Everton FC: 13 New Year's Resolutions for David Moyes' Men
Tied for fourth in the table, after an FA Cup semifinal and two impressive halves of a season, 2012 has clearly been an enjoyable year for all those connected with Everton.
A pair of successful transfer windows have also given David Moyes a far better playing roster than last year, and supporters will enter 2013 with growing expectations for their club's immediate future.
Here's a look at what Moyes' side should strive to achieve over the next 12 months.
A New Contract for David Moyes
One of the more urgent matters for the club to address next year is David Moyes’ rapidly expiring contract.
Free to walk away in the summer, it's simply imperative Everton's manager is tied down and allowed to mastermind another long-term project.
So long as the club can navigate this coming transfer window, there's no reason to suggest he wouldn't do this. With all his current players remaining and a few funds to spend, he will surely feel confident the club match his future ambitions.
Life without Moyes is a concept no Evertonian wants in 2013.
A Return to Europe
On the pitch, Everton’s primary aim this season is to return to Europe—a goal the club are currently well-positioned to achieve.
After qualifying three times in a row between 2007 and 2009, the Toffees have narrowly missed out over the previous three years, twice finishing one place away from entry.
As long as the club remain relevant in this season's Champions League race, the top four will be targeted. However, if Moyes' side lose pace with the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham, it's important they refocus and ensure European nights once again return to Goodison Park.
Three Points vs. Liverpool
A record Everton must rectify in 2013 is their dismal form against Liverpool.
In terms of the Premier League, the Toffees have recently moved ahead of their neighbours. They currently sit five points above them, finished four points better off last year and have enjoyed greater consistency over the past few seasons.
Yet despite this success, when it's come down to a head-to-head battle, Moyes' side have continually failed. In fact, Everton have only won two of the past 15 clashes and suffered two demoralising defeats and a frustrating draw in 2012.
No wins since 2010 is a statistic that must be corrected this coming year.
Keep Hold of Baines and Fellaini
For Everton to sustain their recent upward curve, they must keep hold of their vital assets.
Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini are two of Everton's primary weapons who have both been integral components to the Toffees' play this year.
Both players have become world-class talents and are sure to attract considerable interest in 2013—interest Everton must quickly rebuff.
For the club to go forward, only a monumental offer should even be considered.
David Moyes enjoyed two of his more successful transfer windows this year, approaching each one with a method he must now repeat.
The likes of Nikica Jelavic, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas all came in cheaply, while valuable fringe players were sold to pay for their arrivals.
In the past Moyes has opted to stay loyal, keep his squad and rarely strengthen, but this past year will have shown him just how revitalised a roster can appear with a few new additions.
Crucially, no departing player has been missed by the club, and come January, if Moyes targets a much-needed goalkeeper, central midfielder or striker, he will again do so by offloading some surplus talent.
Tighten Up in Defence
One of the more confusing statistics this season is the fact Everton are currently on a run of 13 games without a clean sheet—the most in the league—yet boast the top flight's fifth-best defence.
The Toffees have spent long periods of Moyes' tenure as a tough unit to breach, but have only kept two clean sheets in almost half a season.
Far too often this has seen valuable points slip agonisingly by, and if a Champions League place is to be reached, this must change quickly.
Following on from the previous slide, the Toffees have recently become draw specialists, frequently unable to score two or keep a clean sheet.
Over a recent nine-game stretch they recorded seven draws, and already have nine stalemates this season—more than they had throughout the entire 2007/08 campaign.
By just collecting a point each week, it becomes impossible to go anywhere and will make Europe a far harder goal to reach.
As ridiculous as it sounds, Moyes' side would be far better off winning and losing every other week and perhaps need to take higher risks late in games.
Unleash Ross Barkley
Evertonians have been desperate to catch a glimpse of Ross Barkley for the previous two years, but despite some early sightings last season, his appearances have remained scarce.
In fact, he's rarely featured in an Everton shirt at all in 2012.
Farmed out to Sheffield Wednesday to further mould his technique, since returning to the club he's barely got off the bench, which can't be helping his progression.
He may well go out on loan again in January, but once he returns, surely it's time Everton properly introduced their latest talent to Premier League audiences.
Change of Captaincy
Phil Neville has done an outstanding job as captain of Everton over the past few years.
He has installed an impeccable level of professionalism in and around the club, set a priceless example to others and been a solid performer on the pitch.
However, as he approaches his 36th birthday, he's no longer an automatic selection and it would make sense for Everton to pass the baton to Phil Jagielka.
Given the job on a permanent basis, Jagielka would then be able to install his own leadership on the team, instead of just keeping the armband warm for Neville.
Target Both Domestic Cups
Despite recent final and semifinal appearances, Everton's cup record under David Moyes is nothing short of abysmal.
For a side predominantly in the Premier League's top eight over the past 10 years, reaching the quarterfinal should surely be a regular occurrence. Right?
Wrong. In the previous 21 domestic cup runs, Everton have remarkably made the final eight just three times. Three out of 21.
That statistic is quite frankly scary and as difficult as it is to target a cup, given the unpredictability of a draw, weaker teams should not be fielded.
If Everton make the Europa League, let that be the competition where the likes of Ross Barkley and Shane Duffy are integrated into the side, especially in the group stages. Domestically, the Toffees must do better.
Reach a Record Points Haul
Quite simply, Everton are capable of achieving their best-ever season under David Moyes and should aim to do so by reaching 66 points.
The Toffees amassed 61 points when they finished fourth in 2005, and two fifth-place finishes in 2008 and 2009 saw them tally 63 and 65 points, respectively—totals that haven't been passed in the Premier League era.
To make fourth again, this would almost certainly need to be achieved, and a win against Wigan would leave Moyes' side perfectly placed on 33 points, with exactly half the season to go.
Make Stadium Plans
As this slideshow nears its conclusion, here's a few more obscure resolutions.
Goodison Park is one of the most treasured, authentic stadiums in England, but it has sadly fallen behind the times and it badly hampers Everton.
Without a new stadium, the Toffees continue to fall behind their rivals at an alarming financial rate and have not found any solution since Kirkby was abandoned in 2009.
While this is hardly a realistic resolution for 2013, it is something the club must at least look to make progress on and demonstrate clear intent.
If supporters were shown on a direction and some possible solutions, that would at least be a start.
Finally, that magic word that continually evades the Toffees.
Will Moyes ever have a chance to take Everton to the next level?
The club's hierarchy seem to be forever trying to sell the club, but so little has ever leaked its way out in terms of genuine concrete interest.
It would be such a boost if Everton could find investment this coming year, even a small amount to give Moyes some extra ammunition to spend.
Hopefully 2013 can bring a change in financial fortunes.