Tuesday, August 12, 2008

EPL Previews: Everton

I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I drew this name out of the hat for our previews series. I hate Everton. To paraphrase an iconic quote from The Big Lebowski, I don't like their jerk-off name, I don't like their jerk-off faces, I don't like their jerk-off behavior, and I don't like them, jerk-offs.

However, I will gamely attempt to handicap and preview their season without liberal use of the word c*nt, and it will be every bit as painful and difficult as I expect it to be.

There is no time like the present, so join me after the jump for plenty of Joleon Lescott pictures!

From the time I was born, I have believed Everton to be a plague. A scourge on humanity. A rather gritty and ugly counterpoint to the efforts at cosmopolitan football being played by my lads across Stanley Park (Note: I said efforts. They're rarely successful). They were the Toffee villains, the FA Cup spoilers, and the pox on the city I call home.

They have several villains, for my money: the Scotch brute Duncan Ferguson, Tony Cottee, Graeme Sharp, Neville Southall, Kevin Sheedy, and now, their latest conduit of hate is Tim Cahill, who's easily on my list of least-favourite people ever to have walked the earth.

Everton play dismal, difficult football. Passing is minimal, and the bog that is the turf at Goodison Park is almost criminal, as it creates a languid, awkward style of play that always causes visiting teams trouble (Arsenal fans: I believe your cultural equivalent would be the pitch at the JJB, correct?). It always causes us trouble, in particular, and while we've enjoyed some cracking matches with Everton in the past, I still dread seeing them appear on the fixture list for the weekend.

But this is not about me, nor Everton's eternal struggles with Liverpool. It's about their upcoming season, and for all their working-class glory, they're going to struggle this year.

Why? Because everyone around them has improved while they've stood pat, like the guy in poker who always folds pre-flop unless he has the good cards, by which point the mere hint of his participation in a hand causes everyone to fold immediately. Moyes and Kenwright have done sweet FA this off-season, unless you count the departures of Gravesen and Carsley, two mediocre but effective midfielders.

With a tiny squad to begin with, they've brought in no-one, nary a sighting at the training ground, nary a physical to speak of. They've stood absolutely still. Of course, this is subject to change as their burning desire to buy Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Moutinho is dragging on without them being able to meet the asking price.

On paper, their first-choice XI is good, but they're laughably shallow beyond that. They have precisely 6 midfielders on their squad, and none of them are particularly good at controlling the middle of the pitch; Osman, van der Meyde and Arteta are all wingers, Cahill and Pienaar are fond of attacking, and Jack Rodwell is only 17 years old.

Behind them, a formidable back four and Yank in goal, but precious little support should one of them need medical attention. They have a slew of left-backs (Valente, Phil "c*nt" Neville, Leighton Baines), solid center-backs in Lescott, Yobo and Jagielka, and Hibbert is disruptive enough on the right.

Up front, they just offloaded Andy "c*nt" Johnson, and Yakubu is essentially working all alone. While he's dangerous, he has no support (do you get the idea now?) -- fellow Nigerian Anichebe is seemingly allergic to the goal (4 goals in 44), as is James Vaughn (6 in 25) and 19-year-old Polish striker Lukas Jutkiewicz, who scored 5 goals in 39 games for Swindon Town and has yet to actually play for Everton!

So Mr. Moyes, what exactly is he playing at? He's hardly giving himself the tools needed to win in this rough, competitive league. A squad of essentially 19 players is not going to be enough to challenge in the UEFA Cup and in the league, and we can expect them to slip a lot further down into the mid-table morass thanks to the vast improvements made by European hopefuls Spurs, Portsmouth and Aston Villa.

As a Liverpool fan, I like to see them fail, but I at least enjoy the sport of watching them fail when their expectations are sky high. You get the impression that deep down, none of the returning workhorses are especially enamored with the feeble size of their squad (based on their limp travels through the US in pre-season), and that there is some deep-seated fear that this year, they'll be the nerd getting sand kicked in their face.

I predict a 9th or 10th-place finish for them, and despite these revelations, I'll still enjoy every last minute of it.

1 comment:

Keith said...

Someone's gotta comment on this preview: Everton were the perfect team to follow a second "meh" wire.