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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Wolves (H)

By Ken Buckley :  17/10/2009 :  Comments (12) :

Another two points dropped at home to a so-called lesser team... and in the end we were lucky to get a point.

The team as announced seemed to me to be ultra-defensive and looking for nothing more than a clean sheet and a goal out of something to win it for us. Such tactics are always fraught with danger and, as the first half progressed, our dearth of midfield creativity made the Wolves look a half-decent team where, in truth, they were no more than a workmanlike outfit.

Despite the inadequacy of Wolves class, they managed to give us odd scares, one early on alerted us to the Delap-like quality of Halford as his long throw saw Yobo block away a shot that accrued from his efforts.

We did have an attack in the half that saw Saha get on to another hoof and set up Cahill but his finishing seems to be reserved for Australia at the moment and he drove high when hitting the target was paramount. Yet, although we looked a class above the opposition, we showed nothing in a creative sense to beat an obdurate team and indeed the Wolves could have gone in at half time 3-0 up.

Doyle forced Howard into a first class save then Ebanks-Blake had a shot cannon wide with Howard nowhere... and, on the whistle, Doyle dummied a cross and Ebanks-Blake rolled inches wide. In between these efforts, we had indeed upped our game but with no meaningful threat.

The half-time chat was less than complimentary and many wanted changes but, in truth, even from a strong looking bench, you just can’t conjure up creative midfielders when we have none.

The manager’s answer was to withdraw Hibbert and move Heitinga to right back, move Cahill to centre-mid and pair Yak with Saha in a 4-4-2. The manager earns a fortune for making the decisions yet, from my seat, I wondered if just taking off Heitinga and putting Gosling down the right to achieve the same 4-4-2 would not have shown more ambition.

Still, we pay our money and watch what the manager puts before us and the second half saw little change from the first, except in the upping of effort but not craft, and yet more hoof balls from both sides that produced a half of two teams from mid- to lower-table slug it out.

The half started brightly as Saha met a Baines cross with a downward header that went straight to the keeper and then Bilyaletdinov got in on the right but shot straight at the keeper. It seemed at this point that we may out power them if not outplay them and Wolves made a sub to counter our momentum but it didn’t stop Saha have a goalbound effort turned away by the keeper at full stretch.

Wolves reminded us they were still around when Ebanks-Blake had Howard at full stretch to save but the Blues powered on in hoofball mode and Yak had a shot across the keeper that beat the far post.

Wolves sent on Castillo, who got a good reception from the faithful, and our manager, surprisingly to many, replaced Saha with Jo... As events would prove later, it may have been a good move but, before he could make a mark, we went behind after dominating most of the half, a long high kick from the keeper down field saw Doyle nick it passed Yobo and run on unchallenged and slot passed Howard with ease.

The Wolves fans were ecstatic and I was left wondering why neither Distin, Heitinga nor Baines had not done the elementary covering behind the centre-back to thwart such mishaps (under 14s do that).  Elementary switch-offs by such highly paid professionals can leave this fan dispirited and the manager apoplectic. He actually sat down for a good seven minutes, such was his rage.

89 mins gone and things looking grim but then a bit of joined-up footy took place down the left that saw Jo receive and actually look up before delivering an accurate pass along the ground to the incoming Bilyaletdinov who dispatched with ease and relieved a whole lot of tension all around the ground.

The board went up with 4 mins of added time and for the first time in the game our fans woke up, cheered and chanted and willed the team forward. In those four minutes, Wolves had as many fraught chances as us, neither side could capitalise the ref blew his whistle and it was a miserable trudge from the ground.

The snatches of conversation I heard were fans bemoaning the manager's negative attitude in regards of line-up and tactics for the second home game running against teams we know we have to beat to be anywhere near a Euro spot come seasons end.

I left bemoaning our inability for the second season running in being unable to recruit at least one creative midfielder because, for me, it’s just not good enough to be waiting on Arteta and Pienaar to return when you think we have cover for almost every other position in the team yet the all important engine room is bereft and that is more than often where games are won and lost.

Overall, I thought that in the Premier League we are just not on song as all teams seem to have strengthened and our dearth of creative cover is leaving us just another scrapping team rather than a force.

In looking for a MotM, I am unable to offer an outfield player, which is sad for a home team, so I will nominate Tim Howard for the odd crucial saves he made.

