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Inbetweenies

By Steve Guy :  29/01/2009 :  Comments (13) :
Fans are already debating where we will finish this season; we dream of 4th, optimistically look to 5th and realistically seem to have pitched our tent at 6th. If we look at our current placing however and the point?s difference above and below us, I think that it pretty much reflects the longer term progress and realistic status of our club at this time.

Our league finishes of the past few seasons, our aspirations now as fans and the increasingly common view of media and fans elsewhere would have us seen as a ?Top Six? club.

However, I am not sure what this means anymore. It used to have relevance in the pre Sky days, when clubs were more evenly matched and any one of six clubs were in with a shout of winning the Division One title. However from the early 90?s onward the dominance of four teams has made this largely an erroneous phrase, with only our own Club threatening once to break the monopoly and Villa now looking to do the same.

Being a Top Six club now means, that we have realistic aspirations to maintain a Uefa Cup spot, but it doesn?t define us as it once did; as being a Club which an compete for the title. The current point?s difference alluded to above brings this into sharp relief. We are well ahead of the teams below us, but we are well behind the teams above us too. People talk about a league within a league, but I actually think next season we may see three tiers; Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool (unfortunately) and Arsenal still commanding the top four spots, but with Villa, Everton and Man City in a chasing pack and the rest some way behind. No doubt a debate is to be had around the assumption of who fits where, but unless things go drastically awry in what?s left of this season and we don?t perform to our now high standards in the next one, it?s safe to assume we will be 6th or thereabouts again.

Last summer was eagerly anticipated as the summer in which we would ?push on? with signings which would allow us to barge our way into a Champions League placing this season. The signings were always tantalisingly out of reach and we ended up with what looked like panic buying at the last minute to bolster a paper thin squad. Plenty has been written about this and I think most agree it was shambolic. However, even if we had made two or three quality signings (the improving Fellaini being too little too late), do we really believe this would have enabled a real charge for (say) 4th spot? Difficult though it is, ignore the awful performances of September and October 08 and the many reasons for this; even if we had played well and won more home games, do we think we would have done enough to push us into 4th by season?s end, given the summer spending by the clubs above us?

Whilst never impossible (we have done it once), the purchasing power, quality and consistency of the teams mentioned above have meant that they are able to typically keep us at arms length. Villa is now added to that number (although I agree they have had large slices of luck this season too) and for all their current problems, Man City will elbow their way into the party next year as well.

I think we are playing some great stuff at the moment and I am enjoying watching one of the best Everton teams I have seen since the 80s; Moyes has his faults but I wouldn?t swap him for any of the EPL alternatives and can?t think of any realistic alternatives further afield. However, until we find the investment and therefore spending power of the aforementioned clubs it looks increasingly likely that Everton will for the foreseeable future be stuck in a bubble of our own; sitting it out each year in sixth, qualifying for the Uefa competition (whatever it?s name), better than the rest but not able to compete with the big spenders.

More worrying, knowing the cyclical nature of teams as they develop their potential and then disband to re-form, the continued lack of investment may even see the club drop away again for a period whilst ageing players are replaced and styles of play change to accommodate this. Nor can we expect an ambitious (for trophies) manager to stay forever, watching moths fly out of BK?s wallet whilst elsewhere cash is splashed with abandon.

We need to enjoy this Everton team?s performances and our general on-field renaissance whilst we can, but the pressure needs to be kept on BK and his agents to find the investor who will allow our current momentum to be maintained and the Team?s undoubted promise fulfilled with some shiny new trophies in the Goodison cabinet.

