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The Current Crop: February 2009

By Graham Holliday :  17/02/2009 :  Comments (0) :

With the January transfer window having now closed, it comes time for me to once again run the rule over Everton Football Club’s ‘current crop’ of players. I have done this twice before, trying to assess the current strengths and weaknesses of the squad, and to some extent what the future may hold.

Previous articles:

May 2008 | September 2008

Current Squad:

I have taken this list of players from the Official Site and to really get a feel for both the present and the future of the club, I have listed a) the player’s age, b) how long the player is contracted to the club (as listed on Toffeeweb, as the OS does not list these details) and c) if they are on loan to/from Everton Football Club.

Goalkeepers:

Howard (age 29 – June 2012)
Nash (age 35 – June 2010)
Turner (age 25 – June 2011)
Ruddy (age 22 – June 2009 – on loan at Crewe)

I think most club will look towards having at least 3 senior goalkeepers on their books. 1 as the first-choice, 1 experienced replacement, and 1 promising youngster. Everton seem to have those covered in Howard, Nash and Ruddy. I don’t really see where Turner fits in; I’m surprised he is now 25 and he must surely be looking for regular 1st team football soon. Wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves at the end of the season, and maybe another promising youngster is signed as competition for Ruddy.

Defenders:

Hibbert (age 27 – June 2012)
Baines (age 24 – June 2012)
Yobo (age 28 – June 2010)
Lescott (age 26 – June 2010)
Jagielka (age 26 – June 2012)
Jacobsen (age 29 – June 2009)
Valente (age 34 – June 2009)
Irving (age 19 – June 2009)
Coleman (age 20 – contract unknown)

The list of names may look sparse, especially when you consider Valente, Jacobsen and Irving are all potential departures in the summer, but bear in mind that Neville, Rodwell and Gosling’s names appear in the ‘Midfielders’ section here. Unless an additional defensive midfielder is acquired though, Neville now seems to be considered first-choice in midfield, leaving us with a current 1st choice back for of: Hibbert – Jagielka – Lescott – Baines. Obviously, though this is dependent on form with Yobo being more than able to step in to the centre of defence, and Lescott providing additional cover at left back.

Gosling has played at right-back in his days at Plymouth and it is common knowledge that Rodwell has grown up a centre-half. Coleman is a virtual unknown, but there certainly seems to be reasonable strength in depth in defence. If Jacobsen, Valente and Irving all leave, then don’t be surprised if a couple of free transfers are brought in to provide additional cover, but the club seems to have ample quality, young defenders.

Midfielders:

Van der Meyde (age 29 – June 2009)
Castillo (age 26 – June 2009 – on loan from Red Star)
Arteta (age 26 – June 2012)
Cahill (age 29 – June 2012)
Neville (age 32 – June 2012)
Pienaar (age 26 – June 2011)
Osman (age 27 – June 2012)
Fellaini (age 21 – June 2013)
Rodwell (age 17 – new 5 year contract pending!)
Gosling (age 19 – June 2009)
Kissock (age 19 – June 2009 – on loan at Accrington)
Wallace (age 17 – June 2009)

With Kissock and Wallace remaining young players that may or may not make the grade, and van der Meyde and Castillo in all likelihood set to leave the club at the end of the season, midfield is clearly the area in which Everton most lack depth. Cahill is being touted as a full-time option up front, leaving just Arteta, Neville, Pienaar, Osman, Fellaini and youngsters Rodwell and Gosling competing for 4/5 starting berths. The prospects look good in central areas with Rodwell and Fellaini, aged 17 and 21 respectively, looking promising in there alongside the transformed Mikel Arteta, with Neville an increasingly important ‘wise, old head’ in the middle. But it is in wide areas that Everton lack options. Gosling is young, and despite a dream start to his Everton career, still lacks experience. Osman and Pienaar blow hot and cold, and van der Meyde will surely have to go some to warrant a contract extension at the end of the season. As such, you can surely expect David Moyes to search high and low for genuine wide players this summer.

Strikers: Saha (age 30 – June 2010)
Jo (age 21 – June 2009 – on loan from Man City)
Vaughan (age 20 – June 2011)
Yakubu (age 26 – June 2011)
Anichebe (age 20 – June 2011)
Jutkiewicz (age 19 – June 2011 – on loan at Huddersfield)
Baxter (age 17 – June 2009)

The acquisition of Jo in the January transfer window has been heralded as yet another shrewd loan signing by the canny David Moyes. With Saha, Vaughan and Anichebe also competing for what is more often than not only one place up front, Moyes would have thought this ample cover for first choice Yakubu during the 2008-09 season. But true to form, Saha and Vaughan have played but a handful of games between them, and Anichebe has yet to develop into the player he seemed he might be destined to become during last season’s Uefa Cup run. Indeed, the physical Nigerian has been used increasingly in a wide right position, with midfielder Tim Cahill looking an ever-more accomplished centre forward having been deployed there during the winter glut of games.

With Jutkiewicz and Baxter not yet ready for the Everton first-team, and Anichebe apparently being far from teacher’s pet, Moyes will surely not be keen to continue relying on Vaughan and Saha to cover the Yak. Cahill is of course an option, but if Jo does not complete a permanent transfer at the end of the season, expect Moyes to be looking to do business in this area of the team, possibly with Anichebe moving on as a way of coming up with the funds for him to do so.

Summary:

With a young and dynamic squad, Everton’s prospects look bright. With Arsenal and Chelsea in apparent meltdown, the time seems right for the nearest challengers to make a real run at the top 4, and alongside Aston Villa, Everton are surely best placed to do so. As the likes of Rodwell, Gosling and Fellaini get used to the game at the top level in English football, David Moyes’ shrewd signings from the past few seasons — Lescott, Arteta, Jagielka, Baines et al — will continue to grow (if, of course, they can be kept a hold of).

If additional funds can be found this summer to improve the squad in the wide areas and to add one more striker to the squad, I see no reason why Everton cannot be in and amongst the very top sides in the country come the next couple of seasons.

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