Filed under: Feature - Posted by: Jonty
The 2012/13 Premier League campaign may be about to get underway but with the transfer window still open and players still trickling back from the golf course and international duty, a number of unanswered questions have mounted up. In the first of a series of pre-season articles, we identify these “Burning Questions” and fire them at our resident contributors, in the hope that somewhere amongst their rambling, there’s a source of enlightenment.
We begin by examining that now familiar phenomenon, asssessing Everton’s chances of avoiding a false start.
Last season was a perfect example of Everton’s problematic start to a campaign; with the spectre of the transfer window once again leaving the cash strapped side unable to land the players it so desperately needed, whilst exposing them to the advances of wealthier suitors. The departure of Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta to Arsenal in the summer transfer window was particularly costly, as Everton notched up seven defeats by Christmas. Come 2012 the wind of change blew strongly across Merseyside, with the January window ushering in former player Steven Pienaar on loan and Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic from Rangers on a permanent basis. The new additions helped Everton achieve a nine–match unbeaten run and finish a very respectable seventh.
So far this season’s preparation is going far better. Pienaar has returned to the club and in Jelevic they have a settled and proven goalscorer, who has been joined by fellow former Rangers forward Steven Naismith. The ageing legs of Tim Cahill’s have departed to the New York Red Bulls and that may have opened the door for Everton’s other midfield talent to shine: Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson look set to profit. Despite being handed an opener against United, the fixture computer has also been reasonably kind to them with their first six games (MUN, avl, wba, NEW, swa, SOT). But will this be enough for Everton to tear up their dire early season form book?
Big Dunc says…
You have to go back to 2004-05 season for the last time Everton had a really strong start – they were sat in third place at Christmas and their eventual fourth place saw them qualify for the Champions League for the first time (only to be knocked out ahead of the group stages). Every year since, Moyes has been desperately trying to recreate that early season form and has failed miserably almost every time. As an Everton fan, I’ve got to be realistic and I believe that we’ve started badly because we just haven’t had the team to really challenge – the fact that Moyes has been able to get the very best out of his players as the season goes on and consistently finish strongly, is a testament to just how incredible a manager he really is.
This season feels different though. Previous seasons have seen us dogged by long drawn out transfer sagas, and the loss of Pienaar and Arteta last summer had a catastrophic effect on the structure of the team. The additions of Jelavic and Gibson in January, and then Pienaar and Naismith early in the summer window, however, means we will be starting with the strongest team we’ve had in years – there’s a natural balance to the side now and only the potential loss of Leighton Baines, who has been linked with Manchester United, could disrupt that. I’ll be backing Jelavic in a big way this season – I can see the vast majority of play coming through the Croatian, and he’s more than capable of over 20 goals this term – including his time at Rangers, he’s done it three years in a row now. If you’re looking for an early season differential then Fellaini could be well worth a punt – with Naismith likely to be used sparingly at first, I can see the big man pushed forwards and he should provide strong value across the games.
Is this bad start business merely a myth? This season should certainly test it to the full. Arguably Everton go into their opening game against United with one of the most settled squads, while David Moyes will have confidence in his tactics and personnel. The signing of Pienaar is, of course, absolutely key and with Nikaca Jelavic available from the get-go, I’d personally be very surprised if we didn’t see Everton destroy the hoodoo and be amongst the leading pack after the first couple of months. Will I back that view with some Fantasy investment? I’m still not sure. This time last year I was strongly considering Leighton Baines at 8.0, so why am I currently overlooking him at just 7.0? I’m still trying to work that one out – perhaps it’s the talk of a move to Old Trafford. Along with Thomas Vermaelen, Baines is the defensive wildcard who could rip it up and prove an outstanding differential.
Darron Gibson also deserves a mention – if Pienaar is too rich for you, Gibson, in the budget bracket looks an assured starter and has promised more goals. With Cahill now departed, we might even see Moyes release the shackles and give him licence to get within range with that howitzer shot of his.
