Time for Billy to take centre stage?

With Pienaar now departed there has been much discussion on who can fill the creative void left by the South African with names such as Eagles and Kranjcar mooted as potential replacements. There is a player closer to home though who is more than capable of plugging the gap….

No one would doubt Pienaar’s ability or his commitment but often there was no end product to a lot of his good work, particularly in terms of goal scoring. With goals in very short supply from Everton midfielders this campaign, Billy needs to come into contention.

Billy can get you a goal from nothing as was the case against Man Utd and Portsmouth last season.  Whilst he isn’t blessed with pace he has clever feet and can beat a player and shift the ball from one foot to the other as shown for Russia in the WC Playoff against Slovenia last season.  He is more direct and this is something we have lacked this campaign with our matches characterised by an abundance of possession but no end product with creating chances and goal scoring holding us back. Billy possesses great delivery from wide areas and a great shot.

Billy v Piennaar – Stats from when Billy joined the club.

It was clear from Moyes post match press conference on Saturday that he is tempted to push Fellaini forward for next weeks Cup tie with Chelsea after the impact he made in the final 20 minutes against West Ham. Moyes  started with Osman on the left against the Hammers as whilst he doesn’t quite have the technical ability of Pienaar, he certainly has the intelligence and movement to tuck in and enable Baines the freedom of the left touchline. If Moyes does wish to go with Felli advanced against Chelsea I would deploy Arteta as anchor, move Osman inside (in my opinion his best position) put Billy on the left and Fellaini playing off Saha. My only fear is that we are going to over use Fellaini and revert to an overly direct style of play.

My opinion is that we need Billy in the team, but in what position? Lets have a look at the options…….

Naturally a left footed player so can and has done a job  here in the past. Positives are that he can provide quality delivery and is capable of cutting in and shooting with his right foot which doesn’t pack as good a punch as his left but is still decent.  Negatively, he prefers to play on his left foot so would prefer to stay on the flank rather than tuck in on his right which was the key ingredient in Pienaar’s relationship with Baines. This season the left side would appear his most likely chance of first team selection.

The bulk of his goals have come from central positions, notably the strike against Portsmouth on the final day of the season but he also shows great composure inside the box – often deployed for the Russian national team in this role . Playing in a more advanced position would relieve him of greater defensive responsibility which comes further back in the field. Playing in this Riquelme style role, pace isn’t key so it would suit him well. He is also adept at threading balls through to a central striker, on average creating 1.5 goalscoring opportunities per game. With Cahill due back from international duty soon it is unlikely he will be given an opportunity here. Moyes has also stated in the press that he doesn’t see him being deployed here anytime soon.

Cutting in on his preferred left foot, right midfield would be his most natural position in terms of the style we play with wingers cutting inside. As was shown with the goal against Man United last season he is lethal in this area and can get a goal out of absolutely nothing.  The form of Seamus Coleman this season would probably inhibit his chances of getting the nod here but long term I would say this is the best bet to get the most out of Billy.

Pienaar: Some thoughts on his departure

Steven Pienaar’s transfer saga finally came to its inevitable conclusion today when theSouth African signed a big money move with Dirty Arry Redknapp’s Spurs.

Much has been made of the wage the pint sized schemer has been demanding and it looks as if the wage will top what we offered by £20k per week from the £50k that was on the table from us. Whilst his decision is by no means a surprise (if boyhood Blues like Jeffers & Rooney won’t stick around what chance a South African who probably hadn’t heard of Everton til he signed) it is sad that someone who has been pivotal in our evolution from  a hard working, organised team into one that plays more expansive, passing football is leaving to what will probably be a squad role at Spurs.

Pienaar could really play and his interplay with Baines has been our best attacking weapon for the last 3 seasons. Even though he hasn’t contributed one direct assist this season the movement he makes inside to create the space for Baines to bomb up the touchline to get his crosses in has led to Baines accruing 7 assists this campaign. He is a team player who had the rare combination of sublime skill matched with great determination and application, even during the latter days of his Everton career . The only thing you could perhaps level against him is that there is a lack of end product and he could be questioned positionally from a defensive point of view as opposition managers have exploited to our detriment.

The stats show that with him in the team in Premier League games we have a win rate of 37% whilst without him the figure is 40%, so I wouldn’t say he is as integral to us as, say Mikel Arteta whose win rate in the team is 44% compared to 37% when he isn’t featuring.

its going to be very hard to replace the South African especially given the poultry sums David Moyes will be given from Kenwright, probably a couple of quid and some complimentary tickets to a West End show will be the extent of our transfer wedge leaving us lagging behind even the likes of Stoke noawadays. To replace him in the current market you are looking up to £10m. Players linked so far include Eagles at Burnley which is hopefully just speculation. If we want to keep our left sided strategy we will need someone who can tuck in and play inside, not someone who will hug the touchline and look to get crosses into the box. We have Billy of course and he is surely going to be given the nod until the end of the season at least.

In conclusion, it’s going to be very hard to replace the South African midfielder. He gave us some great memories and was a joy to watch, but no player is bigger than the club and we need to move on quickly.