Why the loss of club legend Tim Cahill is not so bad after all.
Last Season: 7th
In: Steven Pienaar (Spurs, £5.6m), Steven Naismith (Rangers, free transfer)
Out: Joseph Yobo (Fenerbache, £2.2m), Tim Cahill (NY Red Bulls, £1.1m)
If they were an Olympian: Dai Greene. Not great starters, improve as the competition progresses but just not good enough to break into the medal positions. Well liked.
Last season was the typical Everton season, uninspiring beginnings were followed by a strong finish. It is pointless to say that if Everton could start the season as well as they finish them then this season could be promising but it has been said too many times. However there are some encouraging signs coming out of Goodison Park. Firstly is that the club possesses a forward who it seems can be relied upon for a regular source of goals.
The signing of Nikica Jelavic last January was the catalyst for Everton's impressive end to the season and Steven Pienaar has returned after the unmitigated disaster that was his time at Tottenham. The loss of Tim Cahill, whilst sad for the fans for whom he was a favorite is nowhere near as big a blow as it would have been two or three years ago. By the end of last season it seemed that Everton had outgrown Cahill. He had been an outstanding servant to the club, often filling in as an emergency centre forward and never letting David Moyes down but he was becoming an unnecessary complication last year. Even when Everton were without a striker it was often Marouane Fellaini who was asked to deputise rather than the Australian. With Pienaar, Darren Gibson and Leon Osman all preferred to the Aussie it was no surprise that he has moved on.
The main problem for Everton this season will be keeping players fit, especially at the back. Sir Alex Ferguson has often stated that when Everton have their first choice XI on the pitch they are as good as anyone on their day but unfortunately it does not occur as often as the Toffees would like. They are particularly short in central defence with Jonny Heitinga, Phil Jagielka and Silvain Distin the only recognised centre backs in the squad.
Further forward much hope rests on two boys who have come through the academy and are considered two of the clubs brightest prospects since Wayne Rooney emerged in 2002. Jack Rodwell has been talked about as a future star for years and this could be the season he really makes a discernible impact, provided he can avoid his worrying tendency to pick up long term injures. Ross Barkley, three years his junior, is a hugely promising talent and starred for Noel Blake's U-19s in this summers European Championships. Best suited to playing just off the striker, Barkley started last season brightly against QPR before David Moyes took him out of the spotlight again. With another year of coaching and experience behind him, a strong season for Barkley could see him following Rodwell and Rooney and gaining full international honours.
Keeping Leighton Baines, the subject of interest from Manchester United, is vital as the club is not blessed with top quality wide players and Baines' crosses and set pieces are worth 10 points a season. Were Baines to depart it would be a huge blow and would further heighten already heavy tensions between the club's fans and owner Bill Kenwright.
Expect Moyes to keep faith in his 4-5-1/4-3-3 in most games, although he has often shown a refreshing willingness to play 2 strikers, with Apostolos Vellios, Victor Anichebe and Magaye Gueye all options.Steven Naismith, who has managed to escape the sinking ship of Rangers, will provide bundles of energy and effort from wide and also has an eye for goal.
Predicted Finish: 8th
Key Man: Marouane Fellaini is one of the best central midfielders in the Premier League and is also one of the most versatile. Like Yaya Toure at Manchester City he is equally effective playing as either a holding midfielder or being deployed further forward. Whilst he lacks Toure's ability to surge past players he shares the Ivorian's passing ability and strength. Rarely will you see Fellaine loose a tackle or be shoved of the ball. Still only 24, Fellaini is key to Everton's success and the club's best results often coincided with the Belgian's best performances.
Underrated: At a club like Everton there are any number of players that one could select here but Leon Osman is a player who has been consistently under valued by many, but not David Moyes. Whilst not blessed with outstanding physical attributes, Osman is one of Everton's most intelligent performers. Able to find little pockets of space of the touchline the 31 year old was arguably Everton's best performer in the second half of the season.
Watch out for: Already heavily mentioned above but Ross Barkley is a star in the making. Two good feet, strong in the air as well as a sharp turn of pace Barkley has all the attributes required to be a success. We wait to see how much David Moyes chooses to use him.