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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Arsenal (h)

By Ken Buckley :  15/08/2009 :  Comments (15) :

Well, first day of the season and we all turn up in buoyant mood, a couple of pints while we reaffirm old acquaintances and chew over the Lescott saga... where most were of the opinion that getting in a centre-back who wants to play for us and a sizeable wedge in compensation was the best way forward. As season ticket holders received the team sheet via text just after 4:00pm we all thought decent line-up except most preferred Saha to Jo.

The walk to the ground was encouraging as masses seemed intent on dressing for the occasion and determined to cheer the boys home and have a successful start to the season. Fixture lists were handed out at the turnstile and handshakes all round as we reacquainted ourselves prior to kick off.

ESPN were televising the game and had a great big inflatable thing advertising themselves and proclaiming in large writing "It’s great to be here" — now how that was to come back and haunt us...

The teams were introduced and, although some booing of Lescott’s name occurred, the cheers easily outweighed them.

The game started and for some 20 minutes we cancelled each other out in a player-laden midfield caused by the shape of both teams. However, Arsenal looked the pacier and both Bendtner and Van Persie went close whilst we struggled to create anything on goal.

Arsenal’s tempo was beginning to move us about to where we should not be and, just before the half-hour mark, Bendtner left Baines looking like a five-year-old trying to tackle a man, and found Fabregas who, as if through telepathy, turned it on to Denilson just outside the box;  he curled a great shot passed Howard into the top corner of the net.

Everton responded with some verve and a corner was forced, Baines took it and Fellaini headed goalwards only for a well positioned man on the line to clear. Then, for a contested free kick, we went to sleep and from the free-kick, which was no more than a regular deep one to the far post, no Everton player picked up the Arsenal debutant centre-back and he calmly headed back across goal and into the far corner; dereliction of duty came to mind. Howard remonstrated with colleagues.

It got worse before half-time as this non-marking reared its head again from another free-kick, leaving Gallas to run in unmarked and head home... Howard really remonstrated this time.

Half-time and 3-0 down, heads down and, as it was to prove, it got much worse rather than better.

The second half barely a few minutes in when a trademark Arsenal counter saw no more than three passes rip us apart and all we could do was watch Fabregas stroll through and slot home, much to the embarrassment of all assembled both on and off the pitch. The manager responded to this by making a triple substitution, taking off Osman, Hibbert and Jo... replacing them with Rodwell, Gosling and Saha.

In truth, he could have taken any three off, such was the overall standard of play by all concerned. This was demonstrated on the 70-min mark when we had an attack and Fellaini had a shot gathered by the keeper, who threw it out to Fabregas. From within his own half, he ran the length to goal without a tackle and duly slotted number five. Cue many leaving the ground and blue seats aplenty visible on all four sides. Arsenal thought five enough to replace Fabregas and Van Persie, with Celtic in mind in their CL qualifier.

It still wasn’t over for those left in the ground as the man many blues thought we should have gone for many years ago, Arsharvin, strode through, hit a post and the first and only player to react was Eduardo who tapped home. Utter humiliation and even more leave their seats.

I stuck it to the bitter end and was rewarded by witnessing a fine run by Pienaar who failed his one-on-one test but the ball rebounded to Saha who became our first scorer of the new season to rapturous ironic cheers.

Well, what to make of that first day embarrassing mauling? I agree with the manager who this week said we were ‘ill prepared’ to start the season — Arsenal proved him right big style.

Whether Lescott goes or stays, he sure looked nothing like his normal self today — and it makes you wonder if that was the reason for a complete gross-out of the whole back four — but his demeanour could not hide the fact that we are woefully short of class midfielders in both creativity and holding and grafting as the contest between ours and the Gunners' midfield was glaring in its one-sidedness. Only when Pienaar belatedly got shifted to centre-mid did we see a modicum of creative flair but unfortunately he does not appear to have the physical strength to make a go of that position in the EPL.

A wake-up call — yes. We will play better — yes... but what a hell of a lesson to the club that you just can’t sit still in the window if you want to build on success — and waiting for injured players to return results in thrashings from teams who you state you want to overhaul. If we are not careful, lesser lights than Arsenal may well profit from our lethargy.

Two players in the next 48hrs, I hope is true... and that they are of the quality needed in the positions required; to really progress, it should not stop there for, when Yak, Arteta and Jags do eventually get back, they should find a team it’s hard to get back into... and then we may well say we are progressing.

Euro qualification, first leg, on Thursday; Finch Farm should be working 12 hours a day to get that lot up to speed.

Is this a knee-jerk report? Well, if you were there today, you would have seen that the gulf between us and them, both on opening day, was wide indeed — and that hurts.

