Victor Anichebe insists Everton FC can realise attacking potential easier on road where opponents less likely to sit back and stifle them.
VICTOR ANICHEBE insists Everton can realise their attacking potential easier on the road as opposition teams are less likely to sit back and stifle them.
David Moyes’ men are undefeated in their last five away games and are hoping to record a fourth successive win for the first time in 28 years with victory at Southampton on Monday.
That would help boost their top four aspirations after last Saturday’s frustrating goal-less draw with a Swansea side which was set on frustrating the Toffees.
Anichebe believes the onus on home sides to open up however means better opportunities for Everton’s attacking players.
The 24-year-old Nigerian international striker, who has scored in each of the Blues’ last three away victories, said: “If you look at the game at St James’ Park, away from home we’ll get opportunities to attack, we’ll be passing it, getting it on the counter attack and we will go and create chances.
“At home it’s a bit different. At home teams are coming to us, showing us a lot of respect now.
“They’ve obviously shown us respect in the past but now they’re coming in and thinking, ‘ah, we’ve got Everton’.
“And this sitting and defending, it’s quite difficult sometimes to break teams down.
“I think Chelsea are finding the same at the moment.
“They came away (from Goodison Park) with a great result but then they find it difficult at home because teams are coming not really attacking so much and playing more of a game plan.
“But hopefully we can get it all together, keep doing well like we are and hopefully we can go to Southampton and get a good result.”
Moyes is again expected to be without right-back Tony Hibbert and midfielder Darron Gibson, with the duo suffering from calf and thigh problems respectively.
A persistent hamstring problem means the game will come too soon for recovering Belgian international forward Kevin Mirallas but full-back Seamus Coleman has returned to the fray in recent weeks following his own injury lay-off.
Anichebe senses his absent team-mates are edging ever closer to first-team returns and understands that could be crucial in the club’s search for European qualification.
“We’re doing really well at the moment and it’s a big positive that we’re getting some of our injured players back,” he said.
“When Kevin comes back, when Gibbo comes back, Hibbo’s still out – we’ve got a few big players out.
“Hopefully if we can get them back it’ll add another boost for the squad.”
Barry Horne: I HAVE written in the past about how easy it is to get a penalty in the modern game, and how easy it can be to get yourself sent off for a nothing offence.
That is because, in my eyes, the reaction of referees is often far too swift and panicked. And that the punishment is often grossly disproportionate to the crime.
Maybe it is my imagination, or a touch of wishful thinking perhaps, but having watched an awful lot of games in the past few weeks, I can sense the tide turning a bit.
I have seen a lot of incidents where, in the past, a penalty or a red card would have been awarded, but the referee has instead opted to give himself some thinking time, and opted against it.
Maybe referees are realising that the game is becoming too sterile, and that they were reacting too quickly to tackles, handballs etc. Whatever it is, I am all for it.
The FA has, historically, been something of a lost cause when it comes to appealing decisions, often hiding behind the age-old “the referee saw the incident at the time” argument.
Yet recent weeks have seen a number of poor decisions swiftly overturned. Everton, of course, benefited from one such action, with Darron Gibson’s ludicrous red card at West Ham swiftly rescinded.
Some people have criticised this new approach, claiming it undermines match officials, but that is a view I can’t understand. Surely justice is justice, however it comes about?
The Vincent Kompany case this week (pictured) was just the latest in a long line. The Manchester City skipper is one of my favourite players, and seems a superb man as well as a superb defender.
His tackle on Jack Wilshere was as clean as you like, and can only be deemed a red card in “the current climate”.
Thankfully “the current climate” seems to be changing.
Barry Horne: I WAS looking forward to Monday’s game at St Mary’s, between two of my former clubs.
I would have wanted Everton to win anyway, but the news that Southampton have sacked Nigel Adkins has only reinforced that view. What an utterly laughable decision.
