Time to go, Marouane

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Firstly, this isn’t a knee jerk reaction to the truly dire events which un-folded at Goodison Park at the weekend. I drafted this a month or so ago but have been too bone idle to get it into some kind of shape for public consumption.   Nor is this an anti-Fellaini rant; I don’t mind him as a player and think he’s been a useful performer in the side during his 4 ½ year spell on Merseyside. However, his overall impact on the side has been over-hyped, particularly this season.

For a while now, the feeling generally given off by the Belgian and his ‘camp’ is that life at Goodison is as welcome as a night in the company of James Corden. The booing vs Wigan was partly down to him turning his back on the play and his usual wayward passing but also a signal of the growing resentment many fans feel towards him for this continued lack of commitment and positioning for a move away from the club. It’s worth noting that in the two seasons prior to last season the side had a better winning record with Fellaini not in the side.

In terms of his contribution on the pitch, the negative impact of his game on Jelavic was documented in this piece last week and there is little doubt there is limited chemistry between the duo with just one assist for Fellaini this year for his misfiring forward partner.  Post match on Saturday, Martinez basically said Wigan’s plan was to stop us playing this long style at the source by pressing our full backs….a plan that was executed ruthlessly.  One of the most fluid games we have played since the post new year slump was the first half vs West Brom when Fellaini played deeper and the attacking midfield trio of Osman, Mirallas and Pienaar interchanged fluidly to great effect.

Perhaps a more classic ‘number ten’ type player who can supply Jelavic could cure the Croatian’s alarming slump in front of goal.

As an anchor midfielder he is very decent at regaining possession and can shield the ball very well, but actually on the ball he is limited. He hasn’t got the ability in his locker to distribute long from deep positions like Gibson, nor is he capable of playing an incisive through pass like Steven Pienaar in the advanced midfielder role.

His unorthodox style in what is a different twist on the classic number ten role  enables us an outlet and link man in the final third who can ‘get in peoples faces’ when he is arsed, which isn’t often. However, he is no way a dynamic forward and his influence is often easy to negate, as the limited Phil Jones recently showed. With the exception of United he has regularly struggled to make an impact in the final third against any of our big rivals in years gone by.

That be said, he gives us a credible ‘Plan B’ option of going long when Plan A of engineering 2 v 1 ‘s down the flanks either isn’t on or isn’t working.  He is also more adept as a ‘back to goal’ target man than say Cahill, as his volume of touches (roughly double) in the opposing half compared to the Aussie testifies. However, we can often over burden this route and it can be all too predictable at times.

Mentality wise, the Belgian is incredibly vulnerable and his attitude lately quite frankly stinks the place out. The Stoke red card was a complete joke and it wasn’t the first time this season his temperament has been called into question. In countless other games – particularly on the road – at the likes of Wigan and West Brom he has been dropped deeper to mitigate the risk of him getting sent off for retaliation.

In Saturday’s game he mentally through the towel in early and was again taken out of the firing line to prevent a probable second yellow and another suspension. In the WBA and Norwich games his focus and concentration deteriorated alarmingly as a result of the physical questions asked by old school groc opponents such as Caldwell and Bradley Johnson and as a consequence his set piece marking late on in these games cost us vital goals, a trick he also served up in the fa cup surrender to Liverpool last season. Fellaini is supposed to be our big game player but seems unable to do the business against even the most limited operatives in the division. Since January he has been going through the motions and is now more so a liability, a human time-bomb waiting to blow.

From a financial point of view, it’s unlikely we could afford to keep him anyway.  Signing contracts are no longer enough for the modern day player who now also crave a mid contract loyalty bonus in the form of a pay rise otherwise they will bugger off to someone who will pay. The racist from across the park is at least pretending he wants to hang around.

Fellaini’s current deal of £75,000 per week runs for another 3 seasons but with him looking for a bump-up, if he is forced to have to carry on his personal hell playing for Everton (poor Marouane) the deal would cost the club around £15.5m from now until til 2016. That’s a frightening amount to spend on a limited player only to be told on a daily basis  by him, his annoying arl fella or his gimp agent that he wants to play for a gang of absolute weapons who can give him what he craves – Champions League football – or in other words a lorry load of £50 notes.  If a deal was done it would equate to (including wages saved) the tune of nearly £40m in the club coffers, or three decent players….but that’s a big ‘if’. Personally I’d rather we took the money and invested in some younger players keen to make their mark on the game, a bit like when Fellaini first rocked up on these shores.

Whether there will quite be the stampede for his services remains to be seen as there is more than a hint of ‘jack of all trades master of none’ about his overall play.

Do you remember the Fellaini that dominated midfield against Arsenal or Chelsea?  Me neither.

Would Chelsea really spend £25m on a midfielder cum second forward and hit long balls up to him when they could afford to have a specialist in each position? It’s clearly unlikely.

