I would like to apologize for the long article but I haven’t read anyone expressing views close to mine here or anywhere else and as there aren’t too many Evertonians in Vienna with whom to discuss such matters that I want off my chest, starting with Steven Pienaar.
Pienaar staying is crucial for this season and there at least 3 reasons: he matured last season — along his work rate, link play and assists he managed to add impressive goal tally and influence games decisively, moreover while he played with Arteta together from 9 games we won 8 and drew one and this is quite telling statistic which leads nicely to the next reason why is he important to our success next season.
Having Arteta and Pienaar together in the team brings balance to our attacking treat, we have two creative outlets and it becomes difficult for the opposition to cope with that. A few seasons ago Arteta was played very effectively on the right wing, where his link up play and the quality of his crosses made him our most dangerous weapon compared to our left side with Kilbane and McFadden. However, after while his effectiveness slowed down and of course he started being crucified on these pages being labeled flat-track bully, one trick pony etc.
What no one asked is why that happened, what were the reasons? Well Arteta didn’t become a bad player overnight after all. It all started with Mourinho – he noticed that Arteta wasn’t the paceiest one and had to rely on his trickery to beat and opponent or earn a foul and double marked him with Essien and Paulo Ferreira, thus limiting his influence and soon other managers copied that tactic and as result Everton struggled. Almost the same thing happened at the Stoke game this season when we were without Pienaar with only Arteta as an inventive force and badly suffered for width and creativity; what happened at the start of the season when we missed both of them was also very telling.
With the Pienaar-Baines axis on the left we have a working solution, great relationship and that’s the third reason. While I agree that he isn’t irreplaceable it will leave a huge hole on the left if he leaves, bringing a replacement, won’t be the issue, the issue would be how long it will take him to bed in, to settle and develop an understanding with the team and Baines, the history tells us that it would be at least half a season, which will be enough to ruin another season. Level-one thinking supporters will be the first to scream – another half campaign for Moyes but unfortunately that’s not FM, when you sign a player and he instantly turns out a success – Veron, Shevchenko, Berbatov, Robinho, Stoichkov the list is endless
Good example is our clean sheet record — two seasons ago we managed a record breaking clean-sheet achievement mainly with the settled Jag-Lescott pair (Yobo in the wings) but all 3 players knew themselves well; their strong points, their limitations and what to expect in different situations. This season we were a shambles at the back and it was very predictable - I picked up 8 random games from TW reports from this season and we had 7 different CBs (try it yourself). Building understanding and partnership takes time and continuity and being constantly forced to change and chop your line-up will never be a receipt for success.
In my eyes Everton can’t afford another half season, Cahill is in his 30s, Saha and Neville too and Mikky is nearing them. The squad is in his prime now, we can mixed it with the big boys as showed by the excellent wins vs United and Chelski all we need now is maturing and balance. By balance I mean addressing our right midfield — Osman isn’t winger and Anichebe improved enormously from the sulking figure before the Liverpool game but while he has a decent first touch, pace and power, his crossing and more importantly decision making aren’t still up to the standard.
“The armadillo-skilled” Donovan showed us another dimension in our game, pace and goal threat down the right. Good player – pacey, with footballing brain, great set piece delivery and leadership qualities, as showed in Slovenia and Algeria games, he settled instantly and baring the Spurs miss had a successful stint. Moreover, Landon won’t have any adaptation period, whether he can manage to bring him is another matter but with good World Cup, IMO he can have a bigger influence over his future and could engineer a move to Everton, in any case with or without him the right midfield have to be our top priority.
By 'maturing', I mean developing the ability to see off games or kill them off, the marvelous 1-0 or one goal margin wins. Our failure this season was due to our defensive shortcomings, we weren’t able to bring those games over the line, we weren’t negative enough and seeing off matches is critical skill to have. The purists here will accuse the manager for “giving them too much respect”; ”FFS bringing a defender on and inviting pressure” and you will be able to read the next Jim Hourigan’s article within five minutes after a late equalizer about squandering possession and “being negative”. (I will deal with that later.)
