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Great Expectations

By Steve Ferns :  13/09/2007 :  Comments (15) :
We’ve got a highly reputable manager, some big name players and there is a real expectation that we could be about to seriously return to the fray as competitors. I do not doubt that this is potentially the best Everton side since maybe the last time we won the league in ’87.

Compared to the team that finished 6th in ’07, 4th in ‘05, 7th in 03, 6th in ’96, or Cup Winners in ’95. I doubt few could argue that the squad now was ever as good in those seasons and the first XI is quite formidable. I agree that there is a real cause for optimism.

However, we should temper that optimism with a glance elsewhere. Last year the table finished as follows:

5. Tottenham +3 60pts
6. Everton +16 58pts
7. Bolton –5 56pts
8. Reading +5 55pts
9. Portsmouth +3 54pts
10. Blackburn –2 52 pts

11. Villa +2 50pts
13. Newcastle –9 43pts
14. Man City –15 42pts
15. West Ham –24 41 pts

Last season our main rivals were Spurs, Portsmouth, Bolton and Reading though Blackburn made a late charge. Of them, obviously Spurs are have a good squad and showed it by finishing 5th and doing well in the UEFA. Portsmouth, Reading and Bolton could not argue to have a better first XI than us.

TOTTENHAM
Spurs squad is as follows:
Gk: Robinson, Alnwick, Cerny
Defenders: Gardner, Chimbonda, Bale, Kaboul, Rocha, Lee, Stalteri, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto, Ifil
Midfielders: Malbranque, Jenas, Huddlestone, Zokora, Routledge, Taarabt, Tainio, Boateng, Ghaly, Lennon
Forwards: Keane, Bent, Berbatov, Defoe,

What strikes me about Spurs is that they have a big squad. I’ve been told its full of quality but to be honest I do not know half of them and consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about football. Where spurs are strong is in attack. Even their defenders are good going forward with Bale and Chimbonda being more like wingers. However, they do have trouble defending, particularly without the inspirational King, Also they can’t play all four strikers and if they chop and change surely it’s harder for the strikers to get any real rhythm going. They are 6 points back on us at the moment and are clearly misfiring. I am optimistic that we will hold spurs off or be within a few points of them should they really get going.

BOLTON
Their squad is as follows:
Gk: Jaaskelainen, Walker, Al-Habsi.
Defenders: Samuel, Cid, Meite, Hunt, O’Brien A, Michalik, Gardner.
Midfielders: Speed, Nolan, Alonso, Braaten, McCann, Wilhelmsson, Andranik, Dzemaili, Stelios, Tal, Guthrie, O’Brien J, Campo.
Forwards: Anelka, Diouf, Helguson, Davies, Vaz Te, Harsanyi, Sinclair.

They’ve have a bad start, lost the glue that held the team (arguably a bunch of misfits and no marks when they signed) together in Big Sam. They still have Anelka, there is still quality in the team, but they have made a bad start and I foresee them having a similar season to us 2 seasons ago when we struggled early on only to recover to 11th. They are already 7 points back on us and do not look to be one of our rivals for this season. I hope Little Sammy does well as he’s a nice fella and a fellow Huytonian.

READING
The royal’s squad is:
GK: Hahnemann, Federici,
Defenders: Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Duberry, De La Cruz, Murty, Halls, Golbourne, Rosenior, Sonko
Midfielders: Hunt, Harper, Gunnarsson, Fae, Convey, Oster, Cisse, Little.
Forwards: Doyle, Long, Lita, Kitson

The only side to have beaten us are in the bottom four. They are a strange side. On paper I do not think much of them, especially without Sidwell. I am not surprised they are in the bottom four, they were tonked by Bolton and West Ham 3-0 in each game. But consider their first 3 games: 0-0 at Old Trafford, a whisker from a point against Chelsea, and they beat us. I expect they will find it tough this season but they will be well organised and I think they will be mid-table. I cannot see them challenging us for Europe.