With Steven Pienaar back in the fold on a permanent basis and Nikica Jelavic installed up top as the lone frontman, I don’t anticipate Everton will start quite so badly as they have done in recent seasons but I expect David Moyes’ men, as always, to have their customary strong finish. I feel that the reason as to why the Toffees continually do better in the final few months of each campaign is mainly down to one issue – fitness. There must be some explanation for the pattern; it’s not as if Moyes only manages to rally his troops with a few months of each term remaining. With Everton’s budget nowhere near many of their Premier League counterparts, Moyes is canny enough to gain an advantage over his rivals in every possible way and while many teams fail to maintain their results as the months go by and begin to flounder, the Goodison outfit are able to go from strength to strength in comparison. Consistency should be better, then, and with Jelavic’s deadly eye for goal up front, Baines could well return to the Fantasy form of 2010/11, with the Croatian and Pienaar looking strong value for their prices – the Sky Sports game also looks ideal for the South African in particular, with Marouane Fellaini a good bet here, too.
New boy Steven Naismith – if he can stay clear of injury – could also be a decent punt; reasonably priced across the Fantasy games, his previous partnership with Jelavic at Glasgow Rangers could come to fruition in the Premier League if he’s handed a regular role in “the hole” as a result of Tim Cahill’s departure to New York Red Bulls.
Why not? It’s become a tradition in the last few years, so much so that questions about Moyes’ inability to construct that perfect pre-season and motivate his charges to begin with a bang have been heard loud and clear. However, this year things are slightly different in the build up, with the unfamiliar sights of both a settled squad and a couple of first team signings in the shape of Steven Pienaar and Steven Naismith sure to lift spirits of both the team and fans alike. Add to that the return of Jack Rodwell, and the potential form of Nikica Jelavić and Everton could even be a team to be reckoned with in early season.
My pick of the Toffees though would be the big Belgian, Marouane Fellaini – with Tim Cahill now plying his trade in the US, Fellaini will again be asked to push on this season and as he has already shown in the past, he’s a consistent danger against even the best sides, including their first opponents of the campaign Manchester United.
They can and they will. Various theories have been postulated to explain Everton’s perennially pedestrian starts: unusual training methods, a government conspiracy, a gypsy curse. Compelling as these explanations are, the truth is simple – Moyes does it deliberately for dramatic effect.
Justly commended for punching above their weight in recent years, the Toffees’ boss has taken to basing his entire strategy around the narrative structure of the Rocky films. First he raises the humble expectations of his squad with a grueling, montage-ridden training camp. Next he raises the tension by insisting they spend the first few months of the season staggering limply around Goodison and enduring a remorselessly pummeling at the hands of whoever happens to show up. Before Christmas, when all hope seems lost, he pulls a lopsided grimace and lets loose an incoherent exclamation – the signal for the Toffees’ triumphant fight back to upper-mid-table redemption. The music plays, everybody exclaims what a wonderful manager he is, and still nobody offers him a better job.
Think howard and jelavic are the only players to choose for the earlier fixtures. Combined with jussi will create a good pair. Anyway please join my group: 127756-38479. Experience players are there. I've been playing this for years and always get 2000+, and may seek for another challange.
- 10 months, 13 days ago
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Team of the Season 2012/13
- van Persie
Next Six Ticker
|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
|Up||Robles||WIG||C, Vs, £|
|No Change||Lloris||TOT||C, Vs|
|No Change||Foster||WBA||C, Vs|
|No Change||Vorm||SWA||C, Vs|
|No Change||Mignolet||SUN||B, Vs|
|No Change||De Gea||MUN||A|
|Up||Boruc||SOT||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Kompany||MCI||B, Vs, Rest|
|No Change||Vertonghen||TOT||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Luiz||CHE||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Boyce||WIG||C, Vs, OoP|
|No Change||Cuéllar||SUN||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Rangel||SWA||C, Vs|
|Up||Clyne||SOT||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Mata||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Hazard||CHE||B, Vs, Rest, Inj|
|Up||Maloney||WIG||B, Vs, £|
|No Change||Y Touré||MCI||B, Vs|
|No Change||Silva||MCI||B, Vs, Inj|
|Up||Tevez||MCI||A, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Koné||WIG||B, Vs, £|
|Down||van Persie||MUN||A, Vs|
|Up||Lukaku||WBA||B, Vs, Rest|
|Down||Aguero||MCI||B, Vs, Inj|
|Up||Rodriguez||SOT||A, Vs, £|
|Up||Defoe||TOT||B, Vs, Rest|
|Up||Ba||CHE||C, Vs, Rest|
|A, B, C||Current Form|
|Inj||Injured/Returning from Injury|
|OoP||Out of Position|
“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas