After watching Manchester City overcome my beloved but fatigued Everton side yesterday morning and, even worse, seeing Phil Jagielka stretchered out of our season to join Mikel Arteta, Yakubu and Victor Anichebe on the ‘out for the season’ list, I had plotted to write an article about the injustice of it all. Unfortunately I spent all day yesterday travelling back to Wellington and all day today doing Uni work slash being at Uni, and the bitterness that fuelled my intentions has now decayed to a miserable acceptance that we couldn’t go on forever with so many games and such a slim squad (four season ending injuries – FOUR!).
So instead of the inevitable fiery and angry post that would have appeared had I written it yesterday, click through below to see a short summary of my main reactions to Everton’s defeat at Manchester City, and a really amusing football related web-comic that I stumbled across before. It actually made me laugh despite the rather disgusting living conditions to which I am now returned (there are numerous things growing in the kitchen) and the fact that it has been raining for two days straight.
1. Jagielka deserved a Cup Final.
In probably the greatest injustice of the season, Phil Jagielka will now miss Everton’s FA Cup Final meeting with Chelsea after doing his anterior cruciate ligament against City. The player who should have been the PFA Player of the Year instead of Ryan Giggs has been absolutely outstanding this term, and has led Everton’s charge towards not only the FA Cup Final but also to another great league finish and European qualification. It would have been a fitting end to his season to see him lift some silverware with the Toffees, especially after it was he who held his nerve in the Semi-Final Shoot-Out to fire us to a second Wembley day out.
2. Robinho deserves very little.
There is no denying the fact that Robinho is a really good player. He had a blistering start to his Premier League career (back at the end of the Summer there), but it is fair to say he went completely and utterly missing during the middle part of the season, when it was all cold and stuff. Now he has scored two goals in his last two games, and one can’t help but notice that the weather in England is certainly picking up again. All this leads me to conclude that not only is Robinho a greedy little so and so (come on, he’s at City for one reason and one reason only) but that he has no motivation to play for them at all, and so only really bothers when he feels like it. If I was a City fan, I’d want rid of him.
3. Fatigue and Fixture Congestion.
It’s fair to say that ‘fixture congestion’ is one of those terms that in recent years has started to come up more and more in football. Whether it be managers moaning about the scheduling of their matches, blaming poor performances on it or calling for a ‘winter break’, it’s often in the news. But, despite the fact that Everton looked pretty jaded against City on Saturday, which is almost certainly a result of having played on Sunday (120 mins), Wednesday and Saturday consecutively as well as the horrific injury list that has plagued them through the season, I don’t think managers can really complain about fixture congestion.
It’s a simple fact of football that if you do well in all competitions you will get more games. Therefore, if you are looking to compete on every front you need to invest in a squad that can handle it. Obviously some factors are beyond a managers’ control (like injuries for example) but at the end of the day, when the season starts a manager surely hopes that he will have a lot of matches to play.
On Saturday Moyes acknowledged that his players were tired and that may have affected the result, but he did not moan about it. He knows, as I do, that Everton don’t yet have a squad with enough depth to challenge seriously for the Premier League title, but that is the goal. Our squad is strong in quality and if Moyes can continue to add to it with a similar calibre of players then we will hopefully be able to deal more successfully with fixture congestion. It is not something to be complained about, but rather, something to aim towards. Fixture congestion is the sign of success, and I welcome seeing it at Everton!
4. Ridiculousness and Refereeing
What is worth complaining about is the current standard of refereeing in English football. I’m well aware that I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this site in my slagging off of officials, but it’s just the way it is. I fully accept that Everton were below par on Saturday and probably didn’t deserve to win the game given their performance. However, I think that if certain refereeing decisions had been awarded correctly, we may well have won.
For example, as tempers were beginning to flair and Cahill had just been brought down by a City defender, the free kick was taken and Leon Osman controlled the ball, played it on and was then unceremoniously hacked down from behind by an in-sliding Elano. It was a completely late and unnecessary tackle that showed obvious malicious intent and no desire to play the ball as well as being straight from behind. In short, he should have been sent off, no question about it. He wasn’t.
A few minutes later, the ball was played into the Man City penalty area and clearly struck the hand of one of their defenders (the details are already becoming fuzzy – how I pass exams I’ll never know). Every Everton player in the vicinity appealed joyously for the penalty that had to be awarded, as did the Everton fans – here was a lifeline. Low and behold, the referee once again ignored a blatant offence and no penalty was awarded.
Finally, and perhaps worstly, Shay Given was challenged for the ball by James Vaughan who was chasing down a lost cause with his usual vigour and very nearly turned a lost cause into a real opportunity. Given got their first though and so Vaughan made very slight contact with his leg when stretching for where the ball had been a split second before. It was the sort of innocuous challenge that happens all over the park and is part of the game. However, Given turned around a literally punched Vaughan in the neck. Raised hand equals red card – it’s in the rule book. Was he sent off? Of course not.
So the referee (who shall remain unnamed), has denied Everton some real opportunities to get back in the game. City should have finished the game with 9 men and having conceded a penalty, and if that had been the case, the result may have been very different, as such decisions can spark life into an admittedly jaded looking team performance. Too often are referees influencing the results these days, it needs to stop.
5. A Victory for Quick-Fix over Hard Work
While I am naturally disappointed that the result cost Everton the chance to leapfrog Villa into fifth as they deserve to do, what pains me most is that City and all they now stand for beat Everton and all we stand for. Everton, with Moyes as manager for over seven years, little money spent and players who are honest, hard-working and play for the club that they have a great amount of feeling for, are the exact opposite of what Manchester City are threatening to become.
City are now the richest club in the world and look set to throw money at their every problem, bribing greedy players to come and work as missionaries for them in order to make an attempt at some silverware. The owners of the club are in it for the business opportunity that it provides and once they’ve had their fun will probably just walk out and leave the club on its knees.
I know which model of club ownership I prefer and I am ever-thankful that Bill Kenwright is such a great chairman for our club. He is a sensible and passionate chairman that achieves the perfect balance between ruling with heart and head. Man City on the other hand, are a model of all that is wrong with modern day football, and it pains me to see them beat Everton on the pitch because ultimately, what matters in football is what happens on the pitch. That City’s owners care so little about that aspect while Kenwright cares so much makes it a tragedy that City left Goodison with the three points.
To cheer me (and you) up:
Fair play to the fellas over at studs-up, it’s not just funny, it’s true. Keep smiling everyone, and best of luck to all your teams on their run-in (unless you’re a Liverpool fan of course).