PORTSMOUTH:
Pompey’s squad is as follows:
GKs: James, Jordan, Ashdown
Defenders: Hreidarsson, Distin, Johnson, Pamarot, Lauren, Traore, Campbell, Cranie, Primus, Duffy.
Midfielders: Taylor, Davis, Mendes, Muntari, Hughes, Diop, Mvuemba, Kranjcar.
Forwards: Utaka, Kanu, Benjani, Nugent.

Pompey are a strong side. They fell just short last season, but ran us close for most of it. Their defence is experienced and if they are on their game should be formidable. That said, they haven’t kept a clean sheet all season and maybe age is catching up with some of them. They have a decent midfield and are good up front. I like the look of Utaka, ‘Arry might have got a steal there. They are 5 points back, but its early on and they’ve already played a couple of tough games. I expect them to be just behind once more, particularly if they get the chequebook out again in January.

BLACKBURN ROVERS:
Rovers’ squad is as follows:
GKs: Friedel, Enckelman, Brown.
Defenders: Warnock, Emerton, Nelsen, Samba, Ooijer, Henchoz, Berner, Khizanishvili.
Midfielders: Dunn, Bentley, Gamst Pedersen, Savage, Mokoena, Peter, Reid, Tugay.
Forwards: Santa Cruz, Derbyshire, McCarthy, Roberts, Gallagher, Rigters.

Rovers really came on strong at the end of last season, particulary on the back of the class Benni McCarthy. Now they can add Roque Santa Cruz as well as a resurgent Dunn. I think Blackburn are the new Bolton. They have good stikers, real steel in midfield as well as some real flair. I expect that they will be real rivals come the end of the season, and will probably will finish 6th. They are currently 2 points back.

ASTON VILLA:
Villa’s squad is as follows:
GKs: Carson, Taylor, Sorensen
Defenders: Laursen, Knight, Mellberg, Bouma, Cahill, Davies.
Midfielders: Barry, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Gardner, Maloney, Berger, Osbourne, Salifou
Forwards: Young, Agbonlahor, Carew, Moore, Harewood.

Villa were only 8 points back on us last season. They have an astute manager in O’Neil and I fully expect that they will build on their good start to move into a top 8 finish and possibly even a top 8 finish. They are 3 points back and have a game in hand. Remember only Liverpool have beat them, they drew at St. James Park and most recently they beat a full Chelsea team easily 2-0. They have a solid defence, I like Laursen and he’s never really been fit enough to show how good he is since he joined. Midfield also looks solid and Reo-Coker should prove a good signing and O’Neil should knock the immaturity out of him. Up front they have the power of and experience of Carew and exciting, pacy, young talent in Young, Agbonlahor and Moore. They will push us hard for a top 6 spot.

NEWCASTLE UTD:
Newcastle’s squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Harper, Forster, Given
Defenders: Taylor, Geremi, Rozehnal, Carr, Cacapa, Ramage, Faye, Edgar, Huntington, Jose Enrique, Carroll, Beye, Babayaro.
Midfielders: N’Zogbia, Milner, Butt, Pattison, Duff, Emre, Barton.
Forwards: Martins, Viduka, Owen, Smith, Ameobi, Luque.

Newcastle are as much underachievers as we are overachievers. The tags basically mean, we are crap really whilst they are good really. Their squad is full of overrated, lazy, misfits and flops. They are the kind of players big clubs discard and someone like Big Sam would take a chance on at Bolton. Oh, Big Sam is now the Newcastle manager. I’m hardly surprised that almost overnight that the team has changed dramatically. They look solid at the back and free scoring up front. In Given they have a world class keeper. Taylor looks solid and Cacapa was Lyon captain and should be a shrewd investment. Midfield looks to be the key area and I don’t think that they have replaced Parker, and so much depends on the form of Butt. Upfront they have a line-up even Man Utd would be proud of. I feel they may well overtake us this season. Particularly if they get a couple of midfielders in in January and Butt can stay fit. They lie 2 points back and have a game in hand.

