EPL: How Can Everton Compete With the Top Four in the Premier League?
Last season, after an appalling start, Everton went on an incredible run, barely losing any games until the end of the season. They beat - and outplayed - Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City and almost squeezed into Europe, despite an awful start to the season. Their run had many people believing that this season, they could possibly compete for a Champions League place. Yet it has been another dire start this season. With so many teams running away from them, what can Everton do, to reach those dizzy heights of the top four in the near future?
Very obvious. Bill Kenwright is conceivably one of the best chairmen in the Premier League considering the way he runs many facets of the club. He certainly lets the manager do his job, and he runs the club smoothly enough. He also loves and supports the club, attends every game, generally negotiates a stringent transfer deal for Everton, and also stays out of the headlines. So surely he is the perfect chairman, right? He sadly falls short by simply not being able to compete with the majority of Premier League chairmen financially.
The club has been 'for sale' for years and every season it gets tougher for Everton without additional funds. At this present moment, teams finishing lower than Everton in preceding years, such as Wolves, Stoke, Birmingham and Blackburn are managing to negotiate moves for players that Everton simply cannot compete for financially. Over the past four seasons Everton have battled tenaciously to stay in the top eight of the Premier League, succeeding, and even finishing fifth twice. This will only become increasingly strenuous, bordering on impossible, without any extra resources. One admires the stubborn stance Everton take, refusing to reach similar ridiculous proportions of debt that some of these clubs face, yet a cash injection for Everton is long overdue.
No Investment Imminent? Wheel 'n' Deal.
With barely any money to spend, Everton must offload to raise money. I could envisage Everton receiving roughly £15-20 million were they to sell these players…
He has already gone to Spurs, for between £2-3 million.
Yakubu and Yobo
They are currently on loan at clubs that will probably scoop them up at the end of the season. Both players have had impressive runs of form at Everton, Yobo in particular has been a loyal stalwart of the club, clocking up over 250 appearances. However, certainly for a good couple of seasons, the performances of these two have waned. They will leave very soon, and they should fetch £2-4 million each.
Another just leaving on loan, with a view to a permanent transfer at the end of the season. He has sadly been too injury-prone. It is a shame, as a few years ago he showed glimpses of being an exciting Premier League player for the future. In 2007 he scored four Premier League goals in just seven starts, but subsequently has somehow managed just one more start in three-and-a-half years! Everton should collect up to £1 million for him.
This will divide Evertonians, but the World Cup finalist has fallen out of favour with a significant amount of Everton supporters who doubt his loyalty after several ‘come and get me pleas’, immediately after his appearance in the World Cup Final. He is a centre back, that will not play over Phil Jagielka at RCB, and despite calls for him to replace Sylvain Distin at LCB, this also will not happen. Moyes prefers the naturally left-footed balance Distin brings, as well as his extra height. This leaves Heitinga either out of position in midfield, or on the bench, and in these current times, the £6-8 million Dutchman is a very sell-able asset.
An amiable, yet frustrating figure. He is a 'Match of the Day player', capable of memorable strikes, indeed he scored eight vital goals last season. Yet he infuriatingly drifts in and out of games far too frequently for someone with copious amounts of talent. He may now be given a chance to reassert himself in the team, with Pienaar leaving, yet if a Russian team wanted to take him home, Everton would surely take £4-6 million for him, and look for an upgrade?
No Wheeling 'n' Dealing? Sell a Major Player
If Everton do not sell a few fringe players, they may soon have to face a situation of choosing to offload a Fellaini, Rodwell, Arteta or Jagielka for something around the £15-18 million mark. Either way, Everton need to find a sum of money.
