As the season draws to a close I thought it would be a good idea to look back at how the main body of players have performed through the course of the season, says David Martin.
Assigning a rudimentary rating out of ten as well as some commentary and reasoning for it. It is something of a Herculean task to make a true judgment on how this season has panned out as once again it has been a season of two dramatically different halves. However, hopefully my ratings are reflective of their performance through the season as a whole and fair warning this is an epic so well done to anyone who gets to the end!
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Who is your 2011-12 Player of the Season?
- John Heitinga (38%, 451 Votes)
- Marouane Fellaini (23%, 266 Votes)
- Leighton Baines (16%, 189 Votes)
- Nikica Jelavic (9%, 104 Votes)
- Steven Pienaar (6%, 75 Votes)
- Sylvain Distin (5%, 55 Votes)
- Tony Hibbert (3%, 37 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,176
Anyhow, enough procrastination let us get down to the nitty gritty…
Tim Howard 6 – A very average season for Tim with few highlights but equally not too many lows. However, despite a shaky defence prior to the turn of the year, he must take some responsibility for our poor start with several goals conceded provoking debate as to whether he could have done better. Despite this there are also a number of games in which Tim has been nothing but solid and since the turn of the year he has seemed far more solid. His penchant for punching crosses has led to him being more e in set pieces although it isn’t pretty and his shot stopping can be phenomenal as evidenced by his instinctual, change of direction save against Fulham. It was Southallesque! Much of his improved confidence seems to stem from Heitinga’s restoration at central defence and this has been reflected in the trust he gives him with the ball and when marshalling the defence. Regardless of this the Tim Howard of 2012 is miles better than the one who started 2011!
Leighton Baines 8 – I think many of us, myself included are becoming increasingly guilty of taking Leighton for granted. He was included in the Premier league Team of the Year and has established himself as a regular England International putting some real pressure on Ashley Cole yet few Evertonians have even considered him for Player of the Season. Indeed he certainly has been as spectacular or impactful as he was last season. However, he still remains arguably our most important player and everything good about our play usually flows through him. This season hasn’t been one of massive high or low performances from Leighton but what it has been is one in which he has solidified his importance to us. Going forward he remains arguably our biggest threat but perhaps even more importantly, his defending has improved and he has refined his positioning and tackling. His forays forward do are tempered by some excellent defensive work and he has become a far more complete full back. Despite never really truly shining this season his dead ball ability has again proved invaluable and led to some memorable goals. Not to mention the man is a machine! Ninety-nine consecutive games is some achievement and resting him actually resulted in injury. David Moyes take note! I am guilty of gushing about the lad now so I better move on…
Phil Jagielka 5 – Despite being a favourite of mine I have to admit that Phil has disappointed for long periods during the season and his only really started to recover any sort of form in the last four or five games. He has gone from an irreplaceable centre back and future Everton Captain to a player who has attracted mutterings of discontent and, “Sell him to Arsenal” is something I have heard on several occasions during the season. Of course, there has been mitigating circumstances, injury has undoubtably taken its toll and at times it is hard to see that this is the same play who kept Torres at his peak in his pocket. However, it is still sad to see a man struggling for form and this has been highlighted by a number of mistakes. When Everton have needed a leader, a composed figure in central defence, Phil has been found wanting and has often been the one to put the defence under pressure with a poor pass, clearance or the thing that has become his moniker of late, a “hoof” upfield. There have been periods in a game were he has looked to be back to his best and few people throw a last-ditch tackle in like Phil. Sadly, these occasions have been few and far between. However, he does appear to have finally found some consistency and confidence with his Swansea performance in particular showing that he still has the ability to be a dominant force at the back. Hopefully performances such as this will continue into the new season as this is the Jagielka we need going forward, not the one we have seen for long periods this season.