MANCHESTER CITY:
City’s squad is as follows:
Gks: Schmeichel, Hart, Isaksson
Defenders: Richards, Dunne, Corluka, Garrido, Onuoha, Ball, Sun, Mills D
Midfielders: Elano, Petrov, Geovanni, Johnson, Hamann, Ireland, Dabo, Gelson
Forwards: Bianchi, Mpenza, Bojinov, Samaras, Sturridge, Vassell, Dickov

Last season City were simply awful. They were relegation candidates. Eriksson has basically bought an entire new team. They also have good emerging youngsters. They look solid in defence with Richards and the Dunney-Monster looking a decent partnership. In midfield, I think the trio of Petrov, Geovanni and Elano have impressed all. However, I have been most impressed with Didi Hamman and think he will be key to their continued success and without him, and when the weather gets cold, perhaps we will see an entirely different City. Perhaps. However, it’s early to judge them, and far too early to reasonably predict a finish. I will stick my neck out and say top 8 and they should remain within a few points of us.

WEST HAM UTD:
The hammers squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Green, Wright, Walker
Defenders: Upson, McCartney, Ferdinand, Neill, Spector, Gabbidon, Paintsil, Dailly, Collins, Davenport
Midfielders: Etherington, Noble, Bowyer, Mullins, Boa Morte, Dyer, Ljungberg, Solano, Parker, Quashie, Faubert
Forwards: Bellamy, Zamora, Cole, Ashton, Camara.

I like most people wanted the hammers to go down last season. I hope they do so this season. However, I think that looking at their squad now and their start to the season, only 3 points back on us with a game in hand, they are likely to be in the top 8 come the end of the season. The defence is fairly solid but not enough for a top 6 team. Dyer, Solano and Ljungberg are a good midfield trio and Bellamy and Ashton should be a good partnership up top. I do expect them to push hard for Europe, but just miss out.

What was the point of this article? Well as I said above to temper the expectations. Yes we have a real strong squad, but so do lots of other teams. The reason is the influx of money into the game. It will be hard to beat a lot of the mid table teams and expect many of our rivals to beat the big 4. I would really stick some money on someone breaking into the top 4 this season. I think it should be closer than ever. Can we do it? Possibly, but to be honest I think we are a couple of top quality players short of the big four. I still do not think we have a world class striker, Newcastle, Blackburn, Bolton, and Tottenham all do though.

All in all, I expect a good season, full of highs and lows, big wins (possibly on Saturday) and shocks (probably a typical early cup exit). I think Newcastle will be the surprise package, but they are a player short for 5th. Man City may struggle over Christmas but should be top 8. Tottenham have had a bad start but should recover, but is the damage done for top 5? Blackburn look formidable and I really expect them to make a breakthrough and possibly (if injury free) take a top 6 position. We do have a chance and there should be real optimism. If the young gunners falter, can we be the boys to edge them out and into 4th? Probably not. Lets enjoy the season, remain quietly optimistic and see where we are come Christmas.

Reader Comments

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Gai Roberts
1   Posted 13/09/2007 at 09:26:07

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I think it’s going to be a season where teams at the bottom will be beating teams near the top. Already this has been happening(take us for example at reading!)It’s going to be very hard for any team to break into the "Top 4",so for EFC, i just hope we continue to progress and be a little bit more consistent so we can be there or thereabouts come May,and a Cup Final with that (Uefa Cup possibly...)would be a good season. But if any team can dislodge the so called "Top Four" i’m sure it will be the MIGHTY BLUES ! C.O.Y.B

P.s Anybody know how to go about tickets for the merseyside derby if not season ticket holder?
Lee Spargo
2   Posted 13/09/2007 at 12:31:07

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I’ve read a few of these now - where somebody goes on for ages and then at the end basically says that we should finish about 5th.

