EPL Preview – Everton
2011/2012 Result: seventh
Manager: David Moyes
Ins: Steven Naismith (Rangers), Stephen Pienaar (Tottenham)
Outs: Jack Rodwell (Manchester City), Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce), Tim Cahill (New York Bulls), Adam Forshaw (Brentford), James McFadden (Free), Aristote Nsiala (Accrington Stanley), Femi Orenuga (Free), James Wallace (Tranmere Rovers), Marcus Hahnemann (Free)
Although seventh is certainly a respectable result for the perennial battlers of the Merseyside, the main joys Toffees supporters will have taken from 2011/12 will have been finishing above cross-town rivals Liverpool and derailing Manchester United’s title chances in a dramatic 4-4 draw late in the season.
However, after a decade at the helm, the well-regarded David Moyes must realise that it’s time to set the bar higher and elevate the club’s ambitions above scoring points of pride in grudge match rivalries.
Success in modern-day football derives from silverware, income and exposure, and while the former may be immediately out of reach for Everton, going deep into cup competitions and securing European football will go a long way to achieving the latter two. This is what they should be striving for.
Moyes has been typically quiet on the recruitment front, with the most significant announcement the permanent return of Stephen Pienaar from Tottenham (who had hardly left anyway).
Following somewhat in the footsteps of predecessor Wayne Rooney, promising midfielder Jack Rodwell has packed his bags for the bright lights of Manchester. While Rodwell hasn’t come on as quickly as would have been liked, if he develops into half the player Rooney has become (as his 12 million pound transfer fee may indicate), then Everton may rue the loss of a bone fide quality local product – the type to build a club around.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Following Mikel Arteta’s move to Arsenal, the man with the EPL’s finest afro has had a full season to assume the role of Everton’s most influential midfielder. While he has developed a strong capacity to control the play and tempo of a match, Everton will require him to increase his attacking output in terms of assists and goals if they are to truly punch above their weight.
Perversely, if the Belgian continues to respond to his added responsibility with on-going improvement, in a year’s time we could be talking about his move to a larger club.
With international representatives the likes of England’s Leighton Baines, USA’s Tim Howard and John Heitinga of the Netherlands adding genuine class to their back half, Everton are well set in defence. Scoring goals and, odd as it may sound, regularly creating opportunities for them in the first place is where the real questions lie.
Although not unexpected, the loss of faithful servant and inspirational talisman Tim Cahill has seen Everton lose some of the sparkling quality to create scoring options out of nothing, particularly late in a game when goals haven’t been forthcoming.
Nikica Jelavic, the Croatian who came to the club in early 2012, showed signs towards the end of last season that he could be a legitimate figurehead striker and, encouragingly, Everton were able to score 22 goals in their last nine league games. Anticipated signing Kevin Mirallas from Olympiakos is hoped to also add to the weaponry up front, and if Fellaini and company develop a fluent attacking chemistry, perhaps the club can aim to exceed the mid-table consistency we have come to expect from Everton and reach for a spot in the exalted top six.
Avoiding a characteristic slow start to the season will be crucial.
PREDICTED FINISH: sixth
It would not be a surprise to learn that EPL clubs with a European head coach tend to take on a continental influence, which will in turn be reflected in the coaching staff. For example, Mancini has a bevy of Italians around him at Manchester City and Villa-Boas has brought along several Portuguese coaches to assist him at Tottenham. No doubt this assists to implement and execute the desired systems and playing style for which the manager was brought to the club to introduce.
What then to make of the dominance of Scotsmen among the coaching staff at Goodison Park? Including Moyes, Everton employ four Scottish senior coaches and with recent signings have added former Rangers strikeforce of Jelavic and Steven Naismith to this heady brew.
Everton under Moyes will never lack for pure Scottish guts (haggis anyone?) and dogged spirit but, as arguably the most Caledonian side in the EPL, does this leave them wanting in the areas of poise and flair?
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