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The Current Crop – October 09

By Graham Holliday :  07/10/2009 :  Comments (6) :

For the past couple of seasons, I have been running the rule over the Everton first team squad at the end of the season and at the end of each transfer window.

For comparisons, my previous reviews can be found here:

GOALKEEPERS -

Howard (contracted until 2014)
Nash (contracted until 2010)
Turner (contracted until 2011)
Ruddy (contracted until ?)

In the last couple of reviews, I have states my opinion that if David Moyes had the money, he would invest in another young goalkeeper to challenge Tim Howard. Realistically, Carlo Nash is never going to be first choice — and it is clear that Turner and Ruddy are not trusted to step up to the first team. However, with the club in the financial situation it finds itself in, Moyes continues to keep the faith with these 4. In my opinion, Howard is a good enough keeper for a team looking at 4th-6th placed finish... but what happens if he suffers an injury?

DEFENDERS

Neill (contracted until 2010)
Hibbert (contracted until 2012)
Heitinga (contracted until 2014)
Jagielka (contracted until 2014)
Yobo (contracted until 2014)
Distin (contracted until 2012)
Baines (contracted until 2012)
Coleman (contracted until ?)
Mustafi (contracted until 2012)
Duffy (contracted until ?)

The obvious change since my last review is the sale of Lescott. But I think many would argue that in Sylvain Distin, we have signed a defender at least the moneygrabbi... sorry, trailed off for a second there... the former's equal. We have also lost Jacobsen, but signed Neill which is essentially a like for like replacement. Some might say that Neill could push Hibbert to stake a claim as first choice right-back — and that is assuming that when Neville returns, he will do so as a midfielder.

The final addition of real significance to the first team is the versatile Heitinga. His signing gives us 4 real options at centre-back (when they're all fit, at least...), and is also expected to compete for the right back and defensive midfielder berths.

MIDFIELDERS

Neville (contracted until 2012)
Rodwell (contracted until 2014)
Arteta (contracted until 2012)
Cahill (contracted until 2012)
Fellaini (contracted until 2013)
Osman (contracted until 2012)
Pienaar (contracted until 2011)
Bilyaletdinov (contracted until 2014)
Gosling (contracted until 2012)
Wallace (contracted until ?)
Baxter (contracted until 2011)

The common theme of each of my previous reviews was the lack of strength and depth in midfield options. With only Kissock having been released, the signings of Bilyaletdinov and Heitinga (named on this list as a defender) certainly provides extra depth. Assuming the manager continues with 4-5-1 as the default system, we have Neville, Heitinga, Rodwell, Arteta, Cahill, Fellaini and Osman competing for 3 spots in central midfield. 7 players for 3 spots?!

Once again, if only they were all fit... I would like to note that if there is an issue, it is the lack of genuine wide players in the squad. Some have and would argue that Pienaar should be added to the list of central midfielders and is not a genuine wide player — though his scintillating form of late leaves me in no doubt that Moyes views him as a wide player. Bilyaletdinov is a genuine winger — though is traditionally a left-sider — presumably he and Pienaar will switch flanks as and when Moyes sees fit.

Beyond those two, Gosling still is yet to show that he has what it takes to nail down a first team spot; Osman is better in the middle and still splits opinion; and what of Arteta? His and Everton's best form came when he was playing as part of the spine of the team — in the centre. Unfortunately this gives us more answers than questions — but certainly there are signs of improvement, both in terms of quality and quantity.

FORWARDS

Saha (contracted until 2010) Yakubu (contracted until 2011) Jo (on loan until 2010) Anichebe (contracted until 2011) Vaughan (contracted until 2011) Agard (contracted until 2011) Jutkiewicz (contracted until 2011 - on loan at Motherwell)

In June I stated my desire to see a new face come in up top. Well an old one came in for a second stint; Jo being re-signed on loan for the season. I am dubious about the lanky Brazilian, but in my eyes he is third choice for one spot - so in that light, he is a good squad player. Saha, if he can stay fit, has shown that he is a top, top striker. And we know that Yakubu is capable of banging in goals. Those two competing for one spot will be interesting... unless Moyes dabbles once again in a change of system to a 4-4-2?

