack of that 'Derby day feeling' with very few Reds to be seen, no singing in the streets and the hoards I walked up to the ground alongside it could have been a game against anyone — very strange. I wondered if it reflected both clubs' woes at present.

The first half started with us quite dominant and playing decent joined up stuff, none more than Pienaar who looked a class above any other player on the pitch. (Get his contract sorted, I say...) We were patient and probed but that last third quality was not quite there which allowed the Liverpool rearguard to hack and scuff balls away and they were playing with Gerrard almost anonymous and little cohesion.

Then between the 12 min mark and 15 min mark we saw ourselves suffer two cruel blows. Firstly a nothing shot from Mascherano was well covered by Howard until it took a wicked deflection off Yobo and found its way to the net, completely against the run of play... but a goal is a goal and the mountain to climb gets that bit bigger. Then the equaliser was presented to Bilyaletdinov on a plate and spurned from no more than six yards. That small patch of play was to be pivotal to the end.

The rest of the half was all Everton against probably the poorest Red side I have seen in years but we just could not find that elusive bit of class where it mattered to capitalise although we did have the ball in the net twice but on each occasion the linesman indicated offside without protest from players or fans. Liverpool did have a good attempt on goal between our two off-sides just 5mins from the break when a header from Insua brought an instinctive reflex save from Howard.

Half-timr and the chat was that we had been a bit unlucky but with Jo putting in his best performance for some time maybe we could get our rewards in the second half.

However the second half resembled the first with us having the upper hand but again without that telling final pass or indeed pressure from the flanks in terms of crosses to cause a nervy defence any real problems.

Chances at either end were few, Pienaar had a shot slip through Reina but he recovered before it could go over the line. Saha was introduced for Jo but after only several minutes it became clear it was a ‘hope for the best’ sub as he clearly wasn’t the sharp Saha we know.

Then the effort that finally made us realise maybe it was not our day as, from a Heitinga free kick, Cahill’s header brought a great diving save from Reina and as Fellaini closed in he had got up and blocked a point-blank shot. A great chance gone but you have to say ‘great keeping’.

Then, with just 10 mins to go, a long ball into our box was headed sideways by Kuyt and Yobo went into Hull mode and had a wild swing at it and only managed to find a red shirt and despite a fine attempt by Hibbert to block, the cross came low across goal and Howard could only parry the ball to the feet of Kuyt who gleefully slotted home.

The manager introduced Yak for Cahill but he played no meaningful part then Yobo limped off and Neill took his place and the game ended in crestfallen fashion. As the players trooped off, they must have wondered how they had lost this one after dominating a poor Liverpool but the truth is, if you don’t create and take chances, then you are open to flukes.

Overall I thought it was a much better display than in mid-week with Pienaar the star on the pitch until he tired midway through the second half. Heitinga and Fellaini did a good job in centre-mid with Fellaini the playmaker and Heitinga the enforcer but alarm bells rang for me in the last 20 minutes. It was as if a switch was thrown; where we had been dominant and chasing every ball down, we suddenly looked a tired outfit and Liverpool had their best spell of the game.

It seemed to me as though a lot of the players have been played too much and those coming back are not yet fully match-fit or are carrying an injury and just as worrying is that we all know the depth of our squad leaves little room for manoeuvre.

Looking at our position and the games coming thick and fast, I hope I am wrong in suggesting that we may have to take points off sides around us near the bottom to ensure there is no relegation fight, rather than look to that top five finish. I say this purely on the evidence I have seen so far this season and with the manager saying today that he has none other of the injured players near a return — as well as his statement that the club has no money for transfers...

It suggests that those who are fit and those playing their way back need to remain fit and put in quite a shift between now and season's end (a tall order... and getting taller). Europa League then Spurs in a few days will, I believe, show the extent of our problems or that the progression shown today from mid-week can be maintained and a few wins to lift the spirits of all Evertonians are not too far away.

