Everton Half-Term Report
What's going right?
For the first time in years, an astonishing amount. The end-of-summer and autumn months are usually spent with our collective eyes on the bottom of the table, memories of relegation dog-fights haunting our thoughts. So it’s been a welcome surprise to find ourselves near the top of the table, flitting in and out of the Champions League places.
Toward the end of last season, there were already signs that the team Moyes was building could be better than we were used to. The addition of Pienaar and Jelavic in January gave the side a much needed shot-in-the-arm. For much of the previous season Everton had laboured desperately, opting to grind teams down because of our own lack of creativity or prowess in front of goal. With the Jellyman scoring with ease and Pienaar providing that elusive creative spark, the team’s form started to pick up.
In the summer, Moyes amazed fans buy acquiring not one, not two but THREE actual players. The stand out man amongst them is unarguably Kevin Mirallas. When he takes to the pitch Everton spark and fizzle. At the beginning of the season, before Luis Suarez decided to kick Mirallas out of the derby and subsequently much of November and December, he was one of the main ingredients to Everton’s blistering form.
His introduction complemented the growing confidence and form of several other players, most notably Baines, Jagielka and Fellaini. The latter in particular has been a revelation this season, bossing the midfield, terrifying opponents and showing a hitherto hidden deadliness in front of goal.
It’s all added up to the most exciting Everton side I’ve seen for some time. We might not be the finished product but at least for the first time in a long time you get the sense that this could be our year.
The lack of a decent squad is arguably Everton’s biggest issue. All teams face the problem of injuries, suspension and players losing form. Everton’s problem is that the players the club has available as stand-ins aren’t remotely as good as those they replace. There have been several times this season, specifically during November when the team was faced with a rash of injuries and suspensions, that reserve players have been called upon to fills gaps in the team. Their presence has often revealed how paper-thin our hopes of being a top-four club are. The likes of Victor Anichebe, Magaye Gueye and Francisco Júnior fill me with despair whenever they take to the pitch. They are the living embodiment of the gulf that exists between a club like Everton and clubs like Utd, Chelsea and City.
Added to the disappointing squad, Everton are also finding it difficult to turn creativity into goals. Despite conjuring chances up by the bucket-load, the team aren’t converting enough of these opportunities. For a long time we’ve been without a natural goalscorer, a problem that seemed to have solved by the acquisition of Jelavic. This season however, he’s been unable to fully capture the form that saw him become so effective when he first arrived at Goodison earlier this year. While some distance away from useless lumps likes Saha and Yakubu, his inability to capitalise upon the innumerable chances that Everton have created this season is something of a worry.
Got the right manager?
Unquestionably. There are some supporters, perhaps those that weren’t around during the dark days of the nineties, who think that Moyes holds the club back, his traditionally conservative approach to football thwarting the ‘sleeping lion’ the they believe Everton to be. But I think this is bollocks. Moyes has restored Everton to where they should rightly be, consistently amongst the higher echelons of English football. And he’s done this at a time when the club’s meagre finances have become more of a handicap than they were twenty years ago. What’s more, he’s rarely put a foot wrong in the transfer market, consistently finding great players, such as Baines, Howard, Jagielka, Gibson and Mirallas for next-to-nothing by modern standards. He is undeniably one of the top-three managers working in English football today.
There have been plenty of stars so far this season but standing head-and-above of the pack (and not just by virtue of his magnificent afro) is Fellaini. He has been the fulcrum around which Moyes has organised this new-look team and its more attacking style of play. Amazing in the air, cultured on the deck and with a new-and-improved eye for the goal, Fellaini is arguably the reason why Everton are where they are in the league at the moment. Disgraceful headbutts aside, his contribution to date has been wonderful.
Who would you like to sell in January?
Who can we sell? With a squad as threadbare as ours, it would be suicide to bin-off any players. In an ideal world though, one where Everton were awash with cash, it would be nice to say goodbye to some of our less able squad-men, such as Magaye Gueye and Apostolos Vellios, the kind of players who are probably never going to make it at Goodison.
Who do you want to sign?
Tim Howard has begun making the occasional costly mistake this season. While still one of the better keepers in the league, it might not be a bad idea to have someone on the bench who could replace him if everything goes a bit ‘Reina’. Jack Butland, Birmingham City’s young keeper might be a good fit.
Best chant so far?
It remains ‘Na na na na na na na na na na na, Jela Jelavic! Jelavic! Jela Jelavic!’ (to the tune of KC & The Sunshine Band’s Give It Up)
Best opposition player / team you've seen this season?
Jan Vertonghen. He’s the kind of player I would have liked Everton to have gone for in the summer. Great at the back and not that bad going forward either. Spurs have found themselves a real gem.
Biggest **** of the season
Is there any bigger **** than Luis Suarez? Sneaky, dirty, and truculent, he’s seems to have learned nothing from the trouble that engulfed him last season. There is no contrition, no humility and a total lack of self-awareness. Add in the fact the fact that he’s also beloved by the morlocks at Anfield, and you have every possible reason to loathe this contemptible little sh*t.
End of season prediction
A lot will depend upon what happens in January. If we manage to keep hold of our talent and add a few more decent names to the squad then there is no reason why Everton can’t make it to the Champions League