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Cover for Defense, Not Attack!

By Tim Luke :  27/01/2009 :  Comments (0) :
The January transfer window is almost over, and like the rest of you, I’m hoping to see a few choice players coming in on loan till the end of the season. However, where I differ from most of you, is regarding the type of players I’d like to see coming into the club in January. I know most, if not all of you, are calling for the obvious — more strikers!

This is not surprising. 2 of our 4 strikers – Yakubu and Vaughn, are out for the rest of the season. The other, Saha, is due back soon but is so injury-prone that he may be sidelined again as soon as he returns. And the 4th striker, Anichebe, has been having niggling injuries, and to my mind, is not really the finished product yet. So trying to get a couple of strikers in on loan would appear to be the most sensible thing to do. No rocket-science needed here!

But wait, before committing our limited funds to securing some new strikers on loan, let’s think through this matter again more carefully. Which area does Everton need some urgent cover? Is it really in attack? If you analyze our situation more closely, I think you’ll find that we really need cover in defense rather than attack. Let me explain why.

As we all know, we’ve been without our main strikers since early December 2008. Yet, we’ve been scoring goals and winning matches. Why is this so? We’ve been scoring goals because we have midfielders with an eye for goal — Cahill, Fellaini, Arteta, Osman, Pienaar, and dare I say, Gosling. We also have defenders like Lescott and Yobo who can weigh in with a goal of two at set-pieces and corners. So scoring is not a major problem for Everton without strikers. But we’re not just scoring goals, we’re also winning games. Why? Simple. We’ve got a strong, disciplined defence. We can shut out teams effectively and defend ugly if necessary, as the last game with Liverpool has shown. This means we only need to score once to win games. And this, we have been doing with some aplomb since December.

So keeping it tight and pinching a goal to win matches has been our strength of late. With this in mind, let me paint you a worrying scenario that could happen over the next couple of months. Today, we have a strong defensive backbone with Howard in goal, and 3 good central defenders fighting for 2 central defensive positions — Lescott, Jaglieka and Yobo. This is the heart of the Everton defense. It’s been the bedrock of our success over the past few weeks, despite the injuries to our strikers. On the surface, it looks like there is sufficient cover and competition for defensive places.

But what if, on the off-chance, that injury decimates our entire defense in February 09, as it did with our attack in December 08. After all, I too thought at the beginning of the season that with 4 strikers competing for 1 or 2 places in our attack, we should be well-covered for the whole season. Who would have dreamt that come December, we would have all 4 out injured. So what if we suddenly have Lescott, Jaglieka, Yobo and Howard all injured at the same time. Could Everton continue to cope as well as we have without the strikers? I doubt so.

Unlike our attack, were we have midfielders who can move into attacking positions, we don’t have midfielders or fullbacks who can cover in central defense. Perhaps Neville or Rodwell could be considered, but I doubt that they’ll be able to do a good job there. And worst still, if we got an injury to Howard at the same time, we’ll have one serious hole in our defense as neither Carlo Nash nor Ian Turner fills me with any confidence.

So rather than looking for strikers to come in on loan, I’d feel much better if Moyes focuses on bringing in at least one holding midfielder (who can play in central defense if necessary), one central defender (who can cover at left back as well – since if Lescott gets injured, there’ll be no cover for Baines as Valente doesn’t look like he’ll be fit for the rest of the season), and one proper goalkeeper as cover for Howard (it’s a shame we couldn’t get Cudicini as he would have been great competition for Howard). Getting these 3 players in on loan till the end of the season would give us the necessary defensive cover needed.

Having a strong defense will see us through our games, because as I said, we have sufficient goal-scoring strength throughout the team to cover for any lack of strikers we may have. I just hope that David Moyes is seeing the same problem as I am, and is indeed trying to find some cover for our defense. It’ll be wonderful if we can get a compliment of strikers, midfielders and defenders in during this window. But given our resources, this seems like a pipe-dream. So as I said, if we only have enough funds for about 2 or 3 loan transfers, I’d rather use these funds to bring in defenders to give sufficient cover for our central defenders. Let’s never forget that it is our defense that has given us this good run of results of late.

Anyway let’s wait and see... January is nearing its end.

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