Everton: Predicting Manager David Moyes' Starting XI for 2012-13
As usual, Everton's summer has been characterized by quiet, but smart, acquisitions and a number of sales to raise funds for the squad.
Everton's first signing of the summer was Steven Naismith, a free-agent signing who became available due to the dissolution of Rangers oldco.
It was thought by many that Naismith would simply serve as a depth signing for Everton, but his hat trick vs AEK Athens in Tony Hibbert's testimonial has Everton fans very excited to see what he can produce in competitive fixtures.
Everton's second signing was old favorite Steven Pienaar. After an impressive loan spell in the second half of the 2011-12 season, which saw Everton's fortunes in the league dramatically improve, Pienaar was reacquired by Everton for £4.5 million from Tottenham.
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In any case, the additions of Nikica Jelavic in January and Naismith this summer had made Cahill rather surplus to requirements.
The next decent player to leave was Joseph Yobo. There's no denying that the current Everton squad could really use a player of Yobo's quality as depth on the bench, but with Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka and Johnny Heitinga all competing for starts at CB, Yobo would've spent a great deal of time confined to the bench.
After enjoying two seasons as a starter on loan at Fenerbahce in Turkey, Yobo was not interested in a seat on the bench, and thus pushed for a permanent move.
His loss could hurt Everton in the middle of the season as the squad gets stretched, but if Shane Duffy can transition smoothly to being a regular rotation player, Yobo's exit should not be felt by Everton at all.
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On one hand, the transfer is unfortunate for Everton fans and supporters, who knew very well of Rodwell's immense potential. On the other hand though, the transfer represents an impressive sale by Everton, selling high on a player who has struggled mightily in recent years.
The sale is also unlikely to harm the squad in the same way that the sales of Joleon Lescott or Mikel Arteta harmed the club in seasons past, and Rodwell never quite established himself as a key player at Everton, even though he was clearly and still is a star-in-the-making.
Taking all these transfers into account, here's how we predict Everton will lineup next season.
Were Rodwell still with the squad, he would've likely partnered Marouane Fellaini in the defensive midfield area over time, but instead Darron Gibson will likely be Fellaini's partner. He's not quite powerful or energetic as Rodwell, but he brings a powerful long range shot and more offensive dynamism to the team.
On the wings, Everton will likely stick with the pair that did plenty of damage for the team last season: Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar. The duo have been unlocking Premier League defenses for years, and will have no problem causing havoc this season either.
The attacking midfield position, behind the striker, will likely be the most contested position in Everton's starting lineup. Last season, Pienaar, Cahill and Osman were all utilized at some point in the season in this position.
I believe Naismith will be initially preferred by Moyes though, because of his experience in linking up with starting striker Jelavic. Victor Anichebe, Apostolos Vellios and Magaye Gueye are all players who start up front for Everton as well, but they'll all be fighting for the scrap minutes after Jelavic is taken off or in case he gets injured.
It would be great if Everton could reinvest Rodwell's transfer fee, and the money earned from some of the club's other sales, in a depth signing and maybe even a new holding midfielder to take up Arteta's former position, but even if this doesn't happen, Everton have a fairly solid lineup.
There's a decent amount of flexibility, since players like Phil Neville, Darron Gibson, Leon Osman and Seamus Coleman can all play multiple positions, and the talent is clearly there as well. There unfortunately isn't enough in the squad to challenge the top six of the EPL, but a seventh- or eighth-place finish should be well within the club's reach.
And who knows, if Everton can break their early season curse and actually start the season well, maybe they can pull a Newcastle United and push the Premier League's best to the brink.
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