Season 2011-12
The Mail Bag

Here we go again

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The friendly games are over and we now enter the fray. What have I learned from the friendly games?

Not a lot... as I put them down to player and squad conditioning for the coming season and hope they have left us ready to compete with all and sundry. At the final whistle on Friday, only Arteta and Coleman are unavailable... so, assuming no further additions to the squad, the team will be selected from what we have. Will Barkley be handed a start? Will Rodwell be trusted? Will Saha survive a week's training? Has Jags had his head turned?

Spurs away is never a cakewalk so will the manager find a way to win and will any fan give a toss about formation, style of play, or any other nuance ? so long as we win?

There seems a resigned disappointment amongst fans that no incomings have occurred yet again; will this transfer itself to players and manager and result in a less than determined performance? I doubt that as the travelling hoards will ensure commitment and endeavour ? even if not victory. Full allocation taken again and a London trip is never cheap.

I see we now have a joined up group of protesters, will they achieve much? I doubt it... yet I am all for protest but not in a way that suggests any particular group speaks for all. In my experience, it is the very people being protested against that in the end cause the mass to protest. It happens as if out of nowhere when the vast majority of match-going fans decide as one that enough is enough and, from all sides of the ground, an explosion takes place that no protest group could ever arrange. It's happened before in our history and the board would do well to heed the lessons of that history.

Don't worry overly regarding protest groups but be vigilant in gauging the mood of the masses. Uppermost in most fans minds at the moment is, I would wager, how will this season pan out? The big question ? and the very reason I follow the Blues. I have no real idea except to ponder that, if we can't allow the manager the option of moving his squad forward in terms of progression, then league championships and indeed any silverware will be hard to come by... but bizarrely this doesn't put me off or diminish hope of achieving something. Even when it's obvious we can't win anything, I am still up for every game and ever hoping to win. Must be something in the Mersey water. Anyone else feel the same?

People say we have the best group of players for many years and I can't argue with that... but one of the few advantages of being around for a long time is that the winning teams we have produced in the sixties, seventies and eighties give me a benchmark of what a Champion team looks like and plays like. I can say we are not there yet but, with just a level of investment to allow the manager to complete his personal jigsaw, he may well reap rewards that allow the club to thrive and a new stadium may no longer be pie in the sky. I wish those in charge the best of luck.

So, come the 13th, off we go again; win and we forget all troubles... lose, and everyone is to blame. We will go once again through the agony and ecstasy of no two games being the same ? even no two halves being the same ? but ever hoping for a consistency and luck with injuries that sees us in contention until May.

Welcome to the roller-coaster that is EFC ? Enjoy.

UP THE BLUES.
Ken Buckley, Buckley     Posted 06/08/2011 at 22:15:00

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Antony Matthews
1   Posted 07/08/2011 at 08:15:56

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Nice write up Ken. The crazy thing though is that these players have been together for quite a few years now and sometimes we still cant string three passes together . You would think they would know where everyone moves and what everyone is thinking. We rely on too many dead ball situations (except free kicks when we regularly hit the wall outside the area). Im optomistic but im also a realist and unless we play a more fluent type of football instead of sideways ,back, sideways , back then i think there is nothing to fear from us. Lets face it Tim Howard gets to touch the ball more than Louis Saha and that tells its own story. Up the Blues,
Dick Fearon
2   Posted 07/08/2011 at 10:38:49

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Ken, much as I dearly love your 'My Seat' columns and respect your football nous i must digress when you say pre season games are all about player conditioning. From what I have read of players being physically 'stuffed' by half-time.

What is even more scary is the squad has not shown any more attacking ideas than in past years. I guess that comes from not having a single attack-minded coach on the books. If fitness is all that matters why not sack whole damn lot and replace them with fitness experts, la Ian Buchan.

Jason Heng
3   Posted 07/08/2011 at 10:59:27

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If the team stalls on the gridline, who will the fans turn against?

Bill, David or Victor?
Steve Smith
4   Posted 07/08/2011 at 11:52:06

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There is a hour long interview with Baz Rathbone on Nil Satis, very interesting in what he has to say about his work and the inner workings of the club.

A very interesting point he makes is that, in his opinion, pre-season is meaningless these days because players don't really need to get fit like they did in the old days when the close season would last for 8-12 weeks and most of them would come back a stone or two overweight. (It also proves to me that Yak was born in the seventies!) He says that players these days have a fitness programme given to them for the close season and the majority of them come back more or less fully fit and ready to go.

It's well worth a listen and I've ordered his book on the strength of it, should sort me out for the first couple of days of my holiday.

Jay Harris
5   Posted 07/08/2011 at 14:18:10

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Can't argue with any of your reasoning, Ken, especially regarding protests.

The only thing I would add is you say:

"I am still up for every game and ever hoping to win"

I think that applies to all of us but I and I am sure many others used to have belief too.

However IMO that belief has been shattered in many supporters and with it goes the energetic enthusiasm that used to intimidate other teams at GP.

I think the players will pick up on the apathy unlike the board who are too thick skinned to be bothered.

Whatever happens I think this will be a watershed season for the Blues.
Brian Harrison
6   Posted 07/08/2011 at 20:30:33

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I agree that this is the best squad of players we have had for some time, except for our attacking options.

