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Leagues: Champions League

Curly, Larry & Jo

Fortune and poor Portsmouth finishing rather contributed to Everton’s three point haul.  With one genuine shot at goal and nothing much else to discuss on the long drive home, I wonder why Moyes chooses to restrain the plethora of attacking options now available to him.

On a side issue for Everton, it was interesting to see Heitinga get some major Premiership action, and even though it remains early days for him, I remain yet to be convinced.  The gossip from Athletico Madrid, and vicariously via Ajax, preceding the transfer of Heitinga was indifferent, bordering on slanderous.  And while gossip should always be tempered with a liberal does of reality, it does sometimes suggest a trend.  Today was ample opportunity to watch Heitinga against one of the more charitable teams that Everton will play this season.  I have a number of issues. 

There were times, on a couple of important occasions, where Heitinga was a little too relaxed and a little too detached from the required Premiership intensity.  Random and aimless dwelling on the ball lead to unnecessary pressure and frequently Heitinga was less than sharp to provide the oppression on attacking players when the field position became perilous.  And when caught in possession or when caught out of position his recovery pace looked absent, only to compound the poor retrieval by surrendering his value and going to ground far too cheaply.  I think it will be a while before he makes an Everton start at the centre of defence and on this showing, I kind of feel ashamed that Tony Hibbert was ousted from his fullback berth so easily. 

Hibbert doesn’t bring much class to the right back responsibility but he does have that electric recovery pace that can shroud over a few technical or positional errors.  I have never felt that Hibbert was the future of the Everton defence but I’m currently very reserved about the prognosis of Heitinga in that position.  To crown an inadequate day I was distraught to see Heitinga detailed to the set piece free kick on the top of the box while Leighton Baines stood subordinately aside.  The inadequacy lingered when the free kick tamely cannoned into the Pompey wall.  Heitinga had clinically defused any potential risk of an Everton goal with his feeble set piece.  I very much endorse Baines taking any dead ball scenario, especially ahead of Heitinga, but having said that Baines was nothing more than mediocre from the corner quadrant today. 

Heitinga has become a bit of a scapegoat as his weak performance was really just the most salient example of an Everton team performance that lacked the Champaign of recent victories, but sees the win and the points consigned regardless.  And to be fair, Heitinga did play the assist for the Saha goal, even if the generic diagonal ball was rather clumsy and would have been defended properly by any genuine defender, Heitinga inclusive.  Rodwell looked a little disconnected and he floated in a stranded manner rather than patrolling the midfield with his accustomed composure.  Pienaar was lively if not actually productive, though his jarred knee ailment looks worrying.  It also raises the questions as to why Bilyaletdinov wasn’t on from the beginning, if you’re fit enough to come on then surely you’re fit enough to start.  Pienaar will be missed, I hope not for long.  Baines was sometimes good and sometimes less so.  Cahill and Fellaini did what they do but lacked any real penetration.  And Osman was absent for most of the game.  Where one touch football was required each Everton player took three.  The speed of play lacked the important component of actual speed throughout a laboured first half devoid of the craft. 

Anyway, is wasn’t a classical Everton performance and I trust that the wheels will be better oiled for Europe and then back home for Stoke.  And with the fixture list crammed to capacity there will be plenty of opportunity for Heitinga to acclimatise. 

It wasn’t all shocking and for much of the game we were very comfortable, it’s just that on fulltime review we were lucky to win and we probably should have lost.  Tim Howard gets an honourable mention. 

It was a standard Everton team with a standard Everton formation, though this time, unlike any other time, there was a bench blessed with options, variety and ability.  We just never used it. 

There is a delicate balanced to be negotiated when a manager picks his team, and that balance is tipped even further when you’re playing a wounded opposition away from home.  And while the choices of David Moyes are more than validated with a three point win, I can’t help but think about the diversity of forwards available and about the range of options that remained seated.  The Everton midfield was packed with numbers and yet was still unproductive, and all the time the golden touch of Yakubu was never called upon nor the endeavour of Jo ever beckoned.  Jo’s injury time cameo was irrelevant. 

Aside from the mitigation of playing away from home I just question why Everton do not, or did not in this game, commit more attacking goal scoring players to the field when the current crop of midfielders had consistently failed to deliver through the preceding minutes.  If Everton had sacrificed any one of the midfield five and given Yakubu a thirty minute run then my in-play betting slip would have read with more optimism.  As it turned out Everton continued to throw on defensive minded players and we continued to retreat back further and further into the danger not sanctuary of our own penalty area.  At two nil Everton would never have been in jeopardy of losing this game, at one nil we were within the width of a post or a goal line clearance away from a justified defeat.  Better teams with better players will punish that. 

Saha is a class player and when fit he is every bit the Premiership quality striker capable of leading the Everton attack and I’m very much happier when he starts ahead of Jo.  Jo spends way too much time outside of the penalty box for a true goal scorer and while his effort is commendable his actual ability deems his £19million transfer fee an absolute mystery.  But then Yakubu has already proven that he’s worth time on the field regardless of match fitness.  The Yakubu – Saha partnership would surly emanate with fear across all Premiership defences and rightly so.  But in the true sense of a partnership it requires time to ferment, it requires time to mature, it can’t happen over night but it will never happen on the bench. 

And, as a brief aside, I can’t help but feel a little worried about James Vaughan.  His informative Everton career has been blighted by injury but I sincerely hope that his future remains at the club.  It was sad to see him farmed out to Championship regularity but we must trust that this is for his own good if not yet for our good.  Vaughan is a menace of an attacker and I would much prefer to see him grow on the Everton bench rather than Derby’s and I would rather see Vaughan on our bench than Jo.  One can only assume that Jo’s season long loan will result in no other conclusion than a return back to his parent club and so Vaughan will be less than a year away from a return back home to his parent club.  Vaughan brings that direct style complimented with his youthful passion which excites the terraces whenever he has command of possession.  I want to see Vaughan an Everton player once again. 

Without wishing to condemn the team after an away win, I just think it a sign of the Everton times where the expectation of victory is married with the desire for performance.  No longer do Everton fans just want to win, we want to win properly.  And while not winning properly remains satisfactory, perfection always remains attainable. 

From The Writings Of Jonny Carter

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