Everton FC: How and Why the Toffees Can Make a Shock Run at UCL Berth in 2012-13
Even in this warped new landscape of football, where clubs bankrolled by a few rich owners suck up the majority's talent and gain an unfair advantage, smaller clubs can still succeed.
Everton have been proof that this is true during the incredible tenure of David Moyes.
During virtually all of the 10 years the Scot has been in charge of the club for, he has had to deal with a virtually nonexistent transfer budget due to Everton's perpetual state of indebtedness.
And yet Moyes somehow always manages to wring the best out of every value buy he makes, and every forgotten player he picks off the scrap heap performs well in front of the Goodison Park faithful.
Liverpool might have spent over £100 million on highly-touted British acquisitions that were supposed to restore the Reds to the Champions League, but their crosstown nemesis still finished one place above them in the final Premier League table.
As news of Goodison hero Tim Cahill's impending departure to Major League Soccer spreads, we are reminded of how much an unspectacular, unheralded player can produce when put in the right circumstances and under the right manager.
Snatched from Millwall for a couple million pounds eight years ago, Cahill never was a player of great natural footballing ability, but Moyes' keen eye saw something in the Australian, and he has improbably been frustrating opposing defenses over hundreds of appearances.
You can never count out a team whose manager has those sorts of instincts and can maximize every pound spent, because there will always be replacements coming in for the players that are constantly on their way out.
At this approach, David Moyes is arguably the best in England.
And if you know how and when to push the right buttons both in the transfer market and tactically, we have recently seen it is possible for any team to shock the world and play well above its proverbial weight.
Where will Everton finish next season?
Take Newcastle, for example. A year ago, most thought that Alan Pardew's side were a mid-table club that would feel lucky to finish as high as seventh.
But the Magpies made some extremely shrewd purchases last summer, and, despite popular hatred of owner Mike Ashley, it gradually dawned on people that this nuisance of a team which started the season undefeated for some stretch was not going away.
Names like Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye came in for virtually nothing combined and ran riot for much of the season. Hatem Ben Arfa returned from a broken leg to provide creative spark. Tim Krul had a breakthrough season and Fabricio Coloccini provided the leadership and muscle at the back.
And, later, Papiss Cisse would be mentioned alongside Everton's own Nikica Jelavic as one of the best January signings in football.
Their remarkable run was not without its share of luck, but Newcastle barely missed out on cracking the top four, and could easily be playing in the Champions League this season if a couple of domestic and European results had been different.
But, at the very least, they were in the discussion up until the very end.
No one expected that from the Toon. Their almost magical run was made not with the burden of expectation and the resultant pressure, but with the cockiness that comes from knowing you can't really lose.
You can see a lot of last season's Newcastle side in this Everton one. There is a healthy mixture of emerging talent up front and experience at the back. The squad includes practical goalscorers, dynamic creators, no-nonsense defenders and seemingly average players who do better than you would think.
The Toffees have already made a signing, and, like the team they hope to emulate, a striker arrived on a free transfer with a good deal of promise but not a lot of exposure.
Moyes always seems to get the transfer part just right; the most difficult part will be achieving tactical harmony and rotating the squad sufficiently to make a run at the top four.
As always, the manager will have to balance consistent, moderately productive players with those like the departed Royston Drenthe who can make something special happen on their day.
How much people like Darron Gibson, Seamus Coleman and Magaye Gueye will play depends largely on form and matchups. Gauge either element wrong, and Everton will have to thread an impossibly thin eye of a needle to achieve success.
But with one of the best managers around at the helm, do not put it past the club to sneak up on everyone and, even if they do not ultimately get there, make a run at one of the four available Champions League places.
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