As you may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet around these parts recently. There’s little doubt that all of Everton nation is undergoing the calm before the Liverpool storm on the 14th. With that match on the horizon it remains a little difficult to get worked up about Norwich this weekend, or Sunderland (for the third time in short order) on Tuesday. And I’m no different. So, what’s an Everton writer to do? With over a week left until the game we all care about it’s too early to do the real strategic break down stuff. I’ve already spent a thousand words singing the praises of the FA cup, so I can’t go to that well again. Well, when all else fails just resort to negativity and lists.. So, after the jump a small handful of things I’m worried about as the semi-finals begin to approach.
1. Who will replace Steven Pienaar?
Since his creative return in January Pienaar has been the creative hub of the team. His ability to cut in off the wing, take people on, and create space for Leighton Baines to bomb down the wing is integral to Everton’s attack. But since he’s on loan from Tottenham he’s cup tied and unavailable for Wembley. Without him where will the offensive thrust come from (especially as Royston Drenthe’s mysterious disappearance from the team seems to show no signs of ending, although even if he were available it seems unlikely that Moyes would put such an uninterested defender on the field in such a mammoth match)? My preliminary guess is that Gueye will get the start in his place, in what will be by far the 21 year old Frenchman’s biggest appearance to date. The other option would be "wingers" of Coleman and Osman which leaves just a little bit to be desired in the athletic department.
2. What’s the deal with Cahill and Fellaini’s positioning?
In the last few matches Moyes has started fiddling around with Fellaini and Cahill. For stretches of time Moyes is having them switch with Cahill playing the more defensive role, and Fellaini getting reps playing off the striker, or as a second target man. And while I understand that there are possible advantages to that move, it’s not clear to me exactly why Moyes pulls the switcheroo when he does. Is he trying to maximize Fellaini’s disruptive power, and pushing him up to press against teams playing long balls over his head in the midfield? Or maybe he wants Fellaini up top to help receive long balls from the back and facilitate faster breaks forward. Or maybe, with a real striker in Jelavic, Moyes is trying to hide Cahill’s subpar abilities in the build-up. Whatever the reasons, so far the move has resulted in limited success and at times, like against Sunderland in the first leg of the quarter-finals, it has seriously backfired.
3. Luis Suarez
I don’t pity the men who have to referee that man. Seldom has one player been so good both at drawing fouls and pretending to be fouled. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse that Everton probably won’t have a single man responsible for watching him. On the one hand it may be easier for Suarez to find space, but conversely there won’t be one player for Suarez to spend the entire game baiting and flopping against in an attempt to get him sent off.
4. The Odds
In my experience when casinos are really good at getting to the right odds on a sporting event (they wouldn’t be in business for very long if they weren’t). When I see a line I disagree with I tend to assume that I, and not the casino, am missing something. Right now Liverpool is a slight favorite, and I don’t get it. They’ve lost six of their last seven, and only beaten what was effectively Everton’s B team. Everton seems like the clear favorite to me, so somebody needs to tell me what I’m missing. Or are Liverpool just such a public team that it distorts the line?
Anyway, I’ll cut this short today so I don’t ramble on and write a completely premature preview of the match itself. There’s plenty of time for that next week. For now we just have to sit impatiently through two matches and hope that Moyes keeps everybody in good form and avoids anything resembling a serious injury.