Still, ever hopeful... see you Thursday
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Joe McMahon
1   Posted 16/08/2009 at 00:57:27

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Couldn’t agree more, Ken. The Gulf in class between the 2 teams was there for all (including ESPN & MotD viewers to see) I don’t know where to start, but make no mistake no way will this lot finish 5th this season. I fear our chance has gone now. I’m not overeacting when I say that Sunderland & Wigan could finish above us this season. Thanks Mr Kenwright... Watch This Space! It’s a shame that this once great & historic club will never win the league again. City have found the riches I’m begining to think we never will, it’s very sad times.
Glen Strachan
2   Posted 16/08/2009 at 01:16:24

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Good report Ken — all fair comment.

If the Lescott situation has really dismantled our defending to this extent, he has well and truly made his point and the player can surely expect his wish to be granted within days.

Mark Hughes might want to re-consider the ridiculous size of City's bid for a player who seemed to spend his afternoon marking Cahill at set pieces.

If not — bite their bloody hand off and get rid!

This was not so much a lack of ability on show as an attitude from most of our players that ’stunk the house out’.

For the kind of money Everton pays you lads, at at least you might make it look as though you are trying — just a little bit.

New players coming in? — seriously, would you come to David Moyes and Everton if you had an alternative option?

Disgusting really.
Yusuf Bobat
3   Posted 16/08/2009 at 01:36:43

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The board, manager and players have brought great shame and embarrassment on our great club with that woeful display against Arsenal, there was no fight, no passion and no idea how to keep possession or how to pass to a team mates feet.

When you stand still over the summer and do not add any quality to the side, then what do you expect but get hammered by a big 4 club? They haven’t learnt from summer '08 when pre-season was a shambles and we weren’t ready for the start of the season so they go and do it again in summer '09! How can they expect us the fans to believe anything that comes out of the club when they keep taking us for mugs? Enough is enough, the only way we can progress is for Kenwright to sell up.

Bill, you have had you’re time; thank you and goodbye.

KENWRIGHT OUT!!!
Dave Wilson
4   Posted 16/08/2009 at 07:00:14

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Another good accurate account Ken.

The alehouses, the radio phone-ins and the websites are full of angry blues... Kenwright is the number one target, but I’ve had my say on him, so I’ll leave that one alone.

I agree with you, Ken. Man City’s disgraceful behaviour seems to have proved an unwelcome distraction to more than just JL, our entire back four seemed to be affected. Still, this is a DM team and, with or without Lescott, our back four will recover.

I’m more concerned by our midfield, The drive and purpose Arsenal played with had Pip gasping for air — fat little scouser, chasing fat little Argentine springs to mind.

Cahill maybe the best midfielder around from dead-ball situations but he has very little else; once again against a top team, his lack of quality on the ball was exposed. And If your going to play Osman then you shouldn’t play him out wide, it renders him completely redundant.

Fellaini needs better players around him, mind you, it doesn’t help when Davey persists with the Brainless tactic of pushing him up field to do "a Duncan". Pienaar must be counting the days to when Arteta is fit to play again.

We’ll recover from this, probably to finish about 7th, but if EFC have any ambition to progress, then Fellaini, Arteta, Pienaar and eventually Rodwell need to be complimented by a couple of quality players with pace and power.

I suppose it depends on how you look at it, if you're happy to hang on to the coat tails of the big boys and finish comfortably top half, then Cahill and Neville are your men. But 5th-6th place is as good as it's ever going to get with these two in the engine room.

Chris Matheson
5   Posted 16/08/2009 at 08:58:35

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Welcome back Ken.

The buck stops fairly and squarely with Kenwright on this one, all problems lead back to his refusal to sell his trainset and keep the financial cuffs on us.

However, re- the match: the lack of creativity was my main gripe. Only Saha is willing to have a shot on goal from the edge of the box. Almost all our attacks consist of getting the ball, playing it out wide and lumping in a high cross. Contrast that with Arsenal’s quick breaks, maybe four passes and a shot on goal and you see the gulf in class.

Today wasn’t about Lescott: the reason DM is digging his heels in is because there is nobody to replace him. That’s down to "Blue" Bill.

Kenwright OUT!
Henry Enzio
6   Posted 16/08/2009 at 11:00:47

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Very painful to watch yesterday. Very very bad day. However, let's not over do it. Obviously we need to sort out the Lescott thing one way or the other.

I can't see us playing that badly agaqin this season, we haven't become useless over night.

We have no money so we have to wait for last-minute bargains which again it looks like we are looking to do.

I trust Moyes and I haven't a problem with Bill sorry but I don't.

