Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Moyes’ gamble fails as Sunderland force replay

Everton boss David Moyes knew he would take some flack following his weakened team selection for last week’s Merseyside derby.

The Scot opted to make six changes from the side that had beaten Spurs and extended their unbeaten run to nine games the previous Saturday – with Phil Neville, Tim Cahill, Nikica Jelavic, Royston Drenthe, Leon Osman and John Heitinga all left out.

The Toffees subsequently succumbed to a 3-0 defeat in one of the most one-sided derbies of recent years, and that is saying something given Moyes’ awful record at Anfield, leaving many fans feeling short changed by their manager’s effective sacrifice of a local derby.

Things may have been different had Everton gone on to beat Sunderland to reach the FA Cup semi-finals. But despite recovering from Phil Bardsley’s early strike thanks to Tim Cahill’s instinctive header, Everton could not break down a resolute Black Cats rearguard that grimly played for a draw throughout the second half.

The result now is a replay at the Stadium of Light, where Sunderland will start narrow favourites in the  FA Cup betting, meaning Moyes’ gamble backfired.

The club also have two games in the league to play before that replay, meaning the Scot will have to do some more juggling if he is to keep his players fresh.

However, there are reasons for the Toffees to be optimistic. Saturday's draw means they still haven’t lost to Sunderland in any competition since 2001.

Martin O’Neill’s men will also be expected to attack a lot more than they did on Saturday, no doubt being roared on by the boisterous crowd that watch football live at the stadium of light, meaning Everton should be able to have more space in attacking areas.

The semi-final draw – which pitched Mersey rivals Liverpool as prospective Wembley opponents – should act as extra motivation for both players and manager to claw their way past the Black Cats.

What better way to make up for that Anfield surrender than by beating the Reds at Wembley to reach the cup final?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Moyes hopes to mark anniversary in style

Everton manager David Moyes will celebrate 10 years in charge of Everton on Wednesday – just 12 hours after his side travel across Stanley Park to Anfield.
A decade at one club is a remarkable achievement in any era but in the present climate, where managers are lucky to last one year let alone ten, his work at the Toffees deserves to be commended.
His harshest critics will point to the lack of trophies and Moyes will freely admit his biggest regret is not earning the club silverware.
But, again, we live in an era where the small cluster of trophies on offer are largely dictated by the size of your wallet – and Moyes has hardly been able open his.
He inherited a club in freefall and among the favourites in the relegation betting after a dismal 3-0 defeat to Middlesbrough in the cup and a 12 week run without a league victory.
The dressing room was packed full of aging players with big egos with little cash to change things around. Indeed the crippling debts that so nearly tipped the club into administration a few years previously meant he has was constantly battling he problems left by his predecessors.
But despite all that Moyes had led Everton to top ten finishes in every full season in charge bar two – in the ten year prior to that they achieved that feat just once, in 1996.
Such work has not gone unnoticed and the jobs at Chelsea and Tottenham have been waived in his direction by the media. Moyes is too driven to pay attention to such rumours now, but he knows that with finances set to be tight again in the summer, he cannot keep Everton going on fumes forever and the chance move to a club with greater financial resources may prove too good to miss.
Not that he wouldn’t feel sad departing Goodison, the club is well and truly in his blood. And leaving or not he would dearly love to add the FA Cup to mark his decade in charge.
The club face a pivotal week which takes in a Merseyside derby at Anfield – where a win will see them leapfrog their near neighbours in the table – before a FA Cup quarter-final at home to Sunderland.
Two wins would see Everton in seventh place and on their way to Wembley with an 11 game unbeaten run behind them, a great way to celebrate 10 years in charge. If you bet on the FA Cup  do not discount the chances of the Toffees, despite the presence of more illustrious names in the hat.
But knowing Moyes that will not be enough and the Scot will have already moved onto the next challenge – which is the very reason behind his enduring success.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Chelsea’s Roman empire built on fragile foundations

Money can bring you a lot of things power, influence, football clubs. But while cash alone can acquire you the assets, a human touch is needed to ensure things head in the right direction.

Sadly for Chelsea fans Roman Abramovich’s trigger finger is once again demonstrating the fragile nature of his tenure at the club. Eight managers in nine years is an appalling statistic and one that can perhaps be held up to symbolise the unhealthy impact of wealthy owners in the modern game.
When he took over the club in 2003 and sanctioned years of wild spending, Chelsea fans rightly believed they had hit the jackpot. Under Jose Mourinho they steamrollered the opposition to secure back-to-back league titles and a number of other domestic trophies.

Fans of other sides – much like they are doing with Man City today – muttered to themselves on the sidelines, arguing that all this cash must have some sort of catch with it.
And slowly but surely we have begun to see that by selling their soul to a Russian oligarch Chelsea have had to pay a price.

Their fate is in the hands of a man who appears disconnected with the true workings of a real live football club. Buy the players, build the Academy, pay for the best manager and success will come – that’s what he thinks anyway, it worked for him in business (and perhaps on Football Manager).

But in reality, especially in the Premier League, that isn’t always the case and time is needed for sides to grow and develop.

During Mourinho’s reign Abramovich was guilty of being greedy, the football scores weren’t exciting enough, winning wasn’t enough, he wanted ito do it in style. So vanity projects like Andrei Shevchenko and Fernando Torres continue to clog up the Chelsea pay-roll and undermine the manager.

All this isn’t helped of course by the corrosive influence in the dressing room, Abramovich has again shown his naivety by developing unhealthy relationships with some of his players. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, they all appear to have a direct line to the Russian’s ear, while each passing manager is forced to go through a go-between.
That sort of set up will never work, the manager HAS to be number one in order for a dressing room to function. But until that alters at the Stamford Bridge I can see them pressing the self-destruction button once more as the players give up playing for their manager and start playing for themselves – again.