Looking around at the vast amounts of cash lavished by our immediate peers, Arsenal and Liverpool, and even by potential competitors for our slice of midtable, such as Swansea and Southampton, it can be hugely dispiriting. Not only is it an annual pain to watch how much money Spurs and Liverpool can dispose of each year without actually getting any better (what we’d all give for the cash from just one of their windows), it makes that magical 4th spot seem further away than ever before.

I believe, however, that there is cause for optimism for two main reasons, neither of which involve the respecitve merits of our previous and current manager (done to death elsewhere).

Firstly, attaining 70+ points is within the capability of all four of the teams vying for 4th spot in my opinion. If we can find a great consistency in the games against the bottom 14 clubs then it is only in the head to heads that the other clubs have an opportunity to express their perceived superiority. (I know having better players usually leads to greater consistency against the lower teams but the point remains that we will start as favourites for all 28 of those games just as Arsenal will.)

Secondly, I think we underestimate our players far too much and have not yet wrung the full value out of our squad at all. Liverpool had Suarez scoring 30 goals last year; Tottenham had Bale doing equally heroic things. Despite these extraordinary performances, we still finished between them in the table. The reason is that big parts of our teams are better than theirs.

We have the best defence hands down of any of our four mini-league teams. Bear in mind, I don’t think our defence even played that well at times at the start of last season, it could potentially still improve... whereas Liverpool and Tottenham had mesmeric seasons from Agger and Vertonghen.

I also think our midfield is a lot better than anyone gives it credit for. The names like Gibson, Osman & Pienaar don’t hold the same cachet as some of our rivals’... yet we have seen over the entirety of last season that they can play with any of those teams indeed bossing all three of our opponents at home.

Lastly, there’s still so much value to be had out of our squad. We got to the points tally we did last year without Jelavic firing at all, with Mirallas and Gibson missing a huge chunk of the season, with Naismith barely contributing, with Barkley unused, with Oviedo unused. If our squad had been at full tilt last season, you might rightly be worried for how they would improve in this one... but even just one of those players bringing anything to this group will improve it.

On the contrary, Liverpool and Spurs were often at full tilt. There is no guarantee Suarez and Bale (if either are still there) will have anything like as good a season. There is no guarantee Agger and Gerrard will go for a whole season again (which is usually a rareity).

Last season, comparing our squads to those around us, we should have been nowhere near those teams. Yet football is not played on paper. The top 4 is a more difficult target in the mind that it actually is once the league starts. We were in and around it for the majority of last season, right in with all those teams. There’s no reason why we can’t threaten it again, regardless of whoever the other teams are buying. Considering yourselves as challengers is half of the game.

We need to shake off this tag of the best of the bottom teams hitting the glass ceiling. We’ve finished ahead of Liverpool twice now and have spanked Spurs countless times over recent seasons. We have earned the right to be recognised as one of the teams challenging for that 4th spot and I still believe that, as fans, we can still hope for it each season because it is never as far away as the media make it feel.

Share this article

Reader Comments (35)

Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer

Ajay Gopal
1 Posted 11/08/2013 at 04:47:21
Great article, James, make me feel very positive for the new season. Setting aside the influence of the new manager (positive or negative) and the fact that there is still time for major disruptions to our squad (Baines & Fellaini), we now have a very decent squad, which could challenge seriously for Europe.

But when you see teams like Cardiff splashing upwards of 25 million on 3 players, you wonder what might have been if Everton had similar amounts to spend on transfers, even after accepting that their wage bill is much lower than Everton's. Anyway, as David Moyes might have said, we will go with what we have got, and hoping that we are in for a very pleasant surprise.

Colin Grierson
2 Posted 11/08/2013 at 05:50:48
Maybe this season we'll drop the knife and take a gun to the fights against the the RS.
Mike Green
3 Posted 11/08/2013 at 05:55:39
Good article James but it all depends on how you want to pitch it.

