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Reasons to be cheerful

By Chris James :  05/03/2009 :  Comments (0) :
Unsurprisingly (and perhaps not unjustifiably) the team have been slated after only securing a point last night and once more gloom descends upon ToffeeWeb.

This despite the fact that most of the same posters were predicting a difficult game away to a side that we often struggle against, who've already beaten us twice this season and who are (in some cases quite literally) fighting for their Premier League survival.

Whilst I too am frustrated that we haven't taken the chance to close the gap on a stuttering Villa (and equally stuttering Arsenal) and do realise only too well that had we nicked a goal last night and at St James' we'd be now right in amongst it. That we didn't achieve that is certainly not due to lack of effort of at least 90% of our squad (I'll happily throw Jo to the lions), nor do I believe necessarily down to any failing of tactical nous.

Yes, it was a counter-intuitive decision to bring Yobo in to displace our star centre-back to right wing, but the result didn't seem to be a weakening of the defence (i.e., we gave very few chances away and didn't concede against some talented forwards — Santa Cruz especially) and certainly we were robbed of any wing back play that Baines was playing on the other side, but do we really think that an unproven, unplayed Lars Jacobsen was the man to provide this? Otherwise, the only option would be to play Neville at right back and pull him out of a defensive midfield role that he'd been excelling at.

Elsewhere in midfield, those clamouring for Gosling on the right and complaining about Rodwell in midfield seem to me to be mainly the same people clamouring for Rodwell to play in midfield and who berated weak performances from Gosling in recent games. The calls for Van der Meyde playing for any more than 10 minutes really can't be taken seriously... and the same goes for Saha, who we are clearly protecting for the weekend.

But enough of the explanations; ultimately, as the title suggests, I do genuinely believe there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful, so here's 10 for a start!

1) We are still in the hunt for 4th

Arsenal may have beaten West Brom but that doesn't disguise an out-of-sorts side who (like us) are suffering from key players being out and whose form is worse than ours. They've got Blackburn, Newcastle and Man City next and although at the top of their game you'd expect them to win all 3, right now anything could happen.

Villa are now in danger of collapsing. Their last 3 games reads LDL and their next 3 games are against a resurgent Spurs (who still need the points to be sure of avoiding relegation), Liverpool and Man Utd... and after that, they play us.

2) We're still in the FA Cup and have a good chance of making the semis

Boro are struggling and, although they did beat Liverpool away, most of that confidence must have been eroded by being tanked by Spurs on Wednesday. Sure, the FA Cup isn't as prestigious as it was, but in previous years we've bemoaned early exits and we're still hanging in here.

3) We are still trying to play some passing football

Yes there has been more of the ball in the air since Arteta's injury, but claims of a total return to hoofball are wide of the mark. Looking at the 'highlights' yesterday there were plenty of examples of neat passing moves alongside the more direct stuff.

4) We have a superb defensive core

Admittedly right back is now a problem with Hibbo out for a couple of weeks, but there is cover of a sort and overall with Lescott, Jags, Howard and Baines it's one of the strongest units in the league.

5) The left hand side is working well

I don't understand some of the stick Pienaar gets to be honest, I think he's a skillful player who creates chances, has shots and is combining very nicely with Baines down the left. Last night he was unlucky not to score and had what looked like a very strong penalty appeal turned down.

6) Cahill is getting back to his best

Okay, our forward line is ragged and injury ravaged, but in Cahill we do have a proven goalscorer who's fit and predatory.

7) We're blooding some very promising young players

Gosling and Rodwell clearly have plenty of development to do, but they are getting experience and showing lots of promise. Clearly Baxter is thought of as an option too and Vaughan will be back in the next game or two to offer an attacking option. Even Fellaini (not a youth academy product), though struggling a little at present, has to be considered a qualified success so far in his first season.

8. We have a brilliant team spirit and an unrivalled work ethic

One of the best things Moyes has done for Everton is to instill a really strong spirit and togetherness. Where other clubs are full of wantaway players on ridiculous contracts, undermining the manager and offering excuses, that just doesn't happen at Everton.

Almost all players are honest and put the team first (Anichebe and VDM aside), there's harmony and balance in the dressing room, no diamond-studded ear-ring wearing wankers or pub brawlers. Sure we don't have as many superstars as some, but neither do we get all the aggro that goes with them. Out on the pitch this is underlined by a team where (almost) everyone gives 100% week-in, week-out. They might not always play well, but no-one can deny they put a shift in.

9. We have Louis Saha

I know he's injury ravaged and can only play every other game at best, but when he plays he is capable of giving us a real extra dimension and indeed even changing a game single-handed. Not only can he chip in with goals (admittedly only 4 so far) but crucially he also extends our play, setting up chances with astute passing, flicks and skill.

That's not to mention his attitude which seems absolutely spot on. He's not a shandy bench-warmer, he wants to play. If we can manage to keep him fit for even half of the games on he run-in, he could be a very important factor.

10. We have David Moyes

Does he make some odd decisions? Sure. Does he get it plainly wrong from time to time? Absolutely. Would I change our steely eyed, high principled, truth-speaking Scot for any other manager in the Premier League? Not a chance. Whilst I admire Wenger's footballing principles and Ferguson's ruthless success, I think we have the right man for the job here.

With a little more money (and we're not talking Man City millions — look how that's working out) and a little bit of luck to ensure he can put a decent team on the pitch, I do believe he's the man to guide us to glories.

We're cementing Europe as our base ambition, alongside making progress in cup competitions and improving the team each year. Let's face it, if we still had Arteta (who is our best creative player) we'd be feeling very confident about reigning in Villa for the CL spot and having a good go at the FA Cup this season; even without him we have a chance. The principle reason for that is David Moyes.

Ultimately there's 10 games left in the Prem and anything could happen (the way things are going I think that ~65 points will be enough for 4th). We've got a good chance to get to the FA Cup Semi-Final on Sunday, even if we don't play particularly well.

Yes, we need to improve and find a balance that works in our midfield, which is not going to be easy, but right now we still have a chance. Until that chance disappears, I for one am going to stay positive, get behind the team and enjoy the ride. COYB!

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