Yet there wasn’t a single, a single comment about Inter Milan and their masterful defensive performance vs Barca. Can you imagine the outcry here if Moyes withdrew Cahill, Arteta and Saha in favour of Neville, Hibbert and Yobo and squandered 20-80% possession to keep the score and close the game?!
The myth about attacking football being the only way to success is just a myth, for every Ajax (1970-74) or Barcelona “dream” team (1990-1994; 2006-2009) there are at least 5 pragmatic and cynic winners a-la Inter, Germany, AC Milan, Italy, Chelsea, Juventus and moreover than not when a pragmatic and attacking team meet, the attacking one is on the losing side (AC Milan-Barca 4-0; Barca-Inter, Brazil-Italy 1982).
That was our biggest failure last season our lack of maturity, in the EPL reality if you score 2 goals you have to win the game, where our record shows 9-5-2(2 goals scored) Spurs record reads 13-2-1; Chelsea’s 11-0-1 and Villa 8-2-0. Those 9 points we are adrift of Spurs and CL place are those 9 points we squandered when we scored 2 goals: Our points to max points ratio when we scored 2 goals is only 0.66 vs 0.85 for Spurs; 0.86 Villa and 0.91 for Chelsea. One of the main reasons for our defensive fragility was the lack of established CB pairing, while the other was trying too hard scoring a third goal and being caught off guard (the games vs Arsenal, Villa and West Ham spring to my mind).
How important to have a good defense is our record when we scored 2 goals and when we kept a clean sheet, when we scored 2 goals we averaged only 2 pts per game, however when we kept a clean sheet we averaged a whooping 2.63 pts/game. Personally I know what I would prefer, which brings me about my next topic – our manager David Moyes.
I want to deal with some clichés I read here all the time – the first one: Everton under Moyes playing negative, dour, defensive football. You would expect a very dire state in the GF column after such accusations; however, being without Arteta and Yakubu for large part of the season, Everton scored just one goal less than media darlings Liverpool and 8 more than Villa, moreover only Chelsea failed to score in less games than Everton – 1 and we were on par with Arsenal and United.
The next issue is his apparent “inability” to change the game when we are losing - “being caught in the light”; "lacking plan B” etc. Well, I have a question to all these punters: do you know which manager’s team acquired most points from a losing position last season? “The tactically inept and limited” Moyes lead Everton to whooping 17 points from a losing position and first place in EPL in this category, meanwhile another of the long list “flavor of the month managers” — Hughes, Coppel, D, Jones, Brown, namely Mowbray lost his way. A couple of years ago when we beat Albion 2-0 and they played some decent stuff, all you could read here was how “mind-boggling” was what he could have done with the quality of our squad; less than twelve months later he was sacked from Celtic…
In my eyes, Moyes is very competent and ambitious manager at the right club but unfortunately not at the right time doing Sisyphus impression being forced to rebuild his squad every summer with zero funds.
However, he has to improve in one very important direction that isn’t money related – his team motivation; too often this season we made Jekyll and Hyde impression completely forfeiting the first halves vs Hull, Brum and Spurs or the second vs Fulham leaving us with mountain to climb in the second —and that is something which he is directly responsible for, these black outs had to be eradicated from our game if we are to achieve something.
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1 Posted 24/06/2010 at 07:05:49
1. If Pienaar wants £60k a week and thinks he can get it at other clubs then get shot of him. Yes, he is a creative player. Arteta is better. Yes, he does have a good understanding with Baines but both are small players and I think that could become an issue this season. He doesn't weigh in with enough goals for me. I am sure Bily scored more than him this season and Bily was used as a sub quite often. There is 1 year left on his contract and I am led to believe that there is a firm contract offer of £55k a week. Sign or you're up for sale. For as talented as he is, with 1 year left, we would not get anymore than £10M for him. Yes he is worth more with a longer contract but that is a realistic figure.