We've finished above Liverpool but haven't dominated them in derbies. I'm not sure we've 'spanked' Spurs either.....? The reason we finish out of the top places is we are consistent but fail to beat the top teams home and away and don't go for the kill anywhere near as often as we should against the lesser teams.

We have a decet squad with an ambitious manager but my view is we will become more inconsistent under Martinez but will turnout some great wins not seen under Moyes.

So - I reckon 7th.....

Jamie Crowley
4 Posted 11/08/2013 at 06:18:38
A much more enjoyable and aesthetic ride this season is in the cards.

But 6th or 7th is where we will finish. My greatest hope is two-fold:

1. Beat "them" home and away.
2. Win silverware. The Cap One / Mickey Mouse Cup needs to be taken seriously this year IMHO. And we need to put every effort into the FA Cup.

Peter Jamieson
5 Posted 11/08/2013 at 07:24:43
I just love the way all the usual punditry doesn't give us a chance, we're not even mentioned for a top 6 slot.

What have Liverpool done closed season that would suggest they can finish above us? If, and more probably, when Suarez leaves they will be weaker than last Season. Even if he stays he will be disruptive. It's win win for us.

Likewise, Bale needed a chiropractor in June, after carrying Spurs all season.

At present, we have lost no players, we have added a few decent signings. Jelavic not looking too bad per-season and Mirallas looking sharp too.

I think 5th with an outside crack at the top four is not unrealistic.

If we can play attacking football, but still keep our defensive qualities, I am very hopeful of a good campaign.

Peter Warren
6 Posted 11/08/2013 at 07:23:51
GOALS. We have less room for error as we don't and never have scored anywhere near the goals our peers, Liverpool, Spurs or Arsenal score.

That is why the majority (me included) do not want Jelavic sold as we all hope he can be the one despite if we're honest knowing his speed and hold up play is poor. That is why (me included) despite knowing it will not happen pray a miracle happens and Rooney returns.

The article is right in our defence and midfield is good but we do not have the quality attack options.

Moyes never addressed this. He bought strikers again and again but without the budget of the others we were never going to compete with their options. As such, he did annoy me, despite him having great points, as I think he used our budget as an excuse - the easy thing to do as you can't argue with that. BUT it's a kop out.

Martinez on the otherhand is not using excuses. He is changing the whole style we play, be it slowly or speedily is up to him but he knows we must do this to score more goals. Yes we wil be more vulnerable there will be problems in shirt term and by that I mean a few seasons but this is the philosophy he sees being successful and I agree with him.

Martinez has my 100% backing I do not see myself turning on him but I can see many others doing so and believe they're short sighted and woukd be daft to do so. People liking us to Swansea - no we have better players - better analogy is to liken that he is trying to get us like Arsenal and that is enough for me.

Colin Grierson
7 Posted 11/08/2013 at 08:13:39
I agree Peter although I don't see the point likening us to any other club. Martinez is beginning to shape the team in order to play a style of football that we are not used to seeing. I too think it will take a while for him to build the side that he wants.

I think that we will become a more popular side commercially and in the press due to a more attractive style of play and eventually be seen as a genuine threat for a CL spot. However, after spending years reading TW posts I reckon the knives will be out and the 'I never wanted him in the first place...' Posts will begin.

He was my first choice and having watched the documentary on Swansea last week It redoubled my confidence in the man. They are in the position they are because of him and the board that backed him. He put in place a style of play and a philosophy that has endured and made Swansea a top ten prem side from relative obscurity. I can't wait to see what he can do with a better group of players.


John Ford
8 Posted 11/08/2013 at 08:21:17
Good point Peter, Moyes did use our not having a pot to piss in as an excuse. More importantly at times you felt, good returns though he gave over a season, that he used this as an excuse to change he way we played.

I hope but don't expect any more from Martinez than Moyes. if he can retain what Moyes had in terms of us being 'well hard' to beat then add a bit of sommat else going forward then more league points is a possibility.