Reader Comments

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stephen stuart
1   Posted 29/01/2009 at 17:02:51

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Dhoh
Mark Stone
2   Posted 29/01/2009 at 17:50:56

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I wouldn’t say that the sky four have dominated since the early 90’s. Arsenal and Man Utd have dominated since the mid-late 90’s, Liverpool and Chelsea a more recent phenomena. Until 6 or 7 years ago Leeds Utd and Newcastle were the big guns! I wouldn’t be surprised if Liverpool fell from grace in the same way :-)
Trevor Lynes
3   Posted 29/01/2009 at 18:09:00

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You must have been living on a different planet. Newcastle and Leeds have won nothing for yonks... we have won more on our own than ALL the northeast clubs put together. Leeds were a great side under REVIE and since then they have dropped completely away.
Ped Pearl
4   Posted 29/01/2009 at 18:29:19

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Not much to disagree with there Steve.

We are only 2 or 3 signings away from being able to challenge I think. Unfortunately we have no money to be able to take that extra step. We might have to wait a year or two while Moyes makes one good signing a year and hope to keep hold of what we have.
Beth Carter
5   Posted 29/01/2009 at 20:11:37

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Makes a change from fighing for scraps from the bottom of the premier league table.

The days of "Wimbledon 94" and "Coventry 98" are behind us even though, they were fantastic occasions ,or outcomes would be better, we will always remember, we should not have been there in the first place.

I often look back on those two afternoons, and think Bloody hell- we came that close to being relegated.
Andrew Laird
6   Posted 30/01/2009 at 03:01:50

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I agree with you completely Steve however, the automatic UEFA cup spot in the league goes to 5th place and if we finish 6th and do not win the FA cup we will be relying on the top 5 winning it or Manure to win the carling cup.
Unfortunately, we will never be able to challenge the sky four by adding 1 or 2 quality players each season as the teams above us add 3 or 4 at least. Another problem is wages, in order to accomodate a top earner at the club something has to give and we all know that means someone will leave. Our current dire financial state means that even AVDM cannot play as it will trigger a clause that we will have to pay another installment of his transfer fee to Inter!
Mark Stone
7   Posted 30/01/2009 at 08:44:08

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Trevor the post isn?t about who?s won what, it?s about the invincibility of the ?Big 4? in terms of final league placing - and about nobody being able to break into that elite. (Incidentally Leeds won the title in ?92 which is more recent than us and indeed Liverpool.)

They also had ?top 4? finishes in 1999, 2000, 2001. Prior to (94, 96 and 97) and since then Newcastle have regularly finished amongst the top 4 (2002 & 2003). The same 4 teams haven?t dominated the top 4 spots since the early 90?s, and a couple of the teams who did have fallen from grace spectacularly. My point is that the same could happen to one of the current crop... especially when you consider the levels of debt some of them are in.

Mike Noakes
8   Posted 31/01/2009 at 05:50:41

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I agree with most of your points. Moyes has done a fantastic job with the squad he?s got, but the squad cannot sustain a realistic challenge. Take today?s game: If Cahill and Fellaini are sidelined it?s leaving us more than thin on the ground. Unless we can secure funds to strengthen the squad, we are likely to struggle over the next couple of years.

My main fear is that he could be lured by a major player (Man Utd) ? Ferguson has always expressed admiration for Moyes, and in many ways they are not dissimilar in management style.

Gareth Fieldstead
9   Posted 31/01/2009 at 06:36:59

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Not a bad article, Steve. Personally I would prefer a club like ours that can only add a few players per season, rather than be a club like City who have gladly sold their souls to try and compete with their near neighbours.

My concerns, and have been for a number of years was a recession. Tickets and merchandise costs are over and above the cost of inflation and to go the game when I was a teenager compared to now is very expensive.

The inevitable crunch that will come with the new Sky deal will see numerous overseas investors rethinking their involvement with clubs and at the end of the day attendance figures will only continue to decrease for the foreseeable future. The cash cow that many overseas chairman had hoped for will not materialise. I personally think this will be good for the game.

