Saturday, 28 February 2009
“Some people judge you on results, I judge teams on the way they play. I know what is right, and if you get relegated, take it on the chin. We will play exactly the same next season."
Admirable sentiments from Baggies boss Tony Mowbray, who refuses to change his sides to style of play even if it is at the expense of results. But how long will the fans’ patience last if the Baggies keep sinking out of the top division like a stone? I haven’t watched West Brom too much this season but I imagine the game at Goodison summed up their season.
At times a leggy looking Everton were bewitched by the Baggies quick and neat passing, but as soon as they got near Tim Howard’s goal the move would crumble. When they did got a shot in, it more often or not drifted wide or over.
For the blues, it was their first outing PA (post Arteta) and if this performance is anything to go by, David Moyes has some work to do if he is to hit on a winning formula for the remainder of the season. Fellaini in particular looked a little lost in his deeper position and I suspect is not yet fully fit. Osman and Pienaar looked bright in patches and I think a lot of the creative responsibility will now rest on their shoulders. But all in all it was a pretty disjointed performance.
Yet that was all that was required to come away with the win. From a simple Baines free-kick West Brom decided to mark absolutely no-one and Cahill nodded home (again) though Fellaini, Yobo and Jo were all on hand if Timmy had missed it. We needed the goal because our frustration - and West Brom’s confidence - would have grown the longer the game went on.
The game quickly reverted to type after Cahill’s strike with the away side’s neat interplay outside the Everton penalty area continuing. But their lack of quality in front of goal was emphasised by the touch of class at the other end.
He may have an injury record longer than the Mersey but when he is on the pitch Louis Saha’s quality is undoubted. His control, turn and finish for the second goal was sublime, and I only hope he can keep himself fit until the end of the campaign.
The remaining 20 minutes saw West Brom dominate and actually fire in dozen or so efforts towards the Gwlady's Street goal. But, apart from a Luke Moore effort that cannoned off the bar, the fans sat behind Tim Howard were in more danger than the Americans’ next clean sheet. They could have played till midnight and they wouldn’t have scored and in the end Everton held on for a solid, if unspectacular, three points.
West Brom boss Mowbray maybe determined to stick to his principles but there will be a time when the Baggies stop boinging back to the Premier League after each relegation. Membership of the top division is a privilege and to accept relegation from it with no more than a shrug of the shoulders is frankly baffling. No-one is expecting them to completely abandon their footballing principles. But at a more solid backbone and an ability to mark at set pieces is urgently needed if they are to have any hope of staying in the division for more than a year at a time.
For the Blues it was the classic ‘sign of a good team’ by winning without playing well. They will however have to up their game for their trip to Ewood Park on Wednesday as a better team would have beaten them today.
But walking away from Goodison I couldn’t help but think I wasn’t the only one whose mind was already on a certain cup match next Sunday...........................
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Welcome to our latest look at what’s been passing through the football filter this week.
The Champions league returned and some intriguing ties involving English clubs filled up most of the back pages. Jose was back and as vocal as ever despite being held to a 0-0 draw with Man United at the San Siro. THE MIRROR reported that Mourinho is confident his side can go through and repeat his heroics of 2004 when his Porto side knocked United out of the Champions League en route to lifting the trophy.
There was chaos at the bookies on Wednesday as the odds on Rafa Benitez walking out on Liverpool shortened dramatically, with bookmakers William Hill suspending betting on the Spaniard’s departure after a flurry of high bets. The timing, with Benitez and Liverpool in Madrid about to play his boyhood team Real, seemed all too convenient and THE MIRROR suspected there is more to this story than just hot air.
FIFA’s controversial 6+5 rule reared it’s head again as a Independent study by the Institute for European Affairs ruled that the 6+5 idea - which would mean at least six starting players in a team would have to be eligible for that team’s home nation - was not illegal and doesn’t restrict the free movement of workers. This could have as great an impact on the game as the Bosman ruling did 1995. THE INDEPENDENT runs the rule over the possible ramifications.
THE SPOILER reports Arsenal have defied the credit crunch by recording an operating profit of £24.5 million before tax. But the article also reveals the Gunners’ apparent reliance Champions League money to support their business structure. With Arsene Wenger’s side currently in fifth place it would be interesting to....
To read the rest of my guest blog please click here.
Middlesbrough’s win over West Ham last night ensured that Gareth Southgate’s side will be Everton’s opponents at Goodison in the FA Cup quarter-final on March 8th.