There have been quite a few expecting a cup win - hens teeth outside the money clubs and the league cup is devalued. For me a top four place is the golden fleece. Everything else is secondary. The FA cup would be sweet, but let's hope our man breaks the glass ceiling, and moves us a step forward in terms of the league ..........a big ask.

Jon Withey
9 Posted 11/08/2013 at 09:09:57
Good article. The new blood and potential of expensive signings gets the media excited because it is unpredictable. I think Ferguson showed for many years that stability and year on year improvement is just as potent. Van Persie aside, the title winning side of last year wasn't nearly as glamorous as the following pack.

We've a good squad with potential for improvement as you say. Our biggest signings could just be keeping hold of Baines/Fellaini whilst others take risks with big-name signings from other leagues. And who is to say that Fellaini won't improve under Martinez ?

Better the devil you know.

James Martin
10 Posted 11/08/2013 at 09:10:49
Mike against Liverpool and Tottenham I'm talking about the performances at home last season. We drew with Liverpool but it was easily the best derby performance I've seen in a long time (not hard) even more so than the ones we won. Despite conceding with their first two attacks (case in point of the defense not being as sound as usual last year) we battered them after that and only didn't win through a combination of Mirallas' injury Rodgers parking the bus (when has any other liverpool manager ever done that at Goodison?) and some bad finishing. Away from home we played terribly yet could still have won. The league table shows we are not far apart at all so why do they consider themselves challengers and we don't?

Against Spurs we made all the play at home and conceded off a freak deflected shot, we more than deserved the three points. We've beaten them at their place a couple of times in the recent past and perhaps should have again this season. My point is when we line up against Spurs I always expect a win and come out of the games considering us to be better. Similarly with Arsenal last season we should have definitely won the home leg had it not been for some bad refereeing and it was entirely even away from home.

Our team is just as good as some of those around us, the media and at time Moyes did not want to believe it, but the league table does not lie. If Spurs and Liverpool are considered pushing for fourth spot then we have every right to say that it is our target as well.

Gavin McGarvey
11 Posted 11/08/2013 at 08:56:49
I worry about how we might do if we sell Felllaini and Baines are off in this transfer window. They scored 19 of our goals last season, and between them came up with 17 assists. Which 3 or 4 players Martinez chooses to replace them will be crucial in determining how we do next season.

I'm a bit worried to be honest as I feel they are our two most dangerous players and the transfer market is a bit of a lottery. If the money is spent like the Rooney money then everything will be fine; if it's spent like the Lescott money I'd be less confident.

Personally I think Martinez has got a really tough job ahead of him. Changing the style of play whilst keeping the squad happy won't be easy. What he really needs is a bit of luck in the first few games of the season. If we're struggling for results then there'll be a level of pressure he won't be used to from Wigan.

On the plus side he has some really good players, albeit ones who struggle to score too many goals. Also I would have thought the players would enjoy a change in style of play (as long as the results come). If he can hit upon a winning formula with the squad fairly quickly then maybe we can get the CL place that some are talking of.

For me although I hope everything goes according to plan, I think it might be a difficult season adjusting to a new style of play, and new personnel, whilst at the same time trying to find solutions to the same problems that Moyes had to deal with throughout his era (not scoring enough goals, defensive mistakes, not turning up in big matches etc...)

I think it'll be a success if we can make progress in terms of our style of play, i.e. improve our passing and ability to keep the ball, and score more goals without conceding too many. I know that might sound a bit pessimistic, but I think his job is a bit more difficult than people make out.

John Ford
13 Posted 11/08/2013 at 10:10:18
If we lose Baines and Fellaini I can't see us replacing like for like in terms of how influential these two are. They are very fine players and It would be a backward step almost irrespective of who we replaced them with - also partly because there's no chance of using all the transfer fee.

It is essential that we retain our best players.

