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Friday, December 30, 2005

Everton need to overhaul their defence

As a non-Evertonian I watched the Merseyside Derby searching for reasons why Everton have had such a poor calendar year. The departure of Gravesen, followed by the long-term injury to his partner-in-crime in midfield Lee Carsley, has accelerated a decline in fortune for the club who took the Premiership by storm in the first half of last season.

Yet I don’t consider Everton's main problem to be in midfield. Many Premiership teams would like to select midfielders with the experience and talent of Arteta, Neville, Davies, Osman, Van der Merde (when he's fit!), Kilbane, and Cahill.

And as I saw against Liverpool, their problem isn’t a lack of heart and commitment. These players care and are giving their all for Moyes and the fans.

For me, Everton's number one problem is their defence. In short, three out of four of the defenders in Everton's back four are only average Premeirship quality and are always liable to concede quite a few goals.

David Weir is too slow and lacks strength relative to the demands of the Premiership.

Tony Hibbert is a limited footballer and is only still in the team because Wigan beat Moyes to purchase the excellent RB prospect, Ryan Taylor, from Tranmere.

And Nuno Valente is badly struggling to make the transition from the low-tempo, highly technical Portugese Championship football to the high-tempo, highly physical Premiership football. He lacks pace and I have been surprised how poor he looks for someone with a 2004 Champs League medal.

These three Everton defenders are weak-links for a team trying to stabilise. Saying this, however, it is also wrong to pin-point blame alone on Everton's defence for the club's poor results; every Everton player needs to examine their own contribution to the defensive effort as does Moyes own coaching. Conceding four goals three times this Premiership season, plus five against Bucharest and seven in May to Arsenal is a worrying trend that demands circumspection by everyone concerned.

On the plus side, I look forward to seeing whether Per Kroldrup can make the difference and strike up a good partnership with the improving Joseph Yobo who has impressed me this season. Overall, however, I reckon a bigger overhaul of Everton's defence is required if Moyes wants better consistency and form than displayed in this calendar year.


Blogger RedsMan said...

The difference between last season and this for Everton is that those who stepped forward to score last season have failed to so do currently. Tim Cahill was top scorer, followed by Leo Osman, Marcus Bent, Darren Ferguson and Lee Carsley last season. This season currently James Beattie has four, James McFadden has two, then it's one apiece for Joseph Yobo, Simon Davies, Mikael Arteta and Bent. Neither Ferguson nor Bent are considered dangerous enough to start. I've said before that I prefer Kevin Kilbane to anyone else on the wing, then have Phil Neville with Mikael Arteta in central midfield with Simon Davies or James McFadden on the other side. Upfront should be Beattie and Bent, both are tall, strong strikers who can head on or hold the ball up, Bent has great pace, Beattie is better nearer to goal.

As for the defence, David Weir is slow but has great reading of the game like John Terry, Yobo is strong and quick but has had the tendency to lose concentration, Tony Hibbert is tenacious and makes good advances up the flank but lacks awareness at times and can be late on tackles as a result. Nigel Martyn is trying his utmost to keep out the danger but I mentioned in my review of the Aston Villa game that he showed little effort to stop Milan Baros' second, because it's as if he is a one-man army.

I've been told before to stop writing as if I know how to do Rafael Benitez's job, but it's not as if David Moyes will be ringing me for advice, so I'll say this. I wondered if Charlton would play two upfront against Arsenal instead of one, because they now need more of a guarantee of goals, and they did, almost making more of the game in the first half. Now for Everton, it's imperative Beattie and Bent start from now on and continue, Ferguson obviously can come on and help boost height advangtage if need be. The central midfield needs another with Neville, not Arteta but the Spaniard will do for the interim, Carsley may be returning shortly. Without Carsley, Arteta is in the centre, Davies/McFadden and Kilbane on the wings. With Carsley, Arteta and Kilbane are better to have on the wings.

Defensively I understand Gary Naysmith is due to return and fill in at left-back, Yobo and Weir remain, Hibbert at right back. Despite the criticism, this side have shown collectively they can get at sides regardless of whether they are in front or behind. Beattie is stabbing at chances just for the sake of scoring and can benefit with another with him who can add more pace and strength upfront. Yet overall, Everton need to employ a fallback system where the midfield come back and make a second barrier to prevent and quell the attack, and if they do then those on the wings should be alert to run and receive the ball straight away, as well as the forwards. Everton have been very good in getting forward, just not in getting back, why they have conceded often. And in cases like Arteta and Neville, coolness is essential, especially when you are already booked.


12/30/2005 3:52 pm

Blogger T said...

Good analysis Redsman. However, you seem to see more qualities in certain Everton defenders than I do.

Your are definitely right to point out that goalscoring has also been a major problem. I agree that a simple remedy is to play with more than just one striker up front... especially as Cahill has not contributed from midfield like he did last term. Everton also miss Gravesen's and Carsley's forward bursts and fine shooting ability.

But scoring goals is no good if you are conceding upwards of three to four goals. I stand by my opinion that Everton needs to overhaul their defence in the next year. Its too porous and individually contains too many average defenders.

12/30/2005 8:08 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I'm with you on that, T, my analysis featured on Everton's plight currently, what I felt they need to do to try and haul themselves further from relegation. If they sustain enough to remain in the Premiership, most certainly one agenda at the board meeting will be the availability of funds for, particularly, defenders.


12/31/2005 1:18 am

Blogger T said...

Yep, I apologise to Sunderland fans for criticising the Everton defence prior to your match with them. They only went out to keep a clean sheet after I suggesting they should be dismantled…. Doh! But I still stand by my original opinion!!

I also mentioned Cahill's lack of goals and he went on to score the winner in the 90th minute… I apologise again to Sunderland fans for jinxing their match!!

1/01/2006 10:17 am


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