2. I have posted before about how I feel on not being in the distraction that is the Europa league. Not enough money for the extra matches/traveling/lack of training so I do feel we could have a real crack at the top 4 again this season. After 8 (soon to be 9) years of his tenure, Moyes's team must start to deliver silverware of some sort soon. We all know that a team's personnel is always a work in progress but some of the key players will need replacing at some point. This is the prime time for this group.
3. A regular keeper and back four are essential ingredients in any successful team. Arsenal's Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Wints; United's Van der Saar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra. Even in the past, we have had an established back five. Unfortunately, Jag's injury and Lescott's leaving tore our one up but a back five of Howard, Hibbert (too soon for Coleman), Jagielka, Heitinga and Baines looks very solid to me.
4. Mr David Moyes. He must be happy at the club. Big wage and a talented squad. He has been aware of the financial restraints in the transfer funds since he came here but has regularly broken the fee record on a number of occasions. He must be the ultimate "wheeler dealer" and literally the best "£ for player" manager there is. Unfortunately the Man Utd job is going to be between two candidates: Moyes or Mourinho. Both still young enough to build another dynasty after SAF but I think one would like a bigger transfer budget each year whilst the other operates successfully on a minimal one.
We all have our own opinions on all things Everton and see things from different angles/perspectives, but we all WANT the same thing. A successful club challenging the top clubs. Only the best is good enough.
2 Posted 24/06/2010 at 09:10:43
"Yes, he is a creative player. Arteta is better."
Erm, not really. Last season he wasn't.
3 Posted 24/06/2010 at 09:16:10
Toffeeweb poll. Who is a more creative player. Arteta or Pienaar?
4 Posted 24/06/2010 at 09:09:28
No-one is a greater Moyes fan than me but I am a realist and manage to maintain optimism because of that.
With or without the players you mention — and they are ALL dispensable at the right price —I remain confident that Everton will continue to punch their weight and be a much respected team and club. Whether that means we can look forward to silverware is another matter but TWO half seasons like the ONE that finished last month should see us in the mixer at least! That will do for me!
5 Posted 24/06/2010 at 09:20:34
6 Posted 24/06/2010 at 09:21:10
All in all, its a tough call for me.
Fact is, "Schillo", along with Fellaini and others carried Everton through our darkest hours last season, so I wouldn't be too hasty in trying to pawn him off to the nearest buyer.
7 Posted 24/06/2010 at 09:32:28
Also I think Arteta and Pienaar have different roles in the team. Arteta now seems to like a deep lying playmaker role. He has never been blessed with pace so it does suit him. Pienaar seems happy to get the ball at his feet and run at defenders. If he could add another 5 - 8 goals a season to his game, he could be a real superstar.
8 Posted 24/06/2010 at 09:52:15
Not a piss take — just curious.
9 Posted 24/06/2010 at 10:29:50
@ Kirk McArdle; I don’t think you get my point, mate; you started comparing Arteta and Pienaar and who is more valuable and inventive, while I am stressing the necessity of both of them being in the same Everton side, providing creativity and guile to our game, and the time it would take for any new left-sided signing to bed in and develop an understanding with Baines.
10 Posted 24/06/2010 at 12:21:50
I say sell him if he's so determined to go somewhere "bigger".
11 Posted 24/06/2010 at 13:24:05
Paul Sullivan: no he hasn't, but neither did Ribery, Gourcuff, Anelka, Vidic, Hamsic, and many others. World cup can improve a player value, but it can never reduce a player value.
Arteta vs Pienaar: A redundant question, they are very different players.
Essentially Stefa I agree with your sentiment, We need o keep Pienaar, not becasue he's irreplaceable but becasue he's adapted, and for Everton to achieve what they can we need to be in full flow from day 1, replacement players offer huge risk of adaptation time. This season is a big 1 for us, in my opinion the biggest for a long time coming, yes players are reaching their peak, but also clubs like City, Spurs, Pool, Arsenal are still within our reach, in 2 years they may be out of reach and mid-table will become our hunting ground.
We need 1 striker to replace the Yak (who is losing it, injury has fucked him)
1 winger (would be happy with Donovan, but there is better out there. If he we 1 other and Donovan in Jan on loan i'd be more than happy)
1 defender (replace Yobo who needs a move)
12 Posted 24/06/2010 at 13:33:32
Is Benayoun champions league level? he's played in it for years now. Or Kuyt, Kalou, and the numerous other good but not world class players who play in the champions league.
13 Posted 24/06/2010 at 13:28:49
The benefits of a settled squad of good players are evident for all to see. It is almost unheard of for a newplayer to come and do the business from the off. And yes, as you have identified, this is a big season for Everton with this squad and this manager. Hit the ground running and we could go all the way. Get stuck in the traps like we (infuriatingly) do most seasons and it's game over.
There are two leagues within the EPL. We are in the top 8 and, as last season showed, on our day can compete & beat any of the top 8. Things are possible but losing our most influential players, given our business model, is usually a recipe for disaster.
I think Pienaar wants off, in which case we get rid NOW & replace NOW. We do not keep discontented players in the squad. But I hope it's proved that he stays because he wants to...
14 Posted 24/06/2010 at 14:33:36
15 Posted 24/06/2010 at 14:41:49
yeah, I guessed you'd seen it somewhere, not made it up, but what does it mean? Seems very strange!
Anyone else know what it means?
Re Pienaar, personally I think Bilya will have a very big season for us and if Pienaars move paves the way for more appearances from him with the bonus of funds for Donovan (eg) then let him go to his dream bench. I doubt his value increased at the WC but we should still double our investment i would have thought?
16 Posted 24/06/2010 at 15:15:12
Agree with you re Pienaar (Arteta), his link-up play, effort and brain would be very hard to replace.
Not so convinced about DM.
17 Posted 24/06/2010 at 15:27:21
18 Posted 24/06/2010 at 15:30:40
@Alan Kirwin, actually we are doing very good vs top half teams we are on par with City and Arsenal; behind the leading pack of Chelsea, United and Spurs and ahead of Villa and Liverpool, we are struggling vs bottom half teams, where we are averaging only 1.8pts/game while the likes of Villa, Liverpool and City have 2+ and over the season it translates into 6-7points
19 Posted 24/06/2010 at 16:30:08
20 Posted 24/06/2010 at 17:15:46
Interestingly, Pienaar has not mentioned any other clubs, even though his blood-sucking agent has stated he has had interest from other clubs. So far, none of our players have come out in public and mooted an interest in a move to another club, except maybe some unverified statements made by Johnny Heitinga.
The interpretation that Pienaar's unsigned contract means he is not happy, is pure mischief from the press. If Pienaar didn't want to stay, Moyes I feel would have put him up for sale long ago. Pienaar is just holding out for a better deal from Everton, and only Everton.
Most of the players in the squad I am sure have a huge respect for Moyes, and will not go public about a possible move without talking to Moyes first, especially as Moyes may have already read them the riot act, before he joined the Five Live team in SA. It seems that something is holding all our 'star' players at this club this summer. Is it a combination of seeing possibilities for next season and also a loyalty to Moyes?
21 Posted 24/06/2010 at 17:10:04
In terms of who is better than him in our league and plays out wide, I can't think of many - Malouda, Nani, perhaps Milner and that's about it for me.
Preferably keep him and sign another wide player
22 Posted 24/06/2010 at 20:38:54
23 Posted 24/06/2010 at 22:25:30
I agree with pretty much all you say, especially the value of Pienaar - the fact is simply that we get better results with himin the team and this has been the case for 2/3 years now. In 2007-08 our form dipped when he went to AFCON, in 2008-09 he broke a toe pre-season and we only got going when he returned in November and last season we won 4 in a row, he got injured at Pompey and we won once in 10 games till he returned in late November.
