Everton FC: Complete Guide for the 2012-13 Premier League Season
A fresh start, and unblemished records, give fans the chance to spend these last few weeks bathing in excessive amounts of preseason optimism.
Could this be the year David Moyes' side finally manages a strong start? Could a return to European football, or even silverware be on the cards? Anything seems possible before it all begins.
Here is a season preview—and an in-depth look at all things Everton—as that opening fixture draws ever nearer.
Further Transfer Movement
Before the new campaign can be assessed, it is important to know the personnel on board for the coming months.
David Moyes will be keen to avoid the last minute chaos of the 2011 summer transfer window. Out went the integral cog that was Mikel Arteta—along with Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford—and in came the late loan deals of Royston Drenthe and Denis Stracqualursi.
The abrupt nature of these transactions—specifically Arteta's—seemed to disrupt the squad, and a year on, fans would be very aggrieved to see any similar 11th hour dealings.
Fast forward to the present day, and Leighton Baines is now the Toffees' most coveted player. Manchester United have been credited with an interest and have supposedly been courting the left-back for most of the summer.
The most important element for Evertonians is that the two clubs appear miles apart in valuation, although Baines' movements is central to any other transfer equation.
Players are still likely to come in. Moyes could do with a wide player and some help for Nikica Jelavic up front, but if Everton keep hold of Baines, these players are only likely to arrive on loan—which also means they will probably be quite late additions.
Recent rumours have reported that Victor Anichebe could move to Wigan and Johnny Heitinga is attracting interest from Italy. Should Everton receive an acceptable offer for one of these two, then potentially they may be able to dip back into the market. Without offloading, there will not be any more significant buys.
Steven Naismith and Steven Pienaar have already been recruited, and the Toffees may benefit from finally acquiring their targets early on. Both deals represent astute bits of business, and the pair should go on to play pivotal roles for the Toffees this season.
Squad Dynamics: Goalkeeper
So who is likely to be playing where this season? Obviously lineups will vary and systems fluctuate, but judging on how the Toffees' successfully finished last season and how they have recently set up in friendlies, an early estimate can be gauged.
As with most formations, Everton's is both fluid and transitional. Moyes prefers to deploy variations of a 4-5-1 formation—one that shifts from a 4-4-1-1 without possession, to a 4-2-3-1 system, that occasionally even morphs into a 4-4-2 look in attack.
In goal, Tim Howard is considered one of Moyes' most valued and favoured squad members. He will keep the gloves for the coming season, and it looks as though Slovakian stopper, Jan Mucha, will continue to deputise.
Squad Dynamics: Defence
As long as he stays, Leighton Baines will occupy the left-back berth throughout the season, although it would be nice to see Luke Garbutt given an outing in the League Cup—if he's not given another season-long loan.
Right-back will see club stalwart Tony Hibbert go head-to-head with his captain, Phil Neville. Hibbert was most frequently used last season, but it will be interesting to see whether Moyes increases the competition and considers using Seamus Coleman here too.
Phil Jagielka, Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin all had long stints at centre-back last season, and should each see plenty of playing time again.
Heitinga and Distin finished the season in favour, and may well continue as initial first choice—although Jagielka is another Moyes is keen to play as often as possible.
Squad Dynamics: Midfield
The wider two positions will be filled with Steven Pienaar back on the left and either Seamus Coleman or Leon Osman playing on the right.
Many others can perform out wide if desired. Victor Anichebe, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley and Magaye Gueye should all get minutes on the flanks, and if there are to be new additions, this may be an area Moyes opts to strengthen.
Centrally, Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini seem likely to partner up. Moyes will also toy with the option of throwing Fellaini further forward, which should allow Jack Rodwell with a chance to enter the mix.
Phil Neville and Osman may also be used in these areas in certain situations, as may the rapidly improving Francisco Junior.
Squad Dynamics: Attack
In the final third, it seems Everton will begin the season with Steven Naismith playing in an advanced, freer role, just behind Nikica Jelavic.
The pair flourished at Rangers, and Moyes will hope they can forge a similar understanding in their second spell together.