I have seen Southampton play three or four times recently, and I was convinced that Adkins’ eternal optimism and brightness was not misplaced. Saints have been improving every week, and had got themselves into a decent position above the relegation zone.
Why they feel the need to change managers, I do not know. They were third from bottom in League One when Adkins took over, now they are 15th in the top flight.
This is yet another example of the savage mentality that dominates top-level football. To replace a manager who has done so much for the club with yet another unproven, foreign boss, is an almighty gamble. It shows no regard for the work Adkins has done, the progress he has instigated, or the loyalty he has shown. I find it incredible.
Experimenting with foreign managers can work, of course it can. But look at Wolves and Blackburn, to give just two examples. They sacked Mick McCarthy and Sam Allardyce, respectively, when the situation was not that bleak, and subsequent foreign appointments have since backfired spectacularly. Stale Solbakken and Henning Berg won’t be remembered fondly by those clubs’ supporters.
As I said, I always want Everton to win games, but for Adkins, a smart, honest, dignified man, I hope the Blues administer a good, old-fashioned wake-up call on Monday night. God knows, their chairman needs it.
THE second half was only just under way and Phil Neville had received the ball in the centre circle. As the hosts started to mount an attack against an obdurate Swansea side, Everton’s skipper was shaping to slip the ball to Seamus Coleman down the flanks but he wasn’t doing it quickly enough for some.
Within the split-second it took the former England international to pick his pass, murmurs of impatience and a few irate cat-calls broke out as anxious Evertonians urged their team to up the pace.
The Goodison faithful have grown accustomed to some fine performances this season, and when it doesn’t click there is a small minority that don’t hesitate in vocalising their concern.
That is, of course, the right of paying spectators, but Neville believes over-anxiety could be counter-productive at this point in the campaign.
With the Toffees still well-placed in fifth and comfortably within touching distance of fourth-placed Spurs, the 35-year-old insists now is not the time to panic.
“It’s about relaxing. I think we need to relax a little bit – the fans, the players, all of us. There was a bit of anxiety against Swansea when we should relax and enjoy the games coming up,” says the veteran.
“I’m not worried at all. We’re in a fantastic position. We’ve played every team in the Premier League and I don’t think we can be scared of any of them.
“We can puff our chests out and say ‘Right, we can do this’. Notoriously we get going in the second part of the season and I’m sure fatigue won’t be a problem because we’ve got one game a week.
“Obviously the fans and the manager were disappointed after the draw with Swansea but you’ve got to put things into context. The way I look at it we’ve come out of this Christmas period against West Ham, Wigan, Chelsea, Newcastle away, Cheltenham away and we’ve been full of energy and life. Our form has been good.
“Swansea was one of those games when we had a bit of a dip.
“We didn’t play with the vibrancy that we have been doing and we fell below the standards.
“But I still think we’re right in there with the hunt. We're in a great position to attack the second half of the season and we’ve got nothing to be scared of. We didn’t lose and we kept a clean sheet.
“I’m staying positive. It was frustrating because you think we need to pick up the three points against Swansea at home with the tough away games coming up but it never works like that in the Premier League.”
The former Manchester United man has seen enough of the vagaries of high-stakes top flight football to realise that this stage in the season does not give a true indication of how things will pan out.
“Look at Tottenham, they were probably expected to beat QPR but only got a point,” he says.
“It’s that time of the year when results don’t always go according to plan and it’s about slugging it out and coming through this January and February period still in the mix.
“There’s 16 games to go and maybe recently people outside the club were getting a bit carried away with talk of qualifying for the Champions League.
“There’s a long, long way to go and plenty of football to be played.
“If we’re still in the hunt at the end of February then we can look at it.
“I think with our record against Swansea, them not beating us in the Premier League, we knew they’d have to change.
“They played a quick counter attacking type of football, sat deep when we had it, and allowed us time and space – tempting us to either hit it long or play at a slower tempo than we usually do.
“We prefer a quick tempo and an up-and-at-‘em type style and we couldn’t reach those levels.
