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Optimism – Statistical Backup

By Gary Creaney :  22/04/2010 :  Comments (20) :
Ok, so this season was shambolic to begin with due to the bad summer of 2009, the Lescott saga, the lateness of our signings and most significantly our injuries. The season then sort of steadied with 4 draws starting and ending with Tottenham at home 2-2 and Sunderland away 1-1 respectively.

But from then on is where things begin to get interesting. Have a look at the results from 28th December to present:

H Burnley 2-0 win
A Arsenal 2-2 draw
H Man City 2-0 win
H S’land 2-0 win
A Wigan 1-0 win
A Liverpool 1-0 loss
H Chelsea 2-1 win
H Man Utd 3-1 win
A Spurs 2-1 loss
H Hull City 5-1 win
A Birmingham 2-2 draw
H Bolton 2-0 win
A Man City 2-0 win
A Wolves 0-0 draw
H West Ham 2-2 draw
A Aston Villa 2-2 draw
A Blackburn 3-2 win

In the 17 games after our season moved beyond the “steadying” stage, we have picked up 35 points – an average of 2.05 per game which projected over the course of a full league campaign equates to 78 points. That would be a guaranteed champions league place considering that Tottenham can only finish on a maximum of 76 points this season.

The 17 games in question also provide a very accurate cross section on which to make such forecasts. All the 7 teams that currently sit above us are within those results (Man City twice) as well as teams fighting hard to avoid relegation and teams within mid-table mediocrity.

The level of football has been good and has been much praised in recent weeks. We’ve finally not only taken a Sky 4 scalp but the two best, back to back. Our main man Arteta has come back every bit as good as before this time with goals.

The likelihood is we won’t qualify for Europe. Tottenham and Man City, who were without European fixtures this season, are indeed the teams who sit prettiest in the race for fourth. I would gladly give up the Europa League for a single season to mount a proper meaningful challenge on 3rd/4th place and the cups.

Can anyone really say that the last 17 games have required us to play out of our skins? Have we needed to squeeze out every last drop from the players? Have we gotten there by a series of 1-0 wins that could have gone either way (like 04-05).

My answer to those questions would be NO. We have begun to settle in to a style of play that suits us, that suits our available players and we are achieving results more so through our style than our determination.

Sign up all our best players now to new contracts. Bring in 2 or 3 proper signings over the summer (and hopefully we only suffer bog standard injuries/suspensions rather than cruciates and achilles snapping) and we could well be on our way to achieving upwards of 2.05 points per game.

Reader Comments

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Mark Stone
1   Posted 22/04/2010 at 13:06:47

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With a fully fit squad we're a match for anyone. The challenge for the forthcoming summer is not to bring in big names (although Ladon Donovan would be nice), but to ensure that we keep the faces we already have and that they all arrive injury free for stat of the new campaign. If we can do that, next season could be a very good one.
Ciarán McGlone
2   Posted 22/04/2010 at 13:04:40

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Things are looking up and our football is improving... but we'll always be playing catch-up.

The financial acumen on show at this club is particularly poor, resulting in a business model of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'...

I happen to think that we're 3 (possibly 4) top class players away from a title challenge... which, for a cynic like me, is rather a huge admission.

However, getting those players will be the problem... we've subsisted on selling players — making money were we really had no right to make money... but the problem now is that, if we continue to sell, we will inevitably weaken the position we have built up..

You suggest bringing in '2 or 3 proper signings over the summer' — if by proper signings you mean players that will add to the first team... then I simply think that's not going to happen.
Nick Dommett
3   Posted 22/04/2010 at 13:06:44

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Like the optimism and got to agree with most of it.

Three things are crucial for next season:

1) Getting most of our players back to full fitness over the pre-season. That way we'll be ready for next season rather than playing catch-up once again.

2) Sorting out the defence. The shambles this season can be largely put down to injuries and having an unsettled central defensive pairing along with an ever changing defensive midfield in front of them. Get Jonny H, Jags and the Big Fella all fit and I'm sure the defensive side will improve. Add to that Yobo, Distin and Duffy as back-ups and that's a pretty good defensive unit.

3) Right winger or Right Wing-Back. Ideally would like a winger to give us pace down the right flank. Failing that then asking Bily or Anichebe to play inside right and getting the RB (not getting into that debate but Coleman does seem to like getting forward...) to overlap constantly just like Peanuts and Baines on the other flank.

Beyond that, I'd say we have a lot of creativity down the middle (Arteta, Osman, Pienaar, Bily) and I do believe that the Yak will come good next year...
David Booth
4   Posted 22/04/2010 at 13:15:17

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Hear, hear, Gary: precisely the points I've been making all season.

