Everton FC: Things Toffees Must Do to Catch Liverpool
Currently 12th in the Premiership (but with a game in hand), the Toffees are 10 points behind the sixth-place Reds, and have already lost the year’s first derby 2-0.
Once again, Liverpool possess the deep pockets and therefore expansive transfer options that Everton lack, widening the inequity between the two Merseyside teams.
For many Evertonians, the season is considered a success or failure based on how the club does in comparison to the Reds. If that is indeed your particular metric, don’t count the campaign lost just yet.
As the Toffees prepare for a weekend tilt with mighty Norwich City, soak up these 10 foolproof maneuvers Everton must undertake to overtake Liverpool this season.
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Well, yes, really. Let’s get this obvious fact out of the way first. If Everton have any hope of overcoming a talented Liverpool in the standings, they will have to win games. Draws won’t help Everton much, and the more losses they concede to beatable teams, the worse off they’ll be.
Luckily, the Toffees have a favorable schedule to ring in 2012. Apart from hosting the Canaries this upcoming weekend, Everton will face Swansea, Sunderland, West Brom and Bolton in consecutive weeks. All five of these sides are beatable, especially if Bolton continues their passion for playing a man down.
What Everton cannot afford to do is to post draws in these games. They’ve left far too many points on the table, and will need to start taking the three points they deserve rather than settling for one.
To win games, Everton will need to…
Score a Boatload of Goals
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Again, another fairly obvious point, but one that also needs to be made. To win games, Everton need to score goals, and a lot of them.
Next to last in the league with only 15 goals scored, the Toffees' mid-table plight is a direct result of poor goal scoring. Through 14 games, only five plays have scored two or more goals. Two of them are defenders. Nineteen-year-old Apostolos Vellios leads the team with three, but has only appeared in 10 games, starting two.
The reality of Everton’s anemic goal-tallying will be unsurprising for anyone who actually watches the team play. Frequently unsophisticated in the buildup, the side seems content to play route-one football for a large portion of the game, while defending for their lives.
This counterattacking philosophy combined with David Moyes' usual selection of one true striker (the largely ineffective Louis Saha) has not proven to be a recipe for success.
The easy answer is a complete tactical re-evaluation, but the chalkboard will only take Everton so far if they lack the correct personnel to execute the new formation. Why play two (or even three) strikers up front if you lack the quality strikers to do it?
There are, of course, built-in ways for Everton to pursue a solution to this problem…
Acquire a Striker in January
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Now that David Moyes has been afforded a little more spending money come January, Everton can seriously consider the purchase of a shiny new striker to help the team win games.
Speculation has run rampant among supporters as to who exactly the club will pursue, with everyone from Nicolas Anelka to Bobby Zamora being subjected to Everton talk.
Your guess is as good as mine concerning who exactly Moyes intends to pick up. Young, old, proven, unproven—Moyes has a history of finding solid contributors at bargain prices. Even Red Bulls star Thierry Henry might not be out of the question.
Regardless of what route he eventually chooses, Moyes needs to find a quality striker for Everton quickly. Placing a player with a nose for goal at the head of your attack is the most straightforward way of improving goal output, something the Toffees desperately need.
Along with acquiring a striker in January, Moyes will be well-served to…
Acquire a Midfielder in January
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What use is a talented striker if he can’t get a foot on the ball?
Apart from star defender Leighton Baines, Everton’s distribution up the pitch has lacked ingenuity and accuracy as of late. The midfield has put what amounts to their creative juices into a defensive mindset that has not helped gain ground on Liverpool.
Instead of radiating attacking verve, Everton’s midfielders are want for more positive ideas, and the addition of a sparkling creator would be just the ticket. Much like their approach to finding a striker, David Moyes has ruled out no one in his search.
Landon Donovan is the popular rumor, but there’s little indication that the American international will sign with the Toffees again due to fatigue (Edit: Scratch that, he's back!). Blackburn star Junior Hoilett is a possibility, but he might fetch to high a price. Even Steven Piennar could return to Goodison Park after being sold to Tottenham in the relatively recent past.
And that’s only scratching the surface of what’s out there.
Any prospective midfielder should jump at the chance at joining the People’s Club. Everton would provide a solid grounding in arguably the best league in the world, and the assurance of playing time. With Diniyar Bilyaletdinov finally projected to be on his way out and Royston Drenthe not quite mended, there’s space on the wing for a fresh face.