Boro have picked up that habit of winning in the cup yet struggling in the League – remember they reached two cup finals in 1996 only to go down the same year. For that reason they should be respected as without the shackles the fear of Premier League relegation places on them, Boro seem to play their better football in the cups.
But on the other hand they still haven’t won in the league in November and after knocking out Liverpool and Villa in the cup so far this season we should fear no-one.
I’m sure most Evertonians will agree with me that this represents the best chance the club has had of reaching Wembley since 2000. On that occasion in the FA quarter-final we lost 2-1 two Aston Villa, who went on to reach the final, thanks to a couple of howlers from Keeper Thomas Myhre. Another two quarter-final appearances have resulted in heavy away defeats. First at Newcastle 4-1 in 1999 and then, ironically, against Middlesbrough 3-0 in 2002. That game of course resulted in Walter Smith’s sacking and the appointment of David Moyes. So maybe we should thank Middlesbrough for doing us a massive favour.
The difference between now and then is that we our at home, the opposition are struggling in the League and have the best squad of players for nearly 20 years. David Moyes has changed the club beyond recognition in his seven years at the helm but despite several top six finishes the one thing that has been missing has been silverware. To be honest we haven’t even got close until the Carling Cup Semis last season. Some of this is inevitably to do with finances as Moyes has never had the squad to sustain lengthy cup runs, especially when Premier League safety was his priority. Only now we are an established top six side can we look to the cups.
To behonest I suspect even a Wembley semi-final appearance would please the fans. A quick check revealed that every other Premier League side has been either to Cardiff or Wembley since we were last there for the ’95 Charity Shield (admittedly for some clubs like Stoke it was for the Auto Windscreens Shield, but it was Wembley still the same). If the Blues can get past Boro it would finally show that Moyes’ side are ready for the big games, and give us all a day to remember in London. It would also be special to be the first Merseyside team to reach the new Wembley.
The kopites can go to Wales as much as they like.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
It is of course one of those quirkly light hearted news stories no doubt taken from a press release following months of painstaking (and probably in the long-term, useless) research by a group of scientists.
It is a refeshing change though from 'a cookie a day gives you cancer' type scare stories.
Anyway that's enough of the Daily Mail, elsewhere those of you who read my Goonergetya blog will have noticed I got my score prediciton spot-on! Lawro - you better watch out sunshine!
Pity I didn't get to the bookies in time to put my money where my mouth is..............
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
I'm waiting to see what gems Mr Mourinho will come out with after the United game tonight. Win lose or draw he will love having the attention of the British press again and will no doubt feed them enough back page headlines to see out the week. Prediciton? Well I'm going for a narrow Inter win, 1-0.
Elsewhere Arsenal are playing Roma and perhapsn will be glad to have the distractions of the Champions League after another poor draw at the weekends(though they best make the most of it because it is looking like the Europa League for the Gunners next season!)
For this week's guest blog over at Goonergetya I did a preview of the game against Roma, you can read it here
So expect plenty of back page headlines both before and after the Inter v United Champions League match. The journos will no doubt try an extract every last drop of Mourinho gold before he flies off back to Serie A.
Here is a look back into the Jose archives, and a taster of what we will be reading in the next few weeks:
“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”
The all-time classic.
“If I wanted to have an easy job… I would have stayed at Porto - beautiful blue chair, the Uefa Champions League trophy, God, and after God, me.”
Is Jose the second coming?
“For me, pressure is bird flu. I’m feeling a lot of pressure with the problem in Scotland. It’s not fun and I’m more scared of it than football.”
Jose will solve all the world’s problems!
“Young players are a little bit like melons. Only when you open and taste the melon are you 100% sure that the melon is good.”
Michael Mancienne still hasn’t recovered.
Read the rest of my guestblog over at Dangerhere
Monday, 23 February 2009
Forget the two dropped points against ten-man Newcastle, the loss of Mikel Arteta for the season is the biggest blow for Everton.
Even with an already extensive casualty list the presence of the Spanish magician in the heart of the Blues midfield has meant the likes of Yakubu and James Vaughan have not as missed as they might have been.
But with Arteta facing six months out I feel this is one injury Everton might not be able to cope with, he is central to everything they do.
It means now the pressure is on Tim Cahill more than ever to try and lead the line and provide the midfield spark. Moyes should wrap his feet in cotton wool, any more metatarsal injuries and Everton's season really will be in crisis.
The positives? Well it is hard to be positive after losing such an influential player but what the squad has shown this season is tremendous resilience. Whatever has been thrown at them they have dealt with and have continued to force results against the odds.