Given a decent squad to choose from, we're a match for anyone and can begin regarding ourselves as genuine top four contenders

This season was an effective write-off after the first two months of the campaign — but how well we have shaped-up since the new year when new signings such as Fellaini and Heitinga began to settle-in and key players returning from long-term injuries enabled us to play square pegs in square holes.

There is so much potential in the squad and manager we have right now. Given a bit of luck and some genuine belief in our own capabilities, we can surely look forward to a much more rewarding 2010-11?
Kevy Quinn
5   Posted 22/04/2010 at 13:16:53

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Ciaran, that's why it hurts. As you say, we are only a few players short of mounting a serious challenge. But we have no chance of getting those players at present. Our only hope is if Bill wins the Euro Millions when it's one of those big super rollovers.
Tony J Williams
6   Posted 22/04/2010 at 13:26:31

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Aye, Ciaran, and there's the rub. As you say to get the 3 or 4 players we have to sell and we therefore end up losing a good/great player to pay for the others and "we need 3 or 4 more players" stays in place, as we never seem to add just replace. Very, very frustrating it is
Steve Cotton
7   Posted 22/04/2010 at 14:18:16

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I have an idea that may keep our better players and bring in the necessary back up to keep the squad fresh.

sell Bily try and recoup most of the 10 million we paid for him.
sell James Vaughan sorry but for 2 million he can cut it in a lower league.

release Senderos currently on loan and promote duffy and Foreshaw to main squad. Bring back Seamus to challenge Neville.

Bring in 3 out of contract players
Joe Ledly, Jermaine Beckford and possibly John Utaka or other Portsmouth players

we still have 12 mill (approx) in bank for a quality right winger Donovan (6 mill) and maybe Steven taylor from NUFC (6 mill) or maybe from a relageted team
Bullard from Hull
David Thomas
8   Posted 22/04/2010 at 15:08:04

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Gary,

Great article, the best I have personally read on this site for a long time.

I personally think we are only a couple of players away from mounting a serious assault on the very top of the league. I know it is a big "if" but if we could keep the core of our team fit for the majority of next season I think we are a match for anyone.
Brian Wilson
9   Posted 22/04/2010 at 17:27:21

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Share the optimism but believe we are still a good way off mounting a title challenge. Our squad remains too small to sustain such a challenge. We are improving in terms of quality year on year but progress remains slow and limited because of finances. Europa cup therefore is important as a means of keeping the interest of players we have, to attract new ones and any prospect of investment / new owners. So I'd much prefer us to be in the Europa cup next season than not. Unfortunately this season is ending too soon for us to overtake our ever lucky neighbours.
Ray Robinson
10   Posted 22/04/2010 at 18:38:19

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I've been optimistic at the end of all recent seasons only to be disappointed when we then miss the opportunity to push on. We have yet another springboard to move on next season' Let's start by keeping Pienaar and with one or two decent signings, who knows?
Øystein Bjaanes Lemvik
11   Posted 22/04/2010 at 19:52:46

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Aaah, optimism! Me, I'm more of a long-term pessimist.

We've got a good team when everybody is fit. And when they are on form. Problem is - those two won't coicide next season. Or, at least, it's very unlikely.

So we'll 'enjoy' poor runs of form, and we're likely to have a couple of our good players out injured..

I think we'll do okay next season, but I doubt we'll be challenging for top four. Top seven more likely.

Boy, do I hope I'm wrong!
Mike Elbey
12   Posted 22/04/2010 at 20:21:55

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I have said many times on this website that the priority this summer should be to retain pienaar and sign Donavan.

If the only way we can make those two things happen is to raise money through transfers we need to decide if there is someone in the squad we can afford to sacrafice for the betterment of the team.

I am not suggesting that we should do this but as an example we could consider selling Rodwell to fund the signing of Donavan and the retention of pienaar. The reason why I suggest this is because I do not believe Rodwell would get into our best team next season whereas the other two would. That said we would be losing one of our best young players to fund to 28 year olds....

Its sad that we are in this position but unfortunately its a fact. If we are to develop the team we need to sacrafice someone - the question is who....
Keith Glazzard
13   Posted 22/04/2010 at 19:57:51

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Ciarán is a "cynical finisher" (I wish I could name the ex-player expert summariser who said that) if ever there was one, but I'm sure he's right on this one. Unless the situation changes dramatically, there are unlikely to be any funny money buys this summer.

Moyes will surely strengthen the squad. although European experience may not be a priority, so I would look at him bringing in some lower division league players, hopefully a Coleman or two who mightt be waiting to be moulded into PL players.

One good omen for us this week was that Senderos was pretty obviously making his case for a contract next year. I'm not saying that we should keep him - apart from other considerations I don't know what he would cost and what his wages would be - but its that kind of 'great club to be with' (ditto Landon D) that means a lot in the game of football.

