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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Malaga (f)

By Ken Buckley :  08/08/2009 :  Comments (12) :
Almost 21,000 of us assembled for the final warm-up game before the Gunners arrive and the real stuff begins.

We were not disappointed in terms of a proper Everton display for the first 45 mins. In that time, we saw some decent joined-up footy and interchanging of positions between midfield and attack that left the onlooker wondering who was playing where: Pienaar, Osman, Cahill, Fellaini and Saha flitted from place to place, allowing Baines and Hibbo to push on.

On 15 mins, this nice pattern of play saw Fellaini in playmaker role feed Pienaar down the left, he shimmied and crossed with precision and found Osman who had anticipated well only to smash wide when scoring looked easier. However, about a minute later, more joined-up stuff saw Pienaar come inside and leave Baines free to pick up Fellaini’s pass and deliver a good cross that saw Cahill rise gazelle-like, the keeper flapped, the ball fell loose and the melee was ended by Saha rifling the ball home.

The Blues continued to play well and were rewarded again on the 20 min mark when the very impressive Pienaar jinked down the left, turning his man inside out and delivering a pinpoint cross for Osman to side-foot home with some aplomb, a real striker’s goal.

It took until after the half-hour mark for Malaga to really threaten and from a free-kick the head of Cahill saw the ball for a corner. Before the break, Pienaar had one good effort from distance well saved and the half ended with the Blues controlling the game and the crowd enjoying a good first 45.

The half time chat of course was all about Lescott.

Second half started in spectacular fashion. From the off, we managed to give away one of our trademark daft free kicks and the Malaga winger Luque stepped up and hit a free kick with such accuracy and venom that Howard made no more than a token dive as the ball was past him and 2-1. Some free kick that was.

The game meandered a bit then until the hour mark when some excellent combination play between Rodwell and Fellaini saw Fellaini find Saha who returned the ball to Fellaini to turn and strike the post with the ball rebounding into play. Rodwell struck a good effort from 20 yards but the keeper dealt with it.

Then the substitutions started and the game suffered as a result. I am sure I counted 10 Malaga subs and 4 for us. The final whistle saw us 2-1 winners and a good run out had been achieved, aided by Malaga making it a proper game that included some tasty tackles.

Overall I thought it was a bit of déjà vu from last season’s friendly v PSV. The senior players available to the manager on the night were all on the pitch to start but the bench was at best inexperienced and weak and at worst just what you don’t want the squad to look like come the start of a season that carries a lot of expectation.

The main talking point before, during, and after the game was Lescott. The fans present sang out his name all match and he was clapped and cheered at every touch of the ball. Apart from hanging a banner the length of the pitch saying "Please don’t go, Jol", the message could not have been clearer. He played well and certainly he did not play one of those games where the player plays to get away like Yak did when he wanted to come here from 'Boro’.

Most fans I spoke to were of the opinion that a few incomings of some quality are needed because, as we all know, we will look much better when Yak, Arteta and Jags are back but they are not here now and no-one seems to really know when we will see them. Couple that with a hectic start to the season, including two games that determine if we will have Europa nights or not, then you can see their point.

Still, nothing we fans can do about all this... so pay your money, grip tight hold, and enjoy the rollercoaster ride that begins on Saturday the 15th.

See you there
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Keith Glazzard
1   Posted 08/08/2009 at 21:32:07

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Very much as I saw it Ken.

Some people have said that Malaga weren’t good (big?) enough for this friendly, but they showed they were. By coming 8th in La Liga last year, beating Villa a few days ago and giving us a very good game last night. A huge plus for us was that we played a Spanish team at football - on the ground, passing, moving, skill, strength - and were the superior side.

Fellaini, Pienaar, and Saha (please let him remain injury free) are class players. Rodwell is certainly nosing his way into that list - a fine display last night. I would have loved to have seen Jo out there.

And when Mikel gets back? Of course we need more good players. But for many the idea of a ’new signing’ is to replace what we have - which doesn’t give depth to the squad, which is what we do need. Several youngsters are coming through, but we do need a couple or three battle hardened pros to sure things up.

As for Lescott - the club declared that he wasn’t for sale by playing him last night. An injury would instantly reduce £22m to zero. And it has to be said, in this monopoly money world, he looked like a very good investment.

