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Step 4: Europe Secured ? What Next?

By Chris James :  20/04/2009 :  Comments (29) :
Amidst the understandable euphoria of yesterday's cup victory, one thing has, perhaps understandably, been overlooked. Everton have now qualified for Europe. With the top 4 (including Chelsea) all guaranteed of some European football via the league, then even if we lose the FA Cup final and finish 8th or lower, we'd still recieve a Europa league qualifiers position in the 4th qualifying round (one before the league).

Whilst not everyone may relish the secondary European tournament, with more money and a group stage next year it could prove to be a step up from the Uefa Cup and it's certainly still more auspicious than nothing.

It also signals a third successive entry into European football (although admittedly this years campaign was a short one!)

It also signals another tick on what were my (and I suspect some of which were also Moyes') targets for the campaign.

1. Improve quality of team/squad - Done Whilst Castillo and Jacobsen look likely to depart in the revolving door, both Felliani (who's looking better all the time) and Saha (when he plays) have unarguably improved the squad's quality.

The growth in stature of the back 5 (yes including Hibbert!) must also be considered here and barring Utd (Ferdinand and Vidic are good) this is surely one of if not the best defensive unit in the league?

The blooding into the first team of Rodwell must also be counted as a very good addition and to a lesser extent (well bar THAT goal of course) Gosling too - would like to add Baxter to this list, but he's not had enough games yet to show either way. And last, but by no means least, our own loan blue Brazilian Jo has to be counted as a successful temporary measure (well at Goodison at least).

Obviously the squad is still thin and the loss of Fernandes and departures have to be factored in too. Whilst Fernandes never really convinced me (and I think Felliani is a better replacement for us with his height and aggression plus a scoring touch) I for one wasn't happy to see Carsley leave and his absence and our subsequent need to regel the midfield was a major factor in our early seaon shambles - this has since been mitigated by the rebirth of Neville as DM and Rodwell as cover.

Likewise, Andy Johnson was a good squad player but had gone off the boil and a combination of Saha signing, the up and coming Vaughan/anichebe and Cahill/Felliani playing further forward and laterly Jo have ensured he wasn't missed too greatly (xx) and the profitable transfer was good business.

Ultimately though the biggest signing for me was that of Moyes for 5 more years. Sure contracts don't mean much these days, but Davey is an honorable man and I like the think the reason for the long delay was whether he could guarantee the full term to continue his job here. The fact that he did (and let's face it he could easily have gone elsewhere for more money in his pocket and on transfers) ensures stability for the future and should keep this burgeoning, constantly improving team together for the forseeable and maintain the special spirit that has been built at this special club.

Overall then, yes it could have been a whole lot better (the Obinna work permit was a particular loss - we really need a pacy winger) and further midfield class in the shape of Moutinho was a disappointment too, but overall the first team looks better than last year and without injuries we would have options from the bench who can cover and/or make a difference (Vaughan, Gosling, Rodwell, Saha for Yak, Yobo. Valente).

2. Avoid relegation battle - Done I know this really shouldn't be on the agenda anymore and to be honest it won't be on mine next year, even Moyes has stopped talking about it, but for any club outside of the sky 4 (and especialyl with our yo-yo history) this has to be a check on the sheet. Suffice to say this has been emphatically achieved.

3. Good Cup Run - Done Though in the UEFA and Carling Cups w fell at the first hurdle, a good run in the most important tin pot (for me anyway) was achieved once we knocked out the RS. Taking Villa down (and dinting their confidence) was a great step up and to get to the Semis qualifies as great cup run in my book. Now of course our ambitions are turned up to 7!

4. Qualify for Europe - Done Unless I've misunderstood the Uefa rules (and let's face it they change every year so I might have), we're in the Europa League next year. Yes I'd prefer Champions League, but especially given our terrible start I'm more than happy to be able to dig out the passport.

5. Secure top 6 finish - Pending Even with the European place form the cup, this does matter I think, both from cash perspective and from progress as a whole. Three successive top 6 finishes, or potentially a 6, 5, 5 would mark out consistency and underline to potential recruits/investors that this sleeping giant is on the virge of breaking back into the top tier once again.

At the moment it looks like 5th is there for us to win and 6th is really only ours to lose, so I'd feel pretty confident that we can maintain this.

6. Secure top 4 finish (CL place) - pending, but unlikely Given the financial and status implications, this has to be our primary target for genuine progress to the next level in the seasons ahead. Whilst I do obviously still hold out hopes, in all honesty I think we've missed the boat this year.

I don't think the Villa away game was the crucial point there (although we should really have held on), rather it was a case of last minute lapses at Goodison vs Villa and Arsenal and poor away performances at the bar codes, Blackburn and Pompey. Had we held on at home against the teams above us and got just one win against those poor away teams we'd be 5th and 3 points off the Arse now.

