WEST HAM UNITED 2
Spector 26, Piquionne 86
A late Marouane Fellaini goal salvaged a point for Everton in a dreary display against fellow Premier League strugglers West Ham United. The Belgian’s 91st minute strike was a positive end to an afternoon bereft of good notes for the stuttering Blues in their first game since the departure of Steven Pienaar.
In truth, Everton were frequently laboured this season even when the dynamic South African was on the field but if this uninspired performance is any indication, Everton will miss Pienaar even more than they anticipated. Lining up in a 4-4-2 formation, for much of the game the home side were outplayed by the team bottom of the league in a manner equally as comprehensive as the defeats to Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion earlier in the campaign. The front pairing of Jermaine Beckford and Victor Anichebe were starved of service from a midfield fatally lacking ideas, with only goal scorer Fellaini coming close to acceptability. Indeed, Beckford was replaced at half time by Louis Saha, and the Frenchman’s ability to create something out of nothing was useful as the supply barely improved.
David Moyes resorted to pushing Fellaini forward as a makeshift striker towards the end of the game, using the height offered by the giant 23-year-old, and for Everton to rely on such ramshackle tactics speaks volumes about their lack of centre-forward options. But the root of the problems against the Hammers was not found around the opposition penalty area. Rather, the pale imitation of Mikel Arteta in the Everton midfield, the out-of-place Leon Osman and the inexperienced Seamus Coleman could not create or dominate enough for Everton to get a stranglehold on the tie. Arteta, as the team’s creative hub, has to be considered the prime offender and the Spaniard is clearly short of his best, indecision running rife in the No 10’s mind. Arteta is taking an extra touch or an extra turn and losing whatever opportunity has arisen.
But what the manager saw in the six days between yesterday and last weekend’s Merseyside derby to reaffirm Osman is a capable left-winger only Moyes knows. Osman is fleet of foot but much too one-paced to patrol either flank and with £9m Diniyar Bilyaletdinov sitting on the bench his continued selection is curious, almost as if Moyes is trying to replicate the link Pienaar shared with Leighton Baines as opposed to allowing a new partnership to organically develop. Osman and his fellow midfielders were not helped by a lack of movement ahead of them but an inability to support the forwards by breaking from deep was perhaps the greatest difference between Everton and their visitors. West Ham’s midfield unit each supported Frederic Piquionne and Zavon Hines on various occasions and Everton’s defence was regularly troubled.
Only the post and the offside flag stopped West Ham running away with the game in the first half but having ridden their luck and escaped with a point, Everton must heed the warning before this slip-up becomes a slump.
18 Neville – 5 Heitinga – 15 Distin – 3 Baines
23 Coleman – 10 Arteta – 25 Fellaini – 21 Osman
16 Beckford – 28 Anichebe
46 – 8 Saha on for 16 Beckford
68 – 7 Bilyaletdinov on for 28 Anichebe
86 – 26 Rodwell on for 18 Neville