Cleverley Signs For Everton.  Villa’s loss or Toffee’s gain? #avfc #efc #mufc

Well, the worst kept secret of the week has been confirmed – Tom Cleverley has opted to join Everton from Manchester United on a free transfer.  The 25 year old midfielder has a signed a 5 year deal.

Quelle surprise?  Nope.  Dissapointed?  Slightly.

It’s with mixed emotions that I imagine many Villa fans will feel as Cleverley opts to continue his career elsewhere.  He was a player for Villa who divided opinion on the terraces, that’s for sure.  Marmite.

There was promise, glimmers of real quality in Cleverley.  However, this was offset by months and months of absolutely torried, abject play.  Paul Lambert is likely culpable for the delay in Cleverley’s re-emergence, but there is little doubt that certain games passed Tom by, and confidence is a big part of it.

Until Sherwood’s arrival it was difficult to see what attributes had kept him at Manchester United for so long.  Indeed, how on earth he had accumulated a number of England caps.

Tom looked utterly lost, bereft of confidence and soon became the subject of vocal criticism from the stands.  It became an uncomfortable weekly ritual to see him withdrawn to groans and in the darker moments of the season, audible boos.  He would often run off, broken and having contributed nothing.  It was near impossible to defend.

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At Christmas many would have personally driven him back to Manchester.  The prospect of Villa exercising a right to buy £8 million clause for his services permanently, would have been lunacy beyond even that which Lambert could manage.

And then with a change in management came a new role for Cleverley.  It was a rebirth.

Playing higher up the pitch we suddenly started to witness the type of passing interplay previously unseen. It immediately raised eyebrows.  Cleverley suddenly found himself pressing the opposition and linking play.  He also was starting to look a genuine threat going forward & with a high work rate in the middle.

A criticism I read today is that despite an entire season at Villa he failed to provide a single assist.  A woeful statistic, but it must be put in context.  Cleverley had a dire first half of the season, lost in a team instructed to protect our own goal and retain possession.  Cleverley was one amongst many Villa players who forgot the purpose of football is to score.

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Granted, he didn’t directly provide in the second half of the year, but he became an essential driver of most attacks.  I have no statistics to back up my claim, but I’d be confident that he touched the ball in the lead up to most goals in the closing weeks.

And there were also signs that his confidence was returning with smart runs and more thoughtful positioning.  Yes, this was driven by the attack mindedness of Sherwood, but Cleverley took this on board to the tune of 3 vital goals that helped keep us up.  Indeed the goal to win the fixture against Everton, ironically enough, was no only an essential goal, but a superb finish.

It capped a turnaround in fortunes for the man.  He was the toast of Villa Park & he celebrated it wildly.

Is Cleverley the complete footballer?  No, not by any means.  He is guilty of fading badly in matches due to his work rate (not a completely bad thing) & he is surprisingly small in stature.  Small in the context of the modern, battling Premier League midfields you can face.  

Cleverley’s biggest problem will likely be his delicate confidence.  A player loudly derided, sometimes unfairly, in the media and by United & England fans.  He has enough attributes, application and brains to become a top player, but one wonders if the belief is always there.  He goes to absolute pieces after a few mislaid passes, a duffed shot and a groan from the crowd.

It was great to have him, watch the rehabilitation of a footballer & receive the help he provided to keep us in the division.  Is he replaceable?  Certainly.  Will Villa regret not taking the gamble to keep his services?  The jury is out.

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