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COLUMNIST JOHN HOLMES

Same old tactics; same old rhythm

By John Holmes :  02/10/2009 :  Comments (11) :

I’m a great believer that football teams have rhythms. Whether it be a slick passing game, defensive belligerence or, in Everton’s case, the mechanics of churning out results, week after week. No one would argue that our current run of good form has been consistently pretty; but, what has characterised Moyes’s tenure has been the ability to find a groove.

In their best winning form, there’s something inevitable about Everton victories; an inevitability that’s perhaps different to that of United’s free-scoring momentum or Arsenal’s devastating pace of passing in that it doesn’t necessitate us being on top of the opposition. For Everton, the rhythm is not so much in the style of play but the end product.

When they’re in the groove, you just know in your bones, however badly we’re playing, however much our backs are against the wall, the crucial goals will come. It could be unfaltering will to win, belief in the power of a team that sticks together or just scrappy dogged persistence but, somehow, Cahill will get on the end of a cross, Saha will show his quality on a half-chance or Osman will fit the scattered fragments of his technical attributes together.

Similarly at the other end, when we’re at our best, it doesn’t seem to matter how deep we drop, how often we just punt it away and steel ourselves for the next assault or how many balls come into the box; the defending is monotonously, mechanically relentless. Too often we let teams hold possession 25 yards from goal, too often we’re hopeful rather than purposeful on the counter, but, when the ball comes into the box, suddenly it’s our territory and the defence is dominant.

This is the rhythm we seem to be slipping into at the moment. Sometimes we play well and take teams apart, sometimes we cling to what we have and other times we do nothing all match other than get the critical goals that keep the cogs turning. Despite its many failings, through it all runs a sense of a team playing to its own beat.

There is a downside to this approach. Other hallmarks of the Moyes era have been the early-season chaos, late-season collapse and (again) inevitable caving in to the pressure of the best teams’ attacking persistence. Sometimes belief just isn’t enough and when the rhythm isn’t there or it’s taken a big hit, like losing on penalties or selling a key player, things look ragged. Nonetheless, a couple of decent performances, a crunching tackle or a 16-year-old’s moment of inspiration can catalyse us and set things running smoothly. That is Moyes’s greatest ability — to turn those match-winning moments into something bigger.

Last season, injury after injury threatened to derail us but somehow the results kept coming. Here’s hoping the current run of form keeps building momentum because, when Everton believe in their ability to get a result, there’s very few that seem able to stop them.

Reader Comments

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Peter Hall
1   Posted 02/10/2009 at 16:12:37

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That’s spot on in my view.

But this year we have a much stronger squad than ever before in the Premier League. I feel in my bones that (Arsenal home notwithstanding) we’re going to get some results against the top four. Last year we got a point against each. This year I think we’ll get some victories. As long as we can keep the Everton way (John’s ’same old’) while adding the extra strength and quality.

This squad is getting too strong to lie down and defend in the back third against the good teams.

Injuries allowing! But even with injuries we’re far better placed than this time last year. We’ve added Jo, Distin, Billy and Heitinga (plus Rodwell as a senior player) for the loss of Lescott. That’s a lot of progress and options for Moyes.

All right it’s been made tougher with Man City and Spurs shaping up, but I think we’re ready for the next step.
Peter McHugh
2   Posted 02/10/2009 at 16:45:04

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I agree with you in respect of the league but when we’ve played crap in the cups we’ve lost.
Peter Hall
3   Posted 02/10/2009 at 16:21:42

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And Lucas Neill!

LFC were desperate to get him 2 years ago now he’s joined us and I’ve forgotten him!
Brian Waring
4   Posted 02/10/2009 at 16:58:08

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Peter, and this is not being negative, just realistic. If we beat any of the top 4 this season, I will do a Dave ( I think it was Dave ) Wilson, and will send you a tenner to donate to the charity of your choice.
Aleksandar Jovanovic
5   Posted 02/10/2009 at 16:59:57

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The only things that have stopped us of breaking into top 4 are injuries of our key players!! I agree that Moyes sometimes picks wrong starting 11 and wrong tactics but still he’s one of the best managers in the world!! Everyone could easily see how bad Man U, Liverpool and Arsenal were playing without Ronaldo, Vidic, Torres, Gerrard, Fabregas even though Benitez, sir Alex and Venger had many more excellent players.

I think none of them would be able to do shit without so much money invested every year and none of them would turn things around in Everton like Moyes did. Can you imagine how we would play if we had the whole squad fit right now!!!??

Martin Anderson
6   Posted 02/10/2009 at 18:46:15

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Yes, we seem to be building a proper squad team which you need these days to compete at the top — hopefully the fact that we continued to get results last yr after the loss of Arteta Yak Jags demostrates this. As far as rythm is concerned, you may recall the heady days of the mid-80s like me when you knew the team would win even if you went behind — I’m beginning to get that feeling back, but the Arse game really knocked me for 6!

Last might was a really gutsy performance and I was impressed, with the players who came in, I’m also looking forwrad to seeing our new additions — including Lucas Neill — who I think could be good addition, he’s a really hard player. Overall though I reckon Saha is the man to do it for us this season — really class act!!
Martin Mason
7   Posted 02/10/2009 at 19:04:56

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Whatever we say about Everton, as well pointed out above we occasionally put in long runs of good results and that is the sign of a good team. It also seems that some of our good runs start in adversity. When we can do this and still be critical then we can’t be far off right? Everton’s recent results have been outstanding and we have a good squad and the real questions now are who we play where and that is subjective. Moyes is da man and the buck stops at him.
Gareth Humphreys
8   Posted 03/10/2009 at 07:34:03

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John, I agree.

The thing with Everton under Moyes is that they go on runs, Good & Bad. You could never imagine a team in the last 20 years churning out 5 wins on the spin (with 2 winnable home games to come) but this is what David Moyes does.

The downside is that the starts to the season means we are playing catch up and not setting the pace which we could conceivably be doing.

Matthew Lovekin
9   Posted 03/10/2009 at 09:31:26

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By whatever way, winning is a good habit to be in. Losing is a bad habit to get out of, just ask Portsmouth. I know which habit I’d rather have, by whatever means of football.

I have a number of Arsenal mates who all admire their football, but they all would rather have a trophy now than play good football and not win anything.
Peter Hall
10   Posted 03/10/2009 at 22:22:42

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OK Brian, I know we haven’t done it for some years, but this year is different, that’s what I believe.

I’m not saying we’re going to beat them all, just win 2 of the remaining 7.

Anyway, if we don’t I’ll let you choose who I give the tenner to, but I’ve a feeling you can write the RSPB a little cheque next month.
Dominic Bobadilla
11   Posted 04/10/2009 at 13:38:08

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"When they’re in the groove, you just know in your bones, however badly we’re playing, however much our backs are against the wall, the crucial goals will come."

This is sheer mysticism. Utter nonsense. I need rational explanations. You know, when we are up against Barcelona or any other among the big teams, you will also know it ’in your bones’ that we are gonna get trashed, regardless of whether we are in the groove or not.

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