Everton has a firm grip on the eighth spot of the table with just two to play. Finishing eighth is kind of like kissing your sister, or going to the prom without a date. Just not quite good enough. Although a move up to seventh spot is still mathematically possible, expecting their Merseyside rivals Liverpool not to get one more point in the final two games might be wishful thinking.
Still, after the start Everton had at the beginning of the campaign way back last August and September, eighth spot isn’t the worst thing in the world. Better than 18th, that’s for sure. Consider at the end of November Everton sat in 16th place.
So as the offseason approaches (short as it is), what does Everton need to do to get back into the top seven next season? What pieces of the puzzle need to be in place to guarantee success in 2010/2011?
Here’s a half dozen things the Toffees must do in the offseason:
Injuries crippled Everton at the beginning of the season, contributing to the poor start.
Although this is more often than not something out of your control, Everton must get off to a quicker start in 2010/2011, and that means fewer injuries.
A big part of this is hoping the Toffees who are playing in the World Cup don't get injured. That includes Tim Cahill (Australia), Tim Howard (U.S.), Mikel Arteta (Spain), Phil Neville (England), and Louis Saha (France) among others.
Chelsea wants him. Manchester United wants him. Arsenal wants him.
The young English phenom is sought after, but the best thing Everton can do is reject all these offers and keep him. Does anyone remember a young 18-year-old lad by the name of Wayne Rooney?
Some could say, with the injuries early in the season, it was the defense that needed to step up for Everton and didn't. Although they played fairly sound the second half of the season, a major signing could be the best thing Everton can do this summer.
Although they still have him under contract, like with Rodwell, Everton needs to show Pienaar the money. Pienaar has been linked with a move away from Goddison.
Even though he does spend more time than anyone in the league falling to the pitch, Pienaar is a valuable piece to the puzzle. If he left, he would have to be replaced with an equal player. Easiest thing to do: Resign him.
An extension for manager David Moyes might be worth considering. Although still a few years left on the contract, Moyes has been year-in and year-out one of the best managers in the Premier League.
Just look at the job he did this season. Battling more injuries than any other club in the league, Moyes delivered another top-10 finish.
Somehow, someway, get a blue jersey once again onto Landon Donovan's back.
Right now it is white with the L.A. Galaxy, and this summer in South Africa it will be red, white, and blue.
Moyes and Everton have to figure out a way to get the American back in Everton, and try and do it on a permanent basis, not just another loan.
The 28-year-old U.S. international is playing the best football of his life. The all-time leader in goals and assists for the U.S., Donovan is one of the best 50 players in the world. And the beauty of it, he loves Everton and wants to return. Everton cannot let this opportunity pass.
With the World Cup coming up and then the finish to the MLS season, it probably won't happen until January. But, somehow, it does need to happen.