Benfica in Europa next... where our style of play may be sufficient but then it’s straight into Premier League Bolton away — and if our last two Premier League performances at home are not improved upon, then I may wish I was at home and could hide behind the sofa.

Still, who knows with football? We have gone seven straight games unbeaten yet I am having a moan tonight... Fickle? Maybe... Concerned? Definitely. Optimistic? As ever!

UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Ajay Gopal
1   Posted 18/10/2009 at 07:40:47

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I can understand your reasons for feeling glum today, Ken. Two home draws against Stoke and Wolves is simply not good enough. But then I saw the highlights of the other EPL matches yesterday on Star Sports today, and what do I see ?

Aston Villa match Chelsea at home and beat them — but against two poor pieces of defending corners.

Liverpool without Torres and Gerrard are shitt as we all suspected, and get beaten against mighty Sunderland.

Arsenal huff and puff to beat Birmingham at home.

Ditto Man United against Bolton at home — lucky to get all 3 points.

Portsmouth were unlucky not to beat Spurs, surely Dindane missing two sitters in front of open goal in the same match will both make the end-of-season highlights.

Stoke grind out a win at home against West Ham.

The point is: the league has become incredibly competitive this season, and no one can take any team for granted (a cliche, I know, but true so far this season).

And, Everton are having the worst injury crisis of any team in the league. So, for me it is not all doom and gloom. I wish we were 4 points better than we are now, but I will take what we have now.

We will surely get better once the injured players start coming back. COYB!!

Dermot Ryan
2   Posted 18/10/2009 at 09:01:18

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Ken: I only watched the game on TV and, thus, may have missed a ton, but, from my viewing I don’t think Everton were lucky to draw. Wolves had a number of clear chances, but so did Saha, Cahill, Bily, Baines, etc.

But, it was Wolves!... at Goodison! If Moyes and the owners genuinely have any league ambitions, a draw at home, as Michael said, is NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!!

I think both the players and the manager share the blame. But, I also think there are glimmers of hope from the manager’s tactics and the play on the field.

In terms of managerial tactics, it was mostly crap, but Moyes made a few novel decisions that I think should be recognized. As many have already noted, Moyes’s opening selection was FAR too defensive. Wolves are a newly promoted team on a crap streak walking into a cauldron. You figure out a way of putting them on the back foot. Everton put out a team that looked like it was concerned about leaking goals. That is not intimidating.

At the same time, I think the changes at half time were bold... at least, for Moyes. Putting Saha and Yak up front and switching Bily to the right was... well... un-Moyes-like. At this point, Moyes is being unreactive in his tactical thinking... trying to change the game not chase it.

Bringing on Fellaini when he did was totally reactive. He should have come on at half-time. While I think Jo did change the game, he came on in place of Saha... who I think had a great game.

In terms of players, I think a crap performance by Everton was flattered by REALLY crap opposition. I was depressed for long periods of this game by Everton’s lack of shape, poor passing, and long-balling. At some level, this is also a coaching problem: can’t we just ban random hoofing it up the park? If this crap was working it would be one thing. But it isn’t working. It isn’t getting results. I actually think it's discouraging the best players in the team.

If I were to single out folks who I thought had truly disappointing games: Osman and Cahill. Then there are folks who I think are playing out of position OR who need to work on aspects of their game: I think Jonny Heitinga can be a great passer, but has to work on his positional awareness as a defensive player; I think Bily is an amazing crosser of the ball, but has no defensive ability.

In general, there is too much poor passing. Far too many unforced errors, to employ a tennis analogy.

But I am encouraged by some things: I think Saha is sheer class. And I think him and Bily are beginning to work really well together. I do think Bily is class although I totally agree he is off the pace and needs to develop his defensive skills to compete in this league.

My real concern is the morale of the quality players. Do they believe Everton can succeed? Do they believe they can transform this team into a cup- or league-winning side? Or do they realize that they need to go elsewhere to really shine? How long does an Arteta, a Rodwell, a Bily, a Saha stay with this team OR continue to give this team their all?

Ray Robinson
3   Posted 18/10/2009 at 10:07:17

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Lack of creativity certainly but lack of pace too — all over the park.

Billy is woefully short of pace — where is this lightning Russian winger I thought we were signing?

Osman has quick feet over an initial yard or two but then gets caught and outmuscled over the next two or three.

And as for Fellaini, did anyone notice how, with a few minutes left, a Wolves player just ran past him on the edge of the box because he was too slow to get a tackle in?