We didn't, we aren't and 9 points (well 10 really if you consider goal difference) from 6 games against an in-form Arsenal side is too big an ask, especially when our next 'must win' game is away to Chelsea.

7. Win a Trophy At the end of the day even the riches of a CL place aren't as important as the silverware. In 10 years time no-one will remember who finished 4th and earned an extra £5 million for the kitty, but they won't forget the FA Cup winners. Can we overcome Chelsea? Of course we can, it's a one off game and anything can happen.

Whilst their team is better man for man in every department barring defence, the advantages in preparation have to be ours. Obviously we can't afford to take our foot off the gas completely, but with Chelsea challenging hard on 3 fronts we have less games (and less arduous games) ahead of us and our prioties are different - it's all about the FA Cup for us, but for them the Prem and the CL are (hopefully) more urgent distractions.

Just getting to the final has to considered a massive achievement, with 5 premier league opponents and 3 of them from the top 4/5 of the league (Villa were 4th at the time I think) we've had the toughest route to Wembley imaginable.

Overall then, whatever happens next I think we have to count this as a very good season. An improved team, European football secured and a brilliant cup run giving us a chance of a trophy... and still 7 games to play with an odds on chance of maintaining a top 6 finish, a fair shout of 5th and an (admittedly long) shot at 4th.

The report card so far stands at: B+

Reader Comments

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Neil Humphrey
1   Posted 20/04/2009 at 15:42:50

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Couldn't agree more and its great to see the positives laid out systematically. When you consider the way football has developed in recent years we can be proud to still be there or thereabouts each year in the ?league within a league? that has developed.

If we can gatecrash the top four again (it won't be this year, surely, but next year, who knows?) that might provide the impetus for us to move up to the next level, as it would obviously have financial implications for us but would also destabilise whichever of the Sky 4 we replaced.

Andy Stempson
2   Posted 20/04/2009 at 15:46:54

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FA Cup runners up no longer get a place if the winners are already there... So it HASN'T been overlooked, it's just not true.
Nick Entwistle
3   Posted 20/04/2009 at 15:57:10

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Why are people still concerned about being pipped by Wigan or West Ham or whoever it is in 7th? I’ve long ago stopped looking at that position. I’m still in two minds if I want the rs to beat the arse...
Chris Robinson
4   Posted 20/04/2009 at 16:03:01

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"WE HAVE NOT QUALIFIED FOR EUROPE"...Somebody had better tell UEFA then, because according to their website, Europa League qualification goes like this:

The cup winners of the UEFA accredited leagues ranked 1-15 (which would presumably include the Premier League) join the Europa League at the final qualifying round stage (August 20th and 27th, the last stage before the group stages begin) along with the 15 teams who go out of the Champions League at the qualifying stages (as we did when we went out to Villareal).

It then goes on to say:

"The losing finalist for the domestic cup competition will still be entitled to be entered for the Europa League should the domestic cup winners qualify for the UEFA Champions League"

So if Chelsea win the FA Cup and also qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top 4 of the Premier League, we would be eligible to take their place in the Europa League.
David Lyon
5   Posted 20/04/2009 at 16:05:08

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With sixth place virtually guarantead i would love to see some of our youngsters get more experience by starting the remaining few games ie Rodwell, Gosling and even Baxter on the bench again. The future is bright the futures BLUE!!
Graham Tansey
6   Posted 20/04/2009 at 16:21:58

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Yes, we have qualified for the Europa League (as long as Chelsea don?t really mess it up in the league) and will play one qualifying match.
Chris Robinson
7   Posted 20/04/2009 at 16:33:31

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David, have to agree with you. If we have already qualified for the Europa League via the FA Cup, we would join that competition at the same stage as the team finishing 5th in the Premiership - so nothing gained or lost if we give the youngsters more experience in the last few games. Moyes may do just that if getting 4th spot becomes mathematically impossible. He may want to rest a few before the final, but then again, there’s still place money at stake and he may fear the team going off the boil if he rests too many, too soon.
Anthony Millington
8   Posted 20/04/2009 at 16:59:16

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I agree David, there is still 6 league games left to play before the cup final so we should focus on these next few games by fielding our strongest team and then if we are guaranteed 6th place with a couple of games to go it would be good to give some players a well deserved breather and give some other youngsters a chance to gain some experience.