I always like to remain upbeat and optimistic but the stats say one win in eleven, the league table doesn’t lie in reflecting this and certainly doesn’t make pleasant reading. Plenty of work for the board, manager and players lies ahead.
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Jonathan Tasker
1   Posted 30/11/2009 at 09:21:18

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From my Armchair view, Pienaar looked superb , especially in the first half.
The Billy miss was astonishing. I still cannot believe it. Amazing saves by their goalkeeper to deny Cahill and Felliani. When people talk about them being a two-man team, it should be a three-man team.

Overall, I am not worried about going down, there are far worse teams than us. I am totally ambivalent about the Europa League in that we do not have the resources to be in the PL and the EL and the FA Cup.

Finally, Cahill is just not doing enough at present in the 4-4-1-1 formation.
Mike Elbey
2   Posted 30/11/2009 at 09:21:50

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Good report Ken, I only disagree with your assesment of Jo’s performance — I didnt think he offered very much at all and if anything should have been replaced earlier — but hey, it's all about opinions after all! Overall it was a much better display than of late and we can count ourselves unlucy.

However, Moyes yet again failed in his team selection to address the biggest problem we have — the centre of our defence. And suprise suprise, again it was hopeless. Personally I do not rate Distin, he misses too many headers, is clumsy in his challenges (note he could easily have had a penalty given against him yesterday) but, most importantly of all, he has failed to strike up any sort of partnership with Yobo.

Now I know that Yobo is also playing poorly and was at fault for their second yesterday but I have watched him for the past 7 years and he is a top player. If I am honest I am struggling to think of many worse centre halves we have had than Distin in the last 15 years (Krøldrup is the only one that springs to mind).

Yesterday, we dominated for much of the game and only really had two crosses to defend into our box — one led to the second goal and the other resulted in a free header that should have been a goal.

If we are to start improving, the Distin-Yobo partnership MUST be scrapped. Heitinga to centre-back immediately for me. Yes we were unlucky yesterday but, if you can't defend and you struggle to create, there is usually only one outcome.

Kevin Sparke
3   Posted 30/11/2009 at 09:45:24

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Nice balanced report Ken (as ever). Re the Distin/Yobo partnership; if I was the manager and had a ready replacement, it would be Yobo who would get the bullet not Distin.

Yobo looks like the best centre half in the world for 10 minutes every match and then he strolls around the pitch with the urgency of a toddler at a kids party carrying a plate of jelly... And as for his cock ups, you could have an hour-long DVD every season filled entirely with goals caused by Joey falling asleep on duty...

Distin looked a class act when he first arrived; his form has deserted him but is it any wonder when he’s constantly watching out for another Yobo snooze.

As for playing Hetinga at the back, I’m not convinced he has the awareness and phyical presence for a good central defender... so until Jagielka gets better we’re stuck with Yobo’s clown act unless we can get someone on loan during January the window.
Chris Fisher
4   Posted 30/11/2009 at 10:18:00

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We did play really well and didn't deserve to lose but we did and it doesn't hurt any less. I can't wait for Jagielka to come back because Yobo is shit. I was so happy when he couldn't get back in the team last year and the only reason he is in the team at the moment is because of injuries, nothing else. He is definetly one of the players Moyes was talking about when he said there were some players not performing.
Marc Williams
5   Posted 30/11/2009 at 10:07:17

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I always look forward to your reports Ken BUT I can’t be as balanced as you this morning. The actual level of effort was improved but overall it was very much ’same old, same old’.

Also make NO mistake, this was a VERY POOR & UNDERPERFORMING ’Redshite’ team that beat us at home AGAIN yesterday!

Moyes is paid £65k per week for his footballing nous, has won awards from his peers & is still the darling of the media, so here are some questions:

Why are you playing Jo as a lone Striker in a 4-5-1? He looks like he’s made of ’flubber’ as long balls bounce off him, over him, past & around him! FFS even my 10 year old can see he doesn’t have the attributes to be a target man.

