COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
No points from a game we should have won that left many questions to be answered. From my seat I saw three Everton sides during the afternoon and it was the last one that looked the most likely by far and this brings into question the manager's insistence of playing Fellaini.
The afternoon began with the warm-up and the sight of Moyes prowling about arms folded led me to believe he had more on his mind than today’s game. The game started with the home team in the ascendancy and with a bit more skill they could have been 2 up in the first five minutes with one off the bar and a sitter missed.
We continued all over the place for 20 minutes or more; we then started to get sorted at the back after much arm waving and gesticulating led to a bit more cohesion.
It took until the half-hour mark for our first effort on goal when Rodwell headed a Baines corner straight at the keeper. To be fair, we were then looking much more likely but for the Cahill/ Fellaini axis which seemed more to confuse and disrupt both players more than anything the opposition could.
It was against this background and run of play that, from another spirited break by the home team, we were undone. A passage of play down the left saw a cross come in which none of the defenders could deal with and caused one of those panicky melees that never quite gets cleared, the ball fell for Elliot with Neville jockeying rather than getting straight in his face and the lad curled the ball beyond Howard. One-nil down and not looking anything like a confident team, in my view too many players sulking rather than fighting for the team.
So the half ended leaving the observer to ponder if such an offering could all be down to the Lescott affair... more likely it was as the manager has previously stated "We are ill-prepared for the season" — what a damning comment to make.
The second half started with Everton team 2, ie, a good rollicking and more effort and a bit more joined-up stuff. It worked to a point but the Cahill/Fellaini axis was not solved. The manager had one playing behind the striker and then switched to the other but it just was not working; in fact, they were doing more harm than good in the build-ups.
We were on top but players' heads were dropping as balls in the last third were at best woeful except for Hibbert who put in a couple of crosses that begged to be attacked; but with neither Cahill or Fellaini seeming to know who was doing what, they went begging. The manager let this go on for 20 minutes and then did what I thought he should have done from the start.
Fellaini off, Jo on, 4-4-2 allowing players to understand their roles better and for 25mins Everton team 3 had the best spell of the entire match. On 75 mins, the marauding Hibbert went down in the box, penalty given, penalty missed by Saha, anyone can have a pen saved or hit bar or post but to miss the target altogether is criminal for a professional football player.
Still we pressed and chances came, a Rodwell rocket struck a defender, Saha smashed one wide, Cahill bust a gut at headers and Hibbert raided and crossed well. If Jo could use his right foot instead of manoeuvring everything to his left, we may have profited but none of this came about and the game ended with us having the lion’s share of possession and shots, but Burnley with the spirit and the points to defeat all three Everton teams on display today.
Overall I thought we played and looked what we are, a squad short of quality, a club having to sell a very good player and players who at times let themselves, the club and fans down.
I made Hibbert, Rodwell, Yobo and Neville our players who, if not the best, played for the shirt. I felt sorry for Cahill as he seemed not to know whether to stick or twist and that’s down to the manager as I really do feel he has to sort out how best Fellaini can help this team.
Pienaar, Saha, and Baines flitted in and out and Osman gave his all and absolutely achieved nothing on the day. I think this coming week will define our season, the manager must get players in, not just any players but players that satisfy the players we already have that we really mean to make a fist of the season or some will continue to sulk.
The players, like the fans, know the return of the injured quartet is NOT like signing new players; they and we want those lads coming back to a squad that is functioning well on at least three fronts and having to fight for their places back.
Can we do it? Well after this week’s happenings: a work permit for God knows who; a Russian who no-one has bid for; Steven Taylor having a medical said some yet his club have received no offers; Distin, Huth, Senderos and Elm also; Dunne as part of the Lescott deal has left my head spinning... So come Sept 2nd I will check our squad on the OS and depending on any additions I will have a clearer more accurate picture.
Still ever hopeful, I look forward to Euro nights, top 4 finishes and cup finals. All you need is love. Oh — and a decent squad.
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 25/08/2009 at 19:51:21
2 Posted 25/08/2009 at 22:42:00
Burnley pretty much swamped us in the middle and fought fiercely for every ball. At times it seemed as though Fellaini was having to battle it out single handedly. When he did get possession of the ball he was swamped. With Cahill playing so deep, Rodwell and Pienaar not at their best he had few passing options. Osman invariably gave it away or was dispossessed. As a result Fellaini was physically drained.
I actually attributed our improvement to the fact that Burnley having applied so much pressure began to run out of steam. As a result going 4-4-2 was the obvious approach as they were now struggling to close us down. What I believe Moyes should have done at that point was to play Cahill behind the Saha or Jo and then throw on Gosling as the lad has a bit of pace and loves to go at the opposition. I’m afraid Jo alongside Saha doesn’t do it for me. Alas the opportunity went a begging.
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