“It’s probably the reason we didn’t get the result.”
Neville hopes that positive approach translates to a calmer winning performance against Southampton on Monday, when the Blues must compete against the tendency for new managers to grab a victory from their first game in charge.
But regardless of the man in the dug-out at St Mary’s, Neville admits it is a player missing from the Everton ranks whose return cannot come quickly enough.
Kevin Mirallas is edging closer to fitness but the former Olympiacos player, who picked up a gong in the week for the best foreign player in Greece last year, is unlikely to recover in time to face the Saints.
“When teams drop off and sit deep you’re maybe looking for a bit of individuality,” says Neville.
“Teams are going to defend against our left side so we need to balance that with play on the right and need individuals stepping up to the mark.
“Kevin definitely has produced moments of brilliance this season and we hope now we can keep him fit because he is definitely a match winner. The sooner we get him back the better because he can turn a game around on his own.
“You’re looking for someone to get hold of the ball, carry it 40 yards and beat a few men and Kevin Mirallas is probably the best man in the squad to do that.
CHAT to any Bluenose about their club’s January transfer prospects and the conversation inevitably turns to the future of John Heitinga.
Rightly or wrongly the Dutchman, who was last term voted player of the season, is now being viewed in some quarters as an expendable commodity by supporters who are aware of the requirement to sell first, buy later at Goodison.
They point to the galvanising effect sparked by the sale of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to Spartak Moscow last January, and – in most cases reluctantly – conclude that the Netherlands international is one of the few players Everton could reasonably afford to lose in order to strengthen elsewhere.
That’s all well and good, understandable even, but it fails to recognise the quirks and complexities of the transfer business.
For starters – the 29-year-old will be in no hurry to speed up the exit process by declaring that he wants a move.
Why? Because from his perspective that would be a very costly mistake.
Heitinga still has around 18 months left on his contract and earns around £55,000-a-week.
If the former Atletico Madrid man made public any desire to leave, he would ruin the prospect of receiving a handsome pay-off from the Blues which would involve a compensatory settlement recognising the time left on such a lucrative contract.
Heitinga is too clever and well advised for that, which is why he won’t be quoted anytime soon talking directly about a yearning for pastures new.
There’s no doubt he wants to play first team football regularly, and as an individual with no shortage of self-belief, feels he would ideally be playing in the Champions League.
But while Heitinga will be frustrated at not currently being first-choice for David Moyes he will also be aware that he is only an injury or dip in form by Phil Jagielka or Sylvain Distin away from regular Premier League football again.
Equally, in the generally more austere present climate of the European game, only a handful of clubs would not baulk at matching the wages he currently receives.
That leaves the situation this month finely balanced.
Does he bite his lip, keep plugging away and potentially prepare see out the rest of his contract on Merseyside?
Will his pride and self-worth lead him to risk scuppering a pay-off for the sake of finding new employers?
Or can more covert means be deployed to find a buyer, in one of three likely destinations; Turkey, Russia, or Italy, who recognise the World Cup finalist’s undisputed qualities as a ball-playing centre-half?
Roma have been linked but have made no overtures to the Blues or Heitinga, and rumours of interest from Napoli are believed to be dead in the water already.
The answer will be as intriguing as it will be influential on Everton’s success in the window, and whether they can afford to add the extra goal-scorer or midfield presence they crave.
It would be vital too that Heitinga’s value has not depreciated too much from the £6m Everton paid for him in 2009, because Moyes has already insisted that any departures from his small squad would have to be replaced with another in that position before he turned to re-investing the money and cash saved on wages by his sale elsewhere.
Football transfers eh?
They’re about as straight-forward as reading the shipping forecast.
EVERTON in the Community has launched a special online auction platform featuring a raft of incredible items as part of their 25th anniversary campaign.
