Everton: a model for success teetering on the edge.
by Phil Gregory
Very easy to stick the knife in here, but I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon just yet. We all know Moyes has done a fantastic job with them over the years, but can we really see them breaking the top four as they are?
Frankly, while teams such as Tottenham, City and Villa have the financial muscle to push on in the future, Everton simply don’t (short of a new stadium or a wealthy benefactor emerging).
Looking at the squad, Heitinga looks to be a wise acquisition, his versatility will be invaluable and Everton’s issues at right back were all too well documented during the recent FA Cup Final against Chelsea.
The defence still looks a little light in the middle, ( no central defence should ever have to suffer a Neville slotting in), but with Jagielka returning in November, and Distin recently brought in this shouldn’t be too big an issue.
Midfield looks nice overall, though the lack of a midfield enforcer is often complained about by Evertonians, with Phil Neville only ever “doing a job” there.
Up front it is more interesting. Saha himself has said it has been a long time since he managed a proper preseason fully fit, Jo has averaged just under a goal every other game while he has been at Everton, and Yakubu can always be relied on to hit the back of the net in the Premier League.
Everton won’t struggle for goals this season; they didn’t last year without any fit strikers at times.
Overall, the squad’s pretty good, balanced and deep enough. My only criticism of Moyes would be his handling of the Lescott affair – he couldn’t afford it getting messy as it did. Personally, I thought he took a reasonable risk in calling Lescott’s bluff in turning down his transfer request – Lescott always seemed a good professional and I thought he would take it on the chin and move on instead of risking being dumped into the reserves to stew during World Cup Year – but it simply didn’t pay off in the end, Moyes had to take the money.
It has clearly disrupted their last few games, and if they don’t get points on the board soon it’s all going to snowball a la Spurs last season. Confidence is volatile – three wins on the trot and Europe is there for the taking, but a few more losses and fears of relegation grow. A squad like Everton’s is full of fighters, so I think they’ll get points on the board soon, overcome this blip and come in at 7th this season.
This could well represent a glass ceiling for Everton who will only go two ways over the next few years. If a new stadium will be constructed/a wealthy benefactor will be found and they will be become Europa League regulars and Champions League hopefuls.
Alternatively Moyes (deservedly) gets offered a big job, and they get edged out of the European places by the more upwardly mobile clubs. I like Everton, they do things the right way, but it seems clubs like them will just be squeezed out over the coming seasons.
Arsenal-Everton eleven (442):
Sagna Vermaelen Gallas Clichy
Arshavin Cahill Fabregas Arteta
Bench: Howard, Fellaini, Yakubu, Song, Heitinga, Jagielka, Van Persie
Bit trickier this time. Howard is solid but I’ve plumped for Almunia, could’ve gone either way. Back four is fairly self-explanatory, Everton have some good centre backs, but judging on current form I’d go for the Arsenal pair. Slightly broke the rules by putting no defensively-minded CM next to Cesc, but wanted Cahill on the teamsheet.
Arteta sneaks in ahead of Nasri, with Rosicky discounted from selection due to injury. Saha slots in ahead of Van Persie, who is benched, with Eduardo up top with him. Fairly good Everton representation on the bench which I think shows their strength in depth. Not a bad team, overall!