Naismith is also proficient coming in off a flank, and Marouane Fellaini, Leon Osman, Ross Barkley or Victor Anichebe could all be alternatives in the attacking midfield role. If the Toffees are behind, expect Fellaini to be ushered forward as Everton adopt a more direct approach.
Moyes will hope Jelavic can start as many games as possible leading the line, as his list of suitable replacements is slightly sparse at present. Victor Anichebe or Apostolos Vellios will be used if necessary, although this is another position for which an extra body may be sought.
Watch out For...
Several players could well have breakout years at Everton, but the player fans will be most excited to see playing a full season will undoubtedly be Jelavic.
When David Moyes was looking to spend what little resources he had on a striker yet to be sufficiently tested on a reputable stage, there were many lining up to question his judgement.
Unconcerned himself, Moyes went ahead, and the Croatian became an instant hit—scoring 11 goals in 13 starts for the club. His rapacious instincts and lethal finishing propelled the Toffees' up the table and helped transform what was becoming a forgettable season.
Now ready to embark on his first full campaign in England's top flight, he could become a genuine contender for the Golden Boot—judging by the prolific streak displayed earlier this year.
Premier League defences beware.
Young Guns to Track
Two years ago, after gaining recognition as a 17-year-old and being tipped for the top, Ross Barkley promptly broke his leg and missed the rest of the season.
Fully recovered 12 months later, he became heavily involved during last summer's preseason and seemed certain to play a sizable role over the pending campaign.
He impressed in the season opener against QPR, and started the next match against Blackburn. However, after conceding a penalty, he was soon hauled off and saw his first team exposure rapidly dry up. He also went on to lose his place in the England Under-21 setup.
Despite these setbacks, there is no doubting his vast potential and special talent. Moyes seems keen to ensure he hones his defensive attributes and conforms to his tactical demands before thrusting him in again—but it is certainly a case of when, not if, the youngster becomes a first-team regular.
Elsewhere, keep an eye on the progress of John Lundstram and Luke Garbutt, both of whom are members of the recent England Under-19 squad at the European Championships.
Possible Talking Points
Over the course of the season, several players will be lauded, selections vilified, performances championed and thousands of tactics questioned. Form will fluctuate, and players will be involved in all kinds of storylines and controversies.
It is impossible to predict the talking points that will dominate social media and fan forums, but there are always a couple of recurrent themes that tend to crop up at Everton.
The club's financial shortcomings are sure to be played upon. The moment a youngster emerges or a key player excels, expect gossip columns to be brimming with rumours linking them everywhere but Goodison Park.
As the Toffees continue to search for financial backing, numerous unheard-of investors will be attributed with an interest in a takeover. Possibly, even a few new stadium plans may surface.
Finally, David Moyes' contract is rapidly running down, and this will be a topic certain to take up newspaper inches. Expect to hear several contorted scenarios played out, with rumours of why he hasn't signed, until he eventually—hopefully—does.
Ambitions for May
So, all things assessed, what is the realistic grand plan for this coming season?
Playing-wise, fans would appreciate a year of consistency on the pitch—as opposed to hovering around the lower rungs of the table before sprinting for the line, having left far too much ground to make up.
Recent eighth and seventh place finishes haven't been good enough to qualify for Europe, and that must be a primary objective this season—to ensure the club is at least competing in the Europa League again.
It is another avenue to a trophy, the extra games fetch more revenue, and there may also be opportunities to blood more youngsters—something that will only hasten their development and improve their prospects.
Silverware is long overdue at Everton, a fact David Moyes is desperate to rectify. Of course, it is the mission each club sets out to obtain, but fans will demand another strong push for a domestic cup.
Finally, after a hat-trick of losses at the hands of bitter rivals Liverpool last season, some are questioning whether Moyes' squad have the mental capacity to defeat their neighbours.
At least one win must be recorded to pacify some of the angst that arose from that trio of losses. Wherever they finish, poor results against Liverpool will not be tolerated.
Where do you think Everton will end up this season? What talking points do you see arising as the season progresses?
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