Over the next few months, 25 fantastic prizes will be up for grabs, including a signed canvas of the late great Everton goalkeeper Gordon West, a pair of worn and signed Leighton Baines boots and an Everton tracksuit, as worn and, now signed, by the man at the Goodison helm, David Moyes.
And what Everton auction wouldn’t be complete without a case of Chang or, in this instance, 12 cases – one for every month of the year!
The online auction initiative is being launched to coincide with Everton in the Community’s efforts to raise £1million during its silver jubilee year and will feature a host of fantastic prizes over the coming months.
To help them achieve this ambitious target, the club charity is asking 40,000 supporters, the capacity of Goodison Park, to raise just £25 each and have devised a list of 25 easy and fun ways to raise the cash. Go to evertonfc.com/eauction to get involved. Prizes will be updated regularly.
Everton in the Community will celebrate its landmark birthday at the home fixture against Aston Villa on Saturday February 2.
Everton's upset about a lack of live Premier League coverage over the last year has been taken on board, with the cameras going to Goodison Park twice in March.
The latest TV schedules feature Everton’s home games against Manchester City and Stoke on Sky and ESPN after chairman Bill Kenwright blamed fewer live TV picks, worth £500,000 a time, for the reduction in turnover last season.
Everton’s frustration, during a period when they have played attractive football and stayed in the top tier of the division, is mainly directed at ESPN, who have shown only one Everton PL game in the last 18 months.
Their six TV appearances in the league this season contrasts with newly promoted West Ham enjoying 10 showings that have attracted a considerably smaller average viewing audience than those featuring David Moyes’ side.
An ESPN spokesman said: ‘We make our match picks as part of a complex process and cover all teams through the season.’
Lucas Radebe, the former Leeds United and South Africa captain, expects more Premier League players will follow Steven Pienaar and decide not to play in future African Cup of Nations because of its scheduling.
Everton midfielder Pienaar had been due to lead the Bafana Bafana challenge when the tournament kicks off in Johannesburg today, but he retired from international football in October saying his body could no longer stand up to the demands of both club and country.
The announcement caused uproar in South Africa, with the vice-president of the national FA, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, describing Pienaar's decision as "selfish and egotistical".
There will be just 15 Premier League players representing their countries over the next three weeks, down from the peak of 34 in 2008. Radebe expects more to follow suit unless the organisers, the African Football Confederation (CAF) changes the timing of the tournament to avoid the clash with the English season.
"It's a very difficult one," Radebe said. "For Pienaar to retire in that way was a real shame. I would have liked to see him play his final games for Bafana Bafana at the Afcon because it would have been a good stage to bow out on," said the former centre-back who was part of the South Africa side that won the African title on home soil in 1996.
"The Premier League is the most watched competition in the world and the local fans really look forward to seeing their heroes in action. It's a massive disappointment for them. I can understand why players make that decision, but there is too much pressure on them.
"Players in England know what side their bread is buttered on. The only way to change it is to bring the competition in line with the European leagues but that is something the organisers don't want to do. But now they are suffering because clubs know they will lose them for more than a month in the middle of the season and can be reluctant to let them leave."
South African President Jacob Zuma – renowned as a tough-tackling defender during his time as a prisoner on Robben Island – visited the national team this week.
He would have found a squad that contains just three players from English clubs: Kagisho Dikgacoi and Dean Furman ply their trade for Crystal Palace and Oldham Athletic, while Bongani Khumalo has yet to make a single appearance for Tottenham since joining in January 2011.
Of the victorious 1996 South Africa side, six players – Radebe, Andre Arendse, Mark Fish, Eric Tinkler, Shaun Bartlett and Phil Masinga – played in England. According to Radebe, who retired in 2005, that is a sign of how far Bafana have slipped in recent years.
"When I was still playing there were several of us in the Premier League, but things have changed," Radebe said. "I would love to see Bafana going all the way and emulate 1996. But I think we're still short in quality. The main objective is to get to the knockout stages but we will probably hit a brick wall from that point."