For those of you screaming out - wait, what about the £15 million Everton spent on Fellaini, or the £11 million spent on Yakubu? These were all moves funded by a big player leaving, something Everton have always had to do in recent times. Wayne Rooney's £25 million departure allowed Moyes to pretty much construct a team. Neville, Cahill, and Arteta joined soon after Rooney departed for barely £7 million combined. Baines, Jagielka and Yakubu all soon followed, in moves balanced by the bulky figure received for Rooney. Andy Johnson leaving for Fulham coupled with James McFadden's departure to Birmingham for a combined £16 million sum funded the Fellaini coup of 2008. More recently the Joleon Lescott transfer to Manchester City for £24 million, enabled recent arrivals Heitinga, Distin and Bilyaletdinov to arrive on Merseyside. Without investment, for Everton to progress, it is a case of choosing wisely who will leave in order to fashion the next influx of players. Personally, I favour moving on the fringe players, for now.
Find a Striker, NOW
Strikers win you games, One way or another Everton need to find £15-20 million, as discussed, and a large portion of it needs to go on a striker.
What Everton are missing is a big target man. Six out of the current top eight Premier League goalscorers would probably class themselves as big target men, so they are certainly in season right now. This player does not necessarily have to score an excessive amount of goals for Everton, 12-15 per season would suffice. His daunting presence would take defenders away from Tim Cahill, making one of the most dangerous attacking midfield finishers in the Premier League even more potent. He must be able to put himself about, and he must also hold the ball up well in the final third. This is something Everton have been crying out for. With a far more advanced passing game compared to more recent times, Everton are playing their way up to the opposition's box impressively, only to begin passing the ball from side to side, easily nullified, before eventually losing it. A more direct option would make Everton less predictable for the opposition. This would also compliment Louis Saha and Jermaine Beckford, who offer something different.
Pavel Pogrebnyak, Peter Crouch, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlton Cole, Oscar Cardozo, Alberto Gilardino, Ismael Bangoura, Marco Janko, Stefan Kiessling, Marcus Berg, Tomas Necid?
Just several target men that could feasibly ply their trade for Everton, some of those would do a job better than others, and it is always going to be about price and wages, but these are the kind of players that should be looked at, and potentially could improve Everton at the moment.
Replace Steven Pienaar
Player of the Year last year, Steven Pienaar, has been an influential figure in all that has been good about Everton over the past three-and-a-half years. It will not be easy to replace him, but there are options out there.
Matt Jarvis - Wolves
Chris Eagles - Burnley
Landon Donovan - LA Galaxy
Just three, recently linked players out of many options, though this is more likely to be addressed in the summer. Ideally this player is for the left flank, though a left foot is not essential. The player would cut in, attacking the edge of the penalty box, drawing defenders to him, and in turn leaving space for Baines to overlap and eventually cross. In essence, supplying the assist to the assist - if that makes sense. If Everton could somehow find a way to sign Donovan, it would help appease a great amount of unrest festering among impatient Everton supporters at the moment.
Continue the Production Line
Everton have recently brought through the likes of Rodwell, Anichebe, Rooney, Vaughan, Hibbert and Osman from their Academy, and with no money, they need to keep this up. There are quite a few youngsters in Everton’s current Academy turning heads. Hopefully Barkley, Duffy, Garbutt, Hope and a few others can make the grade.
David Moyes must not forget how he has had to habitually turn to youth in the past and has consequently reaped the benefits from doing so, turning to Vaughan, Anichebe, Rodwell and Gosling in recent times when numbers were depleted. There was recently an opportunity to use Shane Duffy in central defence, a youngster already in and around the senior Irish set-up. Instead Moyes opted to use Tony Hibbert very out of position at centre back for this juncture. Surely blooding this exciting youngster here could have been more fruitful?
Play Mikel Arteta Right Midfield
Mikel Arteta has been a key player in his entire six year stay at Everton. However, it must be remembered that he first impressed as a kind of David Beckham style, wide right midfielder, who would produce sumptuous deliveries into the box, never needing to rely on any great pace to beat defenders. He topped assist charts and won Everton many games with his delivery. He also twice picked up the Everton Player of the Year award in this position. Since moving to a more central role his production has dwindled slightly. Moyes should consider moving him back out to right. Not only would it allow the exciting partnership of Felliani and Rodwell to develop in central midfield, but with Baines crossing from the left, and Arteta from the right, any potential new striker would be provided with countless opportunities to hit the back of the net.
