The French Connection Too

Well there we have it, we’ve only gone and hired Patrice Evra an out of work Frenchman who has a penchant for walloping his own fans. Even Eric Cantona had the decency to only launch himself foot first into the opponents fans, so are we expecting trouble from our new chap who ‘joue à gauche et à l’arrière’ (Plays at Left Back) and will he be left back in the changing room more often than not?

There is no doubt that he was an accomplished player for Manchester United and even for Juventus winning twenty plus trophies along the way, however the big question is will he be able to deliver for us, considering his age and his lack of match fitness.

We still employ Cresswell in that area of the pitch, whilst the disgraced Masuaku will return within a few games…so one has to ask whether we needed Monsieur Patrice and will his introduction upset the string of onions around the manager’s neck?

He may indeed be the gregarious character that may inject some fresh energy into our squad, but do we really need an ‘Instagram Hero’ shouting “I Love This Game!” every Monday morning…I don’t think so!

What we need is someone who can be a professional, hit the ground running at the Premier League level, pace and compliment our squad and starting eleven. Does he have those qualities? Only time will tell but surely there will be an acclimatisation period and whens that is over…it might be too late to rely on him and the squad for a recovery that would see us clear the drop zone.

My reluctance to be overly enthused has nothing to do with our recent signings in particular but it smacks of desperation after a poorly planned transfer window. We should have identified targets in November and have had them lined up, ready to sign at the beginning of January…but we didn’t. Instead we floundered around hoping that the existing squad could cope and rise above the surrounding gloop…but they didn’t, well not with any stark contrast.

We all knew that an over reliance on a few individuals to perform to a higher standard, week in-week out, was a recipe for disaster unless we had the quality in depth to smooth out any injury and suspension ripples. We all saw this months ago but not enough was done to reinforce the squad…so here we are trying to justify the latest signings, hoping and praying that they will be a success. Doesn’t really sound like a master plan now does it?

As for Evra, he has the potential engine and quality that would afford us greater success down the left hand side. Linking up with teammates to make bold moves forward and have the experience to find a pass or a cross early to our strikers who would welcome the attention they have yearned for.

The question remains whether his defensive qualities will let him down, will his age and recent lack of game time be telling and will the team suffer as a consequence. Moyes has some difficult weeks ahead to try to find a balance in the team that will enable him to play our best players together with any degree of success.

Moyes has maintained his defensive posturing since his arrival and for the most part he has succeeded in making us harder to beat and be more resolute, however the white elephant still looms large in the room. How does he convert resilience into offensive fortitude?

I feel that although Evra is a good signing to bolster the short term tissue grade of the squad, he isn’t so much the right player to fill the gaping holes that we have in midfield, especially in the holding midfield role.

When Bilic was at the wheel, he was repeatedly lambasted for fielding players in unfamiliar positions. Now Moyes has been forced into a similar predicament and one has to wonder whether the introduction of this type of player will only compound the issue. Will he be asking the likes of Cresswell & Masuaku to play alternative roles to accommodate Evra and will that be a comfortable switch for them? Will they be able to perform with any degree of success and will these cogs be efficient enough to get the machine purring again…if it ever did in recent memory?

As for Evra himself, he has fallen out with Moyes when at Manchester United but that shouldn’t stop him rekindling a good working relationship with Hernandez who served under Sir Alex Ferguson during the same period. Perhaps this is the Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five plan that Moyes is trying to implement. To find willing participants to assist Hernandez to become the forward we hoped he might become at West Ham. Joao Mario may yet be a willing servant in that regard but if he can be assisted by Evra, then the good times may eventually materialise at the London Stadium.

As a rule I do not approve of short term hiring…it smacks of zero hours contracts in which nobody really feels comfortable, secure or confident that they can develop in their role. We know that there are questions over the future of Moyes, so perhaps the Evra move is the correct strategy that will finally bring some composure to our play. Perhaps this is the time to let the old heads lead the line alongside Noble and a steely Collins to show the young and indifferent that there is a proper way to do our playing business. Maybe this signing in the crossroads at which we stand will lead us to better days or maybe lead us into Dante’s basement of sins.

Moyes has rolled the dice here, even though he may not be the man with the grand plan and may merely be the puppet for a thrifty ownership. He may have donned his porkpie hat and zoomed over to Marseille like a modern day Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle to track down his French target, but this could be another painful journey plagued by obstinance, cruel addictions and failing systems. He may encounter many obstacles before the end of the season but I would like to think that this French Connection may serve us and the rest of the team well too.
By Alf Gasparro 

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