Sylvain Distin 8 – during the opening months of the season were the vast majority of performances throughout the first eleven were dire and the defence in particular was guilty of several mistakes there was one man who gave us hope. Sylvain Distin was an absolute beast at the back dominating every forward he came up against. Dominant in the air and tackle, his strength and ability to Shepherd the ball out of play was the only thing keeping the score down. Shouts for Player of the Season have been more than justified as he has proved himself to be an unlikely gem of a signing while also endearing himself to fans of the field being the most interactive and open player on twitter. However, Sylvain had a 9 before one thing happened, that awful mistake in the Semi Final against those who will not be named. While I am not one of those who assigns our loss to this error, we rolled over and took that result regardless of the mistake, the fact remains that this was a cataclysmic error in the most important game of our season. It’s a testament to the man that it destroyed him, he apologised openly and has since put in a number of Professional performances both at centre and left back. This doesn’t change the fact that such an error from anyone else would be unforgivable. So close to a perfect season and still his best with us but such a shame it will be forever marred by this moment of madness.
John Heitinga 8 – it’s easy to forget that Johnny was having little to no impact at the start of the season. Drifting in and out the side in midfield and defence he wasn’t making an impression and seemed destined to once again be a periphery figure. However, injuries to Jagielka and Distin left David Moyes finally with no option but to give him a sustained run at centre back and the man rose to the occasion in quite spectacular fashion. I have always been of the opinion that Johnny was a quality centre back but so rarely have we seen him there since he came to Everton it is easy to forget that he is not just a crap midfielder! Thankfully he has once again reminded us of how good he can be while played were he feels most comfortable. Since January he has been a catalyst in transforming our fortunes in defence providing the command and reassurance from the back that Jagielka was not. His positional sense is second to none and his controlled aggression is something we had been sorely lacking. He also provided something none of our centre backs can, an ability to bring the ball out of defence and play a variety of passes that nearly always find their man. Dominant for long periods his importance to us has grown to the point were when Jagielka was fit, Johnny was rested rather than replaced. Mutterings of him being the next Captain are growing and if he can continue his form into the new season Everton might have found themselves quite the leader.
Tony Hibbert 8 – I am bound to get a few comments on this one but this has possibly been Tony’s best season with us. Going forward he has improved in leaps and bounds through the season providing a number of excellent crosses and being far more likely to be found on the overlap. He will never be found trying to beat a man but he has even been found in the opposing box on a few occasions and accidental or not he hit the bar! Defensively as consistent and crisp in he tackle as ever he has been excellent for long periods and has rightly been first choice ahead of Neville for much of the season. Despite a slight blip in form due to the annoying tendency to stand off his man, Tony Hibbert has been good enough that there are even whispers in the media that he should have had an England call up by now. Get Hibbo on the plane!
Phil Neville 5 – This season has seen many the beginning of the end of Phillip Neville as an automatic pick in the Everton team. Unable to establish himself at right back he has become what he perhaps should always have been, a utility player best utilised when injuries dictate it. His influence as a Captain is without doubt although the, “We win more games when he plays” myth has been well and truly dispelled this year. On the pitch he has been decidedly average to poor for long periods although he is still capable of good performances “on his day” those days are increasingly rare. He is now “safer” in central midfield than at right back if often ineffective. Evaluating Phil’s season is difficult as separating his worth as a Captain compared to his worth as a player is not easy. However, this season does highlight that, at least on the field, he is entering the twilight of his career rapidly.
Leon Osman 6 – Mr Purple-Patch has once again had an inconsistent season. A player of tremendous ability he has been poor and brilliant in equal measures, sometimes within the same game! However, his importance to the team was highlighted during Arteta’s departure were, devoid of creativity it was Leon’s job to fashion chances. At times a load that was too heavy for his tiny frame to carry, he has still proves integral to the way we play and with good players around him, unlocks defences and creates chances as good as anyone. When given a free or more advanced role Leon has shown moments of excellence and although the, “our Iniesta” comments are often used as a source of ridicule, he has shown vision that few players are capable of. Sadly he has also had patches were he loses the ball or trickles yet another shot at the opposition but that is what you get with Leon.
Marouane Fellaini 8 – It is great to see the big man achieving a level of consistency in his performances this year. Even when we have been doing poorly, he has been the one in the midfield that has looked hungry and asserted his authority. Whereas in previous seasons he has been brilliant for the odd game and then largely in and out of games, this season he has been playing to a high standard and putting in more and more dominant performances. Rarely has he lost possession and he has been the catalyst in turning many moves in defence into attack. His control and passing has improved and his forward play has been far better, so much so that he has not looked out of place in an advanced role of late. However, his best form is evident upon the signing of Darron Gibson, a midfielder who has the discipline and positional sense to allow Marouane to be the box to box midfielder he needs to be. With less petulance evident in his play he has grown dramatically as a player this season and has become arguably our best player.
