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A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings…

By Nate Kopp :  28/02/2010 :  Comments (21) :

John Terry and the Debacle in Lisbon

The other night against Sporting, our problems began and ended in the back. Say what you will about the flaccid Everton attack, but the vast majority of the game took place in our defensive third, where Sporting’s strikers and midfield had open lanes of their choosing and our ground passes out of the back were outnumbered four-to-one by panicked airborne clearances to nobody. The Moyes-bashing has run riot, as expected, and unjustifiably so. The real explanation is more subtle. Was Thursday night either 1) a shocking defensive scheme caused by Moyes’s poor planning and lackluster execution, or 2) the lancing of a boil full of festering diseases with external roots? A bit gross, perhaps, but it’s the latter.

When the Terry/Bridge scandal broke, the media hounds lapped it up and for a couple of weeks, we were treated to a Hollywood-style scandal that – let’s be honest with ourselves – we all secretly crave and gleefully followed while the story was hot. The removal of Terry’s England captaincy was meant to cool the rampant negative attention, which it did to some degree, and Wayne Bridge’s announcement that he wants no part of this summer’s England locker room drama was merely a minor flare-up. The papers naturally turned to the next juicy scandal, Ashley Cole’s apparent ignorance at what he’s got at home, and the Terry and Bridge fire was effectively stamped out.

The ashes continue to smolder, however, and are starting to singe Everton. Fabio Capello’s selection problems at left back began with Bridge’s unsettling, continued with Cole’s injury, and with Bridge’s recent withdrawal from consideration, have finally reached the point where Leighton Baines is visibly affected. Thursday night in Lisbon, Baines was not the only tentative Toffee on the pitch, but for the player that has been our most consistent performer both domestically and in Europe this season, Thursday was an anomaly.

In the past two weeks, Baines has gone from a hopeful contender for a peripheral place in England’s World Cup squad to a realistic starter in the opening match against America. His performance against Sporting looked like a nervous job interview, and apart from a couple of well-timed tackles, Leighton was not his usual reliable self. Sporting’s Liedson (whose only notable attributes are a greasy mohawk and and a practiced dive) gave Baines way too many problems, and when the fullback received the ball with any offensive space to exploit, he was too afraid of making a mistake to really pressure Sporting with his usual pace and crossing ability. Hopefully a return to home soil will settle Baines down, and he’ll go back to his typically solid self, but if his play continues to show flashes of uncertainty, Villa’s Stephen Warnock will go to South Africa.

If Leighton returns to form, Capello may select him instead, but in either case, the decision will be made and the distraction should end, allowing Baines to stop behaving like a high school virgin trying not to think about what’s going to happen after the Prom’s last dance. I’m betting on Lisbon staying in Lisbon and Baines remembering how to do his job tomorrow against Spurs.

While somewhat troubling, Baines’s display was merely a quarter of the defensive problems against Sporting. Like Leighton’s momentary lapse, the seeds for the sloppy defending that allowed Sporting’s first two goals were sown long before the makeshift backline stepped on the field. Senderos’s and Yobo’s playing time has been limited, to say the least, by their collective injuries and the stellar recent form of Heitinga and Distin, arguably the most effective centerback pairing in England for the past month or so (see their collective castration of United’s and Chelsea’s potent goalscorers). As we all know, Johnny Quarterback and Sylvain the Beast were ineligible for different reasons, both reasons arguably outside their control (Heitinga cup-tied, and Distin the victim of a poor Rodwell back-pass), so Moyes was left with no option but to pair up his remaining healthy center backs.

Before Thursday night, the aggressive Swiss and the athletic but too-often-out-of-position Nigerian had not spent any meaningful time together outside of training, and it showed. One can hardly blame them for being tossed into a situation for which they were utterly unprepared, nor can one blame Moyes for sending them out there with a muttered prayer. It’s true that neither of Sporting’s first two goals came with Senderos in the game, but make no mistake, with the shaky defensive partnership on full display from the opening whistle and the overall recognition by Sporting’s attacking midfield and strikers, those goals were coming. Jagielka might as well not have entered the game at all.

Now that we don’t have to worry about the Europa League for the rest of the season (sigh…), Heitinga and Distin should feature every week. Even if one is injured, it’s a much easier task for whichever backup replaces him (Senderos, Yobo, or Jagielka) to come into a game knowing that his partner in the middle is a proven force and a leader, whether it’s Heitinga or Distin. Tomorrow should mark a return to our solid defensive form, and I look forward to Johnny wrecking Jermain Defoe in a legal tackle, then patting him on the head like he did to Rooney last Saturday.