How many times are you going to play Fellaini & Cahill in the same midfield before the ’penny drops’ that it doesn’t work?
What is Heitinga for? As a midfielder he doesn’t want the ball... leaving Yobo & Distin no choice but to ’hoof it’. Even MotD last night finally started to examine our pointless ’hoofball’.

The squad & staff are ’Top heavey’ with defenders, so Why can’t we defend?

Yes, there was a bit more effort yesterday BUT look at the table and our fixture list. We are in BIG trouble!

James Stewart
6   Posted 30/11/2009 at 11:01:27

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Points very well made, Marc. Sadly, I agree with every word... Dark days.
Mike Johnson
7   Posted 30/11/2009 at 11:38:54

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Good performance by the Blues. Atmosphere was ok, nothing special; however, in my opinion, it was Baines who was at fault for the second goal as he left Kuyt unmarked.
Dave Lynch
8   Posted 30/11/2009 at 11:33:48

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As Sparky said above, Distin is a class defender. Yobo for me has been lacking for a couple of seasons now.

I personally lay some of the blame on Moyes's choice of midfield, the ball is constantly coming back at us in most games due to the lack of possession in the middle. You can only soak up so much pressure before you eventually crack.

Jo couldn’t trap a bag of cement, never mind a football and his awareness of what is going on around him is virtually non-existent.

A moral victory for us? Yes. But morality doesn’t exist in modern football. I have never seen a more one-sided derby in our favour for years and years. They where there for the taking, but again we came up short.

Guy Wilkinson
9   Posted 30/11/2009 at 11:50:50

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Jo did really well, I was greatly surprised by his level of skill and hold up play. He pulled out of two challenges that should have been derby day "straighteners" but otherwise led the line with courage.

Heitinga did pretty well, but Pienaar was the pick of the bunch. Whereas I do mind losing, the pain was tempered by an excellent first-half performance by all players.
Colin Malone
10   Posted 30/11/2009 at 13:02:17

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Got to stick to 4-5-1, with Timmy behind the front man; we cannot play 4-4-2. As soon as the Yak and Saha came on, the shite took control.

Although Pienaar was our best player, we need him in the middle of the park so we can play it on the ground.

Tom Brown
11   Posted 30/11/2009 at 13:35:21

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Normally I’m in the glass-half-full camp, but prior to the derby I was at the point where I was thinking the derby was Moyes last chance to prove himself or it would be time to step aside.

From my personal choice of first team, there are now only five players missing (Yakubu, Saha, Jagz, Neville Arteta). I include Saha and Yak because they are clearly not fit even if they are played sometimes for a lack of an alternative.

Five first team players injured is bad, but it is something that managers should expect to have to deal with occasionally. I feel that more than five is a different story. However, I admit this is very subjective.

So... with "only" five out, I am looking for Moyes to perform or go.

Despite not winning against a poor RS, the performance was much better so I am not ready to picket Goodison yet.

Oh how we have missed Pienaar! My personal favourite player and he looked good. Hopefully more to come from him with fitness and game time (hope he stays fit!).

Fellaini had a good game, winning some ball and showing some nice simple but intelligent passing. However, I fear that he looked good due to the lack of pace in the Liverpool side. Fellaini’s main problem is he isn’t quick and doesn’t read the game well enough to get away with his lack of pace against quick teams. Spurs are quick, maybe that game will show if he has improved or still suffers the same problem. Maybe best to use him as a sub in the second half when legs are heavy.

Despite missing two good chances, nice to see Bilyaletdinov back to. Showed some badly needed creativity. Hoping for more from him as he continues to settle. Jo was better than he has been... Generally didn’t have too many complaints about the team. But then I am a glass half-full kind of guy.