Darron Gibson 7 – A signing that was largely greeted with total disdain, Darron has gone on to convert those who hate him into ardent fans. His recent injury gave many Evertonians cause for concern as he has been the lynchpin in our midfield allowing Fellaini to roam and as a result excel. His understated performances do not wow but his impact on how we play is without question and he has shown an ability to find a forward pass that can only improve with confidence. It’s also nice to have a player who can take a hard shot from the midfield for a change! There are questions around his stamina but for 500k he could well turn into one of David Moyes’s best signings.
Jack Rodwell 5 – Despite still only being young, it feels like I have been saying this will be Jack’s breakthrough season for years. However, I actually believed it this year and with Arteta leaving it was all set up for him. Sadly what happened instead is a number of lacklustre performances peppered with the odd moment and match of promise. When he played for England we saw the Jack we saw against Manchester United when he truly came onto the scene. Full of promise and attacking threat it drew the plaudits of the media and fans. Sadly rather than build on that an injury soon followed, one which once again he has struggled to recover from. He’s still young and he still has time on his side but his injury record and inability to hold down a regular place, or excel in any one position is starting to become a real concern.
Seamus Coleman 4 – It has been a really difficult season for Seamus and I can’t help but feel for the lad. He has struggled with injury and form throughout the year and whenever he has taken to the pitch has looked short of fitness. A bigger concern however is that he also appears to have been found by the opposition. The pacey “knock and run” style that took him through an exciting debut season is no longer enough and his lack of craft, guile and final ball has been shown up this season. Perhaps even more worryingly it isn’t the case anymore that he is a shoe in for future right back. Defensively he still looks clumsy as evidenced by his costly foul in the FA Cup semi and he is looking no more than a bench player at the moment. Again he is young and even if he never gets any better he cost 60K for Christ’s sake! Even so a poor season for Seamus.
Steven Pienaar 9 – Despite only being with us since January it is like he was never away. In fact he might have been even better. With something to prove Steven has provided guile and endeavour in midfield once again and you only gave to look at how much we missed him in the Cup games to see the instant impact he has had on how we play. He is without doubt the most important signing David Moyes can make during the summer
Tim Cahill 5 – Oh Tim, whatever has happened to you? An icon, a great bloke and one of David Moyes’s greatest ever signing has had what can only be described as a piss poor season. The goals have largely dried up, and corner flags around the league remain largely untarnished. Even when he has found himself in the perfect position he has made glaring misses that have looked increasingly more desperate. His form has deserted him so quickly that he has gone from being a mainstay to a periphery figure in the first eleven. However, since January he has started to show a little bit more and has shown some sign of returning form. The signing of Jelavic and even the inclusion of a more physical Stracqualarsi rather than Saha led to him being more involved and of late he has played well in a deeper role showing that there might be life in the old dog yet. Tim might not be a regular starter anymore but his passion and ability to find a goal can still be useful in future seasons it all depends how happy he will be with not being the main man anymore.
Nikica Jelavic 9 – I can’t remember the last time a striker made such an instant impact and his goal record since arriving speaks for itself. There is always a little trepidation when a player comes from an “inferior” league but Nikica has done exactly as he intended, proved himself. His touch and vision are second to none but more importantly we finally have a striker who knows were the goal is and can finish instinctually. After watching an impotent Louis Saha this lad has been a revelation. Good in the air but with good feet and impeccable timing in and around the box he has been a revelation. The amount of first touch goals he has scored is ridiculous. The only criticism levelled at him is that he goes down too easy but in his first half season in the Premier League he has been nothing short of spectacular. It is all set up for this man to be a Legend at this club, he is that good.