Who we replace him with will be interesting and will probably depend on who is in the Toffee’s dugout next season. If Moyes stays he will want someone like for like I’d imagine, whereas a new boss may be inclined to go for a more classic second forward who unlike Fellaini is better with his feet than his head.

EB

Transfer crossroads loom for midfield stars

Speculation continues to surround the impending transfer activity out of L4 this summer. Boss David Moyes gave weight to this recently when he confirmed what most fans knew already that we have no money to buy new players, with the knock on effect being we are left vulnerable to other clubs picking off our best talent. Speculation has focused on our two midfielders, Jack Rodwell & Marouanne Fellaini. Whilst I retain the hope that we can keep these top young talents at the club, it is looking increasingly like one of them could be sacrificed. This article will take a look at the impact both players have had in the last 3 seasons and which is the most expendable asset and will look at the squad balance in general …..

Statistical Analysis

A brief synopsis of the below table would say that Fellaini is a much more effective presser than Rodwell, making a successful tackle every 35 minutes – Rodwell takes nearly double the amount of time to win a challenge and has a lower tackle completion than the curly haired general. Rodwell is elegant on the ball and has a better passing completion than Fellaini. Crucially though, Fellaini has more incision to his passing in the final third, creating a goalscoring chance for a teammate every 92 mins, something which takes Rodwell significantly longer to do.

The below table is based on Premier League games only……..


Market Value + Contracts

Both players are on comparable 5 year contracts for around £30,000, worth in the region of £8m over the duration of the deal. Rodwell is younger (19) and crucially he is English, a variable which in this country distorts transfer values massively… the transfer of the highly mediocre Nigel Reo Coker for £10m springs to mind. Rodwell is often compared to Rio Ferdinand during his formative years at WHU in terms of being a classy, ball playing defender, although this comparison is skewered by the fact that all of Rodwell’s displays in blue have been in midfield. Ferdinand made the move to Leeds at the age of 22 for £18.5m in 2000, then moved onto Man U for £30m 2 years later. The figure of £25m is mooted for Rodwell but I’d be surprised if somebody would fund this given his inability so far to add beef to the clear potential he possesses. Deals of £15m up front with add ons going up to £20m would in my view be more likely.

Fellaini’s contract only has 2 yeas left to run, expiring in summer 2013. After the £15m investment in him the club will be loathe to lose him at a loss. People mention Pienaar and the club allowing him to run down his contract, but this investment was just £2m and thus incomparable to the Big Belgian.  I would seriously question whether the current board would allow Fellaini to enter the last year of his deal with no contract signed and therefore I think they would listen to offers for him to guarantee they get a return on their investment. If this materialized I think we could command a deal worth in the region of £22-25m with the bulk of this paid up front.

The following charts are based on league and cup games each player has started over the last 3 seasons…with Fellaini having the edge in terms of % games won.


Rodwell has recently signed improved terms on a deal that runs up until 2015. Therefore there is no risk currently that he could walk away for a reduced fee. The risk with Rodwell though is that should  he fail to build on his reputation as has been the case this season  for another year, this could lead to any inflated fee being reduced.

Unbalanced squad

The squad at the moment is very unbalanced. Central midfield is an area we are strong – this season Fellaini, Arteta, Rodwell, Heitinga, Neville and Osman have all played there and you also have Cahill who can play there and young Ross Barkley who will be ready later this year. It is a position we are top heavy in, whereas upfront we have just 3 strikers currently available – one is not competent for this division, one is still very much a work in progress and the other has fantastic ability but is injury prone and will be 33 when the new campaign kicks off.

If we could ship out Heitinga this summer it would bring in a decent fee from his sale, albeit not for a massive sum since his stock has dipped since his appearance in last year’s World Cup Final. Removing him from the wage bill would remove one of the clubs top earners -reported to be on £70k per week – which would potentially save the club £11m in wages from the remaining 3 years of this deal. We also have £35,000 per week from Yakubu which will be skimmed off the wage bill in the summer, plus a moderate fee for the Nigerian forward.

Should we cash in, it could give us the opportunity to bolster the forward line and bring more balance to the squad. Moyes will be pushing for the fees recouped to be ploughed back into his transfer kitty, with powerhouse 21 year old Venezuelan striker Rondon the #1 target. Moyes has visited Malaga to watch the man who has 12 La Liga goals to his name this term. Rondon has a 20m euro buy out clause in his contract, but crucially like with the Fellaini deal, would be available at a reasonable wage package and offer the potential for future sell on value.

Conclusion

Fellaini has played a significantly more vital role to the team and if you were to look at who would make the bigger impact next season, you would have to go with Fellaini. After what happened with Rooney, Lescott and Gosling, you don’t really expect loyalty from players nowadays, and conceivably both of these current players could be on the move in the coming years – therefore if we are looking at short term, I would say Fellaini is the best option if we can keep him.