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The Finishing Flaw Of Moyes

In Football on September 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

While it’s fair to say that the Carling Cup was hardly a personal holy grail for Everton manager David Moyes it’s almost certain that the manner of their defeat against Brentford will be causing some restless nights for the Scot. And well it should with the team already off to its worst start to a campaign in sixteen years, second from bottom and still looking for the first win of the season.

“It’s OK” say the faithful “we’ve had slow starts in seasons gone by. Look at last season, we could have had fourth spot come the end. No need to panic.”

There’s perhaps some wisdom in these soothing words. Moyes is a proven manager with a solid track record who has done much to eradicate bad memories in the blue half of Merseyside. He has taken Everton from also-rans to a team that has had no shortage of European football, if not European success, and has brought together a group of players that play direct and industrious football.

Yet there is one recurring problem in his teams that has not been addressed by Moyes that has proved to be his team’s downfall time and time again. This season is simply a continuation of the fundamental failing to acquire a proven goalscorer that has led to an over reliance on the Everton midfield to provide the goals. It is this that has stunted the development of an otherwise fine team and it is something that must be laid solely at the feet of Moyes.

It’s not as if there hasn’t been the resources with which to secure someone capable of converting the many chances that the team create. While many of his signings are the shrewd sort of squad strengthening we would expect from a stoic Scot, when it comes to the purchase of the all important danger man he seems unable to find value for money or anything close to it. The catalogue of failures in this area haven’t come cheap but have come frequently.

Many lauded the capture of Louis Saha as a master stroke, easily done with the transfer fee remaining undisclosed. However, while the player possessed flashes of brilliance, he was always inconsistent and lightweight, a fact reflected in his long periods of injury. While he has had an impact on some games since his Everton move in truth these have been few and far between. It is telling though that both manager and fans alike hungrily await his return to the front lines as he would almost certainly slot straight into the starting line-up once more.

Not a reflection on his ability but rather a damning reflection on those he would replace. The £11.25 million signing of Yakubu Aiyegbeni looks like madness given his poor return and lacklustre displays. Dogged by a lack of fitness he doesn’t even make an effective target man and looks a shadow of the player that Middlesbrough sold. The loan signing of Jo won’t trouble defences so much as it will the wage bill, an obvious outcome from a player who hasn’t even been given time to settle into the English game before being shipped out by Man City.

Most woefully of all the Jermaine Beckford gamble shows that Moyes won’t commit to bringing in a proven goalscorer. Anyone would tell you that making the step up from the Championship to the top flight would be troubling enough, but to effectively make the jump up two divisions was always going to be tough and so it has proven. The pacey and clinical Beckford from Leeds is nowhere to be found in the ruthless Premiership and at 26 it’s not as if he has plenty of time to learn the trade. Indeed, in the next two seasons it’d be considered that he was at his peak and he already looks like a player who will fail to make the grade.

Statistically there is nothing to deter this argument. All goals scored this season have come from midfield players and it is Tim Cahill who has bagged the most goals for Everton in the period since 2004. The last time they had a 20 goal player was in the 2007 / 2008 season when Yakubu managed to contribute something worth talking about to his team. Since then strikers and midfielders have been mostly interchangeable in terms of their goal scoring output.

It is the only priority that should have been addressed when the club managed to pull off a coup in selling the decidedly average Joleon Lescott for £22 million and had a significant portion of that been invested in someone with proven potency in their boots it is not inconceivable that Everton would be further ahead than they are. In fact it is something that fans and pundits alike are pretty much agreed on, yet they are collectively reluctant to go to that next logical step and blame a manager who has had several opportunities to put the problem right.

Could it be that it is unfair to blame an upcoming manager whose playing career was that of an unspectacular journeyman centre-back for not having that eye when it comes to goalscoring talent? Certainly the qualities Moyes values are all admirable and very much in keeping with all the truly great sides in the game. It cannot be denied though that grit, determination and work ethic are not enough to win you games, as Everton are finding out right now.

Make no mistake that even when Saha returns it will be a slog to pull themselves up the table yet it is one that everyone with half a footballing brain would expect them to manage. For sure, they’ve had enough practice by now. Yet when the curtain closes on another season and their position shows them to have been within touching distance of something far better, it is these moments and these results that must be blamed for that failure. At what point must even the most loyal fans ask themselves that difficult question of whether or not someone who has performed well can perform better? Certainly Moyes has had his chances to show he understands the problems and understand them he must do… Clearly though, understanding the problem and knowing the correct solution are two very different things.