As part of our month long review of Everton's season, we are going to be breaking down each section of the squad by position and having a look at their performance. If you would like to get a look at our first part on defenders (written by Brian), you can click here.
Before the season began, the midfield was by far the most talented and deepest section of the squad. This was short lived however, with the ridiculous amount of injuries and lack of chemistry (due to lack of continuity).
The rest of the story and Midfield grades after the jump.
We started the season with about 10 players that could start in the midfield for us. The odd thing, though, was that most of these players could mainly play some type of central midfield. The only wingers were Steven Pienaar, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, and Seamus Coleman (and you could maybe throw in Leon Osman ad Victor Anichebe). Pienaar left us in December once it became known that we couldn't really compete for a European position and we needed to offload him to get some sort of fee.
Almost all of these players were injured, and many were injured for extended periods of time. I think this contributed to some lack of chemistry. Not to say that our squad doesn't have chemistry, but not playing with the same teammates for most of the season created some amount of disconnect that was clearly visible.
The most disappointing aspect of the midfield was the lack of creativity. Everton have struggled with creativity in the past. This is why we have a decent amount of possession but can never threaten for a goal. This lack of creativity seemed to be magnified by five times this season. I had really expected this aspect to be different because Mikel Arteta is usually the impetus of both structure and creativity. Arteta seemed to not know what to do with the ball except for the same predictable passes to the wingers.
The worst instances of lack of creativity can be witnessed in every single of Brian's "Top 5 Worst Games of the Season". Especially in the matches against Aston Villa and Bolton where we dominated possession but seemed to not understand how to score goals. When these spells come, an influential midfielder is supposed to spur attack and create chances. That just did not happen this season.
There were some bright spots though (Coleman), but overall I was extremely disappointed with the midfielders, even more so than the strikers because we actually had supreme talent in the midfield.
Thoughts and grades on each midfielder:
Steven Pienaar (N/A) - Pienaar gets an N/A mainly because he transferred midseason to Tottenham Hotspur. He was mediocre this season and should have probably been sold prior to the season so we could have gotten much more for him (but how were we supposed to know the squad was going to underachieve this much this year?). He seemed to disappear much more this season than in prior ones, but I can't really blame him. I think he knew his time at the club was ending and he had been playing continuous football for quite a while.
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (D-) - I have always been bullish on Bily. I have always thought he never got enough chances. I always thought that he would show all of us up by performing up to the level of all those flashes of brilliance he shows us every once in a while. Well, it just didn't happen. He loses possession way too much, his crosses are below par, and he seems to lack creativity (there's that word again). I still think he's a great talent (and he has shown great form in his time with the Russian national team), but he just may not be cut out for the Premier League. He disappears way too often and often gets outmuscled during challenges. Do I still like him? Yes. Has he been a disappointment? Absolutely. Can he be successful at Everton in the future? I'm extremely skeptical at this point and I think he has reached his peak in the Premier League.
John Heitinga (D+) - Heitinga has also been quite a disappointment. I can't completely blame him though because he was playing CB for Netherlands right before our season and seemed to look pretty good for them. For Everton, though, he is locked out of that position (with Jags and Distin in firm posession) and is resigned to more of a backup role in the defensive midfielder position. Heitinga looked kind of disjointed from the rest of the squad when he played. He didn't seem like he belonged. It's probably because that's not his natural position, but last season he had played much better, so I expected more from him. He get's the plus because he was never really expected to start at any position, and was essentially a glorified backup.
Seamus Coleman (A-) - The one major bright spot in the midfield. Coleman really did look dominant for most of the season. He made many of the big named left backs look foolish. The only reason he gets the minus is because his defense seemed to take a step back We have to remember that he was first considered a RB, but converted to winger. I'm assuming his defense will be back to par once he gets completely familiar with the winger position.
Mikel Arteta (C-) - I can't be too critical of Arteta because he really wasn't bad. But he just wasn't as influential as the "old" Arteta. The old Arteta was creative, set up the tempo, and was feared a shooter as well. This Arteta seemed like he was lost and didn't know how he used to do all those things before. Here's to hoping he recovers from his coma and turns back to his old self.
Marouane Fellaini (INC) - I give The Fro an incomplete because he was injured for most of the season. When he was laying, his form was a roller coaster ride. He would completely dominate some matches, and in some he would be off by a step and would always tackle late and lose possession. Too little information to really come up with a conclusion, but I'm betting that if he had more time we would have seen the dominant Fellaini that he showed last season. Stop getting injured Fellaini!
Leon Osman (B+) - Leon Osman is what Leon Osman always is. He is not exceptionally big or exceptionally skilled. But he is one hell of a hard worker and is willing to take on anyone. He is also fearless and will do the dirty work for the club. The beginning of the season was a little frustrating, but as the season went along Osman got more and more dominant. At one point near the end of the season, he was definitely the biggest threat to score. Every great team needs a player hard working utility player like Osman, but Osman sees to show that he might be that and much, much more.
Tim Cahill (B) - If it wasn't for two players, Everton would have been much closer to the relegation battle than anyone would have liked. One is Leighton Baines and the other is Tim Cahill. Cahill was our top scorer for the season even though he was injured for a lot for the second half. He just has a knack for a goal and really was able to play many different positions when people where injured. Ever since his injury, though, he wasn't nearly as effective, hence the B score.
Jack Rodwell (C) - This was supposed to be the year where Rodwell broke the barrier into the elite level. He wasn't even close. I blame Moyes for this though. Rodwell never had a set position and was put in sporadically. I still believe he can really explode into a star player, but he needs to be given a chance.
Phil Neville (B-) - Neville definitely lost a step this year, but was still a pretty good player. He didn't play too much midfield especially near the end of the season where he stepped into RB role. I think that he is definitely past his peak, but still a very influential player. He showed that he can't really make others around him better that much and his form is more dependent on others' form now.
Note: Gueye, and Anichebe have and can play in the midfield, I didn't include them in this list because they didn't spend the bulk of their time there or just didn't play enough.