Everton: The Afro-Shaped Hole In Our Midfield Will Mean Defeat Against QPR

Marouane Fellaini has been Everton's outstanding player of the season so far. But with pensioner Phil Neville taking his place in midfield the Champions League dream could take a hit vs QPR....
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Marouane Fellaini has been Everton's outstanding player of the season so far. But with pensioner Phil Neville taking his place in midfield the Champions League dream could take a hit vs QPR....

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Everton: The Afro-Shaped Hole In Our Midfield Will Mean Defeat Against QPR

It’s reaching that point in the season when most Evertonians will be expecting our blistering start to the campaign to come to a shuddering halt. Hidden in the darkest recesses of our collective minds, the part that we try our hardest to suppress, is a little voice telling us that this is as good as it’s going to get; seven games in and fourth in the table.

We don’t share the mindset of fans that follow the bigger clubs, who believe that a good start can only get better. Nor do we possess the ability enjoyed by the supporters of our neighbours Liverpool, who seem able to dismiss the reality staring them in the face and believe that Champions League qualification is just around the corner. Instead, we are incurable pessimists, always believing that success will never last and that failure and disappointment awaits us with open arms and a gleeful smile.

It’s a mentality that followers of more successful clubs often can’t understand. But then how could they? When your definition of failure is not qualifying for the Champions League rather than nearly being relegated then it’s perhaps understandable that they often look at you blankly.

So, like the majority of football fans, an army for whom silverware and proper European adventures are but a distant dream, Evertonians are conditioned to believe that lady-luck is a fickle slut, who will desert us in the blink of an eye.

Mark Hughes’ approach to the summer transfer window, during which he greedily gobbled up almost every player available, regardless of advancing age or suitability, is so far failing to yield results

And what better place is this to happen than Loftus Road, home of the least impressive club in the Premiership?  QPR have had a dismal start to the season, losing to big teams and lesser ones.

Their current form and league position seem to suggest that Mark Hughes’ approach to the summer transfer window, during which he greedily gobbled up almost every player available, regardless of advancing age or suitability, is so far failing to yield results.

Granted, the team has had a few injury set-backs. But being bottom of the league can’t just be attributed to the odd missing player.

The main problem for Hughes is that by stuffing a squad full of old-men he’s removed the hunger from his sides. Most of his elderly signings would probably much rather be tending to their allotments or putting their feet-up with a nice cup-of-tea and an episode of Columbo, than battling it out against the likes of City or West Ham.

There will be a big afro-shaped hole in the Everton eleven this weekend

On paper at least, there’s only one way this fixture should go. Everton are one of the form teams in the league and QPR a prime candidate for relegation. It should be an easy win for the Blues. And that’s why it won’t be and why QPR will probably walk away with all three points.

Not that this gloomy prediction outlook is entirely a product of my ingrained pessimism. There will be a big afro-shaped hole in the Everton eleven this weekend, one created by the absence of the midfield colossus and fourth member of the Supremes, Marouane Fellaini.

It’s hard to underestimate just how important Fellaini has been to Everton’s bright start to the season. In part, his massive contribution is attributable to his sudden improvement in form. While never a slouch on the field and always capable of putting in a decent performance, this season Fellaini seems to have matured into the player that David Moyes must have seen possible when he signed him back in 2008.

But he’s also become something of a lynchpin to the way that the ‘new-look’ Everton are playing this season. And that’s ‘new-look’ in the sense of being new and not a reference to the tatty clothes shop of the same name. If anything, Everton are probably more akin to Burton; clothes for men who are long past their prime but steadfastly refuse to accept it via the purchase of clothes that they consider to be ‘hip’, even if nobody else does.

Marouane has become the team’s fulcrum, its beating heart, the engine powering the Everton ‘steam-train-of-success’.

Where the ‘old-look’ Everton won games by attrition, wearing down the opposition’s will to live in the process, the ‘new-look’ Everton only does that some of the time. For the rest of it, the side mixes pace with long balls, much of it flowing through Fellaini. Marouane has become the team’s fulcrum, its beating heart, the engine powering the Everton ‘steam-train-of-success’.

But the game against QPR will find the blues without this towering presence for the first time this season. Having picked up a knock on international duty, Marouane will side-lined for a while (possibly even missing next week’s all important derby).

And if the loss of Fellaini is not bad enough, his absence also leaves the rest of the midfield dangerously free of quality talent. With the much underrated Darron Gibson currently recovering from an injury, it means that David Moyes will once again have to turn to Phil Neville to adopt an unfamiliar role in the centre of the park.

The only possible benefit that this could give us, would be if Everton’s very own elder statesman spent the game chatting to QPR’s many elderly players, reminiscing about the war, the price of toffee and why youngsters today have no respect. If that happened then there’s a chance Everton could sneak in a few goals while these pensioners were distracted.

Failing that, I’m pretty sure that the absence of Marouane and our inherent lack of luck will mean a probable defeat today. That after all is the Everton way.

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