Paul Gladwell
14 Posted 11/08/2013 at 10:14:54
Peter 055, could not agree more, you sometimes wonder if people know we exist.
Only yesterday that legend Rio was bleating afer his testimonial that this is going to be the hardest league to win with Spurs and the Shite battling too, I mean we finished above them the last two years, we have added to that same squad (but not enough) and got shut of a couple liabilities, meanwhile the shite are never off the back pages for all the wrong reasons, lets just go about our business and bollocks to the outsiders, these are the same people queuing up to slaughter a certain manager if it starts to go tits up after years of bigging him up.
Barry Rathbone
15 Posted 11/08/2013 at 10:09:43
I think this "best defence" is overplayed we had a percentage game plan for the team where the "go to" position was caution and structure giving the "team" a solidness defensively (relatively speaking).

The inability to grasp the nettle in so many games not just last season but year upon year nails that as a Moyes patent.

Changing that, as RM must to take us forward, is as likely to cause upset as it is win something but the fact the "thankful for small mercies" ideology is being broken is what excites me.

Deal the cards ... I can't wait.

James Martin
16 Posted 11/08/2013 at 10:52:29
Barry the contrary was true last season. Our defensive play was poorer because half the itme Baines and Coleman had bombed off down the pitch leaving us with effectively a back 2. The goals we conceded were not (as people like to make out) when we were sitting back desperately defending. One or two were but the majority of goals were at the beginning of games when we were baoslutely flying forwards and they'd break and score with their first attack (QPR, Liverpool home, Wigan away, Arsenal at home, just a few examples). I think only with CBs like Jags and Distin and full backs like Baines and Coleman can you play this way. It was noticable how Heitinga just could not adapt whereas in previous seasons he had been comfotable in a more deeper style.

I think in the long term Distin needs replacing effectively but I believe we have the best full backs between us Liverpool Spurs and Arsenal and Jagielka is the top central defender as well.

Alan Smith
17 Posted 11/08/2013 at 09:24:04
The RS aren't the problem. They just pay over the odds for good players. Spurs have made excellent signings but have the Europa league to contend with and may loose Bale. But I think spurs and RS don't really matter in a sense. While I agree they are our nearest rivals, they don't matter in the chase for fourth. Whoever finishes above the Gooners gets that spot.

If you look at the form they were on last year at the end, they were fantastic. We matched them in two games but we've bought Kone and they're going to get Suarez. Plus Walcott gets better every year.

If Martinez got 25 for a striker we'd only be on a par with them

Sam Hoare
18 Posted 11/08/2013 at 11:18:23
Spurs, arsenal and RS will be our main contenders this year for that game changing 4th champions league place. Arsenal have a very talented squad indeed and Spurs have already spent 70m adding to theirs, around ten times more than us! The RS I would say are no great shakes and could well end up below us again.

We still look very short in the middle of the park and if we are to even challenge for 4th then one or more of our strikers is going to have to step up to the plate in a big way.

Michael Winstanley
19 Posted 11/08/2013 at 11:22:55
Love the optimism James.

With Mirallas, Barkley, Del Boy, Jelavic, Kone we have players who want to score goals. This is an improvement upon last season and I'm hopeful Martinez will find his best strike partnerships quickly.

We need to keep Baines, he is simply the best footballer we have, his performances are consistently high, yes Oviedo has looked great pre-season but he hasn't played week in week out.

I think we need to keep Fellaini, I'm not totally convinced he suits our new system yet but as a defensive midfielder he is top quality. I don't agree with opinion he's lazy or can't be arsed. He loves a battle and without him we're weaker in the centre of the pitch. If he does go then Martinez needs to bring at least one player who walks straight into the starting eleven.

Barry Rathbone
20 Posted 11/08/2013 at 11:34:39
James Martin.

I think that backs up my point doesn't it?

Kevin Tully
21 Posted 11/08/2013 at 12:01:04
We will have a much better chance of finishing in that top 6 if we keep Baines & Fellaini, partly because the rest of the team are so used to playing with them.