Shane Duffy 7 – When he was recalled from his loan it was cited as more of a desperation move due to injury than anything else but he put in a string of performances that showed promise and didn’t let anyone down. He is more of in the Jagielka mode of old-fashioned, no-nonsense centre back than the cultured Heitinga but his aerial presence and strength in the tackle as well as decent positioning bodes well for the future. Mentored through his spell in the limelight by Heitinga, Shane has proved he will be at the very least good backup in the future for when Distin hangs up his boots and perhaps he can be even better?
Sir Landon of Donovan 9 – When all hope seemed to be lost he once again arrived and almost single-handedly gave us some belief back. In such a short spell he provided everything we had been lacking. Pace, directness and crossing he gave us it all. There were questions over whether he should have come back and whether he could perform as well the second time round. He couldn’t, he was better! Many point to Pienaar, Gibson and Jelavic’s arrival as the reasons for our season turning around and they are a huge part of that but Landon gave Goodison its voice back.
Royston Drenthe 6 – From the sublime to the ridiculous Royston Drenthe has been both the bane and love of every Evertonians life. On his arse sulking one minute and then a mesmerising strike or dazzling run the next. However, he was signed with a reputation for lunacy, for being totally unreliable and the longer time went on the more this side of Royston reared its ugly head. No more was this highlighted than by his ridiculous failure to turn up for training sessions and subsequent omission from the Semi-Final squad. Many people still have an issue with David Moyes for this but I don’t blame him, I blame Royston for letting us down and letting himself down. It will always been a case of the Van Der Meyde’s with Royston and the what might have beens but I can’t say I am sorry to see the back of him.
Victor Anichebe 7 – Another season blighted by injury but another season with elements of promise and arguably his best season if shortened for a while. He has looked far more of a goal threat this year and has shown more craft and vision than I expected. His minutes to goals ratio is actually very good and he has shown that if he can actually stay fit for more than thirty seconds and keep off his arse for more than ten minutes he might have a real future with us. However, as always with Victor it’s still a lot of ifs and buts.
Denis Stracqualarsi 6 – Some absolutely horrible rumours and criticism abounded around this lad but considering he has thus far cost us nothing I think he has proved to be a pretty astute punt from David Moyes. He’s not a great footballer by any stretch but people calling him the Argentinian Brett Angell are wide of the mark. At a time we were struggling for form he scored some important goals and through sheer bloody mindedness, grit and determination he endeared himself to many Evertonians for his Manchester City performance alone. One of the seasons great moments was the standing ovation he got and he has shown that he does have some ability to pass and play a ball. He might never play for us again but he has been a positive inclusion for us this season and if nothing else will leave me with fond memories and good wishes.
James Mc Fadden 6 – I laughed, you laughed we all laughed when he came back to us. This balding and overweight figure in the last chance saloon would be lucky to get a game in the Championship. Hang on a minute though, Moyes has brought him on and he has done okay! Not brilliant granted but better than Coleman and at least he is a wide man. Whether Jimmy Mc should get another year with us is a different matter although I wouldn’t be as distraught as I thought I would be if he did. In his few performances with us he hasn’t shamed himself and that’s far better than any of us expected.
Ross Barkley 5 – Why don’t we play him more Moyesy? Bloody hell James Mc Fadden/Osman/Anichebe over Barkley? Well early in the season he got games and he looked far from ready. He was undisciplined and made several mistakes that dented his confidence. He hasn’t shown anything in the reserves to say he is ready for more than a cameo role either. The lad clearly has bags of ability and he may well be our future but look at Rodwell and Anichebe above and be thankful that he is being introduced slowly and carefully. He missed a whole season with injury and it may well be that he is unleashed next year, this year however it was clear that pulling him out the firing line was the correct thing to do.
Apostolos Vellios 7 – The poor lad carried the burden of being our highest goalscorer for a couple of months and the excitement around him built drastically despite no one having a clue who he was prior to that! He clearly has a lot of potential as a targetman and has a decent touch and eye for the goal. As his game time increased though so did his apparent weaknesses and it came as no surprise that David Moyes sent him back to the reserves and into the coaching hands of Duncan Ferguson. Hopefully with less expectation he will get more time next season and continue to progress from what has been a promising start.
Right I think I better stop before I start giving the catering marks out of ten. Congratulations to anyone who stuck it out to the end and if you did I would be interested to hear your thoughts, comments and disagreements.