Having started the season on the back foot, Everton Football Club once again turned things around after Christmas and secured 7th position in the Premier League with an emphatic 3-1 win against Champions League hopefuls Newcastle, effectively ending the Magpie’s chances of playing in Europe’s top tier next season.
Football pundits and journalists alike have suggested that for Everton to have attained this position, given their dire league standing back in November 2011, could be regarded as a major achievement. I am sure however, that fans will feel a sense of disappointment considering where Everton could have been potentially celebrating now had they started in the same vain as they had finished.
Three losses in the last 20 games is top four form; taking 35 points from a run of games in which Merseyside rivals Liverpool acquired only 18.
The question is now, where does David Moyes go from here? Preparations for next season begin immediately, and as Moyes has reiterated himself, bringing in players as early as possible is his main priority. The age old problem, certainly no secret in the footballing world, is the lack of funds Everton have at their disposal to bring in new blood to the side.
Many fans will claim that they can do a better job than the manager currently in place, one only has to look at the comments on fan-sites and Twitter. (Although much of this self-assurance is clearly questionable and it must be highlighted that it is easy to make comment in hind-sight).
But I am no different to the rest. Given the chance, and given that pigs will one day fly, I have set aside a plan should I ever be called upon. So, if I was appointed Everton manager tomorrow, brought in to hopefully aid Everton in making a more sustained challenge on the a league position guaranteeing European qualification, what would I do?
Firstly to recap on something I have stated a number of times; Everton need to shore up the right-flank. In Tim Howard we have a keeper that is, on the whole, reliable and in good form; our defence is possibly the most gifted of any unit David Moyes has at his disposal, a unit that includes England internationals Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines, Everton Fan’s Player and Player’s Player of the Year Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin.
Our midfield area is secure, compact and is playing some great football through Fellaini, Gibson, Pienaar and Osman and our strike force, in the shape of Nikica Jelavic, speaks for itself.
However, our right-back position is a weakness. No disrespect intended to Tony Hibbert, he has been one of the most loyal and whole-hearted players to have pulled on a royal blue shirt in the current era but he lacks the skill and attacking flair that Baines delivers on the left, to complement his reliable defensive qualities.
Unquestionably, in the last few months Hibbert has produced some of the best displays I have witnessed from him for Everton, even going forward; a great improvement.
Nevertheless, I see Hibbert as one of the weakest points in the side. Unlike Baines, Hibbert has lacked a partner to collaborate with on that right hand side. Many believed that Coleman could be the answer to the club’s problem but he has noyet to live up to the potential showed earlier in his Everton career.
All this said, I would continue to monitor the Irishman’s development and he may, one day, be able to fill the full-back position if his defensive awareness was to improve. But in the short term, Moyes will need to begin his search for a winger with pace, one who can bring an attacking threat to Everton’s right flank rather than continuing with this over reliance on the offensive capabilities of Everton’s far superior left channel.
The easy choice would be to bring back USA international Landon Donovan to the club on a more permanent basis; he knows the side and was successful during his time here. However Landon has stated on numerous occasions that he will honour his contract with current MLS side LA Galaxy.
Alternatively, earlier in the week Everton were linked with Matt Phillips, a 21 year old forward currently plying his trade with Championship side Blackpool. Phillips, despite being a striker by trade, is similar to Arsenal’s Theo Walcott, in that he is deployed mainly as a right winger simply because of his searing pace.
He could therefore be a relatively low budget solution to Everton’s main problem. Similarly, having watched Wolves in the past few weeks I have been incredibly impressed with another pacey winger; Englishman Matt Jarvis. His delivery is impeccable and his direct running causes problems for many a Premier League full back. Despite playing in the left wing position, he is a naturally right footed player and should Everton secure the services of Pienaar, would open up the option of the two switching regularly; just a thought. Otherwise, Moyes may need to look to Europe for more affordable options.
All this would be made so much easier if Everton had the sufficient financial aid to support Moyes’ transfer plans. Moyes has done wonders with a restricted budget, bringing in players from the lower leagues, but when given larger sums of money to spend, the Scot hasn’t always had such acclaimed success – Per Kroldrup springs to mind.
Everton fans, players and staff will all be hoping and praying for an influx of cash, but as things stand the most likely way of freeing up some funds would be to sell some of the existing squad, a fact Moyes has intimated this week, as reported by the Daily Mirror.
Although not a popular choice, this may be the only possible approach to building some form of transfer kitty for the summer. So if Everton were to sell, who would be first in line? Obviously those consistenly on the fringes would be my first thought.
For me, Anichebe’s time at the club is up, but admittedly he would only generate a small fee and transfers like this would not add up to the kind of investment needed for Moyes to bring new faces of sufficient quality. Therefore this inevitably leads to selling one or two of our more prized possessions; an option Everton manager David Moyes and fans would have hoped to avoid.
The media has touted a number of Everton players to leave the club this coming transfer window, those who have reportedly attracted attention from a selection of top European sides; namely Fellaini, Rodwell and Baines. Leighton Baines must stay; at this moment in time he is irreplaceable so steps must be made to secure his future at the club.
Fellaini has taken time but likewise has become an integral member of the team and most likely one of the first names on Moyes’ team sheet due to his impeccable form for the club this season – he seems to have grown in stature since the departure of crowd favourite Mikel Arteta to Arsenal. This leaves only young England international Jack Rodwell.
Moyes has taken steps to cover Rodwell’s absence, bringing in former Manchester United player Darron Gibson to fill the void made by Rodwell’s injury. Perhaps the £25 million valuation banded around last summer would be somewhat depleted due to his lengthy absence and lack of playing time this season. In spite of this, he is very young and English, two factors that bump up the price of players in recent years, and he could therefore still command a fee around the £20 million mark.
Undoubtedly Rodwell is a talent, a prospect for the future, but Everton haven’t done so badly without him in 2012 have they? That sort of money would allow Moyes to bring back Pienaar to the club, for a fee believed to be in the region of £4 million. It would also perhaps permit the signing of one or two new faces including a right back and right winger or even a strike partner for Jelavic.
There has to be a balance; there was uproar following Rooney’s departure back in 2004 but the money generated from his sale stabilised the club and led to the signing’s of Lescott and the like.
I believe my tenure as Everton manager could become a success given the above actually took place. There is that groundless self-assurance again but the plan does give food for thought.
Moyes is wise enough to have already recognised Everton’s pitfalls but let’s hope he is brave enough to let some of our more prized assets go, but the right ones Moyesy; leave Baines and Fellaini well alone.
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