If we lose those two, we will probably bring in 3 or 4 new players, which will ultimately disrupt the understanding our first team have for at least a season.

I wouldn't underestimate how much of an advantage this can give you, even if you are playing against a team who has invested many more millions. (QPR being a case in point)

It will be very interesting to see the spending table at the end of this window, which may see records set by many clubs for spending on players.

Up to now, it looks like less than half the new T.V. money was Roberto's budget - an absolute pittance.

James Martin
22 Posted 11/08/2013 at 13:44:54
No Barry your point was that our defense is only good because it plays in a team set up to be defensive all the time. The opposite was true last year and yet I still think our defense is better than the three teams around us despite ther ebeing more msitakes made due to the offensive system that we employed. I don't think that was your point at all Barry.
Bill Gall
23 Posted 11/08/2013 at 14:18:48
Loosing either one or both of Baines or Fellaini to me will be be a major disaster by the Everton board. The reason I think this, is that, regardless of the amount we get for them, knowing the way the club is run, the manager will recieve less than 10% to replace them and the rest will go to the bank.

For Everton to remain in the top tier of the Premier League, selling our best players is a backward step.

Mark Boulle
24 Posted 11/08/2013 at 15:53:12
In the Sunday Times season preview today, it is pointed out that some mid-table sides like Norwich have spent a lot of money (c 25m in their case). This is then explained by the fact that, supposedly, 25m is the 'average' amount of money Premier League clubs can expect to receive from the new tv deal.

So...with our summer outlay so far amounting, at a most conservative estimate to include wages etc, to somewhere between 8-10m, the question again arises: where is the money Bill? We should comfortably be able to add another midfielder before the window closes without needing to sell. We have been outspent not just by the traditional moneybags teams but by most others as well. Gibson going off injured just now only makes this problem more critical.

3 weeks or so left of the window. By rights there should be money for at least two new signings, which by the looks of today's performance and Gibson's fragility are desperately needed. Get on with it BK and RM!

Clive Rogers
25 Posted 11/08/2013 at 15:45:44
James, good article, but I don't agree at all. We are an aging team so I don't expect us to perform as well. We have brought in two 30 year olds. Also I expect our two best players to be gone by september and replaced by gambles on cheaper options. Even if they are good enough, they may need a seson to settle in. If you take your two best players away, and the replacements don't work out, this is potentially disastrous. Dont forget everyone else are strengthening more than us. We are in decline with this board and this will continue.
Mike Green
26 Posted 11/08/2013 at 16:38:15
James #077 - you might not believe this but Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs fans respect us but expect to beat us home and away.

Until we start turning them over at their places we are also rans. Dress it up as much as you like but that is that.

Barry Rathbone
27 Posted 11/08/2013 at 17:18:48
James 129, No it was my point.
Dennis Stevens
28 Posted 11/08/2013 at 20:33:56
Why assume the top 3 will be MUFC, MCFC & CFC? With all the management changes anything could happen. If I supported Arsenal I'd be hoping for much better than a battle for 4th place this season. Chelsea may revert to the good old days but sometimes the old adage 'never go back' rings true. Nothing should be taken for granted in Manchester despite the funding available. Spurs will be in a state of flux. RS are still undergoing the Rogers evolution. We are under new leadership & expect changes that may or may not work out straight away. Additionally this top 7 may be challenged more strongly this season by an 8th or 9th club looking to get into Europe. It seems to me this could be a great season to have a great season, but I'll be pleasantly surprised if Martinez can deliver so much so quickly.
James Martin
29 Posted 11/08/2013 at 23:54:01
Mike, do we not expect to beat all of them home and away? This place kicks off if we draw at any of those grounds. I'm sure their fans expect to win here, we expect to win there, it doesn't mean that either fanbase gets what they want. City haven't won here in god knows how long, Spurs have lost their last two, United have lost a few at Goodison. I don't know how them expecitng to beat us home and away makes us also rans.