Finally the only way we will see a genuine change to the top 4 monopoly is to expand the Champions League format to maybe 6 in England with the teams 3rd to 6th going to a qualification round and then if unsuccessful dropping into the Uefa Cup. The same could be said for all the major leagues in Europe and would placate Platini among others as so many of the richer clubs would see themselves in a knock-out competition when anything could happen.

Garry Corgan
10   Posted 31/01/2009 at 06:45:56

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Unfortunately, for me, the 80s are nothing more than a dim memory despite my being 25 years old.

Seeing Everton in the top six on a regular basis is nice, and a welcome change from the vast majority of the years I?ve supported the blues. Wimbledon ?94 and Coventry ?98 are what I grew up with so I?m probably more content with most than the current mediocrity.

While I agree with Steve that there?s no viable alternative to David Moyes and that we need to stick with him, I disagree with the poster above that he and Alex Ferguson are similar. Ferguson has always had an eye for a flair player and his United teams have always played excellent football ? unlike us!

At the moment, we have a good back four. I still have reservations about the right-back slot (for me neither Hibbert nor Neville is good enough, and I doubt Jacobsen will be either). Aside from that, our back four is ?done? for now.

We seem to have accumulated a good number of midfielders but few of any real quality. If we want to push on and challenge the top four we have to take a leaf out of Aston Villa?s books. In Ashley Young, James Milner and Gabriel Agbonlahor they have a number of creative, flair players who can turn a draw into a win ? as we learned the hard way. Those are the kinds of players we need in order to make the step up.

Villa may be on a bit of a lucky streak at the moment but they?re just one win behind Liverpool and Chelsea and, as the old saying goes, the league doesn?t lie. As it stands they have a realistic change of winning the title. Of course, they won?t, but they?re a damn sight closer than we are.

My major reservation with David Moyes is his seeming inability to bring in the next stage of player. Fellaini is no Michael Carrick, Osman is no Solomon Kalou and even the great Arteta is no Cesc Fabregas. Given the right money, would he be able to unearth those kinds of players?

The very best Everton can hope for at the moment is to spend the next few years in and around the top six, regularly qualifying for the Uefa Europa League. If we win an FA Cup or League Cup along the way then great, but as 1995 showed, that success is often fleeting and transient.

Having been in the doldrums of English football for so long, it?s important not to become impatient. We must consolidate our league positions, raise our profile within the English and European games and perhaps most importantly of all, resolve the stadium situation. While I?m not a fan of the Kirkby proposals I do believe it?s a better option than staying at the current Goodison Park.

So, in summary, we must:

  • Get into a new stadium
  • Get Moyes on a long contract
  • Do whatever is necessary to ensure we finish no lower than seventh for the next few years
  • Take advantage of being back in Europe regularly
  • Hope that all of the above leads to new investment with which we can bring in the quality of players we need in order to challenge the teams above us.
While that may all sound a little obvious, it?s all something that seems to go out of the window when we?re beaten by Wigan 1-0 on a cold December night.
Brendan George
11   Posted 01/02/2009 at 19:19:08

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Moyes and Kenwright should have some foresight: they should start planning for next season now. They need to get organize a sufficient transfer budget as well as identify transfer targets which they could make a move for once the transfer window opens in the summer. Moyes needs to identify what strengths he could add to the team so that we can improve on our acheivements this season, and not make his moves on the very last day of the transfer season!
Robbie Muldoon
12   Posted 01/02/2009 at 20:23:22

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Aston Villa have surpassed us and the millions of Man City pose a serious threat for next season as well as a possible rejuvinated Tottenham.

We need better quality players and manager.
Garry Corgan
13   Posted 04/02/2009 at 19:04:40

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Point well made Robbie but we said at the end of last season that Man City and their millions would be a threat, that Tottenham was Ramos in charge, signing all manner of players would challenge for the top four. We said that Newcastle were due a good season and that Blackburn and Portsmouth were looking dangerous.

In actuality, none of them have come close to us this season. Anything can happen and we just need to go about our business and not worry about other sides in the league.


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