The issue here for me is the young strikers - Anichebe, before his injury, flattered to deceive; and who knows if Vaughan will ever stay clear of injuries long enough to prove himself at the club. One interesting point to note is how short the forwards in the squad are contracted for — what does this say about David Moyes and his negative mindset?!

SUMMARY

My claim was that, with 2 or 3 signings of genuine quality, we could challenge for a top 4 spot. This has been made even more challenging this season with the emergence of Manchester City. But in terms of Everton's squad — we have undoubtedly improved since my last review.

In defence, we have brought in a couple of decent players to challenge at right back (the supposed weak spot last season) and at centre back also... though we do seem to lack cover on the left. The emergence of Jack Rodwell in midfield gives us a wealth of options in the middle, but will Bilyaletdinov adapt to the Premier League and give us both the extra creative outlet and width that we have so long yearned for?

And will Saha and Yakubu's fitness stand up to the rigours of long domestic and continental seasons? And will Jo, Anichebe or even Vaughan show that they have what it takes to take us to the next level?

Personally, I am not sure... but when Baz Rathbone's treatment room begins to clear, I am confident we have the strongest squad we have had since Moyes has been at the helm.

Reader Comments

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Kevy Quinn
1   Posted 08/10/2009 at 19:13:02

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Obviously it's early days but the way Heitinga carried the ball out of defence in the second half against Stoke was impressive. He also stood up well to physical play from them. If he cuts out the lapses in concentration (against Pompey) he could be a great signing; hopefully Moysie will knock that out of him.
Peter Hall
2   Posted 08/10/2009 at 21:17:35

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Graham, Enjoyed the update and I’ve been thinking recently that the worst injury for us just now would be to Howard.

On cover for left-back, I seem to remember that a certain P Neville won lots of caps for England at left-back. I’m not saying he’s the greatest or will swing the crosses over with his left boot — but we’re talking cover here — so an England left-back who hasn’t lost much of his game must be an option. It’s not as if Leighton has won one cap yet!
Wilson Tan
3   Posted 09/10/2009 at 03:31:34

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"The strongest squad we have had since Moyes has been at the helm."

I agree with this statement. Unfortunately, the "strongest squad" may not be enough for a top 6 finish. A lot has to do with the emergence of Man City, Spurs and Villa as genuine challengers. We need width and a little more pace to be able to mix it up. Otherwise, we are always stuck with Plan A!
Iain Love
4   Posted 09/10/2009 at 14:43:20

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Distin can cover at left back. We do have a better squad than for a long time... whether it will be good enough to get a top six finish or not we will have to wait and see.

The league will be interesting this season as City appear to be capable of challenging for a top 4 place; Chelski cannot recruit to cover injuries and have quite an old squad; Manure have not looked good so far and without Ronney the diver or Scarface aren’t as strong as last season; Liverpool have lost their creativity; and Arsenal can still be bullied centrally. Villa are still bottle merchants and Spurs will fuck up when Arry Boy gets done for tax evasion.

So City have got better and the rest have got worse, maybe we can get in the mix for top4 ahead of Liverpool and Manure.

Terry Riley
5   Posted 09/10/2009 at 16:47:00

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I thoroughly agree with the you’re opinion about Distin but, Heitinga is a long way off being a trusty defender. Agreed he stood up to the physical challenge of the yard dog Fuller, but where was he when Huth had free air to score their goal, he was almost out of the goal area to the right of his own goal!!
Dickie Langley
6   Posted 09/10/2009 at 19:09:28

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No great injury-free forwards, and Moyes has got them all on short-term contracts? Sounds like he’s aiming to make a forward his "big money" signing next Summer.

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