Why Everton Will Finish Fourth in the EPL
We've heard it all before: “Moyes is doing such a great job with limited resources.” “Everton are so consistent.” "They're punching above their weight."
Analysis of Everton seems to always throw up the same points, to the extent that you almost overlook just how impressive they've been.
After Sunday's dramatic late win against Tottenham Hotspur, Everton currently sit fourth in the English Premier League table, level on points with Spurs and West Brom, three points behind Chelsea in third place and two points ahead of Arsenal.
After six consecutive campaigns finishing in the Top Eight of the Premier League, Everton look set this season to make the breakthrough and finish in the Top Four, something they haven't managed since 2005.
Here's why 2012-13 will be the season they do it.
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It's impossible to talk about Everton's success without first mentioning the main reason behind it: David Moyes, the man who has been in charge at Goodison for over a decade.
The Scot has had to make do without the same sort of resources as many of his counterparts but has maintained an incredible level of consistency, almost always finishing in the top half of the league and often pushing for higher. Remember their fourth-place finish in 2004-05?
Moyes might not have had quite the same money to spend as other managers in the league, but what is interesting to note is that, at £2.9 million, Moyes's salary is the sixth highest in the EPL and 16th highest in world football, according to the Daily Mail.
Where other teams have paid exorbitant fees for overrated players, Everton have realised that the most important thing for them was keeping David Moyes in charge.
Money well spent by Bill Kenwright.
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In previous seasons Everton have struggled to cope with the loss of key players and have had to make tactical adjustments week in and week out, often playing players out of their position.
This year, in almost every area of the field, Everton have competition for places and players ready to step in at the first sign of a dip in form or an injury.
Think about the midfield, where you have players like Darron Gibson, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Marouane Fellaini, Bryan Oviedo or Thomas Hitzlsperger. Up front, Nikica Jelavic, Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith, among others, provide Moyes with plenty of options.
Everton finally have a squad with both the quality and the depth to qualify for the Champions League.
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The Belgian has been in sensational form this season and has been dominating games in the midfield with his strength, control and composure on the ball.
Signed for £12 million in 2008, Fellaini has continued to improve as a player and is in the middle of his best season yet, looking like a genuine contender for Player of the Year, with eight goals and four assists in 14 starts in the Premier League.
Problems with Other Teams
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Compared to their competitors for fourth place, Everton are more consistent and are more settled.
Arsenal and Spurs have strong squads, and Liverpool are showing signs of improvement, but these sides are all currently in transition and may need another season to reach their full potential.
Everton, on the other hand, have built on what was a successful end to last season and seem to be in a position where they are finally ready to make a real push for a spot in the Champions League.
They're Strong Finishers
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What has set 2012-13 apart for Everton has been their strong start.
Traditionally, Everton under Moyes have started slowly, often due to bad luck with injuries. They have often had to spend the second half of the season making up for where they went wrong in the first few months.
This year is different.
Everton will go into the new year in a strong position, and if they are able to replicate their form from the latter half of last season, they should be able to clinch fourth place.
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In 16 matches played this season, Everton have conceded 20 goals, giving them the joint fifth-best defence in the Premier League.
Looking at the personnel, this doesn't come as much of a surprise.
Tim Howard provides a level of stability and dependability in goal that other teams would kill for. Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka are rock-solid in central defence, and in Leighton Baines Everton have arguably the best left-back in the country.
While on occasion this season they have struggled to find the goal that will turn a draw into a win, Everton's reliable defence has made sure that those draws didn't instead turn into defeats.
Big Performances in Big Games
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Although they haven't been winning perhaps as many matches as they should have, Everton have shown that in big games they are very difficult to beat. This will stand them in good stead for the rest of the campaign.