Everton FC: Biggest Winners and Losers from the Toffees' Season
With the 2012-13 campaign very nearly in the books, much of the next few weeks will be spent assessing the season and separating the distinguished performers from those who have let their side down.
At Everton, the club's Player of the Season awards take place at the end of the week, with the leading performers set to be crowned.
In a slightly different take on that event, which of the Toffees' current squad have seen their stock rise the highest, and who has seen theirs plummet?
Here's a look at the biggest winners and losers in David Moyes' final Everton squad.
Several players have had impressive seasons, but the winners in the following slides are those who have surpassed expectation.
Leighton Baines has arguably been his side's best player of the season, creating more chances than any other player in the Premier League, yet his form hasn't staggered anyone. Baines has been one of his side's most consistent performers for some time now, reaching that level for the past three seasons, at least
Similarly, those judged as losers of the season are the players who have failed to live up to expectation. These slides are all about surprise.
Additionally, many may argue David Moyes has a case for biggest winner at the club this season, earning a job at Manchester United. However, this is for players only, leaving that debate for another day.
Loser: John Heitinga
Having claimed the Everton Fans' Player of the Season award just 12 months ago, spending most of the following year wallowing on the sidelines is certainly an abrupt fall from grace.
That's been the case for John Heitinga this season, who hasn't been able to dislodge the consistently impressive Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka at centre-back.
Even when he's been given opportunities to impress, the Dutchman's been a complete liability, appearing fallible in almost every appearance he's made. Errors against Aston Villa and Wigan cost his side vital points, while others against West Brom and Newcastle were covered up by his team-mates.
Physical front men have been especially dominant against Heitinga this season and it seems as though the former World Cup finalist could do with a fresh start to rejuvenate his career.
Winner: Seamus Coleman
Seamus Coleman has been a huge bonus for the Toffees this season. With Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville sidelined by injury early in the year, Everton's right-back berth seemed likely to be a troublesome area to fill.
Coleman wasn't even a guaranteed selection as third choice, having been converted from his favoured position into a right midfielder for the previous two seasons. After a fine 2010-11 campaign, he had been largely subdued the previous year, starting just 14 games, possibly suffering from elements of second season syndrome.
However, after a slow start—as he readjusted to his old position—Coleman has steadily blossomed into an extremely accomplished right-back and has enjoyed a hugely successful season.
He's almost completely erased the defensive blips that were letting him down, making several eye-catching interventions in a defence that have only conceded three goals in their previous nine Premier League games.
In attack, his searing pace and unerring desire to rampage forward have troubled opposing sides all season and he's not out of place when compared alongside the very best attacking full-backs in the division.
Loser: Nikica Jelavic
The decline of Nikica Jelavic has been a huge disappointment for Evertonains, and has arguably cost them a place in Europe.
The Croatian arrived with such a flourish last season—11 goals in 13 starts—that it was impossible not to become intrigued by the Toffees potential when finally armed with some firepower.
However, just eight goals in 41 appearances, 31 of them starts, has been far below the return most fans would have expected.
Having started the season in reasonable touch, with six goals by the start of December, his fluency in front of goal dramatically tailed off. Even his most ardent supporters realised there was a confidence issue after an awful miss in a 0-0 draw against Southampton in January.
That seemed the final straw and he's struggled to start many games since, with just one goal in his past 20 appearances.
The Croatian's still managed to provide Evertonians with some of their best moments this season—with memorable last-minute strikes against Sunderland, Tottenham and Manchester City—yet his overall contribution has been nowhere near what was predicted and hoped for.
Winner: Victor Anichebe
One man who has profited from Jelavic's woes has been academy graduate and perennially injured Victor Anichebe, who has pieced together his best season at Everton.
Having never made more than 12 starts in seven often injury plagued seasons at the Toffees, the Nigerian has started 23 times this season, featuring in 31 games in total.
The physical front man has also found the back of the net eight times, having never managed more than five goals in a single campaign before.
Aside from his scoring, his link-up play has developed hugely over the course of the season. His energy and commitment seem to have reached new levels, and he's also contributed seven assists in all competitions, the joint highest total at Everton.
While he hasn't been able to solidify his claim to be the Toffees' primary solution up front, given the struggles of Jelavic, his input has been both unexpected and crucial, and fans have hugely appreciated his efforts.
Loser: Steven Naismith
Steven Naismith's inaugural season at Goodison Park has certainly not produced the type of return he would have hoped for.
The Scottish international has appeared to struggle with the pace of the Premier League, failing to make an impact in the games he's featured in.
After a decent preseason—where he notched a hat trick against AEK Athens—Naismith started the season in and out of the team, managing to bag three goals in a five-game spell at one stage.
However, as the season's gone on, he's been involved less and less. Since January, he's only made three league starts and has been even more peripheral when actually on the pitch.
Brought in from the SPL, for the moment it seems the Premier League, and certainly the top six, are too much of a leap for the former Rangers man.
Winner: Phil Jagielka
Despite his reputation and high standing at the club, Phil Jagileka wasn't always a guaranteed selection last season. In fact, he made fewer appearances than both his fellow centre-backs and was occasionally left on the bench.
Having been widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the country before a horrific injury in 2009, it's fair to say his form of the past two years, while decent, had not quite reached his previous high standards.
At the start of the season, Evertonians would have been split over their first choice centre-backs, with Player of the Season John Heitinga surely the obvious initial selection.
However, Jagielka has simply been outstanding this year, exceeding his best ever form. He's been courageous in the challenge area, intelligent with his positioning and has matured into an excellent leader of men.
David Moyes was recently quoted (via the Express) insisting that England should build around Jagileka at the back, and as this writer's choice for Player of the Season at the Toffees, it's impossible not to include Jagileka as a major winner.
He is now a regular starter for England, has taken over the captaincy at Everton and seems destined for a strong few years back at the top of his game.
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