If players such as Osman, Pienaar and Fellaini can get themselves fit they are talented enough to see Everton through to the end of the campaign, while Cahill's goals of course will be crucial.
But I can't help thinking expectations will have to be re-assessed (and lowered) now the best little Spaniard we know is out till August.
1) Rafa Benitez
Ahh, our loveable Rafa. Everything seemed to be going so well for Liverpool when they thumped Newcastle 5-1 to go into the New Year front runners in the Premier League title race. But then somewhere deep in Benitez’s brain something snapped and all we could hear were outbursts of raging paranoia…..
First was the rant at Alex Ferguson, then the sly dig at Everton, with the madness finally culminating in his already infamous “crazy” speech against Wigan. All this against a backdrop of poor results as United stormed past Liverpool back to the top of the table.
Some respite yesterday, but the month of January was a complete nightmare for the Spaniard, but it leaves me in anticipation for more classic sound bytes from the beleaguered Liverpool boss should their title bid continue to falter.
2) Everyone and everything at Newcastle
Talking of classic speeches, Joe Kinnear deserves a medal for the best opening to a press conference ever. For those if you who can’t remember here is a brief reminder:
Kinnear: Which one is Simon Bird?
JK: You’re a ****.
Bird: Thank you.
I should really give Kinnear an award for such a hilarious speech, but given everything else at Newcastle this season has been such a disaster, there is no way big Joe can escape some of the blame.
From KK’s walkout, to replica shirt wearing, beer swilling, sports wear mogul Mike Ashley trying and failing to sell the club, Newcastle are plummeting like a stone. No wonder Charles “insomnia” N’Zogbia wants out.
The only way I believe they can beat the football odds and escape Premier League relegation is through the sheer ineptness of the other teams around them.
So the Champions League swings back into action next week and with the rather tiresome group stage put to bed we can look forward to some two legged knock-out action.
But (there is always a but) a quick glance down the fixture list and you will notice that it all looks a bit familiar. That’s because it is. The problem I have with the Champions league is that it’s the same teams every year who get through to the latter knock out stages, and frankly it’s getting boring.
Apart from the odd newbie (Atletico Madrid, Sporting this year) or like in 2004 when Porto surprised everyone by lifting the cup, the quarter and semi final spots are nearly always selected from a small, elite group of teams.
Fabio Capello was in the stands at Craven Cottage at the weekend for Fulham’s Premier League match against West Brom. The only two players he was realistically looking at were Andy Johnson (who must’ve impressed, bagging a goal and assist) and Baggies ‘keeper Scott Carson.
The former Liverpool stopper still hasn’t recovered from THAT howler against Croatia 16 months ago and has started to build a collection of goalkeeping mishaps. There was nearly another one against Fulham when a lack of communication between Carson and centre half Leon Barnett nearly saw the defender score a comical own goal. But the very fact Capello is even considering Carson shows the extent of the goalkeeping problem we have at the moment.
Ten years ago we were well stocked in the goalkeeping department, with David Seaman, Nigel Martyn and David James. But now, despite trying a host of players, we still aren’t sure who our number one is. Here is a few of the options we have:
Click here to read the rest of my guestlog over at theengland.blogspot.com
Thursday, 19 February 2009
First off this weekend is the East Midlands Derby between Nottingham Forest and Nigel Clough’s improving Derby. This is the third meeting between the sides in a matter of weeks after they clashed in the FA Cup fourth round. Derby came out on top on that occasion but both those encounters proved to be close and I think it will be the same here, a draw would be my best bet.
Coventry were seconds away from knocking out Premier League side Blackburn last week and they will have to raise their game again when they host second placed Birmingham at the Ricoh Arena. Reading meanwhile.......
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Lofty Heights
A few things I noticed this week.
Our beige-loafered favourite came out with several crackers during ITV’s coverage of the England match last Wednesday (including his strange obsession with a band tucked away in the corner of the stadium) and I was tempted just to bite my lip and keep quiet but top of the bill was the classic:
Every week I guest blog for a number of websites, here is my latest musings on the football world....
Here is the latest look at what has been passing through football filter this week:
Most of the headlines this week circled around England’s disappointing defeat in Spain coupled with David Beckham’s record equalling 108th cap.
All the papers, as expected, reported on boss Cappello’s disappointment at the result but THE SUN’S headline: ‘Players with brains will learn’ was the one that stood out for me. The question is: how many of the squad actually have brains?!?