Hope Liverpool Stumble Against Lesser Opposition
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A 10-point gap isn’t overcome simply by winning games with an improved side; it also requires a bit of luck. Hoping that the Reds will stumble against lesser opposition might be just the kind break Everton need to close the separation.
Liverpool have upcoming fixtures with Aston Villa, Wigan, Blackburn and Newcastle, all beatable sides (with Newcastle on the downswing). However, they have shown a recent habit of playing down to their opponents, dropping points in a 1-0 loss to Fulham before squeaking by Queens Park Rangers 1-0 last week.
With the talent Liverpool possess, they should be winning these games by two goals, but have failed to produce the expected attacking edge. Luis Suarez approaches the goal with menace every time he’s on the ball, but other than him, few other Reds have looked consistently good.
The loss of Lucas Leiva leaves Liverpool a bit exposed in defensive midfield, and while that might seem to be a harbinger of a more attacking formation, it will also lead to more goals conceded.
Lesser opponents won’t beat the Reds at every chance, but recent history has shown that some might. Everton can only hope that trend continues.
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Everton has some key pieces on the injured list, with Royston Drenthe and Jack Rodwell not yet match fit. Getting them healthy will go a long way to strengthen their campaign against Liverpool.
Flying Dutchman Drenthe has been noticeably absent during Everton’s last three league matches. The Toffees have been held goalless in their last two games, with Drenthe’s absence contributing to the lack of flair in midfield. Getting him back in the coming weeks will certainly help the cause.
Young Rodwell suffered a rib injury against Bolton and was left out of the side against Arsenal. Rodwell, who had just begun to break in with the English national team, is a significant loss in the center of midfield, so hopefully he can return soon.
On a more positive note, imposing center-back Sylvian Distin returned to the pitch against Arsenal after sitting out injured for weeks. Distin will bring steeliness to the back line and Everton will need to keep matches close.
If they can get healthy, the Toffees should be able to gain ground on the Reds.
Start Apostolos Vellios
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Apostolos Vellios made only his second start of the year against Stoke City, but then wasn’t selected against Arsenal, a peculiar chain of events for Everton’s leading goal scorer.
With the team searching for goals, maybe it’s time to give the 19-year-old Greek prospect a place in the starting XI. Louis Saha hasn’t proven a better alternative, and if catching Liverpool is the prize, David Moyes might consider throwing caution to the wind.
At almost 6’3’’, Vellios is a large target in front of goal and a threat in the air. His footwork needs work, but as it improves so should his goal output. What Vellios really needs are chances, and Moyes can give them to him.
Paired up with another striker, Vellios could emerge as another Everton find. With loads of upside and potential, it’s time to start the Greek up front.
Hope Luis Suarez Earns Ban for Alleged Racist Remarks
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Dating back to Liverpool’s meeting with Manchester Untied in mid-October, Luis Suarez has been under investigation for alleged racist remarks made to Patrice Evra, with the FA just recently convening hearings on the issue.
Everton should hope for a conviction, which could remove Suarez from the Reds lineup for a game or two. With points at a premium, any that Liverpool would give up by not being able to start their favored striker would be a plus.
The genesis of the dispute lies in cultural differences between the two men. Evra alleges that Suarez directed derogatory racial remarks toward him numerous times during the match, but Suarez contends that he only said the word “negrito”—or “little black fella”—apparently a common term of endearment in Uruguay.
The upcoming hearings will discover the truth of the matter, with Evertonians surely to find reason to celebrate if Suarez is found guilty. Honestly, it might be the only way Everton will stop him this season.
Bake Andy Carroll Irresistible Cakes Before Each Match
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Appearing in every game as if he possesses an unquenchable lust for cakes, sweets, pies and other deserts, tubby Andy Carroll has proven to be one of the worst transfer decisions ever by a Premier League side.
To further his unproductive play for Liverpool, Everton should employ a few master chefs to bake and send Carroll an irresistible cake before every match he plays.
Carroll, a confessed cake connoisseur, has done little for the Reds since they signed him for a staggering £35 million. Often left on the bench, Carroll misses open chances when he does make the side, and generally lacks match fitness. Rumor has it that on high-definition televisions, you can see his gut wobble to and fro. It is a nightmarish sight for Liverpool supporters, but subject of hearty chortles from anyone else.
However, when Carroll is fit, he does possess some footballing skill. To stop this at all costs, Everton might want to consider acquiring Moritz Volz and his renown baking abilities from Germany’s FC St. Pauli.
The Toffees should pull out all the stops to keep Carroll a cautionary tale that lollops up and down the pitch to the horror of young children. Nothing but the best cake is good enough.