Overall I thought the performance was enough to delay me calling for Moyes’s head but only until the game against Spurs. Decent performance or wins needed in Europe and with Spurs or personally my patience will run out.
Matt Hunter
12   Posted 30/11/2009 at 15:33:18

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For a long time I was a Joe Yobo fan; however, I feel the man is a complete liability. He has the concentration level of a 12-year-old school boy... his continual thumping of the ball up the pitch is only fit for a League Two side.

He has played in the majority of the thumpings we have had under Moyes but the most upsetting thing of all is that I just don’t think he cares... witness how he walked straight down the tunnel yesterday, didn’t even bother supporting the team. His face tells the story — all he cares about is his money he’s not good enough... get rid!

Anand Rabheru
13   Posted 30/11/2009 at 16:02:43

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Colin, "we cannot play 4-4-2. As soon as the Yak and Saha came on, the shite took control" Yak came on when we were 2 - 0 down, so kinda pointless comment that isnt it?

Bottom line is, we were the better team, we were pressing for that equaliser, the players were up for it, the fans were up for it... and dithering Moyes took off Jo who had his best game this season to bring Saha on when everyone was clearly calling for Yak to come on instead of Moyes’s beloved Tim Cahill. As Jo went off, most of the section I was in at least were dismayed by that NEGATIVE substitution and that's when we lost the game. Had we continued going at them playing 4-4-2, we could have got back into that game!

Too often, Moyes is too late in his substitutions and normally they are negative ones!!!

5 mins to go, Yobo goes off injured so at two-nil down, why not give Baxter, an attacking midfielder, a run out and drop Heitinga into CB? Reason, coz Moyes would rather lose two-nil and be safe than try and go for a goal and get hit on the counter and lose 3-0.

I love Moyes, but his negativity is killing us! We have two of the best strikers in the Prem and they were both on the bench yesterday! Having Bilic or Hiddink as the boss, they would both be playing and we would be playing attacking football!

Dave McCarten
14   Posted 30/11/2009 at 16:10:43

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I’ve been on the phone to the Samaritans all day and three of them have topped themselves.
Mike Elbey
15   Posted 30/11/2009 at 16:20:49

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To those saying that the problem at the back lies with Yobo and Distin is class.

I agree that Yobo is currently playing poorly but so is Distin. I lose count of the number of headers he either misses completely or fails to get proper contact on. To those who say Yobo is a liability can you explain how for the past 3-4 years we have had the best defence outside of the top 4 (fact). As Yobo has been a part of the defence during most of those games how can he be a liability? Also I have noticed that the defences that Distin has been involved with at both Portsmouth and Man City have been far from watertight.

We are all entitled to our opinions obviously. Mine is that both centre halves are currently playing poorly but we can only drop one. Based on what I have seen over previous seasons, my decision would be to leave Distin out. One thing is for certain, however: as long as the two of them are paired together, we will continue to ship goals as they have no relationship whatsoever.
Colin Malone
16   Posted 30/11/2009 at 16:25:40

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Anand. Cannot see why people are having a go at Tim Cahill. The lad has not been playing in his righful position. Leave him behind the front man in a 4-5-1 and watch us improve.

How many top teams play 4-4-2?

Man U? Rooney who's all over the pitch and ?????

Chelsea? Drogba and ??? — don't say Anelka because he works his socks off down the flanks.
Anand Rabheru
17   Posted 30/11/2009 at 17:15:40

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Tim Cahill has been playing behind the front man for most of the 1st half of this season. He has moved wide or in the CM since Pienaar got injured. 1st half of this season to date, what has he done? In fact, what has he done since he scored the equaliser against the red shite in the cup last season?

How many times have you seen Cahill jump up for a header this season, not win the header and just complain to the ref waving his hands around all over the place wanting a foul rather than getting on with the game and trying to win the ball back? His touch is awful, when he has the ball to his feet, he has no idea what to do with it.