The common thread running through the defensive woes of Lisbon is this: they are over. Stop blaming Moyes. Stop bitching about our inability to get up for a big game. Stop getting secret joy out of making dire predictions and then proudly announcing you were right each time the team hits a bump in the road. The moaners want nothing more than to spread their misery and cancer. Ignore them. Everton are in their best Premier League form of the last decade. Enjoy it.

Reader Comments

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Mike McLean
1   Posted 28/02/2010 at 01:44:47

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If we’re going to blame Senderos for the goals, we may as well chuck in T G Jones and Labone into the guilt mix.

We can blame the England call up for Baines; we can blame it on the boogie. Perhaps a more reasonable explanation is that the chaps aren’t as good as we sometimes like to think, and that Moyes may not be Our Lord and Saviour’s representative on earth.
Mick Wrende
2   Posted 28/02/2010 at 01:46:31

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Unbelievable rubbish. Baines has one poor game and it is all to do with John Terry’s dick! And to say that clumsy oaf Distin is the best in the prem - what a laugh. The Macclesfield centre half would have cleared that ball and we would still be in Europe despite that shoddy showing on Thursday.

Everyone knows over the past few years we are incapable of playing well in key European games away from home, partly due to Moyes’ tactical ineptitude and partly due to the players not having the skill or the bottle.

If we have Neville, Distin or Yobo, Senderos, Osman and Bily on the pitch at the same time then we have no chance against more skillful European sides. That is Moyes’s fault for persisting with substandard dross. But to blame it on a twat of a Chelsea player — dear dear me.

Dick Fearon
3   Posted 28/02/2010 at 01:19:36

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After learning that some of Spurs first teamers have caught a debilitating virus my hopes for tonights game were dashed.
As I see it, Moyes has two options, the first is a gung ho approach so succesful against Chelsea and United.
Faced with the dead set certainty of more embarrassment at the hands of Sky 4 teams in desperation Moyes chose to go for broke.
The virus raging through Spurs camp will have Moyes thinking an all out attacking option might not be the way to go.
Experience over the past 8 years tells us that Moyes when faced with an evenly balanced game will always and I really do mean always take the defensive option.

Our five man DEFENSIVE mid field deployed against Sporting cannot be described as anything other than parking the bus. Keeping a clean sheet was the obvious priority. I have doubts about the fooiball nous of anyone who thinks otherwise. Sportings own fans rate their team as second rate. Second rate they may be yet they strutted their stuff, played most of the game in our half and gave us a goal scoring lesson.
What grigs me is that after 15 minutes with the exception of Moyes everyone in the ground and millions of viewers around the globe could see there was urgent need for Everton to make changes.

I do not buy into Nates argument because regardless of who had the shirt on they should have done a lot better..
Gavin Ramejkis
4   Posted 28/02/2010 at 04:57:53

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Mick Wrende, couldn’t have said it better, to blame a shite performance on anyone other than the players and manager paid to do the job is fucking nonsense; if your players aren’t doing the job they are paid handsomely to do fuck them off and replace them, swap them out with subs.

Dick, the over cautious dour defensive dross we see far too often is often our downfall as you say. I knew after about ten minutes on Thursday DM had no desire to go for an advantage then hold on, waste of time an energy and still not a fucking dickie bird to the poor sods who spent their hard earned to travel and go to the game.

A poor article in the mould of the three wise monkies.
Ged Simpson
5   Posted 28/02/2010 at 05:46:01

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Careful Nate......no more quirky theories on this site. What do you think you’re playing at. You’re upsetting people !

Mike Mc...I think you got it exactly right in your last sentence. That’s usually the hardest thing to accept.
Anthony Crawford
6   Posted 28/02/2010 at 05:50:23

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Coming from Liverpool, I grew up a blue whether I liked it or not. Its like Catholocism. For many, you don’t choose, you just accept. And some (like me), aren’t really supporters, though we identify and we care about the results. This never leaves you .

Since my kids arrived and I have encouraged them both to play (my 8 year old daughter, a mad blue, played against Tottenham u10’s last month)- since their arrival, I have begun to take them to games. Living in London I take them to about four home games a season and try to get tickets for the London clubs. I don’t pretend to understand the tactics of the game as well as most people in this discussion. That said, it is clear from Everton’s performances in Europe that Moyes hasn’t quite cracked it yet - he does tend to lack bottle - the day he he finds his bottle and get his tactics right will be double edged for the blues- because it is probably the last thing he hasn’t cracked that proves him a manager suited to the teams with money (I don’t like the term, "the top clubs")- and when he shows this maybe he will be off. Having travelled to see the mighty blues take United apart last Saturday, the prospect of him at the helm of such a team, bears little thought.