We have a 34-year-old who misses more games than he plays, also both he and Beckford aren't great at holding the ball. And, with playing a 4-5-1 system, it is vital your front man can keep hold of the ball.

Unfortunately forwards are the most expensive buys for any club, so the chances of us being able to do something about it are nil.

We have lacked a goalscoring centre forward for years, and I think that, although it might leave us a little exposed in midfield, the only option might be to play 2 up front. Hopefully that would compensate for not having or being able to afford a top class striker.
Iain Love
7   Posted 07/08/2011 at 22:03:23

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I can't believe that with no new players coming in [ poss with the exception of Barkley ] we have not used preseason to experiment with formations.
We know we need a left sided midfielder and a pacy striker, but we cant afford them so lets see what we can do with what we have.
I would have tried, remember i said tried, Distin at left back with Baines left mid, using Heitinga as centre half this frees Baines up to a certain extent to make those runs , which frankly are our best form of attack, and adds height to the team for set plays.
Osman , Bily and Arteta behind Saha or the Yak or Beckford with the freedom to drift across the park [ lets face it they all play the same position ] and they can all score goals , but not when they play wide.
Coleman at right back ??? hey i've seen him play once at left back and he was against one of the best right midfielders in footballer and got a new arsehole that night, but if we tried him in his proper position you never know we might have an attacking threat on the right ?.
I would have liked to have seen how we would do with.
gk Howard,
rb Coleman
lb Baines
ch Jags
ch Johhny
dm Felliani
dm Rodwell
ams[ attacking midfielders ] Ossie ,Bily , Micky
Striker, Saha.
I realise that would mean leaving , Cahill and Neville out which Moyes doesn't do but i think those two would be excellent subs and prolong their careers.
Remember i said try.
Iain Love
8   Posted 07/08/2011 at 22:35:16

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Oh as an aside i would take what we can get for Jags, sick off hoofball , and buy Sturridge or Welbeck, Defoe even.
Chad Schofield
9   Posted 08/08/2011 at 04:19:04

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Spot on Iain!
Aside from the Yak grazing on the wing (!!!!), why haven't Saha and Beckford had their heads banged together and told to play to each others strengths and look to pass to each other occasionally. Last season whenever they were on the pitch together they simply looked to be playing on different teams (not surprising as inevitably by one coming on would signal one coming off very soon or an imminent full time whistle). They have very different playing styles and if Beckford can just play on the should of the last defender, Saha has more space to put the fear of God into a defence (and I'm not overly exaggerating) from slightly deeper... in tandem as a stikeforce they have potential. Equally Vellios could open doors for either if we need an alternative route to goal (I'm sorry I know it's easy to pick on Big Vic, but he's thoroughly ineffective in my opinion).

As to the other changes/experiments... absolutely - at least it might give us options rather than always going for the often illogical yet all too frustratingly predictable (it's been ten years now) subs towards the end of the match.

That said, Ken, thanks for bringing a bit of level-headed... well not really optimism... but wizened, realistic commentary to the upcoming season ahead.
Gareth Humphreys
10   Posted 08/08/2011 at 07:33:24

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Ken, I think in a strange way that the protest groups (especially the peoples group) do speak for us all in that all they want is answers to some pretty big questions for the good of the club. I am sure most people want progress at the club - not necessarily with a foreign owner and from what I can see that is all they are asking for.
I think, in a similar way to KEIOC, they are taking a prevention is better than cure route and for that I think they should be applauded. I do agree though that mass protests are hard to arrange and generally happen in an unorganised way such as the pitch invasion at the end of Coventry 98.
On to the pitch and this time last year I was firmly in the ?best squad of players for 20 years? camp. That was reliant largely on the best little Spaniard we know remaining so and unfortunately he didn?t. As such my optimism is waning largely due to the lack of investment in the playing squad and a nagging doubt I have that DM is losing his will to continue performing miracles. However (and here is that Mersey water to which you refer) what David Moyes? Everton do best is perform when their backs are to the wall and this season they are obviously up against it. If the influential players (Baines, Arteta, Fellaini, Cahill & Saha) stay fit and perform as they can then this team is good enough to get top 4 as the runs at the end of the last 2 seasons have shown.
Here?s hoping.
Amit Vithlani
11   Posted 08/08/2011 at 12:00:48

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This pre-season has been abit of a disaster. We played fewer games to (I guess) avoid injuries and it seems Coleman, Arteta and Gueye are unfit.

Saha and Fellaini do not look ready at all to me.

As for experimenting - I saw plenty (Bily playing at the tip of a diamond formation against Brum and Gueye and Becks flanking McAleny against DC United).

Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work. Against Bremen we looked hopelessely square playing 4-4-2.

If any confirmation was needed that Heitinga is not a midfielder then it was against Bremen. When he got taken off we pushed much further up the field.

Final point, the only prediction I am prepared to make about the coming season is on our defence. If we do not sort out dealing with straight balls and set pieces, we will ship a load of goals.

With no attacking threat to speak of, that will light a match on the explosive atmosphere building up in the stands....
Liam Reilly
12   Posted 08/08/2011 at 12:12:30

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Iain #7
If we are going to score at Tottenham on Saturday, it will likely come from a set piece, therefore TC will start and rightly so.

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