I am not interested in which other teams play 4-4-2, 4-5-1 used to be a strength of ours, but Moyes is so predictable in what he is going to do and how he is going to play week-in, week-out... let's launch it long for Cahill to try and get a flick on...

My point is, if we were to play the ball on the ground, we could play through our midfield, which on paper is really good and they are footballers who can then open defences up! Pienaar, Arteta (when fit), Fellaini/Rodwell and Bily. You play football (which a European coach would get us doing) through those midfielders, then 4-4-2 would work for us.

Do you think Cahill (at the moment) is offering us or has offered us (since the equaliser in the cup last season) more than the 4/5 midfielders I have mentioned above? He would be a decent player to bring off the bench if we are chasing the game, but he would not be in my starting 11.

ps: I love Cahill (I know it don't sound like it), but he ain't offering us anything at the moment (or when he is playing in his "best position")!!!
Colin Malone
18   Posted 30/11/2009 at 17:39:52

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Tim Cahill has been playing behind the front man for most of the 1st half of the season??? I must have been at different games than you, unless Timmy been putting a big wooly wig on.

How many European teams play 4-4-2?
Ciarán McGlone
19   Posted 30/11/2009 at 21:46:49

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’Good report Ken, I only disagree with your assesment of Jo’s performance — I didnt think he offered very much at all and if anything should have been replaced earlier’

-------------------------

Completely agree...clumsy, crap passing and easily pushed off the ball - same as usual.

I also didn’t see why Heitinga is getting so much praise..he wasn’t bad but he hardly set the world alright...

But overall, I agree with Ken’s synopsis..a great improvement.
Ciaran Armstrong
20   Posted 30/11/2009 at 22:34:25

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Tom Brown,

One problem with your argument. Five injuries???

When a manger has first choice players missing, he relies on his next best. Did you see our bench on Sunday?

Our midfield has missed Micky, Pip, Peanut, Osman and Rodwell at times this season. Screech then got himself suspended to add insult to mass injuries!

Last season’s centre half partnership has gone. All our forwards have been out at various times.
How can you claim Moyes hasn’t had it that bad when the physio’s room has been fuller than Rafa’s belly on paella night?
David Hallwood
21   Posted 30/11/2009 at 23:08:44

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I went to the game and agree with all the sentiments, definately THE most one-sided derby I’ve ever seen, but I must admit Martin Keown’s analysis on MOTD2 was spot on, and his assertion that when we played football we actually looked better and was more effective than long ball. I then depressed myself further by watching the re-run of the Barca-Real Madrid game, now that’s how football should be played
Stuart Downey
22   Posted 01/12/2009 at 07:17:46

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Ken I thought the atmosphere in Goodison was really good, especially in the first half. But your spot on about the lack of banter etc before the game and not just on the day. There seemed to be a lack of bragging or expectation from either side prior to the match, a derby atmosphere that hasn’t been around for a while.
Keith Glazzard
23   Posted 01/12/2009 at 13:55:58

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Ken - the only time before Sunday that Pienaar, Fellaini and Bilyaletdinov have started together was September 17th, home to AEK Athens. Even then, Fella was struggling following illness and Bily was trying to come to terms with what he has called ’playing in a washing machine’ in PL games. Pienaar was rugby tackled out of October & November at Portsmouth not long after.

So the derby saw us with a close to a first choice midfield possibly for the first time this season. And it showed. We were the better team, without doubt. Three or more games preparation with those players and, who knows, the difference between pressure and a result? We’ll never know, but if we can keep them all fit the goals and points will come.
Drew Glenister
24   Posted 01/12/2009 at 20:27:33

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I have arrived at the decision that we need a centre-midfielder in the January transfer window. I am an armchair fan who gets to Goodison occassionally and away games when we play down south where I live (bear with me). I’ll be the first to admit that you can’t see the whole game from the directors view and unless you go every week you do miss things however some things have failed to elude me.

