After an array of missed chances at Goodsion Park; Everton face an uphill task to progress to the next phase of the UEFA Cup. Scott McKenna examines the task in hand and sees Mikel Arteta as the key in unlocking the Ukrainians defence.
Two missed penalties, two players sent off – it’s safe to say that it was a game that didn’t quite go as planned. On an evening brimmed with drama at Goodison, there was that all too familiar feeling of déjà vu.
The last European Tour ended as a capitulation in Bucharest. A feeling that I -and I’m sure the rest of us- would like to forget. Unfortunately, for those who recite that frightful night every so often in their nightmares, the game will have done little to restore the faith. From the hoards of fans unable to get into the ground to Andy Johnson fluffing two penalties, it was a night where literally nothing went right.
It’s fair to say that on another night we could have beat them comfortably. If it wasn’t for a few bizarre refereeing decisions we probably would have. Away from that excuse, Joleon Lescott claimed that Everton “didn’t show them enough respect”. While Moyes’ insisted that the unknown side that did turn up were in fact better than he expected.
This may be the case, but it was abundantly obvious that the reason that we didn’t win was down to one word…creativity. On a night with no Arteta, no Gravesen , Everton looked short of ideas and painstakingly poor in the middle of the park. Even if it wasn’t obvious before, we can draw certain conclusions from that game. One being, that we are in desperate need of someone in the middle who is actually good on the ball, the other is that Phil Neville is not a midfielder. The latter point justified against Sheffield Wednesday, as his cameo appearance in his rightful position at right back helped sway the game in Everton’s favour.
Despite being fairly limited technically, Neville possesses all the attributes to cement his position as Everton’s number one right back ahead of the ever frustrating Tony Hibbert. On his day, Neville can run up the line and help supply our forward line with some great crosses, while also being equally equipped to be able to nullify some of the best wingers in the game. Unfortunately, him and partner in crime Lee Carsley’s persistent ‘hoof ball’ tactics were sometimes painful to watch. In a game where we were crying out for someone who could keep the ball and provide a bit of spark, the return of Mikel Arteta could be a massive advantage in the second leg.
We all know how important Arteta is to the team, the Spanish wizard opens up doors that other players simply cannot. A player of his quality would be a great miss in any team, but without him Everton look frighteningly average. On the back of a good, if not understated performance against Middlesbrough, people will argue that Arteta was the difference between the two teams. His guile, ability on the ball, and God given ability to pick out a pass could be invaluable come Thursday.
The question whether to include James Mcfadden will continue to provide a selection headache for Moyes. Providing Johnson regains fitness for Thursday, the out of form striker could may well be facing an extended spell on the bench. A decision made all the more crucial in the fact that Everton must score goals in Kharkiv. A £20million pound strike force had no chances in the first leg; this must be addressed if we are to have any chance of progressing.
It won’t be a glamorous tie by any means and knowing Everton, it probably won’t be done the easy way. We have ninety minutes to save ourselves from disaster. Ninety minutes for our big players to stand up and be counted. And ninety minutes for Mikel to work his magic…