Who would have thought it? After such a worrying start to the season and in January the prospect of playing Liverpool twice in quick succession at Anfield and we remained undefeated, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are now in a comfortable position in the league and we are in an FA Cup final! That sounds more successful to me than what Aston Villa, Man City and Tottenham have done. And let’s not hide the fact of long term injries to key players like Yakubu and Arteta. Nothing has been won yet though and the team are one game away from becoming heroes.
Jim Slade
9   Posted 20/04/2009 at 17:13:15

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Never mind all that shite, we are gonna win it so there?ll no more of that runners up talk around here!
Chris Brigden
10   Posted 20/04/2009 at 19:16:08

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Well said Jim!
I believe if we can handle Walcott in the final, the trophy will be ours!
Micky Norman
11   Posted 20/04/2009 at 19:29:09

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Chris, I know you meant that as a joke but it?s too bloody clever for me.
Andy Crooks
12   Posted 20/04/2009 at 19:30:07

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I think we?ve got a Europa League spot and, despite the reservations of some Evertonians, I believe there are good resons to be happy about that. Therefore, I think we should concentrate on wining the FA Cup and preparing early for next year.

Much as I?d like to keep him, I feel we won?t be able to afford Jo; so, let's give Saha and Vaughan as much match fitness as possible before 30th May. Saha is unfit but has class. Vaughan is unfit but surely to God he deserves a break.

Finally, I think there is some unrest in the Man City camp. Ireland looks isolated. If I could pick one player for us to sign this summer, it would be him. He would fit in perfectly. A 'feet on the ground' team man with a good deal of skill. I?d have him ahead of anyone.

Lewis Barclay
13   Posted 20/04/2009 at 20:30:15

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Andy - I work in Dublin at the moment and people here seem to think Mr Ireland is as mad as a hatter and have alleged stories to back it up.

Let?s win the FA cup, chase 4th spot and hold on to all the players we have, getting the injured ones back fit for pre-season.

Then maybe we can welcome 3/4 players to help take the next step up...
Andy Ellams
14   Posted 20/04/2009 at 20:58:03

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Uefa did take away the place for the Cup Final runners-up but then changed their minds so we are now effectively in Europe.

The key to the rest of the season is to get James Vaughan fit with gradually more game time and hopefully he can start the Cup Final as the lone striker and run the arse off Terry and Carvalho.
Adam Wightman
15   Posted 20/04/2009 at 21:57:41

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Yeh, I remember on the last game of the season a few years ago at Stamford Bridge. James Vaughan played superbly against Chelsea... he could be a secret weapon come the Cup Final. You know if le Red Shite beat the Arse and we beat Chelsea this week, we go above Villa and would be on Arsenal?s heels. In which case, it's a Catch-22 whether we rest anyone or not for the run in.
Ciaran Duff
16   Posted 20/04/2009 at 23:51:47

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While it seems that 4th is out of reach and 7th is hopefully safe, there is the Q of the 5th/6th place dog fight. Do we want to slug it out with Villa for bragging rights as "best of the rest"? As far as I remember, there is a reasonable amount of dosh associated with each place (£1M per place?). So there is something to play for there. Obviously, we need to balance that with having a fully fit team for Wembley. Personally, I would like to see Vaughan, Rodwell and Gosling more involved in these final few games.
Lee Smith
17   Posted 21/04/2009 at 03:47:09

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I thought that it was down to the English FA to decide how the UEFA Cup spot was awarded if the winner of the FA Cup had already qualified for Europe. It was my understanding that the FA decided to award it to the next highest placed Premier League team as opposed to the runners up of the FA Cup. I dont think it was a decision made by UEFA.
Clyde McPhat
18   Posted 21/04/2009 at 04:41:21

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This site is absolutely amazing....I cannot believe the negative vibe that springs from the keyboards of Evertonians even 24 hours after another fantastic win. We start worrying about finsihing 7th, and then worrying if we should give the youngsters a game or two on the run in, and then we bring up the name of Manuel Fernandes who couldn’t make up his mind which club he wanted to extort the most amount of money from last year (or was it the year before that?). I’m looking glass half filled right now, and I’ll say we will finish fifth so who cares what the Europa Cup rules are? And we’ll win the match at the end of May.

BTW, what a year! The dispair of the summer turns into the euphoria of spring! It sure hasn’t been dull, and we will win the trophy at the end of May. Enough with the negativism.
Si Ord
19   Posted 21/04/2009 at 09:03:01

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I agree... enough with the negativism. If we don?t have a Europa place through the cup, then we need to finish 7th... surely that's nailed on. Even the most negative Evertonian must believe that.
Jack Lavery
20   Posted 21/04/2009 at 11:00:07

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We all know that the Europa League is not the Champions League, but the experience it will give of playing on the continent will be vital if Everton wish to become a Champions League club and be competitive in it. In its new format, the Europa League has the potential to be a good learning area for Moyes and the team. The experience of travelling to the far ends of Europe, facing teams that are technically better and adopt a different style of play, facing intimating atmospheres, racist abuse (unfortunately), how to master the away goals rule etc will stand the club in good stead.