If Phil Neville leaves this transfer window or the next, with rumours insinuating that he may be inclined to follow Steven Pienaar to Tottenham, David Moyes must make Tim Cahill the captain of Everton. You can almost go as far as saying Tim Cahill is Everton. The man lives, breaths and indeed scores for Everton. He even has a tattoo of Everton. In the past, when Neville has been injured, the captain's armband has been bandied about between Yobo, Arteta, Osman, Hibbert as well as the diminutive Australian. Whereas all the players on that list have contributed much to Everton in past seasons, nobody displays the inspiration essential on the pitch to fire up your team-mates. Neither do they quite display the passion that brings the crowd into vital games the way Cahill can. Whilst Neville's form has never been as good for Everton as in his Manchester United heydays, his leadership skills, passion, commitment and dogged determination to get a result any way possible for his team, makes him a very good leader. Cahill displays many of these qualities and more, and should be the next man for the job if Neville does leave, or perhaps begins to play a less significant role on the pitch, with the emergence of right back Seamus Coleman.
Be Crafty With Loan Moves
Everton have had a very successful knack of finding a player on loan, and seeing them fit into the team ethos immediately. Often they have then been able to sign that player for a bargain fee, as in the case of Arteta and Pienaar, and almost in the case of Donovan and Manuel Fernandes.
If Everton cannot find investment, Bill Kenwright will not change the wage structure, quite correctly, with financial implications over large debts looming menacingly around Premier League clubs. Everton have a very strict wage budget, overtaken by a large portion of Premier League outfits in recent times. Many teams and players, in the loan market, will obviously choose the club offering the best wages. Far too many clubs, at this present moment in time, seem able to pay players larger sums of money than Everton can, hence, attracting them on loan first. This is why players such as David Bentley did not appear at Goodison Park, despite interest from Everton. Everton are consistently being out-muscled in the transfer markets by more and more teams.
With impending financial restrictions coming into play, Everton cannot afford to change their rigid budget now. They must stick to what that have done, and look for those Arteta and Donovan type loan moves that are out there. It may frustrate fans initially, as I'm sure at the time Arteta, Pienaar and Fernandes did. Your average football fan probably would not have heard of those players before they began plying their trade in Merseyside, but in the long run, this will prove worthwhile for Everton. By keeping the budget what it is, Everton are also more likely to find the right kind of player that plays football more for the game, and not so much for the money - a cliché that many a footballer will claim to do, but the likes of Arteta, Cahill, Baines, and Jagielka could all have gone on the earn significantly higher wages recently, yet have stayed admirably loyal to the club they enjoy playing for and want to win for. This itself is a reason Everton have competed with the financially better off teams in recent seasons, most of the players seem to want to succeed for Everton, not just for their wage packets.
Everton will need to use a couple of loan signings each season that fit in straight away, it is a way of staying with those more blessed with wealth. The contributions of these loan players will prove vital in achieving success during upcoming seasons.
No Need to Panic, Yet
Everton have a very good core of a team, they just need a couple of places filled.
Howard, Neville/Coleman, Jagielka, Baines, Arteta, Fellaini, Rodwell and Cahill should all be on the team-sheet for a good few years to come. Those names should be able to compete with the best in the Premier League.
Just three places to find then(!) Anichebe and Beckford may soon be able to offer more consistent performances for Everton, and warrant continued selection, whilst Distin, Osman, Hibbert and Saha, as well as a few more current squad members would offer stability. (This is incorporating the proposed transfers of fringe players, from earlier).
The nucleus is certainly strong at Everton, with some astute loan acquisitions and a couple of well thought out, bigger signings, Everton will progress.