Clive we are not an ageing team, 30 is not old. Only Distin really needs replacing in the immediate future. Just because Kone and Alcaraz have suddenly come into beef up the squad hasn't suddenly made us an old team.

Coleman, Baines, Stones, Oviedo, Gibson, Fellaini, Mirallas, Barkley, Jelavic, Anichebe, Vellios, Naismith Deulofeu (all people who are not old)

Pienaar Osman Jagielka Alcaraz Kone Howard (players in or towards the end of their peak years)

Distin (player in need of replacement)

That is not the makeup of an ageing team, that is just a balanced squad the same as every other one in the league.

Mike Green
30 Posted 12/08/2013 at 01:01:34
James - they expect to get something off us and generally do - when was the last time we won at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Anfield or Arsenal? We probably hope more than expect to get something and more often than not don't, especially when it comes to three points.

If Martinez can change that so we do start coming away from their grounds with three points we can go to being contenders for being the best, rather than best of the rest, providing we are as consistent as they are against the rest of the league.

Mike Green
31 Posted 12/08/2013 at 01:13:32
Your piece, for instance, is called 'Reasons to be hopeful' rather than 'Great Expectations', which for me probably says it all.
Paul Kelly
32 Posted 12/08/2013 at 04:40:31
Good article James, but you say:

"Last season, comparing our squads to those around us, we should have been nowhere near those teams."

But, in the paragraphs before, you state:

"We have the best defence hands down of any of our four mini-league teams."


"I also think our midfield is a lot better than anyone gives it credit for. The names like Gibson, Osman & Pienaar don't hold the same cachet as some of our rivals'... yet we have seen over the entirety of last season that they can play with any of those teams indeed bossing all three of our opponents at home."

Bit of a contradiction, don't you think?

But, as you state, there is no reason why we shouldn't be up there (AGAIN), but that will be down to RM's tactics, style of play, and (obviously) results.

I will reserve judgement until 4:45pm (approx) on Saturday, as I ain't going to read too much into our pre-season. Never have; never will.

Harold Matthews
33 Posted 12/08/2013 at 12:33:24
Yes James. You say "big parts of our team are better than theirs".
Quite right. A big 6'-5" Belgium with fuzzy hair who is probably on his way.

From what I've seen so far, nothing can be tied to last season. We have a new manager with a new football philosophy and a whole bunch of square pegs in round holes.

He doesn't have the funds to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch but I'm sure he'll slip, slide and shuffle our club into a new successful era. Normally it would require lots of time and patience but the modern Premiership doesn't allow for such things.

How he will manage it I just don't know. Pre-season has certainly not filled me with optimism but he sees things we don't and I will continue to support his judgement.

Clive Rogers
34 Posted 12/08/2013 at 22:39:24
I accept your point about us not being an aging team, but I think bringing in 30 year olds is short sighted. also it is frightening how nearly all other clubs have strengthened compared to us. The 6M on Kone has obviously emptied the pot. Selling our best players every few years will ultimately lead to disaster. Where the hell does all our money disappear to? Everyone else is splashing the TV money. Where's ours gone?
John Ford
35 Posted 12/08/2013 at 23:09:40
Harold makes a good point. I'd be comfortable with a transition period if our manager had funds to bring in players in order to reboot our style. He doesnt! So we appear to be left with the Bambi twins at centre half....both actually cracking players, but the thought of the pair of them footballing their way through premier attackers......er no thanks, plus a group of well drilled players used to gaining an advantage through building momentum, rather than slick passing.

Derek Knox
36 Posted 14/08/2013 at 23:20:22
I think what really excluded us last season of any chance to qualify for CL or even the Europa, was the ridiculous amount of draws we had! I know it's water under the bridge, but so many of those 'draws' were from games we not only dominated,but led for most of the game,from an over cautious approach in the latter or dying stages!
I just hope we can get another couple through the door,then I feel we will be alright!

Add Your Comments

In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.

» Log in now

Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.

About these ads

© ToffeeWeb