1. Icon Status Assured
Most importantly, Cahill walks away from the club with his status as an icon very much intact. Granted, he had considerable limitations to his game in comparison to other icons in the club’s history- particularly with the ball at his feet – but he was able to consistently bridge this technique deficit with a ferocious competitive edge. He had sublime agility and aerobic fitness as he showed notably at Bolton and Chelsea with scissor kicks of the highest order. His spring and movement in the box is what he will be most remembered for and he consistently ‘showed up’ in the big away games – something few have done in the Moyes era – regularly scoring at the grounds of all the top sides and becoming the 4th highest goalscorer from midfield – and the top scorer with his head – since the inception of the premier league.
It’s the competitive edge fans loved most about the talismanic Cahill, reminiscent as it was of the man who schooled him in what it means to play for efc, Duncan Ferguson. Like his predecessor, even during times of dire displays and struggle, you always felt we had a chance with Cahill in the side. Opponents feared him also and with the exception of Drogba, the likes of Vidic and Kompany never looked more uncomfortable as when they were up against the Aussie and his repertoire of elbow’s and general snide behaviour.
Whilst the transfer fee of around £1m doesn’t leave us flush it does shift around £7m in wages/add ons off the wage bill over the next 2 years. Whether we will see any of this cash remains to be seen but given Moyes end of season talk about being able to trade it would appear he will be allowed to redistribute some of the cash towards new players or in tying younger players to longer deals.
The removal of this £8m from the clubs balance sheet must surely precipitate some kind of re-investment in the squad in areas it is most required. With the Yobo deal nearly done there should be enough breathing space to bring in Pienaar and one more. For me, it has to be someone who can offer what we most lack; speed, the ability to dribble, create chances and – given the age composition of our squad – someone ideally between the age of 22-25. Hoilett at Blackburn would spring to mind as an ideal buy however his wages are a major issue.
3. Fellaini off the leash
Cahill struggled this season as the stats above show and he had the look of a player who had given everything he had to the cause and had little left in the tank. Tellingly, for the second season running our win % was greater with Cahill not in the side than it was when he was present. The limitations of his game on the ball meant dropping back into a deeper midfield slot was never going to work given that he is neither a deep lying midfield playmaker or is particularly strong in the tackle to play the role of destroyer.
When Fellaini has started in Cahill’s midfield – forward pivot role last season we scored 2.3 goals per game with the Belgian scoring or assisting 5 goals in the process in these games alone. The team’s goals per game ratio drops to just 1.1 goals when Fellaini hasn’t played there. Cahill has played this role with significantly less end product ( just 2 goals and 2 assists for the season in the league).
4. Style of Play
Cahill moving on gives us the chance to develop our playing style. With Cahill, we are often stuck in a rigid 4-4-1-1 given the fairly specific role he played. With this no longer a factor there is more scope to develop a blend between 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-3-1 with attacking midfielders such as Pienaar, Osman, Naismith and long term Barkley - all interchangeable and capable of playing left, right or centre. With Cahill in the side the option was always there to play more direct and his limitations in terms of vision in the advanced midfield role meant we struggled to create chances against sides who come to Goodison looking for a point. Whilst his spring was superb he lost more headers than he won so the tactic was often to play for second balls or win free kicks – which is quite a reactive strategy. We now have the opportunity to play a more fluid, proactive game feeding Jelavic on the ground.
5. More time for the pups?
Cahill was one of the veterans of the squad along with Neville and Distin and as we discussed on EB towards the end of the season, of the older players in the group the Aussie probably provided the least in terms of output. The age composition of the squad is lob sided – bags of in experienced youth and a lot of older heads - and given the finances we can’t simply go out and spend £20m on replacing this trio so it has to be done incrementally. Cahill’s departure means the likes of Barkley and Junior can expect more game time this season which has to be seen as a positive. Cahill was a massive presence off the field at the club and has talked in the past about how he has educated younger players about the clubs history and traditions in the same way Ferguson and Stubbs did for him when he arrived back in 2004. This should give the opportunity for players in the mid age group such as Fellaini, Baines and Hetinga the chance to take on more responsibility.
The deal is beneficial for both the club and player and gives us over a month to enhance the squad prior to the transfer deadline. On a sentimental note, it’s sad as Cahill was one of our own and a great servant who understood what it means to pull on the blue shirt, however sentimentality won’t get you 10 goals this season. After 68 goals and nearly 300 appearances for the club, Cahill leaves with his head held high with his position in the clubs history secure. I’ve no doubt he will take the MLS goalscoring and ‘most fouls’ charts by storm in equal measure.