That said, I think the essential point of the article is right -not the butterfly effect of JT on Baines, that is mere literary window dressing - but the central defensive difficulties were clearly apparent. Distin is prone to wobble on occasion, but who isn’t? The answer to that is of course: the immense Johnny Heitinga.

Here’s hoping that today, what we are thanks to Moyes, coming to see as normal service, will be resumed.
Craig Wilson
7   Posted 28/02/2010 at 07:01:12

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Dick

A 5 man defensive midfield are you winding me up?? If that was a defensive midfield can you please tell me what you think an attacking midfield is with the players we have???

David Hallwood
8   Posted 28/02/2010 at 07:12:03

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If DM’s intentions was to park the bus, then he failed miserably; look no further than the RS in the derby as an object lesson in how to defend or how not to get beaten-and they only had 10 men. After the first 10 minutes it was obvious that the game plan was to defend, and with five in midfield, the plan should be to put the holding player in front of the back four (and didn’t we need that) and not give any space to Sporting. But Mountiho was allowed the freedom of the park, and eventually DM put Ossie to M4M mark him, and we got dragged all over the park for the 90 mins. Not only was that piss poor but it was also indisciplined

Guy Hastings
9   Posted 28/02/2010 at 07:27:50

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’Ashley Cole’s ignorance of what he’s got at home’ - I think he’s well aware of the mother-in-law’s presence!
Dick Fearon
10   Posted 28/02/2010 at 10:23:37

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Craig Wilson, regardless of who or what players are in the midfield if they all adopt totally defensive positions from the outset is a defensive midfield. Until we went two behind it was a rare sight indeed to see any of our lot over the half way line.

Do you believe our midfield played an attackingt game. I would be interested to know how or why you think that way.

Trevor Lynes
11   Posted 28/02/2010 at 11:03:22

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Yet another very poor first half against Spurs. We seem to need a kick up the Jacksy every time its half time. We started against Spurs the same as we started against Sporting despite the five changes that were made... perhaps DM should bollock them BEFORE we start instead of at half-time. We still contrived to almost get a point so why can’t we start games positively instead of leaving things to the second half?
John McLoughlin
12   Posted 28/02/2010 at 13:33:22

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We didnt have any tactics in Lisbon. Somehow avoid defeat was all Moyes thought of. Looking back we’d have been better off drawing 1-1 @ Goodison then maybe Moyes would have been more positive. I’m still not over that shocking performance
Dennis Stevens
13   Posted 28/02/2010 at 20:54:39

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I can only assume this ridiculous piece is written with tongue firmly in cheek, if not then the author should have been too embarrassed to put his name to it & should instead have used a nom de plume - perhaps "The Apologist"!
Eugene Ruane
14   Posted 01/03/2010 at 06:02:58

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If serious - gibberish.

(great title though!)
Nate Kopp
15   Posted 01/03/2010 at 09:47:33

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The lazy/dim supporter looks at the embarrassment in Lisbon and can’t imagine any possible cause beyond Moyes’s ineptness. Baines’s nervousness and the discomfort of the centerbacks are two minor causes picked from potentially hundreds.

Every result, good or bad, can be attributed to a similarly wide array of reasons. It’s not a one-to-one relationship as simple as ’team bad tonight = Moyes bad always’. To suggest otherwise is naive.

Too often, the hysterical minority seems to dominate the post-performance discussion with anti-Moyes ranting. Yes, the tactics were off on Thursday, and perhaps for a half against Spurs, but the manager’s team talk is not the only factor in how the players perform. Any one of a host of minor changes might have altered the outcome on Thursday night, and again on Sunday. For that matter, a minor change in a single player’s attitude against Chelsea or United could have affected either of those outstanding results. What if Rooney’s touch hadn’t let him down and allowed Neville that extra half-second to scoop the ball over the endline? Who knows how that game might have turned out?

