Pts: 22 (4-6-10)
Preseason Prediction: 7th
Accuracy: Oops, but I’m not alone
It’s a solid lineup, complete with a bunch of veterans (I got this far without even mentioning Tim Howard) and a few youngsters to spice things up, and one that compares favorably to just about anyone else in the league.
But “compares favorably” and “is better than” are two separate animals, in my opinion. I think at the end of the day, as it did last season, it will come down to consistency, and that’s where league success is manifested.
Can Everton play an entire season and stay consistent, beating teams below them and grabbing points when they can elsewhere? Can they avoid an ill-timed slide that may push them from a spot like fourth to seventh? I don’t think so.
Even reading that, it’s hard to figure why Everton has struggled so much this season. I guess scoring 21 goals in 20 matches is a good place to start and David Moyes hasn’t been able to find the answers. Tim Cahill has done his best, scoring 9 times and assisting on 3 others, but no striker has more than 2 goals this season. Phil Jagielka and Phil Neville have both seen better days in the defense, and the consistency just isn’t there for Everton.
With that said, there is talent there, both young and old, and I expect them to finish somewhere closer to where I predicted them to be.
Preseason best new signing:
Jermaine Beckford – On the plus side, Beckford does lead Everton strikers with 2 goals. He’s been OK, but Moyes has started him just 3 times (he’s come off the bench 12 other times). In fairness to Moyes, he’s had a little trouble with the increased competition level, although he shows flashes of brilliance, which may become more as he adjusts to the Premier League. Can he do any worse (especially this month when Cahill leaves for the Asian Cup).
Preseason key player:
Mikel Arteta – Here’s the stats I gave in the preview from Arteta’s 2006-07 season: 9 goals, 13 assists, fouled 100 times, and – most importantly – 35 league starts. He’s just not himself this season, although he has scored 3 times and started 16 games. But the fouls? only 24 times. He’s still serviceable, but Everton needs more than that.
Key player now:
Lleyton Baines – He might be the best left back in the league right now, starting all 20 games and picking up 6 assists, good for 7th in the EPL. He also seems to be getting better and better, which may help propel Everton up the table.
Inside the numbers:
24, 2 – Number of fouls and yellow cards Marouane Fellaini has picked up this season. A new, nicer Belgian? Cahill has picked up the slack with 49 fouls this season while Steven Pienaar continues to be among the league leaders with 53 fouls suffered.
It all comes down to the goal scoring. If Everton can get production out of someone up top: Louis Saha, Beckford, Victor Anichebe, anyone, they’ll be able to make their usual run. And they’re really not that far out of Europe.