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Season 2011-12

Walk in the (Goodison) Park

By Luke O'Farrell   ::  29/04/2012
 7 Comments (Last)
Fulham must dread their annual visits to Goodison Park. Yesterday's defeat made it 11 in 11 Premier League visits. Fulham's league record away to Everton now comprises of 20 defeats, four draws and no wins. Martin Jol didn?t turn up due to illness and judging by their performance, some of his players didn?t either.

Everton began in confident mood and found themselves in front after six minutes. A strong run by Steven Pienaar drew a foul and Nikica Jelavic's free kick hit the wall. Fortunately, for Everton, it came off Pavel Pogrebnyak's arm. Phil Dowd pointed to the spot, penalty to Everton. Jelavic dispatched the spot kick, with his customary finesse, sending Schwarzer the wrong way. Frei forced Tim Howard into a tip over as Fulham looked for a quick response.

Diarra fired into the side netting after Everton failed to deal with a Fulham corner. At the other end, Jelavic almost grabbed his second with his shot cannoning back off the post following neat control. Everton did not have to wait long for a second as Fellaini rose, unmarked, to head past Damien Duff on the line. The home side's dominance continued with Distin firing a delightful ball across the six-yard box, the pass only tainted by the lack of movement towards it.

Clint Dempsey, easily Fulham's best player on the day, fired over under pressure from Jagielka. The American midfielder came even closer, soon after, with a wonderful Howard save preventing Fulham halving the deficit. Dempsey's effort took a deflection off Heitinga and Howard, falling in the opposite direction, was able to stretch out a hand and tip the ball onto the bar. That was as close as the visitors came all afternoon.

Everton put the game beyond doubt as half-time approached. Pienaar claimed another assist with a through ball to Jelavic. Rounding Schwarzer, from a tight angle, Jelavic was able to steer the ball into the narrowest of near post gaps. Having a striker of genuine quality has added another dimension to Everton's play. The first 36 games of the season saw Everton score just 39 times. With the impact of the new signings, Everton have scored 21 goals in the last eight games.

Tim Cahill entered the fray at half time in place of the lucky Darron Gibson; Gibson is now unbeaten in his last 26 Premier League games. The second half was low-key with Everton content to keep possession and Fulham looking as if they would rather be elsewhere. Everton's fourth came on the hour mark with Pienaar again instrumental. Neat interplay ended with Pienaar chipping a delightful pass over the Fulham defence. Substitute Cahill was on hand to apply the deft finish and the corner flag took its punishment.

Jelavic, in search of his hat trick, tested Schwarzer with a free kick from distance. Everton continued to monopolise possession - their average passing accuracy is 76%; it reached a season high of 90% yesterday. Phil Neville's fierce effort struck Hangeland as the Everton captain enjoyed his day in midfield. Fellaini departed to a standing ovation with 15 minutes to go. The big Belgian is revelling in his new advanced role but Everton still miss his presence in the engine room.

Ross Barkley took Fellaini's place but seemed lacking in confidence. He seemed particularly unsure of his role in terms of tracking back. Barkley's potential is there for all to see, let us hope he progresses next season. Everton came close to adding another with Schwarzer saving twice in a minute. Pienaar's effort seemed destined for the far corner with Osman?s shot tipped over as Fulham prayed for the final whistle.

Steven Pienaar edged out Jelavic for MotM with three assists and a constant presence in all the good things Everton did. The back four will not have an easier game with Heitinga continuing to show why he leads the player of the year voting. Phil Neville used the ball well but for the sake of progression, he is not the answer in midfield. Leon Osman seemed strangely subdued on his 300th Everton appearance.

The problem for Everton is managing to transfer this form into the beginning of a season. The disruptive August transfer windows are one of the main reasons for the early season struggles. David Moyes has no time and no money to replace players with the squad beginning the season under prepared. Year after year, constructive January business solves the problems created in August.

Look at Everton's form since 2006 (February 1st - end of season) - 2006-07: 4th | 2007-08: 5th | 2008-09: 6th | 2009-10: 3rd | 2010-11: 3rd | 2011-12 (ongoing): 5th. January onwards is perfect for Everton whilst August to January remains the same continual nightmare. Should David Moyes and the board stumble across the magic formula then Everton might just enjoy a consistent season in 2012-3.