Find a New Ground As Soon As Possible. (Share with Liverpool?)
This headline will immediately cause most Everton fans to discard this article, but just consider it. Surely it saves a hefty sum of money, and both Everton and Liverpool are not exactly finding it easy to relocate at the moment. Everton fans would not want their team to move out of the area, which may eventually become a consideration for the Everton board, as it has for Tottenham at the moment, although the Kirkby proposition does seem to be dead in the water for now. Everton recently received planning permission to build a £9 million retail and administration centre alongside Goodison Park, hinting at a commitment to the ground for the time being.
However, it will become more and more essential as time goes by, for Everton to find a new stadium. Goodison Park, whilst being one of the most atmospheric grounds in the country, still incorporating many classic, old-fashioned elements, simply has no room to expand. Many areas of the ground also stretch the old-fashioned description too far, and appear ancient compared to so many modern day stadiums.
Sharing works well across the southern hemisphere, it works in Germany, in Italy and in America. At the Allianz Arena, in Germany, the stadium even changes from red to blue depending on whether Bayern Munich or 1860 Munich play. Surely aspects from these venues can be taken into account and altered to fit both sides here? Neither side play at home when the other is due to security reasons anyway. On an official home game for Everton against Liverpool, allow three quarters of the ground or more filled with Everton fans. Perhaps even have a Kop End at one end, and a Gladys Street Stand at the other? No? Okay, I'm sorry. It would probably never be seriously entertained by either side anyway.
Do Not Lose Faith In David Moyes
With defeats and frustrating draws mounting up this season, the clamour of booing from deflated crowds is the most common sound after the final whistle at Goodison Park this season. Yet Everton fans must not forget, it is the success under David Moyes, that has lead to any heightened expectations fans have. After all, Everton were not exactly challenging the upper echelons of the Premier League before David Moyes arrived on Merseyside. More often than not, survival ended up being the focal point of a season. Now, under David Moyes, Everton have had four European finishes, a Champions League finish, an FA Cup final appearance, a League Cup semi final, and a couple of decent runs in Europe. Not bad for an often threadbare squad.
Sure there are times when you feel in the current football climate he should have achieved more on paper, some actual silverware. Likewise there are times it seems his tactics lack flexibility. However, when you consider to finish fourth, Everton overtook Liverpool. When they have finished in Europe, Everton have had to beat Tottenham, Manchester City or Aston Villa to the finish line, clubs spending significantly more on transfers and wages than Everton. In the all-too-rare cup run of 2009, Everton had to dispose of Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester United just to get to the final, where they met Chelsea.
Do not forget his impressive ability in the transfer market as well. Very few current managers can match his ability to decipher a player's potential. Players such as Arteta (£2 million), Cahill (£1.5million), and then maybe even Pienaar (£2 million), Jagielka (£4 million) and Coleman (£500,000) should go down as some of the best transfer coups in Premier League history. Many more have left, under the Scot's tenure, providing the club with a profitable return on the figures spent on them, thanks to his careful, stingy dealings.
Moyes also rarely ever seems to have a day off, devoted to the cause. Every time there is a midweek game he seems to be in the stands, meticulously analysing, trying to envisage the next 'Everton type of player'. Is there a manager that travels to more games, constantly striving to find the best for his club?
Everton fans cannot afford to let their disgruntled feelings exert undue pressure on their talented manager who has his hands tied in the financial market. Without David Moyes, Everton could have been in almost unimaginable perilous positions in any of the past eight seasons, it is thanks to Moyes that optimism and hope - dangerous things in football - still surround Everton at the start of each season, despite being a club currently down to the bare bones in resources.
All is not lost for Everton despite current bleak surroundings. Were any of these solutions covered in this article to be pursued, then surely Everton would not be far off Europe again. If the majority of them were achieved, then surely a lot of the hope Everton supporters invest in their team would not be pent up for too much longer.