Since the formation of the Champions League, it has took the Sky 4 years to adapt to playing in Europe. They now adopt a unique approach in their playing style... ie, how often do you see Man Utd play hold out for a 1-0 win as they did in Porto. The competition has given a number of clubs good grounding for evolving into solid modern Champions League teams i.e. Atheltico Madrid, Porto, Lisbon

IMO It?s a better competition than it is given credit for. Each year there a big European Clubs involved, the likes of Hamburg, Munich, Ajax, Milan, Fiorentina, Seville, Marseilles etc.

We all know the financial advantages that the Sky 4 possess, therefore if and when we get our Champions League opportunity (disregarding 2005 as we were not ready) it is important that we take it.
Chris Brigden
21   Posted 21/04/2009 at 13:24:08

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I?m convinced we WILL win the trophy. If Arsenal get to the Champions League final, they will play 3 days before the FA Cup final and will be knackered. Hopefully Theo will get injured.
Michael Kenrick
22   Posted 21/04/2009 at 13:29:55

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Err.. Chris....

Oh, nevermind. I don’t want to be the one...
Chris Brigden
23   Posted 21/04/2009 at 14:00:07

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are you trying to tell me Walcott doesn?t play for Arsenal anymore?
Peter Hurley
24   Posted 21/04/2009 at 14:14:00

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I don’t care about negativity, I’m still beaming.

I love this Club!

COYB make it number 6
Martin Hughes
25   Posted 21/04/2009 at 15:21:11

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Qualify or not, it should not take away the importance of winning the cup. Also DM should now try and blood the youngsters!

But what about getting new recruits early this time round, hence the reason we did not make the league stage of the Uefa Cup.

Moyes should be given as much as possible to buy now in time for when transfer window re-opens,

Blue Bill ? back Moyesey now.
Mick Gallagher
26   Posted 21/04/2009 at 16:46:10

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We will win the cup and don't give up on fourth just yet. Arsenal still have to play the 3 above them could possible lose them. UP THE TOFFEES, WEMBLEY AND EUROPE HERE WE COME.
Dominic Duerden
27   Posted 22/04/2009 at 13:40:52

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Why not try Rodwell at centre half? Save Lescott or Jags as our team’s success is based on them, save them for the final..
Martin Wareham
28   Posted 23/04/2009 at 15:18:23

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Several people above are not quite right with the qualification rules. The actual rules are:

a) FA Cup winner qualifies for Europa League

b) The FA Cup runner-up qualifies only if the winner has already got a Champions League place

So as soon as Chelsea are certain of a Champions League place then we are guaranteed to be in the Europa League. Chelsea need another 2 points to be certain to finish in the top four and so once they get that we will be definitely in the Europa League. Interestingly, if we had lost to Chelsea yesterday we could have guaranteed our Europa League place.

The only way we can fail to qualify is if we fall to 8th or below and Chelsea fall to 5th or below and we lose to them in the cup final - quite an unlikely scenario!
Paul Whittle
29   Posted 08/05/2009 at 10:54:38

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I completely agree with your points and think that your views are shared by many Evertonians. However, I do feel that, although it would be nice to add a few super stars to the squad, adding several to the squad would only ruin morale and the team spirit.

We currently have an excellent youth system with proven talent such as Baxter and Rodwell coming through, plus youth we have brought in from elsewhere such as Gosling and even Fellaini who is only 21. We also have several older players with a lot of experience which helps develop the squad and helps the younger players. These include Neville, Saha and Cahill. These players, especially Neville and Cahill, provide the heartbeat of the team.

We then have the players you can always rely on to do something special that will try everything to help the team. These include Jagielka, Lescott and to a degree Hibbert. For all the stick he gets he never gives up. The best example for this however is probably Pienaar, a player that gives 100% every game. This mix of players provides an excellent squad that can only develop in the future, and will attract big names hopefully to develop the team even more and put us among the elite in English football.

This, however, is my point. For several seasons now we have continually been linked with big names, such as Moutinho, Riquelme and the return of Fernandes. However, none have materialised, forcing us to go for players such as Arteta, Cahill, Lescott and Jagielka. Although it would be nice for a world super star to end up at are club, I do feel that are current transfer policy is one that will only develop us as a club but also keep team morale.

Look at the likes of Aston Villa ? a solid team, full of English players, whose most expensive player is Ashley Young, who they bought for £12 million. Look at the success they have had this year.

Then look at Tottenham ? not a solid team, who have been worried by relegation troubles for the best part of this season and last season. Their most expensive player is Darren Bent, who cost £16 million. This shows that money can?t buy you everything.

Therefore, I think the transfer market this year will determine the season we have next year, and I certainly have total faith in Moyes and his transfers.

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