Ratings: Howard 7, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 7, Heitinga 7, Distin 7, Osman 6, Neville 7, Gibson 6, Pienaar 8*, Fellaini 7, Jelavic 8.

Subs: Cahill 7, Barkley 5, Gueye N/A

Reader Comments

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Dick Binks
583   Posted 29/04/2012 at 19:27:06

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I always think the reason Everton start slow in the summer is because all the other teams have new players which have given their clubs a big boost. New players raise moral and increase the feelgood factor of football clubs.

Everton on the other hand rarely have new players in the summer and usually lose one or two of their better players.

After having spent all summer watching other teams strengthen by the time the season begins the Everton fans are miserable and that transfers to the players on the pitch.

I think that's why we start so awful and it takes Moyes to January (when he normally adds a player or two) to get moral and confidence back up.

I hate the summer. Watching all the other teams make big money signings while Everton do nothing but worry about losing our better players. It does my head in and I bet it has the same effect on the players.
David Hallwood
590   Posted 29/04/2012 at 19:27:29

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Great report Luke, and thanks for the truely baffling stat of the January upturn, where we have gone from relegation fodder to CL contenders for the SIXTH season in a row.

What happens to the team in the first half of the season is a complete mystery. Do they get abducted by aliens to play in their intergalactic prem (that ends in December of course), and replace them with reptile-like creatures that take the form of humans and although they are much more intelligent than us Earthlings are shite at football.

In all the time I?ve been watching football I?ve never seen a pattern of form like it.
Dick Fearon
625   Posted 29/04/2012 at 22:39:42

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Dick Fearon
627   Posted 29/04/2012 at 22:43:23

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Slip of the finger there,
I believe our preparation is flawed. Pre season games against vastly inferior teams in a holiday like atmosphere and too much of this new fangled bonding plus a serious lack of fitness all contribute toward our poor early performances.

Moyes is clueless why this should happen yet part of the answer is staring him and all supporters in the face. Our players a simply not at a proper level of match fitness and only reach that level after a month or two of games.
Jem Traynor
643   Posted 30/04/2012 at 02:27:37

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Dick Fearon #627,
It's fairly well known about Moyes's pre-season beat-up as being very gruelling indeed so I think your suggestion is off in the wrong direction but there is something definitely wrong if the team can finish this way year after year and it not to be coincidental.

Either the physical side of things (in Moyes's beat-up) is all too much to recover from or the kids are settling after wondering what exactly is going on at their new potential suitor's club and what would it feel like to know you're getting £80+ grand a week, that's two reasons for what I suspect could be causing the slow starts we are having.
David Chait
653   Posted 30/04/2012 at 08:28:36

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Nice report Luke... but have you actually seen the 3rd goal? you might want to rewrite....

Your stats at the end reagrding 2nd half is something I've been looking for... very interesting.. although I would have thought we might be top 4 in terms of points won.. but 5th is ok.
Trevor Lynes
681   Posted 30/04/2012 at 13:51:39

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The only downside to all the positives is the fact that Pienaar does not belong to us (as he should). Now he is showing form, he will start to interest other clubs and we will lose out if it becomes an auction.

Why oh Why didn't we give the lad parity in wages with our highest earners?? He definitely deserved it and ironically since then we have let Arteta go... I really cannot understand the business sense of this club!!!! To say I'm exasperated would be less than I actually feel. I'm disgusted at the situation and frustrated and angry.

Pienaar makes us a much better team and his workrate is never less than 100% so why did we allow such an asset slip through our fingers???

We have since squandered money on bringing in Weir, Hahnemann and McFadden... all just adding overheads and lowering any transfer budget that may be available to DM. The squad is the nucleus of the club and strengthening it must be the main aim... Our scouts seem to be doing nowt and as no youngsters seem to be pushing for first team places, our youth system is not performing too well either.

FFS get rid of the deadwood and stop making mistakes!!! Pienaar was sold for £3 million and to buy him back will cost more so where does that make sense???

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