Add to that Tim’s lack of pace and we have absolutely no means of getting through a determined back four. Even Yobo looked slow yesterday — was he injured or what?

Brian Waring
4   Posted 18/10/2009 at 10:46:56

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Ajay, the big difference is, Man U, Arsenal, Spurs, Stoke and Villa all still won.
Kevin Gillen
5   Posted 18/10/2009 at 10:36:09

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Thanks, Ken, it comes to something when even your unbridled optimism begins to wane!

I was struck by how different Everton’s team was from last year and how new some of the players were to English football. This new Everton team needs time and desperately needs its creative players Pienaar and Arteta back, as well as the athleticism and solidity of Jagielka.

I do wonder if Heitinga is going to improve and if Bilyaletdinov is quite the player we need (we could do with some pace). Moyes seemed suitably grumpy in the post-match interview with threats of dropping players. Not easy with a small squad and so many injuries.

Ossie was awful. I often defend him but this wasn’t his day. One of those results and performances that won’t linger in the memory.

Ciarán McGlone
6   Posted 18/10/2009 at 11:17:59

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A thoroughly depressing game of football. I did something I haven’t done before... turned it off and went fishing.
David Alexander
7   Posted 18/10/2009 at 11:14:47

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I think the half-time change was right but I can't understand why the manager persists with playing two holding midfield players — it just doesn’t work, whether it's Rodwell and Neville at the start of the season or Heitinga and Rodwell now. Still, at least he dealt with the mistake at half-time.

All-in-all, we had a hatful of good chances (Louis in particular) and if we had finished better we would have won comfortably. I think there is plenty of talent to come into that team and we're only going to improve... the question for me is will we get better soon enough to still have a chance of chasing 4th in mM

Brian Waring
8   Posted 18/10/2009 at 11:33:49

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David, it doesn’t matter what players are available to Moyes, he will always start and persist with the same tactics and formation.

He could manage Brazil, and make them look ultra-defensive!
Vinny Garstrokes
9   Posted 18/10/2009 at 12:35:19

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Thanks, Ken - I too trampled home a bit disheartened but I have to say that I thought Wayne Hennessey had a MotM performance between the sticks for them.

I watched DM post match on the BBC website, where he said that one or two of the players need to show him the desire that is in the framework of the club. Maybe that was a comment for Tim Cahill’s ears who just doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders yet.

Hopefully as the players recovering get back, and the competition for places gets more intense, then we will be back to where we should be.

Keith Glazzard
10   Posted 18/10/2009 at 17:04:30

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About right Ken: the starting line-up had to put much more pace into the game to get on top of reasonable but hardly gifted opposition. They didn’t do that and changes had to come.

For me, Fallaini should have started the second half (at least) and I have more faith in Jo than most. Yak’s introduction did move their defence back and he showed good motivation.

Pienaar was obviously missed. Without him and the Big Fella for most of the game we lacked the class needed to break down this kind of opposition. We’ll probably play better against Benfica, but we have to do better in the bread and butter of the PL.

Ajay is correct in pointing out the nature of this league this year, which makes it imperative that we need to be up there pushing, not trying to catch up. Some big names are going to find it hard this year, and I don’t want us to be one of them.
Chris Butler
11   Posted 18/10/2009 at 17:42:45

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Well, the worrying thing about all this is Stoke and Wolves are not the most challenging sides. I mean really, I think its was our summer tranfer mess that caused this — why we ever let Vaughan go out on loan is beyond me. Most Evertonians know that Vaughan gives you 100%.

Leon Osman was very poor and his height is no excuse as Baines did brilliant against their big right back. It seems we lack someone to make that simple through-ball; a couple of times we had chances to play in to Yak or Saha and we lost the ball.

I would bring Gosling in against Bolton and Spurs maybe. I'm going to both, luckily... but until we get a midfielder that can pass, we will struggle to break down teams.

Stoke will always be a difficult game, accepted... but Wolves were not that physical. I don’t think we can do anything 'til January to sort this mess out.

Dennis Stevens
12   Posted 19/10/2009 at 01:10:29

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I cannot fathom why Moyes persists with Osman wide right. It’s clearly not his position, so he may as well play somebody else out of position and see if they can do a better job there. Meanwhile our central midfield is suffering badly in the absence of Arteta and, whilst he’s no Arteta, Osman’s skills would be far better utilised in this area of the field, imo. All very perplexing!

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