Our strength has always been sticking together. Congratulations, Tony Marsh, you got your hammering... what good did it do?
Kevy Quinn
7   Posted 16/08/2009 at 11:14:34

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Pretty accurate account of the game but every goal they scored we defended like a Sunday league team. It was the most embarresed iv ever been watching Everton. Pure shite! 1st goal Baines went in like a fairy the less said about the 2nd and 3rd the better, 4th Hibbert coudnt cross the ball in a perfect position then gets nutmeged so to does Yobo. 5th goal Fabregas strolls the length of the pitch and picks his spot without a tackle and the 6th was just pure Sean McKnight.


Makes you wonder why we bother wasting our money. No investment no one seemed like they cared yesterday apart from us! Make no mistake that hurt just hope we can sort it out on Thursday.
Frank Kearney
8   Posted 16/08/2009 at 11:33:40

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Chris Matheson, how on earth is Kenwright responsible for schoolboy defending, hoofball tacticts, and negative team selection, last time I looked David Moyes was the manager.

Moyes is getting away with murder, Kenwright must do all the set plays and coaching at Finch Farm in your world... Open your eyes, we have a stubborn, arrogant, manager with very limited coaching techniqes , Moyes and Moyes alone is responsible for yesterday's disgraceful performance.

Matt Traynor
9   Posted 16/08/2009 at 11:16:38

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I think it’s ludicrous to suggest Lescott was somehow responsible for the woeful defending. I must admit I switched off and went to bed after #5 went in, but to my mind he was not individually responsible for any of the goals.

It was a terrible team performance, and we were up against a side that may surprise a few pundits this season.

They are simply a class apart. Don’t forget Arsenal had lost 2 first team players, and only brought in one first team squad member.

If there is a malaise percolating through the club, I suspect it has more than Lescott’s situation at its core.
Gerry Western
10   Posted 16/08/2009 at 14:00:54

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Ken, fairly accurate account though were I disagree is that unlike you on hearing the team selection I’d resigned myself to a possible thumping with Arshavin lining up against Osman and Hibbert. I’ve read with interest the contributions of others. For me the changes I’d make would be as follows. Neville replaces Hibbert, Nevilles inclusion in the middle serves no purpose he can’t pass and can’t tackle, no real point to his presence. He invariably passes it backwards and encourages the hoof ball approach . Cahill up front with either Jo or Saha. Jo and Saha simply doesn’t work. Rodwell alongside Fellaini in the middle and Gosling in for Osman. Gosling is much quicker and can can actually make a tackle.
James Boden
11   Posted 16/08/2009 at 14:52:48

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Frank Kearney, I agree totally with your assessment of Moyes. He is still as stubborn as ever and reads his press as far as I am concerned. He is the Bill Kenwright of managers.
Michael Carney
12   Posted 16/08/2009 at 16:33:26

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I would say from my seat in the Lower Bullens that the boos were louder than the cheers for Lescott when his name was announced by Rossy. It was only after the kick off did supporters cheer him in case the boos were heard again.

I think the difference between the 2 teams can be summed up in their respective pre-season build ups. 1 plays in the Emirates cup against top class opposition and the other plays against a side, if we were honest, are only known for the resort they are from.

Garry Martin
13   Posted 16/08/2009 at 17:06:26

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I have just realised that when EFC get beat good style (4 plus) in the last 10 years, it's always & only the Arse who do it. Makes you wonder why!!!
Chris Matheson
14   Posted 16/08/2009 at 20:12:49

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Hi Frank. In my view it all leads back to Kenwright because he is responsible for our inability to build the team. I suspect Moyes is a stubborn manager, but he knows where our weaknesses are: eg he took Hibbert off at half time in the Cup Final. He went after a right back in the close season.

But we can’t compete financially to strengthen the squad and that is down to Kenwright. I don’t believe that, with sufficient funds, we would be starting with the same 11 we finished with last time and clinging on like grim death to our one of our best players. Moyes would have strengthened. We didn’t.

You’re right about Kenwright not being responsible for tactics, but the reason behind the reason always leads back to him and his stubborn refusal to move over for someone with more financial clout and business acumen.

Tom Brown
15   Posted 17/08/2009 at 05:33:09

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Money & mouth, Joe McMahon.

Spread betting sites have the following available for the number of points each team will get this season:

Everton 56-57.5
Wigan 43-44.5
Sunderland 47.5-49

If you really believe Wigan & Sunderland have a strong chance of finishing above Everton, sell Everton & buy Wigan & Sunderland and make a fortune.

Most Evertonians wouldn’t take this bet though. Not just because they don’t like spread betting. Not just because they don’t like betting against their own team. Also because, in their heart of hearts, they know it isn’t that likely to happen, however down we feel right now.

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