One last thought - we found it easier to play against Malaga than Blackpool. Lots of factors to take into consideration, but that might mean we will do better against Arsenal than Bolton.

Gavin Ramejkis
2   Posted 08/08/2009 at 22:18:16

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The most damning part of the game for me was the loss of shape and paucity on show after the substitutions. To me it reflects the start of last season all over again and have to agree with Ken B that we are looking at the same over again. I don’t want to hear "like having a new player" or we have players that will make a difference when they come back from injury. We all know what happens when our tiny squad has injuries, it tries really bloody hard but pays the price for it’s complete lack of depth. It was shaming that Malaga played nearly as many subs as we have first team players.
Keith Glazzard
3   Posted 08/08/2009 at 23:05:33

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Gavin - how many first team players do you think we should have? There is no doubt that we need a few more to bolster the squad, and as Moyes is one of the best managers in the PL he might be onto that one.

The Hibbo/Leon debate rages. Spending could replace them, but is unlikely to happen. And are we going to spend £20m on a class playmaker when ours will be back before Christmas?

Moyes will probably bring in a couple of journeyman pros in the next week or two - the Lee Carsleys of this world. And who knows, they may stay for a few years and make a lot of friends.
Derek Thomas
4   Posted 09/08/2009 at 07:26:59

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Find Ossie a rightsided Baines and he will improve.

Capt Pip into the back 4 if needed, lack of ht. is not the big factor as some make out. This time last season and later that was Baineses big so called let down. What a crock that turned out to be, the best little fullback we know??

As Gavin says the starting 11 aren’t that bad but the lack of depth is a worry.
Gavin Ramejkis
5   Posted 09/08/2009 at 09:35:14

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Keith I think we should have enough first team players for a starting eleven and at least four or five more game changing players for the bench so that would be fifteen or sixteen. Whilst it’s great to see kids given a chance you can’t doubt on the way the game ended or after injuries to key players we need to be able to replace them with able bodies capable of doing their jobs.

In precis, not all games will be won by the starting formation or tactics and these need to evolve during a game to match and better your opponent, hence subs and when we have injuries and suspensions our form is sustainable with depth.
Nick Marsh
6   Posted 09/08/2009 at 10:42:03

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Hi Derek, I am going to disagree, Portsmouth switched play and played long diagonal balls to expose our small full backs to good effect, very much like Blackpool did. Though I certainly would not want to see Baines replaced. It was a good game to go into the new season with some much needed confidence..
Nick Swallow
7   Posted 09/08/2009 at 12:31:59

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Where is your seat, Ken? I don’t know why, Ken but when I read your excellent reports down here in Melbourne, I think of you being in the upper Gwladys.
Shaun Millichip
8   Posted 09/08/2009 at 14:10:22

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Excellent report Ken. I always read your reports as, not living local, I don't get down to see the mighty Blues play as often as I like. Keep 'em coming.
Ian Kearney
9   Posted 09/08/2009 at 16:07:27

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Fair report, worth noting Fellaini looked much better, and the midfield functioned far more smoothly without Neville. He’s a good right back and a back up CM, not a first choice one.
Keith Glazzard
10   Posted 09/08/2009 at 15:28:09

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Nick M - I agree with you about that deep diagonal cross being a potential problem. Baines suffered against Blackpool in the absence of Lescott, just one of the many reasons why he must be persuaded to stay.

Gavin - I’m sure we’re more or less saying the same thing, and I think Moyes will do what we both want in the next three weeks. In the mean time, we have a good squad to start the season, and ’big signings’ that others would love to make - Lescott, Pienaar, Arteta when fit and, I think, Rodwell - definitely not a kid anymore.
Ciarán McGlone
11   Posted 10/08/2009 at 10:57:20

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"Find Ossie a rightsided Baines and he will improve."
-----------------------

I can’t agree. The problems with teh right are more to do with Osman drifting through the middle and leaving Hibbert cruely exposed - in my opinion if we had a quality right winger....Hibbert would be vastly improved.

I don’t want Osman on the pitch at all.
Nick Armitage
12   Posted 13/08/2009 at 01:17:07

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It shouldn’t matter whether a decent right back would improve Osman or a decent right winger right winger would improve Hibbert.

We should buy a decent right back and a decent right winger and fuck the pair of them off into the reserves.

End of.

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