Sure, they move to make their agents rich too, but the word gets around. Why would a player seriously consider signing for us? Well, its sort of the opposite of why Kaka didn't go to City - all the riches of the plains, but would you seriously want to be there (and I'm afraid it might be different now). Everton on a minimum wage package (which still pays off the mortgage) and a great place to be with the possibility of getting into a top squad taking on Sky4 clubs. Very important.

I still wonder why Bily came to us, but not in the same way as the non-believers. I doubt that it was only the pay rise (and these days, would that have been so much?) - there must have been many other possibilities for him, surely a couple in the PL - although with him and The Big Fella, dull boring Davey has imported two eccentric talents,perhaps PL scouts and managers see things very differently. So why Everton? He must have been told good things about us by somebody. Perhaps its just Davey's power of persuasion, or something else?
Dave Wilson
14   Posted 22/04/2010 at 20:09:35

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How many times have you seen a rank outsider win valuable horse race and the crowd are left staring at each other asking "where did that come from?"

Then the horse is led back to the ring by some young lad - usually Irish - with a look on his face that says "I've had the fucken lot of you over you suckers, While you were lumping on the favorites, you were pushing the price of my fella out and I`ve filled me boots, I knew this horse would win a fortnight ago"... of course he doesn't actually come out and say that, he doesn't need to.

I`m in full agreement with you Garry and I`m not speaking with hindsight. I first predicted on these pages a "See the stars" finish after our game at the Emirates, I later said that we would accumulate more points than any other team in the prem after Crimbo, I`ll probably be right... but that hardly makes me mystic meg does it ?

Sure we all moan on here, but like many Evertonians I was witnessing a highly talented group of players slowly gelling and beginning to realise what a good side they are. We are a force to be reckoned with and our ability to beat any team on our day has slowly but surely matured into something more sustainable.

Unlike some of our rivals, ours is a relatively new team: Pienaar, Heitinga, Fellaini, Bily, Distin, Arteta and Rodwell haven't had years to form an understanding, they are still learning about each other, so there is plenty of room for improvement... and improve we will.

So, how far can we go ?

Well, first let's ditch this idea that we have over-achieved — what does that mean anyway? — we are likely to finish eighth this season and that's simply not good enough for this group of players, regardless of injuries.
So let's leave the "over-achieved" shite to the Telly pundits. When these so called "experts" are looking for possible challenges next season we will not be considered, we are certainly flying below the bookies radar.

I can't help thinking we Evertonians are in a similar position to those stable lads, we know we are good... better than "outsiders" think we are. Good enough to win it? Well that's a very tall order, but given reasonable luck on the injury front, I fully expect us to be a fucken big cat amongst the bookies startled pigeons.

Martin Mason
15   Posted 23/04/2010 at 00:34:06

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The late season run was something we haven't seen since the mid 80s and it was very good to see especially playing such beautiful football at times. With a full squad and some usefull back-up players bought we could topside be EPL winners. Being Everton though be prepared to expect anything.
Alan Kirwin
16   Posted 23/04/2010 at 00:52:40

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And in those games there are 9 further pts we should have had (i.e. deserved) at Spurs, Arsenal, Bham, Wolves, Villa and a max of 1 (West Ham) that we may have lost. So with a bit of luck and a bit more concentration we could have been sitting well pretty.

Next season looks good, but it's infuriating that we missed out this season because this season was most definitely there for the taking.
Dennis Stevens
17   Posted 23/04/2010 at 02:33:14

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It seems clear to me now that Moyes has for many years been carefully building up to next season, well aware of the 24 year rule & his responsibility to maintain our pattern of success.
Martin Mason
18   Posted 23/04/2010 at 13:54:32

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I think that "we should have done better despite the injuries" is just an old chestnut. We had a lot of injuries and we played badly, the players gradually came back and we gradually improved as they did. The concept that the injuries weren't the dominant factor in how badly we were doing and with such a small squad has no credibility. Maybe we could have managed it better but I don't know.
Keith Glazzard
19   Posted 23/04/2010 at 15:11:15

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Heavens - Arsenal or Chelsea lose one player or two and its a national disaster, headlined as a catastrophe. At one stage we had a possible first team of outfield players unavailable.

I wasn't going to mention Torres or Rooney, but take them away and what have you got? Two lucky to be mid-table teams.
Brian Lawlor
20   Posted 25/04/2010 at 09:26:10

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There are certain people on this site (we know who they are) who were arguing that statistically we're a better team with certain players... especially Hibbert but also Osman in the side. They missed most of the games in this current run of only 2 defeats in 22 games and the same people are now claiming they predicted this run of form...

Bizarre!

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