There are two problems in our team this year and they are lack of concentration / leadership in our defence and lack of creativity and balance in our midfield.

Yobo and Distin are both accident prone due to a lack of concentration and positional understanding - there’s no way Benfica should have scored from that cross in the six yard box but Distin was 5 yards off the only man in a goal-scoring position. As for Yobo there are too many to mention over the years.

Either would be passable defenders with the right partner, in the same way that Yobo was generally passable whenever he played with Jagielka last year. From what I have seen of Neil in his previous incarnations he is little better.

On the basis that this is clearly one of the two main problems the team faces currently I would immediately move Heitinga to centre-half to play with one or other of Distin or Yobo on the basis that he at least appears to be a leader/organiser and one of those players who reads the game. A brain and an athlete, a ’first ball’ and a ’second ball’ defender - this is how good CB partnerships are formed. Can’t be any worse than what we have now which is the virtual guarantee of at least two goals conceded per game due to lack of concentration. If this doesn’t work we have to bring in a new centre half (Cahill looks decent), assuming these kids aren’t up to snuff, in January and sack off Distin and Neill at the end of the season. Yobo’s new contract will insure that he is a dependable sub for years to come.

The second problem which is apparent to me as a yet-unknown footballing genius, is that our midfield lacks creativity and balance. The former could not be helped until recently with the injury problems we have had.

But on the subject of balance, I was pleased to see that Rodwell wasn’t in the team on Sunday and although he’s a decent prospect, we should accept big money for him if it is offered. The problem with this lad is that while he is technically gifted and very composed, he isn’t strong, diligent or agressive enough to play in the holding role (in our team) or quick enough to play on either side of the midfield. He is a toothless defender (he’s only a kid in fairness to him) and not attacking enough to play behind the strikers, so if someone wants to give us £20m we should rip their arm off and spend the money on players more helpful to our immediate cause such as Lee Cattermole or Scott Parker (if you want a real holding player) or Adam Johnson (being realistic about who might come). That or help finance Pienaar’s wage demands because, honestly, we will lose him after the world cup and his creativity will be very expensive if not impossible to replace.

While I’m fixing the midfield can everyone stop having a go at Fellaini. This guy covers every blade of grass on the field, touches the ball more often than every other player on the pitch, breaks up play, wins headers at both ends, doesn’t give the ball away, has a great touch, attitude and football brain and with the right players around him will become the cornerstone of our midfield if we’re lucky enough to keep him. If we had another Fellaini in midfield we wouldn’t have half the problems we do now.

So you can gather by now that my midfield consists of Fellaini and Pienaar.

I think you have to drop Cahill for a couple of weeks. He can’t go on at 75% and other than chopping people down and the odd header, when he’s not scoring he just doesn’t contribute enough to justify selection and before this weekend he hasn’t looked like scoring.

So that’s Cahill and Rodwell out (the bench is looking stronger already), Bilyaletdinov looks a decent player and I was pleased with his bite in the tackle on Sunday although he might yet prove too slow to play on the wing. I think I would stick him in the middle if he continues to show his teeth cos he links up well, he’s composed in posession, doesn’t lose the ball and knows where the net is. It would be worth a try against AEK with Pienaar on the left and Dan G as a stopgap on the right. Obviously long term we need Arteta back and depending on Bily’s improvement, TBLSWK will be either on the right or through the middle. Anyway back to business at hand.. With Cahill rested that leaves two spaces to fill and you can pick whoever’s fit out of your three strikers.

This in turn highlights a lack of genuine centre midfielders (proper box-to-box midfielders not holders or second strikers) in our squad because I don’t think Moyes will play two up front with that light of a midfield.

So he’s unable to drop Cahill which is why we play with two holding players which is why we have two jonas at the back and our balance is totally missing.

Centre-midfielder please Moyesy - wonder if Defour or Moutinho fancy a relegation scrap or mid-table obscurity (ooh).

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