I understand the immediate impulse to find the easy scapegoat. That’s all it is though: easy. It’s not helpful, but most important, it’s not correct. It’s small-minded. David Moyes is not the devil, nor is he the savior. Is he the best manager we could hope to have right now? I think so, and I believe a lot of people agree. Unfortunately, the loudest voices always belong to those with the least to say.
Dennis Stevens
16   Posted 01/03/2010 at 12:04:03

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Nate, you write a piece exonerating Moyes of any responsibility for "a shocking defensive scheme caused by Moyes’s poor planning and lackluster execution" & instead blaming external factors for the poor performance & now contradict yourself by admitting "Yes, the tactics were off on Thursday". Are you too "lazy" to re-read your own post or too "dim" to understand what you meant in the first place?
Those of us who were critical of Moyes for adopting what we consider to be the wrong tactical approach on Thursday & then failing to address this at half-time are not looking for a scape-goat, we’re commenting on what actually happened. That’s not "anti-Moyes ranting", it’s a fair assessment of his performance.
When Moyes &/or any of his players have done well they get praised & when they haven’t they get criticised. Even allowing for John Terry’s sex-life, the inclement weather or the phase of the moon pertaining at the time it’s not an extreme over-reaction to criticise Moyes or the team for the performance on Thursday. If you feel that was the best we could hope for under the circumstances, I’m not surprised you have to resort to petty insults to bolster your nonsensical blatherings.
Nate Kopp
17   Posted 01/03/2010 at 12:59:11

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Dennis, no insult intended for those willing to take a rational, big-picture view.

Yes, I recognize that Moyes made mistakes against Sporting, but there’s a difference between honest criticism born of genuine concern and simply using the loss as justification for the blindedly unshakeable opinion of many that Moyes is the most hopeless manager on the planet. The worst of us seem more interested in eagerly telling everyone how right their attention-hungry, negative view was to begin with. Not suggesting you personally have done so, but many have.

Blaming Moyes to the point of nonsensical blathering, to steal a phrase, is as useless as identifiying the flavor of Louis Saha’s toothpaste as the sole cause of his inability to score on Thursday night, or drawing a tenuous link between John Terry’s affair and Baines’s form against Sporting. Everybody who screams for Moyes’s head each time the team plays poorly needs some perspective.
Andy Crooks
18   Posted 01/03/2010 at 14:12:14

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Mick Wrende,and Gavin Rajemkis.How dare you! How dare you attack the greatest ever Everton coach! This man has kept us in the premier league and has ... well,, kept us in the premier league.What do you moaning bastards expect? Good football? Consistency? A positive attitude? A chance given to young players? Call yourelves Evertonians>
Dennis Stevens
19   Posted 01/03/2010 at 15:45:29

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Nate, I think even those who want rid of Moyes (I’m not one of them, btw) recognise he has some positive attributes, but they obviously feel his apparent limitations make him unsuitable to take the club any further forward. Therefore, even when we play well & succeed they will see it as the exception rather than the rule - it won’t change their view of Moyes. However, I think we all know Moyes will be around for a good while yet, so time may well tell which view is correct.
Your accusation that those who are anti-Moyes use a poor performance as evidence to support their established view is really no more than stating the obvious - of course they do, just as those who are pro-Moyes will use our better performances as evidence that their faith is justified. I think most of us are in the middle ground & recognise he has strengths & weaknesses, is likely to remain in situ for the forseeable & would most likely be replaced on something of a like for like basis, at best, if he did leave - we can’t afford better, at the moment.
Nate Kopp
20   Posted 01/03/2010 at 17:51:38

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Fair enough Dennis. Balance is the word of the day when it comes to this constantly rehashed debate, and I agree that every manager has strengths and weaknesses. It’s a universal truth of management, and Moyes is no exception.

As for using performances to justify a previously-adopted position, I don’t think most fans do that, but the ones that do seem terminally negative. I see far more anti-Moyes posts after a bad game than I see pro-Moyes posts after a good game. It seems that of the two ends of the spectrum -- the outright haters and the equally-blind In Moyes We Trust crowd -- the loudest and most prone to comment is the hateful side. Based on the posting numbers (totally estimated, I admit), the bandwagon mentality is stronger with the Dark Side of the Force.

My main point is directed at those who just wait in the wings for an opportunity to spew bile, and never seem to have anything good to say apart from patting themselves on the back for being so uncontradictably right. They take up too much space.
Tony Williams
21   Posted 03/03/2010 at 06:20:53

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Just noticed this little beauty.

Instead of blaming John Terry’s nether regions for Baines's perfomance against Sporting, I would suggest we look to the virus he was suffering with. He probably wouldn’t have played if we had someone to take his place.

Also Dick, the debilatating virus the Spurs Squad had (you will find that it was only two first teamers, who went on to play the 90 mins) was the one Baines had.

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