Graham Nolan
3   Posted 13/09/2007 at 12:07:34

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No offense intended, but whenever I read something like this I get bored.
All of this "I think" stuff. I think Newcastle will do this that and the other. I think that Aston Villa will do X Y &Z. It’s all speculation.
We can all expect teams to finish in a certain position but nobody knows for sure what will happen. I mean I think Barry McGuigan will win Hells Kitchen but I don’t know it.
What is the point of this kind of speculative "article"? How does Mr.Ferns know what my expectations are and if they need to be tempered?
Horace Kelly
4   Posted 13/09/2007 at 13:08:41

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Graham - on that basis, you might as well switch off the PC, unplug the telly and come back in May to see what?s happened. Part of the reason for websites like this is to look forward as well as back.

And as for my expectations, here?s my 2 penn?orth: if only we had got a decent central midfielder in for the start of the season, I would be looking for at least 5th this season, and significantly closing the gap between us and 3rd/4th. As it is, if we finish 5th or 6th, I would still count this as real progress.
Graham Nolan
5   Posted 13/09/2007 at 13:17:36

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HK....I might just do that!
Ryan Crest
6   Posted 13/09/2007 at 14:10:46

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This article doesn?t contain a single original thought. There?s no humour and not even any controversy or debatable points. And it doesn?t even work as a summary piece - it?s way too long and rambling.

I know it?s a slow news week for Evertonians, but you get a big thumbs down from me, Steve. Next time you?re bored, try some DIY, a spot of gardening or maybe just blow the cobwebs away with a long walk. Journalism really isn?t your bag, man.
Martin Cutler
7   Posted 13/09/2007 at 14:32:49

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Steve, I for one enjoyed reading your article! It serves as a reminder of what we’re up against and I don’t think you intended to be original or "exciting" but compared to some of the comments on here at least it was footie-related, Everton-related and not slagging off other posters or talking about Kenwright etc or the stadium move....personally I think anything less than top-six is a step back......I think not signing a top creative midfield player will hurt us (although I think grabbing Gravesen at the last minute wasn’t half-bad on Moyes part).......there is no doubt that Everton can do extremely well this season....nobody can truly predict what will happen (and what fun would that be anyway?!?!?) but potentially we do have a cracking team and I look fwd to every Saturday, er, and Thursdays and Sundays........GOOD LUCK EVERTON!!!
JL Slap
8   Posted 13/09/2007 at 14:56:08

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As someone said it is a slow week for evertonians (internationals do my fucking head in!) so I was having a little of your piece, but when I read "I hope Little Sammy does well as he?s a nice fella" I scroll down to the bottom quite quickly. Sorry mate, as soon as he took over from Big Sam I took an even bigger dislike to a club I I wasnt particularly fond of anyhoo!! Would love it if they went down.
Steve Ferns
9   Posted 13/09/2007 at 18:42:15

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The main point of my article was not to say, yes we will finish 4th or 5th or no its 11th. It was to get whoever was interested enough to read to look at the opposition squads of those teams that might be pushing us for europe and consider just how much quality is actually out there in general. Yes we have our best squad in years but look how good some other teams are. The league is looking so strong right now. That is my one and only point. I only made a few comments as I couldn’t really help myself! Sorry.
Ged
10   Posted 13/09/2007 at 20:34:21

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Its a lot better than pre Moyes.
Michael Tracey
11   Posted 14/09/2007 at 00:59:49

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Steve don’t apologize! At least you gave it a shot. A lot of thought went into it and you gave a good analysis of each of major threats. I for one hope that we can get a Top4 finish and have a long European run. COYB!
Andy Lea
12   Posted 14/09/2007 at 12:30:25

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I have lost the will to live but cured my insomnia - hurrrah!
Mike Kennedy
13   Posted 14/09/2007 at 17:53:28

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Steve, good article mate. It’s good to get somebody else’s perspective on our relative strength. It’s hard to be objective when you passionately support a team but I think you made some good comment
Brendan McLaughlin
14   Posted 14/09/2007 at 23:41:46

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Spot on Steve. There’s a lot of crap being talked about how well we should do this season. Fact is we ain’t gonna touch the top four & holding on to 6th will be an achievement in itself.
Mark Stone
15   Posted 17/09/2007 at 16:39:24

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Graham - I hope Barry does win Hells Kitchen. I’ve always liked the little fella.

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