Filed: Thursday, 30th November 2006
By: Matthew Coker
This week we get the opportunity to join the Sunday drivers as we head to the North West to take on Everton in the next step in our quest for survival in the big league. We are scheduled for a 4pm, Super Sky Sunday kick off with the cameras live at Goodison Park.
Our opponents have had a decent start to the season and are currently sitting pretty in 9th spot in the league. They have managed to dig in well away, their single victory was an early season number at Shite Hart Lane but they have come away with a point from Ewood Park, St James Park, the Corporates and last weekend at the Valley. The only defeats on the road so far have been by Fulham and Middlesbrough and midweek against Man Yoo.
At home, they have only lost to Aston Villa, shared the spoils with Man Ciddy and Wigan but have been successful over Bolton, Sheffield United and Watford as well as claiming the Merseyside bragging rights by thumping city rivals, Liverpool, by three goals to nil. This is a fairly impressive run of results and leaves them 7 points clear of us going into the weekend.
In respect of recent clashes between the two teams, last season we managed to take four points off them with a rare victory at Goodison where despite going one down, we battled back with goals from Zamora plus a own goal from David Weir to win by a 2-1 advantage. The game at the Boleyn saw us very fortunate to escape with a 2-2 draw after Ashton and Harewood scored with what felt like our only two shots of the game. Their performance had no doubt been inspired by comments by Pards after the away win where he claimed to have “put on a bit of a football show”, which enraged the Toffee’s fans.
Before we get into the line up, I’d like to shed light on one of the keenest debated matters in London football circles. Now I am a firm believer that the Scouse wit does exist but I know that there are some amongst us that put the belief in the existence of it alongside that of Nessie, the Jock Ness Monster. To argue my point, I remember laughing out loud in days gone by, when after a less than impecably timed forward’s challenge from Paolo was met with a chorus of “Faolo di Canio”. They also made me chuckle last season when prior to the game they got Jeremy Irons (or whatever MC Hammer’s name is) to put out a message that a little boy was lost. The boy’s name was Micheal Shields.
David Moyes, obviously not a man with time on his hands.
David Moyes is into his 5th season as Everton manger having joined from Preston in 2002. He has recently received a vote of confidence, not from the dreaded chairman but from the fans where a poll revealed only 7% of the supporters felt it was time to replace him. The fans cite the usual as weaknesses, a lack of tactical nous where substitutions are concerned and an inability to react to intra-game situations but he is generally thought to be moving them in the right direction.
The keeper is Timmy “Tourettes” Howard on loan from Man Yoo for the season. He has impressed the Toffees fans with a number of solid displays and was some way responsible for the point at Arsenal amongst others. He has given the fans confidence when the side was under pressure, something that the club’s second choice, Dicky Wright, never managed. Wright recalled his place for the trip to Old Trafford as Howard was unavailable to play United under the terms of the loan deal but the Yank should return on Sunday.
The back four is likely to consist of Philip Neville at right back, with Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott in the middle and Portugese, Jorge Nuno Valente on the left hand side. Lescott has been a revelation at the back since his arrival from Wolves in the summer. He has put in a number of mature and confident displays and is particularly adept with his distribution, especially under pressure. He has already been involved with the national squad at U-19 and U-21 level and the Blues fans are strongly tipping him for a future international call up.
His partner, Yobo, is also decent on his day but occasionally gets let down by schoolboy errors, last week’s tying of his shoe lace when he should have been defending as an example. Both wide defenders are capable of doing a job and rely on experience and in the case of Valente, technical ability to keep the opposition at bay. The defence is probably Everton’s strongest area.
The midfield is where the weaknesses lie, especially since the loss of the influential Tim Cahill. On the right hand side, the Spaniard, Mikel Arteta should start. He is undoubtedly a classy act and is capable of running games. He is an excellent passer of the ball with good first touch and has football intelligence to the point that he has been found to be on a different wavelength to some of his teammates on occasion. His weaknesses could be cited as delivering too many poor free kicks and corners for a player of his ability and he does have a tendency to beat a player three or four times more than is necessary.
The central midfield will feature Lee Carsley in the holding role alongside converted winger, Simon Davies who is filling for Cahill. Davies has never really provided a good return on investment for the £4m that Everton shelled out on him and is unlikely to have sufficient ability to influence the game to a great extent at the weekend. Moyes has also tried Neville in the centre of midfield by shuffled the back four along but the son of Neville Neville seems better suited to the right back position.
On the left hand side is likely to be academy produce, Leon Osman, who is not currently in richest vein of form as his ability to give the ball away a little too regularly demonstrates. The fans feel that he is looking slightly jaded at the moment, but the lack of options mean that there is little competition. He was, however, sharp enough to try and claim a goal at Charlton last week which clearly hit the knee of Addicks defender, Hermann Hreidarsson.
The strike force will be somewhat weakened by the loss of the national team's right winger, Andrew Johnson. This leaves a likely starting duo of the Anglo-Scot combination of James Beattie and James McFadden. Beattie does not inspire the same admiration in the home crowd as Johnson does and there are concerns over his fitness, workrate and over his first (second, third and fourth) touch. He has put away two league goals in 19 appearances, which does not compare favourably with his tally of 11 in 33 last campaign. In his defence, he is not getting the level of service that he may desire and the use of Beattie as a target man is not the most effective.
His partner has had less of a look in, making only 6 league starts and has yet to register a Premiership goal. He put in a decent show at Charlton, though his league form often fails to match up to the form he shows for his country. Youthful exuberance is provided from the bench by Academy products, James Vaughn and Victor Anichebe.
Di Canio shocks the crowd by playing an away game up North in December 2000.
A trip to Goodison Park is always one fraught with stumbling blocks. Our victory there last season was the first since 1994, the one before that was in 1983 and we have suffered several sound thrashings there in the recent past. It’s one of those places that we rarely come home happy from, if a bad performance hasn’t lost us the game, then our talismanic Italian has ruined our chances with an unprecedented act of sportsmanship. I don’t think that this will be too bad a trip and it is unlikely that the score will replicate that in Adelaide this weekend, particularly as the loss of Johnson and Cahill will mitigate their biggest attacking threats.
However, our away form has been fairly dismal this season and they have registered good results at home. I think that the loss of Gabbidon will hit us hard, although I am a big fan of James Collins, who as well as being solid at the back can take a free kick or get on the end of a corner when required, I think that Danny has been colossal in recent games and we will be weakened without him. For all you statisticians / trainspotters out there, you may note that Everton away was the first game that Gaddibon missed last season as well as part of his annual attempt to take the month of December off.
Everton are a robust unit and while they don’t have an abundance of goalscoring ability in the available players, they have a decent defence that is hard to break down, particularly if we duplicate the number of chances that we created at the Riverside and Stamford Bridge.
I’m going to have to write us off to a 2-0 defeat and as always, when I predict a loss, hope that I am wrong.
Enjoy the game.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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