One Man Gang

For those of us that can remember Jags´ debut back in 2007, the thought of another team paying anything for him is laughable.

Watching his woeful attempts at playing in the centre of midfield, many questioned why Moyes had brought him to the Club in the first place.

Such has been the progress that Jags has made at Goodison, that he has been linked constantly with a move to the artisans of the Emirates in a multi-million pound deal. Along the way he has turned into a wonderful centre-half, marshalling the Blues´ back line to top half finishes, Europa Cup runs and an FA Cup Final, culminating with a call up to the England squad.

Although not at his best last season, he was still a consistent and committed performer at the heart of the Everton rearguard. A man who makes few mistakes, Jags is crucial to the way that Everton play and it is a measure of his improvement at the Club that anything less than perfect is seen as a disappointment.

Last summer, he was the subject of a bid of around £12 million from Arsene Wenger in an attempt to shore up Arsenal´s porous back four. Understandably, the answer was a firm no. This summer, Wenger returned and, laughably, reduced his original offer by £2 million. This was notwithstanding Jags´ long term contract, further England caps and his importance to his current employers.

Wenger´s offer was laughable on a number of levels and laid bear the hypocrisy which has now become a constant of the latter years of his Arsenal reign. In the same breath as decrying the tactics of Barcelona in their pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, he then sought, publically, to snatch one of Everton´s prized assets for a paltry sum.

Unfortunately, hypocrisy has now become Wenger´s stock in trade. He is well aware of the financial constraints that the construction of the Emirates has brought with it and knows that it will be nigh on impossible to replace Fabregas, or Nasri for that matter, with the money that Barcelona were prepared to pay.

As Edmund Burke once said, “Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.” For all the splendour of the Emirates, the cupboard is bare and Wenger will try anything that costs nothing; he wept into his handkerchief in one hand and tried to pick Everton´s pocket with the other.

Jagielka is more valuable to Everton than Fabregas is to Arsenal. It is this one simple truth that Wenger either did not consider or that he ignored and, ultimately, is why he will be forced to pay double his original offer to land the likeable Mancunian or admit defeat.

Since the coming of Moyes, Everton´s entire game and strategy has been to build results upon defensive solidity and tactical discipline. Although that has waned somewhat in the last couple of seasons, it remains true. The defence and the midfield must function as a unit; remaining in sync as the ball is played from one side of the pitch to the other, leaving no holes but picking up runners. None of that is achievable without one or two marshals to bring everyone together as a unit. That is where Jagielka comes into his own.

If workrate could be relied upon then Thomas Gravesen would have been the mainstay of the team. However, individual players flying out of the line does little other than disrupt the carefully prepared defensive system and leave gaping holes. The same applies to the defence and requires at least one of its´ incumbents to be able to coax and guide the others to maintain the shape of the line.

Jags has been the one constant in the Everton back four who has been able to play with a modicum of tactical awareness and cajole the others into following his lead. Yobo, Lescott and now Distin all have strengths that they have brought to the team, whether it be pace or the ability to nick a goal, but none of the 3 would have been as effective had it not been for Jags next to them. For example, the combination of Yobo and Lescott did not fare well.

It is this tireless defensive work that goes unnoticed and it is often Jags´ work that goes unseen. It is the lone furrow that he ploughs for the team that allows the likes of Baines to work unfettered.

If Moyes´ intention is to play with both Baines and Coleman at full back this season, the need for Jagielka to remain has increased rather than decreased. It cannot be said that their strengths are in their defending and are most effective when deployed over the halfway line. Although Moyes will protect his backline with at least one of Fellaini, Neville or Heitinga, Jags´ tactical discipline is a must.

The arguments regarding the Blues´ current financial plight are well worn and if Jags was sold it would certainly free up some money. Yet, the close of the transfer window is drawing near and we have reached the eve of the season´s start. The prices for the calibre of player we would need to replace Jags will, inevitably, go up and any newcomer would need time to settle in. In any event, I haven´t seen anyone that would be capable of taking on Jags´ mantle. Even Scott Dann would cost nearly £10 million.

An Everton side without Jagielka would be considerably poorer than an Everton side with Jagielka. The same can be said of an Arsenal side without Fabregas, but they have Champions League football, a shiny new stadium, a decade of top four finishes and an international reputation with which to entice a replacement. In Ramsay and Wilshere they probably already have ready-made replacements and would save Wenger some money.

If Moyes is successful in keeping the wolf from the door for a couple more weeks, take some time against QPR and spend 5 minutes watching Jags. He won´t have the ball an awful lot. He will hardly influence the play at all. But see how he talks to his fellow defenders, see how he organises them, see how he harries and cajoles them into an organised unit. It is this unseen work that is invaluable.

I, for one, hope that Everton´s One Man Gang is here for a few more years yet.

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