Andy Crooks: Everybody is entitled to a view, and yours are usually quite outspoken, but Adam Johnson??? He couldn't even get in Boro's team till Downing left and he'll do little or nothing at City.... in my humble opinion of course! :)
24 Posted 24/06/2010 at 22:33:55
BUT, Pienaar must stay. I'm hoping his low-key (wouldn't say poor) performances in SA will help us in keeping him.
Pienaar, Arteta, Fellaini, Bily, A N Other
Ossie, Rodwell, Cahill, Anichebe, Baxter...
One of the top midfields in the League.
Like with Arsenal a few years ago, a team slowly developed to create the best team this league has ever seen, for pretty much one season, but all players had been there and developed together. This is what we could have this season (ok, not quite as good as the invincibles).
25 Posted 24/06/2010 at 23:11:43
Your last point about our performances in the first half of games was the striking one for me. I totally agree. It annoys the hell out of me when you've built yourself up with all the pre-match optimism, only to find as you are watching or listening to the game that we are on the back foot after maybe a good first 5-10 minutes. Why can't we keep it going? Then we come out for the second half and up our game. This needs to be sorted out as you suggest.
26 Posted 25/06/2010 at 01:39:12
You also raise a key point about Everton's defense last season with your telling statistics about how many points we failed to get in games where we scored twice. The uncertainty in our injury-wracked defense was clearly the reason (for a time our best centerback was Hibbert). I'm in the minority here, but I believe Everton is potentially a CL side right now, because we'll start the season with what I consider the best defense in the Prem – Howard in goal, Jags and Heitinga in the middle, Baines and whoever on the outside (like you, I choose Hibbert over Pip and Coleman) and two of the best young defensive midfielders in the world in Fellaini and Rodwell. If Pienaar remains and Arteta stays healthy, that's a sufficiently dynamic attack to put up those two goals a game you mention -- and we have in place the defense that can make it stand up.
And I agree wholeheartedly with Brian that the bleatings of Pienaar's agent and the speculation of the media are no reason to sell him. We will never see the day when the Pocket Rocket produces less than a 100% effort for every minute on the pitch. And that's good enough for me.
27 Posted 25/06/2010 at 03:30:23
"@ Kirk McArdle; I don’t think you get my point, mate; you started comparing Arteta and Pienaar and who is more valuable and inventive, while I am stressing the necessity of both of them being in the same Everton side, providing creativity and guile to our game, and the time it would take for any new left-sided signing to bed in and develop an understanding with Baines."
I am in agreement with you that Pienaar is settled into our style of play and a Baines - Pienaar combo is very productive. But, what I was trying to get at is that we have no cash NOW. We will most probably still have no cash next summer either. Do we let a player go for nothing next season and still not achieve our aim of a CL spot or sell him now and have the cash to spend on getting someone else in. This is the crux of the matter for me.
If there is a firm offer of £55k a week on the table and his agent is making claims that Pienaar is looking for £60k, if you feature in taxation it make a difference of £2.5k!!!
Am I right in saying that (apart from the board) David Moyes is the highest paid member of staff at Goodison?? I think Jonny H signed for £55k didn't he and was the highest paid member of the playing staff?? Surely Moyes or Elstone should be saying "£55k is the wage cap and we cannot go above it." If his agent then still advises Pienaar that they can get a better package elsewhere (maybe a lot more next summer if there is no transfer fee included) then we as a club are in no financial position to keep a sellable asset when if he were to leave for nothing this time next year we would have to find the funds for a replacement.
28 Posted 25/06/2010 at 13:42:35
I totally agree with Karl - excellent stuff.
29 Posted 26/06/2010 at 00:07:13
30 Posted 26/06/2010 at 00:21:59
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